• Russ Fradin
    Russ Fradin on July 29, 2014

    Why Employee Advocacy Matters

    Employee advocacy is an emerging new marketing strategy where companies empower their influential employees to authentically distribute brand approved content, create original content, and in turn earn recognition and rewards for their activity and participation.
  • BeverlyMay
    Beverly May on August 13, 2014

    Countdown to the UX Awards: Get Discounted Tickets and Vote Now for the Winners!

    We're a partner with the UXies, the premier global awards for exceptional digital experience, which is in downtown San Francisco on September 11 after 3 years in New York!
  • With well over a billion people using social media everyday, and a growing trend toward people engaging with their favorite (and not so favorite) brands online, why wouldn’t you want to be available for customers to connect with you?

    Did you know that according to a study performed by Maritz and Evolve 24 that more than 70 percent of customer-service complaints made on Twitter go unanswered?

    That’s right, ignored. Either blatantly or by mere ignorance and neglect of the company, customers are ignored and when that happens it has a snowball effect that many businesses may not consider.  Fact is, 82 percent of consumers in the US have stopped doing business at some point due to a poor customer experience and according to my calculation, being ignored (on purpose or not) constitutes as one way to be a statistic in the growing battle of customer retention.

    Information Parity and Social Media

    Before Social Media and the explosion of User Generated content via traditional social channels like Facebook and business focused social channels like Yelp, there weren’t a lot of great ways to get immediate feedback on another business; especially smaller businesses or B2B’s. Other than word of mouth or a call to the Better Business Bureau, there was great parity in information and it wasn’t in the favor of the consumer.

    Today, pretty much every business on the planet has a digital footprint and this footprint means that people who are interested can and will find information about your business.  This parity means that customers are more armed than ever before when they are shopping and potentially they are forming opinions about your business without you ever knowing they are there.

    So part of the requirement for businesses that want to win the battle of information parity is the need to take social customer experience seriously.

    With well over a billion people using social media everyday, and a growing trend toward people engaging with their favorite (and not so favorite) brands online, why wouldn’t you want to be available for customers to connect with you? And perhaps more poignantly, if you are “there” to connect, actually be present to respond when someone reaches out?

    Using Social Media To Drive Customer Experience

    So how does the average business take on social media as an active customer experience channel? Sure for some large companies it is easy to stick people at the helm full time, but for many companies that just isn’t the case. Nevertheless, social is a great way to drive customer experience and here are some key ways every business, even with limited resources can incorporate it.

    1. Customer Updates: There are many ways to send updates to your clients, but as we all know we are bombarded everyday with information. By using social media it is easy for customers on demand to go and see your updates, or by connecting with your brand they can check in on you when they visit you online. With spam and distractions in great abundance what better way to keep customers posted on the good and the bad. For instance a cloud provider that experiences an outage can have customers follow them to get updates on the outage. That way, company resources can put their focus on fixing the problem rather than giving updates to endless callers.

    2. Real time Engagement: Sure the phone is a great way to connect in real time, but anyone that has dealt with customer service knows how awful waits and queues can be. Further, people like to text and chat online rather than pick up the phone. Social media is a great way to engage in real time and give customers feedback quickly. Based on the fact that more than 32% of people are looking for a response to an online post within 30 minutes, the use of social for real time seems like a great way to make customers happy.

    3. Trust Building: Perhaps less obvious than the first two, being available and visible online is a great way to build trust with current and prospective customers. By knowing that you are there and seeing the way you react, inform and respond online, a prospective customer can get a better gauge of what it may be like to do business with you.  For current customers, the visibility and immediacy that social channels can provide can serve as a vote of confidence in their current investment with your company and perhaps win you some points that you may need in the future.

    It Isn’t So Much Social Media, But Just Good Business

    And in case you forgot, it costs about 6x more to acquire a new customer than it does to retain those you have. So if nothing else, a great reason to be on top of your social channels is that keeping those customers is just far too important to the bottom line.

    But there are many more reasons too, with adoption of Social not even near its peak, the continued evolution of customers and brands connecting on line will only get bigger and companies simply cannot risk ignoring anyone for losing business is only part of the problem as negative word of mouth can be equally as dangerous.

    Disclaimer: This blog was written as part of the Connect With Ricoh Innovative Ideas program, While I was compensated for this post, the ideas and views are my own. 

    social customer service / shutterstock

    The internet is growing at a rate that is hard to get our heads around. In the year 2000, there were just barely 17 million websites in existence. Just 13 years later then number was just under 700,000,000. That is one website for every 10 people on earth. So how can you be sure your message is heard?

    Fact: There is an overwhelming amount of content created daily

    The internet is growing at a rate that is hard to get our heads around. In the year 2000 there were just barely 17 million websites in existence. Just 13 years later then number was just under 700,000,000. That is one website for every 10 people on earth. There is some data to indicate only a fraction of those sites are really active and unique, but that is still a significant growth curve, with no end in sight.

    Add to the mix, the number of blog posts on those sites and email newsletters being written and distributed and it is easy to be overwhelmed by the explosion of content  coming at you and your customers every single day.

    Fact: Well funded companies can generate more content.

    As you compete against bigger, more well funded companies, they have an advantage in the amount of content they can turn out.  Not only can they pay internal staff they can hire external writers, or these days there are even robots which can churn out page after page of SEO worthy content.

    So how do you win in the face of the onslaught of content out there?

    • Quality over quantity. Write one well written post instead of three mediocre ones. A few years ago we were publishing content seven days a week. With only four people writing, it was hard to maintain a steady stream of high value content.  We cut back to just five days a week and noticed our weekly web traffic has actually grown.  Part of the reason? Our weekend readers are for the most part a different audience. For them, the post shared on Tuesday or Wednesday is new.
    • Bring something new to the table. Don’t just recycle the same post over and over again. Go back and review old blog posts, add new examples or update the ideas in light of new research.  Then as you share it, let people know it has been updated.
    • Add value when you curate. If you are going to share a series of links tell me why the links are important. Add your idea or perspective.  Without that, there is really no reason to read your post. If you link to content created by someone else, be sure to send a trackback. Let them know they inspired you.  Not only is this a nice thing to do, it is also a nice way to get noticed by other content experts in your industry.
    • Do what others don’t or won’t. These days everyone is sharing their blog posts on Twitter and Facebook. The news feed is cluttered with lots of people all sharing the same five tips to do something. While I won’t tell you to stop sharing your content there I will tell you it isn’t enough. Expand your reach by going where your competitors aren’t.  Find niche networks, small communities of people who are interested in the same things you write about.  Record a podcast or video, or turn your content into a presentation. Then share it on slide share and maybe even to a live audience.

    Not every blog post will go viral, but with a constant focus on creating well written, high quality information and sharing it in new and interesting ways, you may just stay one step ahead of the content onslaught.

    Here's what Iron Man can teach you about great copywriting.

    Who doesn’t love Iron Man?

    Okay, so maybe a portion of the population isn’t huge on Marvel Comic characters or movies. I get it. It’s okay if you're one of those folks. But I beseech you to take just ten minutes out of your busy schedule to step into my office here in geek world today.

    I promise this will only take ten minutes, and you will walk away inspired.

    Still with me? Good!

    I used to think that in order for something to be dubbed ‘great copywriting,’ it had to be old. It had to have roots that stretched back to some great literary work of art from before I (or most of my audience) was born. I tried my best to not associate great copywriting with my inner geek because in my professionally bred mind, that just wasn’t the best way to reach readers. And then…then I had an Iron Man movie marathon with my Marvel Comic addicted family and I realized just how much Iron Man has taught me.

    Iron Man Owned It

    What made Iron Man dynamically different from every other superhero to walk the Earth? He revealed his identity at the end of his first movie in 2008! In this goose bump raising scene that, dare I say, every single one of us can connect with, he says he’s not the “hero type” due to his “laundry list of character defects” and all the mistakes he’s made in public:

    When told to stick to his cue cards during this news conference, he picks up the cards and reads, “The truth is,” pauses in a moment that embodies an epiphany moment, and says, “I am Iron Man.” Do you know what Tony Stark did right there? He owned it! And he continued to do so in the three sequels and Avenger movie that followed.

    Never be afraid to own who you are and the content it inspires in all it’s crazy, eccentric, mistake filled, awesomeness. It took me years to learn this lesson, and it’s something everyone can benefit from. Don’t be afraid to own it, and don’t be afraid of making mistakes.

    Iron Man Was Human

    Beneath all the metal of Iron Man was Tony Stark, a human being full of character defects. He was just as susceptible to life as you and I, and we saw this clearly in Iron Man 3. The movie, which took place after the events in the box office hit, The Avengers, gave us a glimpse of a man wrestling with what was clearly post-traumatic stress. Iron Man 3 gave us the best yet glimpse at the man in the metal, and it brought us a little closer to Stark’s character.

    What’s the takeaway point? Show your audience your humanity. You don’t have to be all business, all the time. People want that human connection, that side of you that they can relate to and connect with. It’s your story that makes you unique. Tell it. Don’t shy away from using your content to connect emotionally, even intimately, with your audience. It’s honesty and humanity that forge the bonds of loyalty.

    Iron Man Knew When Teamwork Worked

    In The Avengers, Iron Man joins a team of Earth’s mightiest heroes. Together, they must work together to stop the latest threat to Earth, a demi-god named Loki. The team has an exceedingly rough time working together at the beginning because each of these superheroes is accustomed to flying solo. But in the end, in this epic scene that makes my inner geek jump up and down, Iron Man admits that although the team had a rough start, they are going to stop Loki’s sinister planetary takeover:

    The lesson to glean is that even Tony Stark, a playboy who seriously did not play well with others, knew when to yield. Sometimes teamwork makes something a hundred times better and turns a calculated failure into a life and business changing (even saving) event.

    When it comes to content, you don’t have to fly solo. In fact, the sooner you accept that you shouldn’t, the better. If you want the greatest copywriting on the Internet in action on your website, you’ll need to leverage a team of experts from marketers to copywriters.

    There’s no shame in yielding to a team approach. In all likelihood, it’ll be the smartest move you make. Team environments alleviate stress and spread responsibilities, thus supporting higher productivity and efficiency. The end product is greatness, even if you’re not a superhero!

    For the Sake of Great Copywriting, Take A Chance…

    …and try something new. If you haven’t seen the Iron Man movies, live a little and give them a watch. I guarantee you’ll walk away feeling inspired. And I promise, we’ll keep this moment of “geek out” between us!

    Image source: Collider.com


    If you use social media for business, you would benefit from goals, focus and consistency. It requires a thorough understanding of how social media work (and I would like to stress the word social here) and how to optimize your efforts on the various platforms like LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook.

    We all use social media. Privately, and most of you for business. However, there is a huge difference between these two.

    If you use social media for business, you would benefit from goals, focus and consistency. It requires a thorough understanding of how social media work (and I would like to stress the word social here) and how to optimize your efforts on the various platforms like LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook.

    You need to learn how to plan your activities and how to link them to your business goals. Besides that, you might need to learn new skills like writing inspiring blogs and catchy updates.

    That’s quite a lot isn’t it?

    This summer I was lucky to come across the book Switch, of Dan and Chip Heath. This book is all about change. While reading it I realised that in order to be successful on social media, you will need to understand how your mind works in a change process.

    Learning new social media skills and creating the habit of doing regular updates, interacting with people online and writing blog posts, all have the characteristics of a change process: it can be unsettling, time-consuming and often we give up at the first sign of a setback. At least that’s what I have experienced since I decided to make social media my core business.

    The New York Times bestseller Switch taught me some valuable lessons about change. Once you apply these lessons to your activities on social media, you might be better able to see the bigger picture of the changes you go through. It will help you in the process of incorporating social media in your day-to-day business activities.

    10 ways to make social media a joyful and effective business habit.

    1. Follow the bright spots. You might have people in your environment who have been using social media for business for a longer time than yourself. Ask what works for them, what they do and how they do it. How often do they post? What do they discuss in their blogs? How do they stay focussed? You can also look for the bright spots in yourself. What has worked for you on social media so far? How can you repeat your successes?
    2. Shrink the change. Once you decide to share your knowledge and expertise in blogs and updates, you might get overwhelmed by all the choices you have to make. Is it better to write a blog? Will video be more effective? On which platforms do you need to post and how to vary your updates and tweets?
      Set yourself small goals and develop a step-by-step plan. Instead of starting with two blogs a week, start with one blog every two weeks for the first half year and limit your time on social media to 15 or 30 minutes per day. This will enable you to take social media one step at a time and keep the overview you need.
    3. Be proud and celebrate your accomplishments. It is easy to get distracted on social media. You will come across people in your field of business who are ahead of you, which can be really demotivating sometimes. To keep the spirit high you can better look at what you have already accomplished. Maybe you have written a few blogs since you started, and you might have created your first newsletter. Well done! Be proud, celebrate your achievements and then move on.
    4. Set specific dates and times for your activities. A consistent presence is important on social media. It is better to publish a blog every two weeks, than four blogs in one week followed by four weeks of silence. Being consistent on social media is what most business people struggle with. Before the week starts, block time in your agenda to write your blog and to do your updates. Be as specific as possible, e.g. I will write my block this Wednesday after lunch time. Being specific will increase your chances of making things happen.
    5. Use checklists. Checklists give peace of mind and keep you focussed. Create a checklist for the promotion of your training programmes and events. And even if you start blogging, it helps to use a checklist to ensure you don’t overlook important aspects of the content, lay out and promotion of your blog.
    6. Find a buddy. It helps to have a friend, colleague or business partner who is going through the same process and who you can share experiences with. This will keep you motivated and you can encourage each other when you lack motivation or don’t see where you are heading to.
    7. Give yourself clear directions. This will help you to stay motivated. How many new followerswould you like to get this month on Twitter? How many new LinkedIn contacts would you like to give a call this week? How often will you write a blog?
    8. Change your mindset. I sometimes come across people who say that social media is not ‘their thing’. What happens if you would say to yourself: ‘as a professional business owner I embrace social media as it enables me to get in touch with relevant people. Via social media I can share my passion and expertise with my audience.’ Which type do you want to be? Who would you like to identify with?
    9. Find the feeling. Social media is about connections and interactions. Posting updates without interaction might easily make you feel disconnected. Chat with people via Twitter. Engage in a discussion on LinkedIn. Find the human touch.
    10. Accept your learning curve. As mentioned before, learning how to apply social media is all about change. Each change has a learning curve. It is tempting to expect direct results from your efforts on social media, as it is such a direct form of communication. Some people easily lose interest once the magic is not happening. I completely understand. However, give yourself time and accept that mistakes and frustrations are part of the process.

    How easy is it to for you to incorporate social media in your business? What do you struggle with?

    Facebook is trying out a satire tag to keep people from taking stories from sites such as The Onion at face value.
    I’ve written a number of posts over the summer about attempts being made to both understand and detect the way misinformation spreads through social networks.  Many of these attempts have focused upon identifying influential nodes in a network, and indeed understanding whether those nodes are real or not, as these nodes are key to the spread of information.

    It was interesting therefore to see a slightly different approach taken by Facebook recently with the announcement of their satire tag.  Facebook has become rather renowned for people taking stories from sites such as The Onion at face value and getting rather hot under the collar about whatever it is the site is spinning.  Hence the testing of a [satire] tag to allow users to mark up particular pieces of content accordingly.

    Now of course, you could say that is simply pandering to the daft amongst the Facebook population, and most people are well aware of what is satire and what isn’t, but it does raise an interesting question about how users themselves can help stop the spread of misinformation online.

    After all, I wrote recently about a new venture called Grasswire, which is hoping to enroll the crowd to help them verify news items.  The site, which focuses specifically on breaking news, allows users to vote on topics in a style similar to that found on sites such as Reddit. If users see something that is disputable, then they can both vote the content down whilst also posting a URL to a source that refutes that content.  A similar process, albeit in reverse, can also be used to confirm a particular story.

    Maybe that would be a slightly better use of the billion or so members Facebook apparently has.  After all, the Boston Globe recently complained about the way Facebook would allow the spread of misinformation via the related articles feature on the site.

    “If you are spreading false information, you have a serious problem on your hands. They shouldn’t be recommending stories until they have got it figured out,” said Emily Bell, director of Columbia Journalism School’s Tow Center for Digital Journalism, in an interview with the Boston Globe.

    At the moment however, it seems Facebook are not interested in offering such a service.  In response to the Boston Globe piece, they announced that they make no judgement about the accuracy of content shared in status updates, merely sharing what is popular.

    If the average Facebook user is being fooled enough by satirical content, however, then surely it warrants some mechanism whereby users can feed back into the algorithm dishonest or incorrect content too?

    satire / shutterstock