Social media is extreme service for client satisfaction

Why companies are actively engaged with social media? The ultimate goal is to earn more profit but that’s not how it works in social media. With social media you transfer the initiative/lead to the client. The client will only do something for you as a company when there is a clear added value for him or her. Clients can reward you with their “word of mouth” or recommendation to their friends and followers. They can punish you by sharing their complaints with others in all media at their disposal. Companies need to reconsider the kind and level of service to be delivered to those clients, especially through social media. There should be no maximum to the service level. If and when you want to start/join the conversation you need to be aware of what make their tick faster. They maybe have a good idea, or want recognition or is proud about yur products and would like to be part of the in crowd at new introductions. It can be anything either positive or negative.

How to address this?

It all starts with listening, analyzing and learning from the social media conversation. The conversation about your brand, your products and your market. You can do that by training your chosen employees as part of a new team called web care team.

This team is responsible for everything around social media. The most important responsibilities are:

Communication. Setup social media guidelines for internal and external social communication.

Monitoring. Follow and analyze the conversation about your brand, your products, your markets and your competitors. You can later include your social ambassadors.

Availability. Able to deliver service outside normal office hours and able to respond and engage with your company resources outside those hours.

Reporting. Report your results, the KPI’s on your social media activities.Share. Share your knowledge and experience with other departments like marketing, communication, sales, hr, management and ICT.

Learn. Learn how to socialize, to discuss and recognize threats and opportunities. Learn what can be improved in the existing communication and processes to prevent recurring issues. Train your colleagues in the do’s and dont’s of social media conversation.

Develop. Develop policies, guidelines, tools, strategy and strong examples to support the rest of the organization.

Join and support. Make sure that the web care team is represented with new communication projects, with workshops on marketing campaigns and with conferences on sharing experiences with clients.

Lead. Take the lead and responsibility when an opportunity demands a response or a threat needs to be managed.

Organize. Create an internal organization that can quickly escalate and involve the right people to respond. Make sure that many answers about your products or services are ready to be communicated.
In following blogs I will describe how to engage and to motivate your client to generate your content. A nice example of a company that has really gone social is Tookam. This is a French financial company who has embraced social media and has empowered their client to generate content.

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Social media for ICT

Every organisation is being challenged nowadays how to deal with social media. From an ICT perspective you need to choose what you support and approve. Most of your employees have at least one account on of these social media platforms:

  • LinkedIn
  • Twitter
  • YouTube
  • FaceBook
  • Foursquare

Will you permit employees to actively participate social media during office hours? On ther hand can you stop them? Today most people have a smartphone or iPad and can online using their own equipment. They do not only use social media from a personal objective but more and more from a business perspective. If you look at bigger companies the following trends emerge:

  • HR is looking at LinkedIn to manage the company profile, to check cv’s for hiring people or actively promote recruitment and the company image.
  • Communication is safeguarding the company brand, use it for PR activities and to direct social media fans to the corporate website or corporate communities.
  • Marketing would like to run more campaign on social platforms, would love to learn more about trends and join and listen to consumer conversations.
  • Almost every employees has identified a need for social media ranging from Sales, Strategy, Management, Investor relations to other departments.

They all want access, the best tools in the market, the fastest connections at all locations at any time of the day. The challenge for ICT is to find the best answers to all these demands. From an ICT perspective is has to be safe, reliable, cost covering and fit within the ICT architecture. The good news for ICT is that most social media platform are cloud based and mostly free of charge except specific development. No ICT, must care for interfacing with their own systems, for monitoring and for supporting similar internal social media systems like an open Intranet, Twitter like services and a platform to share knowledge. Also the mobility and support of employees with a business smartphone of personal smartphone needs full access to company WiFi and access to all kinds of software to be downloaded.

If you like to know more about the consequences of allowing/using social media in your company please contact me.

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Why should you consider starting with social media?

  • Want to know what your clients and prospects are saying about you and your products?
  • Want to know what your competitors are doing and what trends are emerging?
  • Want to join the conversation?
  • Want to know what clients expect from you and your products?
  • Want to increase your brand awareness and direct the conversation from outside your influence to inside?
  • Want to be able to react quickly to changes in your reputation?
Social media conversation

Social media conversation

If the answer is yes to one or all of these questions you should seriously consider social media as part of your communication package.

Social media is not new but is an evolution of marketing, communication, mobility and power to the customer.

Definition of social media: ‘information content created by people using highly
accessible and scalable publishing technologies’ (source: Wikipedia)

Research in 2010 by Nyenrode Business University shows that there is a definite trend from paid media to earned and owned media.

Paid media: Media where you pay a third party (sender)
• Radio commercial and advertising

Owned media: Media managed by your company; you are sender and receiver
• Website, newsletter/E-zine, blogs and microblogs
Earned media: Media exposure (recommendations) by interest groups
• Word-of-mouth, Buzz and Virals

While technology has been the enabler, it is ultimately people that are the driving force behind social media. As more people contribute, the content gets richer and the engagement becomes more powerful. With this fundamental change in media comes the new challenges of marketing to this empowered online audience. (source: Coligane Group)

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How to deal with negative comments in social media

Most companies will have to deal once in a while with negative comments or a personal attack through social media. If it has not happened to your company or you personally you better be prepared. This article describes the process and what to consider when preparing a response.

How to deal with negative comments on your company or brand

  • Monitor & Prepare. Monitor all communication channels offline and online on comment on your brand, your product, your competitors. Prepare yourself with standard press releases, social media policies and guidelines per communication channel. Involve the corporate communication department in any external communication.
  • Analyze. Analyze any reference regarding your company or product. Estimate the impact, the scale and potential buzz it can create, find out if it is correct, estimate the public opinion. Define scenario’s based on the different responses available.
  • Decide. Ignore, react, take your own initiative. It all depends on the scenario and potential losses your foresee. Only decide to act if it’s worth to act, some battles are not worth fighting.
  • Execute. Once you have decided to act, act honestly and clearly state what you are doing. Clearly state who is responding and as personal as possible. Try not to go into too many details but clearly state arguments and reasons for the communication. Try to engage your fans, clients and anybody interested through humor and self-reflection.
  • Monitor. Whatever you decide continue to monitor very closely. It can escalate very quickly and you need to be ready with your response.

A simplified decision tree the process of managing comments on your company or product.

What to consider in your response

  • Time. Take your time to prepare a solid response. Do not react too quickly.
  • Honest. Only tell the truth. Do not hide or distort any facts, it will come out eventually.
  • Crowd. Take into consideration that everybody will be able to read and react to your response. React on the correct platform; yours or where the comment is posted.
  • Never defend. You diffuse, explain and even confirm but do not defend yourself. It will continue in a never ending discussion. Stick to the facts, stir up emotion with people who follow this discussion.
  • Get help. Let other read your response. Consider the consequences of your reaction get help from legal, the product specialist or HR depending on the topic. Your response should be very professional.
  • Be positive. Whatever your reaction is never communicate in any negative way. Stick to the facts, invite others to agree or disagree. Use humor if possible, likable people have more supporters.

Please let me know if you have any comments or anything I have missed in the overview in this article.

Interesting articles on this subject

  1. Claim against Taco Bell on %beef in their ingredients and a personal attack at a well known celebrity through YouTube.
  2. Interesting comments from different people in India on how to react on negative communications.
  3. Interesting post that shows that you can turn something negative in a positive feeling, if you act quickly, honest and creative.
  4. Clear structure how to react for each type of negative attack
  5. A post to convince companies to prepare themselves. Preparation is half of the work.
  6. what to consider when you respond by Jeff Korhan
  7. A response considered from a legal perspective.
  8. Two strong examples that show what you should not do ‘Argue with clients’ and should do ‘Apologize, fix it and share the fix’
  9. Step by step approach
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Favorite Blogs on social media

I’m following many blogs and regular websites for interesting posts on social media and relevant technologies. In this post you can find a copy of my current top favorites from an international (English spoken) and local (Dutch spoken) perspective. This list is based on my recent tweets and articles read and tweeted in the past 3 months. Both lists are sorted alphabetically.

Top 20 International

Business week
Chris Brogan
Google news
Huffington Post
Jeff Bullas
NY Times
Small Business Trends
Social Media Explorer
The Next Web
Top 10 Netherlands
Content Girls
Customer Talk
Dutch Cowboys
Dutch Cowgirls
Erwin Sigterman
Frank Watching
JW Alphenaar
Marketing Facts

Please feel free to send me any interesting links to websites which are not yet included in my lists. I’m also following other lists on asset management, investments and sports but those will be published in another post.

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Social media benchmarks, not truly developed yet

I have been browsing the web for well defined benchmarks to measure if companies are successful in their social media efforts. What most companies want to know when they start is:

  1. In what postion is our company on social media presence with regards to my competitors?
  2. What are the best practices outside my industry?
  3. What should we aim for in our roadmap; what do we aim for?

I did find some publications on actual usage, demographics and many very useful reports based on 2009 data. Especially the report by Sherpa; “Social Media Marketing Benchmark Report 2010 ”,based on 2009 data is very detailed on the current level social engagement. These reports are very good in helping me organizing my thoughts around the roadmap and strategy to advice companies how to get started and improve their efforts. What I still miss though are some actual figures, benchmarks or indices which tell me what level you need to achieve to be seen as successful. It’s simple if you cannot find it develop something yourself. Below an overview of what I think are the important areas to measure.

Benchmarking can be split into the following areas


Which social media platform are the platforms you have to cover from a marketing and communication perspective. Candidates for the must have category across all industries are: Company website, FaceBook, company blog, Twitter and LinkedIn. Other platforms rank lower but can be top priority like foursquare for restaurants. Question; Have you covered the major and industry specific platforms in your social media presence?


Before a company starts with the implementation it should think and discuss what it wants to achieve. This should be considered from a company perspective but also from a client’s perspective. Think, discuss the pros and cons and decide upon the right strategy and roadmap.

In-house implementation

Is the social media strategy complete? Is there enough commitment from the management team? Does your company have a social media policy? Is everybody in the company informed about the policy? Are those directly involved trained in media usage?

Content quality, real engagement and effectiveness

Content is still king. Engagement is great but on the long run clients and prospect need real substance to stay committed in any engagement. The combination of value adding content and conversation will attract a large and committed audience. Question; do you have enough distinguishing content and supporting conversation? Do you have all the content types covered like; video, presentations, Q&A, forum, etc.


It’s not only what your own company does but do you track what others are saying about you? Do you track your competitors, market trends and best practices in other industries? Monitoring is very important to define your baseline and to react on any change or discussion that affects your company.


There are many discussion platforms where you can participate and be seen as an engaged and social services minded company. Consumer review sites, newspaper forum and independent columns are the places to be seen. Question; have you investigated where your clients are actively engaged and do you monitor and participate?

Hard data

  • What are the number of followers on each platforms?
  • How many fans do you have on FaceBook?
  • Are all your employees linked to your company profile?
  • What is the engagement and conversation level on each platform?
  • How do you score in the systems that rank your engagement on Twitter and FaceBook?
  • How do you rank in search engines on topics in your industry?
  • What is the impact on your web statistics since you started with social media?
  • How is your brand ranked according to the six reputation drivers since you started with social media?

This blog is not a complete overview of all the areas to be covered in a benchmark for any industry. I’m completing this list in the coming weeks and will also start developing a benchmark for one industry to measure the success level. Please feel free to add any area that you think is important and I will update this blog accordingly.

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Is the old boys network gone?

I read and hear often that the ‘old boys’ network has been replaced by the new online ‘social media’ networks. My reply is that it’s true and not true. The new media has replaced some of the old tools like post, mail and meeting each other. On the other hand the new media will only work for you if really know your network, have done business together as see each other face to face once in a while. It’s more a much improved facilitator.

Things like business clubs or other social events can take place online or prepare online for offline meeting.
If you want meet with local entrepreneurs it’s easy to setup a group on LinkedIn and communicate to your local contacts to become member and join the club. The ability to grow and use your network has increased hugely with the new tools. You don’t have to wait for the next meeting or call your network one by one. Just post your message on the forum and it will be quickly picked up and forwarded to the one to answer or take up the challenge.
It will still take more energy, the same as in the old days, to keep the discussion and engagement going. There is much written on the ‘old boys networks’ but one is worthwhile to read at Old Boy (and Girl) Networks Still Make the World Go Round.
For many small companies social media is making their live easier. It used to take a lot of time to find and join a value adding networks and to engage. Now you can join quickly and engage in your own time. Nevertheless as an entrepreneur your still need to be able to share and sell your experience in a few words that potential clients or networks contact can remember and come back to.

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Social media a new way of working or not?

The answer is not a straight yes or no. One thing is clear though, with social media it is more about really listening and serious engagement than pushing your message. With social media you can replace or strengthen your current media to manage your relationships. You replace your old tools or media where it is inefficient. An example is calling up your clients for an update from both sides. Let the client take the initiative to contact you in his own time when he is ready. Off course you can always trigger your clients to think about you or your services, but be careful, do not push them. The thing is that you can no longer hide from your clients. Your clients are communicating about you or your company whether you join or ignore them. It is much better to take the initiative and start the engagement yourself.
What do you need to do, to engage? With social media there are five key activities you need to do to be successful.

Enable. Build and deliver the platforms and media where you can interact with your clients. It can be just a blog or much more.
Share. Share your thoughts and views on your markets and market activities. Share updates about new products or services and what your strategy is for the coming year(s). Do not sell but share as if you talking from one individual to another at a social event.
Listen. Listen to your clients, your stakeholders and anybody who joins the discussion. Do not shout but listen and keep on listening.
Engage. Join the discussion, be frank and honest with your comments. Tell your clients what you can and cannot do for them. Be positive. If people complain about you, thank them for their comments react once and if they keep complaining invite them for a private discussion.
Solve. Show that you take the input from your clients very serious. Solve issues they bring up, share directly and be open about it.

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Social media for companies; how to start

The last six months social media has become a topic in most board rooms. The question is, is it a hype, should we join or can we ignore it. Well ignoring is not an option. Is it a hype?

No it’s not, it’s just a start. Mobile and direct communication between clients and between clients and companies is rapidly growing. 24 hours per day and everyday client and potential client will talk about you or your products.
The process as a whole is like similar strategy project but the focus is set on social media. A simplified process graph shows the steps you need to go through. Between step 5 and the last step much more has to be done before a social media project can be started.

Social media strategy process

What should a company consider if they have not done so before? First and foremost think about your current position regarding client communication. There are a few questions you need to be able to answer before actually thinking about using social media.

Question and listen

  1. What is the current landscape of company and product communication from an inside-outside perspective?
  2. What kind of client initiatives have already started regarding communication about you or your products?
  3. What are your main competitors doing in the social media communication?

Analyse the outcome

  1. What are the current best practices in your peer group and in other industries?
  2. What do you want to achieve regarding your reputation, what is your strategy?

The first four questions can be answered by investigating and analyzing market data. The last question is not easy one. It can only be answered by going back to the company strategy regarding vision/mission, communication, branding and marketing. The drivers for improving your reputation will also set clear goals you need to achieve with the new social media that can be implemented.

Understand the outcome

Once you have answered the questions above and set your short, medium and long term strategy you can consider what kind of media can be of use in supporting your goals. Experts in the field can help organisations in analysing which tools are best suited for each individual goal. Those goals should be considered from an inside-outside perspective but also more importantly from an outside-inside perspective. Let your client take the initiative, let think about you, your products and your market.
Last but not least. Train your staff on the new media. New procedures should make them aware what they can and cannot do but also what the company is initiating in implementing new tools.

This is just a brief summary of an actual plan to start with. Follow this blog for more details on social media strategy and implementation.

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Implementing social media, a culture change for any company?

Most companies who are considering to join social media should realize that social media is not something which you can easily control and manage. You handover the opinion about your company, your brand or your product into the hands of the consumer. If it has not happened already without your knowledge. What you can do is to take the initiative and keep that initiative.

You should start to go back to the drawing board and analyze the current state of affairs around online communication. What’s the company’s strategy, what are the competitors developing, what is happening in our markets. These are examples of the many questions you need to answer before you can seriously consider to use social media. Once you have found your answers you adjust your company strategy to achieve new goals in corporate communication and client engagement. Personnel will have to be trained in dealing with social media communication and some of the current client communication will have to transfer to the new media channels. As soon as a company has started to open a new channel of communication it has to realize that it cannot stop. Once you lose a client it takes a lot of energy to get a client back online. You start a relationship which cannot afford to lose. It’s a great challenge for any company to engage clients and actively join one of social media channels. Most often companies reward participants with rebates or maximum exposure or something else. One golden rule should not be forgotten, any engagement must be honest and open for everybody. Clients will understand that most companies are there for more revenue but that should not be the first and only goal in social media. It’s the consumer platform which companies can only support but not control.

For more information on my social media experience or online marketing services please contact the author.

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