• 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!
  • Robert Cialdini’s six principles of influence work together to connect intention and action and are vital to the success of any marketing activity. However, in digital and social marketing, the focus tends to rely on just two elements – social proof and liking. It’s partly why we often feel marketers and brands are “yelling” at us online. There is a simple antidote to this: be the first to give.

    In the digital world we are fascinated by influence. We want to know who has influence and we want to know who is influenced by whom. We strive for influence in our personal and professional lives and we reject the overt nature of influence that impacts us through advertising and messaging (even though it still affects us).

    Robert Cialdini’s book on Influence is a must-read for marketers. His six principles of influence work together to connect intention and action and are vital to the success of any marketing activity. However, in digital and social marketing, the focus tends to rely on just two elements – social proof and liking. It’s partly why we often feel marketers and brands are “yelling” at us online. There is a simple antidote to this:

    Be the first to give.

    In this infographic from Everreach, summarising the six principles, they call out that proactive use of reciprocity as a “weapon of influence”. Working this way creates a faster and more immediate bond between brands and their customers. More importantly, it sets the scene for the remaining elements. So, next time – before you ask someone to buy, think about what it is that you can give.


    Handling customer complaints, for most of us, is a scary prospect. And yet it provides an opportunity to build customer loyalty through how we and our team handle the complaint. In fact, stronger relationships may result, for both our staff and our business, from handling these challenging situations in a gracious and customer-oriented way.

    "Statistics suggest that when customers complain, business owners and managers ought to get excited about it. The complaining customer represents a huge opportunity for more business."

    - Zig Ziglar

    Early in my career I discovered the truth in Zig Ziglar's quote, that handling customer complaints was actually a huge opportunity and not something to fear.

    Handling customer complaints, for most of us, is a scary prospect. And yet by listening attentively and respectfully to the customer, and by doing our best to resolve the situation, the result can actually be a stronger relationship with the customer. In fact, stronger relationship both for the individual handling the complaint and for the organization they represent.

    That said, early in my career I didn't understand this and so it didn't stop me from feeling panicky whenever a customer complained. Largely because I didn't recognize the impact effectively handling a complaint had on customer loyalty.

    It took me many years to finally see that most of the complaints I handled resulted in a stronger relationship with the customer. Why?  Because my behaviour showed the customer that I, and the organization they were dealing with, cared about them and their problem. Our actions demonstrated that we wanted to resolve the complaint to their satisfaction. This built trust and loyalty with the customer.

    In the short-term this meant that:

    • On occasion, we had to own a problem that wasn't really our fault - without saying so to the customer. (While the customer may not always be right, the customer is pretty much always right.)
    • The complaint may have cost us something to remedy - but far less than bad word-of-mouth advertising might have if we hadn't resolved it promptly, satisfactorily and respectfully.

    In the long-term this meant that:

    • Our customers felt like we cared (and we did). We listened carefully, acknowledged the problem and remedied the situation as best we could.
    • Our customers stayed with us and often became loyal brand advocates - they didn't expect us to be perfect, they did expect us to own up to problems and fix them.

    Handling customer complaints is not rocket science. It's really a matter of putting ourselves in our clients' position. How would we want our complaint handled? How would we want to be listened to, spoken to and dealt with?

    If we're looking to build a profitable business with a loyal base of customers, giving service that goes above and beyond the average is key. And, it often results in clients becoming brand ambassadors who fan the flames of great word-of-mouth advertising as a bonus.

    When a customer complains it is an opportunity to strengthen our relationship with the client. They are looking for resolution to their problem and in the process we have the chance to handle it in a way that strengthens both our relationship and our brand with the client.

    When clients feel:

    • heard and understood (we've listened as they tell us about the problem/experience)
    • important and respected (our body language, our words and the tone of our voice says we care)

    ... they are also more likely to be calm and rational about the problem as opposed to emotional and reactionary.

    In my experience, most customers don't like to complain or create a fuss when they experience a problem with a product or service. They just want the issue resolved. But actually confronting the person/business about the problem is uncomfortable for them.

    Handling complaints in a positive way is often pleasantly surprising to customers - a surprise they often share with their friends. Of course the reverse is true too. Except that when you handle a complaint poorly your customer is likely to tell even more people - and this kind of w0rd-of-mouth advertising most of us can do without.

    This article has been updated from the original written in 2012.

    In the age of relationship-based marketing, being able to make the distinction between personality and persona may well make all the difference between success and failure. In our eighth #SMTPowerTalk Hangout On Air, we covered the issues associated with just that.
    We all work in the relationship economy. People connect with people rather than businesses or brands. Do personas still work in social media marketing? Do they work in marketing, even? To discuss all this with me in the eighth #SMTPowerTalk were none other than Lee Smallwood, of semantic analytics company NOD3x.com, and Ammon Johns, CEO of Ammon Johns & Co. 
    Last time they got together, it was for the sixth SMTPowerTalk. We discussed the ROI of social media marketing and talked about the transition of return on investment to return on involvement
    This time, the talk revolved around authenticity, acting, the social media stage and how difficult it is to sound trustworthy in a social media setting: the challenge of appearing not to sell when all you want to do is to sell. Lee and Ammon are so in tune on these subjects that it is hard to believe that they have never met, or discussed the issues beforehand. Yet, before each #SMTPowerTalk show the only discussion that takes place behind the scenes is a notification on the topic and a few instructions on the technicalities of the HOA environment (which in this case were superfluous). This makes the conversation unrehearsed, authentic and free-flowing. In the flow of ideas come insights - the sort of insights, as a matter of fact, you’d find yourself paying thousands of dollars for if you’d hired a consultant. The fact that these HOAs are free is a testament to Social Media Today's commitment to furthering the online conversation by examining the paradigms that are changing and the new practices that happen behind them. 
    Dive into the video and enjoy. 

    Subscribe to the Social Media Today YouTube Channel (if you haven't already) here, and join us at Google+ so you do not miss any future updates. SMT Power Talks are held on the second Wednesday of every month.


    Corporate management tips and how to best apply them feature big this September at this year's Social Shake-Up Conference in Atlanta. Join us for two days packed with insights, experts, panels, networking and more. Space is limited so register today!

    In the last six weeks of summer, there has been a lot of depressing news. The Malaysian Airline tragedy in the Ukraine, the Ebola virus outbreak, the conflict on the borders of Israel/Palestine, Iraq/ISIS, Ferguson, and the sad passing of Robin Williams. So maybe it is not too surprising that something that makes us feel good while doing good and is a little silly, like the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, went wild on the social networks.

    In the last six weeks of summer, you could turn on any TV news channel, NPR, or read news articles online, and there was depressing news. The Malaysian Airline tragedy in the Ukraine, the Ebola virus outbreak, the conflict on the borders of Israel/Palestine, Iraq/ISIS,  Ferguson, and the sad passing of Robin Williams. These are all very serious and sad world events. So, maybe it is not too surprising that something that makes us feel good while doing good and is a little silly, like the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, went wild on the social networks. (That’s the response I gave during NPR Morning Edition when asked why it was catching on.)

    The challenge involves dumping a bucket of ice water on one’s head or donating to the ALS Association, with a social media component. Participants film a video of themselves dumping the water on their heads or donating, and tagging other people in their network to do the same. This was not a campaign started by the ALS Association, but young people who wanted to support the cause. Soon celebrities and main stream media joined in the fun as it continues to sweep the nation. Technology rock stars have also joined the bandwagon, including Bill Gates, Robert Scoble, and Mark Zuckerberg (who was challenged to do this by Chris Christy, Governor of NJ).

    I’ve written about the rise of Philanthrokids, those young people otherwise known as Generation Z, who are online social network savvy and can easily use their smartphones to raise money or awareness for a cause. I’ve seen colleagues take the challenge with their children, like my colleagues Lisa Colton and Marc Pitman, both of whom have a family member who suffered from ALS.

    It sounds counterintuitive to ask people to donate $100 to ALS or make this goofy video and share on social.  But according to news reports, it has increased awareness and dollars raised  for ALS research. The association reports $15.6 million in donations since July 29, compared with $1.8 million in the same period last year, including 300,000 new donors. There were over a million videos created, according to various reports.

    Even my favorite charity and philanthropy cynic, my colleague Tom Watson who writes a regular column for Forbes Magazine, gave the Ice Bucket Challenge a big thumbs up in his recent column, pointing out all the reasons why it was a success beyond the dollars raised. One reason is that wacky and goofy fundraisers work.  Another reason is the social proofing element, where friends tag their friends on social network. Social proof is peer pressure in a positive way, the positive influence created when people find out others are doing something – now, suddenly, everyone else wants to do that something too.

    Like everything on the Internet, there was a backlash and criticism. It’s publicity stunt philanthropy. It's encouraging slacktivism, not a long-term relationship between the donor and the charity.  It won’t make a difference to those with ALS. And all about social media narcissism — a selfie on steroids and ego philanthropy. Some suggest it is a just fad and is not really expanding charitable giving:

    That would be all right if new donations to ALS added to the total of charitable giving. But the evidence is to the contrary. The concern  of philanthropy experts is that high-profile fundraising campaigns like this end up cannibalizing other donations–those inclined to donate $100 to charity this summer, or this year, will judge that they’ve met their social obligations by spending the money on ALS. (See this piece by MacAskill for an explanation.)

    The explosive spread of the ice bucket challenge could even end up hurting ALS fundraising in the long term. The challenge is a fad, and fads by their nature burn out–the brighter they glow, the sooner they disappear.

    The hard work of philanthropy always lies in creating a sustainable donor base. But the ice bucket challenge has all the hallmarks of something that will be regarded in 2015 as last year’s thing.

    In a discussion with colleagues, I think Nancy White had the right idea. She was challenged and honored her friends request, but since wasn’t a fan of video self-promotion, she created a cartoon and also bent the challenge rules. She also donated $100 to ALS, but also sent a donation to Doctors Without Borders because right now there are many West African countries who are so short of medical providers given The Ebola Crisis.  She challenged her friends to donate to ALS and to match their donation to another cause saying, “Let’s spread good intentions, but wisely.”

    Another alternative is the #noicebucket challenge:  Don’t dump cold water on your head; donate to ALS or other charity; and encourage your friends to do the same. Inspired by Nancy, I’m foregoing the video and the water (we’re in a drought in California) and donating to charity:water, in honor of founder Scott Harrison’s son, Jackson, to welcome him into the world.

    While the amazing success of the Ice Bucket Challenge isn’t going to be something that every nonprofit will be able to replicate, the ALS challenge will be how they can retain all these new donors. For other professionals who work at nonprofits who may be asked by their board to cook up viral social media fundraiser, the challenge will be to extract the lessons learned and apply to social media infused fundraising campaigns and be ready to launch during the next negative news cycle.

    Robin Williams photo: Wikipedia Creative Commons

    A question for you: why has the McDonald’s corporation been able to sustain dominance in the restaurant world for so many decades on end? Is it because they serve the best food? The answer to that should be an obvious “Not even close”. You would be hard-pressed to find anyone who would choose a McDonald’s burger over any other burger given the side-by-side choice.

    A question for you: why has the McDonald's corporation been able to sustain dominance in the restaurant world for so many decades on end? Is it because they serve the best food? The answer to that should be an obvious "Not even close". You would be hard-pressed to find anyone who would choose a McDonald's burger over many other burgers, given the side-by-side choice. Even other fast-food restaurants like Hardees would handily beat them out, especially in a blind taste test.

    Yet there is no doubt that Mickey D's is the undisputed king of burger sales, so how do they do it? There are two answers. First, they basically invented franchising and have opened more outlets through that method than any other restaurant in history. Second, and perhaps more importantly, they gear their advertising towards the younger generation. Not every restaurant can franchise out or put a new location every few blocks globally, but when it comes to reaching out to the young crowd the door is open and waiting for you to walk through.

    Food + Social Media + Millennials = $$$

    The Millennial generation spends around $250 billion per year at restaurants, which is a pie that you want a piece of. They rely on word-of-mouth suggestions for local eats, and they use review sites like Yelp when they are in an unfamiliar town. As of last year, they check in at restaurants with Instagram even more than they do with Foursquare, and they love to post pictures of their meals. Over 30% check the menus from their smartphones before they go. And the biggie: over two-thirds of them take social media conversations about a restaurant into consideration when they are deciding where to eat.

    Add to this formula the fact that Millennials eat in large groups more than any other demographic group, and the point becomes pretty obvious: restaurants need to be doing social media well. Why the emphasis on Millennials? If it isn't obvious, they're going to be around a lot longer than Gen X or the Boomers, and they are quickly becoming the primary spending power in the world. It's time to find out how to slice a bigger piece of the pie from them.

    Tell a Story

    Engaging with your followers and fans is obviously a given, but there are certain aspects of engagement that make a difference much more than others. For example, today's consumers want more than just a product list and a coupon (not that these should be ignored). They react much better to an overarching story and to involvement beyond the walls of your restaurant. The most notable and obvious example of this over the last decade has been Starbucks.

    More recently, the meteoric rise of Chipotle shows us how this strategy works. Chipotle is committed to "food with integrity", using organic, sustainable, and local ingredients whenever possible and practical. This has resonated with the younger, more socially conscious generation. Beyond just a slogan or even a practice, Chipotle actively promotes this theme using social media. Their Facebook page displays calendar events when they will go to visit farmer's markets to buy ingredients. They also promote and sponsor the Cultivate Festival, a traveling outdoor event for food, music, and ideas, and post pictures of the events on their page.

    They also post their food pictures (and others) on Pinterest, the fastest growing and second largest social network today. Every restaurant should have a Pinterest account where they at the very least showcase their menu items. The New York restaurant Comodo encourages their patrons to post pictures of their dishes on Instagram before they eat it, creating a customer-based visual menu that is full of recommendations by default. This also would let you keep a pulse of what should be kept or removed from the menu.

    Proactively Engage

    Eateries like Pinkberry frozen yogurt and Nando's chicken are masters of the response, even if the other party wasn't expecting one. They daily and actively respond not only to direct tweets and comments, they also monitor social media for restaurants  through keywords and brand mentions looking for opportunities to respond. Proactive responses are viewed as authentic engagement rather than obligatory service, and it's that kind of interaction that creates brand loyalty.

    Perks and Promotions

    The last several years of a poor global economy have ingrained a sense of thriftiness into people, particularly into Millennials. They gravitate towards discounts and offers. Sunda, an Asian restaurant in Chicago, offers weekly special as well through their social media accounts. They also offer loyalty discounts such as a free appetizer after three Foursquare check-ins, as well as surprise flash promotions like a discount for the first ten check-ins at lunch on a given day. Over 40% of Millennials say that coupons and discounts are important when deciding where they will eat.

    Online Customer Service

    Customers expect you to have online customer service through social media. It's just become the norm. When I had an issue with my smartphone several months ago, I took to the customer service Twitter account for my carrier. Although the issue wasn't resolved that way, I had a response and a back-and-forth conversation that helped greatly within a couple of hours. Every business should adopt this strategy.

    Your restaurant (and every business, imho) should have a dedicated Twitter account for customer service. It is the quickest and easiest way to handle most issues, and it will create loyalty and satisfaction more often than it will problems. Significantly, 83% of social customers will abandon a purchase or a business due to poor customer service. If you can ignore a statistic that high, you might as well give up now.