2 posts from March 2010

Community That Works

The Marketing Executive Network Group (MENG) is a community of C level marketing and sales executives. It is a valuable resource for business leaders dedicated to building high performance careers and companies.

One of the outstanding characteristics of MENG is the unselfish volunteer-ism of professional support among thought leaders in the various disciplines that make up marketing and sales technologies.

In that context MENG launched a Social Media Counsel of Advisors. They collectively ran a (free for MENG members) webinar on business application of social media that focused on Twitter. The live program was insightful. However, one question I had concerning strategies small companies could deploy to deal with the probable damaging commentary from dissatisfied customers, competitors, former employees or even social activists. I Tweeted my frustration that this question was not answered and received a direct Tweet message from Lisa Petrilli a MENG member directing me to a terrific blog by another MENGer, Mack Collier on the subject.

That discussion focused on how companies strategically could use social media to redress real and substantial product or service issues, whereas my concern brought on by client presidents, was what to do with rogue comments.

This is when another conversation started with Amber Naslund founder of Altitude Branding switching from Twitter to e-mail due to the depth of the discussion. I want to share that conversation because it underscores the professional activism of MENG and the real ability of social media to sponsor meaningful conversations and healthy on line acquaintances:

Cal - Question 1:  Strategically, how do small businesses address inevitable spam messages about products / services that are inconsistent with the significant majority of facts and customer satisfaction ratings?

Amber - Reply: First of all, I'm glad to hear you say "inevitable" because they most certainly are something you cannot avoid, and can actually be valuable to you.  Here's a few notes on what I consider when evaluating negative comments:

1) Are they specific? Specific complaints can point to a shortcoming in product or service that needs to be addressed. If that comment comes directly from a customer using your service, you should treat it with the same timeliness, attentiveness, and seriousness you would if that person went through other customer support channels.

2) Are they owned? I'm not in support of allowing anonymous comments on things, mostly because if an attack is going to be mounted, someone should be accountable for that (except in the obvious cases of things much more serious than the online or business world, like being put in personal danger of harm). If you know who made the comment, find out some context about who they are, and address them directly and by name, providing full disclosure of your own identity as well.

3) Never feed a fire. Judgment prevails here. You have to be able to tell when comments are deliberately starting a war or trying to be inflammatory. In most cases, if those comments are being waged by someone identifiable, I simply respond and say something like "Thanks for sharing your concerns with us; I'd like very much to talk with you further and see how we can help. I'd be happy to reach out via an email address you provide, or you can reach me at amber@radian6.com anytime." This diffuses the situation a bit, takes the conversation to a more private channel, but demonstrates publicly that you're acknowledging it and addressing it.

Same goes for competitors. If the competition is openly making negative statements, you can choose to refute any factual inaccuracies, but do so with diplomacy and by taking the high road. Something like "Appreciate your comments, Jeff, but you have some misinformation about our product. In actuality, XXX...." If the comments are opinions rather than something you can address calmly and objectively, it's better to acknowledge with something like "Thanks for your feedback, Jeff. We appreciate having outspoken colleagues in our space and look forward to seeing your additional contributions to the industry." More flies with honey and all of that. The community can see who is acting like an adult, and who is slinging barbs for no good reason.

4) Have a comment policy on your own properties that allows for removal of comments that are defamatory, offensive, or otherwise libelous. Do NOT make the mistake of deleting all negative comments, but this gives some recourse if things are vulgar, personal attacks, or otherwise deliberately out of line.

5) When possible, for comments that actually have merit, round back with the individual in the forum where the comment was originally made, and let them know what you're doing to address it. Nothing impresses folks better than seeing not only that you heard their criticism, but that you took it to heart and are committed to doing something with it.

Cal - Question 2: How do small companies staff social media initiatives?

Amber - Reply: That all depends on what your social media effort entails. Are you just listening and gathering information or are you actively engaging and responding? Are you just centered around your brand or are you participating in industry discussion? Are you just conversing, or are you also creating content?

In general, your listening/monitoring efforts for an active brand should take a couple of hours per day. The amount of time you dedicate to engagement - say, conversing on Twitter or on your Facebook page or LinkedIn Group - is up to you, but I'm going to say that it'll take at least 2-4 hours a day of time, whether exclusive to one person or distributed. The more engaged you are, the more active your networks will be, and the more maintenance and cultivation they'll require.

You're definitely going to need at least one full time equivalent in terms of hours, maybe more, if you're serious about adding social media to the mix. I'd also recommend evaluating and auditing your current marketing and outreach efforts so that social media can be integrated, and not be a standalone element (they should all work together and in a complimentary fashion). And I would recommend that the people you delegate to handle this be mature business professionals with an understanding of your organizations goals, customer attitudes, brand presence, and the like. This is a business management role first, with a specialization or a focus in social media. But you definitely don't want to delegate this to your intern; it really demands a more mature, seasoned business person if it's ever going to become a well-oiled part of your business processes.

Social media is an ongoing commitment, like customer service. You're not "done" with it, you maintain your presence and adapt to how your networks and communities respond to you. That's why it's important to not only dedicate proper resources, but to be sure they're individuals that are personable, business savvy, and committed to the long-term health of your relationships with your customers, as that's what engaging through social media is all about.

Amber

545 People

Symbols powerfully communicate meaning quickly. To me one of the most significant is North on a compass. It symbolizes mission which implies knowledge of a person's goals which in turn infers a purposeful journey.

Thus, there is a compass rose on the MacDuff site inviting people, business owners and leaders to explore big ideas for the benefit of their customers, employees and themselves. Even if one goes off course, having awareness of true North, any person can always find his way home or to another destination.

A friend, Bob Ward, sent the following article by Charlie Reese who has been a journalist for forty nine years. Since I could not say it any better, I offer the following article by Mr. Reese, which I use without permission. To me he captures why, as a nation, we are lost and have been for quite awhile.The same applies to our corporations.

If Congress, or even boards of private companies, really understood the concept of true north, my best guess is we all would be on a different heading now of fiscal responsibility, personal accountability, and real concern for members of our community.

545 People

By Charlie Reese

Politicians are the only people in the world  who create problems and then campaign against them.

Have you ever wondered, if both the Democrats and the Republicans are against deficits, WHY do we have deficits?

Have you ever wondered, if all the politicians are against inflation and high taxes, WHY do we have inflation and high taxes?

You and I don't propose a federal budget.  The president does.

You and I don't have the Constitutional authority to vote on appropriations. The House of Representatives does.

You and I don't write the tax code, Congress does.

You and I don't set fiscal policy, Congress does.

You and I don't control monetary policy, the Federal Reserve Bank does.

One hundred senators, 435 congressmen, one  president, and nine Supreme Court justices equates to 545 human  beings out of the 300 million are directly, legally, morally,  and individually responsible for the domestic problems that plague  this country.

I excluded the members of the Federal Reserve Board because that problem was created by the Congress.  In 1913, Congress delegated its Constitutional duty to provide a sound currency to a federally chartered, but private, central bank.

I excluded all the special interests and lobbyists for a sound reason.. They have no legal authority.  They have no ability to coerce a senator, a congressman, or a president to do one cotton-picking thing.  I don't care if they offer a politician $1 million dollars in cash.  The politician has the power to accept or reject it. No matter what the lobbyist promises, it is the legislator's responsibility to determine how he votes.

Those 545 human beings spend much of their energy convincing you that what they did is not their fault.   They cooperate in this common con regardless of party.
What separates a politician from a normal human being is an excessive amount of gall.  No normal human being would have the gall of a Speaker, who stood up and criticized the President for creating deficits.  The president can only propose a budget.   He cannot force the Congress to accept it.

The Constitution, which is the supreme law of the land, gives sole responsibility to the House of Representatives for originating and approving appropriations and taxes.  Who is the speaker of the House?   Nancy Pelosi.  She is the leader of the majority party.  She and fellow House members, not the president, can approve any budget they want.  If the president vetoes it, they can pass it over his veto if they agree to.

It seems inconceivable to me that a nation of 300 million can not replace 545 people who stand convicted -- by present facts -- of incompetence and irresponsibility.  I can't think of a single domestic problem that is not traceable directly to those 545 people.  When you fully grasp the plain truth that 545 people exercise the power of the federal government, then it must follow that what exists is what they want to exist.

If the tax code is unfair, it's because they want it unfair.

If the budget is in the red, it's because they want it in the red.

If the Army &Marines are in  IRAQ ,  it's because they want them in IRAQ  

If they do not  receive social security but are on an elite retirement plan not available  to the people, it's because they want it that way.

There are no insoluble government problems.

Do not let these 545 people shift  the blame to bureaucrats, whom they hire and whose jobs they can  abolish; to lobbyists, whose gifts and advice they can reject; to  regulators, to whom they give the power to regulate and from whom they can  take this power.  Above all, do not let them con you into the belief that there exists disembodied mystical forces like "the economy," "inflation," or "politics" that prevent them from doing what they take an oath to do.

Those 545 people, and they alone, are responsible.

They, and they alone, have the power.

They, and they alone, should be held accountable by the people who are their bosses.

Provided the voters have the gumption to manage their own employees.

We should vote all of them out of office and clean up their mess!

Charlie Reese is a former columnist of the Orlando Sentinel Newspaper.

 
This might be funny if it weren't so darned true.
Be sure to read all the way to the end:
 
     Tax his land,
     Tax his bed,
     Tax the table
     At which he's fed.
 
     Tax his tractor,
     Tax his mule,
     Teach him taxes
     Are the rule.
 
     Tax his work,
     Tax his pay,
     He works for peanuts
     Anyway!
     Tax his cow,
     Tax his goat,
     Tax his pants,
     Tax his coat.
     Tax his ties,
     Tax his shirt,
     Tax his work,
     Tax his dirt.
 
     Tax his tobacco,
     Tax his drink,
     Tax him if he
     Tries to think.
 
     Tax his cigars,
     Tax his beers,
     If he cries
     Tax his tears.
 
     Tax his car,
     Tax his gas,
     Find other ways
     To tax his ass.
 
     Tax all he has
     Then let him know
     That you won't be done
     Till he has no dough.
 
     When he screams and hollers;
     Then tax him some more,
     Tax him till
     He's good and sore.
     Then tax his coffin,
     Tax his grave,
     Tax the sod in
     Which he's laid.
 
     Put these words
     Upon his tomb,
     Taxes drove me
     to my doom...'
 
     When he's gone,
     Do not relax,
     Its time to apply
     The inheritance tax.
 
     Accounts Receivable Tax
     Building Permit Tax
     CDL license Tax
     Cigarette Tax
     Corporate Income Tax
     Dog License Tax
     Excise Taxes
     Federal Income Tax
     Federal Unemployment Tax (FUTA)
     Fishing License Tax
     Food License Tax
     Fuel Permit Tax
     Gasoline Tax (currently 44.75 cents per gallon)
     Gross Receipts Tax
     Hunting License Tax
     Inheritance Tax
     Inventory Tax
     IRS Interest Charges IRS Penalties (tax on top of tax)
     Liquor Tax
     Luxury Taxes
     Marriage License Tax
     Medicare Tax
     Personal Property Tax
     Property Tax
     Real Estate Tax
     Service Charge Tax
     Social Security Tax
     Road Usage Tax
     Sales Tax
     Recreational Vehicle Tax
     School Tax
     State Income Tax
     State Unemployment Tax (SUTA)
     Telephone Federal Excise Tax
     Telephone Federal Universal Service Fee Tax
     Telephone Federal, State and Local Surcharge Taxes
     Telephone Minimum Usage Surcharge=2 0Tax
     Telephone Recurring and Non-recurring Charges Tax
     Telephone State and Local Tax
     Telephone Usage Charge Tax
     Utility Taxes
     Vehicle License Registration Tax
     Vehicle Sales Tax
     Watercraft Registration Tax
     Well Permit Tax
     Workers Compensation Tax
 
STILL THINK THIS IS FUNNY?


Not one of these taxes existed 100 years ago, and our nation was the most prosperous in the world.  We had absolutely no national debt, had the largest middle class in the world, and Mom stayed home to raise the kids.
What in the hell happened?


Can you spell 'politicians?'


And I still have to 'press 1' for English!?