“When the whip comes down.”
– The Rolling Stones

"Whoa, Nellie!"

Question:  In 2010, how many buggy whip manufacturers were there in the Fortune 500 list?  How about the Fortune 1000 list?  Heck, I’ll spot you another 1,000 and bet my Beatles collection you can’t find one there either.  Why?  Because buggy whip manufacturers knew that things like Twitter and Facebook were just silly fads that would soon wear out their welcome.  And besides, those new companies were only for teenagers and other such unrefined persons.
Okay, that might not be exactly what they said, but the end result was the same.  Those captains of industry refused to recognize or respond to the massive shifts in consumers’ needs, desires and behaviors that swirled around them.  For whatever reason – whether they were blind, scared and just too set in their ways – they refused to believe that Hank Ford’s Tin Lizzy might just catch on with folks.

Oh and one more thing.  Split Enz, a 1980s band out of New Zealand that later morphed into Crowded House, once sang: “History never repeats, I tell myself before I go to sleep.”  I wonder what the buggy whip titans 100 years ago told themselves at bedtime.

We may shake our heads in wonder at their naivete today, but might we – or our clients – be guilty of the same thing?  I vote yes.  We need only look as far as our laptops and iPhones for confirmation.

Quite frankly, any company that serves consumers and doesn’t believe it needs to monitor and provide customer service through channels such as Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube and others deserves what it gets.  In 2008, such a perspective may have been understandable.  In 2010 with the very public and very painful lessons we’ve seen, such a perspective is unbelievable (and unfair to its employees, shareholders and customers).  Attached below is a great post I came across in Business Week that explains this better than I ever could.  Take three minutes and give this a spin; it will be time well-spent, I can assure you.

Defeating the Dark Side of Social Networking

Companies can’t rein in the conversations happening on social networks and blogs, but they can respond to their most vocal customers

By Joseph Hughes and Chris Boudreaux

For all of its blessings, social media Web sites are vexing lots of companies. The instantaneous sharing of information and opinions about products on Twitter, blogs, and other sites is compelling companies to try to influence these conversations through technology and new ways of thinking.

Businesses don’t really need to worry any longer about losing control of what consumers are saying about them on the Web; that control is pretty much gone. Many companies are being victimized by social media rather than capitalizing on it because they’re too slow and ill-equipped to react to negative comments that can damage their brands. For example, Johnson & Johnson (JNJ) in 2008 had to apologize for an online ad for its painkiller Motrin after a backlash of comments from mothers in the blogosphere who objected to the advertisement’s tone.

To be sure, companies can generate sales leads and gain market share by promoting themselves through tweets and blogs. Dell’s (DELL) IdeaStorm site, which lets consumers suggest enhancements and fixes to products, is one prominent example. Nearly half of Internet users say they value information from other consumers more than information supplied by companies, according to Forrester Research (FORR).

Companies Slow to Respond

For the most part, though, companies are too slow to respond to the online flood of information being published about them by consumers. Since it’s easier than ever for customers to tell each other when service is bad, responding quickly is critical. Repeat buying is usually driven by positive customer service, not price, Accenture’s (ACN) research shows.

But many organizations can take weeks or months to react to negative conversations, leaving far too much time for damage to set in. Even worse, some companies don’t respond at all.

Let’s look at some examples of vendors that have taken the initiative in sorting, analyzing, and responding to the data pouring in through social media. These companies are taking steps to combine the sort of free-form information flowing in from blogs, e-mails, and tweets with data stored in traditional database software, in order to make judgments about where customers’ concerns lie.

Software maker Attivio is developing the ability to analyze both those kinds of data to help companies detect the social media buzz about them. Then its software helps companies feed that information into their customer management systems to react to those findings. Clarabridge, a maker of “text mining” software, makes tools that combine linguistic rules with machine learning techniques to help companies categorize customer comments and sentiments so they can react to them.

Note: This post originally appeared on Forge Ahead, the blog from Forge Communications.

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“It’s a matter of trust.”
– Billy Joel

He'll be back

I really, really like this post from @mashable (Greg Ferenstein) about how to build trust in the world of social media.   As the article accurately points out, the rules — while certainly related to the non-digital world — are somewhat different in the Web 2.0 world (gosh, is anybody still using that term?).  The videos from Gov. Schwarzeneggar (thanking Twitterers) and Domino’s CEO (apologizing for the YouTube fiasco) are perfect examples of the article’s main thrust regarding authenticity, credibility and effectiveness.Ferenstein draws on the work of Professor Judy Olson, an expert in the psychology of trust, and applies lessons from that research to today’s digital conversation landscape.  Read this section of his article with Twitter, Facebook and YouTube in mind and see what bubbles to the surface:

People are willing to pass judgment, with or without good information. Where examples of one’s competence or reputation are lacking, people will construct whole profiles of another’s personality from what little information is available.

And, as Ferenstein points out, the keys to credibility in today’s communication environment are not far from our grasp:

Few, if any, educational institutes teach the art of proper digital communication. Most of us have simply made up an impromptu strategy and crossed our fingers in the hopes that disaster doesn’t strike. With a bit of help from our friends in the fields of psychology and information technology, we can apply the age-old intuitions of face-to-face conversation to whatever advances in technology come our way. [emphasis added]

When public relations is practiced correctly, it is an amalgam of communication theory, marketing, business, economics, psychology, political science, sociology, literature, history, science and a host of other disciplines.  Well-read practitioners who are students of human behavior and psychology hold the keys to the social media kingdom in their hands if they give themselves permission to let go of biases and stereotypes.

For anyone in the public relations business — especially the crisis communications field — this article is a must-read and one that is worth pondering.

Posted via web originally from Finding the Rhythm

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“There’s nothing you can do that can’t be done.”
– The Beatles

spiner

Brent Spiner as Brent Spiner

Brent Spiner as Brent Spiner and Commander Data

Brent Spiner as Commander Data

Yesterday, I watched on TweetDeck as Brent Spiner (who played Commander Data on “Star Trek: The Next Generation” and recorded the seminal album “Ol’ Yellow Eyes is Back”) learned how to re-tweet, share replies and, in general, learn how to navigate the recently launched starship, the USS Twitter.  In one post, Spiner wrote, “It’s okay. I’m not offended by being called ignorant. In the greater scheme, I am.”

Brent, most all of us are right there with you.  This is a new communication technology so it will take some time for most all of us to: (1) learn how to use it, and (2) learn how to use it effectively.  Just like the telephone, the fax machine and papyrus, there’s always a learning curve when our species identifies a new way to connect with one another.  And that’s really all Twitter (or FaceBook or FriendFeed or countless other Web-based channels) is – a new way to connect and form communities of life-minded people (even if some in your community have positronic minds).

Is Twitter the latest trend du jour?  Sure.  So were the telegraph and the printing press.  As Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff write in one of the best books I’ve seen on harnessing the power of social technologies, Groundswell, any technology that enable people to connect more easily in more meaningful ways will succeed.  Twitter does that in spades.

Whether Twitter or FriendFeed or the next great app will expand our choice of communication channels is a pointless question – they have, they are and they will.  The question to ask is how can we best learn how to adapt and use that channel to create something of value?  For a terrific and concise look at how to use Twitter strategically, I suggest looking at this approach developed by Ogily’s 360 Degree Digital Influence group.  In one elegantly simple graphic, Ogilvy’s team lay out a coherent, concise method of how to use Twitter strategically for yourself, your organization or your clients.  (And props to Ogilvy for sharing this with the rest of us).

As Jean Luc Picard might say, “Make it so.”