October 29, 2009
This post has been moved to my new home on the web www.steve-e.co.uk. The post itself can be found here. 23Musings is going to remain dormant for now and some of its more popular posts will be transferred to the blog at my new site.
My reason for moving and not taking the years of posts with me is the need for a fresh start, 23Musings had been dormant for long enough for me to feel it was time to start my blog from scratch.
Don’t forget to check out my new blog! www.steve-e.co.uk/blog
October 20, 2009
Having a poor website has never been excusable, if you want to have a presence online then you need to make it engaging, simple to use and easy to grok (understand). You want to have minimal barriers to conversion in your UI and you need to have easy routes to allow feedback and for your customers to talk to you.
In the past if you did screw up and disappoint a user or customer they’d generally talk to you about it through the usual channels of email or a phone call (if you’d been sensible enough to put a phone number on your website) where you could deal with the customer’s issue as best you could and at least half on your terms.
Now you’re more likely to get talked about in places where you have no control and possibly very little influence as customers vent their frustrations at a poor online experience on various social channels. A new survey by Tealeaf and Harris Interactive shows that the number of users who encounter an issue on a website and then share that experience on blogs and social networks has doubled from 6%-12% of the people they surveyed in the last year. While use of social networks as channels for letting off steam is increasing the same survey shows that the number of people who would try to contact a company through their website or call centre has dropped.
Help I hear you cry, does this mean we’re (brands) losing control of our relationship with our customers? It may well feel like it and any brand who’s experienced the power of crowd opinion on social networks when they screw up without being prepared will tell you it can be a scary experience. And preparation is what it’s all about.
Obviously you need to iron out the kinks in your web experience to try to stop complaints happening in the first place, optimise your customer care processes and make sure you have clear ways to contact you on your website.
If you really want to meet this new threat* head on and be ready to douse the flames before they get too hot, then the best way to prepare yourself for a situation like this happening is to embrace social media and make it a part of your business. Open up, interact and join the conversation so that you’re right at the hub of the discussion about your brand, ready to solve peoples problems, admit your failings and generally provide great customer service through social channels. It’s not just usability (as in making your website or product easier to use), it’s about social or brand usability (as in making your brand sociable, approachable, responsive and interactive).
*Of course this isn't a threat really. It's possibly the best opportunity you have ever had to really generate loyalty and brand alignment amongst your users and customers.
October 2, 2009
Babson Executive Education and Mzinga have published the results of a survey into businesses use of social media. The report shows that while many businesses are spending both money and resources on social media the number of people measuring ROI is low.
The graph below shows that 40% of respondents spend budget on social media and 57% expend resources on it.
So you’d think that they’d be measuring its effectiveness. Wouldn’t you? The pie chart below shows the percentage of respondents who said yes/no to the question ‘Do you currently measure ROI for your social media program?’. Only 16% said yes…
That’s low! It seems to me that there’s a real lack of understanding of online measurement and when it comes to social media that gets even more apparent. Social media measurement requires an understanding of more than just web analytics. You need to grok user behavior, interaction and engagement while also living brand equity, sentiment and what people are saying about you on all mediums. You need to understand the online/offline journey your audience is taking when it interacts with your brand, as an online social campaign could manifest itself as increased (or decreased) offline engagement. It’s a tough mix and there’s no one way to measure all of that right now. The best advice I could offer to businesses who trial social campaigns would be to distill it down to the things that are measurable (there’s always something even if only referrals and changes in rates of sales) and at the same time monitor sentiment like a hawk while listening to your audience (they will tell you a lot about how well you’re doing).
It’s getting better, there are many sentiment analysis tools out there now and you can even create your own dashboards with RSS and something like Netvibes. At the same time smart folk like @willmcinnes and the Measurement Camp crowd are trying to come up with answers to the social media measurement question and there’s a lot of information available on the subject.
So, in my opinion, measuring nothing is inexcusable, measuring or monitoring something is just fine if you’re dabbling in social but if you’re spending a lot of budget and manpower on your social exploits you either need to learn to measure it or find someone who can help you do that.
September 23, 2009
This post has now been moved to my new blog and can be found here.
September 5, 2009
There’s a lot of buzz about social media and how it can be embedded into the heart of businesses at the moment. I love the idea, it resonates really strongly with the idea of being truly customer centric which is something I strongly believe will help you grow your business and increase customer satisfaction and retention. Being social means being open, listening, responding, having conversations with your customers all things which any customer focused business needs to do. It’s how you fix the pain points, grow up as a business and learn to take criticism and proactively respond and make amends when you have screwed up royally. Social media is a great vehicle for these conversations.
This great presentation from David Armano of Dachis Group hints at how businesses can embrace being social and some of the benefits. The slides that resonate most strongly with me are 44 and 45 where David says it’s time to grow up and realise that being social should just become the way we do business (at least if we want our brands to succeed). The change David mentions in his blog post here is the same as the transformation that’s required to become a customer focused organisation, it needs to come from the top and be embraced throughout the business, there’s no half measures if you really want to reap the full benefits. Consumers have grown up and want more from brands these days, they expect them to listen and respond. It’s time for brands to grow up and realise they need to support this consumer desire for a conversation or risk alienating their audience and pushing them to competitors who will.
Found via Paul Papadimitiou.
September 3, 2009
Altimeter Group announced an interesting fact in the last week, blogged by Charlene Li on their behalf, that their latest study shows that companies who engage more in social media perform better in the marketplace. I was drawn to this by a timely piece from Anthony Mayfield of iCrossing.
The Altimeter report finds that companies who engage and embrace social media tend to be the ones who are performing best at this moment in time. That’s great! It’s always good to be able to have cause and effect proof on company profits isn’t it?
It’s really good to look at the effect that social media may be having on performance on businesses. It gives a direct indicator of the reponse of consumers to brands that seek to engage and have a conversation with them rather than a one-way direct marketing approach.
However, where I think this falls short is in the analysis of what other activities these same brands are undertaking to ensure tighter connections with their customers and audience. If engaging in social media alone was the answer there would be much more successful major brands out there. It’s actually a question of learning to engage and communicate in the right way through whatever channel is most appropriate at that point of your customer journey. By default, a brand who has spent the time to really understand it’s customer journey and all the touchpoints along the way (no matter what channel, online and offline) is bound to benefit. Mapping out the numerous touchpoints you have with your customers and addressing each one in the most appropriate manner to optimise it and remove any pain points is the way to deal with this. That includes offline channels such as call centres and direct mail and online channels such as your website and social media.
Brands who really engage in social media are by default likely to be the same brands who really understand their customers so it’s really not at all surprising to see a correlation between social media engagement and performance. Saying that the performance boost is down to social media alone is however just not telling the whole story.
Don’t get me wrong, studies like this are important and will really help brands who haven’t yet stepped into the social media world find a reason and justification for doing so, but they really need to think cross-channel and ensure that they aren’t neglecting their whole customer base. I particularly like what Anthony calls ‘social business design’ in his post, maybe that’s a route to being really customer centric. Learning to communicate with your audience should be such a basic tenet of business but unfortunately most people just tend to broadcast in the hope that someone is listening. You’d think they’d have learnt by now?
Indeed, wouldn’t it be great if engaging in social media alone could propel your business to new heights? I think this is more about how well a company engages with it’s customers across any channel and the whole customer journey rather than just on social media.
Companies who really get being customer focused, who get the benefit of being open and honest with their audience and strive to be customer centric are most likely to also be engaged in social media. Just doing social media alone though won’t create the success the report hints at, although becoming ‘social centric’ is a good step on the way to becoming a listening, engaging, customer centric organisation. Perhaps social centric is the new customer centric?
August 19, 2009
Couldn’t agree more with this post (or as he says rant, though I think I sense some holding back) from @builtbydave today. Expert is a phrase used far too often in many fields, particularly in relation to social media. Being social is a skill in its own right, and one that far too many overlook.
People often use the term social media to describe online communities and blogging and seem to think they’re something new, where as anyone who remembers newsgroups would remember just how social they used to be (uk.music.rave anyone?). I used to work for a company who specialised in community portals in the mid to late 1990’s, the concept isn’t new, just the technology has moved on significantly. Campaigns have been built around places people congregate on the web for many years.
But there are people who are very good at building campaigns based around various community platforms, blogging, networks, forums etc and specialise in that as a discipline so we do need a word for what they do. Perhaps ‘social media’ is just the wrong one, is it trying to encompass too much?
It’s a hard thing to define though, and I’m not going to pretend I can do it, but I am going to pose a few questions. Do we need to define social media? Can you define it acceptably? Should we segment the skills into online PR, community building & management, blog media experts etc; would that make it more palatable? Or do we just need to accept that the best person for the job is one with an open mind, a sociable demeanour and a deep understanding & passion for the web as a whole? I tend to side with something an old boss of mine used to say before we interviewed ‘the best people are web people’.