The Customer Is Always Right… Except When They’re Not

The customer is always right! Always. Or so the conventional wisdom goes. However, we all know that sometimes customers ask for things that you just can’t do. How far do we bend to accommodate them? Is there a point where it’s OK to let a customer go? Or are they always right no matter what wild things come out of their mouth? I recently was faced with this dilemma on one of our client’s Facebook pages.

The client, Better Than Bouillon (BTB) is a brand of food bases that can be used to make soups and other delicious dishes. It’s very good (no really, it is), but it’s not for everyone. A fan named Bobbie posted a link on the BTB wall last week. The link was to a blog post talking about how the ingredients in BTB aren’t natural enough. This put me in the unique position of having a dissatisfied customer who’s request (more natural ingredients) is borderline impossible. BTB can’t just overhaul their entire supply chain and manufacturing process because Bobbie asked for it, no matter how great of a guy Bobbie may be. The “customer-is-always-right” mentality is suddenly at odds with, well, reality.

One of the first things every brand needs to learn is that you can’t please everyone and trying to do so is counter-productive. In this case, I would never succeed in convincing Bobbie that it’s OK to eat processed food. Better Than Bouillon is not unhealthy, but it is a packaged, store-shelf product. There is a demographic of food consumers that simply won’t eat packaged food products no matter how healthy they may be. That’s fine, but these people are not our target market. So this is what I said to Bobbie:

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I was understanding toward his right to not use our product, offered to discuss specifics if he chose to deliberate more and then made a gentle suggestion about another BTB product he might not have been aware of. What I didn’t do was jump into a discussion of the general healthiness of processed food that would likely have been a lose/lose for both of us. It’s tough to acknowledge, but sometimes the best thing a brand can do is be amicable and let a disgruntled customers go.

Starbucks and Little Social Media Wins

Social Media Successes

In our world, consumers are always slow to give a compliment and quick to complain. If a problem arises, they WILL let you know. Any legitimate problem can result in long hours for a community manager. But sometimes just saying you know there is a problem in existence is enough for your audience. Check out how great Starbucks’ social media team is (OK, well maybe I’m partial). Acknowledgment, people! In social media, it really is the little things. I swoon when I see this type of successful community management. Maybe I’ll celebrate by grabbing a Venti Skinny Vanilla Latte.

Social Media Successes

Relationships Accept No Formulas

I saw an interesting tweet pass through my feed the other day. It was from Patrick Rhone of Minimal Mac fame and said:

Weird thought: Nuance is the numbers between 0 and 1 (i.e. the reason that social relationships are difficult to program).

It got me thinking about this is whole how-to-do-social-media thing. There is a lot of information out there about social media. In fact, according to Google Keyword Tool, “how to social media” gets 2,240,000 monthly searches. I believe that talking and learning about how to do social media well is important, why else would we have this blog?

However, sometimes we start to look at word of mouth as a science that we can program, as Patrick puts it. If we tweet the right amount about the right things on the right days, voilà you have quality engagement with your consumers. Whaaaaat are we thinking? There are no formulas for relationships! No logic, no cheats, only chaos! I jest slightly, but we need keep in mind that on the other end of these social networks are actually real people. Instead of consulting a How-to guide, we should spend time listening to what our users are saying.

Asking for Stories

This post is based off the Digital Campfires talk that the ever insightful Frank Chimero gave at Webstock 2011. I’ve taken some of his main ideas and put them in the context of social media because, well, this is a social media blog.

Tell me a story

I wrote last month about how brands should frame the content they share as a story to make it warmer and more relatable. This is only one half of the battle though. To get interaction online, you can’t just tell stories yourself, you gotta get your users to tells stories as well. How do you get them to do that? Ask them to.

Frank Chimero argues that every form on the internet is a question asking for some kind of response. As in much of life, a good question begets a good response. A bad question begets a bad response. As brands and marketers looking to get our users talking, we need to learn how to ask good questions.

Bad Questions

Bad questions are questions that don’t give the user a direction. One example is also one of the most common questions we see in social media: Tell me about yourself. This is also known as the “Bio” question. How do you even begin to answer that question? It’s not easy to boil your entire existence into a paragraph. To overcome this people usually fill the box with a list. “I’m a father, husband, photographer, shark wrestler and all around imaginary person.” That is a good list of what the person does, but it doesn’t really tell you about who the person is. Bad questions are vague and open-ended, making it hard to get people to tell their stories.

Good Questions

Most of our stories are based on our experiences, so we want people to tell us about their experiences. Good questions encourage that by being specific or capturing someone’s immediate thoughts. “Tell me a story about something that happened to you,” is an overwhelming question, it’s too vague. “Tell me about that delicious cheese burger you’re eating,” is a question that is going to capture that persons immediate experience. This is how we want to approach questions for the brands we work with. Remember the Facebook status from Ford that I talked about last time, about Mandy and how her three dogs love to go for a ride? They followed that with this questions:

Ford fans, how often do you bring your pet along for the ride? Which seats do they like the best?

This is a great question. It’s specific and brings to mind memories of man’s best friend and his floppy-eared antics. The status has 65 responses of people telling stories about their dogs… and their Fords. Ford asked a good question and got good responses and engagement.

The Skinny

Getting your followers engaging is what social media is all about. Telling stories is how we relate to one another, how we share our lives and how we describe who we are. Stories are the key to successful social media. As marketers we need to frame our content as a story to make it relatable. If not, we sound like robots spewing updates like we’re solving math problems. That’s only the first step though. Once we get people interested in what we’re saying we need to get them talking. Asking specific and personal questions will prompt users to share their experiences. Stories are how we relate and now your users are relating to your brand.

Telling Stories

This post is based off the Digtial Campfires talk that the ever insightful Frank Chimero gave at Webstock 2011. I’ve taken some of his main ideas and put them in the context of social media because, well, this is a social media blog.

Cold Content

Social media is a revolution and brands know it. You’d be hard-pressed to find one that doesn’t have a social media presence. There is a ton of information about “How to do Social Media Right” or “What Social Media Can do for Your Business.” Tips, tricks, pointers. What I think we need to talk a little more about is: What’s the goal? Too many brands these days jump into social media because they think they should, with out any real idea of what they’re trying to do. Now, I don’t want to talk about how social fits into your overall brand strategy. We’ve written about that before. I want to talk about, once you’ve decided it’s time to dive into social, what are you trying to accomplish? Get lots of followers? Sell stuff? The proper social media answer is, “We want to get people to relate to our brand and start having a conversation.” That sounds great! How?

Brands know they want interaction, but have no idea how to get it. Most brands, no matter how big they are, can’t just throw up a Facebook page and start having good interaction with their consumers. Brands have to start the conversation. This usually comes in the form of content. Links, deals, recipes, news, updates. Stuff for their followers to talk about. Here is where the biggest problem lies. Content is, by definition, cold. It describes what something is, but not how we relate to it or how we feel about it. Brands can post content to their page all day and no one may care. We have to give our followers a reason to care. Help them to relate to us and our brand. How do we do this? By telling a story.

Telling a Story

Stories are the base of much of our interpersonal communication. We tell stories about our day, our life, about the things we love and the things we hate. Stories help us explain to others, and to ourselves, who we are and how we’ve changed. If I hand you a self-help book are you more likely to read it if I just say it’s good, or if I tell you about how it helped me? When you’re going to share something to your followers, don’t just throw it out there and hope it sticks. Frame it in a way that helps people relate to it or makes them feel something about it. This is advertising 101, but for some reason we seem to have forgotten with social media. We sound like robots, firing off updates and deals and content.

Let’s See It

The Red Cross shared a story from one of their employees on their Facebook page:

so after my shift at the Red Cross, i went to eat some sushi at a restaurant nearby.
as i was about to leave, i thanked the waitress by my side.
she then looked at my badge, smiled and said “Thanks for your work.”
and so my heart smiled.
and that walk back home in the pouring rain did not bother me at all =)

The post garnered 100+ likes and a slew of comments. Even better, it spurred multiple people to share their own stories right there in the comments. I found a post on Ford Motor Company’s Facebook page that showed a picture of three dogs in the back of a fan’s Ford SUV. Instead of just saying how cute it was, they said, “This week’s Featured Fan Photo was uploaded by Mandy Barlett-Troncale, who’s three friends look like they’re ready for an adventure.” They framed it as a story, three dogs ready for an adventure! The comments are full of other people telling stories about their dogs in their Fords.

Stories are key to communication and social media is no exception. Think of ways to frame your content as a story. Move your content from being cold and robotic to warm and meaningful. Show people why they should care and they will. This is only one half of the picture though. Well told, relatable content is a great way to gain followers, but that’s not what social media is about, remember? We need to get those followers talking, telling their stories. How do we get people to tell stories? We’ll talk about that next week in part two.

A Software Developer Shows Us How To Do Viral Marketing

iPhone development team taptaptap posted a run down of 10 more useful iPhone tip & tricks on their blog last Friday. They were really good tips. Even as a self-professed iPhone nerd, I didn’t know some of these tips.

I know what you’re asking, “Ok fanboy, what does any of this have to do with social media?”

Well honestly, what’s better than a list of awesome tricks? Even jaded iPhone “experts” are commenting on the post saying it’s the best list of tips they’ve seen. It has almost 650 tweets. That’s pretty decent traffic to the blog of this modest indie developer. taptaptap even took it one step further and integrated little pitches of their own apps into the list.

For each tip, taptaptap included iPhone screen shots showing how the trick works. This is one for the built in Apple camera app:

And then twice they followed the Apple app screenshot with a screen shot of one of their apps and how it it improves on the features of the build in app. This one shows taptaptap’s app, Camera+, and how it differentiates from Apple’s built in camera app:

The integrated pitches were very tasteful, never overbearing and didn’t dominate the post. taptaptap did a great job compiling information they knew was unique and would get people to pass the post around, driving traffic to their site and getting eyes onto their products.