A hotel in Vegas failed to listen when a customer complained on Twitter about the hour-long wait to check in. (Ridiculous!) A competitor caught the complaint and responded. Rather than tweeting something like “Come to our hotel,” the competitor was empathetic and said, “Sorry about your bad experience, Dave. Hope the rest of your stay in Vegas goes well.”
The customer switched to the competitor’s hotel on his next visit. And upon hearing about his experience, a friend booked 20 guests for an event.
Clearly, companies can benefit from monitoring not only their brand online, but also their competitors.
Yes, people say negative things about companies in social media. But they also post compliments. So should you respond? Or should you just ignore it thinking it’ll die down?
When companies don’t address publicly posted complaints, they lose an opportunity to save a customer and perhaps gain a few more. Isn’t this worth monitoring online conversations?
What do I monitor?
Of course, you’ll watch for your company’s and competitors’ names. You’ll also want to look for mentions of your company’s executives, products, services and your company’s links.
Other keywords depend on your business. For example, you could use keywords containing geography and your type of business. Let’s say you run an Italian restaurant in Alexandria, Va. Monitor for “Italian restaurant Alexandria” and “Italian restaurant Washington DC” as you might find people asking, “Anyone know a good Italian restaurant in Alexandria Virginia?” When you do, you can ask a fan to respond or suggest your restaurant by sharing a few specialties. Better yet, offer a free dessert if they mention the conversation.
People may ask, “Where can I find good cannoli in Alexandria, Va?” So you can monitor Italian food items, such as “Alexandria Virginia cannoli” or “Alexandria Va spaghetti.” Adding “Va” or “Virginia” eliminates all the others as there are many, and not just in Egypt.
You can also use phrases and exclude terms to eliminate unrelated results. For example, the Italian restaurant wouldn’t want results for cannoli recipes. Use “cannoli -recipe” to have Google Alerts search for cannoli, but omit any that mention “recipe.”
How do I monitor conversations?
Many tools can help you monitor social networks (Twitter, Facebook, etc.), blogs and comments, discussion boards and forums, videos, news, images and Wikipedia for mentions. It can be as simple as setting up a basic Google Alert where you enter search terms and the frequency of the emailed updates.
Some tools send you automated updates. Others require you to go in the tool and do the search.
Here are some free tools to get you started:
- Google Alert
- Google Blog Search
- Google Video
- Social Mention
- Twitter search
How should I respond to a problem?
First rule: respond quickly. You don’t need to have a solution when you respond. Just apologize and be polite and empathetic. Customers can be forgiving if a company admits its mistake. It’s how the company responds that matters. Accept there will be negative comments and reply to those comments as soon as possible.
Here are a few phrases for ideas of how a company can respond:
- Apologize: I’m so sorry for your experience. I apologize for keeping you waiting.
- Request follow up: Please follow us so we can DM. Please contact us at email@example.com or call 555-555-5555 and ask for Joe.
- Show appreciation: Thanks for letting us know. Thanks for telling us about it so we can fix it.
- Say what you’ll do next: We’re looking into it. We’re working to come up with a better way to prevent that from happening again.
- Follow up in public and private until issue is resolved: We’re upgrading our software to permanently fix the problem. We’re revising our policy to reflect the changes. Everything is back online again – thanks for your patience!
- Compensate the customer: We’ve given you a full refund. Please enjoy your next visit on the house.
The Vegas hotel is an excellent example of how to respond to a mistake a competitor makes. Rather than exploiting it, the hotel showed empathy and left it at that. Here’s an apology letter from Southwest Airlines to Kevin Smith – yes, that guy who’s a director – for kicking him off a flight.
Avoid deleting or requesting the removal of a comment. That adds salt to the wound and brings more attention to the negative comment.
Every situation is different. The key is to respond quickly and politely. It would help to create a plan with different situations and how you’d respond to each. A hotel could run into problems such as ventilation, housekeeping services, supplies, customer service desk wait times and the check out process to name a few.
Your brand stands a better chance of surviving and thriving when you monitor and respond. The complaining customer may turn around and write something positive. It means keeping customers, bringing in new ones, having an unhappy one turn into a happy one and maybe getting a few evangelists.
For Twitter to work means having followers. And having followers means creating tweets that compel people to follow. While some people automatically follow everyone back, some take the time to review your tweets before deciding. These could be the people you want to connect with because they care about having relevant connections.
Companies using Twitter as an announcement tool won’t find much success. Maybe a few will click the links. However, not many will follow the company when they see most or all of its tweets are self-serving.
Before following more people, work on posting tweets that your ideal followers want to see. Then when you’ve built a nice stream of tweets, they’ll more likely to follow back. So what works today in connecting and engaging people in Twitter? Although no single formula works for everyone, the following tips will start conversations that matter.
1. Monitor your business, competitors and industry. The most basic thing companies should do is listen for mentions of their brand, products and name. This ensures you respond whenever someone says something, good or bad.
A problem can turn into an opportunity when you swoop in and help solve the problem or acknowledge it. Watching for competitor mentions gives you intelligence you may be able to use. Industry-related tweets reveal what people think about your business in general. It may also help you find people who have questions that you can answer to present your company as experts.
2. Curate and share valuable resources. Dan Zarella, author and social media scientist at Hubspot, analyzed over 2 million tweets that contained links. He found that most people will retweet links without ever clicking it. Successful curators check every resource before tweeting them. With many companies diving into content marketing, there’s a lot of wasteful content. Curators don’t want to waste your time with those.
3. Be mindful about self-serving tweets. How many valuable tweets that have nothing to do with your business should you post before you share a self-serving tweet? No one rule stands out, but here are some suggestions: Chris Brogan suggests 12 useful to 1 self-serving, another says 1 self-serving for every 9 or 10 tweets, Pareto principal says 80/20 with 20 being self-serving and the 4-1-1 rule recommends sharing 4 resources, 1 relevant re-tweet and 1 self-serving tweet.
4. Tweet to individuals. Sharing resources, inspirational quotes and thoughts make great tweets. Engaging involves having a conversation, not just broadcasting useful information. If someone asks a question or shares something interesting, respond to that person and include the person’s Twitter ID. You can also be proactive in starting a conversation with an individual.
5. Help others. This Zig Ziglar quote says it best: “You can have everything in life you want, if you will just help other people get what they want.” People will remember you when you help them. So look for opportunities to help even if it isn’t related to your business.
What other ways can you connect with people in Twitter?
Social media provides a great way to invite people into your business and show them what your company is like. Let them get comfortable with who you are and how you do business.
You can do this in many ways…
On Facebook, introduce team members. Upload a photo and say what each person does for the company.
You can tweet about projects you are involved in for clients.
You can also use Twitter to provide customer service – show how quickly you respond, how courteous and helpful you are, how much knowledge you have about your products and services.
Tweet about deals with customers, partners, investors and vendors.
Blog about advanced tips for using what you sell, so customers can get more out of their purchases.
Thank people who send referrals.
Share results clients have achieved from your services.
Use videos to show people how to use your products.
Blog about the steps prospects should take to prepare to do business with you. For example, if you have a needs analysis as part of your methodology, what information will they need to pull together.
When you post on Facebook, talk about the wide variety of problems you can solve for people – share signs that they need what you do.
Do a top 10 reasons to do business with you.
Get your employees or subcontractors or partners to interact with you – ask them to comment and like your posts on Facebook, to retweet, to circle you.
You can ask customers to participate in videos or do audios about how much they like your company.
If your company has rituals or does holiday celebrations, extend them into social media.
What are you doing to let people feel like they know your business on social media? Share what works for you by posting a comment…
Sometimes where and how to begin can be more daunting than the actual task. The Green Guide to Greening Your Office can provide that nudge or bit of encouragement to a client or can offer simple reminders for those that do make green living part of their daily routine. Personalize it by marking your favorite tip. This book can be imprinted on the front cover with your logo and contact information for an additional fee.
Okay, I know it’s a little cheesy, but you have to admit, it makes you smile. And if your client is going to smile wouldn’t it be nice if they are looking at your logo at the same time?There are a variety of all-in-one plant kits available; if a smiling pot with feet doesn’t fit, you can definitely find one that does.
Reduce, reuse, 100% recycled lunch tote! Great for promoting healthy living or improved health; what better way to start than by healthy eating! For added personalization include a few easy to make/pack lunch box recipes cards (with your logo on them, of course).
Tree in a Box contains all the materials to plant a tree. These kits are biodegradable, organic, recycled and recyclable. The book and box are printed on high-grade recycled paper with soy inks. Organic biodegradable peat pots are used and everything is packaged in the smallest and tightest possible format to reduce waste. Kits are assembled by hand locally, from their Portland, Oregon location. Boxes can even be customized with your logo. Now that’s some green giving!
My #1 favorite green gift is (drum roll) the Recycled Cardboard Mouse Pad. What a fabulous way to show case your logo. It is understated, nice detail and most important … IT IS EASY TO MAIL!! Love this.
I think most would agree that green living is here to stay. Some people choose to go “bright green,” others prefer a soft hue of green in their life. However you decide make sure your choice is appropriate for your client and something you think they would appreciate.
Have a Green Day!
Spend a little time every quarter brainstorming about who else is engaged with your prospects and might be able to tell them about your products and services. Consider each of these 11 groups listed below, and you will come up with lots of people you can add to your list.
Start your list with business partners and other people who are already referring business to you. You definitely want everyone who is already making referrals kept current with what’s going on at your company, and you want to sell them on being an exciting, growing firm.
Consider including former partners, if the partnership ended on a positive note, as well as prospective partners.
2. Complementary businesses
Whatever you sell, I guarantee that you do not sell it in a vacuum.
• There are products and services that are sold into businesses and to consumers before they are ready for yours.
• There are products and services that are sold in conjunction with yours, as part of a complete solution or because the timing simply works out that way.
• And there are products and services that your customers aren’t ready for until they have used yours.
Find the people who sell those other solutions, and include them on your list.
Yes, competitors. Those businesses are out there working hard to generate leads, just as you are. And no matter how good you are, you are not the perfect fit for every lead that comes to you. A competitor might be.
So look for competitors where the differentiation is pretty easy to find – perhaps they are much more expensive or much less expensive. Or perhaps they target a different market.
When you are including competitors, you might want to make sure the person you mail to is someone you know – someone you may have met previously and know would be open to making referrals back and forth. That means you’d be looking for someone in sales.
That can double as a recruiting pitch, by the way. Make it look like your company is growing and doing very well, and you might be able to lure away a top rep (if you want to).
Although, to be devious, there is also the benefit that seeing regular mailings from a competitor can be really annoying. If that’s the kind of relationship you have with your competitors, that can be fun too.
Of course, if you have competitors on your list, you want to check before each mailing to make sure what you are sending is appropriate for them to receive. You might not want all your latest news to go to them right away. So you might flag these individuals in your database so you can easily do that check.
4. Respected advisors
There are consultants, accountants, lawyers, and other professionals who work with your prospects. There are also thought-leaders, bloggers, editors, celebrities, influencers… Think through who your prospects respect and look to for advice. It might be advice relating to your product or service, or it might be unrelated – just someone they respect. Bringing your business to the attention of people like that can be very worthwhile. Remember, these don’t have to be people you know (yet).
5. Associations and professional groups
Are there people in associations, professional or fraternal societies, or any other kind of professional or social group who might be in a position to refer business to you? Add them to the list. People in groups like this can be very well connected.
6. Social networking contacts
You might know people through Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, online communities, listservs, discussion forums or social networks who you would want to include.
Satisfied customers are a great place to look for referrals. You will have to decide if you want to include your customers in this list or not. Some of your customers will be better connected than others and find it easier to make referrals, so you may want to include some and not others. You may have too many to include, and many of the mailings will not be appropriate for customers.
But when you are sending educational articles or information about new products and services, it is an excellent idea to include your customers. You want to keep them up-to-date with what’s happening with your company and what your offerings are, and there’s value in reinforcing for them that yours is an exciting business where cool things are happening.
Think about including former customers too. Sometimes you have a customer who stopped working with you for any of a number of reasons but still thinks highly of you. They might be in a position to refer you. So keep them up-to-date with what’s going on.
Many businesses will include prospects who are in the pipeline in their list. It’s a great way to educate them about the value you provide and demonstrate that yours is the kind of company they want to do business with.
A lot of businesses overlook the value of keeping their own employees involved. If yours is a very small business, this might not be an issue for you. But particularly with so many people working from home now, a lot of people who work outside sales and marketing don’t have the latest information about what’s available from the company. If you think they might be able to make referrals, include them.
Think about former employees too. They might be working for a company that would make an ideal client.
And don’t forget prospective employees – people you are trying to recruit. Educate them about your offerings and you’ll help sell them on your company – plus they’ll hit the ground running when they come on board.
10. Former coworkers
If you or others on your team have former coworkers who might be able to refer business, consider including them too. You might brainstorm about who you know that might be a good referral candidate.
Don’t forget people you were associated with at your former positions – vendors or clients. They might be good referral sources.
Whom else do you know who might refer business to you? Let your mind wander… By now you’re either exhausted with the possibilities or your brain is churning and coming up with one brilliant idea after another. If it’s the former, come back to this next quarter. If the latter, keep going! The more people you have on your list, the more referrals you will get.