The Social Contact Centre

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

Making the right noises

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image courtesy audio-depot.com

 

One of the biggest fears surrounding social media is the fear of “getting it wrong”. After years of building a brand through traditional channels, some inappropriate Facebook comments or tweets can be front page news. Whereas in traditional above or below the line communications weeks of work and wordsmithing from professionals can create a polished message, social media really thrives on keeping it real. This means greater frequency and less polish.

None of this is completely alien. After all many customer’s experience is driven primarily by their own exposure to the brand. All the polished advertising in the world won’t offset a poor customer service experience or disappointing product reliability. The difference with social media is that the conversation and the experience is in the public gaze and for many businesses this is the reason why the first steps into social media are led by the marketing department.

Celebrities and politicians are accustomed to this and their experience has a lot of interesting parallels. They know that whatever they say is broadcast around the world and analysed in detail. As a result they have a team of scriptwriters and briefings to prepare them on the key points to make and the pitfalls to avoid. What seems like a wonderful gift to make a pithy comment is in most cases just the result of hours of hard work and practice. It is also clear that the most successful politicians and celebrities are the ones who are able to go the extra mile. We can all think of the gaffe-prone personalities who use it to their advantage. That public vulnerability is part of their attractiveness – by displaying weakness it adds to their trustworthiness – whereas the more polished performers are seen as “spinners”. The perfect social media voice embodies the brand values in a human way and by doing so makes the social media effectiveness move into the customer service and direct sales arenas.

Undoubtedly there has to be a clear strategy over what the “voice” is which is being portrayed but then the message has to be delivered by real people and not actors in my opinion. When social media is turned over to agencies it becomes anodyne. Consistent, well crafted and lively but ultimately uninteresting. The way to make it work well is to employ people who understand the medium but also who believe in the message and to empower them to make the right decisions. Much of social media communication is common sense and the  errors have been made either by people who don’t fully understand the medium or by people who are acting the voice. This is the attraction of some of the celebrity Twitterers for fans – to see the thoughts and ideas of people written in their own words. There is no rulebook yet in this area but some general thoughts are:

1. Always work to a plan – what are you wanting to communicate if you get the opportunity? What are the words you don’t want to use? Who are your friends and followers – make sure you constantly analyse the effectiveness of the crowd and what their characteristics are. You should know where they live, what proportion are active customers, what proportion are purely promotion-hunters, staff, journalists and suppliers. Who are your top 100?

2. Read everything twice. Typos shouldn’t appear in brand-representing social media

3. Encourage personality. To deliver the volume of communication is going to involve a team and ideally you want your audience to get to know them as ambassadors for your brand. Consider your social media feeds almost like a talk radio station and build metrics to back it up. Who are your audience at different times of day? For example as a retailer you can build up a pattern of when offers are going to be made and generate excitement around it while encouraging audience participation.

4. Don’t shy away from dealing with customer service problems. Don’t suppress, deny or make excuses. Apologise and put it right in the public glare. Everyone make gaffes but you must never lose trust.

5. Think about your crowd and how they can help you. If your social media just relies on special offers and competitions it is very superficial. What about asking your audience to help design your next advertising campaign by giving you slogans, success stories and even designs. What about building a crowdsourced service capability by harnessing their expertise on your behalf.

6. Always recruit the sort of people you want to communicate with. Remember, it’s not a numbers game. Think about the opportunities for acquiring and set this as a target. Which journalists would you like to be followers? What cars do your ideal customers drive and where do they live? Target your social media communicators to draw them in and make them engaged followers.

And finally, if you don’t feel confident in taking the first steps… ask yourself why. In my opinion social media highlights weaknesses which need to be addressed regardless of whether you choose to have a Facebook presence. Equally, if they aren’t addressed, they will always going to limit the “truth” in your communications; social or otherwise.

 

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Written by greencontact

June 18, 2012 at 10:52 am

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