By michaelpace on August 8, 2011
Attend a social media or call/contact center conference lately? Have you attended a session or class on social media? Did the distinguished speaker tell you the first step to get into social media was to LISTEN? Guess what? That person was lying to you.
Oh no, they were not intentionally lying to you. You see they have gone too deep inside the social media bubble; surrounded themselves with like thinking/doing individuals, read tons of articles on social media, attended conferences with other Marketing and Social Business brethren. They have heard countless statistics about how many people use Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and write blogs. And all of this makes sense to them. They use these tools. Their smartphone has 97 applications on it. They are early adopters, and everyone is a luddite still using a television to watch Game of Thrones instead of watching on their iPads with HBO GO. However, they have forgotten that when they speak or write to Customer Service audiences, they are usually not talking to early adopters any more, they are talking to the heart of mainstream. (Yes, I live in a glass house, and am not afraid to throw rocks)
Mainstream still doesn’t use Twitter. They may have an account, because it was easy and “everyone else was doing it”. Most mainstream people do not have a blog, many do not have any idea what a blog is or does. More than half of mainstream does not own a smartphone. (If you don’t have a smartphone at a social media conference, you might as well start breaking out papyrus and quill to take your notes.) Mainstream still uses Internet Explorer, and it works fine for them. My family and 90% of people I went to high school and college are mainstream. Customer Service is by and large made up of people from mainstream.
I have the amazing opportunity to attend and speak at Customer Service and Contact Center conferences all over the country. These conferences are attended by hundreds, but you MAY find only about a half dozen on Twitter. Paper and pen far outnumber iPhones and iPads for taking notes and sharing. If the speaker or conference leader is telling these people that the first step in working with social media tools is to LISTEN, they do not fully understand the audience. Telling this audience to listen is like telling me to watch Japanese television to learn how to speak the language. I will not know what I am watching or listening for. Yeah sure, after a while, I’ll pick up a few things, but you have probably lost my interest by then. I think this may be one a few reasons why Customer Service is generally a periphery user of social media tools and less involved in social business.
So if LISTENING is not the first step into social media or social media customer service, what is?
Step 1: Get yourself involved
You can listen and read the greatest minds of social business and social media tools, but until you get yourself involved you will never fully get it. The best analogy I can use here is riding a bike. You can read books, watch videos, listen to your dad, have Lance Armstrong as your best friend, but until you get on the bike and learn how to balance, pedal and turn, you cannot fully understand how to ride a bike. My social business mentor, Rachel Happe of The Community Roundtable, calls it your “Aha Moment”. When you have the “Aha Moment”, it may hit you like a ton of bricks, and the clarity is amazing. Here is my recommendation of steps to get involved:
- LinkedIn – Unless you plan on staying with your current employer the rest of your life, LinkedIn is the most important social network for any professional. It is the new Rolodex and resume in one. LinkedIn is also an incredibly powerful tool to understand the vastness of your connections and their connections. LinkedIn can also put you in touch with like minded individuals through their Groups functionality.
- Facebook – 800 Million users should be reason enough. But if you plan on understanding social business, understanding how Facebook works with businesses is an important learning. LIKE a few businesses you believe may provide good social support or you have general interest in.
- Twitter – Twitter is not just for telling people what you ate for lunch. I like to think of Twitter as my digestible funnel of the world’s smartest/best people and content. Yes, it can be overwhelming initially, but once you find a Twitter client you are comfortable with (Hootsuite, Tweetdeck, Seesmic), you can filter out the noise and build relationships with some amazing people. The highest majority of Customer Service transactions and interactions occur on Twitter with our customers.
- Blogs – I recommend reading/skimming blogs to anyone getting into social business. I use Google Reader to collect and push to me content about topics that most interest me. Use the RSS (Real Simple Syndication) button on blogs you are interested in, and connect them to your aggregator (like Google Reader). To find great blogs that may interest you, try www.technorati.com or www.google.com/blogsearch .
Step 2: Know your Business Strategy
Social media and social business are tools and disciplines that are means to the end, not the end. Your company’s or department’s goal is not to be great at how to use Twitter or YouTube successfully. You’ve never heard someone say we are going win in a market, and proclaim its measurement was Microsoft Project and Project Management methodologies used in successful manner. Social media and social business is no different. Start with your department’s objectives, determine your strategies, identify tactics (here is where social business and tools fit), and finally create execution and control plans. Once you understand how you plan on leveraging social, you can begin to understand where it will fit in your business. This step should be followed up with step 2B. – involving the appropriate individuals or departments in your organization. You should “socialize” your plans with Human Resources, Legal/Compliance, Marketing, Public Relations and Technology Security.
Step 3: LISTEN – Now you may heed all of the advice you have heard for the past 2 years.
Maybe I was a bit harsh on the social media conference speaker or writer earlier, they were not exactly lying to you, but just left out or assumed you understood steps 1 and 2 which are critical pieces of information. I have not historically been an early adopter. I had a LinkedIn account because my line of business was closing at Capital One, and had a Facebook account to keep track of people in high school I couldn’t stand in the first place. I feel that I was extremely lucky to have found my passion in Customer Service has been equaled by social business. I hope my experience in both worlds is helpful to even just one person starting out or a presenter or writer addressing the Customer Service audience.
I love to hear from Contact Center leaders, when speakers and writers tell you that listening is the first step, does that resonate?
Do you actively participate in social business and leverage social media tools daily for personal, professional and work use?
Image & video: Courtesy of The Princess Bride (love that movie)