Wednesday, September 28, 2011

What The Godfather Can Teach You About Social Media

In the movie The Godfather, there's a scene where the Corleone family is arguing over how to best avenge the assassination attempt on their Father, Don Vito Corleone. The hotheaded Underboss of the family, Sonny, argues for violent, widespread retribution. His brother and Consigliere, Tom Hagen (Sonny found him on the street when they were kids, the family took him in, and he's been with them ever since. He's not Sicilian, but he's a good lawyer. He's not a wartime Consigliere, but...) urges a more peaceful approach, pointing out that "This is business, not personal!"

If you're blogging, and/or using Facebook and Twitter to promote your business, you should always remember those words, "This is business, not personal," before you post anything that reflects on you or company. Though blogging is an excellent way to increase visits to your website and to enhance interest in your business, and social media is a wonderful opportunity to engage customers, using business accounts to air your personal, political, or religious views, your dirty laundry, or even your rooting interest in a particular team, is a surefire way to poison your marketing efforts.

I've talked about creating your own bad PR previously, but was reminded of it again when I saw this Facebook update from the music hall owner I referenced in that post, who uses his Facebook account for both business and personal purposes:

Boom! Twenty words and one hotlink was all it took to alienate or tick off at least half his audience. (Also, I shouldn't have to say it, but it's probably not good form to tell your audience/customers to "shut up!") Given the current Red State/Blue State political climate in the US, it was no surprise that this reponse came quickly from a friend:

As so often happens, the political debate/argument raged in the comments section with typical "my side is right, your side is wrong" vitriol. Regardless of who's right or wrong, the person who made the comment above also made the most correct statement of all, at least as it applies to my point:

He's right and, as this example shows, it's just plain bad business to use your business forum, be it blog, Twitter, Facebook, or email newsletter to express your personal thoughts. Your views or beliefs as they apply to your business or industry are perfectly fine but, remember, your customers have their own thoughts and opinions and, in this day and age, they may differ widely from your own. Hence, it's a lot easier to tick someone off and, hence, lose customers.

Fortunately, if you are compelled to share your personal thoughts or dirty laundry on the web, there's an easy fix. Just set up a personal account in whatever medium you choose and air your thoughts, rants, grievances, bad experiences, and/or chili recipes there, with people who know and understand you. Then, keep your business thoughts in the business account where your customers and potential customers can grow to view you as a trusted, reliable information source. Save your personal views for your personal forum populated by friends and family.

Don Corleone said it best when he told Sonny, "Never tell anyone outside the Family what you're thinking." And if you want to keep your business from sleeping with the fishes, then keep your personal views to your family of friends and aquantainces and make sure any and every statement you make that reflects on your company is strictly business, not personal!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Go Ahead, Create A Monster

Recently, I spent some time observing the child of one of my cousins. This kid (who'll we'll call Johnny for the purposes of protecting the identity of the not so innocent) learned as an infant that a well timed scream or fit would immediately garner his doting parents' attention and get him what he wanted. Not surprisingly, now that he's a toddler Johnny is, shall we say, having a hard time learning that whole discipline thing. Hence, thanks to the lifetime of appeasement, catering, and spoiling he's enjoyed, I got to witness a fair amount of direct disobedience, screaming, and tantrums. Needless to say, on our way home, I looked at the missus and said, "That kid is a monster!" (Please note that I'm inherently qualified to pass judgement on other people's parenting, as the missus and I have been the perfect parents and our child is as close to an angel as you will find!)

If you're running a business that emphasizes customer service, however, your goal should be to create a monster! That means responding immediately to every scream or squeak from your customers as fast as you can. But remember, in the digital age, the definition of "speedy" has changed significantly.

You may have a telephone and a "Contact Us" link on your website but, for many people, Twitter and Facebook have become the fastest means of communicating with a business. However, if you don't monitor those venues, and respond promptly, your customers can be just as quick to post their dissatisfaction on the web for all to see!

Want to see how fast a complaint can travel when things go wrong? Just look here (read from the bottom up and note that all these messages were posted within 15 minutes of each other):

While the complaint was one thing, that the restaurant in question never reached out the original poster (whose contact info was readily available) or offered a public or private explanation or apology earns them a major failing grade!

On the other hand, for an example of how it can be done right, check out this article from Oklahoma City journalist Dave Rhea. While Dave spells out his good experience, you'll also note the vendor he commends took the time to monitor his company's presence on the web and to post his own thank you in the comments.

Fortunately, creating your own monitoring monster to quickly react to every squeak from your customers is easy. Just take the time to monitor yourself and your business on the web (or pay a minimal amount to have a service do it) and respond quickly if trouble pops up. It can be in the form of a Facebook message, direct message, response tweet, email, or even a phone call. The key, like those overindulgent parents, is to jump when your customers reach out to you with a problem or go public with their dissatisfaction. And if you're saying "I don't have the time," then remember that, like in the example above, one negative Facebook post or dissatisfied Tweet can go viral on the web in the time it takes you to put down the phone.

Anybody can create a social media monster that garners plenty of likes and retweets, but feeding that monster when it gets hungry takes a little more time and effort. Instantly appeasing your infant child to keep him happy may help him grow into a bratty, screaming monster but, to keep your customers happy, you need to be ready to jump the instant they reach out. So go ahead and create a social media monster. Just remember, if you want it to grow your marketing, you still have to feed it...