Let real people be your brand’s Social Media activity

If you haven’t done so already, there is no reason to invest big time in starting up a corporate social media channel. Of course, it is a hygiene measure to have a corporate social media account though will this be your tactic that makes the biggest impact? I don’t think so.

There are groups of people who never owned a desktop computer and learned to access the web via a tablet or who directly went to a mobile phone and skipped landlines. This is the same for corporate social media channels: there is a use for it, and it was an attractive tactic in the past, however, employee advocacy will get you ahead, while the corporate channel will just defend your status quo.

Nobody wants to be friends with a logo

Building up a corporate account is painful. You start with zero attention (friends, followers etc) and what would be the most compelling reason for people to follow a company, to friend a logo? Building up an audience of a reasonable size will be super hard, consuming a lot of time and resources and even then your impact (reach, traffic, engagement) will be limited.

Don’t spend money on acquiring an audience you already have

Chances are high that even though your company is not on social media, your employees are. They might be there for personal reasons to read or share about their hobbies, their expertise or just connect with people they like. Some might be there for professional reasons and some of them might already be an ambassador for your company.

However, don’t see them as your new found marketing department. Don’t just give these employees the content you wanted to share on your corporate social media accounts with the instruction to share it on their own accounts. I would recommend against it, you need a smarter approach. Otherwise, your employees might end up looking like corporate banner ads and loose some friends since all they can talk about is your company.

Just to stress it is not an OR – OR decision between corporate accounts and employee advocacy. Though if you have a limited budget put more into employee advocacy than into building up a corporate social media presence.

Employees have more impact than your corporate accounts

People trust people, that is what is the Edelman Trust barometer is showing year over year. Therefore content shared by your employees is likely to perceived more trust worthy than content shared via a logo (your corporate accounts) even when the content is similar since people trust people more than logos, especially when these people display a certain level of expertise.

Next to trusting content, content (and in particular brand content) is re-shared 24 times more often when distributed by employees than by a brand. Which means that reach is not just a little bit bigger, it is five times bigger. For this increase in reach you either had to be very lucky with your corporate accounts or you had to invest in advertising for a significant amount.

Besides reaching more people, the engagement with your content is a lot higher: up to 8 times higher. So it is not just reach that increases, but also there are more actions that the audience takes with your content.

Lastly many channels, Facebook included, are deprioritizing company content over real people content. So if you are just focusing on corporate channels you will just end up paying more to maintain the same reach.

If it was that easy, why is not everybody doing this?

Before explaining you how you could help the existing group of social media enthusiasts in your company better, let me explain you how you could assist those who are not yet that active on social media first. There are always three root causes why people are not active on social media yet:

Root cause 1: employees lack the knowledge on how to do it

This might be the easiest to tackle by providing continuous education. Not just from a very practical point of view to explain how things work and which buttons to push, but also by sharing best practices with them and by stimulating conversations between themselves to discover what works for them. This is where you can also ask the enthusiastic to step in and share their experiences.

Root cause 2: employees  think they are not allowed to do it

It is not uncommon for people to feel they are not the ones who should be talking on social media. “What would I have to add to this discussion” is they question they raise. Which is true, though at the same time, millions of people don’t seem to holding back and keep adding to the discussion. Is more than always better? No, but you can explain them they have a point of view that is unique and that is valued.

Root cause 3: employees have a lack of discipline

Starting is always easy, keeping the pace is the hard thing. Some people don’t start because they think they cannot keep the pace, some people start and don’t maintain the pace. It is up to you to find a way to keep them going over time by building a habit of sharing and participation.

How you could help your employees to shine

You will help your employees most by not seeing them as a replacement of your corporate communications department or your marketing department. By not burdening them with a task to do for you. Employee advocacy is about making them shine and if you do it well enough their results will reflect on your company, it is not the other way around. In the end people trust people and want to connect with people not with logos.

Make social media a perk, not work

Employee advocacy is about making your employees shine, make them look smarter than they already do, provide them with things they can learn from and what their network could learn from. It is about providing employees an opportunity to grow in a safe and risk free way. Provide them with the opportunity to learn even if they don’t share any content with their network.

Make it easy

Being active on social media is not something natural for everybody and building a habit takes time. Therefore try to make it as frictionless as possible. It can be as simple as you sending them tailor made messages for them to share by clicking a link or by pointing them to an interesting discussion with some proposed talking points.

It shouldn’t take them a lot of time and it should give them a sense of accomplishments and pride on what they have done. Even though you make it easy, don’t forget to praise them for doing it, since they are changing their way of working.

Employee account, employee rules

If you ask your employees to participate you cannot expect that you are the only one setting all the rules. You ask them to participate on social media, you should give them the freedom to choose with what they participate and how they participate. Of course you can provide suggestions, though it is very much up to them to decide what they will do.

Spotlight internal and external

Don’t forget to compliment the employees for their hard work. And more importantly, don’t forget to show it what they mean for you outside the organization and inside. Outside: why not draw the spotlight on them: sponsor their content, highlight their contribution on the corporate accounts and inside: explain why they

Be ready for disappointment on the short term

Change is never easy, keep that in mind. You are working on change management and if that was an easy job, there wasn’t an industry around it. Change is hard both for you as the people you want to help out. Be prepared that it will take twice as long as you planned, success will be limited in the beginning, people dislike your ideas, but that on the long run you can be successful if you persist.

If you can persevere and make employee advocacy work, your employees will win more than the company. The more you enable employees to win big, the more your company can win over time.

How much privacy are consumers willing to give up? More than you think

Why are customers reluctant to complete long forms with their details despite offering them discounts, but don’t blink an eye about sharing their whole life on Facebook? What advantage does Facebook have over your company?

The answer is fairly simple: Facebook doesn’t ask for much. It never does. It does, however, ask little questions often. Small micro tasks: update your school, where do you live, when did you met so-and-so etc. Consumers don’t even think twice about whether they should give up this information or not. They just do, because the question is asked in context and is easy to answer. And sometimes even fun when it brings up some nostalgic feeling.

Even when Facebook is not asking explicitly, consumers continue to feed the Facebook beast with data by liking content on the web or logging into applications using Facebook connect.

Here’s what you can learn from Facebook on getting customer permission to share their data freely.

  • Firstly, ask questions appropriately in a timely manner and in good context.
  • Secondly, collect data over time since life doesn’t happen all once and your customer is more than just the single transaction.
  • Thirdly, make your customers be willing to share their data. What can you do to tease out that nostalgic or happy feeling?

Finally, and most importantly, don’t freak people out by predicting their behaviour too accurately. Humans like to think they are original with free will; even if research has shown most of us are immensely predictable. Facebook can predict cheating and suicide upfront, though never warns the individuals or its loved ones about it. It even detects it before the subject knows it. But they won’t tell you about it.

Collect and predict but don’t cross the creepy line.


This article originally appeared on Beyond the Buzz : the only place you need to stay connected with to prepare for tomorrow’s next innovation.

Self-service is the predecessor of Drone Delivery: McDonald’s

In several countries McDonald’s is adding self-service modules (big touch screens) to it restaurants. Of course self-service isn’t spectaculair and new, there are complete chains of self-service restaurants on the globe. However it is interesting how McDonald’s is introducing these additional screens, and what might be more interesting in the next steps.

Introduce new technology in a human way

McDonald’s doesn’t introduce the self-service touch screen by just putting it there and hoping that you will be using it. They have some hostesses walking around and when things get busy they pick people from the queue with the question if they would like to try something new. So these hostesses are not just introducing something new to get your meal, they introduce you to something new that saves you time. Creating a very positive first interaction with the self-service screen, increasing chances that you will be using it for a second time.

Also the process is done without exchanging any physical cash, so it reduces the risk on robberies for the McDonald’s also big time.

Next step, more self-service, though what’s next after that.

Of course it is clear that more self-service is the way McDonald’s is going. Not only will people get their order faster, they have to assign fewer people to cash registers and can assign more people on the assembling of orders. Which basically means that they can pay people less because works is getting simpler.

However that is the obvious, which is in some McDonald’s already the case (I happen to visit a small McDonald’s in France and they were already 100% self-service and 100% cashless. Though what is really next. I think the following items are next:

From their screen to your screen

It would make sense for McDonald’s to transition from their touch screens to your touch screen (phone, tablet etc). This way you don’t have to wait for the self-service screen (which would be just moving the queue to a different place in their restaurant) and you can order on the screen that is most comfortable for you. Also you can pay directly via your device instead of inserting your debit or credit card into another machine. Making the process more friction free than it was before.

From up-sell to social recommendations (and beyond)

If you are allowed to use your own device for ordering, why not make it a more personalised experience and make it even more frictionless. Obvious is a login combined with a credit or debit card (or a PayPal like service) so you don’t have to enter this data over and over.

Another clear step is to add some more data to your profile, preferably using something like Facebook connect since it gives McDonald’s the most data. Based on this data they can give you suggestions to eat (since you like Mars why not take a Mc Flurry Mars as a desert) and give you suggestions to eat with friends who are in the neighbourhood or to try out that new burger since people like you (or better: your friends) tried it and rated it 4 out of 5 stars.

From self-service to drone service

Of course the limiting factor for the number of meals that can be served by McDonald’s is in the end the capacity of its restaurants for now. So why only offer the service via your personal devices in their restaurants? Why not go home delivery. No longer it is a requirement to invest in cars, scooters or drivers for these vehicles. Today you just invest in a small swarm of drones.Amazon plans to do ita pizzeria in Mumbai is already doing it.

So why not leverage drones in combination with the GPS position of your mobile device to get your meal to you, instead of having to move yourself to a restaurant.

Change is never stand alone.

Even though it seems to be just a small change to move towards more self-service within McDonald’s restaurants, it could be a small step to a lot a big change in operating model. However change done right, could make it easier for future changes to be implemented.

As long as the changes are small enough and easy to accept and delivers a clear added value. In McDonald’s case I suggested the following: save time, create more convenience, offer better recommendations and provide independence of location.

Why the C-suite don’t ‘get’ social media marketing – and why this is perfectly fine

I am not a big fan of the suggestion that everybody has to be to be on social media and fully understand social media before you can do anything with social media as a big enterprise. Basically it is a big lie, since how many within the enterprise really understand the inner workings or your DWH (Data Ware House) or ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning), probably very little people. Does it mean it doesn’t bring any benefit because nobody understands? No, everybody understands the benefits it brings

And that is exactly what is important: the C-suite needs to get the benefits of something, they don’t ned to know all the details of everything, that is not their job.

The Guardian has a tear-jerking article on this topic, blaming the C-suite for not understanding social media and giving some arguments and tips that will ensure you that they will never invest in social media at all.

Arguments to hide the incompetence of the CMO or social media expert

“I have run out of fingers and toes on which to count the times a bright-eyed marketing manager within a big organisation has brought us in to pitch only to then hear the words “our CEO does not ‘do’ social” and this ignorance shows no sign of slowing,“ says Andy Barr, owner of 10Yetis social media and PR agency.

To be honest if your CEO doesn’t do social, what is the problem? How many companies will be bankrupt in the upcoming five years because of their CEO not being active on Twitter and LinkedIn? Of course this is just a wild guess, though I would say: none.

Jamie Riddell said: “Social media is not seen to be as measurable as other forms of media such as TV. In order for any media channel to be taken seriously at board level, it’s impact on hard criteria such as reach and ultimately sales, needs to be understood. Your average C-suite executive will be focused on business results that are more than brand mentions or sentiment analysis.”

Which is completely true, however if they understand the added value of TV (which is a correlation at best in most cases), than it is just a matter of thoroughly presenting your case with social media. Since with social media you can measure everything and focus on causations instead of correlations. You don’t have to assume what happens,you can show it.

“In some cases, execs are demanding a million Likes on Facebook or a million Twitter followers after they realise they need to be involved. This lack of understanding causes issues with agencies and staff who despair,” he said.

This is not a lack of understanding. This is like blaming your customer for using your products wrong. It is a lack of clear explanation. Don’t blame others for your own incompetence of explaining the added value of social media.

According to Hunt, the repercussion is that some agencies are still buying social media followers on behalf of these brands, despite the folly in doing so. This misunderstanding of social media could in part be explained by the lack of the C-suite’s personal involvement with it.

Of course the C-suite playing farmville on Facebook would have prevented this? No, it wouldn’t. Would a personal Twitter account of a C-level exec prevented this demand of being followers? Most likely not. Just for the simple reason that most people on C-level are not social media experts and given that social media is an area in which expertise is required they are hiring people with that expertise to explain it to them. If that ends up in a fan-buying game it is not the C-level not understand social media, it is C-level hiring the wrong experts (or people that present themselves as experts).

The tips from the Guardian to ensure absolute failure

1: Get them on social. Whether it’s posting from their own personal account or a corporate account, encourage your CFOs, CEOs and CMOs to participate themselves and provide support and training to avoid any faux pas.

Ok, they don’t get Social Media, that was the first thing in the article that was mentioned. So they will absolutely see the value of getting active on this? No if you still suck at explaining, you won’t be able to get them on board.

If you cannot explain the value, they won’t be onboard, no matter what you ask them to do.

2: Simulate a crisis. By simulating a potential crisis that could hit the brand, you enlighten the C-suite to the power of social media and also the potential damage it can wreak if you haven’t invested in social media listening and community management.

The science of fear, always a very positive way of getting the C-suite onboard: if you don’t this you will loose your company. The thing that could happen is an absolute lock down of social media in your company, including a heavy censorship on social media itself by throwing around take down notices. Y

You shouldn’t stimulate a crisis, maybe you should show them the added value of social media (how much additional revenue can be generated, how much money can be saved on call centers).

3: Identify the balance of your website traffic sources. Highlighting the traffic sources to the company website will demonstrate where it is over-reliant and hence vulnerable. For example, if the bulk of your web traffic comes from search, then growing your social traffic to diversify your traffic sources will be an asset when search positions fluctuate or if the company is hit by a Google penalty or algorithm update. Social media is also a significant contributor to search engine optimisation.

Given that most people in the C-suite are fully up to speed on web analytics this is a great tip. Only, most of the C-suite aren’t experts on Web Analytics, don’t know anything about search algorithm updates and most likely do’t care where traffic is coming from on the website (if they were aware of what the website is doing at all beyond being a brochure website).

Besides the direct benefits, explain the C-suite the indirect added value of social media. You can drive more traffic to your website for less costs (since for example you spend less on advertising).

Get the C-suite onboard

Don’t worry about the C-suite, start low profile with a project that doesn’t require the stamp of approval of the C-suite. Proof the value, present the business outcomes, present the required investment. Make it a highly rational decision with a clear investment and a clear return. That is how a C-suite works most of the time. They don’t need (or want) to know all the details, they want to have enough insights to make a good decision supported by real arguments and real data.

Get in five minutes the news you want with Twitter, combining these two filters

For a while I have tried to figure out what I can do with Twitter, to be honest I am trying to figure it since I joined Twitter more than 5 years ago. Now I finally found a way that provides me with more value and makes me more productive by saving time. Let me explain me what I am doing now.

Always start with an experiment

First all you should pay to much attention to what other people think about what you do on Twitter. Since if you do, your experiments are likely not reaching the outcome you were hoping for, unless you are striving for mediocrity.

Pick a metric to improve

When you are experimenting you have to pick a metric you would like to influence. For example to gain more followers (tried it, reached the number though the experience isn’t worth it) or try to increase the number of messages you post (tried and succeeded at that one as well, even got a nice peak in engagement). However given that Twitter has become more crowded and the impact of single tweet has decreased for me, and what I hear it happens to others too (just anecdotally, haven’t seen the data). Therefore it is not interesting for me to focus on direct Twitter metrics anymore, so I decided to go for an indirect one.

Content discovery the other way around

My indirect metric is time saved. Since my issue is that, just as many of you are experiencing, I have only limited time to spend on each activity. Therefore I wanted to save time on discovering great content. I took the following steps to do this: 1. I downloaded the new app ‘Daily’ from Buffer that provides daily content suggestions. 2. I changed my schedule on buffer to make sure I could schedule more messages  daily. 3. I go through ‘Daily’ for five minutes and schedule somewhere between 50-70 messages. Just by pressing the green button, without screening the messages. 4. At the end of the day I check which messages got the same traction and those are the articles I will be reading.

Winning with two filters

I trust Buffer to offer me brilliant content, though I only want to read the best of the best provided by them. To filter that out I use my network on Twitter :). This way I only have to spend 5 minutes each day to get to the content that really matters to me by combining two very powerful sources of recommendations: my followers and Buffer.

Success is Not a Number, it is Perspective

There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics – Mark Twain (and others)

Numbers on itself never tell a story, it is the perspective they are put in that tells the story. However in the end the story might be beautiful, though numbers always have a certain truth in them.

One side of the story

Let’s take for example this article about the KLM (it could have been any other company, however I just ran into this one because it is prominent in my Twitter feed).

This article is, in my personal opinion, about huge accomplishments that, when you interpret the numbers differently, are not really accomplishments but small failures presented as accomplishments by presenting numbers in a certain perspective.

Let’s just go through the numbers quickly that are mentioned in the article and show how these numbers could also tell a different story:

KLM transports 26 million passengers each week, these passengers tend to ask questions via social media nowadays and they do that increasingly every year (each year 250% increase is reported). Currently they 35 thousand questions per week that is answered by a team of 130 person 24/7 in 10 languages (and since KLM operates in 65 countries I assume they cannot answer the queries that are in a different language). Social payment is enabled and earned KLM an additional 100 thousand euros in the first two weeks of its launch.

This is where perspective kicks in

Each week KLM has on average 500 thousand passengers (26 million divided by 52 weeks) and that results in 35 thousand questions. Which mean that one in on average one on every 14 passengers (7%) has a question, assuming that customers only have to ask one question and not multiple questions during the week.

Given that KLM has 130 people working on social media questions (assuming they are all full time), they each answer on average 270 questions per week, given the typical dutch workweek is 40 hours, they answer almost 7 questions per hour or close to one every nine minutes.

The additional revenue reported because of social payment is approximately 10 euros cents per passenger. Though if these passengers are all chair fillers it is 100% additional margin which is what KLM should be looking for.

This is where issues occur with these numbers

It is impressive that so many questions are asked and answered in such a timely manner. However what is wrong with your product if so many questions arise that have to be taken care of by separate agents? If 35.000 questions are asked, it means that 35.000 times insufficient information was available for the customer to take action by him or herself.

Given that the volume increases 250% year over year, it means that next year (assuming KLM keeps their numbers for supporting languages still on ten and won’t increase on that) 87.500 questions will be asked, the year after 218.750 and the year after 546 thousand (which means that are more questions asked than there are passengers, unless KLM in parallel grows it numbers of passengers of course. Though than the year after it will be more questions than passengers since a 200% increase in passengers in 4 years for an established airline is not the current trend for KLM).

However does this mean for KLM that they should grow their team with 250% per year as well? Which means to 325 next year, 813 the next year and 2032 the year after? Since this would result in an increase of salary costs from 4.3 million euros (assuming agents at KLM get paid the so called Modal income of 33.5 thousand euros) to more than 68 million euros.

Coming back to the additional revenue with social payment: it would be 0.0003% of the total revenue of the Air France KLM group, or if revenue stayed constant for the rest of the year the percentage would increase to 0.01% of the annual revenue. Which needless to say would provide KLM with a highly limited impact and even if there would be a steep increase week over week, it would be difficult to reach 1% given the numbers we now have.

With a different perspective the numbers present a different case

Of course KLM will take its measures, since spending 17 times more on salaries alone would be unthinkable in such a low margin business. It will be a slow death sentence or perhaps better phrased as a death by a thousand cuts / tweets.

Of course the growth won’t be a hyper growth of constantly 250%, it will flatten, though it might still reach 100k-200k messages per week. Which is still a big threat, given that handling a question now takes 9 minutes.

Of course automation can help, however why automate drying out a flooded room without turning off the taps. The basic problem that KLM shares with us in this article implicitly (according to my personal interpretation of the numbers) is that there is an information gap, which is currently bridged (or if one would be a cynic: hidden) via web care. A gap that costs them at least around 4 million each year in salary costs alone.

Though it might still give them a good return, not necessarily from a service perspective but from a marketing perspective. Since many people are applauding them for their activities, while all they are doing is mopping the floor under a leaking sink, without fixing the sink.

Lies, damned lies or statistics

I leave the final judgement to you on what the actual truth is, but as you can see numbers put in a different perspective tell a whole different story.

This article was published first on LinkedIn.

Social Business Needs Social IT

This article was first published on CIO of the Future

Social Business is not just changing what the marketing department worries about. It’s changing how we run our businesses, and changing what we consider to be a well-managed business. Social Business can make your business more flexible, more agile, more open, and more future proof for the next revolution in technology. This is a revolution that is already taking place.

If the future of business is social, then the future of the IT department is social too.

Social Business

We need to stop thinking about the technology – the social tools – being something that we implement for others. The change that is currently happening in the marketing departments is working its way through business, and will hit the IT department eventually. It is the choice of the IT department to be part of this change, or to be outpaced by somebody who serves the business better. Price is not the competition, it is about value delivered.

Shift from thinking about Social Business as a new communication channel to implement, to seeing social as the starting point for that will lead to a big change in how you design and manage your operations, and it will lead to big benefits.

The future of business – and of the IT department – is more flexible, responsive, and more open. It is not about being more social, whatever that might imply; we never worried about being more SOA or more ITIL . Social is a design principle that leads you to these goals. It is not the goal itself, nor was SOA or ITIL.

Design Principles

The concept of Social Business, associated as it is with Social Media, is often treated as something isolated from other activities within organizations. It’s confused with channels – email, instant messaging, phone… – since it’s the channels that are the most obvious aspect of social, with their manifestation in the form of Facebook and Twitter.

Social Business, however, is changing how we manage and run our businesses. If you want to get the full benefits from Social Business you should not see it as a collection of tools or as something that is only concerned with customer service. Getting the most from Social Business goes beyond ‘being great’ on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. It is a fundamental change in how businesses are being run, organized around how businesses and their stakeholders interact and think.

Social Business is a design principle. It is a logical design principle if you compare it to other design principles we use, such as open architectures, service orientation, and cloud. While Twitter and others might be the most obvious manifestations of social, they are only channels. Though these channels are not Social Business, they are designed with the design principles of Social Business.

What are the top four aspects of the social design principle?

  1. Privacy and trust
  2. Simple, flexible tools
  3. Flexible policies over detailed processes/rules
  4. Data driven ROI

Social IT

We all like change when change is something we do to others. However, if IT wants a role in the new social businesses then IT needs to apply the social design principles to itself.

1. Privacy and trust

With the rise of a PRISM society who can you trust? Is the CIO reading my email? To design for Social IT you have to ensure that there is complete trust between all stakeholders inside and outside.  This means that office politics have no place in social environments, and openness, connectedness and delivered value are valued over utilization and old boy’s networks. Participation is something that is valued, not something that is held against somebody.

2. Simple flexible tools

Open architectures, service orientation, and cloud are things you keep in mind while designing your processes and your applications. However Social Business is most often forgotten, it is added afterwards or it is introduced as a separate silo next to existing solutions.

3. Flexible policies over detailed processes and rules

IT cannot control every bit of IT a Social Business uses. It needs to move from detailed rule-based policies built on the assumption that IT owns the technology, and focus on flex policies that provide the business with the flexibility it needs to get things done.

Who knows what’s best for everybody? Most likely everybody knows what is best for everybody and with consumerization being a standard phenomenon in the enterprise you cannot enforce rigid policies anymore, since the ROI of enforcing would be so little compared to the ROI of letting go. People are not stupid by default, they don’t need lengthy rule books, they need guidance in the right direction.

4. Data driven ROI

What is the ROI of measuring ROI? What is the ROI of not changing? The beauty of social design is that it creates so many more data points that it is easier than ever to optimize ways of workings than it was before. Optimizing doesn’t mean making it more efficient, it is making it more value-adding for the company.

The assembly line is completely optimized, however what is the retention level of the people working on that line, what do they think, what is the cost per new hire?

Efficiency is a model that works in scarcity, not in the abundance driven world we experience in the 21st century. Information and knowledge workers aren’t scarce anymore, they don’t need to be utilized more as the precious steam engines in the 19th century did. They need to mobilized better so they can, will, and want to deliver a better ROI, an ROI that can be measured in absolute detail since every action they take is willingly and intentionally shared with everybody.

Conclusion

Thinking of Social Business beyond the implementation of a channel and treating it as a design principle will help you in designing different kind of solutions. This provides the advantage that the social transformation is coming from the start of the design, instead of after the introduction. This helps you and your organization to move the traditional enterprise to a more social business.

If you start designing your processes and applications as social by default, you’ll see that solutions are likely to become more flexible and connected. It will create more value than in the traditional silo approach and it will help to connect the dots between people, processes and systems. This is because social is not only about human interaction but also about the interaction between humans and systems and even between systems themselves.

You unleash the power of outside by thinking outside-in. However keep an eye on privacy, trust and mobilizing the social network around you, since those are important elements to create tangible value for your organization and for your customers. Social by design is two-way street, a street owned by your customer.

This article was first published on CIO of the Future

7 Common Pitfalls of Web care

What is holding you back in creating your Web care activities into a money machine? You have the latest tools, you have a team, however still you are not living up to your expectations or even worse: to the expectations of the people who give you the budget for your work. Small changes can make a big difference in improving your Web care activities. Here are seven ways you can improve your existing Web care and make a bigger impact on your business.

1. You have a Web care team

Creating a team might sounds like that you are taking Web care really seriously, at least more seriously than the organisations who use interns for their social media efforts. However did you create a fax team 20 years ago, or a paper time before that? Probably not. You should not isolate your efforts in a team or in a department, you should add this skills to the skill set of people who are already doing similar work on other channels.

2. You have a reactive approach

If you have to respond to a complaint, you are too late. Your customer already had a poor experience and with Social Media they already have shared with their friends and basically with the world. Even though the reactive approach is the easiest one to adopt, since you type in a few key words to monitor the Web and wait, it is also the most deadly. It is like watching your car crashing into a wall and pushing the brakes instead of trying to avoid the wall in the first place. Use the content that people are sharing on social media as your strategic advantage you can find issues before they become real problems, which means that you reach out to your customers before they experience the problem and solve it on time and prevent it next time.

3. On Social Media you are more willing to go the extra mile

Similar customer interaction different rules. Phrased this way it might sound weird, however this is what most organisation do on Social Media: complaining on social media will get your problems to be solved faster and your refunds will be likely bigger than if you tried the traditional route.  Customers talk with each other and they know if they can get more on one channel they will demand more everywhere, not just on the channel you are differentiating on. Leaving you robbed blind by your own fault. And if you don’t want to give more on other channels you already can predict what the next deluge of complaints will be…

4. You are the channel switcher

Not every issue can be handled and solved via social media, however why do organisation ask their customers to take the effort to make the switch. Too often you’ll see an organisation ask a customer to call a certain phone number for further help. To reiterate this: your customer has a question or a complaint doesn’t throw away your product in anger and decides to go out on social media and ask you a question. Instead you are asking your customer to even invest more time and effort by asking him to go to yet another channel with his question.

5. Sample size is n=1

Klout, the standard on influence. It couldn’t get any worse than that if you assume that tagline is actually the truth. The worst decisions you make while doing Web care are probably based on a lack of data. Whether it is by prioritising customers on Klout score, or by ignoring people with less than 100 followers on Twitter. It is never about these numbers, it is about the context, whether it is followers, Klout scores or problem statements, you need the context to know what you should do with it and how fast you should act on it. It might be obvious that a security exploit reported by a information technology student could be rather urgent, however if you filter him out based on his Klout score you might leave your business exposed by ignoring something really important.

6. Web care is a goal on itself

We are handling X messages per hour/day/week/unit of time. To be honest: nobody cares. Web care is no goal on itself, the goal that Web care should have to make sure there is as little Web care necessary as possible. Since the less complaints you have to solve the most likely it is that your product is rather good. Web care is (just like most service activities to solve issues) wasteful, it shouldn’t have happened in the first place and you should make sure there is a feedback loop that ensures that the issue won’t occur in the future. Not having Web care on the other hand could be something you want to do in the end, however not as a goal on itself, but as a byproduct of having a big amount of loyal customers doing Web care for you.

7. You listen to your customers

The worst thing you could do is to just listen to your customers and act upon their demands. It is not bad to listen to your customers in general, however if they dictate what you are doing, you will find yourself in limbo. You should be flexible on the details, however stubborn on vision. You don’t have to be the popular kid in the class, though you can allow yourself to give in on certain items. However as soon you as you treat customer as king and let him give orders to you, you are nothing more than just a peon on the road to bankruptcy.

Web care Archetypes: The Mobiliser – No Web care

Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.

Dr. Carl Sagan

Even though there are many archetypes, the best archetype is actually the one that isn’t archetype since this kind of companies don’t do any Web care at all. However don’t confuse not doing Web care with not delivering any service.  Since there is a real difference between companies that ignore their customers and the companies that are able to mobilise their customers to their Web care for them. Web care for customers, by customers.

Not doing Web care isn’t just an archetype, creating an ecosystem in which people do the Web care for you might create the best starting point for creating a successful social business. If you can make people care enough about you and your brand that they spend their valuable time on providing answers to the questions of other customers, you create a sustainable and scalable approach for providing service. It is clear that there is huge benefit if you have a customer army available that is helping you in managing your social media channels and give answers on questions. It provides you with a highly scalable solution, since most companies will have more customers than employees.

Why No Web care is the best you can do

Your KPI is not solving complaints, nor is it solving complaints really fast. It is improving the perceived value of your product by your customers and potential customers. Since perceived value is one of the items that determines if a customer is willing to give you money for your product and service. The easiest way to increase perceived value is by letting your customers shine.

Your customers don’t  have a vested interest in your company, are most likely not biased and don’t benefit from other customers buying your product. By putting them in the spotlight, they are the most authentic source that can share your story and by doing so they might be becoming your best sales people. However it is not just putting the spotlight on them, it is by providing them the opportunity that they want shine for you.

It is by doing really well and by increasing your perceived value so much that your customer is thinking that he is almost robbing you since he is not paying enough compared the value he receives. It is by making it really easy for your customer to promote you and your products and services and finally is by encouraging your customer by doing so. Not only by making sure there is no reason for complaints and questions but also by letting your customers know you value them.

The best way to value your customer is by making sure the perceived value of your products and services is higher than the money that your customer pays for. By doing so you are building up credits and in the end your customer is happy to exchange this credit for investing some of his time in recommending you to his friends.

Stop doing web care. Start caring.

Web care Archetypes: The Bot

Situation

If the volume of tweets you have to handle is rather high you might want to automate the handling of it. This is actually the thing Bank of America did and what went completely wrong. As you can read in this article you’ll see that the automation of Bank of America was quite poor and there was not much intelligence in it (or at least it wasn’t a showcase of smart automation).

However automating a certain workflow is rather common, it has become part of our life to automate repeating tasks. Therefore the archetype of the bot might be more common than that we think since not every bot leads to instant failure.

Analysis

It would rather short-sighted to say on a sample size of one that bots are absolute failures in handling messages on social media. We have just seen one big failure and probably if you really want to you can find some more examples of companies that over-automate and under-test their social media automation.  Since that was what happened to Bank of America: too much automation and too little testing. If it had been thoroughly tested these obvious glitches would not have happened.

How to make it better

Automation in social media and for Web care in particular has been always been a sensitive topic. Some might say it removes any for authenticity and that it is a sin to even think about it. However how many authenticity would you really want to have if you are asking for a simple fact based answer (e.g. When does the train to city X leave), probably not too much, you just want to have that answer as soon as possible.

Basically that is what you can now automate really well: factual questions. First all a factual question can only be asked in a limited number of ways, second there is no wrong answer on the factual questions since it is just informing one who asked the question about the facts he is looking for. However before going completely bezerk on automating every factual piece you need to make sure it actually works. Therefore you should start with semi automate it. Let the system come up with suggestions and let the human pushing the button validate this suggesting and post it. This way you can train the system and validate its outcomes. As certain as the system comes to a certain success level you can push it live without any human being the intermediate between the bot and the person who asked the question.