Customer-service Yes

In today’s tech-driven society, one thing is for sure for brands at large, social media has brought the world to your doorstep, 24/7, 365 days a year, and there is no going back. Just as you would never do without great IT support in this day and age, the same goes for customer service. Social media and customer service now go hand-in-hand, and although I would like to say all hands on deck, when it comes to “socially driven” customer service, it needs to be handled by the savviest of the savvy, the coolest of the cool, and most importantly the most well-rounded, attentive, caring, and engaging people you can find…and as they say, finders keepers. Once you find your customer service gem(s) in the rough, you will want to keep them on board at all costs.

Remember the old saying “the customer is always right”? That still stands true to this day. But even if they are not right, you had better understand that thousands, if not millions, of people are paying attention to how you handle your customer service engagement day in and day out. Unlike customer service handled on the phone, via email, and in person, connecting, engaging, and assisting the public at large on Facebook, Twitter, and various other platforms, can have an immediate impact, both positive and negative on fans and followers everywhere, every minute of every day. Language and tone are key, but being flexible, understanding, empathetic, and most of all attentive and timely to the needs of those who are seeking you out, will keep connections thriving and positive sentiment flowing.

The Personal Touch
With so many friends and followers to get advice and insight from, when it comes to choosing a brand’s product or service these days, the average person no longer needs to wait around for you to guide them. They have vast opinions, tips, and visuals at their fingertips that can help them decide on the next step before you can even get a single Facebook post or tweet in front of their eyes. This is where customer service can make all the difference in the world and why the role of customer service representative has evolved and merged into what many now call their “community manager.” Your community manager offers that personal connection by being involved early on in what is now called “The Conversation Economy.” Just like in the real world, fostering long-term relationships takes time, and social media is no exception to the rule. It’s a marathon, not a sprint. People want to be heard, and if you want their business you need to be actively engaged and listening, and always willing to provide that extra personal touch.

Always Go The Extra Distance
In relationships, it is the little things that make a difference. The same goes for social media. If you are dealing with “social service” then be just that: be social. After you have solved a problem for someone, let that person know that you appreciate their understanding and moreover that you are not simply ready to push them aside. Keep the connection alive, extend yourself to them, let them know that your “virtual door” is always open, that you are sincerely and genuinely interested in learning more about them, and most of all value their support and business. More importantly, always be willing to go that extra distance beyond “the brand.” Providing that extra savoir-faire and going above and beyond the norm, will score big points with consumers at large.

Never Fuel a Fire
So you have gone the extra distance, done everything imaginable to solve an issue that someone is not happy about, but the saga continues. What to do? One could write a book on that alone, as social media is a combination of psychology, sociology, marketing and all around People Skills 101, but I can tell you what not to do right off the bat: Do not fuel a fire! Take it offline as soon as possible. Negative comments have to be dealt with, but the most important thing is how you deal with them. Handle it via private or direct message, even if someone has already posted or tweeted about it. Most customers are simply looking to have their needs and concerns addressed, not to have a public debate or spectacle, and most would prefer to handle it privately and resolve matters quickly. Before taking it offline however, always show the public that you know how to handle business and have taken the necessary steps to discuss matters and help the party in question. This is vital. Never leave any post, tweet or comment unanswered. If you are able to privately bring the issue to resolution, it is equally important to segue back into the conversation and let it be known publicly that all has been resolved. Always bring things full circle.


It’s About Relationships

My friends we are living in a real-time world and there is no going back. But this should not be scary, intimidating, or keep you on edge from a business perspective. It should be refreshing and exciting. In times past, businesses always had to find things out “after the fact” and then play catch up, be it with customers/guests, clients, or the public at large. Whether it was criticism, praise, or even the need for information, real-time was only a factor if you were directly communicating with the parties involved, be it in person or on the phone. Of course email has been in the picture for quite some time, but that was and is about as exciting as watching paint dry. Connecting, communicating and establishing a “real” real-time relationship with the public at large is the opportunity of a lifetime for brands. Put aside the number crunching for a moment, yes I know ROI, ROI, ROI…and for now let’s focus on real-time Return on Relationships and Engagement (ROR and ROE) the true path to opening the social floodgates.

Opportunity Knocks…and Tweets!

Now, old-school marketers to this day will most likely tell you to seize the moment, but that is just not the case anymore. The moment is not yours to seize, it is yours to embrace and work at diligently with enthusiasm to earn the trust, admiration, and respect of consumers, who hopefully can be called your fans. I say hopefully, because this is a brave new world, a real-time world, one in which consumers now hold the power and nothing is guaranteed. Today, the platform wearing the crown of real-time is no doubt Twitter, Super Bowl XLVII proved that, but whether it is a huge live-event or daily life in general, there are valuable connections to be made, and one of the sectors in my opinion that can benefit tremendously from real-time is the hospitality industry.

Show Some Interest 

Seek and ye shall find, as I always say. For hotels and resorts, the possibilities of connecting with guests and potential guests are unlimited. All it takes is a genuine effort and desire to listen, learn, and engage. Listening and learning go hand in hand, you want to listen to what people are saying and learn more about them and their interests. There is a lot of “noise” out there, and this is why monitoring and searching are so important in real-time, for it will save you lots of time. Today, let’s just look at couple effective strategies that are easy to implement.

Spark Some Interest

One thing is for sure, with the advent of digital photography, cell phones, and in particular Instagram, everyone, and I do mean everyone, is a photographer these days. So why not find some shots on Twitter, that really grab you and show them some love. People love to travel and take photos. It’s a natural. Take a little time each day and findsome great shots to compliment, favor, and of course retweet. Chances are that one day this person may very well end up traveling to the city where your hotel is located, may even already be in town, or have friends in your area, and your interest in them could very well spark their interest and their friends. Think about it, so you’re someone who travels a lot, and out of nowhere this hotel or resort singles out your photo, gives it a major nod, and shares it with everyone they are connected to. I know if it were me, I would definitely be taking a closer look at them, wouldn’t you?

Social Karma

Look to help and look to inform without relentless pitching and marketing speak. Oh no, he did not just say that! Oh yes, I did. Brands who build up their 1-1 relationship capital are going to be the ones to succeed in this new social landscape. It is about making connections, not just contacts. Create authentic opportunities for engagement, be real, keep it real, and do not try and push your brand into the mind of the consumer. If you are devoted to your brand, and we know you are, now is the time to become socially devoted as well and tap into real-time conversation. Be helpful, impart your knowledge unto others, and deliver useful information without “strings attached.” Seek to inspire, consider it social media karma…what goes around will definitely come around. One of my favorite examples of this comes from the very likeable Dave Kerpen, author of the bestseller “Likeable Social Media,” a must read for anyone in it to win it. Now we all know the saying by now, “What Happens in Vegas, Stays in Vegas,” but not with social media. What happens in Vegas or anywhere else for that matter ends up on Twitter feeds and Facebook timelines in seconds, and every second of every day brings new opportunity that awaits your attention, care and concern. Dave’s story of how The Rio Las Vegas attracted his attention with a non-sales oriented reply to one of his tweets and how it turned into a stream of revenue for the brand is a scenario that can easily be played out in real-time, time and time again…and now it is your chance. 

Sharing: A Win Win Situation

In today’s social media driven world, it’s time for many brands to break out of the “only child syndrome” and start sharing more. Sharing is not only caring, but it can also be very fruitful in getting your name out there even more. Too many brands still only post and talk about themselves, and some even shy away from sharing out of a fear of driving fans to other Facebook pages, but the truth be told, when you share other images, videos, and stories, your Facebook page name travels with it. So it’s really a win win situation. I am a huge proponent of great visuals, so sharing quality photos from others is also great way to illustrate your written content. I mean let’s face facts, not everyone has a database of “royalty free” images at their disposal, or an illustrator or photographer on staff, so with so many great Facebook photo pages out there, you now have a treasure chest of art at your disposal to use for a variety of posts.

Flattery Will Get You Everywhere, Literally

Remember the age old saying, “imitation is the sincerest form of flattery?” Well, in social media sharing is the ultimate thumbs up, literally and we all know how much we all “Like” to see that symbol on Facebook. As a professional photographer and social media aficionado, I consider it the ultimate compliment. When people “Like” and share the images I choose to post through social media, well quite frankly, it’s a blessing and puts a big smile on my face. Not only does it mean that this person or brand likes my ideas, it also helps to get my name and hard work out there to their network of fans and their friends, and so on, and so on. It’s a domino effect, all to your advantage.

Recognize…and Drive Interest to Your Page

You know your brand and you know your fans, but where does the rest of the crowd reside? Seek and ye shall find! Seek out brands that you like, brands that you want to be connected with, brands that resonate deeply with you, and like, comment and engage away. Take a little time out of your weekly routine to offer some praise, offer a worthy comment, and engage with the brand in question and the rest of the crowd on their timeline, as your page. Your comments show that you are supportive of others and their content, and it allows others to see your name, a great way to get more exposure for your brand. But remember to keep it real people and add to the conversation. I assure you that if your comments are worthy, they will draw many likes, and more attention to your page…and that my friends is a real page turner!

Remember to Share the Wealth

Sharing the wealth and spinning things social is what I am all about. Always remember to put others in the spotlight on your page and highlight their stories, their hard work, and their great ideas. Everyone and everything is a brand these days, and sharing the wealth helps others get their name out there even more with your fans and their friends, and so on, and so on. Sound familiar? It’s all about Karma, time and time again…and rest assured what goes around comes around.


Get Social, Get Engaged…and Get Major ROE!

Fall is here and it is a great time of the year to get engaged. Between Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and the countless other platforms out there in the social media universe, you have enough fire power to get your message across to thousands. Still, no matter how fancy a website, no matter how many bells and whistles, no matter how many Likes on a Facebook page or Followers on Twitter, Priority #1 should be engaging your fans in thoughtful and meaningful conversation! Yes, the bottom line is ROI (Return on Investment), ask any bean counter, but let it be known, today’s ROI is intertwined with ROE, (Return on Engagement).

I also hear this all the time…”I am here to sell my brand, get people to buy, and lead them into my establishment, not chit chat.” Well folks, let there be no doubt, business is business and money needs to be made, but what needs to be understood is that the days of over the top, hard hitting marketing are over. The loudest and biggest spendthrifts do not win anymore…Welcome to the “Conversation Economy.” Posting about your business is important, and apps that allow fans to buy your products easily online are important, but it is imperative that you form a real connection, a true bond, with your fans. I could sit here and talk about algorithms, metrics, insights, and the social graph all day, ad nauseam, but if you are not willing to learn about your fans and engage them in real time conversation, then you are not “keeping it real.” The public at large does not want to only hear about “the brand,” they want to feel connected…connected to the brand and connected to the person representing your brand.

Keeping it Real!

Liking posts, retweeting, and simple replies and comments, such as “the weather is great, we are so looking forward to seeing you,” are not engagement. Pardon my being blunt, and no disrespect intended, but rats in a science lab and Pavlovian training can accomplish that. Your fans expect, and deserve more, much much more. Posting great questions and engaging content is important, but very few people follow up on their posts beyond a few words. Believe it or not, many seem to deem a “like” of a post or a comment as engagement, so they simply like it back and consider it a done deal. It is important to do so, but following up and keeping the thread of the conversation going — and keeping it real as I always say  — is where it’s at. But let it be known, fans have social media radar and are experts at sensing BS, so please do not try and pass off the “easy reply” as genuine interest. There are a million things to talk about in this lifetime surrounding you and your business, so get to know your fans likes and dislikes, and start engaging!

Social Media is not a Sprint, It’s a Marathon…and Engagement is the Key to Success!

These days, customer acquisition is only as good as customer retention, and businesses must look to build “relationship capital.” True relationships are not formed and cemented overnight. To this day, the oldest saying in the book stands…Rome was not built in a day! The balance of power has shifted, big time, and it is up to you to make connections, not just contacts. Every comment, every word left on your brand’s timeline by a fan is an opportunity to engage and begin to create a long lasting relationship. And what is the most important thing in any relationship, yes trust! People’s attention dashboards are extremely short these days, and more often than not overloaded. This is why I am such a big proponent of engagement. Solid creative content and posts shape and populate your brand’s timeline, but engagement is what brings it to life, keeps it alive, and starts to build trust.

Engagement and Customer Service Go Hand in Hand!

I am a customer service freak! Yes, there I said it…a freak! There is absolutely no substitute for fantastic customer service. Want to put a smile on someone’s face, give them great customer service. Guaranteed they will be talking and posting about you to their friends that very same day. The thing that thrills me personally about social media is that it has put the “customer” back in “customer service” and the “public” back in “public relations.” Customers, yes you and me, we are all consumers one way or the other, are now in the driver’s seat. “Power to the Timeline” = “Power to the People!” Brands have to humanize, because they are once again reminded that they are dealing with human beings, something many had forgotten at one point or another in their business life.

Today, everyone is part of the social media equation and this is the scary part for many businesses at large. Everyone, and I mean everyone has to the ability to be heard and are thus empowered. This is why those who you choose to represent your brand online, i.e. your timeline, are so vital. They are the vital organs that keep your business alive. Call them what you wish, customer service representatives, or what we in the biz call Social Media Ambassadors (just for the record I have been even called a “Social Media Charmer,” a very endearing moment for me), but just know they are your lifeline. Choose them wisely. They need to be sharp as a tack, as they are always in the public eye, engaging the public at large. They have to be nimble and quick in this age of digital transparency, and ready to deal with many situations. No matter what business you are in, there are always going to be “situations” to deal with, but with the right person handling it and engaging for you, one who understands how to craft a very smart, wise, strategic and most of all genuine answer — always remember that trust factor — you are in good hands.

In today’s business world, one thing is for sure, the age old adage, “A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words,” still stands the test of time, and with Instagram et all, your images, can be viewed by thousands in an instant, on a variety of platforms. Taking this into consideration, the time has never been better for a brand of any size to be able to show off who they are, what they are about, and to connect in such a creative, personal, and unique way. Whether you are in the cupcake business or busy spinning a wheel making pottery, look around and find interesting ways to make your brand more appealing. Always remember, nothing beats a sharp photo with a good angle, and vivid colors. Let creativity reign and always look for something out of the ordinary.

Quality vs. Quantity
Your images portray who you are, so putting out quality photos on Facebook, Twitter et all, that make your brand shine and stand out, is critical. Simply snapping away and posting lackluster images day after day, only takes up space, valuable space, that can and should be used to pump up the enthusiasm your fans have for your brand. “Flooding the Zone” is not the task at hand here.

Once the image is in hand, it’s time to write an interesting caption and start #hashtagging. #Hashtags are a fabulous way to increase buzz, quickly and efficiently. Walking around Manhattan recently on a beautiful day on the High Line, the Union Square Farmers Market, and the Renaissance Fair in Tuxedo, New York, I decided to start #hashtagging numerous shots I took with keywords. An avid Instagram user, who is very picky with his filters, LOL, I was amazed at the number of new fellow Instagrammers that flocked my way. Adding #hashtags to your photo info is a great way to attract new fans/followers and share your photos with a much larger audience. Add to the fun by creating a unique tag. I have decided to start tagging many of my photos with #LifeIsArt, just my unique way of expressing myself.

It’s Business and Personal
Business wise, the potential for getting more brand recognition by using Instagram and #hashtags is huge. So if your are in the fashion/style business and are walking down the street and see that special, interesting look on someone, Instagram and hashtag it…#fashion #redboots #versace (if that is the couture in question) #slamminstyle (be unique), you get the idea, go for it. Remember, if people like your photos, it is highly likely that they will check out your Instagram bio, follow you, and visit your website. Not to mention all of the new followers, LIKES, and attention you will garner on your Twitter and Facebook accounts. Always keep in mind that the goal is to connect all the dots, engage, and become part of the “conversation economy.” So what are you waiting for? Get out your smartphone and get to work, and remember, have fun! Always have fun.

I love it when I stumble upon something that revs up my creative juices for social media. So this is perfect for my first post here on Spin It Social! Today’s inspiration comes from Instagram and a fabulous post I found on their blog about Instawalks, a photo walk for mobile photographers, where a group of people can come together and share information about their love for photography, apps et all — whether it be on Facebook, Twitter, you name it — as they roam through a neighborhood. In the video, veteran Instagrammer Doctor Popular, aka @DocPop shares his tips on how to put together a flawless Instawalk.

Now put on your thinking caps everyone, especially you small business owners out there! Think of the power this could have if you are a local business owner. Let’s say you own a small café. Why not organize an Instawalk and bring a group of people in the community together for this kind of new and unique event. A group can meet at your establishment, walk around taking pictures together, make new friendships and connections, and where did it all start? With you! They can then come back, have a cup of coffee, and discuss their photos. Like Bill Chartier @SpikeyKahuna, love that Twitter handle Bill,  says in the video, “Community is a great thing, no matter what type of community it creates.” Remember, if you want the social floodgates to open, it’s always about connecting, creating, and sharing. Learn more about your community and they will want to learn more about you — and pay a return visit! As Brian Solis, one of the most prominent though leaders and published authors in new media says: “The true character of any business is revealed in the collective experiences of its customers.”