Tag Archives: Social media marketing

A Law Against Being Dumb

We all hate it when people say negative things about us. Obviously, if you’re a business and this happens, the odds are that the mean things are posted in some very public places, which can be damaging to your business. I’ve written a few times about various tactics a business can use to respond to negative reviews or comments: ignoring them, denying them, addressing them in a positive manner, or suing the person who posted them. This last tactic, which is, in my mind, the least effective and most dangerous, is no longer an option.
One of the last things the outgoing Congress did was to pass H.R. 5111 – The Consumer Review Fairness Act of 2016. This law, in its own words:

makes a provision of a form contract void from the inception if it: (1) prohibits or restricts an individual who is a party to such a contract from engaging in written, oral, or pictorial reviews, or other similar performance assessments or analyses of, including by electronic means, the goods, services, or conduct of a person that is also a party to the contract; (2) imposes penalties or fees against individuals who engage in such communications; or (3) transfers or requires the individual to transfer intellectual property rights in review or feedback content (with the exception of a nonexclusive license to use the content) in any otherwise lawful communications about such person or the goods or services provided by such person.

In other words, businesses can’t sue someone because they impose a form contract that prohibits the customer from making negative comments and it forbids businesses from slapping fees on customers who do so. We’ve seen this done by several businesses over negative Yelp reviews. Then there is the case of the company that bricked a users software after he posted a negative review (and I’m unclear if the Act actually prohibits this!). As you’re reading this, I’m hoping your response is “why do we need a law to stop businesses from being stupid?”

Good point. That said, some consumers have spent many hours and thousands of dollars defending themselves against voicing their honest opinions which are based in fact (the law doesn’t by the way, negate existing libel or slander laws). But let’s not stray from the important point: how to handle negative reviews.

  1. Apologize. Do so loudly and in the same forum where the consumer voiced their opinion. It doesn’t matter if they’re dead wrong.
  2. Take a deep breath and ask yourself if there are grounds for the complaint. Be honest. Is this a one-off or have others complained about similar issues?
  3. Ask to take the discussion offline into a private forum – email, phone, direct messages, etc.
  4. Make it right – no “buts” and don’t “try.” That doesn’t mean you should accept a ridiculous offer from them (lifetime free meals because they found a hair in their salad) but you should compromise on something that is reasonable and lets the customer know they’ve been taken seriously and not ignored.

We shouldn’t need a law to help businesses from being dumb but until many of us wise up and quit suing our customers for voicing their opinions, this one is on the books. Thoughts?

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Filed under Consulting, digital media, Huh?

Social, Smoke, And MIrrors

I’m frustrated. Some of the frustration is with myself because I can’t seem to explain why hiring certain people to work on your business is a bad idea when compared to hiring other kinds of experts. Some of the frustration is with businesspeople who don’t seem to grasp that the tools aren’t the business. In an effort to ease my aforementioned frustrations, let me vent a bit and, hopefully, in the process of doing so help clarify the issues.

With very few exceptions, a recent college grad is not an expert on how to use social media as a marketing tactic. I think the supposition is that since most of these kids have been on social media for a decade and are generally quick to adopt the next new thing that they’re qualified to lead your social media efforts. That is as ridiculous as assuming that I am qualified to repair my car just because I’ve been driving for 40 years. Rattling off buzzwords isn’t the same as understanding business goals. Doing things because they’re “cool” or because they appeal to the social media person isn’t a great strategy. Things are done because they serve the customer and in so doing, move the company toward one of more business goals.

The tools aren’t the business. We use the right tool at the right time for the right purpose in everything we do. We don’t decide “I’m going to use a hammer” when the goal is to cut meat. I’ve had discussions with potential clients who have no clue why they’re on Facebook or Twitter. I’ve had others who blast out a dozen pieces of content a day with no examination of their analytics to help refine the type of content they’re pushing, the frequency with which they do so, and the channel(s) they employ.

I’m open to suggestions for cutting through the smoke and mirrors. It’s not so much that my proposals to help aren’t chosen (and I know I’m speaking for several other senior consultant types here) but that the ones that get chosen are doomed to failure because they’re style over substance. This hurts everyone – platforms, clients, consultants, and ultimately customers. We can’t expect clients to invest in developing channels – particularly social – if we can’t produce results. We can’t produce results if we don’t understand the underlying business and its customer base.

Thanks for indulging me today. What’s on your mind?

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Filed under Consulting, Huh?

Why Can’t You Yell Fire?

I think we all know that you can’t yell “fire” in a crowded movie theater. It will cause a panic and someone will get hurt. At a minimum, the odds are that someone will also call in a false alarm that distracts the fire department. That is a common-sense limit to free speech. Almost 100 years ago the Supreme Court said that the First Amendment, though it protects freedom of expression, does not protect dangerous speech.

I thought of that the other day when Google and Facebook announced that they would take what I think is a great first step in purging themselves of fake news by cutting off the access those sites have to revenue-generating or promotional ads. As Reuters reported:

Google said it is working on a policy change to prevent websites that misrepresent content from using its AdSense advertising network, while Facebook updated its advertising policies to spell out that its ban on deceptive and misleading content applies to fake news.

As someone who is devoted to the First Amendment, you might wonder why I’m OK with what seem to be limits on free speech. Fake news – or outright lies – are a big source of the divisive atmosphere most of us recognize exists in our country. They’re not hate speech, which I’m actually OK with because it’s so obviously slanted. They’re worse because they wrap themselves in a cloak of truth. As we’ve discussed here many times before, many people – both in business and out – don’t bother to do the research to find out if what’s being presented to them in factual. The presence of these sites and their fabricated BS makes a very difficult search even more so. No, the Pope didn’t endorse Donald Trump and yet 100,000 people shared that story as if His Holiness did.

By removing the financial incentive to create and promulgate this crap, Facebook and Google are taking a positive step in helping those of us who want to make decisions based on factual material. It’s not censorship; it’s arresting the idiot who’s yelling “fire” for a profit. Hopefully, the next step is some method to annotate and fact check the sites that remain. I also see that Twitter is suspending the accounts of some alt-right leaders.:

In a statement, Twitter said: “The Twitter Rules prohibit targeted abuse and harassment, and we will suspend accounts that violate this policy.”

There is no question that Twitter has become a bit of a cesspool and they certainly need to take some actions that clean up the rampant trolling and harassment that goes on. This, however, doesn’t sit as well with me since it starts down the slippery slope of censorship. The difference is my mind is that the fake news folks are making stuff up for profit while the hate groups are expressing (in theory) their own beliefs, however misguided.

Interesting times, aren’t they?

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Filed under Huh?, Reality checks

How To Stay Engaged With Your Consumers

OK, so you buy into my thinking on the need to stay engaged with your customers and potential customers in a meaningful way. Now what? That’s a question my clients and I face all the time so let me share a few things we’ve done to promote that engagement. Feel free to borrow!

The first and most obvious thing you can do is to support listening via social media channels. If you haven’t set up a listening dashboard, I’d make that a top priority. Hootsuite is a good place to start, and it can also be useful in populating those channels with content. There are plenty of other tools out there for listening, but listening and responding when appropriate is what we’re after.

Part of what we’re after is to become a friendly subject matter expert in the eyes of consumers. There are plenty of channels in which to do so, but what’s important is that you not try to be in every single one. Unless you have a support staff of a dozen people, you’re going to have to pick the channel that is most meaningful to your customers and focus your efforts there. My guess is that it will be Twitter since it’s the most interactive.

Next would be a decision about some longer form content. This might be on your own website, a blog, maybe a post on LinkedIn or Medium. Try them all and see which drives traffic and engagement. Remember, there is no garbage can on the Internet so whatever you write for one platform is probably reusable on another.

What do you write about? Start with thinking about how many questions do customers ask you in a week. The answers to each one of those questions can serve as the basis for a post. Unless you’re a masochist like me, you needn’t write every day either. A couple of times a week is a lot for most folks. Write about your customers. Featuring a long-time purchaser rewards them and shows all the others that you’re grateful. Explain a common problem your customers have and how you’re solving it for them.

Ask yourself how you keep in touch with your best friends. Don’t treat consumers any differently and you’ll be on the road to a productive, engaged relationship. Make sense?

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Quit Pushing Me

We discuss engagement in this space fairly often. I’ve made no bones about the fact that I’m a believer in The Cluetrain Manifesto and that markets are conversations. Think about a conversation you’d have at a bar or a party. You would listen at least as much as you spoke and you probably wouldn’t keep tossing random lines at people, especially if those lines are only about you. Now let’s look at a piece of research.

According to The Future of Content: Rethinking Content Consumption, a national survey report, consumers want to discover digital content on their own and are skeptical of brands pushing online ads through interruptive channels. Rapt Media, recently surveyed an audience of more than 1,000 consumers to understand how content discovery is driving the content personalization trend.

Insights reveal consumers want personalized content experiences that are meaningful, helpful and valuable to their specific needs and interests. But equally important is their empowerment in discovering it on their own. The younger millennial generation is especially mistrusting of brands pushing interruptive online ads.

Key findings from the survey include:

● 95% take action to avoid seeing or receiving online ads
● 5% say ads influence their purchase decisions
● 57% of millennials block ad content because it is too pushy
● 43% say online ads are not personalized to their interests, but 62% say the content they discover on their own is personalized
● 61% say that even if content is customized, they still prefer to find it on their own
● 46% say content they find on their own influences their purchase decisions

I especially like this quote: “Programmatic push messaging is implicit personalization perceived by consumers as irrelevant and inauthentic.” Yep. The findings confirm that consumers have come to expect content personalization along with the opportunity to shape their own experience, so why are we spending time and resources on doing anything that delivers an experience other than that? Maybe we need to make our business behavior more like our cocktail party behavior (and who has ever pondered THAT before?)?

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How Not To Get Fired By Consumers

When one of my managers would hire a new person, I always tried to sit that new person down for a few minutes in the middle of their busy (and probably scary) first day. The purpose was to welcome them aboard and to let them know that there was only one thing they could do (other than to break the law or the HR rules, obviously) that would cost them their job. That one thing was lying. In my mind, lying – to me, to their manager, to their co-workers – causes a lack of trust, and that mutual trust is what sees the team through all the challenges of the workplace.

That sort of thinking is what makes me wonder why marketers seem happy to lie all the time. I’m not talking about violating the law and mislabeling products. I’m talking about something much more common which is branded content. Now you might moot thing of branded content as lying, but your customers do. This from the folks at Citi (via Business Insider):

Looking at branded content — specifically as it relates to Facebook‘s opportunity in the space — Citi found that 48% of US internet users felt deceived upon realizing an article or video was not a piece of news or commentary, but was in fact a commercial.

I’m not talking about something like a review guide that was funded by a brand being reviewed as long as it was truly an independant work and properly identified as having been funded by a brand. That is content that is created for the audience and has value. I mean a glowing review, seemingly from a reputabile source,  that is clearly created to promote a single brand. Most of the time there is a little label someplace that mentions it’s an ad, but not always and not always prominent enough for a consumer to notice.

Are you creating content for the consumer or for yourself? Is the content deceptive in any way? Ads disguised as content is lying, and lying will get you fired, even if you’re a brand. You agree?

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Filed under Helpful Hints, Huh?

Hi. What Do You Need?

I bet each of us has someone in our life from whom we never hear unless and until they need something. You know the type. When you’re in touch with them everything is great and you’re BFF’s. The problem is that the only times you’re in touch come when they are having a problem. When you reach out just to say hi, it’s crickets.

Many of us conduct our customer activities in exactly that mindset. They never hear from us unless we need something (generally we need them to buy something). A recent  Salesforce survey of nearly 4,000 marketers highlighted the fact that many marketers are increasingly focused on customer satisfaction and customer engagement as their top measures for success, and the way to spur those measures is through an ongoing presence that is customer focused. In addition, high-performing marketers are creating journeys for customers, with 65% saying they’ve adopted a customer journey strategy and 88% saying it’s critical to their marketing success.

This is what the CEO of Salesforce had to say about the results:

The rise of the connected customer is forcing marketing to evolve from delivering outbound campaigns to managing personalized experiences that engage the customer from day one and guide them through a seamless journey with the brand. The results of our research show that high-performing marketers that change their mindsets, tactics and technology to embrace a customer journey strategy will reap the benefits.

In other words, we can’t just show up when we need something. Think about something as simple as the Amazon Dash button. If you’re not familiar, Amazon describes it a Wi-Fi connected device that reorders your favorite product with the press of a button. If you run out of Red Bull, push the button and Red Bull shows up. It’s always there, ready when you need it. Is that walking the customer through a journey? I think it is, in a very simplistic manner.

When the phone rings and it’s this particular guy, I know I’m going to be asked for something. How do customers feel when your email arrives? Any differently?

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