The Social Contact Centre

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

Posts Tagged ‘social networking

Social recruitment… the universities are doing a good job

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Image courtesy smuc.ac.uk

I’ve discussed before the merits of learning from your children: especially in the world of social networking. I recently observed at close quarters another excellent application.

My daughter is shortly off to University. Putting aside my own feelings at seeing her fly the nest, I remember my own university experience. I attended a sixth form college with very little contact with the outside world. I attended a couple of formal university open days, applied to a few and was given an offer based on achieving target grades. I waited until my exam results emerged and, if in doubt, rang the university for confirmation. I filled in some more forms for accommodation and then turned up on day one excited, bewildered and a little nervous.

The road to university is very different these days and much better for it. Along the way to acceptance my daughter has attended summer schools, sat entrance examinations, visited the universities through open days had interview days and corresponded with the academic departments. At each stage she has added Facebook friends and used the online student forums. This meant that as each was waiting to hear results or offers they were able to consult and console with their own support network. It’s much better not hearing anything if you know that no-one else has heard anything either! It also supplies a safety net for asking questions and setting expectations. For the universities this must undoubtedly provide valuable insight into the student experience which can only improve their recruitment in future.

Once she was accepted she was contacted by two students from her university who have been allocated as her college accommodation “parents”. They have introduced themselves and made her feel welcome. She will have two people to meet immediately on arrival who can show her the ropes, ensuring she gets fed and watered but also engaged with the social side from the start – University can be a lonely place for anyone not naturally outgoing. This has taken away a lot of the trepidation and given her something to look forward to and us a lot of peace of mind. She was then contacted by a subject “brother” – someone studying her course who will help her out with the subject – where the lectures are and someone she can ask about the workload. She has also been in touch with a group of other people who have now been accepted onto her course or her accommodation who are sharing the same experiences.

Although I am delighted for my daughter and relieved as a parent I am interested with the parallel with the workplace. The obvious links are with the recruitment process. How much better to welcome in a new employee through the interview preparation and then through their notice period by social networking. Could you get a quicker return on the salary investment and a happier new recruit who is more engaged with the company culture?

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Written by greencontact

October 1, 2013 at 11:30 am

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

The Crowd around the corner

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It sometimes helps to visualise success: On your best day what would be the outcome of your actions. This way of thinking helps to put things in perspective and sometimes to realise that the ‘key’ activity maybe isn’t as key as you thought.

The same is true of social activity. Putting aside crisis management (or worse still crisis creation) there is a huge difference between social media and social networking as far as this is concerned. On the best days, for the best companies, the gains to be made from twittering and facebooking are more about brand-building than direct gains. Social Media is not going to bring you thousands of new customers and in some ways the delivery of customer service through these channels can be more expensive and more difficult to manage that traditional channels.

Social networking however offers some enormous financial gains. Crowdsourcing is already used to reduce the costs of service, research and development and creativity by companies such as Proctor and Gamble, Cisco, and IBM. Billions of pounds of customer service cost are saved every year. When was the last time you had a PC problem at home and Googled the problem rather than ring the helpline?

The pace of change is incredibly fast and there are applications which already look to provide structure to the crowdsourcing model. Look at http://www.mturk.com, http://www.crowdspring.com, http://www.crowdflower.com and http://www.utest.com. You may not be ready to embrace the technology (or more likely the culture) to take advantage but for some applications the crowdsourcing approach complately transform the cost base.

I compare to the growth of call centres and the PC. 25 years ago I worked in a company that had a typing pool full of typists and call centres barely existed. The streets were full of door-to-door salespeople selling insurance, encyclopaedias and tea! If someone had described the world in 2012 to me then….

Written by greencontact

April 20, 2012 at 5:48 pm

My Conversation Prism

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The Conversation Prism (detail) Brian Solis and JESS3

Here is a detail from one of my very favourite infographics by Brian Solis and JESS3 which illustrates superbly the huge Social Media map. As Communicators we are surrounded by a swirl of comments about our brands, our markets, our competitors and our companies which can be bewildering without some structure and filtering. What this highlights is the need to be aware of the conversation and the need to have a clear communications strategy.

What you can’t do is bury your head in the sand and pretend it doesn’t exist. It still staggers me how many senior managers are completely unaware of the nature and impact of Social Media and the opportunity of Social Networking. Even more so, the extent to which they see them as entirely negative.

My focus has been to familiarise me with the different Social Media types as a committed user. Going around the Prism I am an active user of:

LinkedIn, Quora, WordPress, Blogpulse, Twitter, Yammer, Facebook, SocialMention, Tweetdeck, Amazon, TripAdvisor, Youtube,  and Spotify

an occasional user of Flickr, Picasa, Digg, Reddit, Google Answers, Hootsuite, Tripit, vimeo, and lastfm

and I have used but moved on from Tumblr, Blogger, and Foursquare.

Just looking round the prism again I am interested in exploring Crowdspring and kaboodle a little more and, demonstrating the speed of change, I also use Goodreads, Pinterest, and Soundtracking.

 

 

There are some important messages here:

1. Make yourself familiar with all the social media types and stay on top of trends. Really use them because until you are a participant it is very difficult to judge the nature of the community – you can’t just put a toe in the water. Staying on top is vital. Right now Pinterest is the fastest growing new social media type and some businesses are already using it effectively.

2. Explore which channels are most relevant to you. Proactively: where are your target audience active and in what way. Reactively: where are your customers. Where do they recommend and where do they complain.

3. Finesse your usage. Particularly with the high volume channels (Twitter, Facebook and blogs) try different clients and understand the functionality of each. Find the one that suits your usage profile and stick to it. Find tools which aggregate and filter feeds to meet your needs. This will reduce the workload.

4. Design a  communication strategy which links together different media types so that when you have something to say it can be quickly spread across the communities you want to engage with in an attractive way but which conforms to the expectations of each.

There is a similar diagram for Social Networking – which first opened my eyes to the scope and opportunity: The Future Of Money: New Lenses of Wealth. Now somewhat dated but nevertheless inspirational

 

 

Written by greencontact

April 2, 2012 at 9:39 am

Tentative Social steps


So we’re past the sceptical stage – Social networking is not the new CB Radio and we can all relax. We’ve all got a presence – even the crustiest of the crusty FT500 execs are dabbling with Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn and we’re feeling good that we’ve taken that first step. Ok, we may only have put a cryptic photo up and are treating our profile as a bit of CV but… hey we’ve done it. When people ask us in the pub what its all about we can gauge the audience and either deny all knowledge or be the instant expert.

All that means is that the laboratory is open for business and the hard work then begins to try and make it meaningful for business. Lets begin with the easy wins… millions of people in the UK choose to give hours of their time sharing, advising, tweeting and blogging. Some of these millions are our colleagues, employees, suppliers and customers. They don’t become completely different people the moment they come through the door at work. Wouldn’t it make sense to create a network which harnessed this energy for your business to make better products, better offers, and a better working environment?

And all these millions are commenting about your people, your brands, your offers and promotions and about you. Many organisations spend huge sums of money on focus groups, market research, PR, and press clippings. The very least you should do is listen to what’s out there for free.

And, while we’re on the subject of PR, the old model had PR mandarins who have built careers on their little black book of contacts in your industry. Movers and shakers have become movers and shakers by their track record and by getting noticed for what they have done. Many will be part of the millions who are happy to share and to listen through Twitter and blogs. It would probably make sense to know who they are and to try and spot the new voices who are rocketing ahead through the new media.

You’ve already broken the first barriers. Don’t be shy. The first steps to making social meaningful are in understanding the landscape.

Written by greencontact

March 22, 2012 at 1:44 pm

Social Networking making a financial difference

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ImageI asked my teenage daughters over dinner the other evening to tell me what significant things have been invented in their lifetime. Its a good question to ask and the results are enlightening. They pointed out that DVDs, the internet, MP3 players, digital cameras and mobile phones all came to commercial prominence during their lifetime. Going back a little further in my lifetime I could add the PC, colour television and McDonalds.

The point is that nothing is forever and revelatory innovation can transform our lives in a very short period of time. I look at my desk in front of me as I write this and the essential things I need to do my job have massively improved my productivity compared to the tools of yesterday. Just think of what was in place in the days before email. All you cynics who yearn for the old days just aren’t thinking hard enough!

For this reason, even with something as relatively new as Social Networking, we need to stay light on our feet. We have to keep thinking about the ideas and not just the latest technology to do the job. The ideas around my desktop haven’t changed. If I think about the email analogy – I could have imagined when I started working that there could be a faster way to get a letter out than visiting the typing pool with my handwritten notes. In the same way I know there are shortcomings with email in terms of security, reliability, complexity of email addresses etc.

The other point is to stop just thinking about Social Media. Twitter, Facebook and, yes, blogs are great but they will be superseded. The idea of communication, collaboration and benevolence rolls on. As I listened to Radio 4 this morning there was a small article that was barely picked up on subsequently. An official from the UK finance industry made a speech in New York in which he envisaged  peer-to-peer lending overtaking traditional banking for personal loans. Just imagine a world where the banking High Street is decimated and overtaken by lending between individuals.

There are many areas where Social Networking inspired business models are making huge strides forward away from the glare of Social Media publicity. In the UK Zopa members have lent £185m and currently has over £90m out on loan. Peer-to-peer loans represent between 1% and 2% of personal loans in this country and there are plenty of other companies following the same business model. The attraction for lenders is access to loans which otherwise wouldn’t be forthcoming and for borrowers, an interest rate well above the current rate offered by bank accounts. They address the market which is disillusioned by the performance of the Finance industry in the UK over the last few years and the shocking behaviour of exploitative Payday loans companies.

The financial world is awash with Social Networking in action. Some of the sites are, for me, some of the most uplifting and exciting. They are doing things which I hoped were possible but didn’t think could work. Check out sites like http://www.crowdfunder.co.uk for a piece of joy.

Written by greencontact

March 16, 2012 at 5:50 pm

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

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