Over 200 people will fill the Jepson Auditorium at Gonzaga tonight to discuss how social media has changed the face of business. It should be a great discussion as social media has evolved to a point where it does positively impact many businesses. But how? What are the businesses trying to achieve? I hear a lot of comments like these:
“I just gotta get on Facebook! I feel like I’m behind the curve.”
“I need a Twitter strategy,… Now!”
But that’s not true. You don’t HAVE to be on Facebook or Twitter. The answer is,… it depends. Yeah, it might be a good idea for your business. It might be a super-duper awesome idea. But where is your audience? What are your goals? My Local University amigo Matt McGee always has the same answer when asked about social media platforms.
Be on the social media platforms where your customers are.
Yep, good advice. For example, Chris Reilly and I performed a social media audit for a client a few years back to measure the effectiveness of their internal social media efforts. Guess what? 93% of their audience was blocked at the firewall. Their particular industry is pretty conservative and the big bosses don’t want their people on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube, etc. Blocked at the firewall. Dang. But guess what? They were on old-school technical forums and still go to industry events. Lesson learned: go where your customers are.
But there’s a question even more important than where to go.
I don’t hear a lot of talk about “the why” so I thought this would be a good opportunity to throw out a few reasons for businesses to put forth a social media effort and how to measure effectiveness.
1) Mitigate Risk
Social media is real-time customer service rocket fuel! Have a potential PR issue? Have a mad customer ready to rant online to the hungry, drooling masses about how much you suck? Social media has an amazing ability to cut that off at the pass. Because guess what,… even with the best of intentions things go wrong from time to time. But now businesses are able to stop PR disasters before they even start. This prevents bad reviews, bad news reports and ultimately helps protect their reputation.
This comes down to delivering awesome real-time customer service.
Where once a bad customer experience would be re-told to ten people it now has potential to reach tens of thousands (or even more if it goes truly viral). Preventing this from happening (in my opinion) is the most important aspect of social media for many mid-size to large companies. As Mike Blumenthal often says, “Once you had to treat the customer right. Now, you have to treat them right-er.”
How do you measure treating your customers right-er? Reviews.
I’ve worked with Paul Warner at Northern Quest for the past year. As part of of his responsibilities Paul has been responding to issues that have come up from time to time via Facebook and Twitter. In addition, he has responded to every online review of the hotel they could find with another member of the Northern Quest team. Here’s a look at that impact on Trip Advisor alone:
4.27 Overall Star Rating for reviews prior to 2012
4.43 Overall Star Rating for reviews in the past 12 months
3.75% Improvement (While this is a smaller percentage 4.43 is almost 4.5 stars. I’ll bet this makes an impact.)
Like I mentioned earlier, things happen from time to time. By addressing them head-on a business can own the issue, whatever it is. It also keeps that review based more on facts and less on emotion. Here’s an example of a response to a hotel guest that wrote in their review that their room was too hot:
After reading your review, we checked into the temperature controls in our rooms. Each room is set to 68 degrees upon a guest’s arrival, but the temperature can be adjusted from 35 to 95 degrees. After a guest checks out of the room, the temperature is set back to 68 degrees.
Now this doesn’t fix the issue for this particular guest. But it shows other that they actually read their online reviews and respond accordingly. Here’s an example of how Paul and the Northern Quest team handled a power outage and unplanned fire alarms:
“We had a bit of anger stemming from a power outage incident on the floor and hotel as well as some unplanned fire alarms. We dealt with them via Facebook and Twitter (in addition to staff on the floor). We had to deal with complaints about tickets not getting cashed out, not being able to check in, having to leave machines, not able to get tickets etc. We were able to respond and share information in real time with them as to how we were resolving issues and to whom to talk regarding concerns on the floor/hotel. We addressed all issues within an hour of the incident(s) and had most people thanking us for info and response.”
Obviously a lot is in-play when it comes to what causes a good hotel review and/or preventing a bad review. Northern Quest has improved top to bottom in terms of providing exceptional customer service. Not all of this can be attributed to addressing reviews and preventing bad reviews via social media. Still, it has a definite impact.
2) Extend Brand
All companies have a vibe in addition to services and products they want to sell. Generating a larger following of people that are aware of, and are interested in your brand is good for business. And by brand I mean everything about your business and the individuals who are publicly a part of it. At Local University our brand is based on our expert knowledge of SEO, Local Search, and how we can help businesses learn more about online marketing strategies and tactics to succeed. We want to be known as content experts. We also want to be known as nice, generous, approachable people. Blogging is a big way for us to extend our brand by creating valuable content. One of the ways we track that is by a dashboard called “Blog Intent.”
As you can see, we know how many visitors read our blog posts, where they come from, what they read, and if they have interest in us putting on a seminar in their city. Nice! That’s a handy little dashboard.
3) Create Dialog
Genuine two-way communication is possible now like never before. In the 90’s most sales people would say “If I could just get them on the phone I’d have a good chance of selling our products/services.” We now have a much better opportunity for that first conversation. But notice I didn’t list the goal as “selling.” Yes, people have sold things via social media, but (in my opinion) often at the expense of chasing others away with their chatter and over-selling. Yet, social media does provide an great first interaction with a prospective customer to learn about what you have to offer. And this can be measured with “assisted conversions” and other techniques. Awesome! Because it takes a team to sell well. You wouldn’t want five point guards or five power forwards. But put them together and you have pure magic. Or Jazz 🙂
It’s great that everyone is getting together to talk about the state of social media in Spokane. I hope this helps plant a few seeds of thought around the why and a few ideas how to measure your campaign. For those interested in leaning more about how to measure via analytics we’ll be teaching a Google Analytics class on April 18th from 11:30am to 1pm at the Nector Tasting Room for $39. Fill out our contact form and say you saw about it at the Social Media Event at Gonzaga and the cost is $29.