Monthly Archives: June 2011

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?


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…

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!”


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.