Tools of Engagement … Beyond Friends, Fans and Followers
This interview features insights and expert advice from recognized social media thought leaders and highly sought-after keynote speakers Jay Baer, author and CEO of Convince&Convert and Jason Falls, author and CEO of Social Media Explorer. As road warriors and savvy travelers, both Jay and Jason rely on Boingo to stay connected with their 58,000+ and 55,000+ followers respectively when crisscrossing the globe to deliver keynote addresses at social media conferences.
We hope you find the interview as interesting and informative as we did. You can also enjoy the Q&A session as a PDF [DOWNLOAD] and share it with your colleagues.
Question 1 – Rule of Thumb
Let’s start with the basic rule of thumb. According to social media gurus like yourselves, people, not software or technology, drive social media success. Can you elaborate on this principle?
Jay: We want to do business with people, not logos. Social media is inherently a people-driven scenario. It’s the only place in the history of communication where companies are competing for attention side-by-side with our closest friends and family members. Look at your Facebook stream. It’s something like: mom, friend, wife, close friend, mom again, some company, friend, friend, close friend. My mom doesn’t buy TV ads. My friends don’t run print ads. But in social media, my mom and my friends and my wife are alongside companies I follow. Companies can’t beat real people in social media, they must join them.
Jason: Take the best software or hardware in the world. Now have it answer your customer’s questions. Have it show empathy for a frustrating customer service experience. Have it write a fun post that makes people comment and share on Facebook. You can buy all the software and hardware in the world, but none of it will be social. It will only execute the task your people instruct it to. If your people aren’t good communicators, don’t know how to be human and social on behalf of your brand, don’t understand how to engage an audience and persuade them to try or buy, your technology is worthless.
Question 2 – Quality vs. Quantity
What advice do you have for marketers who measure social media success by counting friends, fans and followers? How do businesses balance meaningful brand engagement with the need to define business goals like metrics, key performance indicators (KPIs) and return on investment (ROI)?
Jay: In general, metrics that count up from zero are inferior to metrics that use percentages or ratios. This is because the former counts aggregation, while the latter measures behavior. While it certainly can be useful to have a larger social media audience, it doesn’t have any inherent value. The reason you want more fans is because the assumption is that more fans will produce what you actually need, which is more behaviors that either make you money, save you money, or both. This is no different than website traffic. A visitor to your website is worth zero until or unless she does something of value.
Just remember this: the goal isn’t to be good at social media, the goal is to be good at business because of social media.
Jason: How many fans does it take to make payroll? Pay the electric bill? Do you know? Because I don’t. But I do know how many website visitors it takes to drive one sale or one lead conversion. I know how many sales or how many lead conversions I need to make payroll or pay the electric bill. I know how many people I need to walk through the door of my building to drive X amount of sales, which can also help me make payroll or pay the electric bill. So let’s start there. Can you drive strategies in social media that push the existing buttons you know convert to sales or revenue? Can you find activities in social media that are more cost effective, like handling customer service complaints via Twitter so there’s lower call center costs? If you can start to drive social media marketing activities that positively effect unit sales, revenue or costs, you’ll start to be happy with your metrics and return on your investment.
As for meaningful brand engagement, content marketing is always a balance between being audience centric but business aware. You have to build trust, provide value and make the content focused on them. But you also have to mix in the calls-to-action that lead them to want to buy. There’s no magic ratio of content for them versus content that drives them to a sale. You just have to experiment and see what your audience will tolerate.
Question 3 – Ye Shall Know the Truth, and the Truth Shall Make You Free
Unlike traditional marketing and media channels, social platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Yelp, allow consumers to start—and frequently control—the conversation. This runs contrary to a business’ instinctive desire to tell the story, manage the brand and influence consumer sentiment. Why should businesses cede control of the brands they’ve worked so hard to build?
Jay: Businesses never had control. That’s a myth and a fallacy. Consumers have been defining brands via word-of-mouth for millennia. The only difference is that now we can eavesdrop on those conversations using social listening tools. It’s not about giving up control, it’s about recognizing you never had it, and being okay with that.
Jason: Since when did brands have control? They never did. But because there were millions of water coolers in offices around the world rather than one big one that everyone can access (the Internet), they didn’t hear or see the conversations about them. Now they can, so they think, “We need to control it like we used to.” They didn’t control it then. They were ignorant to it.
Your customers will always tell their own story of your brand. They will always control what the brand is and stands for. They will always decide and dictate which brands succeed and which ones don’t. Your only chance as a brand is to be at the table as customers are discussing your brand and be a part of the conversation so when they’re ready to buy or recommend, you are top of mind because you’re connected to them.
Question 4 – Friend or Foe, Use or Abuse
What’s the best way to respond to negative reviews, complaints and/or disgruntled employees? How about threats? Restaurateurs, in particular, have given accounts of “Yelp extortion,” where reviewers have demanded freebies like gift cards in exchange for not writing bad reviews.
Jay: In the social media age, customer service is a spectator sport. You need to respond, because silence is deafening. But, the customer isn’t always right, and if poor performance is an isolated incident in your business, your true customers should rise to your defense and drown out the disgruntled extortionists.
Jason: My process for dealing with detractors is as such: Acknowledge their right to complain. Apologize for their situation (or your mistake, if warranted). Assert clarity in your policy or reasons (if warranted). Assess what will help them feel better. Act accordingly. If they persist, abdicate. At this point, you’ve done what you can and your community has likely seen you trying. Sometimes, a turd is a turd. You just have to let it go.
Threats are a different animal, though. If they’re made publicly, everyone can see the person is threatening you. If the person breaks the law in doing so, turn it over to your legal counsel. Otherwise, ignore them as best you can. Private threats should be handled much the same way. Slander and libel are still wrong and defensible in court. Extortion is as well. Document the identities and exact threats made as best you can and report those individuals to Yelp or the offending sites. None of these sites want abusive behavior on any side of the aisle. Let them handle the issue if they’re willing to do so. And then be ready and willing to not only report the offending reviewer to the site, but combat negative reviews with more positive ones.
Question 5 – Parting is Such Sweet Sorrow
Thank you for sharing your knowledge and insights with us. Since you’re both Boingo Superfans, we won’t say goodbye because we know that we’ll re-connect with you soon. But before you sign off, do you have any last words of social media wisdom?
Jay: Focus on how to be social, and worry less about doing social media.
Jason: Just please don’t enter the social media marketing world without goals and objectives and some sort of reasonable expectation for success. If you have a goal and a benchmark of where you want to go, measuring how far you got is much easier and keep you much more engaged and interested in leveraging social media marketing.