When Brands Fail At Social

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You’re in the Customer Service office of a major brand. Next to you is an elaborate phone system that allows you to send, receive and manage hundreds, even thousands of call a day. That phone rings, you answer it, right? I mean, isn’t that the point of the phone? Sure, you may be putting out calls all day, but, surely when that phone rings, you answer it.

Think of Social Media as that phone. If somebody calls you (ie. Tweets, Messages, etc.) you need to make sure that someone, anyone, is there to answer it. Otherwise, you defeat the purpose of SOCIAL Media. Sadly, this is still a very common fail with brands, both big and small. The big ones are often too big to notice you and the small ones maybe just don’t get it, or don’t “have time” to engage. Either way, your customer is trying to get a hold of you and you are not there to answer. Who loses in that scenario? Hint: it isn’t the customer. You can easily make muchfollowers over any social media platform by using an appropriate hashtag related to your propduct or the one that is trending to reach high number of people.

When Yelp Didn’t.

This month (May 2014), I had the chance to attend one of my favourite Social Media conferences, Social Media Camp in Victoria, BC, Canada. Great speakers and conversation, with a heavy emphasis, this year, on the SOCIAL of Social Media. Without going into all the details (you can watch the video, here), I got a tattoo of the Social Media Camp logo. One of the things that I did with this rather outrageous bit of ink, was to use it as a Social Media marketing experiment. I went around to a couple of the conference sponsors, picked up their branded stickers, slapped one in the middle of my new tat and then tweeted a picture of it, out to the world.

A new hotel in Victoria (Hotel Zed) was all over it. They favourited the tweet for future use and reference. They retweeted the picture. They replied to the Tweet. Several of the employees at the booth did the same from their personal accounts. I even got a DM from the hotel owner, thanking me for this fun piece of marketing.

After the hotel, I went over to the big boy in the Sponsors area; Yelp. I took one of their stickers that said “People Love Me on Yelp”, stuck it in the middle of the tat and tweeted it away. What followed next surprised me.

Nothing. Nada. Zip, Zilch, Zero. A full 24-hours later, a charity organization shared the tweet and, eventually, Yelp Canada shared that, but, by that time, the conversation had moved on to other companies and subjects. The window of reply, in this world of ADD instant gratification, was gone.

Now I suppose the case could be made that a company, like Yelp (and Yelp Canada) gets mentioned in thousands of tweets a day, around the world and how are they supposed to see, let alone react, to a tweet from some guy with a tattoo in Canada. Well, considering that there was a person there, at their table, giving away their promotional material and posting away about everything that was happening at the conference…..well, that case has no weight.

Hello? Are You There?

Yelp is not alone in this failure to communicate, either. Earlier this year I was in a Twitter conversation with the author of Twitter for Skeptics, Don Power, as he was chatting with a car dealership owner who was looking for a holiday getaway in a nearby resort community. Don used the twitter handles of a couple of resort hotels in the area, but none of them entered the convo. I added a few that I knew and still nothing. Finally, someone in the resort community got engaged in the conversation, trying to save the Social Media rep of these resorts and the community. The Mayor! Heck, another resort chain (who didn’t have a property in the resort community, but knew an opportunity to when they saw it) jumped in and suggested some of their locations! Finally, after nearly 2 days of conversations, a smaller resort in the community jumped in and made contact with the car dealer. Result? Not only did he take his wife on a get away weekend, but he is using the same resort for an upcoming company retreat. What can you say? Those who are at the table, get to eat from it.

It’s Not A One Way Street

Social Media is easily one of the greatest communications tools in the world, today. It has done everything from helping support people in need, to stirring the masses to revolution. Yet, even though there is ample evidence of Social Media’s power and reach in conversation, many businesses and brands still use it as a one-way, marketing only, tool. They are using it like a phone without an earpiece, or email that only sends but does not receive.

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