Social Search and the Future of Finding InformationPosted by on March 30, 2010 at 9:20 AM
As the web becomes more social, so will the ways in which we find information. Here's an interesting article on social search from the Harvard Business Review, discussing what many experts believe to be the next phase in the search evolution.
Social search assumes that we will no longer need to rely solely on traditional search engine algorithms to provide us with the information we seek. Instead, information will be offered to us based on more social factors, such as content we've previously posted, read about or shared with friends. It may also include content our friends have read about, posted or shared online. Mainly, focusing on these factors will make our search results much more personalized, and come to us in the form of a trusted recommendation versus the standard text link to an unknown source. Other thought-leaders on the topic have taken this concept a bit further to something loosely referred to as the "predictive web" - a platform that serves you with information it predicts you want, before you even ask for it.
We're already seeing social search come to life. Take Twitter hashtags, for example. They allow a group of people to create custom keywords and isolate and track a conversation on a topic or event in real-time. Prior to this phenomenon, we've had make-do with static search results, which are primarily indexed through factors like meta tags and the number of links pointing to a particular Web site. Speaking of, Google has also been experimenting with the concept of social search. Here's a brief video tutorial from the company discussing their initial approach, which is still in BETA:
As search becomes more social and predictive, your company's online presence will almost certainly be affected by this shift. People will likely prefer content in the context of their social sphere. Traditional SEO is still important in the near-term and will most likely remain relevant in the future, especially for assets like imagery, video and news articles. But focusing on a comprehensive social media strategy is likely what's going to keep your company's name in the conversation when people are searching for similar products/services online.
A Job Well DonePosted by on March 26, 2010 at 10:51 AM
Recognition for a job well done comes in many forms ... and the impact can be great. An "atta-boy" from a parent; a promotion at work; an award from an industry group.
At Padilla, accolades are top of mind today as we celebrate ten awards (including Best of Show) received last night at the 32nd Annual Minnesota PRSA Classics Awards.
Why do we enter for awards? Sure, the recognition is nice but there's one thing that really makes the difference: Showing RESULTS. The best programs are designed with the end in mind, informed by research and include metrics to prove impact.
So, while it's fun to bring home trophies, the real honor is working with clients who give us the opportunity to design communications programs that drive business results.
Congratulations to all of the PRSA Classics winners for a job well done!
Will It Blend? How to Mix Offline Efforts with Online Customer ServicePosted by Michelle (Haschka) Wright on March 26, 2010 at 9:10 AM
Customer service and social media go together like Facebook and recreational stalking. Okay - maybe it's not that bad, but the web has become an open forum for customer feedback. Why wait for the next available representative when you can complain about your broken internet to a few hundred of your closest friends on Twitter? Is your washing machine on the fritz? Why write a letter to some faceless executive when you can post a rant on your blog to thousands of dedicated readers instead?
It's true. Social media can help solve customer problems. But it doesn't happen automatically.First, companies must be tuned into the social media channels where people are talking about them. They also must have an internal process in place that allows them to be helpful in their response. Only then can they can turn a potentially negative situation or dissatisfied customers into allies.
We're finding that when it comes to customer service via social media, thoughtful often means taking the conversation offline.
Padilla monitors hundreds of conversations for our clients daily. We see the good ... and the not-so-good. The trick is deciding when someone is just looking to pick a fight and when there's a real opportunity to win over a customer.
When it comes to effective customer service, the same rules of engagement apply whether you're solving customer problems from a call center, in person or from a laptop. The question you need to keep top of mind is this: Can anything be done to remedy this situation?
Recently, one of our clients had a great opportunity to test the waters when a customer posted a lengthy rant entitled "Why Does [Manufacturing Company] Hate Its Customers?" on his blog. The customer aired his frustration over not being able to access the company's online support database.
We flagged the post and recommended our client respond by posting a comment with the name of someone the customer could contact for direct help (in the spirit of Twitter feed @comcastcares). Our client (the ever customer-service minded) did us one better. They created a customer service ticket and contacted him directly - via phone - to troubleshoot the problem.
Just as our client was preparing to post a comment to the blog explaining the action taken, the blogger posted an update of his own. He gave the company kudos for listening and explained that they'd helped solve the problem.
The critic became ally. Mission accomplished!
Good customer service goes beyond resolution. Our client called the blogger a few days later to make sure the problem was fully solved. As a result, the blogger posted a lengthy account detailing the great service provided and expressing his appreciation for our client listening and making sure they took care of him.
Still not convinced?
If your customers are online, then using social media for customer service is absolutely a good idea and it's something you should be doing (hint: they are online). However, it's easy to get social media tunnel vision. Sometimes you need to step back and think about what you can do that would be most helpful. Oftentimes that means moving the interaction into "real life."
Are you using social media for customer service? How's it working?
Two tools to mobilize the believers in your social networksPosted by Bob Brin on March 20, 2010 at 2:11 PM
Tapping into your social networks involves finding and activating the people who are already engaged and likely to cheer on your cause. These influencers care and actively share with their networks. As we tune our Ambassador Mobilization Process (AMP) we've come across a couple of cool tools for motivating and mobilizing believers.
BunchBall is all about the science of engagement through entertainment and incentives. People want a sense of status and they enjoy competition, even if their ultimate driver is altruism. BunchBall's Nitro platform is the engine. Of course, the hard (or should I say creative?) part is master-minding the competitive challenge and fueling those human desires. Witness Dunder Mifflin Infinity where you join this virtual version of The Office and work your way up from intern to Assistant Regional Manager by completing tasks and earning SchruteBucks all the way. We all have a little of the Dwight stuff.
We learned in our work for GiveMN.org that it's vital to have a well-planned, systematically executed ambassador program for those people and organizations who want to tell someone about your news. It involves letting your supporters know you're listening and giving them everything they need to easily share your story and engage others.
WildFire is another tool that automates that effort, providing a platform for mobilizing your network of ambassadors or influencers. The National Urban League is using this tool to power its empowerment of supporters at iamempowered.com.
The WildFire platform gives supporters tasks to carry out. They earn impact points for recruiting, friending, sharing or just learning more, such as reading an article or watching a video. As you might expect, WildFire came from the non-profit world, but I think it has huge potential in the B2C and B2B world. You'll want to turn off the feature that asks users to offer up their friends' email addresses. But we think tools like WildFire with its action pack templates should help social networkers fire up their believers.
Handling Customer FeedbackPosted by on March 15, 2010 at 11:57 AM
There are companies known for great customer service - usually those are the ones that listen to their customers. Then there are those who get feedback but may not have processes in place to manage feedback. The following is an example of not only lacking customer communications processes but also an appropriate spokesperson.
A couple weeks ago, in a city just outside Minneapolis, a customer sent a complaint to a movie theater about her experience. It included a valid suggestion (to allow for purchase by credit/debit card or keep their ATM flush with cash) and a complaint about a staff disruption for the first 30 minutes of the movie. A great opportunity for the theater - consider changing their systems, offer an apology for the disruption and perhaps earn a customer for life. Unfortunately, the VP had no "inner monologue" and no real customer communication training.
The original email from the customer and the expletive-loaded response from the theater are on the Facebook page dedicated to boycotting the theater - there's also one supporting the VP. Note: if you're easily offended, don't read the email exchange.
Beyond the Star Tribune article about the incident, the story has become a Facebook hot spot.
Are you concerned about the chance of someone in your organization responding to a customer inappropriately? Do you have a process in place to manage (or solicit) customer feedback? What's the risk to your organization if customer communication breaks down?
My father always told me that the customer may not always be right, but the customer is always the customer (and deserves to be treated so).
Altering March Madness's Secret FormulaPosted by John Scally on March 11, 2010 at 9:54 AM
Do you remember one of the most famous marketing blunders of all time happened back in 1985 when Coke altered the secret formula that had stood for 100 years and packaged it as 'New Coke?' The result: condemnation and unanimous customer revolt. Lessons learned:
- Understand your customers' passion for your product and look to nurture brand loyalty--not destroy it.
Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.
Have you heard that the NCAA is considering expanding the basketball tournament field from 65 to 96 teams?
The proposed idea has been met with outrage from the blogosphere, confusion from fans and pure bewilderment from sports writers.
Jim Calhoun, the well-respected coach of the University of Connecticut Huskies said the proposed 96-team field is a transparent money-grab that would do nothing to enhance the sport. Case in point, that short-term gain is not winning strategy for long-term success.
If the NCAA pushes through with its expansion plans, they may just bump Coke from its top spot in the Marketing Blunder Hall of Shame.
While Writing Web Content, Say What You MeanPosted by on March 4, 2010 at 9:56 AM
One of our many responsibilities as professional communicators is providing customers with information. This is especially true on the Web.
"XYZ connectors streamline integration with your enterprise warehouse. XYZ's WIDGET, for example, automatically parses online customer data and loads data into the appropriate XYZ models."
Understand what they do? Me neither. Not only is this copy confusing, it has no personality - something that's critical to effective Web writing.
The majority of people visiting your site aren't reading your copy in depth. Argue if you'd like, but that's reality. This doesn't mean your site shouldn't have copy. It means that copy should be simple and to-the-point. It should also contain relevant keywords. Regarding the offender above, I doubt anyone's searching on "streamlined integration that automatically parses online customer dataloads."
Say what you mean. Your site visitors will appreciate how easy you make it for them to find the information they want. Keeping it simple may also give you an edge over competitors who are selling similar products and services.
Try to Avoid the Purple Squirrels and UnicornsPosted by Matt Kucharski on March 4, 2010 at 8:01 AM
In the first two months of 2010, it's clear that companies are recognizing that they've got to re-tool after an ugly 2009. That's resulted in us conducting a lot of of strategic communications planning and messaging sessions lately (commercial plug here -- at Padilla we package them into two "products" -- Communicating for Action and BrandBuilder).
Each of those processes has a "Discovery Session" attached to it -- a 3/4-day facilitated session where we bring all of the key stakeholders together for a food fight on business strategy, audience, messaging and key brand attributes. One of the "house rules" that I lay out at the start is "Avoid Purple Squirrels and Unicorns." That always gets at least a few raised eyebrows. Let me explain:
A Purple Squirrel is that customer who came out of the blue and purchased your products and services for no rational reason. Maybe they're not in your core target market. Maybe they bought from you based on obscure non-value-add feature. Maybe they chose you because they have a sister who works at the company. No matter the reason, Purple Squirrels are a distraction -- you spend time looking at them, but since you'll never see another one, it doesn't make sense to build a strategy around them.
The Unicorn is in essence the opposite of the Purple Squirrel. The Unicorn is that perfect customer -- the one who recognizes all of the unique, hard-to-articulate values you bring, buys all of your services, pays a premium without blinking an eye, and doesn't hesitate to aggressively introduce you to other Unicorns. Here's the deal with Unicorns -- literally everybody can recognize them, but the problem is, nobody's ever actually seen one in real life.
When you're building your strategic communications program or refreshing your brand, try to avoid the Purple Squirrels and Unicorns -- they'll keep you from making decisions that move the business forward.