Archive | February, 2010

Some Social-Tech Industry Standards

18 Feb

Most people … and most companies … don’t live on the cutting edge. In fact, most of us don’t even live in the world of “state  of the art”.  Every so often, admit the hype and excitement over that which is new and shiny, I like to remind myself that not everyone lives out on the bleeding edge, cutting edge, or even “state of the art”.

In technology, we talk about “industry standards” — protocols used by everyone so that one machine can talk to another.  The great majority of people and companies live in an ever-evolving zone of industry standards… doing the basic things that they need to do to live, work, communicate with each other, get things done and do business.

What are the industry standards these days?

The industry standard has a computer and that computer is connected to the internet.

The industry standard has a cell phone; the cell phone is most likely not connected to the internet — but we can be confident that it will be  soon.  Despite what you read, the industry standard does not have an iPhone (read the whole article).

If the industry standard doesn’t have a Facebook page, it’s thinking about it, since about one out of every three people in the US do…but those that do, don’t check it every day.  But the industry standard does have a social network presence on Facebook (if you’re older) or MySpace (if you’re younger).

The industry standard  shops online.

The industry standard checks email daily.

The industry standard gets most of their national and international news from TV.  The Internet helps.

The industry standard sees the front page story, the national or New York Times story, and TV news coverage as a badge of importance (my opinion, based on lots of anecdotes).

The industry standard does not Tweet or blog, or necessarily read blogs. (but those who Tweet do blog)

The industry standard doesn’t know what RSS is (and those that do are in turmoil).

The industry standard uses the phone book (if you believe the industry, anyway).  The industry standard wonders why they get so much junk mail and spam.

Agree? Disagree? What’s on your list of industry standards?

The Coming B2B Bad Service Social Media PR Nightmare

3 Feb

Jeremiah Owyang offers yet another case study of how a consumer brand was engulfed in — and then escaped from — a PR crisis caused by the unfortunate  (for the company) combination of poor customer service to a customer who happens to have significant influence on social media — and wielded her million-plus Twitter followers to great effect.  Add it to the growing list along with DellMotrin and Dominos.

Image copyright HowStuffWorks.com

Owyang’s point is worth heeding — that customer service departments need to gauge the relative power and influence of their customers as they serve them — and social media influence — like celebrity and loyalty and wealth — should be a factor that shunts a customer toward a different set of rules.

It got me thinking about the B2B market, and how I can find little of this online barking intended to break service log jams (beyond telecom and wireless — anyone and everyone feels free to complain about internet, mobile and phone service). We have a business culture that shuns allowing employees to call out their frustrations with their companies’ vendors online … with good reason — such behavior could damage large scale contracts and business relationships, and potentially give the complaining business itself a bad name in its industry or community.

Rest assured, there is plenty going on in the back channel. Poor media reviews and frustrated industry analysts absolutely slow sales.  Chatter at industry conferences manages to get around at the speed of gossip.  The many tech folks in IT have no problem telling the world what they think of, say, the quality of their backup system, on online forums.  And a vendor’s poor reputation is usually played out in sales and inside their own niche.

But, so as far as I can tell, B2B based complaints in social media have yet to create a big PR nightmare case study.*

So no worries?  Think again.  It’s not going out on much of a limb to predict that this will happen.  First, businesses are designed to compete — if social media will solve a problem that traditional channels won’t, it will be used.  Second, our world is getting more social, and our business is getting more personal, not less.  In other words, people will talk, even in B2B.   Let’s make sure we’re listening.**

*Am I wrong?  Let’s talk about some examples?  Telecom, cable companies and mobile devices don’t count!

**Which is a clever way to finish the post, but let’s really end with some advice:

1. If you’re delivering great service, keep doing so.

2. Listen to what business and their employees are saying about you online. Use free tools like RSS,  Google Alerts and, say, TweetDeck to start; monitor relevant Facebook and LinkedIn Groups.  Move to paid services to manage higher volumes, get better dashboards, monitor competitors.

3. Be in social media. Establish ‘outposts’ in key social networks like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and…especially…key forums in your industry.  Participate.

4.  If you identify a problem, escalate it quickly and solve it.

5. If it becomes a broader “PR nightmare” before you knew about it, address it in social media as well as traditional media — your website and those social outposs.   go overboard to solve not just the problem, but the root causes…tell people how you’re going to do it…then do it.




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