The Social Employee: How Great Companies Make Social Media Work
Cheryl Burgess, Mark Burgess
The Social Employee goes beyond theory and discusses examples of social media success in detail. This book is packed with ideas.
Most of the easy to find articles and books on social media focus on the success of a social media campaign, it can be difficult to imagine how you could do something similar in your own company or industry. The reasons are often simply that your company is not organised to accomodate social practices, and your employees are not ready to be active in the social sphere on behalf of a company.
In The Social Employee the writers have spoken to some of the biggest companies who have made social work for them, often in the more challenging area of business-to-business. They look at how a company changed their organisation, activities and business culture to deliver business results.
The IBM example points to an expansive use of social media inside and outside the company; an enterprise social network, blogs, hackathons, adoption programme and digital jams. I believe the major reason for their success in an early decision to trust employees. This was backed up with good training and tools, but that act of trust makes a difference for employees.
Dell was an early adopter, and motivated by wanting to be closer to customers “We wanted to feel that customers were walking the hallways” according to Cory Edwards, Director, Social Media & Corporate Reputation at Dell. To do this it was essential to empower employees, and have built a comprehensive training programme for all employees to understand social media. This is seen as so important that CEO is active in the training programme community.
There are examples from Adobe, Cisco and SouthWest, with SouthWest being the most employee centric.
The final part of the book looks at steps a company should take in establishing themselves in social media effectively. There is a short discussion of tool for internal use but more time is spent on building communities, content strategy and building engagement and relationships with customers.
I found the company examples more useful than the theory or the analysis, it was really interesting to see how companies had evolved a presence in social media, and how much of that came out internal change. Challenging but effective.
Not all brands, not all industries, are able to use social media as a brand builder in the same way.
I see sweeping general statements in many books, blogs and articles about social media that make me cringe as a customer. The latest was “Customers seek identification with their brands”, do we? Maybe I’m weird but I don’t. Or rather I only identify with a tiny subset of the brands I use.
I can remember listening to a presentation by the Lego’s Global Social Media Director, Lars Silberbauer, talking about all the fun things they’ve done, and the way that customers are using lego in innovative ways. I looked longingly at the examples, and seriously doubted that the financial company I worked for could ever do this. I wrote then about two factors of social media motivation.
I likened it to Herzberg’s two factors of motivation, and came up with a simple diagram linking the factors to levels of engagement. I’ve been rethinking that a little, I think some brand are satisfaction builders and some are happiness builders. So which one are you?
You are a satisfaction builder if when your products and services work correctly customers don’t talk about you, if something goes wrong they do – and everyone piles on.
For example, a bank customer might appreciate that their application for a loan of several thousand euros was approved quickly but not want to discuss it on facebook. But if they’re stuck at the supermarket unable to use their card for a transaction of 120 euro, a much smaller transaction, they have access to complain immediately via their mobile phone.
I put infrastructure (including mobile phone networks), financial services, public or government services and grocery staples into this category.
The brand is not part of the customers identity and customer stays due to high switching costs or apathy, rather than brand loyalty.
You are a happiness builder if when your products and services work correctly customers talk about you, if something goes wrong they forgive you quickly and sometimes publicly. Other customers will support you during a crisis.
For example, everybody loves Lego. The most common complaint about Lego is the pain of standing on an abandoned piece, which is usually told as a cute story. Even when Lego came in for stronger criticism around sexism in its minifigs or its advertising the criticism was focused on improving the company rather than outright anger. Even those campaigning for change seem to trust that Lego would find a good solution.
Fashion, personal grooming and leisure industries are in this category. For many people cars, computing, home accessories – some people really love their coffee machines – are also included.
Many companies will have some customers who see them as satisfiers and others who see them as happiness makers. They may also have customers who see them differently depending on the context.
My phone is well-loved and well-used, you can tell by the state of the cover. My mother doesn’t care about the phone she has; both phones are the same brand and almost the same model.
Computers are satisfiers for lots of people, but part of happiness and even personal brand for many (try saying you hate apple on certain forums).
Even an indvidual customer may say the brand differently depending on context. Mostly airlines are happiness for me, I associate them with holidays and seeing friends and family. If I travel for work they become more of a satisfier.
Of course a brand can move from happiness to satisfier during, for example, a crisis. Or from satisfier to happiness under positive circumstances, but a sustained shift in this direction will be challenging. It will require more than action in social media.
Look around your house for the brands you own – where are they on the spectrum? which ones do you seek out on social media?
The accounts are most likely spam accounts, if you check the profile and the tweets all links published connect to the same marketing site.
It’s possible to buy followers on Twitter, it goes against the terms and conditions of using Twitter, but it’s possible. There’s even a site dedicated to reviewing the various services on offer.
The services are sold as social media marketing; which makes no sense if you’re building an audience of bots. The other sales rationale is that it boosts your online credibility. Well, perhaps, temporarily. Companies doing this often follow genuine accounts in the hope of follow backs to increase their credibility.
What to do
There’s no real risk with these accounts, your follower count is higher and if you follow back your stream has some pointless posts in it. So you can just ignore the accounts. I don’t follow back if an account looks like a spam account. From time to time I use unfollowers.me to identify any fake accounts I follow, and then I unfollow them.
How to spot them
An internet troll has been defined as “an abusive or obnoxious user who uses shock value to promote arguments and disharmony in online communities”. You can spot them by their consistently mean and abusive comments, and their failure to back down or apologise when called on it.
Why they exist
A failure of evolution? The online world reflects the offline world, there are nasty people offline, you can expect them to also be online. Where anonymity is possible online some trolls use it as a shield to hide behind while they post abuse. Some platforms and some subjects are more famous for attracting abusive comments.
What to do
You have five options;
1 Ignore; Trolls thrive on your outrage, if you don’t provide it there’s a chance they’ll go away.
2 Respond; You can respond, challenging the person. It’s unlikely to change their mind or elicit an apology. It’s more like to earn you further abuse and others may join in, escalating it in round after round of competitive abuse.
3 Block; Twitter offers the option to block users, this means you will no longer see their content including tweets those which @ your handle.
4 Report; You can also report users to Twitter if you think their behaviour is abusive or threatening. If you think a threat of violence is credible you should contact your local police. In the UK this has led to arrest and prosecution.
5 Submit to Public Shaming; collect screenshots of the offending tweets to Public Shaming. It seems to generate plenty of backlash in its efforts to name and shame those who troll, or abuse others.
How to spot them
The scary thing is you might not know until it’s too late, be alert to any strange activity on your account including multiple password resets.
A week or so ago I noticed two very strange tweets, supposedly retweets by me, containing a script which mentioned tweetdeck.
I checked whether anyone else had seen this error and there were already a few tweets reporting a problem with tweetdeck, including one linking to a Mashable article. The good thing about sites like Mashable or Techcrunch is they will report real time on attacks and they have the expertise to analyse the problem and tell you what to do. At that point they were saying there’s been a hack on tweetdeck and advising users to logout. I did, reverting to using twitter through the twitter site, where I checked the tweetdeck twitter account. They were already reporting on the issue.
Why they exist
The hackers want to steal your money, your identity or destroy your reputation. Alternatively they want to blackmail you. Sometimes they want to cause damage a the company by stealing data, and you have the bad luck to hold an account there. Or they could be looking to blackmail a company.
What to do
What you can do comes down to prevention and staying alert.
Prevention; secure your accounts with strong passwords, use different passwords for each site, and use two factor authentication whenever possible. Here are more tips to protect yourself (although there’s debate on whether changing your password really does help).
Stay alert; follow the twitter accounts of the tools you use, if you have doubts check reliable sources such as Mashable, TechCrunch and NakedSecurity. If you are attacked your actions depend on the attack. In the example I gave above from tweetdeck the advice was to log out of everything, when returning Tweetdeck advised a password change.
How to spot them
There are the usual scams that promise easy money via work from home schemes, and there are those connected to phishing scams, there are those that spread malware.
They’ll often send you a tweet or a direct message with just a link, or they’ll make an outrageous claim in the tweet, “someone is spreading rumours about you” was around a couple of years ago.
Why they exist
The people behind them want to steal your money, your identity or destroy your reputation.
What to do
Don’t click on links in messages or DMs that you’re uncertain about. Don’t fill in any passwords ever unless the URL of the site in the top bar is what you expect, so https://twitter.com/ for twitter. There are more suggestions on protecting yourself here.
As for the hackers stay alert, pay attention to credible warnings.
I’ve written about some of the basics of using twitter in earlier posts, now I want to take a look at how companies are using twitter for a business purpose. I want to focus on companies getting it right – but I will point out some #fail moments!
The first thing to think about is what is your purpose for using twitter, I’ve broken it down to five options, but of course most companies use a combination on the same twitter account. Which you use will depend on your business; but make sure you have the customer service sorted out first.
1; Customer Service
One of the most common ways of using twitter is as a customer service channel, sometimes known as webcare. This means answering people’s questions online, regarding your company’s products and service – sometimes even when the question hasn’t been directed at you. Here are some examples of customer care tweets. I think you need to have good customer service in place before trying the other options here, otherwise you will hear complaints where you are trying to have a discussion.
Companies doing this include; ING, Citibank, O2, Yahoo (or flickr), AT&T and Delta.
2; Customer Engagement
Beyond supporting your customers with service you can use twitter to have a conversation with your customers.
Here’s an example from Dutch airline KLM.
@SusanAretz posted a picture of a KLM plane from Madurodam, a miniature village filled with scenes from around the Netherlands. She tweeted “I’m curious where this @KLM flight is going”. Soon after KLM responded “Hello Susan, this is a special flight, destination ‘Dreamland’ :-)”
KLM uses social media really well, providing good customer care around the clock and connecting with customers using humour.
Twitter can be an effective marketing tool, it can be used to promote events, generate leads – by offering whitepapers via email signup, and offer discounts or coupon codes. Those three options can be used for free, but their effectiveness is going to depend on your existing following.
You can also use either promoted tweets, or a promoted account. It’s hard to find accurate figures on these because twitter promoted tweets uses a bidding process similar to internet ad words, and the promoted account costs are based on a cost per follower. You can however set a budget so you can cap your spending for a twitter marketing campaign.
4; Online Brand
Twitter, and social media generally, is a great tool to share your online content. Companies use it to increase the reach of all sorts of content from press releases to timely product information. For example we’ve just had a series of electric storms in the Netherlands and ING tweeted a link to their general storm advice, including information regarding insurance.
5; Build a Customer Network
Providing quality help/support, sharing selected information on twitter first, hosting relevant tweet chats will all build a strong customer network. If you can build a customer network on twitter they will share your content by re-tweeting, expanding your reach. They may also answer questions about your brand on your behalf, and in times of crisis can help by spreading your crisis news and reactions.
Use your logo as an avatar, it appears next to each tweet in your followers’ feeds
Use a brand related image as your header image
Specify the hours the account is monitored and responding; note if you’re an airline there’s an expectation that this will be 24/7
Verify your account; with the official blue tick if you can (this is available for really famous people or for those with a decent ad spend on twitter). Link from your twitter account to your company site, and from your company site to twitter – this provides some verification for your followers if the blue tick isn’t an option
Identify who is posting if multiple people manage your account, the convention for this is ^name or ^initials
Set up guidelines for your account including the purpose and tone of voice, this is especially important if your account is managed by several people
Control sign-on, there have been a number of cases where employees tweeted from a company account by mistake – thinking it was their personal account. Consider using separate tools or apps to prevent this happening.
Keep your original purpose in mind and listen to your customers/followers, don’t be scared to try new things – and be prepared to adjust or abandon ideas that didn’t work. Finally – share what you learn, that’s what makes the twitter world go around.
Next Week; in the final post in this series I’ll look at some of the trolls, fakers, hackers and scams you may encounter on twitter.
There are lots of tools for using twitter, some for tweeting and scheduling tweets, some add greatly to existing twitter functionality, others help you manage your followers, and some focus on data visualisation based on twitter’s data.
In generally they are using twitter’s API to pull publicly available data from twitter and presenting it to you in more useful ways.
I’ve tried a lot of tools over the years I’ve been using twitter and these are my favourites.
1; Tools for using Twitter
I am a fan of TweetDeck, I can manage multiple accounts from it, across multiple devices (I have an android phone and an iPad), and it provides multiple columns which is handy for specific searches and for any tweetchats that you join.
It will also let me schedule tweets. There are social media experts out there who say you shouldn’t schedule tweets, and there are examples where it has gone wrong. And there are social media experts who say you should (selectively) schedule tweets.
I do schedule some tweets, including my blog posts, but I schedule them for times where I am online, and able to respond to any interaction. I use TweetDeck for this.
Twitter now allows scheduling from company accounts, and their are other tools out there, Hootsuite is probably the most popular and it has the added advantage of giving you some analytics, although the most interesting data is only available for paid accounts. (See the advantages and disadvantages of Hootsuite).
2; Analysing Twitter
I’ve used Tweroid, which tells you the best time to tweet based on when your followers are online and active.
My profile for weekdays is shown on the right, you can see activity drops off a cliff after 10pm, which is one reason I schedule tweets. It makes more sense to publish at 3 or 4pm than at 9am or 10pm.
This is something I check about once a month, the peak online time has got slightly later over the last year. Possibly because I am involved in twitchats some evenings
I’ve used twittercounter to check some analytics, in the free account you can get some basic statistics and three months worth of data.
The graph on the right shows followers vs following for my account over the last three months, you see that I’ve kept my following number close to my follower number. It’s also on a gratifyingly steady increase.
3; Managing Followers
I use unfollowers.me to track my followers. I’ll generally follow back if the account looks like a real person who is tweeting genuine content, this tool helps me identify fake or inactive accounts. It also shows me who has followed or unfollowed me recently and lets me follow back (or unfollow) from within their application.
There’s another tool around that will validate followers for you called truetwit. I haven’t used it but have been asked to validate my account by people who are using it. Most days I only get a few new followers so it’s easy enough to validate them myself, but I can imagine for those on very popular accounts who want to ensure their followers are real, this would be a time saver.
4; Measuring Reach
If you need to know how far your tweets reach Twitonomy will give you an overview of how your tweets perform. Tweetreach will track how far a single tweet reached, how many times it was retweeted and how much exposure it ultimately got. Hashtracking will track how far a single hashtag reaches.
For detailed analysis of your twitter reach you’ll need to pay for a premium service (I haven’t reached that level yet).
5; Visualising Data From Twitter
To see who is tweeting around the world there’s A World of Tweets, which generates a real time heat map of who is tweeting around the world.
It also ranks countries by tweet volume since it started producing data in 2010. The USA is first, but perhaps more surprisingly Brazil comes in second. Netherlands comes in eighth – producing 2.8% of tweets. Not bad for a country with a population of just under 17 million people.
Visible tweet has a cool animation of tweets on a subject of your choice, but not really useful information beyond that. If you want to know where your own twitter followers are then Tweep Maps.
6; Archive Tweets
One of my favourite ways to store twitter conversations is Storify, it allows you to curate a story timeline based on a hashtag, keyword or contributor names. The story is then available for anyone to read with links retained, plus when you publish it all the people whose tweets you’ve collected receive a notification, which is kind. I’ve used it for various events, here’s one from a PR and social media event last year.
This post comes with a caveat, the market of twitter tools is changing, I went through this list of Twitter tools from two years ago and found that 30% of the tools don’t exist anymore.
Last week I wrote about 3 Twitter Basics, this week I want to take a look at some slightly more advanced ways to get going with Twitter.
I’ll cover what content to think about in your tweets, when to tweet and building a following. I’m posting here based on several years of tweeting for myself and for my (former) company.
I encourage you to get in and try twitter, the more you practise the more you’ll learn.
1: Your Tweets
I try to balance my content between commenting on things I’ve found on the internet, publishing my own content and interacting with other people. I am probably tweeting most prolifically at conferences and events. I’ve also used it to comment on television programmes (Apprentice and Dragon’s Den in particular). Increasingly I use it to interact with brands – sometimes to to thank them, but more often to get support. Here’s my how to for all of these content types.
Your own content – I write this blog and connect it to my twitter account, meaning that every post is publicised on twitter the moment it’s published. This has an advantage because wordpress lets you schedule posts, meaning your tweet goes at the same time.
I’ll also post personal observations, as I’m often in random locations to write there tends to be a coffee theme.
Events – I tweet a lot at conferences and other events, my twitter feed often becomes my “notes” after the event. It’s also a good way to find other people who tweet relevant content, and conversely a good way for other people to find you.
Other people’s content - As well as using twitter I see a lot of articles, blogs and videos online every day. If I’m sharing a tweet I tend retweet it to give the source credit.
If I find content some other way I will make a new tweet with my own comment. I try to credit the source so if I know a relevant twitter handle I will add it, as shown in the tweet at right.
I want people to credit me when they share my content so it’s only fair I do the same.
Second Screen – There’s a phenomenon going on where people watch TV, while interacting via a social media platform. I sometimes do this, mostly during the BBC shows “Apprentice” and “Dragon’s Den”. It’s fun, although it can be an opportunity to snark.
Chat sessions – Twitter chats are a way to have an open discussion on twitter, at a specific time and usually structured via a series of questions.
I’ve been involved in the #ESNchat, about enterprise social networks, but they cover every subject from architecture to yoga, from cakes to veganism. I’ve found a twitter chat schedule, with the appropriate hashtag, of course you can also start your own.
Interaction with others – Don’t be shy – twitter become more useful and more fun the more you interact. Just use the @someone function, or reply to their tweets. Most often the person responds. Sometimes good stuff comes from it.
Interaction with brands – Many brands offer a service channel via twitter (or facebook), and customers expectations have grown regarding the responsiveness and the content of the response.
I’ve had mostly good experiences when I’ve used these channels, although I think that in some companies they solve the problem for me on the day, but don’t actually solve the problem over all (Gatwick Express was one example, they explained that I couldn’t book home-print tickets on the day of travel. But no commitment to change an illogical anti-customer practice.)
2: Building a following
Only people following you will see your content (unless you use the @someone function to address a person specifically), so if you’re sharing content you need to build a following of people to share it with and to interact with. Of course if you’re just using twitter to discover information then this isn’t so important, you can just focus on finding people to follow.
Most people will follow you back, unless they’re in the stratosphere of the twitterati, where the follow back rate is typically less than one percent (of the top twenty on twitter by number of followers only Britney Spears and Barack Obama are above 1%). I tell you this to manage expectations.
So the best thing you can do is follow people you find relevant and interesting. If you do this slowly and steadily your follower number will grow.
DO NOT follow hundreds and hundreds of people each day, ( and do not unfollow hundreds and hundreds of people at once). You will look like an “aggressive follower” to twitter’s algorithm, which would then consider your account as likely to be spam. You also look less credible to potential followers, even humans think high follow to follower ratio looks spammy.
DO NOT buy followers, it goes against the twitter rules and it doesn’t really add anything to your account. You won’t see better content, and you won’t have a bigger real audience. All that happens is a bit of PR kudos for having so many followers – until someone looks closer and figures out millions of those followers are fake – then the PR turns negative.
3: Twitter Ettiquette
If you post something on Twitter it’s public, and permanent.