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Ok, I had to share this. I tweeted a couple of times over the last week referring to this story, but wanted to go into more depth here.

Twitter is a great tool for people and businesses; I think that everyone will agree with that. It is also a great tool for local businesses, if used effectively, and I wanted to share this story with you.

Early last week I was traveling to Calgary, Canada from Boston via Dallas,( please don’t ask, it’s a long story). While in flight from Dallas to Calgary American Airlines offered Gogo in-flight wireless internet service so I decided to pay the $10 to have it for the 3+ hour flight. For those of you that have not traveled with internet access on your flight, I compare it to JetBlue and having TV at your seat, yes, it is that good and I don’t know how I could have ever lived without either, anyway…..

On my way North, while traveling over Yellowstone I sent the following tweets:

What was really cool was that within a half hour, the account @Morningglorycof replied to my tweet:

I replied with “ I wish that they delivered” with a smile and then that was that, or so I thought.

Or Friday, I ran across this tweet:

It was really nice of them to do this, as I have never met this person and we had only exchanged a handful of tweets. I also decided to follow them back just in case I was ever in Montana. But the story does not end there.

On Friday we had friends that were going to Canobie Lake Park  up here in Salem NH. It is basically 6 Flags (www.sixflags.com), but on a much smaller scale (maybe 10% of 6 Flags). Anyway, we let our kids go during the day with our friends and met then at 5:30. Upon arrival at Canobie, I checked in on FourSquare and posted it to my Twitter account. Within a few minutes I received this tweet:

Is that a small world or what? Talk about chance encounters. I am sure that they also had a flood of memories outside of the one that they posted.

So with this post I wanted to bring about your Twitter stories. What are the “chance encounters” that you have heard of or actually been a part of? Please share.

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Follow me

This seems to be a pretty important step in making sure that you can weed through the noise in the space. Some people follow too many people too quickly and become overwhelmed, while others take it slow and easy their way into Twitter, which I highly recommend.

Let me tell you what I do, and see if it is also what you do.

I seem to pick up a couple of followers. I go into Twitter’s website, rather than use Tweetdeck for this, and see who has most recently followed me. There are a few things that I key on when I click on their profile to see who they are:

Where are they located?

While being able to located current and accurate information concerning my profession on Twitter, as well as with former colleagues, I also like to keep up with people who live in my area, so I tend to follow them as well

What does their Bio say?

No bio, no follow, it is pretty cut and dry. If you can’t give me additional information about yourself, then how and why do you expect me to follow you? Come on, seriously?

How many followers do they have?

I am not talking about focusing on the numbers. If someone follows me, I tend to take a look at who they are pretty quick, within 24 hours I would say, unless it is the weekend. I tend to look at the box of avatars. There are 36 avatars within that area. If I am located within that area, odds are that you are not a spammer and are not just trying to friend anyone and everyone.

Maybe the last one is just me, but I feel that if you are following 36 people within a 24 hour period then you are just trying to get friends and not really caring who they are?

Too harsh? Thoughts? What do you look at?

On May 11th, Bill Simmons (@sportsguy33), Boston Sports writer and ESPN page 2 ‘The Sports Guys World creator, created a new Twitter account, @celticschants. The account was set up for sports fans (mostly Boston Celtics fans or anyone that was against Cleveland) to discuss potential chants for when players were fouled and stepping up to the free throw line. If you have watched basketball before, you know how fans can be with chants, and waving things. And as much as I hate to give credit to Duke, their fans are the most obnoxious.

Last night, while I was watching TV, I heard the chant of “New York Knicks” when Labron James stepped to the free throw line. Each and every time. It was loud. Even the announcers were talking about it. Now he did not miss all of his free-throws, and he did have a triple-double, he did go 9-12 from the line, missing 3 attempts. Being a .742 career shooter from the free-throw line, he was right on par. But who is to say that he would have missed those if the fans were not chanting?

Anyway, I like that this “grass-roots” idea came about, was promoted and discussed and took flight. It really goes to show how Social Media can be taken off-line. What are your thoughts? Did you watch the game, or have you seen this type of execution recently?

In the current state of the economy, it is no longer about simply reaching out to your audience and hoping that they purchase your product – keeping your fingers crossed that they will become a “fan” of you. It is now about creating, building and extending relationships with your audience. Whether they are direct consumers, partners or employees – it does not make a difference. Your company is at the center of all of these relationships. Businesses need to understand the importance of these relationships and how the “little things” can make a big difference.

Note: I am married and have always been told that it is the little things that make a big difference, and I am also still trying to grasp this concept

Case-in-point – FourSquare

from the nydailynews.com

If you are not familiar with FourSquare, it is a location-based application for your phone where you can “log-in” to places that you visit. You can “friend” other people and you can also gain badges for certain activities – visiting and logging in to 5 different Starbucks for example will get you a Starbucks badge – but more on that later. You can also become what they call the “Mayor” of these locations, meaning that you have visited that specific area and have logged in more than anyone else. There is definitely a gaming component to FourSquare as you can try to gather as many badges as possible, and take the Mayor-ship from others who you may, or may not, know – which makes it a lot of fun.

Now there are other things to think about when leveraging Foursquare, including who you friend and where you post your status updates, but that is not what this post is about, it is about how a Business can create, build and extend the relationships with its audience and embrace new ways to communicate.

When I got into work today, I opened Twitter up to see what was going on. After about 10 minutes, I saw this post from a former colleague, good friend, and Social Media (I hate to say this but insert a descriptive here – guru, all-star, rock-star, evangelist……) Aaron Strout (@aaronstrout ):

local @Starbucks celebrated wife, @MelanieStrout’s @FourSquare mayorship w/ this sign & free gift bag. Nice! http://tweetphoto.com/17496680

FourSquare Mayorship

Welcome to Starbucks Mayor Melanie

Now can you imagine walking into your local Starbucks, and seeing that sign? Also, it was one thing for them to create the sign and to have their employees sign the banner, but it was another thing to put together a Gift Bag for her – likely related to her favorite drink, like one of those insulated plastic cups that they have (just a guess here).

I think that they key thing to think about is that this type of public recognition does not have to take part on a platform or technology like FourSquare – but it does need to happen in some way, shape or form to your customers, partners and employees in order to survive in this ever changing evolution of Social engagement. This is also another way to take online interactions and take them off-line, in the real world.

By the way, added benefits of their gesture – a Twitter post that easily reached tens of thousands of people instantly, and also encouraged this blog post.

Starbucks is a great example of a business that is embracing Social Media, between their FourSquare presence/partnership and the My Starbucks Idea that they have launched and continue to monitor, they are building their relationships and creating customers for life.

Have you seen other examples of this, and if you have, how has it changed your perception?

When we talk to our clients about Social Media, we talk a lot about creating, building and growing relationships for the long haul. While you definitely need to retain your current audience (whether it is your partners, customers or employees, it does not matter), you also need to figure out how to engage with a new audience, or those who may not be aware of who you are and what you do and acquire new individuals. This is not specific in the B2B or B2C world; it is about business in general. When I was at eBay, we went by the rule of the 3 A’s – Acquisition, Activation and Activity. This is a good framework to think about when you are thinking about Social Media. How do you plan to acquire a new audience, activate them and get them involved, while at the same time engaging with your current audience? How busy is your website? Are you doing the right SEO steps to place higher on the result pages? Are you engaging with your audience and putting a personality behind the brand? Are you providing a compelling and interactive experience once your audience visits your site? Does your audience on your website know that you have a Twitter or Facebook account and vice-versa? How are you communicating on these platforms and broadcasting messages to them? I came across the following graphic a few months ago, and modified it slightly to update it with current Social platforms:

* original viewed on www.socialmediavision.com/social-media/

Now when we describe Social media and how it relates to your website, we envision this concept of the wheel. Your website is at the center of it all. You control the content of your site and the organization of that content – now granted user generated content (UGC) you may not control, but you do have the right to enforce policies so that you can remove specific pieces of content if they violate those policies.

You can leverage SEO techniques in order to get your ranking higher on the search results pages for the larger search engines (I realize that YouTube is one of the largest search engines, but I place them in the Social aspect for this purpose).

You can also leverage these external Social Networks in order to create brand awareness and drive an audience back to your website – after all, is that really not the reason to have a presence on an external network – to drive people back to your website and increase your brand awareness? As I mentioned on a follow up blog post from my webinar a few months ago, leveraging these external networks are only 1 aspect of a Social strategy, you should not put all of your eggs in 1 basket.

Once you are able to drive people back to your website, what are they looking for, and how can you provide them with a pervasive web experience (I also borrowed that term from @rustyw who I believe coined the phrase).

Whether it is Blogs, reviews, ratings, forums, profiles, testimonials… you could go on and on with the different ways to provide your audience with a great interactive experience on your website. But the key is finding the right way to do it.

*cross-posted on Ektron.com and eBizq.net

The title of this post is the same as the title for the Editors note in this February’s Inc. – The Magazine for Growing Companies – magazine. I found it to be a very interesting Editors note, and wanted to highlight the closing point from Jane Berentson:

“Maybe we should replace “the customer is always right” with a saying that is more appropriate for the times that we live in: Customers and companies should do right by each other.”

The paragraph before that is actually better:

…customers, too, have a responsibility to make a commercial transaction easy and pleasant, and if something goes awry, they should make their feelings known in a way that’s considerate – and considered. It’s always been possible to complain about a sloppy salesperson or a slow waiter or aggravating help lines, but the Internet makes it possible to criticize in a public forum, which increases the string of that criticism exponentially. The web shouldn’t be a tool for cleverness or cruelty at the expense of someone else. Care should be taken.”

Now I understand that in some cases, emotions get the best of us, but time and time again I have also recognized the way that some of our expectations have become unreasonable. I briefly talked about this in a prior blog post, “Have we become spoiled”, but after reading this Editors note, and observing some recent incidents on Twitter and elsewhere, I wanted to revisit the concept.

Take this potential scenario from Twitter:

Customer – I just had the worst experience with Brand X

Brand X – We are sorry to hear that, please email us (help@brand_x.com) and tell us your story.

Customer – I just sent an email to Brand X and received an automatic email saying that they will get back to me in 7-10 days #fail

Customer – So much for Brand X addressing my situation, can’t believe that I have to wait #fail

Is that really a #fail? As a customer, you were able to vocalize your opinion to your network of people. Brand Y actually did engage with you and sent you down a communication path to inform them of your experience.

Somewhere along the road though, you are not satisfied with that. Is it because you have 10,000 followers and believe that you should be treated differently? What about everyone else whose email are waiting in that queue, why do you all of a sudden feel that your complaint should be put above everyone else’s?

If you do right by them, odds are they will do right by you!

Has Social Media spoiled us? It is a corporations responsibility to reply to every mention on Twitter or every video complaint on You Tube? I am torn with these questions and am curious how others feel.

I understand that corporations should be interacting in some way/shape/form online. Some are building their own communities and others are creating a strategy so diverse that they are on Twitter, Facebook, You Tube and other Social sites in order to reach their audiences. Some are also conducting focus groups and including their feedback within internal processes. I say good for them. Great for them! They may have the manpower and bandwidth in order to execute such a robust strategy. But what about those that do not? Are we to discredit a company because they do not reply to us on Twitter? What if I post a question on Twitter (my choice) rather than go through their support forms? Maybe I am doing it on purpose because I know that I will get an answer quicker. Is that fair to the other members with questions in the Support queue, since they will have to wait longer while the company re-assigns resources? What if they do not have a Twitter process, am I to assume that they do not care?

Don’t get me wrong, I am a Social Media guy through and through, but I do not expect corporations to bend over to my individual needs, based on my choices. If a company has a webform, then I would expect that they have a process in place to reply and track the form with their support tools. They track the issues and make any necessary changes based upon sheer numbers. If I circumvent the system, how can they track my issue and make any necessary changes to their processes to resolve the situation? We work through processes on a daily basis, some work and some do not. For the ones that work, why should they change for ME (I may be the only one that thinks they need changing)? Should I assume that they do not care because they are not on Twitter?

Don’t forget about what they say about the word A-S-S-U-M-E.

I realize that there are situations where Twitter can be the first line of defense for a company, and there are benefits of participation and interaction. But we should not condemn those that are not, or expect those to interact because that is where “I” am.

The truth of the matter is that we should work directly with those companies to help them understand their deficiency. Write to them, let them know what they are missing, rather than condemn them initially saying that they do not care (and tweeting that to your 1,000 friends). By condemning, you are in fact prolonging their acceptance of Twitter as a communication channel and are scaring them away. Not what you were trying to do is it?

Think before you Tweet 😉

Thoughts?

Mike

I have posted many updates on twitter over the last year or so (over 1,000). Some updates include my travels, some updates include different places that I go to eat, while others are focused around Social Media questions – all of the posts have a different focus and require a different interaction from others. I had heard businesses wonder about Twitter, and what effect it may have on them, and while some “get it”, others can not make the connection. I wanted to highlight 2 different ways that Twitter’s platform can have a positive effect on your brand.

Brand Awareness
The other day, I posted that I was going to the Boston Celtics basketball game. Within 10 minutes or so, I was followed by The Bulfinch Hotel

.

Now I did not post that I needed a place to stay in the city, or that I was looking of a restaurant to eat at, I just posted the Boston Celtics, and the hotel decided to follow me. Now my curiosity got to me, so I looked at their profile and went to their website. I learned a lot about where the hotel is and what their costs are. In the future, when I go into the city and need a place to stay, I will probably give them the benefit of the doubt and stay with them based on their eagerness and aggressiveness of following me on Twitter. By setting up a simple search on Twitter for “Boston” The Bulfinch Hotel is able to see everyone that posts that within their tweet. They can then take the initiative to follow those people if they feel the need, and their scalable, cost-effective Social media campaign is launched.

Customer Support
Last year New England had a “wicked” ice storm that paralyzed the area for many days, and weeks in some cases. We initially lost power on a Thursday afternoon as I remember. During the first couple of days, I did not call our electric company PSNH

too much (after the initial report), as I was sure that they were on it, and that they would restore power as soon as they could. When I got to work on Monday, I began reading about the storm through local websites and news outlets. Within the articles that I read, the electric company promoted the fact that PSNH was on Twitter and if you wanted to report outages, or stay up-to-date with updates concerning when power was going to be restored to your area, to follow them. I followed them immediately and again reported the outage in my area. I was then contacted by a representative of the company on twitter letting me know that they were aware of the outage and that it would still be a couple of days for them to resolve my specific situation. I was in contact with their twitter account over the 7 days that the power was out for. Because of this, I did not call their support lines, or have to listen to dreaded on hold music while waiting for a support person to not tell me anything that I did not already know.

Now I do not have a huge reach within the “blog-space” and do not have thousands and thousands of readers. I may not be able to have any effect on their bottom line, but these 2 companies understand the importance of communicating with their audience 1 person at a time, which, when it comes down to it, is just what it takes to make a difference.

I remember when I was a kid, at the end of every GI Joe episode, they ran a nice little segment that taught kids many different lessons, and then the characters would say, “…and knowing is half the Battle”. Now how am I going to relate this to Social Media you say, well here goes…….

knowing-is-half-the-battle

I love Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and other Social Media/Networking applications and platforms because it helps me learn a lot. Within Facebook it is great to see what my friends are up to, living all across the World; Twitter allows for the immediate gratification fix; for LinkedIn, it is crazy to see where people are moving within their professional careers, and potential business/job opportunities that can spawn out of those contacts/networks…you get the picture.

Now, I am rather new within Ektron, and I do not know anyone here. My 1st order of business was to check out the Intranet. Now the intranet has the typical information that you may find on other sites, announcements, events, documentation, you get the picture. Low-and-behold though, Ektron is eating their own dogfood (or drinking their own champagne) within the Social Media/Networking aspects of online communities, as we should be. Immediately I was able to review profiles of all of the employees – think of Facebook (photo’s, Updates, Twitter feeds….) – but for the organization.

At first I was very selfish in thinking how great this was, I could get up to speed rather quickly – getting to know who else on staff liked the same TV shows or local dining establishments in the area. I was very focused on the personal aspects of my new landscape and not thinking about how this could be beneficial within my “job”.

The Ektron intranet:

  • offered me a comfort level that I have not felt when I was hired by any other company
  • provided me insight as to the projects that were happening, and their status
  • immediately informed me as to when documents were being changed, and allowed me insight into what those changes were, and who made them
  • let me know who was on vacation, where they were going/when they were coming back
  • provided me the tools that I am used to using in my personal life, in a professional manner

Think about the last time that you had to print out a employee contact list because it was too hard to find; not know that someone was on vacation because they forgot to put their OOO on within outlook and go weeks before you got an answer; sent an email with a document that had been updated but not had “track revisions” on it; there are many other situations that can be described here.

Here is the question:

How important to you is it to keep up to date with someone that you have not seen in the last 10 years, and become part of their Mafia vs. Awareness within the decisions and on-goings that happen on a daily basis within your professional career and being able to affect the results?  

From now on, I will do BOTH (except for the Mafia part). 

Have you had a similar experience or wish that you had? As always, thanks for reading

Now I am choosing the NBA because I have heard that they are planning to ban players from tweeting during their games, but this could be associated with any sport.

Does anyone really have an issue with this? Do you think that it is really acceptable for professional athletes to take time out of their day to tweet that they just saw “____” (movie star) in the stands and wishes to be introduced to them? Or that they took a “Hard foul” from  player x and is planning to make formal introductions to them in the 2nd half? Can these updates not wait until the game is over, and they are in their locker room, either celebrating a win and drowning in a loss.

As usual, there is a time and place for everything. Yes, players are make millions of dollars playing a “sport” and providing entertainment for those that are willing to spend hours and/or hundreds of $’s to attend a game, I understand that. But is it really acceptable to you, as a fan, to receive a tweet from one of your favorite players during a game, when they should be focused on the game and beating their opponent.

Shaq

Shaq

Thoughts? Am I off here, or do you think that they take time before and after the games, and wait in-between to post anything?

Mike

Employment

I am currently employed at Bose as the Digital Platform Manager, leveraging Ratings & Reviews and Community content to increase customer acquisition and retention

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