Where Should Social Media Live? Marketing, That’s Where

Amber Naslund recently commented on a post of mine, and said:

As social business becomes more the MO instead of just “doing social media”, we still don’t have an answer for where it lives, and it needs somewhere. I don’t think it’s going to be enough for it just to be dispersed independently in various departments. We have C-suite roles that are holistic and support the entire business. HR and IT do that to an extent, too, because they’re practices that have to carry across and touch all disciplines. I think social business needs to be that way too.

But as it matures – and maybe even after it’s well established as best practice – it needs some kind of alignment in order to thrive. I’ve yet to make up my mind whether that means there’s an executive that’s responsible for ‘social business’ itself or something else, but the reality is that we need someone to be accountable for the purposes, vision, and results of social business initiatives (and things like innovation, organizational design, culture development ) as their purview, not just an aspect of their job description.

This has been an ongoing question, and one that is not easily answered.

Except that I think it’s the Marketing department.

If you look at Marketing as the communication channel between customers and the company, and not just the department that makes brochures, pictures, and websites, it makes sense. Marketing communicates through web, print, broadcast, and even direct communication. How those messages reach their audience depends on the mediums (media) where they’re found.

There are those who would argue that it should belong in PR, because they have to communicate with journalists and industry bloggers who are all using social media. Some will argue that it should be in customer service, because it has become an established customer service communication channel. (I would argue that customer service should be folded into marketing, since they focus on customer retention, but that’s a different blog post.)

But if anything, the responsibility for social media needs to be kept in marketing for the communication aspect, and the other departments need to be allowed to use it as part of their own responsibilities. If anyone is going to decide what the social media strategy will be, that should come from marketing, but in cooperation with PR, Customer Service, and any other departments using it.

As I said in a recent blog post, Social Media Stars Killed Social Media, we’re reaching the point where social media is just going to be another form of communication, like email and the phone, and we’re not going to have dedicated social media professionals.

So when that day comes that social media professionals just turn into regular old professionals, they need to land in the marketing department.

Four Ways a Corporate Blog Can Help Your Company Increase Profits

A corporate blog is more than just a company diary where someone from marketing talks about the latest trade show. A corporate blog is a support tool that can lighten the load of several different departments within your company. Here are four ways a corporate blog can help your company.

1. Reduce Marketing Costs and Improve Reach

In the past, Marketing put a lot of time and money into developing, creating, and printing new sales literature and brochures. But once the specs changed on a particular product you got a new area code (it happened to my company in 2002), or you made an egregious error (guilty), the remaining 8,500 copies of the brochures were rendered obsolete, or you had to hand correct every single one of them with a black marker.

A blog can replace a lot of sales brochures and literature, introducing customers to the new product, letting them read the new specs, and finding out the latest features and prices. A blog will also let you show new photos and video demonstrations, tell people about the upcoming trade show or the show you just finished, or even post a video of the CEO talk about the product and what it means for the industry.

By turning to electronic publishing, you can reduce printing costs, reduce costs per lead, and ultimately, costs per sales.

2. Serve as a Newsroom

The PR department spends a lot of time chasing down the industry media or traditional media, trying to get them to talk about your latest product or service. The problem is, the media isn’t always willing to listen, or they can only publish on their own schedule, not yours. But by posting news articles to your website, you become the news source, not the traditional or industry media.

A blog will let you disseminate the latest news to your customers, helping your most loyal customers not only read what you’re up to, they can share it with their readers, which promotes your news as well. The media can use your blog as an information-gathering source as well. This lets them see what you’re doing, rather than waiting for a press release. They can find your press releases, product photos, and HD video clips, and get everything they need with ease. They can also get further information and details without calling your PR person while she’s on vacation and unavailable.

3. Sell to New Customers

Corporate blogging can greatly benefit the sales department, because salespeople can talk about the benefits of the new product, use blog posts to answer frequently asked sales questions, and preemptively overcome any objections potential customers may have.

While this won’t answer every question and objection for every customer, you’ll find that it cuts down on the time per sale. When I started selling on the Internet in the late-90s, I found I had cut my time per sales call down from 40 minutes to 10 minutes just because of the information I was putting on my website.

Again, this is where video demonstrations can be invaluable to potential customers. This also helps improve search engine rankings, so your site is more easily found during web searches, which means more customers could find you, which in turn means means more sales.

4. Provide 24/7 Customer Service

If you have a product or service that has frequent questions, don’t just rely on an FAQ section. Turn your blog into a knowledge center, and ask your customer service reps to write posts that answer those frequent questions. Make them as easy to find as possible (proper keyword tagging, links from the FAQ page, or even listing them in your “popular posts.”

Ask other customers to leave comments on individual posts about different fixes and solutions they’ve found as well. Incorporate their answers into the official blog posts to continue the discussion, and to make your customers feel like they’re contributing.

Finally, customers can search your website and find in-depth answers to questions they have. This saves phone calls about basic constantly-asked questions, which means you can help reduce customer service costs.

5 Key Steps for Good Customer Service in B2B Social Media

A couple weeks ago, while we were on our way to Chicago, Erik wrote about how people — customers — can get good customer service by participating in B2B and B2C social media. He talked about how customers can get a company’s attention, why they shouldn’t whine, and how to make sure they’re taken seriously when they have a real complaint.

But companies also need to follow some customer service “best practices” in the social media realm, if they want to see what the customers are talking about, and to avoid a serious customer service meltdown. We manage a lot of customer service social media for our clients, and have been able to solve a lot of problems on their behalf. Here are five steps we follow in providing good customer service in B2B social media.

1. Find your Customer Playgrounds

Facebook is not the only game in town to manage b2c social media for a company. More often than not, you’ll find your customers participating on sites that are specific to your industry. Social media and business can be found on Twitter, Blogs, Forums and other Social Networks.

For example, in the travel industry, whether it’s an airline, hotel or car rental company, they can keep an eye on their customers by hanging out on Flyertalk, where everyone is talking about everything from airline miles, aircraft and the luggage they use. By focusing on specific discussions, they can keep abreast of what their customers are concerned about and pleased with.

Most industries have their playground where people are congregating and talking about what you are or are not doing right. Find yours and participate.

2. Create a Team.

You need a team to monitor your brand online. Your best bet is to create a tiger team of different people from different departments, rather than assigning one department like marketing or customer service to it. However, you need to appoint ONE person to be in charge of it. Don’t make it a committee, because nothing will get done. Customer service definitely needs a seat at the table. Also, create a plan to quickly address a bad Twitter post or Facebook post. This is where customer service needs to be at the forefront.

3. Monitor the Networks.

It’s not just enough to have a Twitter account that you check for mention of your name (although you need to do that too). You need to monitor a lot of the different networks and forums. There are several tools to help, including Lithium (formerly ScoutLabs), uberVu, Radian6, Vocus, and of course, Google Alerts.

There are more entering the social media monitoring market everyday, so the list is fluid. Find one that does what you need and stick with it. But be prepared to change, since the quality of the lists will often change.

4. Have a Plan to Respond.

Make sure you you always address the issue and deal with the customer. Don’t engage in an argument with them. Whether you think you’re wrong or they’re right, don’t engage in a public debate. If the customer is just dead wrong, address the issue privately, but solve their problems publicly. Let everyone see you’re taking care of your customers; this will help potential customers feel more at ease. But if you get into an argument with a customer publicly, you’re going to lose when everyone else sees you as a bully.

 

Step 1: Research the person who posted their comment.

    • Do they have Klout?
    • Have they identified themselves?
    • How much influence do they have?
    • Are they a troll? (There are individuals that go around and say bad things and try to extort you to remove the comment.  And, they may not even be a customer or have purchased your product).

Step 2: If they are legitimate, address their issue.

See how easy that is?

5. Communicate the effort, so you are demonstrating action is being taken.

Demonstrate that you are conversing with your customers and answering the questions. The passive aggressive behavior of online behavior quickly turns into appreciation, if the customer feels heard. Someone may complain “Smitty’s restaurant ruined my day. Put Swiss, not American, cheese on my cheeseburger. #FAIL,” but will backtrack and soften their complaint if you follow up with “I’m sorry for the error. We’ll buy your lunch the next time you’re in.”

Remember, social media is about having conversations with your customers online. Monitoring what people are saying allows you to get important feedback you would not otherwise get. Feedback is good, embrace it.

Five Rules to Getting Good Customer Service on Social Media

Social media has made customer service more important and easier since the advent of the 800 number.

We tell people, and our companies, what makes us happy and what makes us upset. We tell others they need to support or avoid companies that have pleased or displeased us. And if we’re lucky, the companies will pay attention to us, and solve our problems for us.Shouting woman

But depending on what you complain about and how you do it, you may have better success with some techniques than others. Here are five rules for getting good customer service on social media.

1. Don’t Be Passive-Aggressive

Social media has made it possible for the passive-aggressive among us to air our grievances to all of our friends without actually confronting any issues. You see them on Facebook, Twitter, and other anywhere else we can share our innermost thoughts and accomplishments with our friends:

Claire: I wish some people would quit leaving the toilet seat up.
David: Jeez, I said I was sorry.
Gayle likes this.
Gayle: Good for you, Claire. Make whoever it is PAY!”
David: You know, I can see you both across the table.

Customers who complain about a company need to be specific, factual, and shouldn’t play the hapless victim seeking sympathy. If you don’t like something, say so outright. Also, sticking the #fail hashtag on a complaint tweet just makes you look like a petty drama queen.

Wish someone at @burgerking hadn’t only put one piece of cheese on my Double Whopper. Learn to count. #fail #MyDayIsRuined

2. Don’t Be a Jackass

The funniest thing I heard Scott Stratten say at his Social Media Club Chicago talk was, “I’m not the jackass whisperer. I don’t have time to deal with jackasses.” If you’re a jackass to the company you’re dissatisfied with, don’t be surprised if they don’t help you. Calling someone names or insulting them because you’re not happy will only make them mad, and wreck what might have been a valid complaint. If they do help, it’s because they’re committed to customer service, not because your jackassery is actually effective.

3. Don’t Say Anything You’re Not Willing to Say to Someone’s Face

If you’re a jackass online, how willing are you to be a jackass to someone’s face, especially when they’re not the person who aggrieved you? And if you’re the passive-aggressive type, are you willing to make a cutting comment at the same time you make eye contact with someone?

What makes me laugh is to see is when someone complains about a company on Twitter, and the company responds, the person quickly backtracks and tries to soften what they previously said. It’s an understandable vent. They’re upset, they’re frustrated, and so they reached for their mobile phone, and told the world why, but didn’t realize the company was paying attention to them. When the company responds, they backpedal on their complaint, embarrassed at their outburst, and more than a little humbled. And yes, I’ve done this. It’s embarrassing.

Many years ago, when I was in grad school, I was on the receiving end of this. I had stepped onto an elevator and hit the button for my floor. The doors closed just as a woman ran up. I couldn’t hit the Open Door button in time to keep them from closing all the way.

“A-hole!” she shouted as the doors shut in her face. (She didn’t actually say “a-hole,” she said the whole word.)

However, it turns out I did hit the button in time so the elevator didn’t leave. The doors slid open again, bringing her face to face with the guy she had just called a name.

“Oh jeez, I’m so sorry,” she stammered. “I was just annoyed about the doors.”

“Don’t worry about it. I won’t make you ride with an a-hole,” I said, and hit the Close Door button.

Here’s the rule. Don’t shout something on Twitter or Facebook that you have to stammer an apology for when you meet that person.

4. Send Out Thank You Messages After Your Complaint Is Resolved

After you’ve been helped, write a blog post, or post a video or some photos about you being happy with your new or replacement item. Turn the company’s effort into a win for them. Give them something to be happy about. Customer service people spend 8 hours a day being our whipping posts, so show them — as publicly as possible — that you’re thankful.

There’s an old management adage that says “reprimand in private, praise in public.” That works here too. If you have a customer service gripe, it’s nice to keep it private. Just between you and the company. But definitely make your praises public. Let everyone know why you’re pleased.

If you do launch a complaint in public, it is absolutely not right to only thank them with a personal email. You made sure everyone knows about the company’s failure, so you need to make sure everyone knows about their success too.

5. Praise a Company Before You Have a Need to Complain

There are some companies that just rock your world. You love their products, you “like” their Facebook page, and you tell all your friends about them. Become a super fan and praise them on your blog, Twitter, and Facebook. Become their evangelist before you ever lodge your first complaint.

If they’re on social media, connect with them there too. Become someone who will help them out when they need it. Then, when you have a complaint, not only do you have one or two people you can complain to directly, they’ll take you seriously, because they know how much you already love them.

As clichéd as it is, the old saying, “you catch more flies with honey than you can with vinegar” applies here. If you’re unhappy with a company, by all means, complain. It’s your right as a customer. But if you do it the right way, you’re more likely to get what you want than if you whine and gripe about their incompetence and #failures.

My book, Branding Yourself: How to Use Social Media to Invent or Reinvent Yourself (affiliate link), is available on Amazon.com, as well as at Barnes & Noble and Borders bookstores. I wrote it with my good friend, Kyle Lacy.

Photo credit: kandyjaxx

Five Superrific Lessons I Learned From Scott Stratten at Social Media Club Chicago

To tell you the truth, I still don’t know what UnMarketing is. I have Scott Stratten’s book, UnMarketing
(affiliate link), in my possession. I have read the first chapter. I even read the intro where he explains what unmarketing is, and I still can’t tell you what it is.Scott Stratten, author of UnMarketing, speaks at Social Media Club Chicago

That’s because it seems so obvious that I’m suspicious there’s not a deeper secret to it. I can’t wrap my brain around the fact that it’s so frigging easy. There’s got to be more to it, right?

That’s mostly because it’s common sense, it’s stuff we should already be doing as businesspeople. It’s relationship building with your customers, and it’s providing good customer service. Don’t we already do that?

No. No, we don’t, says Scott.

I’m disappointed, but not too surprised, to be reminded that relationship building, providing basic customer service, and providing value are the keys to business success. It’s not lowest price. It’s not being a jerk to the customers who piss you off. It’s not shrugging your shoulders and saying, “oops, sorry.”

I heard Scott speak at Social Media Club Chicago last night (we drove up from Indy, and I’m actually writing this in the car on the way back; don’t worry, Paul is driving), and he told us about UnMarketing and how it relates to providing good customer service. Here are the five most important lessons I took away from the evening.

1. People spread awesome.

People don’t spread mediocrity. They don’t tell their friends to read that 10 point link bait article that sounds like all the other ones just like it. But people share things that are exciting, valuable, and, well, awesome.

If you want a lot of people to read your stuff, then write good stuff. Don’t rehash someone else’s arguments (said the guy writing about five things another guy said 18 hours ago). Come up with something creative and interesting, something valuable and useful. If you do a good job, people will spread it for you. (Although Scott said he would retweet any blog post that contained “superrific” in the title.)

2. Voltaire Rules!

Okay, he didn’t say that. What he said was “common sense is not so common,” which Voltaire actually said in 1765. But Scott added, “if it were common, I wouldn’t have a business.” What seems like common sense to us isn’t really that common at all. That’s why people hire consultants like us to teach it to them.

3. Average customer service can win.

“To be awesome at customer service, you just have to be average. Because everyone else sucks at it.” How sad is it that we have lowered our expectations that much that average customer service is something we think is awesome.

We tell our friends about the restaurant manager who comped our meal because we found a hair in our food, because we were so impressed by their willingness to make it right. Because our level of “acceptable” customer service has been lowered by indifferent managers and surly servers. So we’re impressed by the person who does the decent thing, because we accept mediocrity as being good enough.

4. “I’m Not the Jackass Whisperer.”

There will be trolls and haters in your life. People who want to call you names, insult you, and denigrate you. These are jackals who cower behind the skirts of anonymity, and you don’t need to pay attention to them. You don’t need to appease them, reason with them, or show them that you’re actually a nice person and that they’ve just got you all wrong.

Screw ’em! You’re not the jackass whisperer. You’ve got work to do, and placating jackasses is not one of your responsibilities.

5. Practice good personal branding.

What he actually said was “do not do anything you don’t want to see on a billboard with your boss, your mom, and your client driving by.” I’ve spent the last four months writing Branding Yourself (affiliate link) with Kyle Lacy, and we both give talks to college students and people looking for jobs.

“Don’t put stupid stuff online,” we tell people. And we invariably get a look from someone like we just explained the magical healing benefits of penicillin. (“Seriously? You mean the photos of me in my bikini holding two giant umbrella drinks might keep me from getting a job? Wow.”)

So there are the five superriffic things I learned from Scott Stratten. Have you read his book or heard him speak? What was the big takeaway for you? What did you get from it and how will/did you use it?