As he prepared to jump from his space capsule a couple of weeks back, Felix Buamgartner and his mission control ground crew ran down their checklists. Felix had his checklists pasted to the inside of his capsule.
Running through the checklists did not guarantee all would end well. Lady Chance would win in the end. Yet, why not stack the odds in your favour? Missed Felix’s jump? Watch a video clip, here ; a short montage, ticking of the final items on the checklist (including my favourite, “Item 29 – Release Seatbelt”), and the jump itself.
Jumping into a social media conflict
Now, in many ways, trying to manage a “social” conflict can be a bit like a space jump. There is no certainty how it will end up.
It may not quite be the life and death of a space jump, yet jumping into a social media conflict unprepared is folly.
It’s important to have a plan, to be prepared. Checklists are a practical way to support the implementation of your plan. Checklists can help you navigate the conflict. And, some kinds of checklists are better than others.
A good checklist is a quick and simple tool to shore up the skills of an expert. It:
- insures the stupid but critical stuff is handled
- allows for communication, accountability, and freedom to perform
- disperses power and responsibility; approval to act can be a step in the checklist
- can incorporate ‘pause’ points; e.g., for reflection and/or consultation (consulting with other personnel, departments…) prior to action
- is practical, precise, efficient, easy to use, and highlights the most important steps, without spelling everything out
- can be designed so each step executed before moving on to the next (as in Felix’s jump countdown) or all steps done before taking action (like a recipe)
It’s not just a matter of having just one checklist. Have many. Create them to address a range of issues; from a single negative comment to a full-blown crisis.
A bonus of using checklists, especially when they are precisely defined, is that they offer a great way to capture metrics about your business.
Invest in checklists
I routinely use checklists in mediation, as part of my conflict management practice; e.g., to ensure rigour and enforceability of mediation agreements.
If you’re dealing with social conflicts, you’d be wise, like Felix, to run down your checklist(s).
Want more reasons for using checklists? Read the Checklist Manifesto. Or touch base with us, here at SocialMedi8r. We have checklists that will help you navigate a social media crisis.
How are you investing in the power of checklists?
Upset by changes in your customer service policy, a long-time customer has turned to social media, to vent their frustrations. Not only is your business relationship with that customer in jeopardy, but your company’s reputation seems to be as well. What should you do?
Social media crisis has many similarities with hostage-taking crisis. We can learn from the best hostage negotiators.
Dealing with a social media conflict can feel like you’re being held hostage. There is an air of unpredictability, lack of civility, and irrational behaviour. In a real hostage-taking scenario, you’re also dealing with an action that is unlawful (though this may be true in a social media context, too). Whether you’re managing a social media crisis, or dealing with a crazed hostage-taker, how you negotiate is critical.
Harvard Law School’s Program on Negotiation has been a leader in the better negotiations conversation for decades. There still pumping out great work, such as their report on crisis communications in a hostage-taking context (hat tip to mediator Phyllis Pollack for the link). I think there’s lessons that can be applied by crisis managers, of all kinds.
3 Lessons for social media crisis managers
Here’s three things expert hostage negotiators focus on, and how their experience can be applied in managing a social media crisis:
1. Contain the situation.
Hostage negotiators refuse to engage until the situation has been contained. This means having police close off escape routes and minimizing hostage takers’ contact with third parties. Information from outside parties could undermine the chief negotiator’s message and power. The goal is to have person-person, negotiator-hostage taker, interactions to build trust and cooperation. Negotiators earn the hostage takers’ trust by being speaking honestly.
Lesson to apply: Sometimes more progress can be made when the conversation is taken offline… not unlike the mediator caucusing with each disputing party in private. Good crisis managers know when to have public vs. private conversations.
2. Expand the “emotional pie”
Hostage negotiators address the emotions at stake in a negotiation before tackling substantive issues. Most hostage takers are driven by their emotions or relationships. They may claim they want money, a plane ticket, etc., yet, those demands typically mask a greater underlying emotional concern, such as a desire for respect or attention.
Expert hostage negotiators know the “importance of listening carefully to the hostage taker’s demands with the goal of identifying his primary underlying problem or motivation”. (Lt. Jack Cambria, commanding officer of New York Police Department’s (NYPD) hostage-negotiation team).
Lesson to apply: Time spent exploring emotions behind the stated position is never time wasted.
3. Build a relationship
When an expert hostage negotiator says, “we’re in this together” to a hostage taker, he’s not paying lip service. The goal is to create a bond that will allow them to find solution to the crisis together. How to get the hostage taker to collaborate? Once again, active listening is key. “Talk to me” is the motto of NYPD’s negotiation team.
Lesson to apply: If a listening strategy works with desperate, threatening criminals it will likely work for you, too! Listening and relationship go hand-in-hand.
What’s your response to being held hostage?
How do you respond, when your brand and/or organization faces a public crisis? What’s your motto?
Photo credit: Solano County Sheriff’s Dept
As we figure out that we can get more good things done by working with others, I believe (who doesn’t?) we’ll put more of our apples in the cart of online communities. Why? A good chunk of our work relationships and networks are online. When our online communities succeed, we succeed. A good community manager can be the difference between success and failure.
Conflict management is part of the community management picture. We at SocialMedi8r specialize in managing conflict, online. We know, though, that conflict is contextual, and what’s going on in the community as a whole can feed into the conflict journey, in content, emotions, and future outcomes. A healthy overall community improves the resolution odds, when conflict or crisis management is on your agenda.
Social media is a mighty resource. Lately, I’ve been tracking Feverbee (@Feverbee). Founded by Rich Millington (@RichMillington), they are a consultancy specializing in online communities, and I’ve been impressed with their insights.
And, here is some good advice for online community managers, that I culled from the interview:
- sometimes what Community Managers (CMs) think are the biggest issues aren’t what holding them back from growing their community; e.g., is it internal conflicts that’s holding the community back or lack of vision?
- know the processes that can be applied to all communities; pattern recognition
- believe in, and measure, ROI; chunk it down to measure
- when starting your community, interview 50 key people in that community; peel the onion on their needs
- know how much of your community management time is reactive vs. proactice; proactive offers the long-term value… keep a diary and track your progress
- recognize the CM role changes over the life of the community; from facilitative, building relationships one-by-one, to larger group impacts, optimizing user experience, recruitment so can grow/scale…
- have a roadmap for your community; don’t just wing it
- attract the people you really want in your community; it will make buy-in / conversion easier
- CM’s are multi-taskers; ground zero for good CM’s is passion for the topic
- Build your community in small steps (change a little, for the better, every day)
- some communities aren’t suited to the online social milieu; have a checklist – is an online community the right thing for this organization ready? If yes, get commitment/signoff.
- to the young (and old!) CM: don’t get hung up on the social media platforms; focus more on people/relationships… start building your own communities
Thanks for sharing Rich M. Lots of success clues there! Rich M has a book on this subject coming out later this year. It’s on my “buy” list.
What success nugget would you add to the above list? Your turn to share, in this online community.
photo source: dannybrown.me
You don’t have to catch a child jumping from a third floor apartment building to be a hero in your community. In the online community world, there are other ways to be a hero when crisis arrives; be it your brand under attack, your angry “best” customer, a public conversation gone sideways…
Sue Shellenbarger, creator and writer of the Wall Street Journal’s “Work and Family” column, reports on the makings of a hero, like last month’s child catcher, 52 year-old Stephen St. Bernard:
- engages the crisis, takes charge
- responds sympathetically to others; is empathic, and has a strong sense of moral and social responsibility
- sees what’s possible; tends to be hopeful and positive, by nature
- is ready to act; keeping fear at bay; relying on coping skills
- “steps up” to the plate and takes action
4 “Hero” skills for the Online Community Manager
So when the “shit hits the fan”, will you stand up for your community. Will your moral and social responsibility kick in?
Here are 4 “hero” skills to work on, and that will increase your odds for success, when crisis arrives at your door:
- Be ready… have a crisis plan in place; get educated and trained… simulate interventions and your response to uncertainty; work on developing your empathy skills, and taking on others’ perspectives (it helps if you were raised by parents who had the same quality!)
- Frame events positively… reframe the crisis; see the potential, to take something bad and turn it into something good
- Take constructive action… be unconditionally constructive; do the best you can; let people know what’s going on, even if you don’t have all the answers; being AWOL as a community manager should not be an option
- Go with the flow… be adaptive to what’s facing you… as the situation evolves, monitor, listen… acknowledge your own fears, say “hello” to the unexpected, and move forward (hint: work on those coping skills)
Of course, you may think these hero skills are worth developing, whether you’re a community manager or not, and you’d of course be right.
The Hero Habit
Be a regular hero to your community. Blogging hero Liz Strauss (@lizstrauss) identifies 4 Essential Elements to Deliver Consistently Repeatable Success. I think being a hero qualifies as success.
Are you ready to find the hero in you?
Photo credit: seantoyer on Flickr
Go to Google Search and write a query about something at the heart of your business. What shows up on the Google results page? Is it fresh, relevant content that draws readers to your company’s field of expertise?
Today’s consumers want value content. They may not even care as much about the source of that content. They just want helpful information. You probably know a company who is doing just that; continuously providing you with helpful information. They have your attention. They are good brand managers.
Whether you are a private, not-for-profit, or public sector company, what’s stopping you from creating and sharing the great content that consumers, and your potential customers, crave?
Relationships built on value content
I respond less and less to the marketing hard sell. I bet the same goes for you, too.
I do respond, though, to individuals and businesses who continuously offer me content that is fresh and relevant to my world. And usually I’m looking for and finding that content online.
That’s why I follow people like Michael Sliwinski (@michaelnozbe). He not only delivers a popular project management application product, he also generates regular and engaging content, “how to” type videos on internet productivity, thereby building trust and brand.
The relationship between company and media
In a feature article about brand journalism in last weekend’s Globe and Mail, Ira Basen says “today’s consumer is looking for helpful information that will help them do something better in their jobs or live better lives, and corporations can provide that just as well as media companies.”
Why leave good content outside of your company’s control? Better to generate within. Give consumers value content. You don’t have to push it down their throats. Leave the pushy marketing stuff out. Pull them in to your brand; whether you’re a telecom, a community non-profit, a government agency, etc.
Joe Pulizzi (@juntajoe), founder of the Content Marketing Institute, believes every company should be its own publishing company, its’ own media company. Pulizzi and others have drafted a job description for a Chief Content Officer, to serve as a template for the executive tasked with managing the intersection between marketing, journalism and content.
Brand content management
Most of us handpick who we pay attention to. We choose. To what extent does the source of good content matter? For me, there has to be some match to my value set. Does it have to be a 100% match? No it doesn’t. And, for sure, that’s the sentiment of many (most?) young people, today.
The relevance of content source is a paradox. Being a mediator, I welcome paradox. On the one hand we may love how helpful the information is. On the other hand, we may feel less certain about the source of that content? Are their business objectives for sharing that content authentic? Certainly, transparency of intent counts. We are then more likely to accept those “engaging narratives” that show the brand in a good light.
Working with the yin yang of brand content management…
Taking ownership of content, making it regular, fresh, relevant and easily accessible, (all of which Google rewards) is a positive way to build relationships and your brand’s image.
How are you using content to attract people to your company, and what you and your brand stand for?
photo credit: pinksherbet on flickr
It’s summer, a.k.a. festival season, here in Victoria. Again this year, I volunteered at the Victoria International Jazzfest. As a volunteer, it’s a soft gig. I can check out the performing artists, and their “connection” style…. while doing my “work”.
For most artists, there is a strong desire to connect with their audience. The audience is their community, for a moment, or much longer. The performer feeds off the audience, and visa versa. There is a conversation going on.
There is so many ways to connect. There is no one right or wrong way.
Three of the performing artists that I saw at this year’s Jazzfest were Halie Loren, Balkan Beat Box, and George Benson. Each has one or more connection styles.
Halie Loren, is a singer and interpreter of popular songs, from the American Songbook and more. I loved her stage presence, the little things, the expressive use of hands, going over and standing by the piano player as he soloed, how she acknowledged the audience… all of it, above and beyond the music. It all led to a strong connection with the audience.
Second, Balkan Beat Box. This urban New York based band is all about getting the audience to dance; techno, gypsy, rock, swing… The connection was more direct… “clap your hands”, “let’s jump”… cajoling, encouraging, reminding, demanding. It worked. They knew their community and how to make the connection.
Third, George Benson, jazz guitar legend, and an amazing vocalist to boot… still! He was one of my heroes, in my jazz guitar study days. Mr. Benson does know how to connect on many different levels, and in many different contexts. Be it via an inclusive and humble patter with the audience, a soulful song or swinging like mad on an instrumental, he has the connecting gift. Here’s George and the late, great Count Basie (and his Band), cutting loose on a blues at a 1981 Carnegie Hall concert; octave chord solo the entire way…
(Video not displaying? click here)
If you are in a relationship, connection is a good thing, right? A performer is in a relationship with their audience. Often the audience may have heard the performer long before they hooked up, live. Sound familiar? This happens to me all the time on social media. And I bet with you, too. First we connect on social media, then we meet in person. The type of connections evolve. The relationship evolves.
So… how are you connecting with your audience?
I spent last week in New York City, visting family and taking a mini-holiday. I walked long distances. Everywhere I walked it seemed half the people whose paths I crossed never saw me. Their eyes were on their mobile device. Of course, this scenario is happening everywhere, not just in NYC.
As a conflict manager, it got me thinking though; about conflict, its’ source, and appropriate ways of addressing it. Today, and tomorrow, that source is more and more likely to be social media from a mobile device. It’ll be where conflict is initiated and it’ll be where we, as conflict managers, might best respond? The long tail of conflict prevention is calling us; the sooner we respond to conflict, the greater the benefit of our intervention.
The medium is the message
Marshall Mcluhan said “the medium is the message”, 50 years ago. Context trumps content. His insights around the electronic age are brilliant and still largely hold true. And he put forth his ideas with great mirth; e.g., in this 1967 Canadian Broadcasting System Q&A clip (on YouTube).
Given social media is the new medium of choice, what is the conflict manager to do? How can we better respond to conflict initiated from social media?
For the conflict manager
As a conflict manager, here’s 5 strategies you can use to become that social media conflict maestro… (the quotes are McLuhan’s words):
- Feel it: We sense the world through media. Social media plays more on our right brain. “Our right hemisphere has no bottom line, it’s only interested in quality”. If conflict is coming from those who are living and feeling it (social media), how well are you empathizing, with those you serve?
- Incorporate the tribe: Social media escalates “our move from ‘individual’ to ‘tribal’ man”. How can you incorporate the tribe into your practice? Modria has one approach. Learn everywhere.
- Open up to it. Social media is participatory by design. It shifts our expectations. We want to be more involved in the process. How can you make your conflict management process more participatory? Maybe your collaborative self is the answer?
- Use it to reframe the core. And speaking of process… “The old medium is the content of the new medium; the real roughing up and massaging is done by the new medium.” How are you peeling the social media conflict onion? How are you adapting to the new language, the core of how you deal/resolve conflict?
- Your point of view doesn’t matter. “You can’t have a (static) fixed position in the electronic age… it’s impossible.” Social media is “a field”. It’s not a “line” (e.g., hardcopy book). It’s all at once, not one at a time. This has big implications if your current conflict resolution style is highly directive.
It’s more than we think
Personally, I sense social media is part of a technological wave just reaching shore now. And when the zenith of that wave hits, it’ll not only change, big time, how we deal with conflict, it’ll change how we think about conflict, and our basic relationships to each other. Do you feel the same way?
The most important use social media is for managing customer relationships. That’s the word that came down in the recent study from MIT Sloan Management Review and Deloitte. Their 2012 Social Business Global Executive Study and Research Project surveyed almost 3,500 executives from 115 countries.
A series of questions were popped to the survey respondents, ranging from front-line supervisors to CEO types. Here’s the question that put customer relationships at the top of the list…
The larger companies surveyed tended to be technology-oriented, hence the term “social software” . Yet, substitute ‘social software’ with ‘social media’ and you get the message. Though the question had a shorter-term horizon in mind (two years), it matters, especially given technology is such an accelerant for change.
Relationships are the key to success
In my experience (similar to yours?) brokering conflict, relationships always seem to play a part. And more often than not, it’s a relationship turned sour that’s at the heart of the conflict. Content is not king.
Building on the study findings, here’s how I see organizations can move forward on the relationship front, and constructively engage conflict when it happens in social forums:
- Focus on collaborative relationships: Business sustainability is linked to long-term relationships. Understand and communicate the value of good collaborative relationships with your customers.
- Put social media to work as a relationship builder: Social media is changing the business landscape, and the dynamics of how you relate with your customers. You don’t need to sacrifice the organization to work with social media. Take it slow if you want. Just take it. “You may be overestimating the amount of effort it takes to start putting this (social media) trend to work for your organization today” (MIT professor Alex Pentland).
- Walk to your talk: “The biggest determinants, by far, of whether you will be successful at social business are leadership and culture.” (Charlene Li) Train, train, train. Support/train your employees, especially front-line workers, in their personal journeys to be customer-focused. Imagine how social media and customer conflict might impact your organization three years from now. Prepare yourself and your people accordingly. Good relationship habits take time to develop.
More items of interest
Though not a lot surprised me in the survey report, here’s a few points I think worth highlighting:
- Mid-size companies are in limbo when it comes to social media? “With social tools, small companies are demonstrating that they can appear larger than their actual size; large companies can appear less like corporate behemoths. Midsize companies see the advantages of social tools but, in general, do not see themselves exploiting these advantages for another few years.”
- Chief Information Officers (CIOs) can be terrified of social media. One reason is it is a data security nightmare. The previous generation of CIOs lived and died control. Social is the opposite.
- Social business helps avoid marketing myopia (customer demand has changed and the company isn’t picking up on the cues) in at least 2 ways: 1) use members of an online community to identify shifts in customer preferences and 2) sentiment analysis; e.g., analyze Twitter streams or activity in your online communities, and see the trend.
- “Before you might hear problems with the brand or product through a 1-800 number or complaints or warranty issues… now it is coming from the product development function or listening to what is happening online.”
- Build social relationships on a platform that they (community/employees) are already on and that they know and love; e.g., Facebook. Just go with the flow?
And you… what are you learning about customer relationships in your social business journeys? Please share your insights in the comments.
“Know thyself”. You’ve probably heard that old maxim a lot. Recently, that maxim comes to mind as I try navigate our digital world. Know thyself seems good advice. Spend time with yourself. Get connected to the inner you. That will be your rudder as you sail forward into this crazy sea of change brought on by the Internet.
Hang on though.
Who really lives alone now? We all seem to be connected through our digital devices. We seem to be living in networks. What does it mean to be “you”, when we’re wired together? Even when we’re alone, we’re together. For good or bad. Sherry Turkle did a TED talk, and wrote a book, about being “Alone Together”.
We used to equate growing up with the ability to function independently. When I was younger, I thought Marlboro Man was pretty cool. I tried to emulate him, even though I didn’t have a horse. I’m still recovering.
These days our always-on connection leads us to consider a more “collaborative self”.
Instead of understanding our feelings through time spent alone, we’re putting our feelings out there, on the web. We wait for responses. Then we incorporate those responses into our thoughts. We seem to be sharing our feelings with others, as part of discovering who we are.
First comes the feedback. Then we figure out what direction we want to go. Ready… fire… aim. It’s a strategy increasingly being applied in business. More and more, it also seems to be how we are leading our own personal lives.
People adapt in response to their changing world. Or else they die. That’s how evolution works. To survive, we have to be alert for what’s new and different in our surroundings. Then, we respond appropriately.
Today’s new includes the Internet and social media. The more time you spend online, the more you will adapt to those surroundings. And, “the more paths that connect you to others in your network, the more susceptible you are to what flows within it.” You can take that to the bank (or read more in “Connected”).
Is this collaborative self approach a good way forward? I’m guessing there would few young people with that question on their radar. For they live it. To be online, connected, and in a constant feedback loop with their network, is normal.
I’m all for integrating feeling, thought and action.
How are you bringing it all together, being true to yourself? Is it through the “know thyself” or the “collaborative self” approach?[wpsr_socialbts]
What if we could measure, give a number to, a conflict? Then we could say “it’s a 5 on the conflict scale” or “I think its dropped a couple points, now”. If being able to measure something helps us manage it, does the same not also apply to conflict?
It’s seductive, the ability to attach a number to something which seems to transcend numbers. It reminds me of all those times when I had to beg and plead for money, from some person in charge of the financial purse. And that individual would always ask for the “hard” numbers, to rationalize my request. Wouldn’t it be a thrill to give a hard, cool metric for my soft concept, conflict? Our social economy would never be the same.
Measuring what can’t be measured
Jen Ratio: Devised by Dacher Keltner, author of Born to Be Good, the Jen Ratio is a simple, mathematical way to measure the social well-being of any shared environment. The word Jen is from the ancient Chinese word for human kindness. The Jen Ratio compares the total positive interactions between strangers to the total negative interactions, in a given periods of time in a given place. The higher the ratio, the better the social well-being of the space and the happier you’re likely to feel after spending time in it. The lower the ration, the poorer the social well-being, and the unhappier you’ll be if you spend too much time there.
The Magic Relationship Ratio: Relationship expert John Gottman has discovered that with couples, sustaining their relationship requires a ratio of 5:1, 5 positive for each negative interaction. He has observed couples for over 30 years, at his apartment-style laboratory, the “love lab”, at the University of Washington. He found he could predict whether a marriage would last, or end in divorce, with 90% accuracy. (Note: Gottman observed 0.8:1 as indicator of marriage likely to fail).
In a social media context, many a pundit has offered up similar ratios; e.g., how about a 10:1 for Twitter usage, tweet/promote others 10 times for every time you promote yourself?
As a parent, I recall 3:1 as the magic ratio for praising vs. disciplining young children. Does this still apply?
Then, there is the Gross National Happiness Index.
You get the idea.
How is your conflict measuring up (or down)?
With intention, direct and indirect observations, social media, a never-forgetting Internet of data, tech tools and analytics… it seems to me it’s getting easier to put a number on conflict.
If you’re a mediator, how do you quantify the state of the dispute or conflict you’re involved with?
If you’re a community manager, how do you quantify the social well-being of your community?
If you’re working in a shared environment, of any sort, how do you quantify the health of that environment?
[photo credit: theilr on Flickr]