Digital Complaints and How Brands Can Deal With Them

I recently came across the following video, which is a satirical take on some of the complaint-style youtube videos which have gone by in the past. The video in question was produced by some of the people over at Radian6, a company that produce an eponymous social media and engagement listening tool. Before I show you the Radian6 version, maybe you should take a look at the truly viral United Airlines complaint video:

At the time of writing, the video has had just over 9.22 million views… For the full story behind the video, check the report on how this came about.

The Radian6 guys have done a pretty funny tongue-in-cheek response to this kind of video – clearly more affiliated with the original United Breaks Guitars piece than any others that have been and gone. video in the jump:

It’s a clever take on the genre which while its not actual laugh out lout material, still made me chuckle inside. A hearty private chuckle! Radian6, of course, provide software which would technically allow a brand to respond in this way should anything deflamatory crop up in the social space.

Whether or not intensive monitoring of these social channels is a good idea remains to be seen. Sometime ago @mattrhodes wrote a blog post @ FreshNetworks on the dangers of brands over responding on Twitter, citing a podcast example from Lucy Kellaway (link on the freshnetworks blog ^) as an example of when it’s best to keep schtum when people criticise your brand. I think this is an important consideration…

As a brand, managing your online reputation is important, but you should never go over the top. A guy with 3 followers can flame your brand into submission, but is unlikely to create any ripples (this is of course aside from the fact that they had something to flame you for in the first place). Responding to such a complaint gives the message more leverage than if you just leave it be.

Of course, every complaint is an opportunity to improve your brand/service, and each should be given equal precedent at an internal level, but before you start addressing each and every complaint in the social space, you should probably make sure that its worth your time and money to do so.

I’m not advocating tolerance with mediocrity – if there are things you should be doing better then you should endeavour to do so, but your energy may well be better served in addressing these issues than it would be monitoring the social web with a fine toothed comb.

**update** An excellent post on what Social CRM is can be found here – great quote at the end:

Simply responding to as many comments or tweets as possible is senseless and not scalable”

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The Evolution of Twitter as an Information Service

Twitter recently announced that they were NOT a social media service, and with the release of Twitter 2.0 (I still haven’t got it yet!) it is clear that they mean it. The new permutation is more focused on being a news and content service than a social media platform, and while I initially rejected the distinction, it came to grow on me.

I know it’s old news, the conference when this was announced was a few weeks ago now, but it has taken me some time to think about this revelation, and what it means for the social space.

I’ve blogged before about how much I love Twitter, and for me there are definitely some solid social media aspects as to why this is the case. After reflection, however, I also realised that the information network part of Twitter played an equally large role in this perception.

There is no denying the fact that Twitter is so much more than a social network. It’s social news, news without spin, news you cannot see (more on that in a bit), it’s interaction, discussion, collaboration, customer service, argument, controversy, TRENDING, fun… the list goes on.

Part of my ‘awakening’ to the idea of Twitter as more than a social media service happened the other day when I was stuck on a train trying to get past a ‘major incident’ at Clapham Junction (this part is the news you cannot see). We were repeatedly told by the guard that this ‘major incident’ had caused a bottleneck and that we were queuing up to get past. Seemed to most of us that what was actually happening was the halting of our train while numerous others zoomed past. I decided that I wanted to know what had really happened, so I turned to twitter to see if Clapham was trending.

It was.

The one tweet that stuck out as being both enlightening and devoid of any editorial party line was by Emma and James Firth.
George Cathcart Retweets

I don’t know why getting this extra information made me feel more involved or connected to the incident, but getting drip-fed the same line over and over while your backside gets progressively more numb makes you thirsty for something of substance. Twitter provided that for me, and apparently countless others, too. I also felt connected to the hundreds of tired and pi**ed off commuters who just wanted to get home and have their tea. As Twitter-folk, we are at once the editors, distributors, promoters and moderators of the news we consume- that makes us pretty powerful. Perhaps it is this consumer power which is a key catalyst for brands investing in and developing social CRM strategies. A cynical motivation, perhaps – it would be nice to think that this shift in consciousness was for holistic reasons and not just businesses reacting to changing market conditions. (It’s really not all like that, so please excuse my cynicism!)

As a closing comment, I’d like to turn your attention to this story, and in particular the third page. Work done by Neuroeconomist, Paul Zak, has suggested that social networking produces the same hormone response as face-to-face interaction. Oxytocin is the hormone responsible for the bond formed between a mother and her new-born baby, as well as being vitally important for the feelings of empathy, generosity, trust, and more. In an isolated experiment, Paul got Adam Penenberg, a writer for Fast Company, to interact online with people for 10 minutes. Blood tests were taken before and immediately after the task.Those 10 minutes saw an oxytocin spike of 13.2%, as well as marked reduction in stress hormones. This spike of oxytocin was similar to the spire that a friend of Dr Zak’s experienced when he got married.

Obviously this is not a clinical study, and there is only one participant. Combine that with the fact that Adam is a regular user of social networks, and we have no grounds what so ever for generalising these results across any kind of population. It’s interesting food for thought, though. Dr Zak says that electronic connection is processed much the same way as face to face connection, and there are certainly similarities from what I’ve observed.

The implications for this, if it were proved to be accurate, are fairly huge. From companies having an open policy on letting their employees tweet during the day, to brands really focusing on engaging with their customers using these channels. This in the hope that the warm fuzzy feeling they get when they develop a relationship with their brand creates brand affinity, and maximises advocacy and buzz.

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Social Media & Social CRM

Part of my day to day activities at the moment, a large part in fact, is researching the digital marketing industry in the search of companies who might want to employ me who I’d like to work for, either now or further down the line (the list is large and growing at an alarming rate). Something that I’ve been considering for a while as an aside to this is the distinction that some are making between social media strategies and social CRM. One such company who place the emphasis on social CRM is Neoco, ‘The Social CRM Agency’, who are based in London.

I’m not going to use this post to talk about neoco, their (snazzy) website and blog are a lot better at doing that, and as such you can go check them out if you fancy a look (comes highly recommended), but I thought I’d use this instead to add my thoughts on the distinction, and see if any of you (the few that read this!) agree or disagree with me.

Social media marketing is taking off like a rocket. As the world at large becomes more ‘social’ (as if we weren’t before!) the attraction of social media marketing is ever increasing, and investment into the sector is on the up. But social media marketing has a tinge of pejorative connotation. Marketing has been considered in the past to be an aggressive process of convincing people to part with their hard earned cash for products that they don’t want or need. The addition of social media to that equation doesn’t necessarily negate that potential for no good, but it is a fresh permutation of the marketing machine, and it adds the element of conversation to the mix.

From a physiological perspective we are social beings. Humans are predisposed to communicate, to arrange themselves into social units, to coexist with each other. We are, as Marx suggested, ‘gregarious creatures’ (yes, that is wikipedia, I’m not pretending to be a well versed authority on Karl Marx’s literature). ‘Social’ and ‘Conversation’ are intrinsically linked; the person in the corner of the room chatting to his shadow is dubbed ‘antisocial’ due to their lack of involvement with others, and a ‘social life’ is something that involves plenty of conversation with other people that you enjoy seeing. ‘Social media’, therefore, is ultimately the facilitation of conversations using digital platforms, albeit without the physical element of normal human interaction. Social media marketing, therefore, could be conceived to be the use of digital conversations to market products and services. In reality there is a world of complexity which spans from this expression, but from a lexical perspective this is the (my) root meaning.

Conversations, of course, are not necessarily the use of simple text. Platforms like Foursquare and Flickr give the option of using geo-location and photography as elements in the conversation, or can be the core of the conversation text being the periphery. The combination of these different platforms can and have resulted in a world of both intricate and simple digital campaigns, some of which were incredibly effective.

Social media marketing, however, falls short of the full monty. While the emphasis is on conversation, it isn’t necessarily a lasting or quality one. The conversation can be short lived and can lack longevity. Some campaigns only use social media for the duration of the campaign, or tail off when it is over. This is where Social CRM comes in.

Just as social media marketing was a new permutation of the classical marketing model (in response to advances in technology), social CRM is the fresh paradigm of social media marketing which is borne not of technological advances (although there is still an element of this), but of advances in understanding what consumers want from the companies and products they purchase / buy into. With classical marketing there was a one way flow of information, with social media marketing there was a conversation, and with social CRM there is a relationship between the brand and the consumer.

Social CRM places the consumer at the heart of the business, and ultimately focuses on the wants and desires of the customer. Grievances, suggestions, criticisms are all seen as an opportunity to increase the quality of a product. Criticisms in particular are a unique opportunity for a brand to reach out to those unhappy customers and address their problems, listen to their criticism and give them an opportunity to have a voice on the matter. Confronting negative WOM is so incredibly important in a modern business strategy – what often starts out as a whisper can turn into a roar, so it pays dividends to give those voices something good to say.

The knowledge that a brand is listening and acting upon the opinions of its customers makes that brand more attractive. It makes it seem less like one way traffic, and more like an exchange. I’ll bet a large proportion of people would choose a brand that listened over one that didn’t. In this respect social media and subsequently social CRM has given brands an avenue in which they can prove that they care about their customers, that they are committed to improving their business, and that the users of the products can have a say on how they develop over time.

Reasons such as this are why I’m so excited by this industry, and why for me this isn’t just a fad. Social media, it could be argued, has had the makings of ‘fad’ culture, but when you get past all that superfluous nonsense, you see how social CRM is giving switched on brands an avenue for organic and sustainable business which will last far into the future. If you listen, you will be listened to.

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