Friday, 22 November 2013

Of Cows, Physicists and Spheres

Yes, this is about social media, bear with me...

I was browsing my Twitter stream recently when this tweet caught my eye:

The source of the quote is Cristiana Bordeau (Thanks to Ian for asking so I can give credit where it's due)

It got me thinking about being in business and how we construct our online/offline networks out of a myriad of component pieces.

Having an online presence is not just about the solitary, static website anymore. Most businesses are also active on several social media platforms. Our digital footprint is comprised of a mass of tweets, likes, comments updates and shares. Individually they may not seem like much. Collectively, they are a powerful testament (for good or for bad) of how we interact and behave.

Businesses often construct their social media "cow" without any thought for the overall effect. They concentrate on the day to day, but not on the overall impression they are creating. How much more effective could the overall result be with a little planning and strategy? (Answer: a lot!)

Take a step back and consider what sort of "cow" you're constructing.

Saturday, 27 July 2013

Can Twitter really affect your employment prospects?

Up until fairly recently there was a limited pool of information available to the potential employer. There was the CV, the covering letter, candidate appearance, their interview performance and their references.

Today there is an added source of information about candidates and that is their digital footprint. Your online presence can give an employer huge amounts of information about you, particularly if you have low privacy settings on Facebook or an unprotected Twitter account.

Even if an account doesn't use your real name, it doesn't always prevent people finding out who you are and forming opinions about you from the content you post.

People are incredibly open about their lives and their feelings on social media. On one hand, it's what makes it an interesting and vibrant medium. On the other hand, it can provide anyone that wants it with an unedited overview into your world. It's important, so I'll mention it again: Make sure your privacy settings are set up properly.

Although I have been involved in the recruitment process in previous roles, it was before the widespread adoption of social media. To get a more up to date view I asked Kerri-Ann Hargreaves from WWB Recruitment for her opinion.
Personally I use social media and never thought my personal comments would be looked upon negatively. Thankfully they haven't and I give no cause for them to be. My Facebook page has strict privacy settings and I don't use twitter to chat with friends, it's a medium for me to exchange information, chat professionally, seek out new products and work peers.

However, in my role as a recruitment consultant I have experienced quite the opposite. Recently a candidate was declined an offer of employment because of the content on her twitter account. On reviewing it I completely understand although believed that the said individual was behaving in a naive manner. She was conversing with friends as if in a private text message with the use of profanity, aggressive and slanderous language. Although at times we all enter into conversations which are not meant for others to hear, these should not take place out in the social space for others to see and judge.

I believe in the traditional method of judging an individual, a face to face meeting, a gut feeling and of course references. Sadly the restrictions businesses put on references have pushed business leaders to search for further information.

So there you have it: It's not just an urban myth. The practice may not be widespread, but it can mean the difference between  a successful and a failed application.

If a potential employer was to look at your social media output over the last month, what impression would they form of you?

Tuesday, 18 June 2013

For better or worse...

I've been watching a couple of news stories unfold over the last week or so. Both stories centred around an individual in the public eye and concerned their personal lives. It must be a tricky being both a human being and a brand simultaneously. I have every sympathy for the person at the centre of the spotlight, it wouldn't be a place I'd want to be! However, I was struck by how the subjects of the news stories conducted themselves on social media.

One appeared to handle the situation personally through their twitter feed. A couple of tweets and a web link calmed the furore sufficiently that the interest moved on quite quickly.

The other is just carrying on with what are, seemingly, pre-scheduled posts. There's not even a nod towards the situation by varying the content even slightly. It's perhaps a sign of the times that it's now "news" when someone doesn't pass comment on Twitter!

Sometimes refusing, or forgetting, to acknowledge what is happening in the world outside of social media is a real mistake. Managing media storms is not a new problem, but social media makes it a far more urgent issue. When everyone is aware that a response could be posted immediately, there's an expectation that it should be posted.

I'm not advocating that people should feel an obligation to share their personal lives on social media if they choose not to do so. However, a status update to that effect during a period in the spotlight is better than no response at all.

Undoubtedly the media circus will move on, but there are lessons to be learned for all of us:
  1. Don't ignore offline media storms on social media
  2. Address the issues politely & firmly (regardless of how you may actually feel!)
  3. An update that says "it" is too personal to talk about on social media is better than nothing.
  4.  Take care not to get drawn into an acrimonious exchange of tweets/updates
  5. If people are abusive then use your block button and report them
  6. Say thank you to the people that support you

Friday, 26 April 2013

Setting Boundaries or Dictating Terms?

 Is it OK to demand certain types of behaviour or content from the people that you choose to follow/friend?

I don't mean:
"This is my feed, I can say what I like. unfollow/unfriend if you don't like it"

The sort of thing I'm talking about is:
"If you send me a game request I'll unfollow/unfriend immediately"
"Any content sourced from this publication means I will block you"
"I don't like people talking about sex, so don't do it or lose me as a friend"

... and so on.

One of the great advantages of social media, particularly Twitter, is the ability to alter who you're following with the minimum of fanfare. There's always a degree of fluidity involved when you're interacting with people. I've learned to accept "unfollows" as a part of being on social media. It happens. People unfollow me - I unfollow people. No big deal or drama.

If someone posts something I disagree with then it's either the opportunity for a calm debate, or time to have a cup of tea until the feed has moved on a bit.

On the very rare occasions that an individual has posted something I find upsetting, then a quick click to unfollow/unfriend sorts the matter our very quickly.

So why do some people want to dictate terms to the people that they've chosen to interact with? Why not just unfollow people that infringe your personal rules?

Do I need to start posting things like:
"If you dictate behaviour and content for the people you follow, I'll unfollow you"?

I think not...

Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Managing customer expectations using authenticity

Managing customer expectations? Authenticity? I thought this was a social media blog...

It is!

Consider the old business adage that exhorts us to "under promise and over deliver". I expect everyone has come across at least one company that has reversed that and under delivered on what they said they would do. We are so much more disappointed in a company if they promise us the earth and then let us down.

Like any form of communication, your social media needs to reflect what you actually do. However, unlike the traditional communication channels, social media can bite back - and hard - if you get it wrong.

I'm not talking about deliberate misrepresentation here, which is a whole other can o' worms, but about a mismatch in your online business persona and your face to face one.

So, how do you avoid getting it wrong? By being authentic.

Here are some points for you to consider about your authenticity on social media:

Consistency of customer experience
Are your social media "tone of voice" and service levels aligned with your website, email and face to face communication?

Will people feel that they are still talking to the same company when they telephone you or get and email response from you?

This is particularly important if the customer is dealing with several different people from your company. (It's not always the social media that needs changing!)

Being human
Your conversion from social media interaction to customer satisfaction will be far more effective if your communications appear to come from a human. Standard letters and emails are a boon to the busy business, but they don't have to be sterile and boring. Put some effort into your templates and add a personal touch.

Response speed
If you answer your tweets immediately but your answering machine is always on then, there's a mismatch in experience.

Make sure you have enough resource to cover the interaction across all your channels. If you can't afford the resource, then you should think carefully about having a presence there.

Crisis management
Sometimes, things go wrong. It happens to all businesses at some point. How you handle the incident will reflect on your reputation both on and offline. You may not want to play out the whole scenario on social media, but your response and handling will be noted by other people.

Bear in mind that emails can be copy and pasted onto blogs and even phone conversations find their way into the blogosphere.

If you're nice as pie on Facebook and apparently dismissive on email, it'll backfire on you. Have a response plan that includes social media, emails, phone calls, face to face,  PR etc.

Don't fudge (unless you're a confectioner!)
If you don't know or you aren't sure about a question you've been asked then say so. Of course, follow up with the fact that you're going to find out and come back to them. People would rather wait a short while and get the correct information than be fobbed off.

Saturday, 9 February 2013

Can you get too involved...?

I write a lot about engaging on social media and getting to know the people that follow you. It has huge benefits if you're a business and is also enjoyable, which is a real bonus. A recent event has made me think about whether it's possible to get too emotionally involved.

Let me explain...

I run a Twitter feed for a company that produces the most beautiful products. (I may be a little biased!) It's really a pleasure to engage with their followers. They're a warm, funny and caring bunch. I've grown very fond of them over the last year or so. Yes, there's been a demonstrable business benefit for my client but that doesn't preclude the fact that I've been thoroughly enjoying representing them.

Something happened to one of the followers a week or so ago. It was the most awful, gut wrenching and dreadful tragedy. (No, I'm not going to feed the ghoulish and explain. The person concerned already has enough to cope with.) Acting on behalf of the client I sent an appropriate message. The other followers of this person rose to the occasion magnificently and are continuing their support.

What caught me unaware was how personally invested in the account I had become. Not just for the business aspect, but that I have become genuinely attached to the people I was talking to. I found myself lying awake in the small hours of the morning wondering what else I could have done. I'll also admit to crying over the situation the person is dealing with.

Once the initial emotional reaction passed I started to think about whether my reaction was appropriate or, indeed, warranted. After all, I was communicating with this person online as a representative of another company. Should I have tried to keep more emotional "distance"?

My conclusion is that the enjoyment (and the business benefits) of engaging with people, whether as myself or as another company, comes with getting to know them as people. That's the key word here I think - they're people, not remote avatars. As with any relationship, the ride is not always smooth and the bumps that come with it are part of the package.

I suspect I get more emotionally invested than some other consultants in my client's businesses and in their social media. I get great results and I have an enjoyable time doing it. The balance to that is when one of the people I talk to hits an almighty rock on their journey. I can't "not feel"for their pain.

So, am I too involved? What do you think?