Thank You, Come Again … Please?

It’s clear that the real benefits of social media for business are maximized customer engagement and participation. Ideally, customers would be regular visitors and contributors to your site, forming their own relationship with the brand or company itself. So let’s look at the kind of content that can help you generate the return traffic you desire. Before you can do anything, however, you need to know your customers and what they are interested in, as discussed in post four. Once you’ve figured them out, you can begin to design your content to fulfill their wants and needs

For example, everyone loves a bargain. Running specials and competitions on your site is a surefire way to bring customers back for more. Try to be creative in these promotions, make the prizes fun, interesting and tailored to your customers interests. If you remind your customers that the special offers are always changing, they’ll be sure to check for updates frequently. Don’t forget to ask for feedback, it’s important for your customers to see that you care. Dan Ostrow, in his post about gathering feedback with social media, suggests adding surveys and polls to your Facebook or blog, or posting videos on YouTube that ask for responses. These are easy ways to bring the opportunity for feedback to the customer, after all, they’re doing you a favor.

Not only promotions, but all of your content, needs to be updated regularly. Frequent updates show your customers that your company is serious about your brand and supplying customers with relevant and interesting information. In her post about why regular updates are so important, Sarah Worsham claims this constant content is a must if you want your site to be seen. People are hardly just scanning web pages anymore, you need your page to be shared, shared and shared again. This means you must develop relationships and loyalty with customers so they feel comfortable spreading your word through their mouths, which in this case are their blogs, Facebooks, Twitters, etc.

Your social media site should also provide a way for your consumers, both current and potential, to engage with other consumers, not just your brand. In this video from Businessweek, technology expert, Omar Wasow describes the importance of creating an online community to allow your users to connect with other customers who care about the same things. He uses Nike and Bank of America as examples of two companies that have successfully created online communities for their users to engage.

Alex Blum, CEO of KickApps, makes a good point about fostering customers’ trust and maintaining the authenticity of your brand by keeping social media in-house. When engaging in conversation on a company’s site, customers expect to be dealing with someone who is knowledgeable about the company’s goals, products and customers. If customers knew the “representative” they were speaking to was not really a representative of the company at all, their trust in your company, satisfaction with your products and loyalty to your brand would not be the same. Keep customers loyal, satisfied and returning by providing quality information from an in-house professional.

Return traffic can define the success or failure of your social media strategy. Think of it as the difference between saying “thanks for coming” and being able to say “see you tomorrow.”


But Everybody’s Doing It!

To most modern corporate communicators it’s obvious why companies need to be using social media to engage with customers. However, some senior level executives, even the CEO, may need to be convinced of social media’s positive influence on B2C relationships and customer engagement. Just like any other company project, social media needs your CEO’s support to be completely successful. This is where you come in. Explain the endless benefits of incorporating a social media strategy into your company’s business plan, and the potential consequences of not getting involved. In his post about change management and social media, Michael Murray suggest you do your research before approaching your boss. Don’t just tell him, show him evidence of how other companies in your industry (your competition) have benefited from using social media to interact with customers. Whether it’s increased sales, customer service ratings or reviews, the proof is out there and undeniable.

Don Bulmer’s post about why business leaders should care about social media, points out that millions of people are sharing content and information though social media every day, looking for positive experiences. It’s most important for your CEO to understand those experiences in social media and the effect those experiences could have on your company. Both positive and negative experiences with your brand can travel worldwide overnight. This is why you should want to be in control of your own social media, making it possible for you to create positive experiences for your customers that they can, and will, share.

Soren Gordhamer touches on some ways that social media changes business and business objectives. One of these changes is a shift from the sell, sell, sell, mindset to making connections and building relationships regardless of profit. Actually, the companies that really understand social media use their sites mostly to learn about customers and talk about the company, rather than push their products. The Old Spice campaign, discussed in post three, is a good example of this.

Customers are now using social media to connect with companies in a personal way, which is why companies need to be responding with the same helpful, personal communication rather than large promotions. This change has caused companies to focus on smaller projects, rather than huge campaigns, and tweet personal things, instead of official company statements. Inevitably, engaging with customers and building relationships has forced companies to focus on being transparent rather than controlling their image.

If enhancing the user experience and building relationships with customers doesn’t convince your CEO, try emphasizing the positive effects social media could have on other aspects of business like revenue, savings, employees and internal communication. In Nick Shin’s post on why businesses should use social media, he mentions the low costs of a social media presence compared to the price of traditional campaigns. As I mentioned in post four, Dell generated $6.5 million from it’s Twitter presence alone, and that’s just one example. Not to mention social media gives your company a way to monitor its competition at no cost!

Although traditional media will always have its place, social media is allowing for conversation and interaction between businesses and consumers that was never possible before. Companies can choose to remain hidden and inaccessible, or take advantage of the opportunity to be transparent and personal with customers using social media. If you don’t get involved you risk losing your customers to competition that IS engaging with social media.

Remember: everybody’s using social media, you should to.

So Many Platforms, So Little Time

Before you can commit to any social media platform you need to know which one is right for your company’s goals and customers. As Titan SEO explains in this news release, not every company should be spending time and wasting money on every platform available. You need to analyze your audience and realize your goals before attempting to engage your customers through social media.

Proctor and Gamble, as I discussed in post three, clearly knew what they were doing when they launched their Old Spice campaign using personalized videos on YouTube. They knew who they were trying to reach and how they were going to engage them. If the Old Spice campaign had been done as a series of blog posts would it have had the same effect on the audience? The answer is no, and that’s exactly why it’s important for you to know the different social media platforms and how effective they could be at reaching and engaging your current and potential customers.

How do you determine which platform would be the most effective? In his post about whether or not social media is right for your company, Mark Collier says the first step should be monitoring and analyzing your customers, both current and potential. Find out what are they saying, and where they are saying it. He points out that even if you create a great company Facebook page, it won’t change the fact that all of your customers are on Twitter. In other words, if the majority of your customers are utilizing a particular site, you need to be actively engaging on it too.

This Conversation Prism below, created by Brian Solis and JESS3, illustrates the hundreds of sites that make up the social media universe. The prism is categorized by how people use each site and therefore is useful in determining which site your company should use for a particular purpose. Of course, you can’t be actively participating in all of them, which is why you need to monitor your customers and utilize their favorite sites. In fact, as Matt Owen explains in his post about which network is right for your business, spreading yourself thin over too many networks, or even participating on the wrong network could negatively effect your brand.

The Conversation Prism gives you a pretty good idea of the overwhelming number of social networking sites available today. However, Facebook, Myspace, LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube and blogs are seen as the major social media platforms. In his post, 6 social media platforms at a glance, Kent Lewis describes the mindset, demographics, opportunities and challenges of each major platform. Whatever the differences between the platforms they can all be used by companies to produce the same result: increased engagement and satisfaction of customers, which likely means increased revenue.

Take Dell for example, as Jennifer Van Grove explains in her post about making money on Twitter, Dell has accumulated $6.5 million from their presence on Twitter. With 100 employees tweeting, Dell’s Senior Manager for Corporate Affairs, Richard Binhammer, says Dell uses Twitter to connect, listen and engage with customers where they are.

After defining your goals, analyzing your audience and choosing a platform, all that’s left to do is build your site and begin engaging … as long as it’s OK with the CEO, of course.


Mmm Is That Your Social Media I Smell?

Now that we’ve looked at a negative social media approach in post one, and discussed how to deal with negative comments in post two, lets move on to something more pleasant … or pleasantly smelling you might say.

Proctor and Gamble, the company behind Old Spice, wanted to make the old brand new again and increase participation from its customers. They were very successful in doing so. How? You guessed it – with social media. This past summer, advertising agency, Wieden and Kennedy, launched one of the most successful social media campaigns in recent history for Old Spice.

The initial campaign began with the commercials many of us have seen with ex-football player Isaiah Mustafa. The commercials were creative and random, with a theme of “the man your man can smell like,” and “the return of the man your man can smell like,” but they were funny, and they did a good job of getting the brand some younger attention.

The team at Proctor and Gamble saw the success of these initial commercials (the thousands of positive comment and reviews) and decided to take it one step further. Isaiah Mustafa, now commonly known as the “Old Spice guy,” stars in more than 180 personalized videos in which he speaks directly to you. The videos actually directly address an individual who has asked a question or posted a comment to Old Spice. As Danny Whatmough explains in his blog on what we can learn from old spice, some of the videos were posted within just minutes of receiving the comment or question. After recording, Mustafa would tweet those response videos daily to a wide range of Internet users. Even silly questions like “how do I get women to stop chasing me when I wear old spice?”, were asked and Mustafa would post a video responding to that question, addressing the individual by name. He even addressed a video to his own daughter, Ellen DeGeneres, and Perez Hilton. Talk about a wide range of viewers.

Of course this is only one example out of hundreds, but why did they work so well? Because social media is all about engagement and participation. When is the last time a marketing campaign addressed one person at a time? When is the last time they spoke directly to you and dedicated an entire video to answering your question rather than just a two sentence comment? As Stan Schroeder explains in his post describing Old Spice’s success, the answer to both is never, and that is what made Old Spice so successful. Customers and even non-customers could engage in the brand in an entertaining way.

Never before has a social media campaign received such positive comments across the board. On Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, you name it – the feedback was positive (which hardly ever happens). What continued the success of this approach was the users themselves. The tagging, tweeting and linking of the videos made the campaign even more viral than it already was. In her post about the success of old spice’s campaign Brenna Ehrlich goes into detail about the overwhelming number of views and comments on the videos.

The campaign ended a few weeks ago with one last video in which Mustafa addresses his viewers as “friends,” tells them he “loves them,” and that “like all great things, this too must end.” As a customer, viewer, or fan, how much more personal engagement can you ask for?

So, great job Old Spice, Nestle could learn a thing or two from you.

Negative Comments Don’t Bite

In my first post I discussed Nestle’s social media meltdown and left one begging question unanswered: What is the right way to handle negative comments?

First, realize that negative comments about your company or brand will be posted elsewhere on the Internet and you can’t delete them. So, taking them off your corporate blog or Facebook won’t take care of the problem. Take advantage of the fact that you can respond, sympathize and react to those comments on the sites which you do control. On your site you know your side of the story will be there, and stay there. Show your audience and customers that you care. Show them that you’re willing to have open and transparent conversations with them. As Joshua Titsworth explains in his post on what Nesltle should have done, unless the comments are truly obscene, don’t delete them. Sometimes people will post spam, or unrelated information, on your page. In this case, as John Hayden explains, it’s also acceptable to delete or mark these posts as spam.

Of course it’s understandable to respectfully exit the conversation if it starts getting ridiculous, or ask for further discourse offline. But remember that social media is about conversation and engagement. You started your blog or other online media platform to provide service to your organization’s customers, and they expect you to do just that. So, take a step back and see that these negative comments are really a way for you to connect with your audience. If you respond in a thankful and calm manner, it could turn the situation positive. In Mack Collier’s post on why your company should embrace negative comments, he claims your response could even boost your online reputation.

It’s basically as simple as that, except …

Remember those other negative comments about your organization being posted all over the blogosphere? You need to be actively engaging in those as well. You can’t delete them, or stop the conversation, so what should you do and when should you jump in? In her post about dealing with negative online comments, Gini Dietrich suggests you not only read what is being said about your brand on the Internet, but engage in the conversation.

Remember those posts on the Internet will be there forever. When people search your brand and a negative comment pop ups, you want your point of view right there underneath it. If you messed up tell your audience what you’re doing to make it better, and why your decision was the right decision. In his post about the appropriate social media approach to customer service, Ed Stivala says all your customers want is recognition and honest conversation; you can give it to them.

In this video four social media professionals share what they believe to be the best practices for dealing with negative comments about your brand or company.

Although some companies still haven’t grasped this idea of interactivity and engagement, others have done a phenomenal job of supporting their customers through social media. One success story in particular … well, I’ll save that for next time.

Remember, negative comments don’t bite … if you don’t let them.

Some Aren’t So Hungry For Nestle Anymore

Nestle’s social media meltdown began with a Greenpeace campaign that accused Nestle of supporting deforestation by purchasing palm-oil from companies that destroy rain forests in Indonesia. Although they had the right idea when they launched their Facebook page to facilitate communication with customers, they forgot that having a Facebook in general means nothing if they don’t use it to interact positively, openly and appropriately with customers in a timely manner. Greenpeace’s campaign attacked from multiple sides, including comments on Facebook and a video on YouTube connecting the death of Orangutans to eating Kit Kats.

Where did Nestle go wrong? In their response. As Chris Kieff explains in his Nestle case study, Nestle tried to have the video removed due to copyright infringement, which led to angry Greenpeace members and followers who organized to begin commenting on Nestle’s Facebook page. Then, the mass protest began. Now people were not only complaining about the palm-oil, but about pulling the Greenpeace video as well. Some protesters even began to use altered versions of Nestle’s logo as their Facebook image.

This is where Nestle could have stepped in and responded quickly and transparently, but chose not to. They deleted many of the negative comments, and even deleted other comments simply because the commenter used an altered version of their brand image. Maybe an even worse decision, as Sarah Hartshorn identifies as the fifth social media mistake, was allowing an inexperienced professional to respond to those negative comments which hadn’t been deleted. The Nestle representative responded in a rude and unprofessional manner, furthering Greenpeace and followers’ negative opinion of Nestle due to its lack of concern with the whole issue.

Even though Nestle finally responded to Greenpeace, replaced the Indonesian company and was moving toward the elimination of palm-oil in its products, its reputation has not completely recovered.

What Did We Learn Nestle?

Nestle could have turned this into a positive PR move if it had responded to Greenpeace in the beginning and ended its relationship with the rainforest-destroying company. Instead, it kept quiet. Nestle thought silence was a protection, and realized, rather, that silence can speak louder than words. For now, Nestle will spend its time recovering and hopefully thinking up a new and respectful approach to engage with their customers online … for chocolate’s sake.