It’s a Scary (Social Media) World Out There! Part 4: What Social Media Knows About You (For Businesses)

Just as consumers have to be wary about their social media ventures, businesses also have to take precautions.  Employees must be informed about the company policy (what? you don’t have a company policy? well, that’s step one!) and companies have to be strict in this area.  It’s easy for employees to make mistakes without realizing it, so here are our tips for making sure you have social media rules beforehand so you can prevent some security slips.

1.  Make sure employees are always informed – Many times, the source of social media mistakes is poorly informed (or not informed at all) employees.  Write out an actual set of rules concerning social media, and make it a part of employee orientation.  Also give out friendly reminders during the year, and encourage employees to ask questions about what they can post – better safe, than sorry!

2.  Don’t let your employees get too excited – It’s great that your company has a new, secret product that will change the world, but don’t let your employees be the ones to make the announcement.  In order to keep company activities a secret (especially from competitors), make sure there is a rule concerning social media quotes about products that have yet to be revealed.  It also may be better that this company information isn’t revealed to all employees – only to those who are directly related to the project should be informed.

3.  Never mix personal with professional – It’s so easy for people to post pictures or write comments that can ruin their reputation and their company’s reputation instantly.  Posts that can negatively affect the company or an employee’s future employer should be left for private use.

4.  Beware of hackers – Social media has made hacking even easier, as many users don’t utilize privacy controls, and display the hacker’s dream (their name, location, phone number, birthday.)  Business sensitive information can be tapped into if the security to those accounts/computers is loose.  Use an encrypted file storage for all important files, and encourage your users to change passwords and to be wary of sites that seem suspicious or too good to be true.

However, we aren’t saying social media is taboo at work – a study by Robert Half Technologies showed that 70 percent of employees who are allowed access social media at work are more productive those who don’t have access.  Businesses shouldn’t completely prohibit employees from accessing social media, but there should be a clear set of policies.

[Photo: Courtesy of Phillip Martin]

It’s a Scary (Social Media) World Out There! Part 3: What Social Media Knows About You (For Customers)

Social Media can  be a double edged sword, in terms of privacy.  On one end, there have been numerous accounts of crime that originates from what a victim posts on their Facebook Timeline or what they Tweet – it can be as innocent as telling everyone that you’re going on vacation for a week, which could result in home burglary.  But on the other end, your information could help businesses get the goods that you’re asking for, and they can better understand today’s trends.  But first of all, let’s back up and see what kind of information people put (intentionally or unintentionally) on their social media accounts, and how their data is used by others.

Have you ever realized that the ads in the corner on your Facebook page feature that new shirt you’ve been dying to get?  It’s not a coincidence – the sites you visit gather information about you.  What type of information?  Basically everything a stranger in turn would need to know to approach you.  The basics -what’s your name, occupation, where you live, phone, email- as well as which ads you click, what time and days are you on certain sites, what your search queries are.  Yep, that’s a lot of information that was given and can be found with little effort.

That’s why privacy has been such an issue with social media.  This is especially true with younger generations using social media, as cyber-bullying and online conversations have exploded onto the scene with the internet.  Parents no longer worry about stranger danger as much as they worry about their children talking to strangers online (which is so easy, since privacy controls aren’t being used.)  Our private lives are becoming much less private nowadays, and it’s partially our fault.

As a customer, you want to protect yourself as much as you can to avoid situations like home burglary.  Most Facebook users don’t make use of the privacy controls – if your posts aren’t private, don’t count on Uncle Tim as the only one who will see the picture of the new car you got.  Being careful about what you post and where you post, and your privacy settings, is an easy way for consumers to withhold information on their end.

What do you think?  Should social media security be tighter?


Customer Engagement

Being on social media isn’t hard, but being on social media is (haha, confusing? read on, my friend.)  Just having Facebook and Twitter and other outlets isn’t enough – your brand has to be actively seeking to enter into conversations with your customers every day. It’s important to not only answer feedback in a timely manner, but to also be the one asking for feedback. When a company asks customers for their opinions, it’s telling consumers that the business cares and wants to improve. Engaging with customers is one of the major steps that companies who are succeeding in social media use.

You be first

Don’t wait for others to ask or post.  Make the initial move to start the conversation with your followers.  Create a post that’s interesting but that also deals with a problem.  Do research before you post so you can be well informed about your audience and their needs, your market conditions, your competitors, and your own product.  Once you’ve done your research, your content will look more appealing and up to date with what consumers want.

You be second

After you’ve scoped out the landscape and placed yourself in various situations, you have to realize that consumers will take advantage of social media to tell you how you’re doing.  Bottom line: social media makes it easier for people to complain.  So you should take the chance to use social media to address those complaints.  Responding slowly or not responding at all can be a major turn-off for consumers.  Take the time to answer your followers’ questions, and even looking up answers or asking co-workers if you’re stumped by the question.  Also, customers hate it most when they get the run-around.  Just answer their question!  No need to give them a generic, automated answer, because that’s also a huge turn-off.  If you don’t know the answer, admit it (it’s okay to make mistakes) but again, go above and beyond to help the customer find the answer.

Customer Service Tips

Today's blog post is all about customer service.  Some consumers might ask "Customer service? What's that?"  In this day and age, it seems like more consumers are complaining about the lack of customer service, and the decline of employee friendliness.  They're constantly fed up because they have to deal with rude employees, which results in loss of customers for that company.  One of World Technology Network's columnists pretty much sums up customer service in a nutshell, "Great customer service died a slow death during the past twenty years.  It died due to neglect, greed, selfishness, and rude behavior."

So how can you avoid this epidemic and be that company that customers keep returning to?  Here are 6 tips that will boost customer loyalty:

1.  It all starts in the hiring process - Your company's customer service will only be as good as the people providing it.  If you're recruiting, failing to notice that your hiree isn't personable and friendly can cost you.  It's important to train your employees to be nice and understanding (this seems like a no-brainer, but if it was, why is customer service so bad nowadays?)  and to teach them how to handle different scenarios.  It's actually a chain of events that can become a disastrous snow-ball effect if not implemented from the top: in order for customers to be treated well, employees must be treated well, so their managers and bosses must treat employees well.  A cutthroat boss or team manager is the easiest way for employees to hate their job and take out their anger on the customers.

2.  Know your customers - Get to know your customers on a personal level.  People like it when others remember their problems or what's going on in their lives.  If you're a large company, get to know your "VIP customers."  This may sound like you're playing favorites, but it's important that you are up to date with your most frequent customers.  Even if you don't have the time to remember all your customers, refresh yourself before you see them (if your company has appointments and such) or have an information database that you can easily pull up when talking to the customer.

3.  Know yourself (and make sure your customers know you too)- Make sure your company is streamlined- everyone has to be on the same wagon and know all the company policies.  Customers don't like to see inconsistencies with their brands; once your company's employees are well informed on rules and what they can and cannot do, relay this information to customers.  Giving customers information will make them more knowledgeable when they make their buying decisions.

4.  Encourage feedback - There's no easier way to see what customers think than to ask them directly.  Create polls on your Facebook page and website, and even have an incentive for replies.  Encourage customers to give you not only positive reviews, but negative feedback - you should always be looking for ways to improve.

5.  Don't just listen - Now that you've gotten all this feedback, respond to it.  Customers like to see that their suggestions are being implemented.  You have to engage with your audience in order to communicate effectively with them.  Not only can you be there for customers by making yourself searchable on social networks and the internet, but replying quickly and directly shows the customer that you care.

6.  Don't sell the product - Sell your company's mission statement.  Let's say I'm a panini sandwich business.  I'm not going to try to convince everyone that a panini will make them happier during lunchtime, but that I vow to give you the best tasting panini ever since I believe lunchtime should be happytime.  Sounds kind of funny, but when you aim at giving your customers what you vowed you would give instead of just shoving your product down their throats, they'll be more likely to come back.  And don't be afraid to admit you're wrong or that you don't know the answer.  State that you don't know and then turn around and fix the problem or find the solution.  Never lie and try to make your product or company something it's not.

What other customer service tips does your company give to your employees.  We want to know!

[photo courtesy: Flickr user: passiveagressivenotes]

Social Media and Dining

Social media has made some major changes to the dining experience.  Going to a restaurant doesn’t just entail eating the food and telling your waitress that the service was good and the food was delicious – casual eaters include social media into every aspect of the dining experience that they can.  They’re blogging/posting/tweeting/instagramming before, during, and after the whole ordeal.  The process is actually really simple – if you’re a restaurant scratching your head about all this social media mumbo jumbo, here’s a quick break down of how people dine nowadays:

Before – Remember the days when we had to rely on food connoisseurs to tell us if a restaurant was worth taking a trip to (if you can’t even remember those days, think of Anton Ego from Disney’s Ratatouille).  Well, the days of flipping through our favorite newspaper for our favorite food critic’s column have passed!  Instead of getting opinions from those with a well know foodie reputation (and those with really developed taste buds), the average consumer flips through Yelp reviews written by other average consumers.  Consumers can also see if how many likes their restaurant in question have gotten on Facebook (it’s really simple math – the more likes, the better the restaurant must be) or look for restaurant hashtags.  It’s restaurants made for the people, reviewed by the people.

During – Don’t give your customers a weird look if they’re taking pictures of their food (and themselves) in between bites.  Pictures make the experience memorable (whether it’s bad or good memories is up to your cooks and servers.)  They’re not only spreading your restaurant name by telling their friends about their experience, but they’re potentially helping people they don’t know make the decision to come to your diner.  Being able to snap pictures and tweet and post during dinner also increases the number of mentions your restaurant gets.  Forgetful customers don’t have to worry about remembering how their experience went the next day – internet and social media is in real-time.

After – People still meditate on their dining experience, but not like how a food critic thoughtfully processes his experience (again, think of Anton Ego’s deep meditation scene near the end of Ratatouille).  There are A LOT of blogs out there dedicated to food, restaurants, and dining.  Food bloggers give others a detailed post about their restaurant experience and encourage others to try it out (and of course, if their experience was good, they’ll come back too!)