Cautiously Optimistic

Social media for better communication and a better life

Posts Tagged ‘social media

Customer Service is Critical

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Customer service is growing in importance as a path to a company’s financial and cultural success. Blogger Steve Sohn of Momentum writes that excellent customer service is a great way for a company to differentiate itself from its competitors. However, businesses that sell to individual consumers (B2C) are doing a better job than businesses that sell to other businesses (B2B).

When is a customer not a customer? The answer, I think, is “never.” Businesses have a responsibility to give the best possible service to everyone, whether they are individual consumers or other businesses, because even if you are selling to a business, you are still dealing with a live human on the other side of the screen or the phone.

More large corporations have come to the same conclusion that Sohn did, and are maximizing their return-on-investment for good customer service. Witness the great word-of-mouth for companies such as Comcast and Zappos.

Neither of these are perfect companies, but they have developed well-earned reputations over time for their quickness in addressing customer concerns and solving problems. In particular, they have become adept at using social media to solve problems.

Frank Eliason, the former manager of Comcast’s “social customer care” division, became famous (or at least Internet famous) for using the @comcastcares Twitter account to respond to customer service problems or issues. Brendan Brown of SocialTurbine writes that Zappos has enlisted its employees as its social media ambassadors, who Tweet and blog in a way that helps drive the company’s credibility to new heights.

My favorite suggestion from a Mashable article by Rohit Bhargava, “9 Ways Top Brands Use Social Media for Better Customer Service,” is number 3: “Help your customer service people feel like rock stars.”

If the employees on the front lines feel good about their company, and especially feel that their customer-centered efforts are valued and appreciated, they will go the extra distance.

Follow me on Twitter at @charlesprimm.

Written by Charles Primm

March 13, 2012 at 6:28 pm

Social Shaming in the Era of Social Media

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Morality is defined as the distinction between right and wrong, between good and bad behavior, and how these distinctions affect behavior.

Humans are moral beings, with highly-honed senses of right and wrong and an inclination to enforce good behavior while punishing bad behavior. A Slate article on a new book by Jonathan Haidt of the University of Virginia, “The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion,” explores how a sense of morality is one of the ways to understand political behavior and how people choose their political party affiliation.

Haidt’s book proposes that both Republicans and Democrats are interested in equality. Republicans are more motivated by equality of opportunity, while Democrats are more motivated by equality of outcomes. And since all of us think of ourselves as moral, those in the other political party, by default, are “immoral,” thus much easier for us to demonize.

I was thinking about this sense of morality when I read a Lifehacker article by Adam Dachis on “How to Deal With People Who Cut In Line.” I suspect that, for most of us, witnessing someone cut in line is the kind of moral transgression we’re more likely to see over the course of a day.

Social Shaming, Social Media | Image via Slate.comAnd as more of us use our smartphones to “check in” on Foursquare while waiting in line for our morning latte, I have to wonder: are we more likely or less likely to notice line-cutters?

Even though our phones are a source of distraction as much as information, I suspect that the “fairness” switch in our heads stays on, and we would still be likely to catch on if someone cuts in front of us in line.

Which asks the question: if we witness someone cutting line, what are we going to do about it?

More of us, it seems, are taking the opportunity to enforce social norms with a bit of “social shaming.” Blogger Chirag Mehta shares the story of Joshua Kaufman, whose MacBook was stolen one day. The laptop already had tracking software installed, just in case it was stolen, so Kaufman was able to track the laptop’s location and use the software to take webcam pictures of the thief. He shared the story, along with the pictures, via his Twitter feed and Facebook page, and the thief was caught.

So the next time I’m standing line, smartphone at the hip, and someone cuts in line, should I quickdraw, Tweeting pics and text about the immoral line-cutter? Adam Dachis would say “not so fast.”

His advice for when this happens:

1) Analyze the line.

Maybe the line-cutter just got confused and thought it was a rugby scrum instead of a polite queue, or maybe the instructions are confusing. Maybe there is no line at all.

2) Resist the urge to get angry.

If you show off your bad manners and scream at them, it makes you look like a loser.

3) Ask someone else if they saw what you saw, and if they agree, that’s the moment to politely confront the cutter and motion them to the back of the line.

Social shaming can be a very big hammer, so try not to use it if you’re confronted with a very small nail. Once you tweet and post a rant, it cannot easily be taken back. Besides, like all good moral beings, your friends may be motivated to punish your bad behavior with a little social shaming of their own.

Follow me on Twitter at @charlesprimm.

Written by Charles Primm

March 11, 2012 at 3:21 pm

A New Definition of Public Relations

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The Public Relations Society of America recently announced on its “PRSAY” blog that it had updated its official definition of “public relations.”

PRSA didn’t make this decision by executive fiat; it put the issue to a public vote. The top three definitions were posted to the PRSA website and votes were tallied over a two-week period.

The winning definition:

“Public relations is a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics.”

As I have discussed before, there has been a struggle among PR professors as to what public relations is “really all about.” Some believe that the core of PR is rhetoric, the classical exchange of persuasive arguments, while others believe the fundamental organizing principle is the cultivation and management of relationships.

Each side of this argument can take heart from the newly-announced modern definition of PR. Rhetoricians can point to the phrase “strategic communication process” to make their case, since rhetoric is something that never stops. It’s an ongoing process of persuasion and counter-persuasion in the public square.

Meanwhile, relationship proponents can cheer because the word “relationships” is front and center in the new definition. And for those who know their PR scholarship, professor James Grunig of the University of Maryland has to be smiling at the inclusion of the words “mutually beneficial,” echoing his groundbreaking work on the two-way symmetrical model of PR.

Social media has a crucial role to play in the future development of both persuasive communication and the management of relationships. As Shel Holtz recently wrote in PR Daily, social media is changing the way that PR practitioners persuade their organization’s publics. For example, the tried-and-true news release is fading in importance, replaced by the well-timed Tweet or Facebook post. And social media itself is bringing together organizations and their publics in a human, one-on-one way as never before.

The old definition of PR had stood since 1982. With each year bringing new ways to connect and communicate, I suspect it won’t take thirty years to do this all over again. We will have no choice.

Follow me on Twitter at @charlesprimm.

Written by Charles Primm

March 6, 2012 at 7:49 pm

Targeting Multiple Media Platforms for PR Success

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Social Media - image via MashableAs a public relations practitioner with an interest in social media, I am always eager to read about the many ways these fields can interact with each other.

That is why I was pleased to read this Mashable article by Heather Whaling, “How to Take Your PR Pitches to the Next Level.”

While technically accurate, the title of the article does not quite do justice to the topic, because the article is really an excellent guide for media relations practitioners looking to use social media to sharpen the effectiveness of their pitches, and to widen the base of communicators that may be open to those pitches.

Based on my experiences working with local news media, the first suggestion makes the most sense: incorporate new platforms. Every local reporter I know is cross-platforming: the newspaper writer who also blogs, Tweets, and produces short videos; the television reporter who rewrites copy for the print-style version of their story on their channel’s website; the radio reporter who Tweets and posts audio podcasts of their news stories online.

Anytime my team can produce high-quality content that fits with a story these journalists are working on, in such a way that our content can be repackaged and featured on their website, I consider that a mutually productive, two-way communication outcome.

Follow me on Twitter at @charlesprimm.

Written by Charles Primm

March 4, 2012 at 7:28 pm

The British are Tweeting! The British are Tweeting!

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For many years, America has been the dominant international source of media and entertainment for countries throughout the world.

Movies, television shows, magazines and newspapers created in the United States have certainly had a major impact, sharing the American point of view and this country’s way of life to people who might never otherwise meet an American.

But that dominance may be about to end, thanks to social media. And the big winner seems to be Britain.

A new infographic published by Mashable on the “most viral news sources in the world” indicates that British media outlets BBC and the Guardian are numbers 1 and 2 on the list of media sources whose stories are getting more than 100 mentions on Twitter. On Facebook, the BBC, the Guardian and the Daily Mail are numbers 2, 3 and 4 on the list of media outlets whose stories are getting more than 100 “shares,” with the US-based Huffington Post in first place.

Is this a new “British Invasion” in the making? It certainly seems so.

Follow me on Twitter at @charlesprimm.

Written by Charles Primm

March 1, 2012 at 7:37 pm

Facebook Timeline: Your ‘Long Tail’ is Longer Than You Think

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As Facebook converts more of its user accounts to the new “Timeline” format, we citizens of what the Atlantic magazine terms “Facebookistan” have had to make some hard choices.

The timeline format displays, in chronological order, almost everything a person has ever done on the site, including pictures, links to articles, comments on or “liking” of others’ pictures and articles, and which celebrities and consumer brands they follow.

Facebook gives each person a bit of a grace period—some time to review the information on their timeline before publishing it to the web. For many of us, that means we have had to browse through a great deal of content, perhaps more than we remembered creating.

Looking down my timeline, skimming past all the content I knew I was going to have to edit, I was reminded of “the long tail,” one of my favorite concepts from the realms of both business and communication.

Chris Anderson wrote about the long tail in a Wired magazine article, and described it as a special kind of demand curve.

The Long Tail (image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)In this graph, the green-shaded area to the left represents things that are in high demand, and the yellow-shaded area to the right represents things that are in low demand. The volumes of the two areas are roughly equivalent. In a business context, the aggregate demand for the plentiful low-demand items is around the same as the aggregate demand for the scarce high-demand items.

In editing my Facebook past for public consumption, I discovered that the timeline was looking awfully like a “long tail” as well. There were lots of entries packed into a short time period for the last two years. Beyond that, each month had fewer and fewer items, but the timeline just seemed to stretch on and on and on. I had no idea I’d spent so much of my life in social media.

According to the long tail theory, if I had a dollar for every social media activity I ever engaged in since I signed up for Facebook, I’d be twice as wealthy as if I had just recently signed up. So I think I’ll keep looking in the mailbox for my check from Mark Zuckerberg. I bet it won’t take that long. Not long at all.

Follow me on Twitter at @charlesprimm.

Written by Charles Primm

February 28, 2012 at 7:16 pm

Social Media: Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off

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Let's Call the Whole Thing OffThe other day I was catching up on my reading about social media and communication, and I started thinking about the old song “Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off.” In particular, I was remembering the line “you say EE-ther, I say EYE-ther.”

The song came to mind because social media is being presented as the source of a) “persuasion,” a positive outcome that justifies the billions of advertising dollars being spent with Google, Facebook, Twitter and other networks, and b) “manipulation,” a negative outcome increasingly pursued by repressive regimes such as those in Syria and Iran.

Persuasion, as I’ve written about before, is one of the tools of the trade for public relations practitioners. When you get down to it, all of us are persuaders, no matter what line of work we are in. We all have wants and needs, and we communicate with others in order to get what we want. From tweeting your need for a ride to class, to posting a YouTube video encouraging your friends to vote for your candidate, to seeing your agency’s online advertising campaign delivering increased revenues to your client’s business, we all use social media to persuade others to agree with us and/or do what we want them to do.

Manipulation, on the other hand, is a bad thing. It’s not something that “we” do; it’s an evil thing that “they,” the others, do. Author Anne P. Mintz’s new book, “Web of Deceit: Misinformation and Manipulation in the Age of Social Media,” looks at how manipulative individuals and organizations use social media to spread misinformation and propaganda on a scale and at a speed not seen before.

Jillian C. York of the Electronic Frontier Foundation writes in this Al Jazeera article about how Syria and Iran twist the features of social networks such as Facebook in order to identify and eliminate anti-government activists.

You say “manipulation,” and I say “persuasion.” So how do we call the whole thing off?

This great article by Adam Dachis of the Lifehacker blog on how to avoid brainwashing has some suggestions:

  • Identify the manipulative message you’ve received.
  • Find an opposing message, one that is as unbiased as possible.
  • Compare the different messages and see how you feel.

I think the third suggestion is the most important: “see how you feel.” We are smarter than we think we are. We all have the ability to think with our feelings as well as with our intellects, and so we should honor what our hearts and our minds are telling us.

Follow me on Twitter at @charlesprimm.

Written by Charles Primm

February 26, 2012 at 2:24 pm

A Reality Check for the Biz Side of Facebook

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Facebook logoThe eMarketer newsletter is reporting that Facebook’s global advertising revenues will exceed $5 billion in 2012, up from $3 billion in 2011. Just over half of this year’s revenues will come from US advertisers, the report says, which is interesting because Facebook itself reports that approximately 80 percent of its active users are outside of the US and Canada.

So although only providing around 20 percent of the user base, US-based advertisers are expected to pump in a little more than half of all the site’s total ad revenues.

It sounds like a lot of money, and it is.

But to put that in perspective, $5 billion in revenues doesn’t even crack the top 200 list of global companies.

This list from Wikipedia, backed up by references including corporate annual reports and the Financial Times Global 500 list, shows that US-based retailer Walmart had revenues of $421 billion as of 2011. The next four on the list are oil companies: ExxonMobil ($370 billion), Royal Dutch Shell ($368 billion), BP ($297 billion), and Sinopec ($289 billion).

Filling out the bottom of the list at number 205, with 2010 revenues of $40 billion, was information technology giant Cisco.

So while Facebook is certainly showing strong revenue growth, it has a long way to go to match the true titans of industry.

And next year, it may not even be able to match the titan of the Internet, Google. Another eMarketer report predicts that Google’s online ad business will roar past Facebook in 2013 and 2014, at least in the US.

So the next time you’re in Walmart, checking Facebook on your smartphone, just remember that the company that Sam Walton built is earning over 400 times as much revenue as the company that Mark Zuckerberg built. And that’s just this year.

Follow me on Twitter at @charlesprimm.

Written by Charles Primm

February 23, 2012 at 7:02 pm

The “It” Social Network of 2012

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Pinterest logo

That’s what PR Daily’s Arik Hanson is calling Pinterest. Hanson’s recent post on “17 Pinterest stats to show your boss or client” include these fun facts:

  • Pinterest is driving more Web traffic than Google+, LinkedIn and MySpace combined.
  • In the US, 97 percent of Pinterest users are women. In the UK, 56 percent of users are men.
  • Tennesseans are among the top users of Pinterest in the US.
  • Pinterest’s user engagement rate is between twice and three times as much as the same point in Twitter’s development.

The (very interesting) list goes on, but you get the point. Pinterest has staked a claim to the imaginations and online hours of millions of people, and is growing at a phenomenal rate.

The addictive nature of the social media site has, perhaps inevitably, spawned “junkie” stories like this one from the Washington Post’s Petula Dvorak:

“I’ve made 17 attempts at writing this column in the past three days. The pattern is always the same: turn on the computer, log in to Pinterest and lose myself in the site’s churning cycle of interest, hope, inspiration, jealousy, desperation, despair and depression. Pinterest is the hottest new social-networking tool. And it’s digital crack for women.”

Since I am writing this on Mardi Gras, it might be fitting to note that, just as the New Orleans cops break up the Bourbon Street revelries at midnight on Fat Tuesday, Pinterest is in effect doing the same thing, taking away the punchbowl right when the party is getting good.

In this story from Mashable’s Joann Pan, Pinterest has released code that lets companies block their online content from being pinned to Pinterest users’ personal pinboards. The story notes that perhaps 99 percent of all pins on Pinterest violate its own terms of service, so in order to prevent being sued into bankruptcy, the company had to shut down the party somewhat, if it wants to stay in business in the future.

We’re only two months into 2012, but unless another social media site gets this big, this quickly, Pinterest gets my vote for the “it” network of the year.

Follow me on Twitter at @charlesprimm.

Written by Charles Primm

February 21, 2012 at 8:15 pm

Infographics – Classic Communication Made Modern

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Infographics are becoming a hot topic among social media outlets and communicators.

Bloggers such as Maggie Koerth-Baker at Boing Boing and Marcie Giovannoni at Complex Visuals have written about the recent jump in interest in infographics, which deliver often numerically-laden information in a way that helps, not hurts, understanding. Koerth-Baker also explores the history of this communication art, including an illustration considered to be the best infographic ever created, the map by Charles Joseph Minard that illustrated the destruction of Napoleon Boneparte’s army in the Russian campaign of 1812.

Charles Joseph Minard's map of Napoleon's 1812 Russian campaign lossesPublic relations practitioners are climbing aboard the infographics party train. PR Daily’s Meryl Serouya recently wrote an article specifically exploring the use of infographics as press releases, citing their brevity and focus, especially when distributed via social media channels.

Serouya wrote that infographics “can prove especially powerful in press releases by extending the core message and highlighting the important components to bring the text to life.”

I agree completely. Infographics certainly are full of promise as communication channels, although I would not go so far as to say they should replace a news release. If I was advising a client about the use of infographics, I would say that they do have their place, but not as stand-alone releases.

SC Johnson infographic on shifts in consumer environmental actions and behaviorAn interesting infographic could accompany a news release, whether it is e-mailed to media outlets, posted to an organization’s Facebook page, or Tweeted to its followers, giving the story extra context, drama, and background while explaining the more complex parts.

Even though infographics have been around for a long time (like the 17,000-year-old Lascaux cave paintings in France), a well-crafted infographic still has the power to take dry information and make it seem fresh and new and understandable. I’m looking forward to seeing how this hybrid of art and communication will change and grow in the future.

Follow me on Twitter at @charlesprimm.