The Social Contact Centre

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

Posts Tagged ‘Online Communities

Building Twitter

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If there is a Golden Rule to Social Media it is that numbers don’t matter in a positive way. It is irrelevant how many followers or friends you have. There have been plenty of articles recently highlighting how  easy it is to acquire large bundles of Twitter followers but volume for its own sake is vanity. There are some very good reasons why you don’t want to just concentrate on volume unless you are being paid for page impressions viewed. Following on from my last blog about the CCExpo, imagine you have a stand at a big trade show. You know roughly how many people are likely to attend but you need to decide how many people to man the stand with, and how much marketing collateral to take with you. If you under-resource you won’t be able to take every sales lead available to you. If you overstaff  it wastes precious resource and can make the stand look unpopular. In a perfect world, all of your staff on the stand are engaged in meaningful conversations throughout the day and there is always someone available to talk to. You never waste resource on tyrekickers, suppliers or competitors. Although in the social world there may not seem to be much of a cost of participation there certainly is an opportunity cost to concentrating on numbers:

  • Firstly, the bigger the numbers, the harder it is to even monitor the conversation. It would make sense that you would want a mutual social relationship with your community and so you would “see” all their comments, statuses and posts. The sheer volume of noise this generates means it is difficult, even with the best monitoring tools, to make sense of what is happening – even harder to engage in a meaningful way with your community. This is the equivalent of the doors to the trade show opening and a wall of people making their way directly to your stand. The people manning the stand would be completely overwhelmed and be unable to identify the real prospects amongst the timewasters.
  • The objective is not just to acquire and keep the community captive. The challenge is to nurture and develop relationships with the community on as personalised basis as possible. A monitoring and listening approach will look out for references to you, your company, your products, your competitors and market issues. The hierarchy would suggest that with limited resources you want to make sure that the defensive position is protected first – that the mentions of you and your products are picked up and responded to. This could still leave a large part of the community untapped and feeling unloved. This is similar to having a stand and just handing out promotional literature. It’s a fairly blunt marketing strategy. The best use of trade shows involves taking the right people to one side and discussing their detailed requirements over a coffee.
  • The final reason why numbers are unimportant is that you will be judged by the company you keep. The Social Influence scorekeepers look not only at numbers but the strength of the community you interact with. As your social community is often visible, if it is largely made up of pornbots and people from different continents it doesn’t reflect well on your housekeeping. It may mean that potential followers decide not to. Again, taking the trade show analogy, we all scout the whole venue first and make value judgements over which stands are worth visiting. Of course there will be those you have heard of in advance but there will also be those that look popular or have interesting content worth exploring. Similarly you avoid the ones where the staff look uninterested or uninteresting and the stands which are full of students. As a supplier you need to create a positive first impression just to have a chance of developing the relationship further.

With those caveats, how should you build your Twitter community?

To start with – really think carefully about your Twitter name and profile. The name is important for making it easy for people to refer to you and contact you. The hard work is done by Twitter when you reply to someone but if you want to DM someone or refer to them in a normal tweet, underscores and numbers can mean you never get the message. Keep it as simple as possible. If all of the remotely basic versions of your company name are taken choose a different path. For example if you are a joiner called John Smith it is far better to go for @HappyJoiner than @john__smith377. Think in advance also about how other people at your company could get involved. If this is likely @JoinerJohn could easily be supplemented in future by @JoinerRichard but @HappyJoiner would only suggest Richard is in a bad mood or unrelated. Research shows that the photograph plays a really important part in whether people look at your tweets or not. As a result, never leave the egg image, and pick a photograph which is of a person or an image large enough that it can be seen clearly as a thumbnail. Twitter profiles are one of those areas where you don’t want to be too arty. You then have a limit of 160 characters. In this space you must say clearly what you do, try and differentiate yourself, explain where you are (a bugbear of mine) and who you want to follow you. The Twitter search will be used by people so think of the words you would want to be searchable in your profile. You can’t say everything you want to in 160 characters but you do also have space to add a url so have a clear strategy for where you are going to send people for more information.

I find that using lists and targets is the best way to stay on top of things. In Twitter there are some real constraints which you need to manage your way around. The most obvious of these is are the 2000 barrier on follows and the dangers of being suspended if you unfollow too rapidly. It would be much easier if you could spend hours searching for “your kind of Twitterer”, follow them all and then wait for them to follow back. Unfortunately Twitter puts a set of hurdles in place to force true engagement. The first of these is that you can’t follow more than 2000 accounts unless you also have 2000 followers (approximately). There are similar hurdles as the number increases but the problem is the same. As you get nearer to the limit you find yourself carefully unfollowing to give yourself headroom.

I find it easiest to stay focussed from the start and not automatically follow everyone back. When I follow people I really try and concentrate on people that I want to engage with – potential customers, influencers, influences, relevant suppliers, customers and competitors. If the Twitter account doesn’t meet the profile: don’t follow! Of course this can appear rude if you ignore a follower by not following back. The simple way to address this is to publish a charter of what your account is about and who you want to follow you. When choosing who to follow always look at their most recent tweets – what’s the point of following someone who last tweeted three months ago? Similarly – what’s their balance of follows and followers. If you follow someone who has 13,000 followers but only follows 100 is their really any point? If you want to learn from their pronouncement then maybe but the chances are they won’t ever see one of your tweets. Interaction and referencing is the best approach with these accounts.

I also find it useful to maintain lists from the start. Lists are a really good way of grouping Twitter followers and followers according to whatever criteria you want. Make sure you make the lists secure if you don’t want to offend them by seeing how you categorise them (people will be notified they have been added to a list unless you do so). This will also come in handly when you want to be proactive – you can quickly see how many followers of a particular type you have (a quick check is to fill lists right up until you reach the 500 limit and then create a second list called Customer2 for example). These can be exported into spreadsheets and databases for further analysis. This is a very tedious job to do later so its best to stay on top of it as part of your operating procedures from the start.

One of these lists should be targets. These are people who initially you would follow and who you would love to follow you back. These may be journalists, executives, or key customers. They will often have thousands of followers and be extremely selective about who they follow. Importantly they are also likely to be very busy. If you don’t know who you are aiming for you are never going to engage with them. Tweetdeck is a good tool for monitoring their conversation in different lists – this target list may only have one or two tweets a day and most of them will not give you an opportunity. However, if you monitor in real time you can also react at a  time when you know they are catching up on their social media and may well see your tweet. To give yourself a chance of getting a follow you need to be seen first and foremost and you then need to give them a reason to! Examples of reasons may be that you retweet their comments (everyone likes retweets), that you provide more information on a subject they are tweeting about currently, or simply that they entertain you and they retweet your own creation. It’s a fine balance between stalker and someone who is genuinely interested in them so make sure you control frequency and content carefully.

Finally, regularly have a purge of follows. There are some good tools available which analyse people you follow who don’t follow you back. The same tools can manage removal of the oldest first and also give some indication of the likelihood you should expect a follow back based on the relative numbers of follows/followers. I regularly have a look at unfollowing up to 50 at a time. This gives headroom for following more people who may be interested in participating in your community without causing concern with Twitter. This is a good practice also because some of these may not be following back only because they overlooked you. Unfollowing and following back may be all it takes to recruit!

Written by greencontact

September 29, 2013 at 10:48 am

Turning Social into Physical

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The cynics see Social Media as virtual reality or a computer game. “You’re not really meeting or talking to people” is the typical comment. And they are right to an extent. Much of social media usage can appear like collecting butterflies – aesthetically pleasing but ultimately a listbuilding exercise.

One of the things I have been looking at is how to break out of the virtual and into the real world. After all, in the real world sometimes an email, or even a phone call, can’t replace the benefits of a face-to-face meeting. In some ways this is the real opportunity. Social Media is fantastically easy to wield as a way of getting introductions to like-minded people (Facebook Groups), huge crowds of people happy to communicate (Twitter) and large numbers of business contacts (LinkedIn).

I’ve gone up to people in shops and in the street and introduced myself as a Twitter follower (I really have), and I’ve arranged meetings from LinkedIn contacts to discuss general topics and the response has been favourable. In some ways it would be impolite to not say hello if you have the opportunity – you’ve already learned quite a bit about each other.

So here are some tips to help ease the process along:

1. Create the links in the first place off something concrete and make the invitations meaningful. If your first introduction refers to a conference you both attended some years ago the link is more tenuous than making it your policy to see if people you met yesterday are on LinkedIn.

2. If you are an Engager in Social Media it will clearly be far easier than if you are a Lurker. If you lurk a physical approach is only saying “Hey, we’re both on Facebook” whereas if you are already engaging in dialogue its more like “Nice to meet you finally, lets carry on the conversation”.

3. As with all communication you need to have a context. Why are you wanting to say hello? If the answer is just that you want to sell them something you can join a long and fruitless queue; if you want to learn and share most people will be happy to join in.

The most powerful networks, virtual or real, are the ones which are actionable. Try testing yours….

Written by greencontact

March 7, 2012 at 3:21 pm

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

Real Twitter reach and influence

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Most social media comment is abstract and this is the weakness in the argument so far. For the sceptics, an argument based purely on numbers of users doesn’t wash because the newspapers are full of negative comment. It can all be too easily dismissed as a fad. A very small number of articles attempt to get into the numbers and playing Devil’s Advocate is never a bad thing. Here’s my analysis of my own Twitter account @greencontact.

I have 564 followers for @greencontact and I follow about 1100 other accounts. Its objective is to gather contact centre and social media followers so that I can learn, share and influence on a personal level. My ideal goal would be thousands of followers including authors, journalists, suppliers and bloggers. On Klout my score is currently only 13 against an average for Klout of 20, and a score for my personal Twitter account of 38. My @greencontact account score is on a real recent slide from around 19. I do think it is harder to get leverage with a business account with a tight focus than it is for a personal usage where you have more “freedom to roam”. Klout thinks I am “influential” on Social Media and Business which is encouraging because on my personal account it thinks I am influential on Sausages and Jewellery (really). I am classified as an Observer – “You don’t share very much, but you follow the social web more than you let on. You may just enjoy observing more than sharing or you’re checking this stuff out before jumping in full-force”. I feel a bit aggrieved about this bit if I’m honest – like most business users it is hard to find the time to up the activity levels and it is harder to find something to say.

Over the last 90 days I have sent 79 messages, had 16 mentions, been sent 21 messages (almost all “thanks for following”), and had 18 retweets.

One of the things I do is to assign followers to lists so that I can understand geographically and by subject matter what my real audience is so that I can tailor my tweets and be more targeted. I only follow people that I would like to follow me back – no celebrities, sports stars etc – all on topic. Of my followers I know that 144 are in the UK which is not as high as I would like it to be. This is one of the challenges of Twitter profiles – I am looking for people who tweet on contact centres or social media enough to declare it as their interest in their Twitter profile AND state they are in the UK. Sometimes you have to dig through the tweets to understand what their background is. There are also 31 journalists or authors from around the world which is good – these are the pros I want to learn from. As you may expect there are around 110 suppliers or competitors (I work for an outsourcer) also. Some of these are included in the UK total figures. Overall then I am looking to grow the number of UK-based commenters on contact centres or social media who are not competitors or purely suppliers as well as journalists and authors from anywhere. I don’t want to discourage other followers but I think it is important to have a direction and measures for what you are doing in any sphere of life.

One thing is obvious – the more you put into Social Media the more you get back – I don’t tweet often enough to attract the followers and get noticed. Assuming other people use Twitter like I do i.e. they dip in and out, then typically they view maybe 200 Tweets at a time depending on the level of activity. This is one full load and maybe two or three “mores” going backwards in time on either the PC application or the iPhone app. This may be roughly an hour’s worth of tweets. Just checking the stats at the moment (8.30am in the morning), my follows have tweeted approximately 150 times in the last hour. Now bear in mind this automatically may mean I never see tweets from some parts of the world or only see North American tweets in the afternoon or if I browse the North America list – lists can really help out with this. OK, so 150 tweets in the last hour may equate to 1500 over the full day from people I follow. I am tweeting just over once every business day and so the odds are that other Twitterers like me may only actually see 10% of all tweets through their viewing habits and my tweet may not actually be in their viewing window. The chances are that only one in 7 of my tweets in the UK gets noticed by each of my followers. Of course, the most influential Twitterers may have thousands more follows and so a much smaller proportion have a chance of “connecting” with the target audience. Its worth bearing these raw stats in mind when creating posts in a business environment – they have to be effective almost like direct mail. One good point about this is that these are actually pretty good statistics – the reach of social media amongst social media users is very cost-effective. Looking on the positive side I am having something I have written read by my target audience possibly once a fortnight. This kind of analysis is vital I think. The vast numbers of social media reach come down to actually quite small figures when we begin to look at influence. One final point is that the chances of success can be improved by publishing tweets in other places. I post my tweets through my LinkedIn account and my blog.

So the next question is influence. We have already whittled down large numbers to quite small ones and this then puts the figures for retweets and mentions in the spotlight. Depending on the nature of these tweets they are the nearest approximation to influence you can get. Of course a mention may just be a “thanks for the #ff” which is courtesy rather than influence. For me retweets are the real benchmark and indicate that you are “moving the pile”. To get retweeted you must publish tweets which make sense, have immediate impact (use those characters wisely), and you need to be one of:

  • Topical – ideally news
  • Funny – again originality is key
  • A gatherer – if you find good stuff and share it you may be retweeted as the middle man
  • Hit a personal button for one Twitterer. This can be enormously effective but sometimes you write a tweet and can almost predict who will latch on to it. This comes down to knowing your audience – again the lists become increasingly important as the scale of your Twitter presence grows.

So you need to be a journalist, comedian, librarian or really skilled on a one-to-one basis. What you can’t be is bland. This is one of the criticisms from the sceptics; the “what I had for breakfast” brigade. The point is that if you tweet on that basis you may have a few conversations in your personal account but it won’t cut it in business social media.

And what if you are successful in getting retweets? What’s the prize? Its unlikely you’re going to sell anything as a result but you will attract more followers and speak to more people. Imagine you attended a trade show or conference. You will get a lot from the presentations and demonstrations but you also benefit from networking. Networks mean that you can always find something out when you need to – I discovered an excellent collaborative innovation tool through conversations on Twitter, you build your brand which in turn increases the chances of your brand being front of mind when tenders come around, you also will be in a position to hear about new opportunities sooner and get a feel for future threats or problems sooner. The big benefits are below the line, maybe not as sexy as direct marketing but full of long term benefit.

Written by greencontact

January 24, 2012 at 9:25 am