Federal, state, and local law enforcement surrounded a bus, large weapons pointed at those inside. The bus had been diverted from its Portland to New York run because of the possibility of a bomb on board. It was stopped in one of the most beautiful cities in the United States, Portsmouth, New Hampshire. Yet, somewhere, among the network cameras, the other big guns and talent grappling for something to say, there were some important lessons about social media tossed into the mix.
While the police were doing their job, people started to share what they knew and what they needed to know across Twitter. Where was parking available? Which exits were closed? All this bomb scene info was all across Twitter. Soon, “the event” developed its own hashtag – a phrase added to a tweet to help you search on the topic in Twitter. In this case, the #03801bomb hashtag carried from Twitter to Facebook and other networks.
As the day dragged on, a Bomb Scare page developed on the geolocation site Foursquare. This site is a cross between a social media game and a business outreach tool. For example, Starbucks is among companies that offer their Foursquare “mayors” who check in to their stores most frequently discounts on the purchases [story]. Upscale department stores check in with their most loyal customers to keep them that way. Yet others use Foursquare to drive traffic to special events. In this case, it became a way of writing your name on the virtual wall to say “I was there.”
People are identifying themselves with a brand, and companies are seeing the new value in taking care of those who do.
This is another way that communication and online participation is changing business. These changes in communication are not restricted to kids. Actually, none of the “check ins” were kids. Most people were attending one of two business functions happening in town that night, and much the same with the nearly 200 tweets.
Over the last few years, many businesses have pulled away from listening to customers carefully when it came to things they didn’t want to hear. The reasons were as much headcount and economy related as anything else.
Lesson One: Bring Out the Big Guns and Fund Them.
If you are starting a social media program, the first thing you need to do is fund it well. The police had their big guns, robots and other tools. You need tools to listen to what is being said about your brand and your competitors. Then, you must learn how you will engage people without coming off “stalkerish.” Plus, mobile applications mean people can talk about you anytime, anywhere – and yes, they say some really good things too.
Social Customer Relationship Management tools (sCRM) are gaining momentum in allowing business intelligence and conventional CRM to blend with attitudes and opinions from social media intelligence. This can allow a more targeted and personalized outreach. On the whole, measurements are evolving, but there are definitely areas you can use. Since this will eventually affect other areas of the business, watch for call deflection and reduced buying cycles, depending on the product.
Lesson Two: Listening and Responding to Customers How THEY Want to Be Reached.
Listening is key. Responding may time research and time. However, people expect really fast answers in social media platforms. If you give your social media person a “real job” to do as well as planning and running your SocMed program, you will fail and burn that person to a crisp.
Lesson Three: Prepare for Growth
What may start with one person will grow to several people within a few months. Staples, for example, has grown to 20 people answering their 34,000 followers to the @StaplesTweets account. And they don’t even put a Twitter option on their web site home page.
That’s one person for every 1,700 followers.
Lesson Four: You Can’t Scale Authenticity
I’ve often quoted entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuk (@GaryVee on Twitter). Social media is about being authentic “and authenticity does not scale.” This could mean migrating a part of a phone force to a new way of doing business.
We just left a decade where a hot buzzword was scalability. We now have to learn to work with individuals to succeed in the emerging economy and fund the effort of peer-to-peer listening and marketing.
By the way, the t-shirt is out: “Portsmouth is the Bomb.”