Archive for the ‘Social business’ Category
Thursday, May 9th, 2013
It’s true: women use social media more than men. Studies on the topic vary in quality and focus but the findings remain pretty consistent. A 2011 survey from Rebtel found that 14% more women use social media than men; one from Social Technology Review found that we create 55% more Facebook wall posts; and this month Pew Research found that women are 9% more prolific in social, especially when it comes to visual platforms such as Pinterest, which has 5x more female than male users.
When it comes to the industry, women are also riding high. Forbes’s recent list of Top 20 Women Social Media Influencers outlined some impressive industry leaders and spawned a raft of satellite blogs naming many lesser-known behind-the-scenes players as well. And now a book published in the UK this month suggest that ‘feminine’ skills are essential to the sort of flexible, collaborative, socially-oriented companies we need today, and that the old command-and-control ‘masculine’ values are dragging many legacy companies down.
The Athena Doctrine
“Feminine values are at the operating system of the 21st century” writes social strategist John Gerzema, co-author of The Athena Doctrine: How Women (And Men Who Think Like Them) Will Rule The Future, current No.2 on the New York Times non-fiction bestseller list. He believes the “positive energy and collaboration and discussion”between women transforms the workplace, and although he emphasises that both sets of gendered traits are essential for a balanced outlook, the modern demand for openness, trust and sociability makes traditionally female skills more valuable than ever before.
On a topic like this it is so easy to fall into sweeping generalisations and untested clichés. If I’m honest, as a (youngish) woman that trains predominantly male, director-level teams in the skills and tools of organisation-wide conversation and collaboration, I think my main advantage comes in being able to slip under the defences of change-resistant leaders and challenge them with a strength that might raise their hackles if it came from a (youngish) bloke. Frankly, I find the distribution of ‘feminine’ skills to be pretty gender-agnostic; I know just as many women who cling onto brand control with an iron fist as I do men who are outstanding community managers.
But one thing I do agree with: these skills are essential. And if your business has a tendency to dismisses them as ‘soft’, you’re most definitely heading for trouble, beacuse they’re the way to hard profit in today’s marketplace.
Tuesday, April 30th, 2013
Criticising brands who make social media mistakes is an online blood sport.
Business Insider recently published their 10 Worst Social Media Fails Of The Year So Far, including HMV live-tweeting the mass-firing of staff and SellItOnline.com swapping Tasmanian bush fire crisis donations for Facebook Likes: major face-palm moments that inspired a thousand finger-wagging blogs.
Similarly, two different conference organisers recently asked me to include ‘case studies of mistakes and crises’ in my speech. Screw appreciative enquiry. Lets’s learn through fear!
Let’s not. I hate this approach. An ability to FAIL WELL is at the absolute heart of social media success, and it does not come from fetishising brands’ mistakes.
In their book The Wisdom of Failure, Laurence Weinzimmer and Jim McConoughey interviewed 1,000 managers and leaders and found that “real failure doesn’t come from making mistakes; it comes from avoiding errors at all possible costs, from fear to take risks, and from the inability to grow.” Using your instincts, reacting quickly and venturing an opinion are essential ingredients in a good social media conversation. All of those things incur risk.
Fear of public failure is a huge obstacle when training teams to be social, and industry scaremongering only shuts them down further. So ponder these thoughts instead:
1) Most examples of social media failure are due to a lack of people acting with a lack of basic human ethics or common sense. That is not a social media problem, that is a staffing problem.
2) In the majority of cases, if you make a genuine mistake, very few people will notice or care. If they notice and care because you have 20 squillion followers and each of them hangs off your every move, that is an excellent problem to have.
3) Saying a quick and heartfelt sorry – then showing how you will change so it won’t happen again – sorts out 99% of genuine mistakes.
4) You will never get better if you don’t fail. Accept the inevitability of failure in any worthy enterprise but, as Samuel Beckett put it, always fail better.
5) Truly damaging mistakes are in fact rare. Much more common is the tendency for brands to pootle along inoffensively, their social output safely chained by rules, processes and safeguards, and inspiring precisely zero advocacy. Which is worse?
Finally, check out this TED Talk from Eddie Obeng. Then go fail. Beautifully.
Wednesday, April 10th, 2013
Why are some companies still so afraid of social media? It’s a good question, and the title of the latest post from CEO of Kred, Andrew Grill (who, incidentally, I am presenting with at the #TLL6X6 social stand-up charity event next Tuesday – get a ticket before they sell out!)
Using Angela Ahrendts’s ‘Democratic Republic of Burberry‘ initiative as a case study, Andrew insists that CEOs wake up to the opinions and behaviours of their workforce and see them as an opportunity, not a threat. And as I blogged recently, a huge volume of word of mouth happens in the workplace. This is a good thing. Your employees should be your core advocates - if they don’t evangelise what you do, then why should anyone else?
Yet companies still persist in trying to ban their staff from using social services. Sure, none of us want our colleagues watching YouTube Maggie Thatcher parodies when they should be filing their weekly report, but blocking sites simply isn’t going to work, especially now we all have smartphones.
So why not try some positive reinforcement instead? I was happy to find this bright little graphic from Marketing Think in my RSS feeds this morning. Perfect for pasting on the wall.
Monday, March 4th, 2013
What scenario do you imagine when you hear ‘social media sharing’? A blogger snapping a selfie on her smartphone as she sashays through Hoxton Square? You, browsing Facebook in bed on a Sunday to see what photos you’ve been tagged in from the night before?
How about the focused, frowning colleague sitting opposite you at their work laptop, ostensibly catching up on Monday morning emails but most probably pinning images of Hawai onto their Pinterest board? A recent study into mobile sharing from Brainjuicer found that not only do 51% of us share regularly from work, but that more content is shared on a Monday than any other day of the week – “as people wish they were with their friends but are back in work.”
The boat has well and truly sailed when it comes to preventing people from using social media at work. I spend a lot of my time helping our clients to understand that this can be an opportunity rather than a threat. Their employees should be their first circle of advocates, after all, and social media can be an incredible tool for garnering inspiration, researching, crowdsourcing and testing ideas. Establishing a collaborative compromise, which protects productivity and responsibility while boosting autonomy and freedom of expression, is essential. Align yourself with this social trigger, rather than trying to fight against it.
It also makes sense to maximise your workplace to encourage positive sharing beyond social media. As psychologist Susan Cain has explained, our increasingly open plan environments can actually encourage a headphones-on, eyes-down sort of anti-sociability. Pixar’s stupidly cool HQ offers numerous relaxed and private areas for social moments, but you don’t need those kind of resources to make this work. At Boston startup Evertrue, Brent Grinna encourages his team to eat lunch together every day, which he believes creates an open, communicative atmosphere that translates to everything they do.
Pixar’s happy huts
And it’s important to find ways to get conversation about your product into other companies’ workplaces: the classic water cooler effect. Those Sports Direct mugs I talked about last week, and other functional signature objects, can be very powerful here. And local businesses and retailers should get to know the offices in their area and plan some ways to surprise and delight their residents. Here at 1000heads HQ we’ve been offered everything from office discounts at our neighbouring Mooli’s to free butter for our communal Monday breakfasts from @lurpakbutter when they noticed our internal Twitter banter about butter v margarine.
Finally, think about how you can put your brand or product in the ‘third spaces‘ people are increasingly using for work, such as cafes, drop-in hubs and members clubs. Connect with them on social media. Offer free trials or beta exclusives for members. Maybe send some of your own internal advocates to go and work there too, to make new connections and generate fresh ideas – and spread a little love for their mothership at the same time.
The water cooler ain’t dead, people. It’s just become a free-flowing river. Grab a paddle.
Wednesday, January 23rd, 2013
Customer service is one of the earliest and most tangible areas in which businesses have had social media success, partly because the contract between brand and customer is so clear: “we are using this channel to answer your questions and fix your problems, not to make you love us by sharing photos of our office pets.”
Best Buy, KLM, EuRail and T-Mobile USA are some notorious pack leaders, and for a glimpse at how much effort your competitors are putting into this field, have a look at the Social Bakers’ Socially Devoted which ranks industry leaders for their social care.
But social care takes a hell of a lot of resources, training, listening, flexibility, inter-organisational communication and employee autonomy to really reap the results. It’s also true that many companies may be damaging their reputations by failing to deliver on their dedicated social presences.
So is social CS a must for 2013? or might you be better off channelling your efforts into transforming what you already do? I take a look at both sides of the argument below…
Looking at the examples above, many companies are understandably eager to futureproof their customer care by prioritising a social offering. One poll showed that by the end of 2012 80% of companies planned to use social media for customer service, while, in predicting trends for 2013 customer service, Forrester touts online proactivity, deployment via mobile, and personalised engagement as key discriminators for success. Enterasys Networks’ Vala Afshar is eloquent in his belief that “customer service is the new marketing”, explaining that brands need start looking way beyond Twitter and Facebook and consider how to use tools such as mobile video to produce service that truly chimes with how we live now.
Moreover, the longer brands stick at it, the more evidence they have that social CS really does affect their bottom line. The below infographic from Crowdsourcing.org gives some idea of how the figures add up.
However, there’s a big gap between expectations and execution. 55% of consumers expect a response the same day to an online complaint, while only 29% receive one. A.T. Kearney conducted a study that found that 56% of the top 50 brands did not respond to a single customer comment on their Facebook Page in 2011. Maritz Research found that brands ignored 71% of their customer complaints on Twitter. And last week’s experiment from Ashley Verrill verified that some of the biggest brands in the US are failing miserably to fulfil their social service offerings.
This is apparently a shituation shared around the world – two months ago, the Social Customer conference in Paris made some damning discoveries about how French consumers are being treated in social.
Finally, last month US cable company Charter Communications announced that they were shutting down their social service stream:
“We believe speaking directly with a customer is a more personal, effective and consistent way to answer questions, solve an issue or provide information, and we will focus our efforts on these means of communications. We’re committed to treating our customers with great care, and we believe that person-to-person interaction accomplishes that in a more meaningful way for more of our customers.”
Sure, it may well have been a nice-sounding cover-up for a cost-cutting exercise, but frankly it is also something of a breath of fresh air. Charter are making it clear that they think they can produce better and more conversational service on another channel (offline), and their openness has managed the expectations of their socially-savvy consumers.
CONCLUSION? THINK CONVERSATION BEFORE PLATFORM
Social customer service may or may not be possible depending on your company’s resources and skills, but conversational customer service – whether over the phone, over Twitter, email or in-store, is an indisputable must. Check out Andrew McFarlane’s great post on why it is just as important to make your customer service memorable as it is to ensure it is quick and functional.
So depending on the nature of your business, you’ve got three main options for staying ahead in the customer service game.
1. If you already have the capacity to do social CS brilliantly, you really will reap the rewards, so put a clear, flexible process in place that empowers staff to respond quickly and effectively, and jump in. Now. The sooner you start building that community and reputation, the better.
2. If you’re OK for resources but you still feel you lack the skills or strategy to make social CS measurably work for you, now is the time to get some strategic help. A review of your operational strengths and challenges, followed by some specific skills training and a short period of hand-holding while you find your feet will help you embed social care for long-term success.
3. If you’re just not ready to handle the speed and volume of social media interaction, don’t feel pressured to create rubbish presences that will be a thorn in your side. Instead, plot out how you can make your existing channels as authentic, disruptive and conversational as possible – whether that’s training call-centre staff to be as amazing as the folk at Zappos or reviewing in-store body language à la Apple. When you’re ready, social channels will be waiting, but do what you currently do well and the word will still spread.
Inspired? Get in touch.
Monday, August 20th, 2012
Every time someone asks me exactly what they can do to make their business become social, I find myself launching into a passionate monologue about behavioural triggers, social objects, offline and online integration, the value of engagement, blah blah blah.
Bullshit bingo, anyone? I’ve decided that next time I’m faced with that question I’m going to use three simple words.
Listen. Change. Measure.
The great thing is that this works both internally and externally. How? Lets tease it apart.
Listen. For consumers, this means finding out who is talking about you in social media, where, why, to who, what they are saying and how positive that conversation is. It also means benchmarking that against competitor conversation and listening for the unexpected patterns and trends: what other passions do people who love you also have? If there’s no conversation about you, what other topics are relevant to what you do? Are your audience even there at all? Internally, this means fully understanding how social your culture is right now. Auditing as many people in the company as possible about their behaviours, attitudes, hopes, fears and aptitudes about using social tools and engaging with each other and consumers in a transparent, seamless and inspiring way. This is essential if you are to measure something as subjective as cultural change.
Change. ‘Creating buzz’ isn’t good enough. A truly successful social project must change some sort of dial, be that in reaching new audiences, increasing sales, improving customer service, securing loyalty, doing more internal business deals, better inter-department communication. Any strategy must be focused on shifting behaviours, not just generating talk – and that’s hard to do. The strategy must come from the listening. How can you align with people’s existing passions and needs (be they consumers or colleagues)? How can you make the change productive and valuable for them? How can you give them control of the change? How can you make it feel good?
Measure. You need to have KPIs in place from the start. Make sure they’re the right ones, because you’ll value – and pursue – what you measure. If you care about garnering thousands of Twitter followers, fine. But if you care about people actually feeling differently about you, you’re going to have to be measuring depth, frequency and nature of engagement, positivity, breadth of platforms and much more. Internally, what do you really want to improve? Speed and flexibility of communication? Bringing down departmental barriers? More lateral thinking and risk-taking? Externally, you’ll have large-scale data to gather and interpret; internally, re-auditing people on those attitudes and aptitudes will be key to judging success.
I believe that the external social change can only begin with internal social change. The great thing is, the process works the same way.
Sure, you might be creating strategies and content plans and engaging bloggers and building apps and setting up internal platforms. But are you truly listening, changing and measuring every step of the way? The simplest questions are the hardest.
Monday, July 23rd, 2012
Unbelievably, we’re over half way through 2012, so we thought it was time for a round-up of social stats to show how social platforms, consumer behaviours, trends and business activities have been evolving this year.
It’s a good idea to take any research with a heart-stopping pinch of salt, but graphs and figures are undeniably useful for helping demonstrate the value and nature of social to sceptical bosses and colleagues.
Go forth and evangelise.
The meaty overview
This presentation is a 2012 mid-year update and complement to the original ‘State of Social’ presentation by Esteban Contreras. It’s packed with stats on topics as broad-ranging as global social user growth, how Pinterest drives sales, where social ads work, what’s really going on with Google +, and the social priorities for business execs. Grab a cup of coffee and dig in…
The surprising US stats
A team of bright social sparks (Jason Falls, Jay Baer, Tom Webster, Mark Schaefer) have produced The Social Habit 2012. Edison Research and Arbitron conducted a national telephone survey offered in both English and Spanish language of 2,020 people aged 12 and over in the US. You can download the full study here but below are five of our top wow! factor stats:
1. 47% of Americans say Facebook is the social network that has the greatest impact on their purchase behaviour
2. From 2010 to 2012 the percentage of Americans following any brand on a social network has increased from 16% to 33%.
3. 22% of Americans (approx 58 million) have a true social habit, using social networking sites several times per day
4. The fastest growing segment in social media is 45-54 year-olds
5. Twitter users are 33% more likely to be Democrats
The whole hog
Social strategist Cara Pring has done some impressive legwork in compiling the latest and most reliable research on a whole range of topics such as social commerce, mobile and apps, small business, social TV and customer service. Read her full list here or check out our highlights below.
1. 43% of marketers have noticed an improvement in sales due to social campaigns- while 72% of marketers who have worked in social media for three or more years said that they saw a boost in turnover due to social channels (the longer you’re working in it the better you get)
2. 40% of Twitter users regularly search for products via Twitter
3. Social media users are willing to pay a 21% premium for brands that deliver great service through social media
4. Smartphone owners now spend as much time using social networking apps such as Twitter and Facebook as they do playing games
5. 77% of social network users tweet to tell friends what they’re watching on TV
The talking heads
OK, it’s not exactly stats, but Salesforce’s State of Social Media 2012 provides a nice series of interviews from savvy social business people such as Christer Holloman (Head of Digital Product Development for The Times) and Richard Weaver (Ecommerce Director for Majestic Wine Warehouses Ltd) on their journey so far and where they will think social will take us further into 2012. Download the free ebook here.
The inevitable infographic
Finally, here’s a less detailed but more digestible graphic from The SEO Company reviewing the year in social so far. Enjoy!
Monday, July 16th, 2012
Who do your social media briefs come from?
This is still one of the questions I’m most frequently asked at 1000heads. Because the need for social communication crosses organisational barriers, our new business pipeline remains uniquely varied; although many enquiries come from PR, marketing and digtial teams, we’re also approached by product development, IT, HR, customer service and CEOs.
But this ‘democratic’ aspect of social, along with the truism that everyone in a business needs to take responsibility for valuing and implementing social practices, can obscure a simple fact.
Although everyone should be involved in social, someone needs to take ownership.
New data from Silverman Research and Unilever strongly suggests that the right people may not be taking responsibility for acquiring and evangelising social in their business. The ‘Social Media Garden’, an open-access online network, crowdsourced the opinions of 644 people from more than 30 countries on how they use social media at work and why organisations aren’t making the most of them. And there were some clear indications that ownership is at the heart of the problem.
Take HR. You’d think that HR professionals would be jumping on the chance to spearhead social, which is profoundly changing the way people interact with their work and each other. Yet although 51% of participants said that their organisation had embraced online networks for use in people practices, only 31% thought that HR was best placed to take the lead on using it.
The implication was that HR sees social as a threat and is ill-equipped to lead its adoption in a positive way. Company director Phil Woodford, a top commentor in the study said: “Social media is profoundly democratic. This takes power away from managers, marketers, HR professionals and others within the organisation, which might be expected to sponsor its growth. Business owners and managers who are resistant to change probably won’t be convinced and there’s little that can be done to shape their attitudes. The world will simply change around them.”
This highlights a wider problem: lack of senior leadership. 81% believed that the successful implementation of social media is an issue of leadership rather than technology.
As another top commentor in the study said, “I think in the end it’s not about designating one person from a team over another but about collaborating and getting the support from Senior Leadership. If the CEO isn’t supporting SM then it needs to start there. Convince Senior Mgmt and the rest will fall into place thanks to their support and them engaging the employees.
Mike’s already talked about the importance of the C-Suite in leading social, but it doesn’t necessarily matter who takes ownership of the strategy. A charismatic retail manager who really believes in the efficacy of social could have much more success than a lacklustre and threatened CEO. But if that is the case, that retail manager needs to be given the authority, resources and support to properly own and action their strategy.
The buck has to start – and stop – with specific, named, knowledgable individuals, even though hundreds of others may be deeply involved. That may sound a bit anti-social, but it’s quite the opposite.
Wednesday, July 4th, 2012
On Monday, Molly rightly told us to let your people be themselves in social media. But around 90% of conversation occurs offline, so how do these strategies apply to more general internal communications? In my experience within technical teams, the smartest people doing the best work often have attitudes that could easily be misinterpreted as flippant, sarcastic, grumpy or unprofessional.
When faced with a situation like the one in the Dilbert strip above, a weak manager will use management speak or blindly preach positivity without the stats to back it up. If the person in question is in a knowledge-based role, both of these approaches are likely to fail. They essentially represent a broadcast approach to internal PR.
1000heads always say “Don’t try to change the conversation; change what you do”. So how does that work internally?
You may believe that, as that person’s collaborator (or line manager/co-ordinator in old-speak), the habits you are imposing are efficient. But ask yourself instead: where is the line between flippancy and disruption? Are you missing an opportunity to embrace a new, more effective approach? Creativity was defined by Arthur Koestler as the defeat of habit through originality – and you have to be creative in order to produce a good flippant comment. How do you unlock that creativity and embrace change? After all, we live in a world with ever more ways of accomplishing the same thing.
It comes back to measuring the right things. You have hopefully hired a logical, creative problem solver; all of the things you crave from them – professionalism, punctuality, politeness, efficiency – are by-products of them being able to solve a well-defined problem. Taking the obvious example above, if getting more out of your suppliers is one of your employee’s measurable deliverables, then personal hygiene is essential.
It’s not easy to throw out your established way of doing things however; it’s also risky unless you do a lot of experimentation and pick the correct rules to break. So let’s look at an example:
Mat Wall is a software architect, not a project manager. He was brought in to run the Government Digital Service last year. The Government probably thought that they had brought him in to cut their IT budget, but he is actually attempting to change the whole way the UK civil service works. His first act was to abandon the dress code in the department and to cancel all of the Minister’s meetings with their established IT suppliers. Next he took the minister to Silicon Valley on a road trip. Together they met the founders of a set of major open-source projects and social networks. Now they are rebuilding the government IT portal direct gov using entirely open-source technologies for a very small fraction of the original cost.
The key point is not that the cost is lower, but that the system will be more effective. Government IT will be user-centric and digital by default because they have changed the yardstick by which they measure effectiveness. Furthermore, they are not “Harry Potter Developers”, believing that new tools will solve the problem by magic. They are not swayed by their relationships with salesmen. They have clear, cold logic behind the technical choices they make. The platform of choice (MongoDB) allows you to store all of the signed documents from the legacy processes. This in turn saves thousands of lines of code and enables them to introduce the new website, piece by piece, in an agile way.
So why not try out some of these outcomes-based agile techniques? It’s not a process-less revolution, just a different way of working. If you want to know more, I highly recommend the Agile Lean training SCRUM product owner course. Who knows, maybe you’ll even start making a few flippant comments of your own. They are a pretty efficient form of communication, after all.
Monday, July 2nd, 2012
I don’t need to tell you the horror stories. The Primark employees ranting about ‘pikey’ punters on Facebook; the Red Cross worker who accidentally shared her boozy evening on the company Twitter stream; the resignation of New York congressman Anthony Weiner over a lewd tweeted photo. The business press will pick up on any tale of professional mess-making on social platforms with predictable glee. ‘The moral of the story, kids, is… people are dumb. People are dangerous. Give your staff a sliver of social rope, and they’ll hang themselves. Until next time!’
This fear-mongering prevents many businesses from even getting off the social starting blocks. When I talk to management about becoming social, however much we might discuss organisational models, internal comms platforms or cultural shifts, the conversation returns again and again to one theme: how do we stop our employees screwing up? This is matched by an equal fear on the part of the staff. What am I liable for when posting online? When exactly do I ‘represent’ my company in social media? Am I ever free to be my boozing, whoring self?
There are no easy answers, and to simply suggest that management ‘put in place good social media policies’ ignores the fact that conversation has a tendency to fall between the (necessarily vague) guidelines and throw us back on our social instincts. And those instincts are failing us in a space where the professional and personal blur. However, social technologist Benjamin Ellis points out that this is a relatively new dilemma. For most of history we lived in geographically bound communities where our work and personal selves were integrated, so we are in some ways returning to a state where we have to consider our whole selves as visible to colleagues, bosses, potential employers, competitors and family and friends once more.
I believe this is a good thing. People should not hide their real selves at work, and employers need to realise that for most of their customers or colleagues, discovering that Mark guy cross-dresses at weekends does not matter a jot. Honestly questioning the business impact of employees’ social behaviour, rather than invoking some moral knee-jerk reaction, is key. If someone is moaning about you with good reason, focus on tackling the problem, not restricting what they say. If they’re just moaning? It happens. We all do it. It most probably won’t implode your share price.
As for appropriate guidelines, you don’t need a guru to write them. It’s playground stuff. Online word of mouth may be more visible, but the same principles apply as offline: do not libel, do not betray confidences, and do not stand up and yell something in a crowded pub (or Facebook page, or blog, or Twitter feed) you aren’t willing to defend. Even more so if you’ve invited your boss or clients along to that pub (or platform). Otherwise, go ahead and be yourself. But if you want to criticise other people, you have to give them the right to do the same to you.
Yes, this heightened accountability means that we all have to become more circumspect about our behaviour; but businesses are going to become increasingly conscious about who they hire too. If you don’t think that a candidate truly reflects your values as a business, then why would you want them in your team? Spending time finding people you are proud of, not censoring their unsuitability, is a rather exciting thought.
The legal situation continues to develop with all the halting contradictions you might expect, but thankfully employees’ right to have a personal life online appears to be winning out. There was a landmark case in the US last year between American Medical Response, who sacked an employee after she criticised her boss on Facebook, and the National Labour Relations Board, who in response asserted for the first time that employers break the law if they discipline workers who post criticisms on social networks, under the First Amendment for free speech. Of course, there are exceptions, as the NLRB’s Facebook page makes clear. But in general, people simply have to be allowed to speak their mind, even if it is unpalatable to you.
Social interactions are pure grey area, and businesses must make some kind of peace with this uncertainty. They frankly need to stop being afraid of their people, and vice versa. Micro-monitoring and disciplining of word of mouth is unsustainable and ineffective. Approaching the issue with honesty and realism is the only way past the stalemate; often trust, common sense and giving permission to act (and yes, maybe fail) are our only enablers to move on.