Twitter Badges For Brands Who Want to Avoid Narcissism

While Facebook is mailing signs to businesses, I’m pretty sure no one is helping them understand Twitter – for free anyways.  After all, Twitter is for narcissists, right?  It occurred to me the other day that the phrase, “Follow us” or “Follow me on Twitter” is getting things off to the wrong start.  Businesses should all aspire to connect with people who are engaged and interested in conversation, creating a value exchange – Twitter is just one of many tools to enable that access to direct conversations.  Companies can ultimately activate that engagement by providing value first and asking for help in return.

My point: A business that says “Follow Us on Twitter” is going to be more and more likely to treat twitter as an opt in broadcast channel, which can ultimately damage the relationship among all the other noise and duck the value of engaging customers (and potential customers) in conversation.

A Proposal

I propose the following to the Twitter Pantheon:  Get rid of “Follow Us” signs on web pages, blogs, email, direct mail, catalogs, billing inserts and anywhere else a business wants to use a badge.  Replace it with the phrase: “Talk to Us on Twitter. It’s a simple change that will encourage conversation from the onset and also change expectations within your organization of how Twitter can be used – more than just pushing messages.  (I did a Google image search and found that only the Frederick, MD Chamber of Commerce had a quick badge on their site using the same language.)

A Little Help

Inspired by Christopher Penn’s post, I’m going to make it easy for you.  Just edit the name in this flash tool below (feedreaders may need to click through to enable) and download the image. – You’ll have a jpg that you can use anywhere.  If you prefer here is a photoshop template you can download and edit to your heart’s desire:

Twitter Talk to Us Template, PSD file, 400K

[SWF]/wp-content/uploads/TwitterLogo.swf, 500, 350[/SWF]

Here are a couple of examples, one for Whole Foods because I happen to be a fan and one for my employer.

Special thanks to Chad Milburn (blog & twitter) for taking a small ask for help and turning it into something more useful than intended.

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How Often Do Ethical Questions Impact Your Social Media Efforts?

Over the course of the last week, while working on social media initiatives for several clients, the following questions or situations came up:

  • A client missing an opportunity to engage in a conversation (coupled with desire of agency team members to respond)
  • A situation that would require disclosing my (or my agency’s) role in working with a client who wishes to keep the work and our relationship secret
  • Working with customer data within social networks, privacy concerns about using the data for targeting
  • Agency employees interested in engaging in conversation for a client initiative (on Facebook, Twitter or elsewhere) without disclosing relationships
  • A friend, knowing a client relationship, asking if it’s OK to “vent” about that client in social (of course I said yes, and I can hope my client responds and does the “right thing” to help.)

I could share my responses to these issues, but I’d rather hear from you.  So my question is to you: If you work in social media or even work for a company that is leveraging social channels for various purposes, how often do you come across ethical concerns?  What types of issues are your seeing?  Who do you turn to for guidance?

By the way, Todd Defren has a great series called Real World Ethical Dilemmas in Social Media that explore situations in greater detail.  I’m curious how often these come up for you – please describe your role too and thanks in advance.

Photo credit: swiv via flickr

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Real Time: Piano Humor

By now most folks have heard about Chatroulette, a site that allows you to randomly connect via webcam.  This video at posting time had 3.7 million views in less than two weeks.  A musician named Merton, in a nod to Ben Folds, does some great improv.

Saturday night in Charlotte, NC, Ben Folds set up a computer on stage and did an Ode to Merton in response.  Brilliant way to take advantage of a hot topic and viral hit.  Spotted via @BenFolds on Twitter, for that matter.  As of posting this video only had about 4200 views.

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No Amount of Social Media Overcomes Bad Customer Experience

CustomerService

This is not a post to bash AT&T.

I know many folks who have had issues with their network, dropping calls and customer service.  I’ve had quite the opposite.  Sure I’ve dropped a call occasionally, but I actually switched to AT&T because they were the only service provider that had great coverage when I was traveling to a client in Ann Arbor, MI, years ago.  In addition to my Blackberry, I purchased a broadband USB card that has helped me tremendously while I have been on the road.  All in all I’ve been a pleased customer for nearly three years.

Where They’re Doing Some Things Well

On the social media side, AT&T has made some compelling strides over the last year plus.  For years they have been working with Seth Bloom (who I have met and think very highly of) and they took the leap to put him customer facing representing the company.  They have shown a good progression – starting with a Youtube channel and an engaging Facebook page, expanding to listening and customer service directly via Twitter, and making all the help more accessible via a social media landing page.  This week AT&T announced a new iPhone app called “Mark That Spot” – it allows customers to indicate when they are in a location with poor 3G coverage – they are listening to customers, and it’s a good start.  I’m not sure how many of AT&T’s competitors have made this much effort, frankly.  For a recent issue I had, @ATTNatasha reached out to me via Twitter and has been extremely patient, helpful and proactive in working to resolve the issue.  Just last week, when Natasha was out of the office, she asked @ATTJason to follow up on another request I had – he was professional, responsive and helpful.

Where The Experience Falls Short

ATTBillHere’s where my personal experience with AT&T fell down. In September I took a 2-day trip to Toronto, Canada, for a conference.  Before I left, I called customer service and asked for recommendations for voice, data and broadband plan changes that would help.  I put measures in place for each.  When I got back, I had a $6,000 bill.  My average monthly bill for all services is $250.

Over the next 6 weeks, I had many calls with Natasha and other customer service reps.  AT&T Billing (not Natasha) called me twice to threaten to disconnect my service while the September bill was in dispute.  Natasha was able to work out several credits offline through her supervisors, and continued to keep me posted via Twitter.  I really enjoyed working with her in this way – I avoided long wait times on the phone.  However in the end her supervisors told her that she could credit me only so much, they believe my broadband card was legitimately connected, and still invoiced me for $1300 worth of data and roaming charges in a two day period.  I have ample spreadsheets to keep track of the discussions and calculations we went through.

On my last call with Natasha, she delivered the news, and I immediately canceled my broadband service.  I already have a Verizon broadband card activated. I am actively shopping for cell phone service.  We agreed to disagree on the bill amount but considered the matter closed.  Two weeks later AT&T suspended all service to my cell phone and only reactivated after I paid the amount due in full.  I felt like I had no other option.

Here’s the point: No amount of interaction through Twitter or other social media outlets could prevent ultimately a bad customer experience and loss of a customer.

In the progression that AT&T has started in social media, a pivotal next step will be to integrate these customer relationships and interactions into their overall business process, with customer feedback being added to the product lifecycle, driving their programs and revamping their overall customer experience. I think I just lived at least a portion of what David Armano and Peter Kim are talking about when they preach “social business design.”

A disclaimer: Was user error involved? Probably – I may have left the broadband card plugged in overnight, which I have since learned is a quick way to rack up usage charges (even if not connected). I definitely did not download however many GB of data they have on record though. Was it worth AT&T to eat more of that cost to keep a long term customer? Apparently not.

Where have you had a bad customer experience?  Did the company try to use social media to overcome it?  Please no AT&T network bashing comments – there are plenty of other outlets for that.

Photo credit: dwfree1967 via Flickr

The Social Media Landing Page Phenomenon

northernlightsAs social media channels become outposts for companies, their websites need to keep up.  The big challenge: the two concepts are diametrically opposed.  Build a compelling, optimized website to bring customers (and potential customers) to you, versus establish social media outposts to go where your customers are.  Enter the new art and technique of the Social Media Landing Page (SMLP for short).  The SMLP is a bridge between the two, both to add legitimacy to social channels like a Twitter account but also risking pulling customers away from your website.  Companies who establish these pages are trying to give the subtle hint of “Nah, doesn’t bother me if you leave our domain” with “We want to hear from you.”  Here are three examples of big companies who have integrated their social media presence into their websites.  How do you think they do?

AT&T

Tagline: “Continue the Conversation”

AT&T is in the midst of more press than you can quantify lately for many reasons. Many might not understand the breadth of which AT&T is reaching out to connect with customers via social channels.  Enter the AT&T SMLP.  AT&T is using Twitter, Facebook, Youtube, Flickr, Blogs and even Posterous to build a footprint.  Intregrated into the “About AT&T” page on their domain, it’s easy to find as “Social Media” in the 2nd level navigation.

AT&T Social Media Landing Page

Best Buy

Tagline: “Everyone’s talking”

Best Buy took a slightly different approach.  Their recently launched (still says “new!”) SMLP is called “Community” and can be found at the bottom of their home page.  They showcase how they are leveraging forums, ratings & reviews, Twitter (also via their Twelpforce), blogs and other social media channels throughout.  I like that BestBuy is showcasing their IdeaX community where customers can collaborate on ideas for the company.

bestbuy

Microsoft

Tagline: “What people are saying about Windows 7″

For the recent Windows 7 launch, Microsoft built in conversations directly into the Windows home page on their domain.  Their clicking through to “See what everyone’s saying” brings you to an innovative SMLP that not only shows links to follow the brand’s presence elsewhere but actually aggregates the conversations on Twitter, Youtube, Facebook, and other social networks.  A customer has to leave the site to participate, just like the others, but right on the page loading in relative real time are actual comments.  This is a great technique but requires a lot of confidence in the product, to say the least.  I’m curious if Microsoft has any automated filtering on the feeds it brings in.  They aren’t filtering for negative comments – one in the screenshot I took was a comment on how “Windows 7 killed my laptop.”

Windows 7 Social Media Landing Page

Of the three here, I like Microsoft’s approach the best – it’s more innovative and interactive to bring conversations and topics directly into the site.  It’s also very easy to find and has a simple URL.  What other SMLPs have you come across?  Are these signs that social media is here to stay?  So many other questions open up for me, including how companies will optimize the pages – to drive followers? To engage in more conversations?  At least they are embracing social media channels head on in their web strategy.

Photo credit: studiolit via Flickr

Gargi also expressed, reluctantly, a lack of

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5 Twitter Tips You May Not Know

twitterbirdAs Twitter turns the corner on the “Peak of Inflated Expectations” and heads full speed ahead into the “Trough of Disillusionment,” I thought I’d share 5 tips that have continued to make Twitter a meaningful, useful tool.  Some of these you may know, some may be new.  This is aside from new features coming like Twitter Lists and the ability to report spammers directly from the web version.  If you know of others I’d love to hear them.

  1. Authorize your API connections. It seems like every other week a new Twitter scam pops up sending DMs on behalf of many unsuspecting users.  Of course you can change your password to protect yourself, but many apps require an authorization for your account.  Be sure to check http://twitter.com/account/connections to make sure everything there is legitimate.
  2. Twitter provides their own widgets. There are apps galore out there, but did you know Twitter has developed their own series of widgets for you to use on websites, blogs and elsewhere? Check out http://twitter.com/goodies/widgets to find widgets to show search results, your recent tweets, or your favorite tweets.  Here’s a quick sample of a search widget, showing scrolling chatter ahead of the 2nd TWTRCON conference coming up on October 22 in DC (want to attend? I have a 20% discount code: TWTRAC – I think the agenda is shaping up to beat the first one in SF earlier this year…) [Reading via feed? Please click through to the post to see the widget.]
  3. twittersearchUse RSS to track mentions. I use Google Reader to keep up with many blogs, but sometimes I miss a reply on Twitter if I haven’t logged in for awhile.  If you want to make sure you never miss a mention, create a simple Twitter search on your Twitter name and grab the RSS feed in the top right corner.  I’ll go through that list on occasion to make sure I didn’t miss anything, but a business could import that feed into a more robust tool for reporting and assigning responses.
  4. Get more use out of your Favorites.  I’ve always thought the “Favorites” function was under-utilized.  I tend tto use favorites most often to mark links to go back to read later, especially while I am on the road and using my Blackberry – sometimes taking the time to click through to links doesn’t help.  Once again Google Reader to the rescue.  Your Twitter Favorites are actually available via RSS as well, even though there is no RSS link on the page.  Here is the syntax:  “http://twitter.com/favorites/{twitter name}.rss” - now I can use them like a bookmarking service, feed them to a widget elsewhere and save them even for sharing with others via Google Reader’s sharing functions.  It’s almost a backdoor way to “retweet.”  Here is my feed, which I use very similarly to how I decide what to bookmark in Delicioushttp://twitter.com/favorites/adamcohen.rss
  5. There’s an app for that. Everyone has their favorite Twitter applications – the proliferation of 3rd party apps is profound.  My personal crutch is Tweetdeck, which has allowed me to create groups in order to more closely follow friends, industry experts and mentions of clients (more casually than a social media monitoring tool).  Rather than go deep on more apps, in the last few weeks one of my favorite microblogging experts, Laura Fitton, has launched One Forty at  http://oneforty.com – it’s the online equivalent of Apple’s App store but much broader – there are mobile apps for the iPhone, Blackberry and other devices, desktop apps, Twitter analytic services and more.  Integrated to your Twitter profile, oneforty.com allows you to rate and suggest services.  This site will clearly help sort through what the best and worst 3rd party apps are out there.  Laura is a featured speaker at TWTRCON too.

What other Twitter tips do you have to share?  I’ve been using Twitter for more than two years but continue to learn ways to make it an effective tool and build connections. Were these tips old news to you?  (Did you know that Disqus, the comment system which I recently installed here, allows you to authenticate via your Twitter account?  Sweet.)

Photo credit: cotinis via Flickr

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News Flash: Big Brands Can Be Social Too

Companies and brands of all sizes can leverage social technologies to interact one on one with customers. Every interaction is a chance to foster community, build advocacy and change opinions. Many Web2.0 and technology companies are of course eating their own dog food doing this, but can a big, dinosaur, established, brand adapt? The folks at Proctor and Gamble are showing it’s possible – in this case with a brand that’s been around since 1946. Here’s an example of how a large, established consumer brand can be just as nimble as startups and smaller companies.

Awhile ago, I shared my thanks to the inventor of the Tide To Go Pen, who created a product that happened to save me from a serious coffee stain right before a client meeting. I even managed to include a misspelling to make it seem authentic (ok, it was really authentic, I made the typo).

tidetweetI started to receive several replies from other enthusiasts for the product. If you look at the Twitter stream of “Tide pen” mentions people are talking about this product. It’s a useful, customer-centric, problem solving product. But I didn’t think I would garner an individual response from the Tide team at P&G.

Have you met Deb Schultz? I first met Deb at the Forrester Consumer Forum in Dallas last year. She is a talented consultant and social media practioner who recently joined a talented crew at Altimeter Group. Case in point, her recent presentation at the Web2.0 expo entitled, “It’s the People, Stupid” about designing social experiences. Deb has been working with P&G for some time, and contacted me to say thanks for my tweet, and encouraged me to go to getsatisfaction.com to share my praise there. I did.

Too often as consumers we pipe up when we have a bad experience with a product or service, I thought I may as well share some praise.  Via DM, the Tide team also asked for my address.  A week or so later I received a small package from the Tide team, including a sample of the new Tide to Go Mini pen, with a note that read:

tidetogo“Dear Adam,
Thanks for complimenting Tide to Go. We appreciate it! Here is a small thank you gift from the Tide Brand.
- The Tide Team”

Want to talk about designing a social experience? The Tide team gets it – every one of these interactions has the potential to build advocacy, good will and influence more customers than just me. I for one felt compelled to tell a few people about my experience via Twitter at the time and this blog post later one. When was the last time you had that kind of interaction with a big brand?

Kudos to the Tide Team, P&G and Deb – I look forward to seeing more from them. And until there are 100% spillproof cups I’ll keep the Tide to Go pen as a staple in my laptop bag.  Have you had a similar positive experience with a big brand?  Please share your experiences in the comments.

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