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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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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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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.”

The Customer & Employee Renaissance Series

Posted on : 12-10-2012 | By : Frank Eliason | In : Customer Service, Inspirational, Leadership

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This post originally appeared on LinkedIn as part of their influencer program on October 2, 2012.  To see the original post click here.

The business world is changing around us in many ways, but hasn’t it always been changing and evolving?  We have just been through a time of greater focus on metrics and processes.  I refer to the era as the Jack Welch era, based on the Six Sigma evolution that has come and gone.  This focus brought greater efficiencies to business, but, as with anything, the case can be made that it was at the expense of other areas of business, such as employee turnover, innovation, or Customer experience.  Now we are entering a new phase that is being defined by a new generation of employees and Customers alike.  In some ways it is a Renaissance or a rebirth.

Times of change can be exciting to many, but very concerning to others.  We like to say change is good, but we need to face facts that change is hard on everyone, even those who may be excited by it.  As I write posts we will explore pieces of this renaissance and how it is impacting your business.  I would imagine we will have people reading the posts in various stages of the change.  Often small business owners are the first to see change in front of them and they sieze the moment to build there business.  Those of us working for larger institutions we may see the need for change, but due to the speed larger businesses move, seeing the shift is not always noticed until it is too late.  This is an era where smaller, more nimble businesses will have the chance to really excell.

Economic times always play a huge part in any revolutions, or even renaissance.  There is a reason why people look for something different, and often it is a chance to grow personally, professionally or a mix of both.  Historically in the US we have been very optimistic, and even if there were different views, we celebrated them.  As I look back I think we started to see a shift to a more divisive society from the late 1990′s and that continues through today.  The economic realities of the past 10 years have contributed to this tremendously.  In business our own artistic abilitiles were limited as we focused more and more on processes.  This also led to growing frustration with work.  At the same time technology advances changed the way we work.  Today many of us are connected day and night to our work email, expectations of our own performance has grown, especially as companies have cut back.  It sometimes feels non-stop.  

From a Customer perspective we have seen amazing amounts of change.  Shopping has shifted from smaller businesses that knew who we were and what we needed to larger stores with amazing selection.  In many ways that selection and price reduction was a huge plus, but we have all seen the drawbacks as well.  Service was not like those smaller stores.  Finding those hard to find parts by simply asking the clerk from the local hardware store was replaced with going through countless drawers in the nut and bolt aisle at the big home improvement store.  Of course this is changing again as we are now able to search the web.  Companies constantly looking to reduce costs added new technology, such as the automated voice when you call an 800 number.  Now instead of reaching someone we get to push 1 to be transferred to someone eventually after we are forced to enter all kinds of information that never seems to make it to the representative, then we have to repeat it all again.  You can also press 2 to be disconnected or 3 to reach the wrong department.  When your call finally reaches someone, they are limited to a process of a script. Of course no one provided you the other side of the script so you are at a major disadvantage. Hopefully your issue is on the script because the representative does not have access to decision makers and their abilities are confined to the process and systems they have in front of them. No deviation! When you go to the local supermarket, the checkout process has shifted from that friendly person, to either a person who is concentrated on meeting the number of items checked per hour, or worse yet, the supermarket forces the Customer to do the checkout for themselves.  Has all this new technology led to a better Customer experience?  Statistics would say it has not.  In fact many polls shows Customers feel the experience with most companies is not near an acceptable level.

I am sure if you asked a CEO, they would tell you how great their Customer and employee experience is.  We would all love to believe that, but often times our real life experience is different.  As Patricia Martin points out in the video below, a Renaissance comes about after a period of dark times.  The question is are we now in the dark times for employees or Customers?  I think it is possible, but I still have a sense of optimism and I think the best of times are in front of us.  As part of this series we are going to take a deeper look at the past, present and the future.  Together, we will start painting that future, and I expect it will be a masterpiece.

Earlier this year I had the opportunity to present at TedxBroadway.  It was an amazing experience and I loved listening to all the speakers.  One of the speakers I enjoyed learning from was Patricia, and I thought this post was a great opportunity to share her perspective with you.  It was funny because Patricia and I had similar thoughts in our presentation, but prior to the conference we never had the opportunity to meet. I hope you enjoyed the post and the video!

Frank

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

Social Media Crisis Next Day Quarterback

Posted on : 06-10-2012 | 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 6, 2012.  To see the original post click here.

Social media and crisis communication seem to go hand in hand, especially as of late.  Often these crisis involve Customer situations, such as the Progressive incident started on Tumblr in August.  If you have not heard about the situation, you can review this CNN article/video.  The issue has broad implications for the brand but offers a great opportunity for others to learn.

Another situation Wednesday night offers more fodder for online discussion.  If you have not heard about it, a member of the Kitchen Aid US team tweeted a comment about President Obama.  It was a personal tweet that was accidently sent out from the wrong account.  Kitchen Aid immediately deleted the tweet and sent out an apology.  If you have not read about the situation, here is a good write up from Mashable.

As I watched online discussion on the topic today, I have seen much praise for the way Kitchen Aid handle the mistake.  I have also seen some question if they did the right thing.  One constant with any of these situations, many within the space do like to criteque the handling and add their own spin.  I personally like the way Kitchen Aid dealt with it.  I feel a little different about the Progressive situation.  At the same time I would never want to bash either company, because we are all learning, and I think it is a good opportunity for other businesses to learn too.

The fact is I do not care how well loved your brand may be, there will become a time where you too have to deal with a similar scenario.  These two examples represent two of the three most common types.

  1. Employee Mistake
  2. Customer Treatment
  3. Relationship with One or More Community Groups

Each of these can be very difficult to deal with and in some cases may be caused by things outside the companies control.  Often times you will hear people say the best approach is being open and transparent on the topic, respond immediately.  This can work sometimes but I urge some caution.  First know your brand, your Customer and how the issue is percieved.  Will your response be trusted?  For many brands it may not be.  The Progressive situation is one we can learn from.  Another one that is similar involves Aetna and their tweeting CEO.  Here is an article on Washington Post.  In traditional media business often make exceptions to business practices, like the Aetna example, or quickly move to settle, as happened with Progressive.  The challenge to doing this in social media is it sends a message to the world that you can disagree with a policy but if you are loud against the brand we will make an exception.  I should point out that in the Progressive situation, I would expect that type of lawsuit would at some point lead to settlement, but the timing is what can be challenging.

In the Kitchen Aid situation they immediately tweeted the apology.  They also responded via Twitter to reporters writing articles.  I saw one comment that they should be responding to everyone.  That is not always feasible or appropriate in my view.  Certainly placing it out there for everyone to see does help.  Lets face facts that stuff happens and people make mistakes.  That is the gist of this situation. I applaud Kitchen Aid for the speed at which they apologized and offered to have interviews with press.  I could be wrong, but as an outsider looking in, it looks to me like they have done a key component to dealing with situations like this.  It looks like they practiced and knew the approach they would take.  So here is some advice I would provide to any business regarding dealing with a social crisis:

  1. Practice - Practive a variety of scenarios in an effort to know how you would respond and clarify the roles and responsibilities.  Speed can be imperative as highlighted in the Kitchen Aid example.
  2. Know Your Customer - Often we focus on the loud aspects of the internet, but is the topic important to your Customer or not?  Is the discussion something that would sway their view of the brand?
  3. Do You Have Anything to Say that would Add Value? Would Your Response be Trusted - Often times brands are not trusted and a response could be better from someone within the community instead of the company.  The Progressive situation is a possible example.  There initial response stated that it was a tragic case and sympathies to the family and that they were not reprenting the defendant.  I am not sure the response added value, but this is a difficult situation.  Not much can be said without a full legal review.  In this case it may have been better to await others within the community to start talking about it, especially lawyers from MD who can speak to the law in question.  The ideal scenario is not the companies lawyers, but others who have nothing to lose.  This tends to happen because members of the online community do like the ability to show how knowledgable they can be.  Of course this does not always happen, but in this case I did see it start to come up late in the day, but then the conversation changed to be about the response as opposed to the issue.  Another great example of this is the #NBCFail during the Olympics.  Here is an L.A. Times article on that topic.  If you watched social media, the topic of NBC failures was everywhere, but as a business, the games were among the highest in ratings, the ultimate measurement for an ad run business.  Here is an article from CNN on the topic.
  4. Respond in a Human Way - Often PR departments handle situations like these with a sterile press release, which is often translated by reporters or placed in better context.  When speaking in social media, it is imperative that you speak to the audience in a way they are most comfortable with.
  5. What Message are you Sending to the World?- This is can easily be forgotten, but I always urge caution regarding the message you may be sending to other Customers, employees or shareholders.  Oftentimes there is a subtle message, such as “if you take to social media, we will make an exception.” These interpretations of messages can be worse than the original incident

I hope these help you and your organization deal with crisis.  Never look down upon how any organization handles a crisis, but definitely strive to take something out of each situation.  Unfortunately I expect these situations to grow dramatically over the next 2 to 5 years.  Here is a post Radian 6 put together with some well handled social crisis situations.

Redefining Relevance in a Social World

Posted on : 03-10-2012 | By : Frank Eliason | In : Business, Social Media

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This post originally appeared on LinkedIn as part of their influencer program on October 3, 2012.  To see the original post click here.

Today I will be speaking with Linkedin’s Dan Roth as part of AdWeek.  We will be chatting about redefining relevance in a social world.  What a great topic for what has been going on within the social media space.

Throughout the history of business we have seen many businesses struggle with maintaining relevance, but isn’t that just part of human nature? There is a comfort level we sometimes have with the status quo.  We also are naturally proud of a direction we chose and shifting direction is sometimes perceived as being wrong.  We never like being wrong.  Of course facts change, so shifting gears is simply evolving but how do we go about making the right decisions?

I am looking forward to seeing Dan again.  We had the opportunity to see each other a few months back at a LinkedIn event.  That event was not the first time we had the chance to interact.   We first met back in 2008 as Dan was writing a wired piece called “The Dark Lord of Broadband. Dan has done an amazing job redefining himself during his career, and today he is Executive Editor for LinkedIn.  Speaking of LinkedIn, yesterday they too evolved their user experience.  I have always found LinkedIn Today to be a tremendous source of relevant news, now LinkedIn is trying to offer a new means to find relevant information.  I have followed many of the news sources and I have been loving the content within my feed, and that was just the first day.  I look forward to this evolving further.

As I look at the business world and social media, I have watched similar evolution.  A few years back for a business to win in social media it took a new, unique app or different approach through one of the social networks.  Today businesses are finding it more and more difficult to be noticed through all the noise.  As I listen to the discussion, I have heard a shift by businesses toward content.  You have heard the expression, “content is king.”  I think content is imperative especially if it is properly geared toward your audience.  That being said, the noise level will continue to make that hard to be noticed.  Too much choice can sometimes make people choose nothing. Can this happen with too much content? Who do we trust?

This question of trust becomes an interesting question.  Do we trust information from businesses or do we trust people further? When I look at some of the first efforts in social media by businesses, people within the space built connections to many brands. But was it really the brands?  Often it was the people behind the brand that built that trust.  It was blurring the lines between personal and professional.  I can’t help to think about this in relevance to the changes at LinkedIn.  I am sure some businesses would be nervous about the professional side of an individual and their writing reflecting on the brand.  Often companies have rules about their employees talking.  In my view this is one of the greatest means for maintaining relevance in a social world.  What a great means to build trust in a world redefine by social media.  This is all part of the redefining relevance. As the social world shifts more to being about people, how will your brand deal with that?

As you explore the new content I expect you will find new people to trust and learn a great deal to help evolve your business.  One of those examples came to me yesterday as I was thinking about this topic.  Richard Branson wrote a post Five Top Tips to Starting a Successful Business.  The post outlines steps for an entrepenuer to build a successful business, but they are also a great way to redefine a business.  Here are his 5 tips:

  1. Listen More than Talk
  2. Keep it Simple
  3. Take Pride in your Work
  4. Have Fun and Success will Follow
  5. Rip it up and Start Again

If you want to redefine business, follow these tips! Thank you Richard for these.  I think we all have the ability to be a bit entrepenuerial and drive the next phase of our business.

It is Time to Take a Stand!!

Posted on : 04-09-2012 | By : Frank Eliason | In : Uncategorized

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I want to thank everyone for the tremendous support for the #PositivelySocial campaign.  We were able to reach millions of impressions during the course of the day, but beyond that we have found many of us have the same goal of creating positive dialogue through social.  I am continuing what we started with #PositivelySocial, but this time focusing on a topic very close to my heart.  This campaign will only be going until Friday, but it is extraordinarily important to me, and millions of others.  I am so passionate on this topic, that I decided to take this a step further and post a video on the topic.  I would ask that you take 5 minutes of your day and watch the video/  I would then ask you to help spread the word to all your friends, families, and even your enemies.  I am sure we can all find common ground for this cause.  In the comments please share who you will take a stand for.

 

What It Means to be #PositivelySocial (Aug 14)

Posted on : 06-08-2012 | By : Frank Eliason | In : Inspirational, Leadership, Social Media

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Have you seen this video by Adam M. Smith? If you are involved in social media you probably have because it has been a hot topic of conversation.  This is where #PositivelySocial meets the offline world.  In the video Mr. Smith is going through a Chick-fil-a drive through with the sole goal of recording himself sharing his thoughts regarding Chick-fil-a while obtaining his free water.  First I want to offer kudos to the employee who handled herself beautifully.  I am sorry that Mr. Smith has lost his job over the video but I do not think we should treat people, especially employees like this one, in a manner that has been considered by many as disrespectful. In my view those who are choosing to boycott the chain are certainly within their right and that is a #PositivelySocial way of trying to drive change.  I also respect anyone who lives up to their religious beliefs in everything they do.  I am respectful of all religions around the world. At times there may be differences between what I believe and other religions or individuals but I have to respect the rights people have to those beliefs.  I love hearing about differences so I can learn from them, and deepen my own understanding.  It does not mean I will agree with them but I will always respect the individuals and their rights.

Being #PositivelySocial does not mean you do not have opinions, because we all do.  It is all about how you decide to express those beliefs to those around you.  In my view the #positivelysocial beliefs are:

  1. Respect Others – This to me is the number one issue.  We all are passionate about our beliefs and often we express them in a manner that is closed to others, or sometimes downright cruel to others.  I think the video associated to this post is a perfect example regarding respect and why it is so important. Treat people the way you would want to be treated, sounds simple but not always happening. We can help lead by example.
  2. Welcoming Dialogue on the Topic – The greatest aspect of social is the fact that everything is open for discussion, so when posting, be open to the conversation, in fact welcome it!  Recently the situation involving Penn State caused a lot of discussion.  Within social media this dialogue was highly divided, especially within my Facebook newsfeed.  Since I grew up in Pennsylvania, I had many friends talking about the decisions by the University and the NCAA.  There were defenders of Joe Paterno, and those who completely offended by the reports of his participation.  Those offended sometimes referred to his defenders as being as guilty as Joe Paterno was made out in the reports.  I could see both sides in this issue.  As a father, I have strong beliefs on what should happen to child molesters and those who support or protect them. At the same time, I understand that Joe Paterno past away prior to the investigation into the matter by the University and his family was not able to share information on the topic.  I am sure more information will come out over time and people will come to their conclusion of guilty or innocence.
  3. Sharing Links that Live up to being #PositivelySocial - In my #PositivelySocial post over on Social Media Today, I discuss the story of  Harper Gruzins.  This 11 year old girl struggled singing the National Anthem, but the worst part was the manner in which the web turned on her.  In the post I talk about some horrible comments found on YouTube, but there were many others throughout the web. One website posted the video to help take this 11 year old down a few notched because on her “fu–ing” website she refer to herself as a singer-songwriter.  We should not share links to sites that treat people in a manner we would not want to see them treated.
  4. Take a Stand – If we were at a cocktail party and someone was being insulting to others, or unsocial in any way, someone would usually tell them to knock it off or leave. It is time we think about that as people around us are doing things that could be insulting to others.  We should also make clear to community style websites that it is important that their content be appropriate and comments or discussions are managed in a way that does not take away from the community as a whole.
  5. Truth and Facts Reign Supreme – The web is filled with innuendo, speculation, and down right errors.  The key is verifying information prior to sharing. Try to not add to inappropriate sharing (I have been guilty of this but I always strive to validate as much as I can)
  6. Share the Good Too – It is easy to share the negative.  I do it all the time, especially regarding Customer experiences.  Sharing negative experiences is sometimes very positive way of tell a brand that you do care about them.  Let’s fact facts, the opposite of love is not hate, it is apathy.  At the same time if you are always sharing the negative people may lose sight as to who you are, try to share the good too.  I have also found brands want to know what they are doing well so they can strive to do more of it.  Of course this is not just about brands, recognize each other.  That can be a powerful message to those around us all!

I have been amazed by the outpouring of support for #PositivelySocial and I would ask that you help me keep it up over the next week so we can make August 14 a #PositivelySocial day for everyone.  Tell a friend or share your thoughts via social.  Welcome open discussion on the topic! This post was inspired by many of you. I am not looking for the day to simply be about being nice, but instead about truly being social.  One of the best parts of this effort has been the way it has connected me with new found friends.  Shel Holtz who introduced me to Civilination.  The organization’s mission is to foster an online culture where every person can freely participate in a democratic, open, rational and truth-based exchange of ideas and information, without fear or threat of being the target of unwarranted abuse, harassment or lies. I love it, and look forward to getting involved with them further.Together we are changing the world! How do you define #PositivelySocial?

Thank you!

Related Posts

Scott Monty’s Post “When Did We Get So Nasty”

Another Post I did on Topic for Social Media Today “Dear World”

A Day to be #PositivelySocial (Aug 14)

UPDATE:  The Person who did the initial video has apologized in this video

A Day to be #PositivelySocial

Posted on : 31-07-2012 | By : Frank Eliason | In : Business, Inspirational, Social Media

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For those of us who have participated in social media for years, we have grown to respect how the space can drive change. In fact, if you are like me, you love it.  Ordinary citizens have the power to drive change in government, or in some of the biggest institutions on the planet. As a Customer Service person, I love how it is changing the status of Customer Service within organizations. As an observer of the phenomenon I know the world is changing, and I hope it is all for the better. At the same time I have been watching conversations via social media becoming more snarky and personal attacks seem to be growing. I do not think most people do this, but what has occurred is we attract people with many of our same ideals which further validate our position. Then when others question this position we go on the attack. Often times social media is referred to as a cocktail party, but when would you call someone an idiot or worse things, while at a cocktail party?  Okay some of you might, but I think most of us would be more respectful of their views, and often be open to listening.

There are numerous examples of the negativity in action, including hot topics like #NBCFail, Olympics, Penn State, Chick-Fil-a, the Presidential election, Health Care legislation, and the list goes on. I have seen so many posts on each of these topics that start with ‘If you do not agree with…you are…”  What happened to having a dialogue?  That is what social media is really about.  One of my favorite topics to follow involved a young girl named Cathryn Sloan.  There were numerous posts that called her numerous things, all because she expressed a view. For those who may not have heard of Catheryn, she is an aspiring writer trying to make a difference, not that different to many of us when we were 25.  She recently did a post on NextGen Journal titled “Every Social Media Manager Should Be Under 25.” Needless to say this put many social media managers on edge to tell her how she knows nothing. Were we fully listening to her? Did we create an environment that would allow for a thoughtful discussion? I am not sure we did. It was very personal and the attacks were piling on. But why? People viewed her post was an attack on them.  We talk often how important it is to listen via social but I am not sure we are always doing that.  I took the time to read other posts by Cathryn and I found a theme. Like many in the Occupy Wall Street camp, as well as others in her age group, she has been frustrated by the lack of jobs. This is an important topic, that I think if we had an open dialogue we could help solve.  This too can be the power of social media.

As a person who started using social media for business with websites like Comcast Must Die, I recognize why many business leaders tend to see social media as the “snarky web.” I also have a few favorite websites like the Consumerist who have made a name for themselves by sharing some very negative conversations about business.  Although they do post positive stories as well the Consumerist is probably most recognized for their annual tournament to win the Golden Poo award. I also know the abuse that happens via social media, usually directed at businesses, but sometimes it does get directed to individuals. It has happened to me on multiple occasions, as I am sure it has to many of you that are active in the space. Sometimes it can be downright hurtful. For those of us with a Customer Service background, we know that it happens all the time through all communications means. I am sure I have been unintentionally guilty of it too, but I also know that I can strive to make a small difference, just as each of you can.

This idea has been on my mind for a number of weeks, but as I was reading up on the latest news, including many discussions on the Olympics. One of the hot topics has been about Tom Daley, the British Olympic Swimmer.  There were hopes that Tom would bring home the gold but he came in fourth place. I am sure many people rallied around him, but there was at least one who went a very different, unacceptable direction.  First this person tweeted how Tom let down his father.  Tom relayed the tweet with a message that his father passed away. There were a few other tweets culminating with “i’m going to find you and i’m going to drown you in the pool you cocky tw*t your a nobody people like you make me sick.” You can read more of the incident here. Having dealt with similar offline, I am happy the police are looking into it, and I hope the person receives any assistance they require. I then started to read people who were upset that the police were involved because it was just a tweet. When did that get to be acceptable?

We used to think the best was ahead of us, but due to the economy, negativity from politicians (in my view this is from all sides of the political spectrum), and other shifts within society (including social media), many of us have lost that belief. It is time we as a society start bringing that back and it starts with us. I think we can easily do that by starting with a day to recognize the positive things in our life, even things companies are doing well and others around us.  I picked August 14, 6 months after Valentine’s day.  I like the #positivelysocial hashtag recommended by Cari Sultanik but if you have other ideas for naming it, please include that in the comments.

If you like the idea, please help me spread the word to others. Driving change by recognizing the positive can help send a message and have just as strong an influence as the negative. I think it is time for us to lead this!

Related Posts

Scott Monty’s Post “When Did We Get So Nasty”

Another Post I did on Topic for Social Media Today “Dear World”

What it Means to be #PositivelySocial (Aug 14)