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?
I think this book is going to help your business so I want to give one of you a copy (details at the bottom). I didn’t pay for it, it came in my mailbox and I want you to experience the same joy!
A Conflict Perspective on the Impact Equation
I just finished reading Chris Brogan and Julien Smith’s new book the Impact Equation that comes out this Thursday (October 25, 2012). All I can say is: Wow. This book will help improve your community, pump up your message, and get people reading it. It will show you how to transfer that passion and make it contagious (If you can’t tell, I enjoyed it!).
Here’s where it all starts;
Impact = C x (R + E + A + T + E)
This book unpacks these 6 (CREATE) attributes to help you begin to understand and implement these attributes into the community. They are Contrast, React, Exposure, Articulation, Trust, Echo. While Chris and Julien likely could have written an entire book on each of these 6 attributes, they did a pretty solid job of explaining each one.
So What’s the Conflict Perspective?
I don’t think Chris and Julien fully realize this, but this book really speaks to the preventative measures you should be thinking about when faced with a crisis or conflict in the online space. Particularly in the Articulation, Trust, and Echo sections of the equation. Sure they talk a little about critics, using the audience’s vocabulary, and having a comment policy for your agency’s networks and blogs which are great reactive strategies and things to think about, however, from a preventative measure they are giving some tools to brands to use in a time of building a community but also to diffuse and handle conflict online.
Community = Support
As Chris and Julien express in the Impact Equation, communities are awesome. You can have lots of fun, great conversations, help people become better all in community. You can also receive feedback, accountability and support from communities, both in the good times and the bad. If you build a strong community they are going to be there in the good and the bad. If you are a company that is self-aware, introspective and has a pulse on your community, this is going to help you when you make a mistake or offend someone. The support you’ll receive from that community will blow your mind, so long as you’ve treated your community right and own your part of the crisis.
Take the recent KitchenAid mis-tweet for example, if they had not focussed on building a strong community, owning their mistake, and showing transparency it could have been a lot worse! Instead they had folks, from their community, talking about it being an honest mistake and that the companies strong brand would overcome this.
The Impact Equation is on sale starting October 25th and we want to send one of you a copy of the Impact Equation. So, all you have to do to get a copy of the book is answer ONE of these three questions and we’ll randomly pick a winner!
1. What does community mean to you?
2. How are you creating community online?
3. What kind of impact do you want to create?
We’ll pick a winner on October 31 at noon!
Update: Congrats to Trina for being randomly selected to win the book! I know you’re going to enjoy it as much as I did! (For this draw we used Random.org)
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
How many times have you reached into your fridge, grabbed the lunch meat, tried to remember when you bought it, suspiciously check the expiration date, carefully looked it over to make sure there were no spots on it and smelled it to make sure it was not emitting some funky odour before slapping it on that delicious sandwich you were making? I’ll bet you the answer is lots!
Food has a best before date and apparently anything that has a shelf life of under 90 days is required to have one. The best before date is another way of saying, durable life date. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency describes it as:
- “Durable life” means the anticipated amount of time that an unopened food product, when stored under appropriate conditions, will retain its
- nutritional value, or
- any other qualities claimed by the manufacturer.
- A “best-before” date, also known as a “durable life date”, tells you when this durable life period ends.
- This information is usually found on the label with the words “best before” and “meilleur avant.”
- “Best before” dates do not guarantee product safety. However, they do give you information about the freshness and potential shelf-life of the unopened foods you are buying.
Does your brand have a “best before date” for the conflict it’s dealing with online?
Potential conflict situations also have a best before date. It’s that moment when a customer or client has a complaint, when you think your sending a tweet from your personal account but it goes out over the company’s account, when you over-promise and under-deliver and many much more. It’s that moment before the “geekalance” explodes and a full blown crisis hits. It’s the calm before the storm and it’s full of opportunities for your brand.
I’ve said this before, and it couldn’t be more true; Conflict on its own is neither negative nor positive, but how we deal with it will determine its outcome. Your brand’s best before date is full of opportunity for you to manage how you respond, act and serve the issue at-hand.
Best Before Dates Do Not Guarantee Product Safety
I love that the Canadian Food Inspection Agency highlights this in their definition of a best before date. Simply responding to a complaint on Twitter or Facebook does not guarantee you not getting slammed, especially if you’re going to give them a standard response that shows no personality or a ‘press-release’ response. That could actually make matters worse. The best before date for brands actually has a lot to do with timing, the information that you are posting or the questions that are being asked of you, gathering information on the complainant, understanding their intent, what they are actually looking for, and looking at the urgency of the situation.
When thinking about your brand’s best before date for any conflict, here are some things that will help you assess what actions need to take place next;
1. Do you understand the situation? – Make sure you know what your commenter’s actual issue is. Put on that listening hat and if you need more clarification ask questions or look into the situation.
2. Is this venting or legitimate? – Again, put on that listening hat and make sure that you understand the difference between a person leaving comments who is merely blowing off some steam to a person who has a legitimate concern, comment or question.
3. Have the answers – Don’t know the answer to a question? Go and ask someone! If it’s going to take a little while to grab that answer for a person, make sure you let them know and then follow up with the answer. Make sure people feel heard.
4. Prioritize, Prioritize – Don’t spend all day on a comment that you’ve addressed a million times before when you have others complaining about your product injuring someone. Make sure you are prioritizing your comments from customers and clients while keeping an ear to the ground for potential land mines.
5. Respond. – A response can do a lot for a situation. Many people just need to feel that they’ve been heard. Even if you feel it’s a relatively “small” complaint or issue that the person is feeling. Don’t respond in your legalistic voice though, use the one that you have developed for your brand. Stay in character.
6. Communicate – Communicate with your team, your manager, people across silos. See a potential conflict brewing? Let them know, get their opinions, and then respond in your brand’s voice.
Sure, this isn’t an exhaustive list, but it’s a good starting point for your brand to start thinking about what how they can begin to avoid landing a spot on the 6-O’clock news and in UnMarketing’s next book.
Let me just start by saying that conflict is neutral. It doesn’t pick sides. Sure, there is good conflict and there is bad conflict, but ultimately conflict is neutral. What determines its outcome is not the conflict in and of itself, but rather how we react to it. If we react to the situation well, it will likely turn out well, and, of course, if we don’t react well, it will not turn out so well.
Social media has taken these decision processes to a new level. When social media rears its ugly head, companies still have those same two options, but they are now on a grander scale with a bigger audience. Back in the day (relax…only a few years ago) companies could commercial and advertise their way out of a situation. They would take their time, consult their PR firms, lawyers, board, executive staff and then put out TV commercials, billboards, and radio ads to market their way out of the situation. Now companies no longer have a few weeks to do this, now they must figure out what they are going to do in a matter of days and hours.
Let’s look at a quick example. Sure it’s an older one, but it perfectly illustrates my point.
We have a mis-tweet. We have a conflict. Chrysler (well…the company they hired) messed up. Before this tweet, as I’m sure you can imagine, the company was building their brand. They were talking in a human voice, connecting to their audience and building their community. Then they screwed up, pissed off their community (and many others) and retreated with their tail between their legs. They quickly consulted with their PR firms, lawyers, and whomever else they could get a hold of and put out this response:
So what happened here? Here’s a mistake that many, many businesses are making. They went from humanizing their brand, developing their voice and their community, to slapping their community in the face and poking them in the eye with a “press release” response. They don’t take responsibility, don’t give a further explanation, and it looks like their legal team wrote the tweet. Except it didn’t stop there! They wrote a blog post to continue the assault on their community by stomping on their feet and kneeing them in the groin.
Why Press Release Responses Are No Longer Acceptable
In a world where brands are desperately trying to find their voice online, interact with and build a community to sell more products, the second they see a potential issue or conflict they revert into their old ways. The press release. “Let’s lawyer the shit out of this so we can protect ourselves from any potential lawsuits”, is what that says to me and people aren’t buying it anymore. Here’s the thing with humanization; If you want to be a brand that interacts with people and have a personality, you can’t just ditch it at the first sight of conflict. It hurts your community, it hurts your reputation, it hurts your brand. This Chrysler situation happened roughly a year ago, and many people can still remember the incident vividly. This past year I bought a car, you know what dealership I didn’t even bother visiting? That’s right! It left the taste of blood in my mouth and I lost a lot of respect for them.
Think of any one of your relationships…what would happen if you screwed something up? Would you go and apologize? Maybe take responsibility? Talk with them to see how you could fix it? Or would you talk to a lawyer and read them a wonderfully put together press release?
To me it’s a no brainer, what do you think?
All Publicity is Good Publicity Right?
Many people would have you believe that all publicity is good publicity. Sure it may get you in the news, it might even get you on television or get you a lot of “buzz” on your favourite social media site. That’s good right? Yep, it’s really good…if your goal was to get slapped three ways from Sunday!
I just read a recent post from Gini Dietrich of Arment Dietrich called Is All Publicity Good? Go ahead and read it for a second, I’ll wait right here. You back? Alright, here’s one part in particular that caught my attention;
Sure, not all news will be good news. Even the best companies will have some negative things written about them, but it’s in how you respond that makes, or breaks, the game.
This is the other part that caught my attention in the comment section
You Can’t Contain Shit Hitting The Fan
Have you ever seen shit hit the fan? It’s not a pretty sight, and it’s a mess to clean to up. It takes all hands on deck, a great plan, communication between said shit cleaners, and you can’t be afraid to put your hand in the crap.
If that’s the kind of planning that needs to go into cleaning up feces hitting a fan, shouldn’t your company be doing more to manage their brand? Here are a few things to think about before you have to clean up your next shit storm;
- If you build it they will come: Alright, that may not be true, but here’s my point with this one…you need to be purposely building a strong community. The stronger the relationship between your brand and your community, the more willing they are to “go-to-bat” for you, the more receptive they will be towards your explanation of your screw up, the more willing they will be to accept your apology. Why? Because they trust you because you have done the same for them. Yes, you will need to re-build the trust that you wrecked, but if there was no trust to begin with, the gloves are really going to come off!
- Have a crisis plan: Please, please, please, have a plan set in place! A plan can act as your map as you steer through the muddy waters.
- Do a fire drill: Sure, having a plan is good, but if you’re not sure how it works, you need to test it out! That’s the whole reason we have fire drills right? If a crisis hits, you should know what to do and how to approach it, you should know to stop, drop, and roll! If you have no idea of where to stop read Jeremey Owyang’s post
- Monitor and Listen: I say both monitoring and listening because I view them as two very different things (which I’ll explain another day). Keep your ear to the ground and listen to the chatter, engage, ask questions, find out what the underlying problem is. Just don’t give away the farm!
- Timing is everything: Because you’ve been monitoring you know what’s been happening. Don’t wait to long to respond or it may be too late to mitigate some of the damages.
- Take Responsibility: Own what’s yours. If your brand caused someone else hardship, own it. If they screwed up someone’s bill, own it. I don’t care what it is…this is part of that trust building that we were talking about earlier. Own what’s yours and apologize accordingly.
- It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it: It’s not always the message of what you are saying when you apologize, respond, or issue a statement. It’s how your saying it. Look at the tone of the message, look at it’s surroundings, keep in mind; No one can hear you say it.
Your turn: Do you think all publicity is good publicity? How do you “contain” it? Is it even possible?
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?
Back in the days of high school I got to learn a form of kick-boxing in one of my gym classes from the world-class fighter Jeff Joslin. We learned how to punch, how to kick, so great grabs and holds, but also some great moves to get out of various grabs and holds. As a pip-squeak grade nine’er I was pretty amped up that I learned all these awesome ways to defend myself (and in one class!) and was excited to start trying them out. So because I’m so manly, I went home to practice these new moves on someone smaller then me… my sister. I, of course, immediately moved in on the weakest of the pack, my youngest sister, and tried out some of these new power moves. Before long, I had received an elbow blow to my eye and it began to swell. Yep, she gave me a black eye. So much for my fighting career. You can imagine how the next day at school went.
Research in Motion (RIM), currently has a black eye. They learned some new moves that they thought were pretty cool and right away tried them out. Some might say they walked away with a black eye, or possibly even more severely, with a broken leg or even worse. Regardless to say, RIM’s not doing so well right now. Seemingly, every time you read the newspaper there is another article about the death of RIM. Their losing money every quarter, upper-management changes, job losses, product delays, every day it’s something new. People are predicting the end of RIM in one way, shape, or form.
Sure, they still have their advocates (#TeamBlackBerry) and supporters, but they have acquired quite the out-spoken group of dis-believers and haters. It’s not looking good for them, or is it?
RIM has opportunity coming out the yin-yang right now
No, I’m not talking about licensing out patents or selling for a bajillion dollars to some other organization. RIM has conflict, and it could save them, it all depends on how they engage it. How do you know you have haters? Dis-believers? People who don’t really like you? Because they talk about it! They talk about it with their friends, they talk about it on their blog, they talk on Twitter, Facebook, and all those other sites. They are voicing their opinion which is creating a huge opportunity for RIM (or any brand/organization with haters) to open a conversation with them.
Conflict on its own is neither good nor bad, but how we deal with it will determine its outcome.
Conflict is a huge opportunity for companies to make a switch, define their identity, get those creative juices flowing, build community, deepen relationships and sell some serious shit (sorry…I grew up in a farming community). That’s right, you can’t do any of these things very well without beginning to engage with conflict. In a world of humanizing business in the social space, companies have opportunities like never before, and it’s called engagement. They are able to address people’s concerns, have conversations, have a personality and much, much more. One aspect of humanizing brands that companies too often forget is that they are now able to engage with conflict and turn those conflict situations into creative solutions.
It Starts Internally
That next day in high school I made sure to wear a ball cap…really low as to hopefully cover my eye. Yep, you guessed it, it didn’t work. Not long after walking into the building the comments were flying around and I was trying to explain the situation. I tried to make up some stories as to how my eye got to be the way it was, you know the type; “You should see the other guy,” or “I fell 20 feet and only ended up with this,” those kind of macho stories, but people saw right through them. I had a few options; I could run away from it all, I could throw back some fighting words, I could do nothing, or I could carry on, engage with the comments and move forward. Here’s what helped my situation, I started internally. I asked myself some tough questions and had some tough conversations with myself (yes…I talk to myself). Here are 5 things you need to think of internally before you can start engaging externally:
- You need to know who you are – what makes you tick?
- You need to be able to laugh at yourself – You’re not perfect right?
- Know what you’re good at – we’re all good at something
- Know what you suck at – we can’t do everything
- Know what you can improve on – good ‘ol works in progress
When you’re backed into a corner like our friends at RIM, you need to address what’s happening internally before you can begin to address the external. Once you begin that conversation, that will allow you to have the information to answer the questions that are happening from the external world so you can offer the haters explanations, jokes, a transparent conversation, maybe even an apology to those you’ve dropped the ball on (if necessary). Use that conflict to create a conversation and you’ll see the haters as people and be able to alter their negative passion and turn them into being a member of #TeamBlackBerry. By knowing who you are, you can begin to fuel the conversation, address the issues that people are having and use conflict as a part of your brand and marketing strategy.
“Whenever you are in conflict with someone, there is one factor that can make the difference between damaging your relationship and deepening it. That factor is attitude.” – William James
What do you think? Where do you think brands should begin engaging with conflict? Internally or Externally? Why?
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.