iab blog: Was #StormSWT the making of rail operator’s social customer care?

South West Trains used Twitter to keep its community well informed and even better engaged during the recent storm that hit the UK.

My post about how it all went down has gone live on the IAB blog.

SWT Signal Down #StormSWT

Image source: @SW_Trains

The tricky issue of influence

Influencer ranking tools have been a hot topic of conversation lately. Last week when Klout, the original influencer-ranking tool, changed its ranking algorithm there was a sharp backlash on social media. What emerged was that some individuals had been adapting their online behaviour to try and ‘game’ their Klout score, and now they were angry that the rules had changed. To us this seemed to be a lose-lose situation. For the individuals it showed a huge lack of authenticity, and for Klout it demonstrated how its data can be flawed.

With this in mind Headstream were pleased to be able to listen to Azeem Azhar (@azeem) the founder of Klout competitor, Peerindex, at yesterday’s #dellb2b event in London. He provided his take on just how good the current tools are, and how he thinks influencer rankings can be used.

Headstream’s view is that the current tools (the third competitor in this market is PeopleBrowsr’s Kred) are blunt instruments that should only form one small element when assessing influence. And this appeared to be shared amongst the gathering of social media, technology and business thinkers at #dellb2b.

When Azeem asked the room ‘Who believes influence can be measured in a single number?’ just one hand was raised amongst the sixty people or so present (@bejaminellis you know who you are!). The consensus was that there is a huge problem when applying a single influencer ranking for an individual when influence is such a subjective area. For example one person’s influencer could be another person’s non-entity, or an influencer in a certain subject in one geography could be irrelevant to those in another.

Azeem admitted that ‘There is no single accurate definition of influence at the moment’ but he believed that one could emerge over time, moulded by market forces. “There needs to be a standardized definition of influence. That will emerge from the to-ing and fro-ing of the market, and for that there needs to be competition.”

As luck would have it one of those competitors, Kred, in the shape of PeopleBrowsr’s Andrew Grill @andrewgrill, was in the audience. He agreed that the definitive influencer ranking doesn’t exist, and questioned if it ever would. Andrew said: “We have a really big responsibility. We are scoring humans, can that ever be definitive? I think it’s important that there are three or four companies out there doing this to give healthy competition.”

So is that the future? A ‘basket’ of different influencer rankings that gives an aggregated picture of how the individual scores in terms of online influence? That solution is probably little better than the single rankings.

From our practical experience in mapping influencers for clients the best solution is to use human analysis, rather than automated rankings. By using monitoring tools to gather data about a particular topic, then diving into that data and tracing relationships and information flows between individuals we establish if individuals have reach, relevance and respect around the brand (or issue) we are working with. These insights can then be used to create comprehensive profiles of each influencer, and to map the links between them.

Three elements of influence - reach, relevance, respect

We do use automated influencer ranking tools on occasion to double check named individuals. Most often though we use them to fuel some banter within the team along the lines of ‘my Klout is bigger than yours’ !

Hamleys feels the force of social

Will Hamleys back down in the face of the animal lover lobby, too? Less than two weeks after an online and social media campaign compelled John Lewis to change the end of a TV advert that had dog-lovers up in arms, now the same effect is hitting Hamleys.

The famous London toy store’s decision to feature live penguins and reindeer as part of it’s Christmas promotional push has created a passionate back lash on the company’s Facebook page. The nature of these protests means that the ‘anti’ Facebook page is the next step, accompanied by calls to boycott the store over Christmas. Some people feel that John Lewis caved in too quickly to the demands of the crowd, and Hamleys are resisting so far, while presenting their argument logically. The problem is that logic gets put behind emotion during these ‘social campaigns’, and the brand is challenged to match the force of emotion that the crowd displays. Raw emotion is one of the four new forces of ‘Social Nature’ that I’ve talked about before. The others are real-time, interaction, and community. For Hamleys this last one is now the most important. A community is being built around the protest against it, will a community mobilise to come to the brand’s defence? One ‘pro-Hamley’s’ Facebook page has been launched, but so far it has one follower. For the reputation team at Hamleys it’s time to decide where their priorities lie. Is the short-term sales promotion more important than long-term reputation?

I would advise a graceful climb-down, some cuddly penguins instead, and a Facebook competition to go and see real reindeers. Entrants must ‘check-in’ to the store first, of course. What do you think?

(Update 02 December)

Well it’s happened. Hamleys have decided to cancel the live penguins at the store. Looking at the positive reaction to this on the company’s Facebook page, confirms that they have taken the right call. An ‘anti’ Facebook group attracted over 350 ‘likes’ while the ‘pro’ penguins group attracted just 16. It’s time now for Hamleys to find the opportunity in this crisis, and use the exposure to now engage with the crowd that has gathered around its social storefront.


The New Brand Rules: Making friends at someone else’s party

Headstream’s Chris Buckley chaired a Brand Republic event yesterday that aimed to answer a big question; how to establish the new brand rules?

The problem, quickly acknowledged, is that there is no one set of rules when it comes to social.  Some brands can slip easily into social spaces and connect with customers who want to hear from them and others face big challenges.  There are however, some basic principles that all brands can apply to best navigate their way in a social world.

Chris shared Headstream’s take on the issue by outlining how brands can define their Social Fitness, ensuring companies move away from the old marketing approach of ‘test and learn‘ to a more agile ‘test, learn, fail and adapt’, but in a way that fits with their business objectives and the particular market in which they operate.  This approach will put brands in the best position to respond to a world in which the rules continue to be written and re-written.

A real world analogy Dell’s Kathleen Schneider introduced early on seemed to sum it all up; you wouldn’t turn up to someone else’s party and expect everyone to love you and listen to all you have to say.  In the same way, brands can’t intrude into communities online and start selling their wares.  This will see you firmly ejected and probably not invited back.

So what can the brand that wants to engage do?  Many Brand, Marketing and PR Managers are under pressure to ‘do something social’ right now, but it’s essential to first step back and define objectives for online engagement.  These objectives should spring from a clear business plan.

As Ash Choudhury from Nokia pointed out, organisations are going through a major cultural change right now, because ‘social begins from the inside’.  Later discussion with participants indicated how few brands have either in-house training or formal policies on social media use.

Another important consideration is defining KPIs early.  If your brand operates in the entertainment industry, your expectations will be dramatically different to those of a tightly regulated one such as pharmaceuticals.  As New Look’s James Davey pointed out, the fashion brand’s Facebook Group may have almost 740,000 ‘likes’, but that figure must measure against competitors and how the brand can engage with that group and ensure they stay loyal to New Look products.

Finally, once you’ve ventured out there as a brand, what do you do when crisis hits?  For many brands, this is the point when they discover how well they’ve done their groundwork. Headstream’s Julius Duncan led a couple of mini-workshops on the issue and representatives from Eurostar, Action for Children and TUI Travel all shared what they learned from their own brand crises.  Underpinning all of these stories were a few principles echoed throughout the day; brands need to be honest, they need to be agile enough to respond quickly, and they need to be consistent.

This is just a summary of the themes that came up, it would be interesting to hear what thoughts others took away.  Thanks to all of our speakers, participants, and the organizers, we had a great day.

Chris’ slides from yesterday are available here.

Want to make more money? Have a crisis

It was really fascinating to read today’s results news from Domino’s Pizza. The company is attributing a significant part of its uplift in online sales to social media activity, and innovations like its Foursquare loyalty scheme.

But those of us with slightly longer memories will recall that Domino’s was in the news for social media activity of a different sort in only April last year when two employees went rogue on YouTube. The company dealt with the crisis well, and showed  that it knew how to have its voice heard in the ensuing conversation. It’s clearly stepped up a gear since then, and is now seeing the benefits of proactive engagement with active social communities, not least to the bottom line.

Seems to me that it’s Dell Hell all over again. Get battered in social media, take remedial action, have your eyes opened to the power of the crowd, start earning the right to be part of the conversation and then see the benefits to our company’s performance. In Dell’s case at least $3 mln worth of value. 

So, dear CEO,  forget those expensive management consultants, to boost profitability enjoy a social reputation crisis instead.

Brands beware: the social media backlash

Monitoring, listening and engaging with social media is a hot topic for brands with their ongoing quest to get closer to customers, build trusted relationships and extend their customer lifecycle.

From our experience of monitoring and listening on behalf of brands we understand it is not only the wealth of conversation taking place about individual brands within social media, especially on certain platforms; but the need for organisations to place more importance on customer service and online reputation management.
In short organisations looking to be more successful need to become customer centric and take into account the social consumer – pretty obvious.

Today we received latest the research conducted by Harris Interactive and commissioned by Tealeaf that looks at the social customer and the powerful effect they have on a brand’s reputation. More specifically how customers respond to their experiences of online transactions. Do check out the slide deck and if you require further information visit http://www.tealeaf.com/harris-uk

The research was carried out amongst UK consumers who had participated in online transactions and those who had experienced online problems with transactions.

The findings for those who closely follow the social media world and indeed marketing in general are not ground breaking, but they further re-affirm the importance of digital marketing, social media marketing, online reputation management with regard to consumer purchasing decisions. I have extracted some of the key findings from the research below:

• When customers experience problems attempting to conduct an online transaction, 78% share their experience with others.
Furthermore 46% of those customers would then abandon a transaction entirely or switch to a competitor.
I am certain that you have witnessed many a tweet complaining about airline ticket bookings which is why in the UK profiles such as @easyjetCare exist to respond to customer issues. I do not need to mention @comcastcares or @zappos

• 51% state that social media has influenced their online transactions.
This finding further supports research from DEI Worldwide in 2008 that we an an agency have referenced within client presentations particularly for the consumer electronic and game verticals placing importance on search and social media.

• 74% said when they read a negative comment online, it influences their likelihood to do business with the company.
Would love to know what the sales figures were like around the @HabitatUK backlash which scattered across all social media. Out of curiosity it would be great to see if the figures underpin the above findings and understand brand perception through the Net Promoter Score (NPS).

• 52% used a particular website after reading good reviews.
Encouraging result that supports the need for brands to identify key influencers and form trusted relationships with them.

In summary the underlying message from the research is to monitor, react and respond. This focuses on listening to the conversation within social media, reacting to the conversation in the appropriate way through a considered response.

Going back to basics it makes perfect sense to actually sort out the website sales funnel and indentify where in the transaction the problem are occurring, usability testing would not go a miss.
This is also an opportunity to engage your community and get them to play their part in helping to contribute to research and development of new platforms. Without covering old ground Dell IdeaStorm exists for this very reason.

Essentially the research places the importance on digital reputation management for brands and looking toward a customer centric business model – cue the social business and more importantly the implementation of social CRM.