Monthly Archives: May 2011

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 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. (6,800 visits since Jan 1 2010)
  2. Flagship Connect (our intranet) (4,500)
  3. (3,000)
  4. (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.


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?


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…


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?


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.
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.

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?

Does social media provide ‘Value For Money’?

‘Value For Money’ – those three simple words which are so important in these turbulent times. When it comes to social media, a big question you’ll be asked is “Does it provide value for money to your organisation?”

“Yes!” I hear you cry. “It’s free! It definitely provides VFM…”

But is that really the case?

I must admit I struggled with this question when setting up Flagship‘s Facebook and Twitter profiles. Yes, social media channels are free and take literally minutes to set up, but there are so many added costs involved that you do need to consider.

1) Resources

Your time is a cost to your business. Managing social media effectively is a cost – it should not be seen as a role just ‘tacked on’ to your day job. You need to be proactive, to formulate plans, to schedule updates, to react to feedback and sometimes crisis manage. After all, if you set up a Facebook profile you will receive complaints and you will need to implement a process to manage them.

I tend to spend around 2-3 hours a day in managing Flagship’s social media. This involves engaging with followers and friends, writing and updating the website and pointing people to new developments and new content. I work closely with staff in our contact centre (two are appointed to specifically deal with complaints) and am in regular contact with them so they understand what I’m doing on the engagement side, and flag up issues they may not have seen complaint-wise.

I would estimate that social media takes up around 30 hours a week in total across our group – and when you think about it like that it’s virtually a full-time role – something you need to seriously consider if you want to do social media successfully.

2) External fees

As I spoke about in previous posts, advertising Flagship’s Facebook and Twitter profiles has come at a financial cost to us. We designed a poster to display in reception areas and community notice boards, we paid a small fee to set up the ‘F’ and ‘T’ buttons on our website and embedded on email disclaimers. We also have these displayed on company vans and signage… all of these costs do add up.

3) Prize draws and competitions

We have found that holding prize draws when we reach a friend target or a competition specifically for social media friends are extremely popular. These are very small prizes, perhaps £10 or £20 at the most and take the shape of Love2Shop vouchers, but do they provide VFM? Although we only have 700 friends out of 21,000 properties, I would argue that they do…

  • You will get positive feedback from friends who will engage with you
  • You can generate some excellent publicity and advertise this in your tenant newsletters
  • You can use it to demonstrate how many people you can hit with a simple update through the page impressions….after all, sending out 700 letters costs far more than £10!

However, if you plan to go down this route, make sure that as many people know you are holding a prize draw or competition as possible. Also remember to stipulate that it is only for your tenants only – else you could leave yourself open to criticism.

Overall, I do think social media provides value for money. It’s a free and instant way to reach and engage with your tenants, provide them with information and generate some excellent feedback. However, there are costs involved which need to be carefully considered – if you are happy you can assign adequate resources to it and are able to advertise it in ways other than your customer newsletter then go for it!

Complaints, we’ve had a few….

It would come as no surprise to you as a housing association, local authority or company if I said that I knew, with absolute certainty, your customer satisfaction levels are not 100%. In fact, I’d like to go even further and say that getting 100% is an impossible task – sure we strive to achieve it, but all it takes is just one missed call, just one missed message or a missed appointment and you can kiss that 100% goodbye.

However, you can go some way to getting a high customer satisfaction level with your customers who engage with you through social media.

As I wrote in my last post, you will get complaints, and it’s how you deal with those complaints that counts. In this post I’d like to bring your attention to our top five common complaints we get at Flagship Facebook and how we deal with them.

Common complaint #1) No one has called me to sort out my kitchen / bathroom / fence / boiler

Our customers will sometimes complain that they have not been called by our contractors or surveyors with regard to sorting out an issue in their homes. This type of complaint is the perhaps the most common, and perhaps the most helpful to us too – it points to an issue with which we can address with the party responsible directly.

Our reply is often along the lines of: “Hi XXX. I am sorry you have not been called. I have spoken to our XXXX who is aware of the situation and they will contact you to make an appointment to sort out what we need to do to resolve the matter. Thank you.”

Common complaint #2) I am still waiting for window / door / boiler to be replaced

Our customers also complain about being made to wait for work to be carried out in their homes. Depending on the situation (as each is different), it may be because planned work is not taking place in their area, or it could be that their community manager may have ‘dropped the ball’ through human error. In any case, an apology is offered.

Our reply is often along the lines of: “Hello XXXX. Sorry to hear of the difficulties. This should not have happened – I will get this looked into and someone will contact you with a full update. Thank you.”

Common complaint #3) There is rubbish in the garden / drain overflowing / fence knocked down / communal light broken

From time to time our customers complain about something outside of their homes. Nine times out of ten this can be solved with a simple post letting them know that their complaint has been acknowledged, and that that someone will deal with the matter.

Our reply is often along the lines of: “Hello XXXX. Thank you for informing us about this issue – I will log this for you now and your community manager will be in touch with you shortly.”

Common complaint #4) Flagship is rubbish / useless / awful etc…

Yes, the odd personal attack is sometimes posted on our wall and is probably the most feared out of all complaints. Getting to these type of complaints speedily is key – the longer you leave something like this, the more likely other friends are to click ‘like’, join the attack and post another complaint. In order to avoid a snowball effect, time is of the essence.

If the post violates our social media policy, ie it is defamatory, offensive, or names one of our employees by name, we remove it there and then and message the user asking them to refrain from doing so.

If the post is within our policy, whether fair or not, our reply is often along the lines of: “Hi XXXX, I am sorry you feel this way. We always XXXXXX, if you feel we have not treated you fairly please submit a formal complaint on our website, email XXX or write to XXXX. Thank you for your message.”

Common complaint #5) The photo complaint

A new theme emerging on our Flagship Facebook profile is customers uploading photos onto our wall. This has just started to occur within the last two months, and from memory the photos have been of issues such as poor scaffolding work, a neighbour’s messy garden and a damp problem.

Whilst these type of complaints are rare, they raise the interesting debate – should they be allowed? Are customers in effect ‘jumping the queue’ by posting them, trying to force us to act quickly? I’ll talk about this in a future post…

However, our reply to these sort of complaints is along the lines of: “Hello XXX, I am sorry you have had to deal with these problems. I have spoken to your community manager / our surveyor / contractor and you will be contacted <insert time>.”

To sum up..

There is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ response to dealing with complaints in public. Depending on what sort of complaint you get should define how you respond, but in general you need to act quickly and aim to get that “Thank you” reply from the person complaining as soon as you can.

As I said in the previous post:

Acknowledge the complaint – don’t ignore it and hope it goes away, or delete it and hope your customer won’t notice…believe me they will!

Apologise if it warrants one! Being humble and admitting your failings shows you are human. We all make mistakes, and learning from them and moving on by way of an apology is key.

Explain what went wrong – if it’s through no fault of your own, let them know you will be dealing with those responsible. If it is your fault, explain how it went wrong.

Tell them what you’re doing about it – even if it’s just to let them know you have logged it. People don’t want to be ignored – the more information you can give the better…

To conclude, dealing with complaints in public should not be something you should lose sleep over. As you can see we’ve managed to whittle the complaints on our wall down to a common five themes. In fact (touch wood) we haven’t had an incident whereby we’ve had to remove a post for being offensive, quite the opposite.

So my message would be to take the hit, take the complaints on the chin and respond positively. Nine times out of ten you’ll get a ‘Thanks’ back…maybe even a compliment from them a few days later….it may not be 100%, but I’d take 90% any day.

Dealing with complaints in public

One of the biggest issues that all organisations have to get their heads around when approaching and using social media is how to deal with unhappy customers who complain publicly about a bad or unsatisfactory experience, or a flawed product or service.

Since social media is such an easy platform to complain or express general unhappiness, it’s hardly surprising that a growing number of consumers are turning to their keyboards when something doesn’t go as well as expected.

One of the big problems many companies have, when it comes to the possibility that someone might use social media to complain about something, is that it’s not something that they have dealt with before. In the past a disgruntled customer might have called a number or sent a letter to the company – this all happened behind “closed doors”.

Today, if someone is upset about something, they are more likely to blast it out into the social media universe with the goal to force a company to do something to rectify the situation. In many cases, a company will quickly cave rather than have a small problem explode into a major issue.

Given this reality, a key decision we faced is how to handle negative or critical comments on social media. Should Flagship remove negative comments immediately or leave them? But if we chose to remove a complaint, what would be the justification given that Facebook and Twitter are public forums?

We quickly realised that to use social media effectively, dealing with negative comments and complaints is part of the unwritten rules of engagement. Rather than shy away from negative comments or make them disappear, we realised that the bad things customers say were an opportunity to learn, to improve and make our products or services better.

The message, quite simply, is “Don’t be afraid of criticism!”

By embracing negative comments and engaging with your customers, you can work together to create a positive spin, regardless of the negative comment or complaint.

  • Acknowledge the issue
  • Don’t be afraid to apologise
  • Explain what went wrong
  • Tell them what you’re doing about it

In many cases we discovered that most customers who complain on social media just want to be heard. By simply listening and responding quickly, we are able turn a very negative situation into a positive one in very little time.

While negative or bad comments are a fact of life within social media, they are not something that companies should fear. There will always be a small number of customers who will complain, the key is figuring out how to effectively deal with these situations in a positive and proactive way.

Next week I’ll give some examples of common complaints made on our Facebook wall, how we respond and what we’ve learned in our social media journey. Have a great weekend!