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NSA Leaks: The Big Data Two Step for Businesses This post originally appeared on LinkedIn as part of their influencer program on June 10, 2013.  To see the original post click here. I expect we will be seeing a lot of dancing over the next few...

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Coming to an Agency Near You! This post originally appeared on LinkedIn as part of their influencer program on September 23, 2013.  To see the original post click here. I am often pondering what is next in the world in which we...

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Customer Service Week: Here's Your Call Center This post originally appeared on LinkedIn as part of their influencer program on October 7, 2013.  To see the original post click here. As we begin Customer Service Week I want to thank all those...

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Defining the Customer Experience Role This post originally appeared on LinkedIn as part of their influencer program on October 2, 2013.  To see the original post click here. Customer experience is a term growing in popularity within businesses...

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Apple's #Fail When Dealing with @MarthaStewart This post originally appeared on LinkedIn as part of their influencer program on September 30, 2013.  To see the original post click here. It feels like it was the Tweet heard around the world: "I...

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Apple’s #Fail When Dealing with @MarthaStewart

Posted on : 30-09-2013 | By : Frank Eliason | In : Brands, Business, In the News, Social Media

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This post originally appeared on LinkedIn as part of their influencer program on September 30, 2013.  To see the original post click here.

It feels like it was the Tweet heard around the world:

“I just dropped my ipad on the ground and shattered two glass corners. What to do? Does one call Apple to come and pick it up or do I take it” -@MarthaStewart

This was followed by other Tweets including one stating that she was still waiting for an Apple rep to come pick up the broken iPad. She then switched gears joking that it was an entrepreneurial idea for Apple to offer same day delivery. The tweets culminated with a Tweet about Apple’s PR team response to her:

“I cannot believe that Apple’s Public Relations Team is mad at me for tweeting about my iPad and how to get it fixed! Steve Jobs gave it to me” -@MarthaStewart

Since that time it has been played off that the Tweets were a joke, similar to how Martha has Tweeted in the past. I will not make any judgements either way. I am sure over the next few weeks we will see many posts stating that Apple should provide Twitter Customer service, because it would have alleviated this trouble. The fact is it would not have because the damage to the Apple brand occurred with the first Tweet. This is also where Apple won without striving to do anything from their PR team.

The Twitter community, or at least the sub-sector of Apple Customers, responded immediately to Martha. This never required the PR team to be involved. They explained in some nice, many not so nice words, that she can simply take the broken iPad to the Apple store like any one of us.

I have spoken around the globe on this topic and written about it numerous times. If your consumer believes that you provide really good Customer Service, they will act as your PR team and respond in social media. Unfortunately what we have created instead is a belief that if I am loud in Social Media, a company will treat me dramatically differently than through ordinary channels. This in turn causes more to blast the brand in social media! Very circuitous. Apple has proven that a culture of service will encourage brand advocates to do the right thing!

In this case I am thrilled with Apple’s Customer service team for having a tradition of good Customer service, something I have experienced often. I am not as proud of the PR team in their handling of the situation. I can judge from Martha’s tweet that the PR team reached out to Martha or her people. In this case there was no need to do any of that.

If you followed the conversation or response to her Tweet, it is easily discovered that she was provided the appropriate response. Letting her know that you are mad is not going to solve anything, in fact it will only lead to responses like the one she tweeted. I would also guess that they also sent someone with a new iPad for her (if I find out that they did I will be really disappointed in them).

I am further disappointed in the Apple PR team for not commenting on any of the stories on the topic (there are many). This would have been the perfect opportunity to talk about the great service any Customer can receive just by making an appointment with the Apple Genius Bar. There was an opportunity to say we are here to help anyone in the same great manner whether they have 2.3 million followers or none.

We have to get better at all this, and I hope this situation provides a great learning experience for brands. It certainly was not the first, nor will it be the last. The fact is Customers now control your brand image whether you like it or not. In this case Apple’s Customers did an amazing job, but the traditional approach by the Apple PR team was a big #Fail.

Coming to an Agency Near You!

Posted on : 23-09-2013 | By : Frank Eliason | In : Business, Social Media, Technology

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This post originally appeared on LinkedIn as part of their influencer program on September 23, 2013.  To see the original post click here.

I am often pondering what is next in the world in which we live, especially how that factors into this social media filled world and business. Things around us are changing everyday and sometimes it is difficult to keep up. A few years ago the hot topics were “social media, “digital” and “mobile”, but in many ways we are seeing the hot topics shift to “sharing economy” and context. The business world is constantly evolving and it seems very difficult for any business to keep pace with the changes before us. Partially this is due to our own resistance but it is also because the future is often difficult to predict until it is right before your eyes. Yet we are starting to see the shift within marketing and PR agencies to help businesses lead the way.

I have seen agencies reduce the number of social media roles, but that is due to multiple factors. For some it is due to the talent moving directly to the business, but for others it is because the skill set is now available in multiple layers in the agency. It no longer required as a separate position. This seems to fit the same cycle we have seen in the past, and I expect we will see into the future. There seems to be a cycle that happens with each change impacting these agencies. The cycle starts with new firms being created usually by people from larger firms who see an opportunity that they can fulfill. This stage is followed by larger firms starting to hire for the skill, then businesses bringing the skill in house with the final stage including consolidation of the smaller firms. Over the past several months I have been watching shifts in the marketing and public relations space that go beyond the big merger talk. I have seen smaller agencies establish themselves in the data analytics speciality. I have also seen some firms restructure to provide greater emphasis on data. In my view data is going to continue to grow, with further challenges from a regulatory and Consumer view. This shift to the world of context will require very specific skills and we are starting to see the agency space recognize the potential opportunity.

I doubt any of you are surprised to see data coming front and center because it has been an interesting conversation point for years. We now have the ability to know the Customer for what they want the world to know, and if we effectively utilize this information we can better assist them in finding the products and services they need at the specific moment they need them. This will of course have challenges along the way. FIrst will be properly parsing the information to better understand the intent. Then it will be a question of delivery. If a brand is off in any of the data points they can take a strong message and destroy it. Over the past few week Acxiom launched AbouttheData.com which allows Consumers to view the data the company has on them. You can read more about this from the NY Times. This effort is a brilliant effort. First it heads off regulatory pressure by sharing with Consumers the information they have collected. But more importantly it allows Consumers to actually change inaccurate data so Acxiom as the opportunity to improve how well they know the potential Customer. I do wonder if there may be any negative backlash from firms that hire the company because they too can easily see the information that they believed to be accurate, may not be. For me much of my information was way off and I did not change it. It does explain some of the goofy marketing materials I receive. Anyway the use of data is going to change this business in many ways and we are just at the beginning stages of this shift. Some will not realize the impact until it is too late but many have already fully embraced it.

I am surprised that another shift did not happen sooner, but we are starting to see the beginning stages. Over the years I have heard marketers say that service should report to marketing. I would always quip back that maybe marketing should report to service since it was such a small part of the overall Customer experience. Needless to say this would stir the pot a little. The fact is in most organization service sits way too low on the food chain and has been disrespected by other business units or viewed as a cost center. It is so sad when companies view their Customer as a cost and not an asset. In my book @YourService I talk about these challenges and the fact that we are shifting to more a word of mouth or relationship driven era and our mindset must change. I do not blame business units for looking down on service, although I do view it as short-sighted. I blame the service industry for not doing a good enough job in managing upward the importance of Customer Service. Well this lack of leadership and the changes to how Consumers view the brand, marketing and communications leaders are starting to get more involved in fixing what is broken. This is also being noticed by agencies and they too see the opportunity to better advise their clients. We are starting to watch new firms evolve from the marketing and communications space into leading the Customer Experience. I expect this trend will grow because it is difficult for your marketing to win if it does not correlate to the experience a brand creates.

We are in changing times, and agencies are always quick to change with them. These are my expectations of changes, but I am sure there will be many others. What is your view?

Chipotle Aims High But Misses Low on Twitter

Posted on : 25-07-2013 | By : Frank Eliason | In : Brands, Marketing, Social Media

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This post originally appeared on LinkedIn as part of their influencer program on July 25, 2013.  To see the original post click here.

One of the earliest definitions I heard about marketing spoke of building relationships with customers and prospective customers. But sometimes it feels like we are far from that, especially in social media.

Too often lately marketing feels more like a desperate effort to garner attention for the brand through every channel possible, especially in social media. It’s extremely difficult for any brand or person to be noticed in social media simply because there is an excessive amount of content available for anyone, so users drift to the content that is most relevant to them.

Earlier this year Oreo made a splash when it posted an image during an unusual power outage at the Super Bowl. “You can still dunk in the dark” got lots of attention. At the time I applauded them for such a creative approach and timeliness, which was incredible. I am not sure I could have had an image approved so fast.

Since that time we have seen many brands jump on the “real-time” marketing bandwagon. The problem is when everyone is doing it, it comes across more about spamming people instead of being one with he community.

I still think Oreo does the best of all the brands because they typically do not try to spam a hashtag or key word search. Instead, they simply share in the hope that their followers will take the message forth.

The Royal Birth brought the greatest backlash toward brands trying to capitalize on the attention — you can read more on the “real-time” marketing backlash here and here. (I am not a Royal watcher, and did not follow the conversation on the topic, but I do want to congratulate William and Kate, as I would for any new parent.)

The latest brand mistake in social was a royal one but not involving the royal family or baby George. It actually involves a fairly beloved brand, or at least one I love: Chipotle. Chipotle is celebrating its 20th anniversary and they wanted to make a splash.

That they did.

On July 21st there were some odd tweets on their Twitter account — not Anthony Weiner odd, but still a little weird, including one that seemed to report a password.

Turns out this was not a hack, but a marketing stunt to garner more followers (measure bad things get bad results!). According to ABC they garnered 4,000 more followers as a result of the silly stunt. This of course is not the first time an account faked being hacked, as MTV did in February.

There are a number of problems with faking something like this. First it is not being a strong member of the community, it instead is reinforcing that Chipotle wants to be the center of attention, not one with the community. This is a big challenge for brands because social media is not the push media like TV ads, it is community driven. I am sure it was an idea presented by either an employee or partner to get people talking, and the effort did just that.

So they gained discussion, but lost trust, at least with me. I used to hold Chipotle up as one of the good brands, but now they come across like so many others. I do want to be fair: There are many out there who like what Chipotle did because it was funny, harmless and garnered attention to the brand. I take deeper issue because it does play to the trust issue with consumers, but also with partners such as Twitter.

The fact is when an account is hacked people immediately look to Twitter, often blaming them for the lack of security. Every time something like this happens many security analysts start to try to assess what went wrong and how to prevent it for their brand. Twitter, like all social networks, has a team that investigates these things. This whole thing reminds me of the episode of Seinfeld, “The Scofflaw” where Jerry and George’s friend Gary tells George he has cancer, but in reality he does not. In my view Chipotle was Gary in this effort.

So what is a brand to do to garner the attention they desire? I would recommend the following:

  • Stop trying to be the center of attention. Try to make your own Customers the center and provide them the tools and information to take your message forth. Doing so you may find you achieve your original goal in greater magnitude.
  • Social media does not start with pushing some message. Your product and service can be your message. Chipotle could have done so much with the millions who enter their locations each day. Companies have to get better at connecting all their messages they send, including to their employees (their greatest advocates) and their Customers.
  • Know the community you serve. Each of these social networks is a community and often there are sub communities within them.
  • Respect others even if not part of the community. Respect is such a message often forgotten, but in the Chipotle example did they respect the company Twitter or the community

UPDATE: I want to make clear that this effort by Chipotle was part of their Adventuritto game and some of the tweets were part of that puzzle. It is interesting to see the change in quotes from their PR team. In the ABC News piece Chris Arnold from Chipotle stated “We did it to get more people talking about that short string of posts.” The Washington Post reported “the company never intended to upset people and denied that the fake hack was simply a ploy to grab followers. “We apologize if anyone felt misled by this or didn’t like how the promotion was handled,” Arnold said. The messages, he said, were meant to be clues for the company’s “Adventurrito” treasure hunt promotion, in honor of its 20th anniversary.” Which was a clearer response. As some have pointed out this was intended for their community playing the game. The challenge to the effort is Twitter is very public and cautious about hacks (okay some are not cautious but find them funny). When they tweeted that they had problems with the account, alarms went off throughout the Twitter community and beyond. Kyle Flattery wrote a post going more in depth on the security challenge, and I have heard from many others on that topic. You can read more on his blog. This game has created some challenges for Chipotle from the start, including the need to change the rules early on because of potential manipulation. I certainly love the brand and what they historically have stood for, especially their stance on GMO’s. I think they were off the mark here, but of course I will continue to support them.

How Brands Shouldn’t Handle a Tragedy on Social Media

Posted on : 16-04-2013 | By : Frank Eliason | In : Brands, Marketing, Social Media

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This post originally appeared on LinkedIn as part of their influencer program on April 16, 2013.  To see the original post click here.

Events in Boston have been heart wrenching to all of us. I for one have been glued to coverage as the events unwind, not unlike similar tragic events in the past. I always take solace in the extraordinary ways people come to the aid of those in need. These individuals restore faith in humanity after such an unhuman act. I would like to express my gratitude to the first responders who go toward the danger to aid others. These are the heroes in this world and we do not celebrate them enough. I offer my deepest condolences to the family who have been impacted by this tragic event, and to the city of Boston.

In the business world we tend to be numb to the world around us and strive to focus on what is important to us. Our business. This becomes so evident in social media the way many companies continue to try to push out their messages, even during times of human tragedy.

There is very little evidence that companies who take this approach respect or even understand they are part of community. I know it is difficult sometimes to know when to pull back or not, so I wanted to open the conversation here, especially in the wake of these events. David Armano has written a good guide after the events at Sandy Hook, and I recommend that you keep that handy.

As I watched the events unfold yesterday, I followed discussions on Twitter and Facebook, as well as a variety of news sources. The challenge is these discussions were often broken up by social media ads touting how great these companies are. It seemed very inappropriate based on what was on my mind at the time. It became a real turn off to those brands.

As I was discussing this with some friends, some pushed back saying “bad events happen all over the world every day; where do you draw the line?” It is a valid comment and worthy of conversation. In my view you have to know your community on the social networking site.

Many businesses may have an international audience and they may not be following events in Boston as closely, so they may not care about the content you are sharing. At some point they may have a different event that does impact them deeply, and it is important for you to identify that as well. Always remember you are an invited guest within these social networks, and they can easily shut you out from the community, even with paid content. Unfortunately, I think brands have forgotten that over the years, and instead of serving the community they show how self serving they really are.

As we return to normal and you start posting content after a tragic event, it is also important to respect the minds of your audience. They may be more open to your posts, they still want to see your sensitive side regarding the recent event.

Earlier today Epicurious posted Tweets regarding Boston. The one started off perfect “Boston, our hearts are with you…” but then it went on to post a recipe for Cinnamon Scented Breakfast Quinoa. If this company thought about the mindset of their community, they would realize that they may see this as trying to capitalize on the tragedy instead of offering value to the community.

In the early days of social media, this was easy for us. First of all we knew the people behind every one of the businesses. We did not have automated tweets or scheduled posts. It was all about human interaction and touch. In some ways social has always been about this but for some reason we often forget that. During these tragic events, always think about that, and what is important to you. It will help guide you in making the best decision for your brand.

As I was writing this post, Scott Monty posted some thought on the events of yesterday. I would urge you to take a few minutes to review that as well.

Thank you again to all the heroes in Boston for helping to restore faith in humanity. My thoughts and prayers are dedicated to all those impacted by this event, and a wish that we could find a way to rid the world of such horrific acts. Thank you for being part of my community.

Frank

Are We, Social Media Professionals, Destroying Social Media?

Posted on : 27-02-2013 | By : Frank Eliason | In : Brands, Marketing, Social Media

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This post originally appeared on Social Media Today on February 27, 2013.  Click here to see the original post.

If you are hanging out at Social Media Today, you most likely have a vested interest in social media, often in a paid capacity working for brands or advising them in some sort of agency situation. Maybe you just are striving to learn more and build a career path involving social media. I hope this post can help challenge some beliefs or others may challenge mine, but either way it should be fun and a learning experience for everyone.

We are often advising brands to develop their content strategy and they ‘must’ do these things such as engage and be part of social media or they will be destroyed (or something similar). We have all drank the Kool Aid at times, but I have to wonder if our efforts are the ones destroying social media. I know you think social media will be around forever and will change the world. In many ways I do believe it will do both, but maybe not as we know it today. I have been watching trends that indicate less and less engagement by the masses in our typical social hang outs, such as Facebook and Twitter. Now there are many reasons for this, and not always indicative of efforts by brands. Often it is more an aspect to how Facebook shares content, or strives to have users pay to spread their message but it does not dimish the realities in our little world.

During the Super Bowl, Oreo did an amazing job with creating a real-time marketing message involving the outage at the stadium (you can read about it here). So that brings us to the Oscars.  In preparation for the real-time marketing efforts many people participated in a discussion using the hastag #OscarsRTM.  I watched this conversation as well as followed the Oscars by following #Oscars and Oscars in my Twitter search. By doing this I had the opportunity to see many interesting attempts by brands to be a part of the conversation. If you want a good recap of better attempts, check out this post on Hubspot.  But let’s face facts, none of these brand messages resonated with the audience like the Oreo spot a few week earlier.  Many of them felt like they were trying to just be the cool kid, like Oreo at the Superbowl.  Even Oreo felt that way to me.

Now the reason I love Twitter, it offers the best opportunity to meet new people and engage in conversations on topics of interest. To me it is all about the ability to search.  This is the way I have used Twitter since my first tweet in April, 2008 as @ComcastCares. We have all used it this way at one time or another.  How did you feel when you were at the conference and they displayed the tweat stream and trolls started messaging the hashtag?  What about when that happens during your Twitter chat? I have seen that happen during the #CustServ chats.

The reality is brands are becoming the trolls, or spammers (at least in the way they do it today), which over time will hurt these social networks causing people to find alternative places to track and participate in conversations. This is nothing new, since the same thing happened to email marketing. At first it was cool, but then when too many brands started bombarding us with messages we sought ways to simply block them out.

In my view we have to do our part to ensure success of these social networks, including helping the networks create the right user experience. I know our product leaders want to see their product front in center of social media, but if we chase people away, what good is it being front and center?

As social media leaders we have to help our brands better understand what it is like to be a member of a community and how to add to it as opposed to detracting from it.  This is often a fine line, and difficult to decipher. As an example Oreo during the Super Bowl was unique and unexpected, but during the Oscars they were one of many doing similar content. At best the Oscars content was just noise, but I bet some felt they were being spammed.

I for one love to be able to use Twitter search to add value in my life, just like my Facebook stream is best when filled with my family and friends talking about what is important in their life. Anything that interferes with that hurts my experience as a user. I think the best brands will find ways to encourage others to talk about their brand as opposed to pushing some message that does not resonate with me. The key is making your product and experience do the talking for you and help facilitate your Customers to spread that message. Changes have to be made! What would you encourage brands to do differently?

Driving Listening to Be Part of Your Organizational DNA

Posted on : 05-02-2013 | By : Frank Eliason | In : Business, Marketing, Social Media, Technology

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This post originally appeared on LinkedIn as part of their influencer program on February 5, 2013.  To see the original post click here.

Beth Comstock, CMO for GE had a great post regarding listening that inspired this follow up. When you are finished reviewing this, I urge you to read her post as well. I have never had the privilege to meet Beth, but her reputation as a leader is well respected. In fact when I was with Comcast I was approached by a GE headhunter about a social role with them. I was very interested in the opportunity to work with Beth, but within days of the first phone call,Comcastand GE announced the partnership for NBC Universal. I did not think it would be appropriate to further our talks. I have paid close attention to GE ever since; Beth and her team have been doing outstanding work leading GE.

Listening has been a favorite topic of mine throughout my career. It is something we all want to say we do well, yet often we struggle with actually doing it. I am sure my wife has accused me of not listening once or twice! Businesses like to send messages to their Customers stating they listen, yet I have seen little evidence that they do. Today we see surveys galore from virtually every larger business we deal with. I used to fill these surveys out religiously providing very direct positive and negative feedback. Have I ever heard back? Have I seen changes based on the feedback? The trouble with the way many companies approach these surveys is they look at overall numbers, with very little attention to the verbatims. If my feedback is so important, why wouldn’t you listen or acknowledge what I had to say?

Social media is a great example of how businesses struggle to listen. As I have studied companies social media efforts, I have seen many companies who like to say they listen but little evidence with how the company operates. This is very evident when you watch many companies who perform social media Customer Service. How often are they addressing identical problems over and over again. This lack of action sends the same message to me as not responding to survey comments. Of course Customer Service has been built on that same issue for years, so I am not sure why I would expect it to change.

Years ago (way more than I would like to admit) I was interviewing for my first management role in the financial services industry. The manager asked me what I thought the most important attribute of a leader was. I did not hesitate and said “listening.” In my view a leader will never have all the knowledge they need to make decisions. The key is listening to those in the know, including employees, business leaders, Customers, regulators and so many others. In my view information is power, but not in the way many people look at that statement. I do not need to hold all the information, but I do need to listen to all the information I have around me.

My background in business is within Customer operations. I have found that the best people in the service operations are also the best listeners. The reason this occurs is they deal with upset Customers every day and sometimes call after call. They are not listening to the cursing or yelling, but instead they go deeper to understand the reason for the frustration and strive to find a solution within their own toolbox. These skills are so relevant throughout the organization. The struggle for ops is they have not been able to get the right leaders in the organization to hear what the Customer is saying. The service employees, just like the Customers, struggle to be heard.

Leaders are often proud of their own accomplishments and they should be. I do wonder if this sometimes impedes their ability to listen. Could some leaders view listening as a sign of weakness? Possibly, but I think the reality is more that they think they are listening when in reality the proof points within the organization same differently. Of course there are many exceptions to this. For one, entrepreneurs have always been among the best listeners. They hear more than words and are then able to translate this into opportunity. We need to bring this same entrepreneurial spirit to all layers of business.

As I look across the various parts of the organization, I have found marketing and communication departments do an amazing job at telling the story of their successes. Since I now sit in marketing, I am often amazed at how well they tell the story of their piece of the business. This of course is probably because of the strengths that marketers bring to the table in telling the story of the brand. I think it is time we better connect these departments. Imagine marketing’s art of storytelling connected to the art of listening from the Customer operations department? Now that would be a powerful, game changing, combination. This would be a way to lead the story of the brand instead of trying to simply tell one.

Listening is so much more than words but with the right people working together we can make it part of the DNA of any organization!

Ryanair is a Remarkable Business

Posted on : 28-01-2013 | By : Frank Eliason | In : Business, Marketing, Social Media

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This post originally appeared on LinkedIn as part of their influencer program on January 28, 2013.  To see the original post click here.

The Merriam-Webster Definition of Remarkable as
“worthy of being or likely to be noticed especially as being uncommon or extraordinary”

Companies everywhere are striving to win in social media, yet who is really winning? Often we strive to build business for the masses which results in making a brand very average. When we look at social media, the greatest success typically does not fall in the average category. I know many of you think of your brand as above average, but in reality how different are you from other companies out there? What do you like to discuss via social media? When you are mentioning brands is it because it was a regular experience or something that really created a desire to chat? Human nature is that we like to talk more about extremes than every day things. It is a way we strive to differentiate ourselves. I tend to talk about really great experiences or really poor ones.

Unfortunately for brands, poor experiences have become the norm. As I discuss in @YourService, businesses have often focused Customer Service on avoiding talking to you instead of building relationships with Customers. Thhe result is the revolt we have seen for brands in social media over the past few years. This is a trend I expect will grow exponentially over the coming years. This has lead to the creation of social Customer Service, which is presenting challenges because companies typically offer their best help through that channel, causing more people to bash the brand just to receive the help they need. The other challenge for brands is that they have often used marketing channnels to demonstrate to Customers how great they are at service, or their product, but in the past Customers had little recourse if this did not match their experience. Today Customers can just blast your brand in social media.

One such brand that is often blasted in social media is a European airline, Ryanair. If you are from the United States you may not be familiar with Ryanair. As a service guy, I am usually offended by some of the tactics they elect to take, such as the CEO calling a Customer stupid, or debating charging to use the bathroom. A number of months ago I saw a blog postsaying Ryanair needed to start offering social Customer Service because of all the negative discussions occuring regarding the brand. As you study the conversation it is most often people upset about fees. As a person who flies often, I can relate to those frustrated by the fees, but I am not Ryanair’s Customer and my perspective would be meaningless. Ryanair strives to be the low-cost airline. You pay the lowest price to get from point A to point B. If you want to print your boarding pass at the airport, there is a substantial fee. If you want to carry on luggage, that too has a fee. As the complaints pile up regarding their fee structure, the fact is that each one sends the message that the company wants people to know. This does not require social service, in fact I would say more than most companies, Ryanair knows who they are and their message in social media is right on target. They are remarkable, even if it is not a remark you and I would like to see, it fits them.

Companies want to win in the hearts and minds of their Customers. The challenge is that, up until now, their efforts have focused on pushing a message instead of a more holistic approach. Most companies list values or mission on their website, but as you look inside the organization those fluffy words are not lived up to. In the case of Ryanair, they know who they are and live it everyday. It comes through in everything from the fees they charge, to the quotes from the CEO, to the complaints online about their brand.

As I mentioned in the first post on this topic, in 2003 Seth Godin introduced us to the Purple Cow, explaining that in the future the key for brands is not striving to message the masses, but instead look to the extremes. Stated simply, we all see cows all the time and do not think to comment, but if you saw a purple cow, now that is something that is remarkable. Ryanair has their Purple Cow, does your brand?

This is part of a multiple part series with the initial post available on frankeliason.com

Remarkable Experiences: Is Your Brand Shareworthy?

Posted on : 28-01-2013 | By : Frank Eliason | In : Business, Customer Service, Inspirational, Leadership, Personal, Social Media

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The Merriam-Webster Definition of Remarkable as
“worthy of being or likely to be noticed especially as being uncommon or extraordinary”

In 2003 Seth Godin introduced us to the Purple Cow, explaining in the future the key for brands is not striving to message the masses, but instead look to the extremes. Stated simply, we all see cows all the time and do not think to comment, but if you saw a purple cow, now that is something that is remarkable.

People are striving to get their brands noticed through all types of channels, especially social media, but in this day and age it is not as much about the content of the brand, but the willingness of regular people like you or I to discuss the brand. The challenge is most larger brands have sought to go after the mass market. Oftentimes this results in brands being average, or not very differentiated from other competitors. They are not remarkable in any way. This is why I believe larger brands will often struggle in an age where we are bombarded with messages from everywhere, and we are going to filter the message that most resonate with us. These messages are often found not from the brands, but with people we relate to and trust.

Now I would like to ask how you personally use social media? What brands do you like to discuss? For me, I like to talk about experiences that I consider amazing, or, more often than not, poor. This is why I wrote my book @YourService. For years companies have told us how great their service was, but reality proved to us differently. Now that we control the brand message, we will and have, set the record straight regarding our experiences with products, especially when that experience is at one of the extremes.

I have often said that a social world is a better fit for small and mid size businesses. This is because these businesses are often nimble and hungry to win. It is also because they tend to be the best suited for a relationship driven world, which to me is what social media is all about. This past weekend I had witnessed this in action and wanted to share the experience here. The story starts when I moved into my house a year and a half ago. At the time I knew I needed to replace the stove and ventilation system in the kitchen. I have put it off as long as I could but now it must be done. The challenge for me is the remaining appliances are not in need of replacement, in fact they look relatively new. I know in the future, I would love to upgrade all of them, but as you know that can be a costly undertaking. Over the past month I started shopping around trying to figure out what I may want and what the best long term approach was. At first I priced replacing all the appliances with what I would love to own, but that was not going to work out. I then decided I would try to find a middle ground and find something inexpensive, but something I could build on in the future. I did all my homework, even finding great prices online. In doing this, I noticed one of the appliance stores I already visited, Mrs. G’s in Lawrencville, NJ, had some floor models on clearance, which would help keep costs down yet possibly provide something worth building on in the future. I went to the store to compare the floor model item to a few other brands I was considering. When I arrived I was immediately greeted by a few people offering to point me in the right direction. The kind woman offered to set up our kids with coloring books while we looked at the items. If you have ever shopped for appliances with kids, you know exactly how pleasing this action was. She was also kind enough to help connect me with the salesman I spoke to the other day.

As my kid were coloring, and being offered cookies and candy, my wife and I looked over the appliances, hopefully narrowing our direction to one model. I mentioned to the salesman what we were considering and I asked about the floor model for the higher end brand that I saw online. Unfortunately the model we saw online was no longer available. I told him if we went that direction we would probably then buy online due to a cheaper price I found. We then went to look at the other models we were considering. As we continued to chat he understood my concern at spending too much money, especially if we decided to redo all the appliances in a few years. This was the top reason for our reluctance to buy sooner. I think we were hoping another appliance would go, forcing a decision. Anyway, he then suggested looking at a completely different type of cooktop that would be a little cheaper yet have a very nice look no matter the other appliances present. This new option turned out to be the ideal option for us. As we spoke he suggested looking at two, one of which had a floor model available at a very good rate. What a great solution to our problem. We were able to get great products but at a price that we would not be upset if we had to make changes in a few years. I am so thrilled by it.

What made this situation remarkable were a few key points:

  1. Listening – The salesperson was listening not just to the words I stated but also understanding the overall situation. This placed him in a position to point out alternatives that would meet all my needs. Listening is not about hearing words, but truly building an understanding. Unfortunately most companies say they listen but the reality is they do not understand what is being said
  2. Valuing My Time – I already spent a great deal of time on this effort and really wanted to bring it to a conclusion and this transaction was completed very quickly
  3. Winning with my Kids – My willingness to spend time on a transaction really depends on how the kids are during my time there.
  4. Culture – When I visit a store I love watching all the employees and how they interact with each other and Customers. I noticed this from the first greeting, to the leader and founder’s granddaughter, Ms Debbie, Schaeffer taking our kids to color at one of the desks, to watching the other Customer interactions and even joking among the staff. My favorite moment was when one of their support team members came to me asking if he could give the girls cookies and milk. Every person in the organization seemed to understand the new relationship world we are in.

Thank you Mrs.G’s and congratulations on your success. It is obvious to see why! This experience was remarkable to me and I look forward to continuing to build the relationship with you!  Mrs. G’s created an experience that was shareworthy.  How often does your brand?  Social media is so much more than marketing, PR or branding and now businesses are starting to understand that.  What brands have you found to be remarkable?

Now this does not mean every company should strive to use service as a way to be remarkable, in fact over on LinkedIn I posted about another brand who takes the exact opposite approach, yet they too are remarkable and shareworthy!

If You Do Not Know Me By Now…

Posted on : 05-11-2012 | By : Frank Eliason | In : Brands, Customer Service, Marketing, Social Media, Technology

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This post originally appeared on LinkedIn as part of their influencer program on November 5, 2012.  To see the original post click here.

I can’t seem to get the song ‘You Don’t Know Me By Now” out of my head lately.   I am writing this in New Jersey shortly after Hurricane Sandy caused widespread destruction and has wreaked havoc for many of the great people within the New York/New Jersey community.   I am proud to watch the community come together and bring back a sense of normalcy as quickly as possible.  I have also seen an amazing outpouring of support from many people especially via social media.  In some ways this has emphasized some of the great strengths that social media has.  The ability to connect people is amazing.

As the song goes on to say, “If you do not know me by now, you will never, never know me.”  This is so true of most companies I have seen during this crisis.  Each day I received spam emails telling me how great products were, but the reality is I do not care about your product.  I had more pressing things going on in life, such as the quest to have electric or help my fellow community members recover.  The companies already had enough information to make this judgment but oftentimes chose to ignore it because they felt their marketing information was too powerful to ignore, or they felt I would just ignore it if I were not interested.  Well I will not be ignoring it, but I will not be buying the product as well.  It was a message to me how these companies do not care about me, so I will not care about them.  Of course some companies did a better job.  Surprisingly I saw some of the best understanding from companies we often love to hate, such as banks, cable companies, and at least one utility company (there is another that I would leave on the bad list but that will be a conversation for another day).

This song has so many words that correlate to all types of relationships, especially the connection that we are seeing between businesses and Consumers in a socially connected world.  If you watch social conversations as much as I do, you have noticed that often Consumers, at times, are very negative toward brands.  Well “We’ve all got our funny moods” and this is a reflection of that.  Often this negativity is a reflection of that.  Always remember that the opposite of love is not hate, but apathy.  This negativity exists because your Customers want you to see success.  The key is that they want the relationship to go both ways.  As the song says, “Just trust in me like I trust in you.”  Unfortunately this is not always part of our message to our Customer.  We like to dictate to them instead of inviting them to be a part of something special.

We often look toward social as a way to get our message out, but in reality our message is meaningless.  We send messages all the time to our Customers, and in social they can take the message to their audience.  Winning within social is simply reflecting your message through all touch points and then allowing your Customers to take that message to the broader public.  The challenge is that we have not always lived up to our end of the bargain, such as marketing messages that did not reflect the actual Customer experience.  Many companies like to say how great their Customer service is when in reality, at least when we need them, it is horrible.  Now is the time to change that.

In my book @YourService, I also talk about “Scalable Intimacy,” which in my mind is more pertinent than ever.  Throughout the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, anyone could have followed what I stated in social media, and they could have easily known what was important to me, yet no company was able to correlate that to their marketing messages.  It is really sad, especially because we have discussed the importance of listening in social for years, yet very few brands actually do it well.

So my message to businesses looking to bring social to scale, which can also be found in the song:, is as follows “Just get yourself together or might as well say goodbye.  What good is a love affair when you can’t see eye to eye.”

You Must Do This!

Posted on : 11-10-2012 | By : Frank Eliason | In : Brands, Business, Social Media

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This post originally appeared on LinkedIn as part of their influencer program on October 11, 2012.  To see the original post click here.

So often I hear these words regarding so many topics in business, and they always make me cringe.  Although there are some things a company must do, such as pay taxes, not violate laws or regulations, and if they are a for profit entity, hopefully make a profit.  Beyond these key things, everything else is simply someones view and may not hold true to business realities.  They come from a variety of sources, including talking heads who have interest in the topic (or to show how smart they are), companies that are selling tools to meet the need identified, or partners such as agencies or businesses that often also have an ulterior motive. But let’s face facts leadership is not following anothers view but creating the right path for your business and your shareholders.

I am a Customer service guy, and I tend to look at everything through this lens.  I do not hide this bias, in fact it is present in everything I do.  In my book @YourService I talk about the failures businesses have had over the years, and what they need to fix in order to win in a socially connected world.  I believe that many companies and people will find advice in that book that will help their business and themselves.  At the same time I recognize that not every company must be service oriented and that is okay.

The challenge is that many brands like to say they are service oriented but at the end of the day the actual Customer experience fails to live up to the message that the brand is striving for.  In a socially connected world, Customer and employee perception is your over arching message, which usually is the culture of your business.  One key point in @YourService is to know who your business is, its culture and the message you want the world to know.  Does your Customer believe you live up to your message?

This leads me to an example that I think can be helpful for any business.  About a month ago Conversocial put out a blog post stating “RyanAir’s Neglect Proves Social Customer Service is No Longer an Option.” For those of you who do not know Conversocial, they are a tool to help companies provide social Customer Service.  I like the tool and the ideas of social Customer Service, although I think most companies do not do it well.  They tend to provide better Customer experience to their loud Customers which then sends a message to their Customers that the best way to get help is to publicly blast their brand.  The key to doing social service right is to drive change in the organization to fix what is currently broken within your Customer experience.  About a year ago I wrote a post for Brian Solis’ blog regarding this.

Back to Ryan Air.  The author of the post points out that Ryan Air does not have a Facebook presence, and people have set up fake pages blasting the brand and their Customer experience.  I hear so often that brands need to be on Facebook, yet I have watched very successful brands with very limited social presence.  As an example Apple is one of the most discussed brands in social, usually positive discussion with the exception of those immediately following the launch of a new phone, which tend to skew a little negative.  Ryan Air may not have a Facebook page, but would doing so add to their brand?  The brand is often discussed in social media, usually for trying to add new fees such as when they were rumored to want to charge a fee for using the bathroom on the plane.  Then there are the quotes from the CEO over the years that have not always been Customer centric, such as when he recently refered to a Customer or group of Customers as being “Stupid.”  The quote came from a story where a woman was upset at paying $380 to print boarding tickets at the airport.  With Ryan Air it would be free to print at home, but there are fees to do so in the airport.  I could not believe a CEO would ever refer to a Customer in that manner, but isn’t the quote fitting of their brand?  As an airline their slogan is “Cheap Flights – Lowest European Fares, Low Cost Airline.”  You do not hear a message about service.  Their goal is cheap.  I would make the case that they know precisely who they are as a company, and the negative conversation you find on the fake Facebook pages completely lives up to the brand’s image.  The top complaint for Ryan Air is the added fees for everything.  I also doubt the negative commentary would change the view of their actual Customer who is looking for a seat on the plane.  Their Customer knows that everything else will cost them.  Like Apple, people are taking the company’s message to social for them.  Although I personally may not be a fan of their approach, I am not their Customer and they should not care about my view.

I do not think that every brand should be doing everything via social.  In fact I find online discussion typically highlights the percieved culture of your brand, whether you as a business are there or not.  At times the message may be different based on a loud few, but should those message change your approach?  Maybe not.  I am a big fan of listening to your Customers through all means, including social, but even that does not mean that your approach should be altered.  I will leave you today with a quote from Steve Jobs that was part of a Q&A with Newsweek back in 1985 shortly after leaving Apple.

“My philosophy is that everything starts with a great product. So, you know, I obviously believed in listening to customers, but customers can’t tell you about the next breakthrough that’s going to happen next year that’s going to change the whole industry. So you have to listen very carefully. But then you have to go and sort of stow away—you have to go hide away with people that really understand the technology, but also really care about the customers, and dream up this next breakthrough. And that’s my perspective, that everything starts with a great product. And that has its flaws. Ihave certainly been accused of not listening to the customers enough. And I think there is probably a certain amount of that that’s valid.”

-Steve Jobs

Be careful of the “Must Do’s!”  You know your Customer and your business, so you must decide what must do’s, if any even apply to you.  Focus on your business and your Customer, and you will have success.  This is part of leading the way instead of following.

What do you think?

Frank