The Social Contact Centre

to a social networking way of working through the eyes of a Contact Centre manager

Archive for February 2012

You’re only as strong as your Huddle

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Photo courtesy of Wikipedia

Social Networking is about working with the Crowd. A crowd can be intimidating, hostile, argumentative and impersonal. The crowd can’t be controlled in any way. The art of social networking is to create your own Huddle from the Crowd. We’ve all seen the Huddles in action. A group of like-minded individuals get together and joke, gossip and trade ideas or opinion. It’s a friendlier and more open subset who have bought in to a common objective, empathise with it and are willing to share with the group. In the social networking world an effective Huddle can brainstorm, protest, innovate, execute huge projects, and serve better, faster, bigger and at lower cost than other methods. An effective Huddle is an enormously valuable prize to aim for.

Interacting with the Crowd through Social Media is challenging. A few tweets or posts in and the responses (if there are any) will seem to be from complete strangers. By volume of activity and most importantly from volume of listening you begin to see the shape of the Crowd. You see who is most vociferous, the little subgroups who always seem to be commenting on each other’s activity, who the “grandees” are that everyone defers to. There’ll be references to things in the past that you have no knowledge of. You’ll seek some engagement with the Crowd and questions will be greeted with stony silence, replies will be ignored and you’ll wonder whether anyone is noticing your contributions at all. In time, little by little, the odd regular exchange will begin and you’ll start getting likes and retweets. Your forum questions will be answered and your own opinions will be more favourably received.

The point is that you earn your own place in the crowd and you observe and understand the “hierarchy”. The Huddle forms around you through interaction with the Crowd. So how do you make sure its the right Huddle at the right time? The key is participation…you are part of the Huddle not just an observer. The social network is like a flock of starlings. There’s a pattern to it but it’s constantly changing. If you just take snapshots you don’t appreciate the structure and the rhythm. When the time comes for action you’ll be faced by a Crowd not a Huddle.

Written by greencontact

February 10, 2012 at 11:05 am

Posted in Opinion

Tagged with , ,

A benevolent crowd

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Social Networking is driven by the fundamental benevolence in the participants and this can be immensely powerful. The desire for people to help each other encourages people to do a day’s work and then spend further hours helping out complete strangers. Consider this: The DIYDoctor.org.uk website offers advice for DIYers having problems with any project. Member plumbbob has helped out with advice over 1600 times and Sparx 2100 times. The IT community are used to sharing knowledge. When was the last time you actually called Microsoft or Apple with a problem rather than Google it or look through forums. Stackoverflow.com is ranked as the 64th most visited website in the UK (according to Alexa.com) and has a community of developers helping each other and gaining reputation points from their peers. Not far behind is TripAdvisor in 71st, a site that hosts 45m reviews of hotels, resorts, attractions and restaurants by benevolent travellers.

From a cult which began as forums the desire to share has now spawned sites dedicated to answering your questions regardless of topic: Yahoo Answers, Answers.Com, Quora.

So what is this benevolence based on? Clearly there is the fundamental desire to help. It is human nature to be charitable; to help someone in need. But much of this activity is on a low degree of urgency and displays a degree of self-interest too. Some other factors which appear prevalent are:

1. Gaming and competition. There are specialist providers who offer to “gamify” websites to drive up engagement. Web 2.0 is all about participation and engaging with the community. Think ¬†about the number of engagements which are rewarded with badges or are stimulated by targets. WordPress itself reminds you of the next goal in terms of numbers of posts. TripAdvisor has badges for contributors set at a fairly low threshold. This is not really about rewarding loyalty but about stimulating usage. For many the objective of Twitter is to maximise followers. Across a range of Social Media platforms tools such as Klout and Peer Index attempt to rank and profile engagement.

2. Boasting. Particularly for the more technical skills there appears to be an element of wanting to be “seen” as a guru or expert in your field. In some of the forums there appears to be a little jousting between technical rivals even. The Stackoverflow website nakedly scores contributors with a reputation score based on volume and likes.

3. Companionship. For some the social media world has undoubtedly given them a voice which they would be shy to use as frequently or at the same volume in the “real” world. Engagement is not always about answering the question or solving the problem – there is a high level of empathy demonstrated.

4. Cost and time saving. Possibly the most important factor of all is the desire to reduce our costs and save time. Web 2.0 is a 24×7 world with vastly more expertise available than any one call centre. People understand that the contributions they are making are an investment for when they need help themselves. There are still huge numbers of “lurkers” who take without giving or are waiting for the problem to come along that they themselves can answer.

There is an undercurrent of manipulation emerging which sceptics have latched on to. TripAdvisor, in particular, has attracted negative publicity over “false reviews” which are either placed by owners or proprietors to boost rankings or by malevolent individuals looking to extort from them. Forums are regularly monitored or moderated by undercover suppliers. This is undoubtedly a threat to benevolence but Web 2.0 users are very savvy and can read between the lines more than ever before.

The true sign that benevolence is alive and well comes in the form of ¬†Crowdfunding. Charity has long been successful asking for donations with no payback in support of worthwhile projects. Crowdfunding allows people to connect with projects and to contribute money to them in return for recognition or token gifts. Examples at the moment on http://www.crowdfunding.co.uk are unsigned artists looking for funding for their first album, charity projects, and political parties looking for funds for TV adverts. Similar platforms exist for businesses looking for equity. The difference is that inherent in the investment is a close relationship between funder and recipient from the start. The funder is providing the money directly to the individuals for a very specific project which they have an interest in – more Dragon’s Den than traditional sources of capital.

Photo: bridalwave.tv

Written by greencontact

February 6, 2012 at 10:46 am

Be Better at Twitter: The Definitive, Data-Driven Guide – The Atlantic

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Be Better at Twitter: The Definitive, Data-Driven Guide – The Atlantic.

Nice piece from Megan Gerber on statistically what makes great Tweeting

Written by greencontact

February 2, 2012 at 5:05 pm

Posted in Research

Tagged with

Fishing In The Right Places

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This is about creating the audience – the bit that is often taken for granted. How do you get the people you want to follow, friend or subscribe so that you can communicate with them in the first place?

I only ever went seriously fishing once. On a cold and grey Spring day I went with friends, sat down at the edge of an enormous reservoir and caught nothing. I had no technique, no special equipment, no idea what lay beneath the water and no local knowledge. I got precisely what I deserved and couldn’t wait to go home. Every weekend keen and skilled anglers compete and land huge catches at the same place.

The excellent Groundswell by @charleneli and @joshbernoff describes a four stage method called POST (People, Objectives, Strategy and Technology) and everything begins with understanding what your “people” are ready for. I take a little issue with this in that I think the Objectives may come before the People. The objective for social media interaction may not just/always be end consumers. In a B2B environment it could be other stakeholders such as employees, journalists, Government etc and unless the strategy for the social media effort is properly understood you may begin with the audience you have rather than seek out the audience you want.

Assuming the target audience is identified Groundswell then lays out the Social Technographics Ladder and a method for identifying how you customers are most likely to want to communicate and to identify the media and methods that are most likely to be successful. There are big differences between age groups, sexes, nationalities and interest groups. The key is to identify the social usage profile of your customers – in crude terms you want to be fishing with the right bait.

If Twitter or Facebook are suitable approaches here are some techniques I’ve used for finding the right people:

  • Use hashtag searches to find people who are talking about the right topics. Start with your own brands, products and markets. This method will also find a lot of suppliers and competitors. You need to decide how you are going to deal with these. At the very least you need to keep some form of segmentation of your crowd.
  • Read the trade journals. These can be a good aide memoir for when you are having a mental block. It also prompts names of journalists.
  • Some journalists advertise their Twitter names as a means of contacting them. There are also some quite dated lists on the internet. One other thing is to check out key names’ own follow lists. Often key journalists may have thousands of followers but only a smaller number of the people who influence them. Check out their Lists also.
  • Go through your contact lists and the collective library of colleagues and then try and find Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter contacts against them.
  • As you put out content (with appropriate hashtags) some of the people you want to contact will find you and you can close the loop be friending them or following them back.

Slowly your follow list will grow and at this stage this is the target audience. The next step is how to convert the non-followers into part of your crowd. Here are some tips for I’ve found to work in doing this.

  • Identify a small target list of the people you really want to follow you and comment in context with what they are talking about when they talk about it. This will make sure the comments are on topics they are interested in at a time they are probably watching the conversation. At times this may be quite time consuming but the result is worthwhile. Don’t tweet or update for the sake of it though. Less, better quality, comment is far better and will avoid the ultimate snub.
  • When you meet people try and add them to your LinkedIn group or ask them if they use Social Media immediately. It is far less awkward to issue an invitation soon after the event. Remember, with Twitter or LinkedIn each time you add a contact you also have access to their lists. Don’t abuse this.
  • Comment and talk about current topics in an interesting way. Just retweeting, interacting or banal comments won’t cut it to attract followers and it won’t keep them in the future. Keep your eye on trending topics.
  • Choose carefully who you follow back. It isn’t about numbers and at some point you may have to unfollow in Twitter to let more people in. The other thing is that the bigger the numbers, the harder the management of them. Are people in a different country, different industry or pure spammers really going to add value to your proposition? Are you really going to add to theirs?

No matter what else you are doing, keep a focus on the quality of your crowd. Even when you are busy with other promotional activity remember to look after your followers. You need to communicate regularly to keep them interested and notice when they want to interact with you. This is a social network not a sales pitch. Everything else tactically may change but your crowd moves with you.

 

Written by greencontact

February 1, 2012 at 4:39 pm