According to documents that Facebook is providing ad agencies and brands, the language they use when people connect with brand pages will be changing. People will soon connect with your brand pages by clicking “Like” rather than “Become a Fan.”
The reason behind the change is somewhat telling of the way Facebook believes brands and advertisements should fit within the “social graph.”
“People already ‘Like’ their friends’ status updates, photos and links everyday. In fact, people click ‘Like’ almost two times more than they click ‘Become a Fan’ everyday.”
In that sense, the move to clicking “like” will naturally fit within the daily interactions of people on Facebook and no matter how you define it, those that are willing to click on brands are powerful brand endorsers. A recent Harvard Business Review case study of one brand’s efforts on Facebook illustrated that. Dessert Gallery, a popular Houston-based bakery and café chain, found that their “fans” (people that now “like” them) :
Went to their stores 20% more often than non-fans and gave the chain the highest share of their overall dining-out dollars
Were the most likely to recommend the chain to friends
Reported significantly greater emotional attachment to the chain
Were the most likely to say they chose the store over other establishments whenever possible
Those are impactful metrics that have bottom-line value for businesses.
Last week I had the opportunity to catch up with two-parts of AT&T’s social media equation. Shawn McPike, a social media strategy manager with AT&T’s customer care group and Susan Bean, a strategist behind AT&T’s corporate communications, joined me in far-ranging discussion around AT&T’s social media strategy. For a company the size of AT&T, with a plethora of consumer touch points, social media can be both a blessing and a curse. In fact, AT&T has found the dangers of open discussion in social media from day one. But this isn’t a cautionary tale. It’s really a story about learning through doing. While AT&T has made some missteps along the way, they’ve course corrected and are reaping some of the benefits of having a direct channel to hundreds of thousands of customers and true brand advocates. Here are some highlights from the first part of our conversation.
RaceTalk: Thanks for joining me. Shawn, it sounds like you work within the customer care group and e-commerce, and Susan you’re on the communications side. How do you coordinate between these groups and how did that start? I think this might be a good place to jump-off.
Susan: Sure, well I can kind of give you the background, and the narrative, and then Shawn can jump in. First, it started with Facebook a couple of years ago and we were kind of just getting our feet wet, it was a little tiny page, a couple thousand people, we sort of jumped into it.
We thought Facebook is new and we should be looking at concerts and celebrities and we kind of played around with that and that didn’t really have much resonance for people. It evolved over time and we found what people were interested in talking to us about was our business and our technology. The real affinity at play here is the actual affinity for the technology and device itself, because people are so emotional about their cell phones. So when the iPhone 3Gs came out, that was when the page really started to take off. There was a lot of controversy about the pricing and lack of MMS and people just started looking for AT&T and social media and finding us on Facebook, and that was really festive! Everyone was really mad at us all the time. It was basically non-stop all week:
“We hate you, we hate you, we hate you.”
It was an interesting trial by fire because it was still small enough and it wasn’t happening in front of billions of people. But we sort of found our way with communicating directly with people. We were corporate communications so we knew all of the narratives; this is what we talk to reporters about. So we had this revelation of “oh, okay this is kind of like our dream come true.”
We’re always trying to give our point of view to reporters and now we get to just talk to people directly. So why don’t we get into it and really give them the point of view on why this is important. It was a fascinating process and what happened then is we started reporting back to the business – “You know what, people are really mad about this.”
They’re sounding off all over the place in social media, on Facebook and in the blogs. And the company actually listened and came back and re-did the pricing, which is one of the things that started to help us really turn around the tone on the page. Then it started really growing, and three months later we finally got MMS for the iPhone. We really went out of our way to make Facebook and twitter a resource for people with MMS, and that’s when we started working with Shawn and the care team.
So we were already working with them and on the first day of MMS people were coming and saying okay I’m having a problem setting up MMS, how do I do this. So we started referring them. “Oh we got these great customer care people, they’re over here on twitter.” Which was kind of a clunky way to do it, and we were like oh duh. Why don’t we make the customer care people administrators of the page and then they can deal directly with people on Facebook and everyone can be the beneficiary of the advice they get? And we did just it. It wasn’t a big corporate decision, we just said, we think this is a good idea. We checked with our bosses and off we went with it.
RaceTalk: So that became an extension of customer care and do you still work with them as far as messaging and pushing out content in addition to answering questions?
Susan: Yeah. We’re in more or less of a nonstop all day conversation. We just went through South by Southwest where we really took on a huge effort to make sure everyone on Twitter knew what was going on at the show. So that was a combination of us talking to our colleagues on the network team, finding out what’s going on, letting Shawn’s team know what the status of the network was, what it is we could tell people, and then their out there basically combing the Twittersphere looking for anybody who’s complaining and jumping in and giving them information and helping. So it’s just an all day conversation but Shawn should give you the background on Twitter and customer care and how that works and what the methodology is from his point of view.
Shawn: It really fits along well with the story Susan told. At the same time we and the eCommerce group, which is a part of our marketing, were seeing the tone, tenor, volume and the overall intensity of messages within social media. It was just deafening, and certainly if you go back to that time of MMS and look at the top ten daily, weekly, and monthly trends on twitter, you saw that AT&T and the iPhone was basically at the top or near the top, almost every single day.
Susan: And not in a good way.
Shawn: Not in the way we wanted. So my team was brought in to start building that strategy for how we could change those numbers and how we can affect those customers, help them out and find out what their actual issues were.
But at the same time, we didn’t want to just jump in and our mantra at that point was basically the only thing worse than not being somewhere was being there and doing it badly. So we wanted to make sure we did it right before we jumped in full-force and if we could handle the volume. It was crucial, especially with the volume that we saw with social media messages. So at that point were engaged with corporate communications/PR and basically started putting together the strategy for how we were going to do that.
Certainly there were issues from a branding perspective, that fit more with communications area, and other issues that were strictly care and there were some issues that would definitely go down both paths. So rather than try and deal with all those on the fly, we decided to take a measured approach and plan for that ahead of time. We met for quite awhile, put that strategy together, got signed off on all levels across both organizations and then we put our presence out there. We started small at first, taking the viral, let’s not overextend ourselves approach. We wanted five care and four managers in August of last year on Twitter. Totally viral. Through the end of the year we hadn’t really put any publicity, promotions or advertising towards it. We still haven’t really for the most part. I was looking today and I think our Twitter followers (right now we have 14 care managers total) have almost 7,000 followers between the different accounts.
RaceTalk: So you have 14 for Twitter alone?
Shawn: There are 14 total people and they staff across, work on both Twitter and among other sites that we monitor as well. They don’t always do it at the same time. They kind of rotate, keeping a presence in all areas. But they are real people. This is actually their real names and real photos. That was the big step we wanted to take on the care side. Provide, not a corporation speaking at people, but really the care folks, and care managers speaking with people and try to help them. We definitely wanted to create that as a conversation, an engagement with them, instead of just the flat message.
We’ve taken a pretty strong approach with that and we’ve had great results. I think right now the team averages almost 1,800 reach outs per day to customers. In December we actually launched our first Facebook page versus the main AT&T page along with Susan and the other teams on the PR side. The approach is basically the same there.
Certainly the channel is a bit different. The medium is a bit different and the requirements of Facebook around engagement, private messages or not private messages, etc are different. We definitely had to tailor our approach a bit, but for the most part we kept a personal approach: private mailbox addresses for everyone, same personal personas, etc. Kept the same approach, monitored the wall. We’re on Facebook and on Twitter live between 7 a.m. and 10 p.m. Monday through Friday and 7 – 4 on Saturday.
RaceTalk: How do you assign stuff? If there is a post on Facebook or a tweet at you? Are you using CoTweet or other platforms to assign follow-up, or is it more just talking about whose best among your group to follow-up?
Shawn: We do have a tool now for the initial outreach. Our agents use the exact same process that our care managers would use in any other scenario: email centers, call centers, etc.
So when they contact a customer, when a customer calls or we get them on the actual phone with us, it’s the exact same interaction and documentation as any other channel. So basically we do have it set up where we ticket, open a ticket, an internal ticket for a customer region. Susan for example – would reach out to a customer, ask them for their contact information. Again, in most places we try to reach out to the customer to give out their contact information and then call the on the phone one on one. We try to do most interactions with the customer, especially with anything that’s obviously customer-specific information, one-on-one. And we try to keep it that person who initiates the response and interaction with the customer. We keep that same person no matter how many different instances. So it’s always, whoever opens it, has to close it out with the customer and make sure they’re satisfied. And then in many cases we get positive tweets on twitter for that person/AT&T. I think several hundred so far that are positive.
Susan: And we see the same thing on Facebook. It’s funny, before we really went down this road there was a lot of discussion around if you should try to do customer care on social media and there was a lot of “oh my god, that will be like having all these negative things in our social media properties.” “What if its just people complaining and everyone will see?”
And the effect of it has been really stunning. Shawn was talking about how we use to always be a trending topic on twitter. That is virtually never the case now. I mean this is a really rare instance of a company having a really big problem that was essentially solved. Sort of doing the simplest thing you could possibly do, which is talk to people.
On Facebook where there was even more trepidation about oh my god its going to be on the wall and everybody is going to see it. You know what we see everyday is people on the wall saying, “Thank you thank you thank you.” “Thank you customer care Tatiana.” “Thank you Natasha, thank you Jonathan, you guys are great.” What we also see all the time is somebody will come on and complain and another user will come on and say:
“Just wait these guys on Facebook are amazing, they’ll help you.”
Mercedes Bunz of The Guardian had an interesting piece last week on how media companies and newspapers are evolving into technology companies. It opened with a poignant quote from New York Times executive editor Bill Keller (even if you don’t necessarily believe it).
“The New York Times is now as much a technology company as a journalism company.”
While we might expect this sentiment from other forward-looking media outlets, the idea that the Times values technology as much as quality journalism is telling. Of course they’re hardly alone. Every traditional media company is examining the technology opportunities that lie in front of them. Bunz’s piece also looks at the success that CNN had with driving engagement and crowd-sourcing through its iPhone application and specifically its iReport button. Wired magazine drew praise at SXSW for its technological interpretation of a digital magazine on the forthcoming iPad. Everywhere you look there seems to be another media company testing a new technology.
While the “media meltdown” hasn’t directly affected public relations and communications agencies quite like it has media companies, the same focus on technology is pressing for the industry. After all, communications, and marketing as a whole, are tied at the hip to the future of the media industry. Just as technology is becoming more and more an integral part of doing good journalism, technology is becoming more and more an integral part of doing good PR. I’m not just talking about run-of-the-mill uses of existing and mainstream social platforms, such as: Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, etc. I’m talking about re-envisioning how to reach media and more importantly consumers in the digital age. Much in the way the New York Times has to think about the problem.
These are not only the tools and services that agencies should be looking at from vendors, but the technology that they should be investing in to create on their own.
The agencies and practitioners that will be around for the next technology bubble will be those who can honestly say like Keller (without PR spin), “we’re as much a technology company as we are a communications agency.”
What type of report exactly? It seems to be a weekly email update with statistics on their Fan Page, such as number of fans added, number of comments and “likes”, as well as number of visitors to the page.
Ostrow explains that Facebook already has an “Post Insights” feature in addition to this stats report:
“The feature hasn’t been officially announced yet by Facebook, but it follows January’s rollout of Post Insights, which tells you the reach and feedback level of each item you post to a Fan Page. Meanwhile, Facebook’s overall Insights feature for admins can tell you details about your demographics, longer-term growth, and engagement trends.”
If your company has a dedicated social media person on your staff (or a team of people) its highly likely you are already measuring this type of social media growth and engagement. However, if you are a smaller operation, this may decrease some of your workload by providing you with quick, easy to interpret data that you can use to merchandise the Fan Page and highlight its value for the business.
This may slash some new business opportunities for third party social media analytics companies; however Facebook likely sees this new feature as a way to make Fan Pages more appealing to brands, who they would like to see spend big advertising dollars on the site.
If you manage a Facebook Fan Page, would you like to receive this weekly statistics report?
A few months ago I finally decided to try out Foursquare, after getting a few different invitations to the service. I quickly set up an account and checked in at a few different places (the office, JP Licks, Starbucks and others). I also used the tips tab to see what other people enjoyed at certain restaurants. One day I was in a new area and needed to find lunch. I ended up at a local pizza shop that had good reviews on foursquare.
After my trial period with Foursquare, I’ve decided that I only enjoy certain features of the social network. It’s great being able to get tips from people that have been to restaurants already, and I will continue to use this feature going forward. However, I really do not want people to know where I am at all times. Since I’m already using Facebook and Twitter (and anyone that is truly a friend follows my updates on Facebook) there is no need to provide another audience with my whereabouts. Foursquare can get a little too personal, especially if it’s letting strangers (i.e.: online friends and others) know my location, especially if I’m away on vacation. (Yes, location-based networks help thieves).
Having reached this decision, I am now using Foursquare in conjunction with Yelp, as a tool that can help me find location places and check reviews. This is how Foursquare provides value to me.
My question is if other feel the same way. Do you believe that foursquare is a little too personal? And how is it different then Twitter or other open social networks?
Today is the first day of the annual South by Southwest (SXSW) conference in Austin, TX. From all corners of the earth musicians, film makers and techies join forces for a week of round the clock events and celebrations.
This year, taking center stage on the tech side are GPS based social networks. If you are an active Twitter user, you have seen these updates in your feed. Perhaps a friend has announced they’ve become the mayor of Starbucks thanks to Foursquare. These social networks are becoming more popular and their hope is to become widely adopted by the end of this week.
“This is so closely watched at South by Southwest not because people feel like they’re witnessing magic but more for two reasons: One, everyone loves a good rivalry and two, South By Southwest attendees by definition love to geek out. (It’s affectionately known as “spring break for nerds.”) And, what better way to do that than to compete over who is the top visitor to the various venues associated with it? Foursquare is even giving out temporary tattoos to commemorate those achievements.”
“For start-up hopefuls, capturing the fancy of the attendees is almost as important as checking out the panels and parties. The high concentration of tech savants supplies a rare opportunity for companies to woo the eyes and clicks of early adopters and influential Twitter users and bloggers capable of elevating their sites and services out of obscurity.”
SXSW runs today through Sunday March 21st and in that time frame Foursquare and Gowalla hope that the heavy hitters in tech will not only adopt their social networks into their daily lives, but spread the word to the masses. One location at a time.
Reuters issued their social media policy to employees yesterday, and the one thing that’s attracting the most attention is a policy that news should be broken on Reuters.com, not on Twitter:
As with blogging within Reuters News, you should make sure that if you have hard news content that it is broken first via the wire. Don’t scoop the wire. NB this does not apply if you are ‘retweeting’ (re-publishing) someone else’s scoop.
The policy also notes that Reuters employees should have the word “Reuters” in their Twitter user-name and all tweets from that account should be professional, not personal. Facebook and Wikipedia are also briefly discussed, but the breaking news element is quite interesting.
For a while now, reporters have been scrambling to break news first. on Twitter websites, blogs, or anywhere possible. Embargoes are almost entirely a thing of the past (according to TechCrunch they already are the past), and some companies are breaking their own embargoes on Twitter.
So why is Reuters opposed to reporters breaking stories on Twitter?
Quite simply, reporters that have a large, intense Twitter presence are able to turn themselves into a brand, while Reuters and other media outlets want the company to remain the strongest brand. When Bloomberg took over BusinessWeek and sent a significant number of journalists packing, it was the well-known visible people who were laid off. Reuters’ social media policy is meant to keep their reporters reporting factual and reliable news, instead of participating in a second-by-second race to break every last little piece of news.
Today Racepoint Group is launching a new offering – Racepoint Labs – to help companies, communities, causes and countries leverage the power of social media. To mark this launch we sat down with W2 founder Larry Weber, to get his thoughts on what this means for the overall digital marketing landscape.
Any movie buff could tell you that the Academy Awards telecast is scheduled for this Sunday March 7th. They have seen the nominated films, they have watched the awards shows all season, and they are eager to view the most coveted validation of film success – the awarding of the golden man we call Oscar.
What they might not know, is while they are surfing the web for real time updates, photos and behind the scenes videos, E! Entertainment and Google will be teaming up to capitalize on their interest with real-time updates to E’s internet advertising.
Emily Steel of the Wall Street Journal reported yesterday, “If a celebrity makes a red-carpet appearance wearing outlandish attire or an award winner makes a newsworthy speech, E will alter its Oscars-related ads within minutes. The media company’s goal is to make sure consumers searching for the subject on the Web find their way to E’s online photo galleries, live blogs and fashion-police critiques.”
Suzanne Kolb, president of marketing, news and online for E! Entertainment, says “The live updates to search ads will help position our online coverage at the top of the Google search results for people seeking Academy Awards-related content,” and really, nothing beats landing at the top of the Google results.
Despite their strategic efforts to optimize results during the Oscar telecast, E! is not broadcasting the show, ABC is. Not one to be outdone, ABC is turning to the web to take advantage of real time, web based interaction as well.
Steel reports, “New features this year on the Walt Disney network include tie-ins with microblogging site Twitter, interactive games and a live video stream from the red carpet, where hosts will interview nominees. Through a partnership with social-networking site Facebook, viewers will be able to submit questions live.”
While television spectacles like the NFL’s Super Bowl tend to attract major television advertising dollars, it seems the Oscars advertisers are more interested in the web.
If this trend continues, could we have commercial free awards show broadcasts in our future? A girl can dream.