I’ve had a lot of cause for thought about how Social Media is used for Customer Service this week. It has led me to some very useful conclusions about what best practice looks like and how to build a formula for successful complaint handling – which is, let’s face it, the “pointy” end of engaging customers online.
I sometimes use Social Media to complain about a company’s conduct in its dealings with me. Publicly naming-and-shaming an organisation on Social Media can be a good way to hold a company to account when they aren’t addressing your problem fast enough, or it can be a perhaps badly-thought-through knee-jerk reaction to something that has annoyed you. We are all guilty of the latter. In this case I probably was in hindsight guilty of spleen-venting but the issue was nevertheless genuine. The company in question – Setanta Australia – engaged me quickly to solve the problem and in the process has provided me with an excellent case study to break down how this kind of important customer service can be best executed. It is my view that Setanta’s conduct was all-but best practice.
I can say that because while this dialogue was taking place, I was in fact attending – quite coincidentally – a workshop on How to Handle Complaints on Social Media run by an Australian-based expert in mediation and dispute management – Nicole Cullen at @Cullaborate. There was a great deal of value in the day-long session, from three speakers: Fiona Scott-Handley at @CloudSherpas who presented excellently on how to design a strategy for your customer service channel on Social; Buzznumber‘s Jess Whitaker who spoke authoritatively about Social Media Monitoring and from Delib’s Craig Thomler on how to use Social Media to manage a crisis (Craig’s very informative presentation can be seen at his blog here). But probably the most instructive content for me was from Nicole herself on how to approach the actual dialogue with the customer.
In terms of essential structure, the workshop introduced us to a well-established Customer Service Resolution Model that provides a framework for handling complaints. Put simply, customer satisfaction takes three forms, and the more of these boxes that are ticked, the more complete the outcome. My understanding of the model is as follows:
- Psychological Satisfaction – this is the warm-fuzzy emotional response that entails simply acknowledgement and validation of the problem, and ideally some empathy (but not necessarily an apology which could cause larger problems legally further down the line if substantive resolution isn’t possible). Where most companies fall over is in not even providing this. This can be by not responding, or responding defensively or failing to even see the complaint.
- Procedural Satisfaction - A 2011 Bain report found that 83 per cent of customers that complained to a company on Social Media either “liked” or “loved” the response. These customers can very quickly turn from angry customers likely to churn to competitors to enthusiastic advocates for your brand. Where that transition comes mainly is in the knowledge that a procedure was enacted as a result of their complaint. A resolution may not even be possible, but if a process is at least followed then a customer will be in a far more forgiving mood. However, it is important that this process is followed through and concluded – not merely promised as a form of placation. This is the ultimate validation.
- Substantive Satisfaction – While this isn’t always possible, it obviously makes for a complete resolution. A great deal of the damage is repaired in the previous step but if the customer’s concern can be fully addressed – be that a refund, a formal apology, a gift etc – then everyone wins. However, Nicole did make the important point that a customer’s demand – or position – isn’t always the solution and something else could be the answer. This will become apparent with investigation.
So beyond this model, Nicole and the other speakers also provided a toolkit of tips for how a complaint should be managed, many of which aligned with my own understanding of best practice approaches. By way of post-mortem, Setanta very adeptly demonstrated these in turn:
- Respond quickly – one of the companies attending the workshop has a standing and public response SLA (service level agreement) of two hours. Case Study: Setanta’s response was within three. This is very reasonable and practical in the event of something that isn’t life-threatening.
- Acknowledge and Understand- Case Study: which Setanta did very clearly, and while they did defend themselves it was not in a defensive way but only to explain, which is only fair.
- Take it offline – it is important to quickly move the conversation into an offline or private environment, for two reasons. First there might of course be privacy issues that if the conversation is conducted publicly will make the problem hard to resolve; and second any discussion of a service shortcoming in public will damage the brand. Case Study: Setanta engaged me on Direct Message.
- Investigate – use the CRM to examine the customer’s history and product/service portfolio. This will reveal any opportunity for alternative resolution should the customer’s demands not be possible to satisfy. Also, check the customer’s profile for help with the next step. Finally, check the customer has not mis-understood or even mis-represented the situation and that there isn’t a hidden agenda. Case Study: Setanta quickly established my situation accurately and then rectified it.
- Build rapport - When apparently faceless agents become people with similar interests, it is much harder to shout at them! Case Study: Setanta did this very well by asking questions about my sporting allegiances as they updated me on the procedure and then related to me in a personal, human way by congratulating my team on a recent win – that I appreciated and it went a long way to diffusing the situation quickly. Sport and music make it easy – pressing a fan button always works!
- Resolve and/or conclude – Either solve the problem or conclude it amicably. An open wound will fester and make for a motivated detractor that could escalate the problem and continue to damage the brand (as a well known Australian mobile phone brand knows all too well). Case Study: my relatively simple complaint was resolved completely within 24 hours and I now see Setanta quite differently – very positively now after some bad experiences in the past.
The only points I would make about the way Setanta handled the situation – which are open for debate – are that first, they did not acknowledge my tweet publicly which to me seemed like a missed opportunity to show others that they were responding. After all “customer service is the new marketing”! Second, their responses had no personal identifier. Common protocol is the initials of the agent are included at the end of tweets using the “^” symbol. This can then be broken out in the profile of the account – i.e. “^GL = Gareth Llewellyn (@mrgareth)” or not. However it is done, it is just important that some sort of identifier is there to aid the rapport.
At the most basic level though, it is important to say that where the complaint is genuine – no response at all is the very worst approach and increasingly will be seen as unacceptable to consumers and a failure of a brand’s responsibilities to its customers.
Picture Credit: Julienrio.com
“Whether ’tis Nobler in the mind to suffer/The Slings and Arrows of internal resource constraints/Or to take Arms against a Sea of troubles/And by outsourcing Social Media, end them?”
William Shakespeare, Hamlet
It seems to be that the Social Media Industry is impaled on the horns of a dilemma: is it better to out-source Social Media activity or to keep it in-house? Everyone in the industry will have a strong opinion on the subject that may or may not be conflicted by their actual role in life depending on whether they work in house or with an agency.
This article by Kelsey Meyer at Fortune Magazine, for instance, puts the case very strongly that to outsource your Social Media is unthinkable, and akin to asking an intern to speak for you at a conference!
However, this article by Jayson Demers at Search Engine Watch makes a great argument that simply because of the complex mix of talents needed to make a Social Media campaign work, you have no choice but to outsource to an agency that has a wealth of such talent-mix.
However, after 18 months of consulting via both models – short-term projects to plan, enable and help execute internal Social Media functions; as well as managing aspects of clients’ Social Media on an ongoing basis – I have reached the conclusion that the problem should not be thought of in such a binary fashion. Not everything need be outsourced, and if outsourced, perhaps not for ever. Once you break Social Media down ot its various component parts you can see that some aspects of it can very appropriately be outsourced to take advantage of external resources; while some aspects of it – if outsourced – defeat the very purpose of the whole project.
Affinity content - posting helpful third party content on your channels is a critical and fairly time consuming task but can easily be outsourced to your PR agency or delegated to an intern. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to understand criterea of selection – sources of content, strategic topics, posting protocols. However, with this activity sustainably managed, you are off to the races!
Ghost writing and word-smithing – it is the nature of the beast that the thoughts that should power your thought leadership blogging will come from some of the busiest, least accessible people in the organisation. Only very rarely can you get these people to commit to consistent blogging and tweeting. But as long as you can get a sense of their thinking through very quick interviews, emails or even just by hearing them speak, it is is totally appropriate in my view to have their thoughts ghost written, as long as they have approval rights.
Content production – for some of the more high-end content production also, it is actually very sensible and certainly more affordable to outsource projects such as Inforgraphic design, video production or podcast recording.
Monitoring – it is very common for organisations to outsource their Social Media monitoring, often times even off-shore. This works very well as a safety net but should not be fully depended upon. Someone in-house should also monitor the corporate channels for responses and the keyword search agents for business opportunities.
Reporting – reporting is arduous and in many case fairly automatic and so compilations of large reports of data – audience increases, sentiment, trending topics and so on is most economically managed by an agency
- Analysis – while reporting can certainly be done externally, the learning from that data should be done in-house. One of the main and most compelling reasons for keeping Social Media in house is that if you don’t learn from the interactions and trends, then much of the effort is wasted. The potential Social Media has for advancing your understanding of your customers and prospects is one of its most exciting yet oft-overlooked.
- Engagement – for all but the most banal “high five” type of customer engagement on Corporate Social Media Accounts, there must be a protocol for at the very least workshopping responses internally. This is the very kernel of authenticity and to outsource this is to disrespect your customers.
- Thought leadership - equally insulting to your customers is to totally outsource your content production to the extent that external writers come up with the concepts, language, topics and positions totally in a vacuum. All content must at least have as its essence an idea or thought created internally. It isn’t called “owned” content for nothing.
- Strategy direction – I help a lot of clients develop their strategy but as an “in-sourcing” project. But the main direction of the strategy is still internal and the help that I provide is to draw it all together and consult on execution. It is so important that Social Media aligns with the overall business strategy. If strategy is directed externally, it is more likely to serve the interests of that external party!
- Measurement – as with analysis, judging what works and what doesn’t is a task best suited to in-house custodians. Social Media suffered for a long time by its tendency to measure “vanity statistics” such as increases in Likes and Followers – but this serves the agency agenda far better than that of the client. What matters to the client is if the activity is “touching” their customers and this is best indicated by the degree to which they comment and share. The client is the best judge of success.
Ultimately the goal is to create a Social Media function that is Sustainable, Affordable and Authentic. Along the way it will be expedient to outsource certain elements of that program in order for it to gain traction, prove itself and win more resources. The longer Social Media is allowed to prove itself the better as the best results are yielded after consistency is proven, audience built and value delivered.
As a result while I feel Social Media can and should be managed in house, and I have proven services to assist the development of that, organisations also need help in certain areas to execute their Social Media and I have proven services to help in that regard also. But these thoughts have been a helpful guide in deciding which is best.
Picture Credit: http://blog.mcpc.com/
Content curation is mission critical to any effective Social Media strategy and the more streamlined and sophisticated you can be about systemising it, the less time it will take as a process. I’ve written before about effective tools for this – in both curation and capture of good content. But the way that you hone your selection of content is also important.
Depending on what your content is designed to achieve, stimulate engagement with your audience, drive traffic to your website or trigger sales; it will be an ever shifting strategy in the way you not only produce your own content but in how you select the best third party, or Affinity Content, to inform, stimulate and engage your audience. It is very much like fishing. Like fishing, you use bait in hunting your quarry. Anglers are forever shifting their strategy and adjusting their approach – hour by hour – in order to be successful and rarely is the first effort successful (well, certainly not in my case!).
There are so many factors to consider when you fish. You must be ever changing your bait, your hooks, your position and whether you use a float or weights to ensure your bait sits in the right place to catch your fish. Content is very much like this, and here are three important criteria I have identified which you must constantly review to hone your content to perfection.
- Value: are you adding value? The important thing about content is that it must improve people’s loves in some way, and it must be original or unique. If you are sharing the same content as everyone else, how can you stand out from the crowd? Furthermore, the content must in some way answer your customers questions – and their questions usually boil down to – in the broadest sense – “how can I do my job more effectively” (see my post: The Difference between Marketing Content and Content Marketing). A good guide here is that: if you don’t learn anything from a piece of content, its unlikely you’ve found worthwhile.
- Validation: is it resonating? There’s a lot of noise out there, are you standing out? Are you getting likes, favourites, re-pins etc? A good process here is – at least at the beginning – to track your validation. Either within your content calendar or in a separate report, log the likes, favourites, shares and retweets each piece of content scores and use it as a guide as to the way in which your content strategy is received. It is important – however – not to take this as a KPI of success. Validation is not the end in itself, merely a guide. As Mastercard’s Adam Broitman says in this Digiday article, Likes are not a KPI, they are a “directional metric”.
- Volume: have you got this right? Too much, too little? Right for the channel? Think about cadence: I.e. rhythm – morning noon night? Time zone? Which day? Just like fishing you need to be in the right part of the stream to get results. Continuing the water analogy, see different channels like different bodies of water. Twitter is a raging white-water torrent – no amount of content is too much; while LinkedIn and Facebook are more like broad rivers that move slowly meaning you can wear out your welcome mat very easily with posts any more than once a day.
A great way to check the success of your channels (although not your blog) is to use Klout. While it isn’t a perfect system for measurement, when you are getting it right it will go up and if you getting it wrong…it will most certainly go down.
“Look at Facebook not as a platform to force [marketing] messages onto consumers, but a way to cultivate relationships.” Ashley Coombe, All Inclusive Marketing
While the quote itself – in an article by Kelly (@KellyhClay) Clay on Forbes – pertains specifically to Facebook and considers what Social Media Managers need to think about in 2014, I feel it is a general clarion call for the year ahead relevant to the use of all Social Media Platforms – not just Facebook – and for all those seeking to use them, not just the dedicated discipline owners.
I finished 2013 on this blog making the same point, echoing a thoughtful piece on Medium by a former colleague, Marcus Nelson (now CEO and founder of Advocate). I felt it was an important issue to stress and Marcus’s note provided a good opportunity to do so. In short, the take-out was that Social Media is not just another digital marketing platform but a channel for two-way communications and that this aspect of it was generally being overlooked by most commercial users of the new medium. It is not only disappointing to see businesses miss a great opportunity, but this continuation of one-way thinking is spoiling the medium for those others that wish to see its most exciting benefit flourish.
In fact, a Pivot Conference study last year polling 181 Social Media Managers found that engagement is now the most important metric to measure success – above even Increased Sales.
“Too many organisations are seeing Social content as an end in itself. It isn’t. It should be seen as a means to achieving meaningful engagement with stakeholders.”
So I would urge businesses and organisations to see 2014 as an opportunity to refresh their thinking of the Social opportunity and to begin to consider ways to more constructively ENGAGE their constituents on Social channels. Everyone has an audience or constituency they wish to cultivate – be they employees, shareholders, influencers, prospects or customers. Social Media offers the chance to develop 1-2-1 dialogue with them that is sustainable, achievable, affordable and very, very effective. These kind of relationships cannot be bought or achieved through traditional or digital marketing tactics. Success depends more on creativity and imagination rather than large budgets and delivers more than just sales and revenue but actual tangible assets such as brand loyalty and even brand advocates – the most powerful form of marketing.
For a model of effective audience engagement, Social Media Managers generally look to the quite old fashioned genre of Talk-Back Radio who on a daily basis must inspire their audience to pick up the phone and invest time in contributing to discussion. Radio stations depend on this phenomenon for their very product, but do not pay for it. They must generate it out of pure imagination, dreaming up – every day – one or more questions that provoke, stimulate and motivate their audience to take time out of their day to phone up, sit on hold and then – without pay or any other form of remuneration – provide the Radio station with their very product, which they in turn sell to advertisers.
This is what community managers on Facebook also do every day – produce content that inspires and dream up provocative questions to generate comments and likes. Businesses and organisation seeking real ROI from their Social programs need to re-boot those programs to focus more on this kind of activity.
But it is important to remember that because Social Media is TWO-WAY, as well as trying to stimulate a response from constituents; businesses and organisations can monitor stakeholders or keywords and respond in ways that can produce a variety of reactions – anything from a share to a comment or merely a like/follow. Investing time in these kind of activities seem daunting but to not do so is a failure to reap the most powerful rewards of the medium.
Here are a few examples of ways to induce engagement on Twitter and some other useful resources for helping you build an effective Social engagement program:
- A tremendous case study from San Francisco Water Power Sewer at Inc.com
- “How to Listen and Engage with your customers” at the Salesforce.com blog
- Infographic: “7 effective ways to engage on Twitter“
- “How to Connect with Customers” at the QuickSprout blog
At the end of last year I took part in an event run by digital agency Datarati that used a simple but terrific model called StopKeepStart to aid annual business planning. Engagement certainly should fall in the Start column!
It is a confronting accusation posed in a powerful Medium Post over the weekend by Addvocate Founder and CEO Marcus (@marcusnelson) Nelson – The Next Social Imperative: “Failed promise. Failed mission. #Fail.”. It is one I felt I had to respond to as it does go right to the heart of what is wrong with the way Social Business has been embraced.
I worked with Marcus in the PR team at Salesforce.com in 2011-12 just as Marc Benioff’s vision of the “Social Enterprise” was being unveiled and I joined in when he – as he wrote in his post – “cheered as social media became integral to enterprise marketing”. It was an exciting time when the essence of the Social promise – as foreseen in The Cluetrain Manifesto – began to come to fruition. That promise is neatly summarised in The Next Social Imperative as:
“Social media’s true utility— its fundamental reason for existence—is for building genuine connections.”
Sadly, I also agree with Marcus that two years on, all that has happened is that ”the social-business industry has pushed crass commercialism to new levels”. Today, so much Social commentary - and I am often as guilty as everyone else – is focussed on the Content Marketing and SEO aspects of Social and almost nothing is invested in helping companies ENGAGE their customers online. Not just Likes and Retweets, but actual conversations.
Not nearly enough is being done to open up the channel to genuine discussion and connection. Instead the effort to automate and outsource as much as possible sucks every last ounce of authenticity out of the interaction. (In this sense, the Social channel is going the way of the telephone channel before it – automated, outsourced and ultimately a betrayal of its promise.) The most successful efforts of the Social Industry have been in providing expensive software suites from which to automate monitoring and the dissemination of digital marketing messages optimized for every channel and – also as Marcus says – “aimed at getting customers to LIKE us, LOVE us and, above all, BUY from us.” But not to TALK to us.
Of course – speaking as an experienced PR professional – it should be remembered that Corporate Communications and legal people alike FREAK OUT at the thought of hundreds or thousands of employees chatting with prospects, customers and partners “willy nilly“. The management challenges and risks are so frightening that the most conservative option is to prevent this kind of discourse happening at all – or certainly not to encourage it. The spectre of employees getting sucked into troll battles, or providing the wrong assistance to customers circumventing the support queue, or insulting customers-to-be with inappropriate comments out of hours are all nightmare scenarios amplified in their apparent likelihood by media scare stories. This is where the real failure is: a failure of courage, imagination and vision – in allowing fear to inhibit progress. All of these scenarios can be managed.
Working with Marcus at Salesforce.com I learned a lot about how Social employee interactions can be managed very easily and effectively; but another company I have already written about here who is a stand-out example in this area is Dell. During a chat with one of their Social champions, Richard (@ByJove) Margetic, earlier this year I learned that while various Dell corporate channels such as @dellcares have millions of followers, it was Dell employees that were responsible for most of Dell’s Social-generated inbound traffic to the website. Basically, recommendations and comments from genuine rank-and-file employees were far more influential in driving inbound web traffic than the well-managed but ultimately very faceless Corporate Social accounts. This is what Marcus means when he says:
“Consumers trust a company’s rank and file workers—especially people with technical expertise—more than they trust top executives.”
But Dell weren’t haphazard in enabling and unleashing this power, it was measured and deliberate. Those interested in becoming a Social Media Ambassador for the company were carefully trained not only in Social skills but also in the company message and in engagement protocols. They added “atDell” to their Twitter accounts, standardised their Profiles and became accountable for what they shared. Other aspects of getting this right include having a clear and well communicated Social Media Policy (which I talk about in more length here).
Also, in helping employees better understand what content they can share on behalf of the company (and in tracking and rewarding that), Marcus’ own technology – Addvocate – has to be the leader in this field.
Finally, clear procedures in the event of certain predictable situations (ideally established through a Issues-and-crisis document) should be well communicated across the company. For instance, in the event that Salesforce.com has a “service disruption” (a euphemism for an “outage”) guidance on what employees should and shouldn’t say on Social Media to complaining customers – and resources that they could point users to – was very transparently available to those that needed them.
So I do second Marcus’ rallying call:
“Isn’t it time we reclaimed social media’s true mission of building genuine connections?”
But with a caveat: that such an environment – while very powerful – is a huge management and risk challenge. But this challenge should not be beyond those responsible for it - mainly PR, legal and senior management; and certainly the difficulty of it should no longer hold back progress in creating a business world more about genuine connections between companies and customers and less about cost-effective and efficient digital marketing.
Extensive research indicates that – like every other aspect of business – the recruitment industry is amid a period of radical change as a result of the impact of Social Media. Not only is Social Media already contributing a great deal to the recruitment process at present, but in time is likely to dominate, making the traditional tools of recruitment – the telephone and the job ad – redundant. Equally, for candidates, an extensive and transparent Social footprint is increasingly becoming mission critical to a successful career path.
According to a HR and Recruitment Trends Survey by the Novo Group (2012) , 73 per cent of HR leaders have successfully made an appointment using Social Media, 49 per cent have reported a greater pool of candidates from Social Recruiting and 20 per cent reported recruitment taking less time with Social. These trends will only amplify.
The biggest concern of course for the Professional Recruiter is that Social affords companies the ability to fully insource their recruitment, representing an existential threat to consultancies who have not embarked on their Social journey. The only way to remain relevant is to understand Social Recruitment better than the client. Furthermore, evidence suggests Generation Y candidates to be far heavier users of Social Media in their search for new opportunities. These candidates will in turn become clients as their careers develop. Therefore demonstration of Social Recruiting best practice is the most effective way to remain relevant to future candidates and clients alike.
A Survey by US Recruitment Technology firm Jobvite in 2012 discovered that in 2012 over 90% of employers used Social recruiting in 2012 . In terms of channels, the survey revealed that 2/3 of Companies now recruit via Facebook; over half use Twitter and almost all use LinkedIn. Furthermore, 43 per cent of respondents felt that the quality of applicants has improved thanks to Social Media.
Specifically, Social Media can deliver three key business advantages:
- Pre-qualification: Social Networking provides the opportunity to exploit a wide network at the click of a button. Most importantly it reverses the use of 1-2-1 meetings from being explorative, qualifying and speculative network maintenance to relevant and timely execution devices to advance opportunities that have already become apparent. This is an incredibly important productivity gain – how much of a recruiter’s time is wasted qualifying the not-qualified?
- Inbound Web Traffic: It is well-established that the job-filling process begins with a Google search – for both employer and candidate. A fundamental principle of Social Media leverage for the recruitment industry is Social SEO – the combination of Social Media and Search Engine Optimization. Increasingly, key search engines such as Google and Bing are seeing Social triggers as indicators of content and destination popularity. Therefore, the opportunity to “game” one’s search rankings with Social meta data via Twitter, LinkedIn and (in this case) most particularly Google+ is an important advantage to understand because of the increased traffic levels it can drive to both owned ads (i.e. those on your own website) and to ads on third party sites (such as SEEK.com.au).
- Thought leadership: Even without blogging (although it must be said this is the most powerful way to execute on Social SEO) using both third party content and thought leadership messages to attach your brand to a strategic keyword or phrase is a very effective way to increase search rankings – especially for niche sector specialists – and to influence those Socially clustered around those keywords strategic to your business. As well as the power of LinkedIn, Twitter and Google+ to “game” your rankings; it is worth remembering that advanced Social users monitor permanent searches on certain keywords, providing digital real estate for you to gain prominence on.
Therefore small recruitment consultancies – or even lone operators – can use Social Media to ensure their survival and punch above their marketing dollar weight in terms of raising brand awareness or driving inbound web traffic. Ultimately, when executed systematically and as part of a routine, Social Media should have relatively minimal impact on either profits or time.
For more on this, it is worth reading this excellent guide for better Social recruiting: “4 Social Recruiting mistakes your company is making“.
Image credit: Staff.com
Further to my post last week about “3 top tools for content curation“, there is a more sophisticated level of a content curation system that is important to understand. It is worth taking the time to build out your content infrastructure toolset to really reap the rewards. It not only brings tremendous efficiency and productivity gains in your content curation efforts, but also provides you with branded online assets to compliment your Social footprint.
Aside from the collection tools in sites I listed out in my last post, there are some other useful sites and services that can help you easily and quickly collect and keep reliable assets and sources of good content for future reference, or for keeping great resources to complement and validate your own content creation efforts.
- Delicious - I’ve been using this Social Bookmarking site for about 5 years now and while it did decline seriously as its own business model faltered, Yahoo has acquired it now and improved it tremendously and so I am very happy I persevered! This is a great tool for archiving – bookmarking – great pieces of content for future reference using a tag system. Each tag creates a unique URL you can share with clients or customers which is very useful for reinforcing your expertise and thought leadership with them. Also, it is possible to brand this page with your logo and tagline). You can install a great little widget on your browser toolbar to make site capture that much easier. (Stumbleupon is also very good at this, but I can’t speak to its usability.)
- RSS - this is a very old, nerdy and almost now forgotten technology for content management which I personally believe will enjoy a resurgence in the new world of content marketing. The original content syndication technology has been in many ways made obsolete by the Social Networking revolution that saw subscription to content made that much easier by Facebook Pages and Twitter feeds. However, when you are involved in serious commercial content management, it can be a great tool for subscribing to quality content sources. Just look for the distinctive orange-and-white icon. RSS’s demise was signified by the closure of the excellent Google Reader tool, and while there are no end of replacement services – I have found the Digg tool to be a cool substitute with a nice preview-browsing interface. You can use the favourite button to bookmark key posts and the tool also has useful share tools.
- Hootsuite – As well as using this Social Monitoring tool to harvest content from Twitter Lists and Search stacks, they have now built a very useful Syndication tool that you can embed in your browser and easily capture RSS feeds from sites where you find interesting content. The tool then creates useful Syndication Tabs in your Hootsuite instance to centralise your monitoring in one place.
- Evernote – this is a great note taking tool of course, particularly because of the seamless way it integrates across mobile devices of all platforms. However, they have augmented this product with a great capture tool – the Evernote Web Clipper – that works across phones, tablets and the web. This is pertinent because so much of your content consumption time is spent on the go.
- Pinterest – infographics are such a powerful mechanism for conveying complicated data sets or concepts, and Pinterest is a great tool for collecting them and operates like Delicious in the sense that your boards have their own URLs which can be branded and easily shared. (See for instance the Artechlate Social Board.) Of course in time you can fuse this collection with your own productions.
(Two other more common sites for content curation and capture are of course Digg and Reddit but it is worth remembering that everyone else in the known Social universe visits these sites and so your chances of finding unique content are slim.)
Effective content capture is not only a huge productivity gain for your Affinity Content output, but also can contribute to your owned content asset production. By collating a wealth of material in an easy-to-search library, it is easy to find references and validations of your own thought leadership content. (It is worth considering also the benefit this will give your Link-Building aspects of your SEO strategy.)
The important thing here is while it is important to do this quickly and efficiently, quality is key. Honing a system that discovers unique and valuable content will help you stand out from the rest. If you are only recycling the same content as everyone else how do you hope to be a thought leader? This amusing video emphasises the importance of Quality and Value in your content strategy.
Video: courtesy of Ogilvy Johnnesburg
We all know that all of a sudden, “Content marketing” is the new black. Marketers are – or certainly should be – busy crafting new skills, systems, processes and methodologies to re-craft what they do on the web from “here’s why we are so awesome” to “here’s some useful content to help you become more awesome”. The business of radically overhauling what marketers do – of revisiting marketing’s very raison d’etre – is a daunting professional challenge, but an exciting one too.
The reasons for this, for want of a better word, revolution are complex and beyond the scope of a short blog post like this. (I’ve written about one of the reasons for such a change here, but there are other dynamics at play which I will save for another post.)
But the effort of producing compelling and rich content on a daily basis is simply beyond the resources of most business – not only physically, but creatively. (For those looking for great content ideas, there are 95 here at The Content Authority Blog to get you started.)
So a common technique is the curation or collection of third party – or what I call “affinity content“. But how do you do this efficiently and systematically without soaking up lots of time, bandwidth or staff you don’t have?
Here are three spectacularly useful Content curation sites I use that offer a great suite of tools for doing this well:
- TrapIt – this is a little-known tool for quickly searching for fresh content on a range of different keywords you have identified in your Social Content strategy. One of the aspects I did find annoying about it though is that it frames the content in its own browser meaning to share it you would need to go off and search for the content at its source. However, I have recently discovered if you click on the title of the article on the top left of the frame, it takes you directly to that source page.
- ScoopIt – a rapidly evolving site, ScoopIt is becoming the “mother of all content curation tools” IMHO. As well as searches on keywords, this site allows you to also curate other “Scoopers” as well as “Scoop” content onto your own profile to become a “Scooper” yourself. But at its most basic it is a great search tool.
- Meddle - is new tool which has been in a fairly scruffy Beta for most of this year but has suddenly come into its own and working in conjunction with the other two I find it a great source for good content
These three sites are for the sophisticated content marketer and while useful for just popping in and searching, you get far more value by opening an account, tagging content and saving search terms so it can learn more about your habits and preferences. They are also great sites for networking with your subject peers. So whether for your personal or corporate brand, it is well worth bookmarking them for future reference, you’ll be surprised how often you find yourself visiting!
Finally, this is a useful infographic from the people at Digital C4 to show you to how to craft your content curation methodology:
First Picture Credit: SocialBites
Most people are familiar with the famous proposition that the Chinese word for Crisis – Weiji – also can mean Opportunity. It turns out this is a fallacy. Nevertheless, such esteemed speakers as JFK, Richard Nixon, Condoleezza Rice and Al Gore have all used this mechanism at some stage to make a valid point: that your reaction to a challenge can be seen as an opportunity to grow.
Recently, I’ve been working with a client listed on the ASX in developing a Social Media Strategy and it has led me to gain some insight into the sector’s use of Social Media and how a huge opportunity is potentially going begging for some.
A recent report by Board Room Radio into the use of Social Media by the ASX200 discovered the surprising fact that still 1 in 5 of those organisations listed on the Australian Stock Exchange are ignoring Social Media. While a full 22 per cent are not using any form of Social Media, less than 50 per cent are using Facebook or Twitter (LinkedIn, not surprisingly, has however gained slightly more penetration at 58 per cent). Furthermore, 32 per cent have not increased their use of Social Media since 2012 and 31 per cent do not plan to in the future.
Of course it isn’t unusual for a segment of any sector to be lagging in adoption of any new technology, least of all Social Media. However, in the area of Australian listed entities this direction seems particularly short-sighted in view of a recent change to the guidelines relating to “continuous disclosure”. While interpretation of ASX Listing Rule Guidance Note 8 relating to the prevention of “false markets” is apparently fluid, the most obvious conclusion you must draw is that the responsibility for how an entity’s stock is portrayed in the online information stream…belongs to the subject of that misinformation. As Caitlin (@niltiac) Fitzsimmons summarises in BRW:
“Listed companies are now legally obliged to monitor social media and disclose anything relevant to the market.”
More specifically, the responsibility is that should anything incorrect or factually misleading appear on Social Media, the listed entity must alert the market, seek to correct that information and if necessary – in extreme cases – halt trading until the matter is rectified. This seemingly onerous duty is all in the name of preventing “false markets” – which is a “market where prices are manipulated and impacted by erroneous information, preventing the efficient negotiation of prices.”
So the crisis for listed entities is that they must set up monitoring infrastructure to monitor Social Media as they now have a responsibility for managing misinformation in that space. Equally, they have additional responsibilities for employees – at once ensuring that they are not the source of such misinformation through their use of Social Media, as well as needing to enlist them into the monitoring effort (best done through a Social Media Policy).
However, the opportunity is to leverage off this compliance duty to attack the Social Media advantage with gusto – since the investment must be made anyway. Why not make this a strategy and not just a chore?
Opening up a sophisticated mechanism to monitor all Social Media relevant to your marketplace can be expensive but does provides the opportunity to seek value from that investment rather than merely meet a regulatory compliance:
- It provides insight into who is talking about you, how influential they are and – as a two-way medium – provides the opportunity to build relationship with them.
- It provides the opportunity to learn more about who your investor community are listening to, what they are talking about and gives you the intelligence you need to craft new content to inform that community
- It provides the wherewithal to monitor your competition more closely, efficiently and effectively giving you the heads-up on new products, new appointments or any context around any sudden stock movements
- It provides the opportunity to review how employees use Social media, potentially educate them on more responsible use of Social media and even mobilise the company in a Social Media marketing campaign
For more on this topic, Kinship Digital (with whom Artechulate partners on monitoring services) blogger Walter (@Adamson) wrote some very useful guidance when the new rules came into force in May 2013.
Artechulate can help companies listed on the ASX create strategies around turning this challenge into an opportunity with services that include Strategy Blueprint Development, Social Content planning and Social Media Policy drafting.
Without being explicit about the specific candidate, I did offer my services during the recent election campaign and was able to leverage some of the Social lessons I learned from the Barack Obama campaigns to good effect.
As I have already written about here, analysis from Todd Wheatland and Blue State Digital’s Joe Rospars were very useful in helping me to better understand how to use Social Media in a local political ground campaign.
Social has increasingly become a very visible campaigning tool, but where the 2010 election was very experimental, there seems to be more rigour and formula now. Parties have embedded it much more into the fabric of what they do. Both parties at the central level employed Social very effectively during the 2013 campaign – both Facebook and Twitter, as well as You Tube – to get the message out. This article sums up the Social story during this campaign.
A Social political campaign needs to first of all better Engage supporters in a discussion about policy and political philosophy; and then secondly to Inspire, Empower and Mobilise “the base” to help them in turn engage their own communities on behalf of the campaign.
“It’s about having the two-way conversation and the back and forth with a whole lot of people at once, at scale, and then also being able to develop the relationships so that you can facilitate conversations between them and their friends, neighbours and colleagues so that they can really be the owner and the messenger themselves in their community.”
Joe Rospar, Digital Strategic for the Obama Campaign
A Tactical Framework that emerges is as follows:
- Seek engagement by fostering discussion. Ask questions, solicit opinion and try to provoke a response. Social can be a very powerful two-way medium. Currently much Social content is one-way – a statement rather than a discussion.
- Identify passionate supporters and seek to formally recruit them into the Social and even ground Campaign as volunteers. Consider creating an “inner-circle” for uber-supporters where they can get early access to forthcoming content
- Develop rich content to provide supporters with the tools for them to inspire their communities. In particular, Infographics, videos, powerful images, pithy 140-character soundbites captured live from the hustings, impressive factoids supporting policy positions and illustrating party differences
Moreover, Social can be used to empower supporters to mobilise their communities with tactical instructions:
- In the run up to Election Day sharing voter enrolment and absentee voting resources from the Electoral Commission
- On Election Day itself – using Twitter and Facebook to direct voters on tactical voting, preferences etc (study Obama’s #stayinline Campaign) and to #getoutthevote or #vote1yourparty
Effective employment of Social Media beyond its use as a dissemination tool, can make all the difference in a tight race. Specifically, in the last week I designed and implemented a campaign to drive out hard, solid factoids about party achievements in government which served to provide “the base” with useful collateral to share with their networks. We found people were far more confident in sharing what seemed to be proven and indisputable (ideally supported by numbers) facts, rather than debatable opinions.
A sustained drip-feed of statistics and milestones – intensified on election day – generated more than 600 Retweets, as well as other public messages of support, in the final five days of the campaign and created more momentum going into the final poll. Moreover, How To Vote tweets were helpful in supporting the how to vote collateral handed out at polling booth.
Social will not work on its own, and must work hand-in-hand with traditional ground campaign essentials such as door-knocking and letter-boxing, but is rapidly establishing itself as mission critical to a grass-roots campaign success.