Sunday, 26 April 2009

Customer relations plus PR

Spending a fair amount of time on twitter [probably too much] I couldn't help noticing that there is a lot of ranting going on. People are complaining about rubbish customer service and companies are responding via twitter. Which is a good thing - companies responding, I mean.
This is logical as answering a customer query or complaint on twitter shows publicly that you are 'customer focused' to thousands of people, who have connections to thousands of others. Perhaps, more importantly for many organisations it helps prevent any customer service issue escalating via social media.
This attention to customer service on twitter is great, but it did get me thinking: who's responsibility is it to talk with customers via twitter? PR? Customer relations?
Traditionally, customer service would be handled by the customer relations department - who's front line is often call centres. This approach tended to be based on manufacturing principles that looked cost per call, or cost per resolution. The principle being what is the minimum cost to answer the maximum number of calls?
Whereas twitter accounts tend to be managed by PR and communications people. Traditionally, PR is all about building relationships with people in order to provide information that is useful to them.
Should a twitter account with a customer service type aim be managed by a combination of both PR and customer relations? This would be an interesting combo.
It may be stating the obvious that PR people would need to learn some of skills of customer relations professionals and vica versa. There could be an argument to train all customer service staff as company spokespeople. After all, anything they say over the phone can be immediately quoted on a blog or in twitter. Just look at Amazon and the gay literature story - lots of people were up in arms because someone at Amazon's help desk said Amazon had removed books because they were deemed offensive [it later turned out to be a system glitch.]

I think that PR and customer relations professionals should start swapping notes, as their roles are blurring. I reckon that it won't be long before they are working side by side.

Tuesday, 21 April 2009

Condom pockets in jeans

Nifty little idea by King Apparel - putting a condom pocket on the inside of their jeans. Its even references the 'Want Respect' campaign on the pocket. I think the idea is that when the jeans come off in the heat of the moment, there is a gentle reminder for safe sex.

Wednesday, 15 April 2009

Twazzup twitter search tool

Trying out a new [to me] search tool for twitter called Twazzup. [Thanks to SEO Charlie for the find]. As well as the highly amusing name, it is really useful.
It tabs the most popular words associated with your search term across the top. Hovering over them brings up all the tweets for the search time and the word. Which is very handy. For example on the one I did for Peugeot you can tabs like styling and capsule. It's also got a nice function that shows the most influential tweeters - although I'm not sure how the influence is calculated [I think it's on number of followers]. Plus, it's got a standard tab which shows all the tweets saying something is wow or awesome.

I really like the interface too. It's very neat and easy to use.

I reckon this is going to come in very handy for doing quick snapshots of twitter conversations and getting a feel of the influential twitters on the subject.

Monday, 13 April 2009

Facebook recommends Brand Profiles

I noticed last week that Facebook has started recommending Brand Profiles [formerly known as Pages] in your "People You May Know" section.
This could be great for Brands on Facebook in terms of getting their Profile in front of people who could be interested in what they have to say. However, it depends on Facebook getting the recommendations right and putting relevant Profiles in front of people. For example, in mine I got the Profile of Cathay Pacific. This is of no interest to me really and I'm not sure how Facebook worked out that I would be interested in Cathay Pacific. My initial thoughts are it is based on the Profiles my friends have Fanned, in the same way Facebook recommends friends of people I am Friends with.
I reckon with a bit of tweaking by Facebook this could be a really powerful way for Brands to engage with people who are likely to be interested in what the brand is doing. It all depends on ensuring the recommendations are relevant to the person. I'm hoping that Facebook, with access to everyone's personal data on Facebook, will be able to improve the algorithm so that it's recommending cool stuff I'd be interested in - such as real size Easter Egg Cream Eggs and mountain biking.

Wednesday, 8 April 2009

Twitter huge growth

Impressive growth reported by Comscore on the stupendous rise in popularity of twitter to 10M users worldwide. See full post here.

The thing that I thought was cool/interesting was that it wasn't young people driving the growth - the age group most likely to use twitter is the 45-54 year old segment. Comscore reckons that this is down to people used to the internet getting older - which I don't buy as 50 year olds didn't grow up with the internet - and that twitter is used by businesses, which I kinda buy.

In my twitter experience [no, I'm not going to say 'twexperience'], the majority of people use it for business reasons, but I don't see twitter being dominated by businesses. It is used by people to connect and talk with other like minded people, build their own personal brand or/and promote their expertise. Plus, the conversations tend to be business related. [Although this could be just what I see in my own twitter circle]. It's not just loads of business putting out a constant stream of special offers, corporate news etc.

So, I reckon the reason for the older skew is down to the fact it is used for business related conversations and not to connect with friends and family - although sometimes that is the case.

Sunday, 5 April 2009

Bloggers to be held liable for claims

An interesting story in the FT about a new ruling from the FTC in the US about how bloggers, Facebook members and other users of social media will be held liable for any claims they make about products. Companies behind the products would also be held liable for any untruths posted by a blogger.
The full story is here.
I'm in two minds about this as I'm generally against any legislation that discourages people from sharing their thoughts and experiences - online or offline. However, I'm not a massive fan of brands paying people to say nice things about their products, unless the person really believes what they are saying i.e. it is their true opinion.

So, on the one hand, this could be a good thing as it may deter bloggers and brands entering into 'sponsored conversations' i.e. pay-per-post. If you post about how great a product is because you've been paid to and it turns out the product is rubbish, then you get busted. Which you could argue is fair enough, if you have misled people and it is not your true opinion.
On the other hand, if you've tried a product and you think it's fab and you say so in your post. Then someone else tries it and they have a crap experience, so they sue you. That doesn't seem right to me. And it's likely to deter people from sharing thoughts and opinions.
I guess it all comes down to the small print of the legislation and how it is enforced - both of which I know little about at this stage.
I guess a couple of questions leap to mind:
1. How will it apply to word of mouth ambassador campaigns? Can you sue someone who says 'try this, it's great' and gives you a coupon for your local supermarket?
2. How will it affect product review sites? If I give a hotel top marks on Trip Advisor then someone else stays and has a shit time, do I get sued? if so, what will happen to Trip Advisor. Or eBay for that matter?

Ultimately though, how can you sue someone for sharing their opinion? Essentially that is what a blogger is doing. It just happens to be online.

Oh, and if anyone read the mini review of the North Face Mountain Parka on my blog last year, I wasn't paid to do it and I stand by what I said - it's a fab coat and constantly keeps me warm and dry.

Thursday, 2 April 2009

Samepoint: social media search

A nice little tool called Samepoint allows you to search for what they call 'social mentions'. The blurb about it says it uses some unique technology - I haven't found out what it is yet - but it seems to work pretty well. It searches all major platforms inc blogger, wordpress, twitter, Facebook etc.

It's got a Technorati feel to it as it brings up a few lines from the resulting post. Plus it includes positive and negative words, so you get a feel for the sentiment towards the brand.