100,000 Brits log off Facebook for good….a sign of things to come?

After getting into work this morning, cup of tea in hand, I sat down to read the news. A headline instantly caught my eye:

“Facebook fatigue sets in for 100,000 Brits: Users bored with site deactivate accounts amid privacy fears”

Uh oh.

Reading into the story, the dramatic fall was due a combination of fears over privacy and general boredom. So is this a sign of things to come?

Privacy

I’ll make no bones about it, Facebook is notorious for constantly changing settings, tweaking user’s accounts and introducing new features and new services without announcing it first. This gets my goat.

From recent stories about instant face recognition and tagged pictures, to personalised friend profile adverts, the list is endless. Over the past year I’ve seen Facebook change the way news is reported in streams, it’s changed how pictures of you and your friends are displayed, there was the furore over privacy settings being changed overnight – not to mention how difficult Facebook makes it to completely deactivate your account. Actually come to think of it they tweaked business pages last year, making it impossible for us to reply to posts unless our friends changed their settings to allow their ‘liked’ businesses to reply to them. For three days it caused us no end of bother.

So with that in mind, are we right to be scared of the decline? Thinking about it I really don’t think so..

There’s no alternative!

Let’s look at this logically – we’re social creatures. We like speaking to our friends online, seeing their pictures, chatting to each other and seeing what they’re up to – that’s why Facebook is such a global beast.

There are few alternatives for the personal profile. Twitter is great for short, snappy, timely thoughts, but it’s more of a news and information gathering tool. I can see the popularity of Twitter increase over the coming months and activity on Facebook decline, but I can’t see it challenging Facebook as the #1 social networking site.

Myspace – well that’s more for bands and up and coming artists.

Bebo – that’s died a death.

LinkedIn – more for professional networking.

In fact, there is little to stop Facebook’s continued global dominance in the near future. I keep reading about the rise of “GoogleMe“, the next contender to the Facebook crown – but information about it is very scarce…

http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/blog/2010/jul/14/google-me-facebook

http://mashable.com/2010/11/29/google-social-2011/

Until more is known about this new initiative (currently named ‘Project +1’) I’m happy to stick to using Facebook to communicate with customers.

Like it or not, social media is here to stay. Rather than worry about declining Facebook numbers, I’m more worried about staying ahead of the game. As soon as the ‘next best thing’ comes along, you better get on board – because you can be sure your customers will too….

What do you think? Are you worried about the decline in Facebook’s popularity?

Painful twitter mistakes you can easily avoid

I love Twitter, it’s a great place to find out real-time information and chat to friends and business contacts. I’ve been a personal Tweeter for two years now, and have been running Flagship’s Twitter for over a year.

I have to admit, there were a ton of different mistakes I made on Twitter in the past. And even though I try to watch out carefully, some still happen to me today. Allow me to share five of the biggest Twitter ‘no-no’s with you so you don’t end up making the same mistakes…

1) Avoid confrontation!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

This is the BIGGEST mistake any Twitter user can make.

Twitter is like one big chatroom. It’s a melting pot of people of all different ages, colours, sexual orientations and religions, and from time to time you will come across a tweet you do not agree with. Rather than see red and engage, take a few seconds to think about the possible reaction you’ll provoke.

On a personal level, I’ve been on the receiving end of some nasty comments from others regarding the political party I support. I never ever use Flagship’s Twitter to make political statements, or contradict others’ political opinions. You are asking for trouble if you start – so don’t even do it. By all means re-tweet impartial political stories from the BBC or BreakingNews Twitter accounts if they are of interest, but the golden rule is to hold your tongue.

2) Self-Promotional auto-direct messages to connect with others

We’ve all seen them come through. “Hi @flagshiphousing thanks for following!”

Ach.

It’s like social spam and it winds me up no end.

The reasoning for this is that I think connections on Twitter work best if you provide value to others without asking for something in return. This can be a tweet of their blogposts, a retweet or a friendly mention. This works far better to connect with others than a self-promotional auto-DM.

3) Wasting too much time on a tweet

It’s good to tweet often, but what makes the perfect tweet? In my opinion, something short, snappy, and interesting. Anything topical that makes your follower think “Ah, that’s useful”, or “Ah, they seem like a friendly bunch they do” is the perfect tweet.

Don’t analyse every word. Spontaneity is key! The less time you need to think about it the better. Believe me, people can spot an overly-laboured tweet a mile off.

4) Trying to be a Jack-Of-All-Trades

Newsflash, you cannot be all things to all people. If you want to be taken seriously, you’ll gain no respect (or followers for that matter) if you start trying to be the comedian. Focus on what you want to say, stick to that topic or theme and run with it. You’ll attract other like-minded people and you’ll grow a network of loyal followers who re-tweet your tweets.

5) Look for quick wins

The fast speed on Twitter can often give the impression that things can be achieved fast and with little effort. At least this is what I thought. This leads to counting each additional follower or being obsessed with each click you get on a link you posted.

#There #Is #Nothing #Worse #Than #Hashtag #Over-use #To #Annoy #Twitter

By all means, make sure you use the hashtag when it mentions something worthwhile. Say Grant Shapps makes an announcement – hashtag #Shapps – it’ll be picked up by anyone searching. Hashtagging every single word of your tweet in the hope that someone, somewhere will pick it up and follow you will ruin all the good work you’ve done so far.

What I’ve learnt is that key is things on Twitter take time like on any other place. So focusing on results can proove to be tricky if it is the only source of motivation. Once I started to focus on the people, the talks and the information others were providing for me, the game changed. I felt I succeeded right there and followers, clicks and the rest will always come.

Do you have any other ideas of common Twitter mistakes? What have you seen that makes you think “oh dear!”?

Beware the social media bullies….

One of the big fears many housing associations and local authorities have about social media, is that if they begin to engage, customers will use it to try to take advantage of your offering. They know it’s a public space, they know it’s being monitored by other customers and your executive team and they complain and complain and complain. I like to call these types of friends social media bullies.

However, should you be scared of these customers? Before you answer this question, consider the following..

1) Ask yourself why….?

  • Products and service issues: Is there something wrong with the services you provide that would make customers so frustrated that they’d go to any length to say bad things? If so, that information has to be provided to the departments within your organisation that can fix it.  What we’ve learned is that customer service (and especially social media customer service) provides real-time, often genuine and valuable feedback that we can’t get any other way!

We are all customers to some extent – we’ve all experienced bad service and we know it doesn’t feel good. Having an insight into what a customer of ours has experienced helps us learn and put things right.

  • Manage customer expectations: Is there something misleading about the promises you’ve made your customers? Is your marketing misleading or has it created a situation that is a set-up for customer disappointment? Reviewing your website and matching brand promises to create realistic expectations is key.

2) Beyond the basics. If you are getting the basics consistently right, then you want to think about how you are going to handle customers who either start or migrate to social media channels to air their frustration. Just like anything in life, there are always the “bullies” who think they can trash a company in social media to get preferential treatment and better service. 

Unfortunately part of what’s happened is that when customers do use social media to complain, many companies provide better service than if the customer used the traditional channels of phone, email or chat. By rewarding a customer who ‘flames you’ in the public eye, you’re setting yourself up to have that behaviour repeated by others.

3) The witness factor: What you need to realise is that customers are very smart. They figure out very quickly where they can get the quickiest and best results and answers. If you consistently provide poor customer service in traditional channels like your phone or email service, consider that you are setting the company up for bullies to take advantage of the “publicness” of social media.

What I mean by that is what’s known as “The witness factor” – the idea that because something is public — everyone can see it — that THAT changes how companies treat customers. There can’t be one way to treat customers who call on the phone or email — i.e., poorly  — and then a different way to treat customers who use social channels- better and faster. It’s a clear set-up for bullies to use social media to try to take advantage. They’ll figure that out and use it to their advantage — because they know you don’t want to see bad press about you in the public.

4) You’re fired… In the words of Alan Sugar, when we get a social media bully – a customer who consistently complains, we “mark that person’s card”. We allow a number of complaints, and offer them the same level of service to rectify their problem or issue as anyone else who contacts us in other channels. If we feel that this customer is being misleading, unreasonable, making false claims and lying about their treatment (e.g we know they were called and visited by a contractor, and they post that we’re liars), we fire them.

We have only had to do this once in a year – quite a track record we think!

A top tip is to 1) identify theses conversations early — you will notice the same names and same profile pictures appearing on your wall. The second top tip is to try and take the interaction offline and out of social channels into channels that are less visible to the public. Once you take it to other channels, then discern if the customer’s concern is real or if you have a “social media bully” on your hands.

5) Gratefulness is repaid in spades: We have found that often times when customers who do have real issues are helped, they are so appreciative and sometimes even flabbergasted that we’ve been so helpful, that they return to Facebook and make a compliment. There’s nothing like sincere, authentic and genuine compliments about your company in social spheres. You can’t pay for PR like that, especially in a world where customer service has now become PR. And especially in a world where social customer bullies are trying to take advantage of the company using social media.

So, my message is simple:

  • Offer the same level of service on social media as you would on any other channel.
  • Don’t be afraid of social media bullies and don’t be afraid to use the ‘remove user’ if you’ve got one on your hand.
  • Embrace complaints as an opportunity to learn – after all it’s real time feedback on your service.

How to mess up social media in 5 easy steps!

Unfortunately, too many organisations think that getting involved in social media just means setting up a Facebook and Twitter profile, sitting back and watching it take off.

“That’s the hard work done!” they exclaim – but adopt this attitude at your peril.

In today’s post I’d like to explore five common faux pas that will see your social media strategy sink like a stone.

1) Set up your profile, and ignore it forever

I’m not going to name any housing associations out there guilty of this (you know who you are!) but unfortunately, I see this a lot. (And I mean, a lot.) I really applaud those that take the first big leap in creating a Facebook page, giving their customers and fans a new home to communicate with them. But the truth is if you don’t listen, check in and say hello now and again it’s not very valuable!

2. Ignore your friends 

How rude, right? But again I see this all the time. A friend will make a post and a request for help, but it just sits there unresponded to. In the majority of the time I imagine this is because they have not seen that person’s post – so that’s why it’s so important to develop solid social media monitoring habits so you always catch notice of these calls for support. Because even if you simply didn’t notice a tweet or Facebook post, that person might just assume you don’t care to help.

3. Discourage your employees from representing your company.

Only the Marketing and Communications Team can successfully represent your company, right? Wrong! We allowing all our employees to tweet company content, discuss what they’re working on, or announce special news. It’s very valuable, especially when you’re all-hands-on-deck regarding a specific announcement like our recent 1Future restructure.

4. Moderate, delete and approve posts

There are two valuable benefits that come from allowing free discussion, complaints and content that encourages a response. Firstly you get healthy debate and can work out where things go wrong so you can improve. After all, if you start moderating left, right and centre, your friends will not engage with you.

Secondly, if you start doing this then you miss out on the natural ‘viral effect’ that develops from heavily commented and shared content on Facebook and Twitter. Sure, it’s much easier to post a link, and leave it at that. But the value of that post increases significantly if you say, “Here’s a resource. What do you think? Share with your friends!

5. Give up.

“I’m not getting social media results right now, no one likes me, no one is speaking to me, so clearly it’s useless.”

I would be very cautious if you adopt this attitude. Ask yourself, did you even give it a solid chance? When you go to a business networking event, do you expect to develop strong business relationships with all 50 attendees that very evening? I imagine you understand it will take multiple weeks, perhaps months of meetups before you develop solid relationships with every person. Similarly, it takes lots of commitment and nurturing to develop a successful community through any social network, too.

If you want your social media strategy to succeed remember CATCH:

  • Check in and say hello!
  • Allow posts
  • Tell your staff to get involved
  • Control your posts and you curb debate
  • Have faith!

Using social media to drive traffic to your site

As Communications Manager for Flagship, part of my role also includes managing and maintaining our customer website. On a daily basis it’s up to me to write new content, update existing content, refresh links and generally tidy up.

Before Flagship got involved in social media, I felt somewhat powerless with regard to driving traffic to our website. I could only rely on the quality of our content and of tags and keywords, checking out referring websites and trying to get us indexed on as many partner websites as possible…

However, as soon as we got involved in social media, I was put back in the traffic driving seat…

Google Analytics

Studying Google Analytics, roughly 64% of traffic to flagship-housing.co.uk comes through search engines, 21% is through referring websites and 15% is direct traffic.

Taking a look at our top referring websites today they are:

  1. Google.co.uk (6,800 visits since Jan 1 2010)
  2. Flagship Connect (our intranet) (4,500)
  3. Rightmove.co.uk (3,000)
  4. Housingnet.co.uk (2,900)
  5. FACEBOOK.COM (2,600)

Now, when you consider that we did not officially launch Facebook until July 2010, it makes for some pretty interesting reading – even more so when you look into our Facebook visitors in detail…

Compared with the average time on site (across the board) of 3 minutes 51 seconds, it seems our Facebook friends are more interested in our website. Staying online for an extra 20 seconds (at 4 minutes 11 secs), they also look at more pages on average too.

What about Twitter?

Twitter is also a great way to direct traffic to the website. Since 1 January 2010 we’ve had 400 visits, however they stayed online for less than average (at 3 minutes 21) and looked at less pages.

Why?

Well I think this can be explained through the fact that Twitter is generally not where your customers / tenants are – it’s more of a platform to engage with industry peers, partners and stakeholders. This suggests that a ‘one size fits all approach’ when trying to drive traffic to your website won’t work – tailor your message and link to suit your audience!

Facebook insights – a unique look at your friends

Do you know who your friends are? In real life you’d be able to answer yes pretty confidently, but when it comes to social media the answer’s not so easy. 

Keeping track of who your friends are and where they are is a somewhat difficult, if not impossible task. However, with Facebook’s nifty little Insights tool, you can at least get a unique glimpse of who’s liking your page.

Why is this important? Well not only does it show you who you’re targeting with your engagement activities, it’s also a useful tool to show you the groups you’re failing to hit. It’s with this in mind I’d like to share with you a little glimpse into our special little Flagship friendship circle…

Once you’ve set up a Facebook profile, edited it to your liking and set out your wares, with any luck your friends will come. By clicking ‘ View Insights’ you’ll be greeted with a whole bunch of statistics.

Page overview

The page overview part of Insights gives you a snapshot of your success with your Facebook profile over time. You can choose the figures over a month-by-month basis, or simply choose the timeframe you’re interested in.

From the overview, currently Flagship has 655 monthly active users (up 5.1% on the previous month), with our posts being viewed 27,315 times. These are great statistics to prove value for money – how much would it cost to send 27,000 texts or make 27,000 phonecalls?

Users

The users tab gives a unique insight into your friends’ activity. From the chart below I can see, for example, that we get more new likes around the start of the week rather than the end. This could indicate that I need to do more work with engaging friends and potential friends at the end of the week to try and encourage more sign-up.

But here’s the best part of the Users Insights – your friends’ demographics…

According to the figures, 75% of our friends are female! 75%! Without wanting to make some wild accusations, perhaps this is understandable? As a social housing provider, perhaps we have to learn to accept that we’re not a cool brand that appeals to men like your Sky Sports, Manchester Uniteds or Carlsbergs of this world… Perhaps women are more inclined to like you, simply because we appeal more to them.

(I could also say it’s because women love a good chat and a moan, but that’d be wrong…right? :p)

Anyway, I digress…

What is even more fascinating, is that out of all ages….

  • 36% are aged 25-34
  • 24% are aged 35-44
  • 16% aged 18-24
  • 13% aged 45-54
  • 7% aged 55+

This shows us that most of our friends are customers who are in the most expensive times in their lives. Aged between 25 and 34, they have the most drain on their resources – perhaps they are responsible for a young family? It’s not surprising then that content messages tailored to saving money, freebies, deals and discounts go down very well. It’s also not surprising that posts targeting younger customers don’t get much response.

As a result of this, I’m now coming up with more ideas to try and reach our younger customers. Things like free days out to theme parks and local attractions and competitions to win a trip to the cinema…

Interactions

The final Insight tab, interactions, shows you which posts exactly brought about the most response / impressions. I can see here that a post about the Royal Wedding at 10am on a Thursday got 1,419 impressions, whereas a short congratulations message to a local group about their success with a crossing on a busy road got 843. Made at 16:49 on a Friday it gives me an really useful insight into the best times to get messages out there.

To sum up…

Facebook’s Insights is a wonderful little tool to give you some really useful figures in how you’re using social media and who your friend base is. It shows you the things you’re doing well, it shows you who you’re hitting with your messages and how you’re hitting them and for me it is a godsend.

However, when it comes to social media, there’s always lots more you could do. No one is an expert in the right way to do things – social media is such a new field it’s a game of hit and miss as to what will and won’t work. I can say with 110% certainty, for example, that I will never get our friend base to 50% male and 50% female – it will never happen!

To conclude, whilst Insights won’t ever give you the answer for what you need to do better, it can at least give you a hint!

Managing social media the easy way…

Let’s face facts, Twitter’s website is awful to use. It’s clunky, you’re confronted with that Fail Whale constantly and keeping up with conversations is virtually impossible.

But did you know that there are some free-to-use clients out there which help manage your tweets and overall social media experience in easier way?

The three big players in this sphere at the moment are TweetDeck, Hootsuite and Seesmic. All three have their advantages – but which is best for your needs?

TweetDeck

By far the most established and perhaps most popular client out there is TweetDeck. It is a downloadable desktop programme that enables a user to organise and manage multiple Twitter streams using easy-to-view columns. You can customise which columns are displayed (sent items, @replies, direct messages) and view a scrollable timeline of tweets. 
 
TweetDeck not only looks smart, it is a nice and easy platform to use and has some good features such as the ability to retweet or quote a tweet (using the RT standard). It also shows you instantly who’s retweeting your tweets which is another nice feature. However, although there are plans to make it web-based you need to download the TweetDeck client (which could be impossible if you have a strict IT Policy) and the column functionality is a bit limited, especially when compared to others available.
 
Seesmic
 
Like TweetDeck, Seesmic allows the user to organise one or multiple Twitter streams and Facebook feeds into columns, but Seesmic benefits from a bit of a more open user interface that enables the user to see more of the timeline in a clearer format. It displays many more tweets in each column compared to TweetDeck, making keeping track of conversations easier.
 
Unlike TweetDeck, you don’t need to download the client as it offers a web-based service. The interface is clean and you can customise it to your liking – not to mention the additional features such as ‘mail mode’ for pure text updates. With its constant software updates and enhancements (a newer, better version seems to be available every few weeks), I think Seesmic has edge over TweetDeck for me.
 
HootSuite

Being entirely web-based, HootSuite is accessible from any computer hooked up to the internet, and has several additional features over the others that make it an attractive option to consider.
 
The first is the scheduling function that enables tweets or status updates to be timed for future times and dates in a single session. This makes it perfect for things like job vacancy announcements of shared ownership open day or event reminders.  The integration of this functionality, combined with instant URL shortening, is a fantastic addition that removes the need to use a separate website like tinyurl to schedule future updates. You can also click ‘view conversation’ on one of your follower’s timelines, allowing you an instant ‘at-a-glance’ view of what they’re talking about.
 
However, where HootSuite falls down is the user interface and notifications. The interface can feel a bit cramped and overcrowded and together with a poor update notification system (due to the platform being web-based) it can feel frustratingly lacking at times.
 
Which is best?
 
For Flagship, we’ve found that Hootsuite is the best for us. We can sign in online, see instantly our @mentions and Direct Messages and respond accordingly. The ability to schedule tweets is a godsend, and so is the ability to view conversations.
 
In general, the right client for you will depend on your needs.
 
Do you want to receive automatic notifications 10-20 seconds quicker than web-based clients? Go for TweetDeck.
 
Do you want to have many columns of information (@ replies, DMs, searches, plain text, lists etc) displaying simultaneously? Go for Seesmic
 
Do you want to keep track of conversations easily and schedule tweets for future events? Go for Hootsuite.
 
To sum up…
 
There’s lots of choice out there, but the right client depends on your needs. By all means have a play around with all three to work out which one suits you – but if I had to part with my cash for a client I’d opt for HootSuite, every time.
 
What do you think?