Thursday, July 23, 2009

How Much Would a Domino’s YouTube Cost Your Company?-The Social Media Risk Assessment

The most conservative estimate of the revenue loss that Domino's may attribute to the "gross-out" employee YouTube video is $37 million. (Predictify The majority of my posts regarding Social Media and Networking's impact on B2B customer relations have focused on the positive side of enhancing, broadening, and exploring different conversational possibilities with existing and prospective audiences. I have touched on the ramifications of negative Tweets, responses to unfortunate customer service stories turned into blog comments and just this morning, suggested a couple of ways that United Airlines may have turned the guitar incident to their favor. I have suggested and even consulted around the idea of a Social Media Audit as a first step in assessing the impact of our audience's participation and conversation about us. It has been suggested that the gloves need to come off and I need to reach into my information technology background and push you all very hard to consider the ramifications of ignoring what your clients, competitors and the general population is saying about you directly and indirectly, out there. Thus, I strongly advocate, as an absolutely critical component of your Social Media and Networking Strategy that you conduct a Risk Assessment that has all the weight, probabilities, and response matrix of any other IT, Disaster Recovery, or Business Risk Assessment that you conduct.

The Social Media Risk Assessment

A quick Twitter search on "worst customer service" produced a CPU stuttering result (I "graffitied" the names to protect myself and the companies, but trust me, they are big players in the IT, storage, and device community. See the image above left.)

One of our tunnel vision issues, however, is that we think a negative Tweet or blog comment is the only exposure we have. An effective Twitter Triage strategy is essential, but it does not contemplate the ramifications of a self-made video by employees or customers published to YouTube, capturing, in painful detail the backroom processing truth about our pizza.

Why do you need this?

How many more Comcast-technician-sleeping stories, Domino's-inappropriately-prepared-food, United Airlines-smashed-guitar stories do we really need to recognize that the risk of one angry customer or disgruntled employee can impact our public reputation to the tune of millions. Whether or not it is malicious, the opportunity to comment negatively on the service and products that consumers receive from businesses is phenomenally easy and is the internet has become a tremendously acceptable vehicle for voicing these comments. Further, the immediacy with which we can publish our experience is closer and closer to real-time:

One-third of Americans (32%) have used a cell phone or Smartphone to access the internet for emailing, instant-messaging, or information-seeking. This level of mobile internet is up by one-third since December 2007, when 24% of Americans had ever used the internet on a mobile device. On the typical day, nearly one-fifth (19%) of Americans use the internet on a mobile device, up substantially from the 11% level recorded in December 2007. That's a growth of 73% in the 16 month interval between surveys. – Wireless Internet Report, John Harrigan, July 22, 2009

I included a conservative loss prediction re the United Airlines "Guitar" mishap. The examples of organizations that were completely unprepared to respond effectively to the publication of less-than-satisfactory customer service stories or employee (mis) behavior are mounting on an hourly basis. Combined with the availability and acceptability of the internet as a means for communicating consumer responses, the adverse consequences of what may have been a minor case of disgruntled customer in the pre-Twitter era is now tantamount to the impact of any disruption of service, natural disaster, or cataclysmic misstep in marketing message.

The components and players

Any corporate risk assessment, IT or otherwise, includes key stakeholders such as H.R., IT, Finance. In a long-ago part of my career, I had the opportunity to educate a regional group of EDP auditors on the risks associated with the introduction of new types of long-distance transport methods available to consumers, post-Bell breakup. Point being, that new technology and its availability to different internal and external populations indicate that our social media risk assessment should be at minimum reviewed by more than the usual suspects. I have suggested that a Social Media Strategy and Audit should include as a first step a review of employees who are participating in the various networks. EVEN IF YOUR CORPORATE POLICY IS TO BLOCK ACCESS TO THESE NETWORKS AT THE OFFICE; that doesn't mean it isn't worth a review of comments by your own "family." A cursory review of the current threats and incidents should remind us that our own employees may equate to the most damaging publications in the SMN world.

The components;

  • Current metrics applied to D.R., IT and Financial Risk Assessment

  • Audiences, both internal and external, who are participants in SMN

  • Buckets of content that are published by you

  • Sites, feeds, "authorities", competitors who are relevant to your industry, brand, etc.

The players:

  • IT, Finance, H.R. Legal

  • Marketing and Sales-yes, they certainly have a bead on what is being said and how

  • Customer Service, Call Center, Support

  • Employees, contractors, partners, etc.

The formula

I will go out on a limb and offer that the same probability and threat analysis that you apply to your IT infrastructure can be repurposed for your Social Media Risk Assessment. Identify the areas of risk, assign a probability to exposure by type, ask for input re the revenue loss, damage to reputation, loss of infrastructure investment (you may need to shut down a blog, website, comment function, customer service line, Twitter profile), FTE-loss, etc and score it. If your primary call center is located in Tornado Alley, you certainly score Acts of God highly probable and can assess the damage of losing connectivity, data, and cost of going to your back-up/secondary center. The more present your organization is in the SMN world does increase the risk of exposure, but NOT being a presence or participant in the arena could contribute as significantly to the risk of negative feedback as well. Not having a website would be unthinkable today. I would suggest that very soon, it will be equally as bizarre, and remarked upon, if we do not have a Linkedin, Facebook, Twitter, etc. profile and interact with our audience via those mechanisms. Playing ostrich is not a strategy, at least not a risk avoidance one. Some elements that you may want to consider as you modify your current Risk Assessment formula:

  • # of Followers, Subscribers, Community Members (Scope)

  • Scale of Network associated with #1. (Scope)

  • # of times Brand name, solution, organization, is currently mentioned (Probability)

  • Current ratio of positive v. negative comments (Probability)

  • Any association/referral to SMN comments in customer correspondence if available (Probability)

  • Ranking of each type of network, comment, etc. (Damage Valuation)

  • Average revenue per contract/customer/opportunity (Damage Valuation)

  • Productivity loss valuation (Damage Valuation)

The risk assessments that I have conducted or designed in the past have used a number of different scoring and ranking mechanisms; from Kepner Tregoe to internally designed business continuity valuations. What is important is that you acknowledge, evaluate and prepare for the tidal wave (note I did not use the word ripple) effect that even a mildly unsatisfactory report may have when Tweeted by someone with hundreds of thousands of followers who are in your target market. I strongly believe that the SMN world is fundamentally self-regulating. I think that false and bitter negative comments, accusations, and posts (as well as truly disgusting employee footage) will be disambiguated by excellent customer service. I absolutely and strenuously argue that a proactive Social Media Strategy is the best prophylactic approach to answering the challenges of our audience in the Web 2.0 world, but I also live in Western Washington and carry an umbrella, red-polka dotted rain boots, and a baseball hat in my car…..always!

My best until next time,

Lisa, Director of Customer Conversation and Social Media DJ J

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Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Smashing Social Media-I mean Guitars

I have been reading the story about the guitar damaged on a United Airlines flight and the choice of the aggrieved party to capture his trauma and broadcast via YouTube… a year later. The implications for those of us in the B2B world who are still viewing a toe-dip in the icy waters of social media as tantamount to a plunge into a shark-infested riptide, are unfortunate, to say the least. Perhaps I have been a little Pollyanna-ish in my excitement and promotion of these media to my customer relationship and reference colleagues. Perhaps my notion that this environment will be self-regulating is too na├»ve, assumptive of the greater good, presuming that most consumers are eager for legitimate credible exchange of information and engagement in open and honest conversation and dialogue with the companies with whom they do business. Okay, maybe a little or a lot of the prefacing comments, but before we run shrieking back into our world of 1-800 scripted customer service models, let's take a deep breath.

  • The United Airlines "Guitar" Story is ONE Story
  • United Airlines could have/should have preemptively struck, even prior to having any corporate social media strategy that contemplated triage and response to this type of incident.
  • The incident could have been quietly handled, as we all hope baggage issues, delayed flights, and missed connections will be OR it could have been "spun" into a marvelous customer service story complete with an acoustic Guitar version of the infamous UA commercials.

Jay Baer's blog expresses these points far more succinctly:

"I certainly believe United would have been A LOT better off dealing with this immediately and turning a negative into a positive by co-opting Carroll and his story. Consider the career-based motives of Mr. Carroll, I suspect he'd have been happy to create a positive video about United, had the $$$ and exposure been sufficient.

My fear in all this is that it will paradoxically have a chilling effect on brands engaging in social media, as they become more and more concerned about the veracity of claims. Carroll may have got his, but I'm not sure anyone will benefit but him. Certainly not United and I doubt he'll help social media customer service as a whole." A Social Media Gun to the Head, July 21st, 2009 | Written By: Jason Baer


Certainly, Carroll didn't keep entirely silent about the damage to his guitar prior to the release of his YouTube? Somebody at United must have been informed, called, shouted at? Was it the lack of response or compensatory action that caused this young artist to act now in such a global way? Who knows, point is that in the B2B world we now can choose to be held hostage by the possible threat of these incidents or we can do what I have advised in the past:

  1. Develop a strategy
  2. Look for opportunities to highlight even the negative Tweets, Facebook Comments, YouTube videos, etc., etc., etc., etc. in an acknowledgement that we all make mistakes but we are willing to address them.
  3. Be upfront, honest, and quick to respond.
  4. Move on.

I know, I know, it can't possibly be that simple. J


Until next time, my regards,

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Are we “listening” to or merely “hearing” our customers?

As frequently annoying as my English major history is to my co-workers and friends, it sometimes directs me to nuances in our communication and presentation that although possibly nit-picky to others, at minimum provide me with fodder for blog posts. As I was contemplating some fine-tuning of a social media and networking strategy and the implications of our corporate presence in the wild world of Twitter, it occurs to me that I have been suggesting that an option for many B2B first steps into the SMN world is to "hear" what their customers and others are saying, when I really mean we should be "listening" to them. As a common practice and in our customer relationship and support efforts, we use these words interchangeably when by any definition (you can check me) they really are quite different and depending upon which word we choose as the foundation of our strategy, may have very different ramifications for our success.

Briefly, (I won't bore you with etymology or origin), Merriam-Webster Online offers that the word "hearing" is suggestive of the process and biology by which our ears receive and transmit sound. "Listening" on the other hand, intimates a higher-level neural process of interpretation. If we have a loss of "hearing", we cannot process the stimuli of audio waves; if we lose the ability to "listen", in this context, I suggest that we are missing some key messages that our customers, prospects, and others are trying to transmit. As a direction for our participation in social media and networks and our customer conversation overall, this is a key difference.

I have been writing quite a bit about "listening" to the conversation of our customers, competitors, prospects, and general audience in the SMN world a way to assess perception of our solutions, begin to respond more interactively with various audiences, and fine-tune our messages and products. As B2B's are struggling with whether they should participate in the SMN universe or not and as they do, how they should measure the success of this effort, I think we often get trapped in the numbers game of "how many mentions" "how many followers" "how many leads" "how many prospects" "how many negative v. positives tweets" etc., etc., etc. While these are valuable metrics, I believe that they only provide a slice of the customer conversational dynamic. To me, the true appeal of interacting with audiences in ways other than through "Contact us" forms on websites, is that Twitter, Facebook, etc. afford us with a deeper level of information and idea exchange that is repeatable across many demographics and platforms. Instead of just counting the web hits on our new feature release page, we can assess the tone of the conversation about the release; compare different threads from tech-Twibes to Facebook Fan groups, to closed-user communities, to general user population groups. Conversation in this fashion provides us with a much richer picture of the reaction of our audience and we are using the SAME collateral, potentially, as we would in a static post on our website. I don't think this is as subtle of a distinction as it may appear and it is one of the many reasons I am so passionate about the potential of social media and networking in the B2B world; it imbues our professional conversations with a deeper and more compelling meaning and hopefully, casts the net of relationship possibilities wider.

In a broader sense, I think that the difference between "hearing" conversations about our solutions and "listening" to them can inform our customer support, sales, and roadmap strategies in much more intelligent fashion. I am not discounting the relevance of assessing the number of clients who want us to produce a webinar about the use of one feature v. another in our product sets, but I think that we may be much better informed, prepared, and relevant to their needs if we understand their various use models or proposed implementations of the feature in which they express interest. To me, this is the difference between "hearing" what they want and "listening" to it. Listening to the dialogue around us implies that we are prepared to engage in attentive and respectful conversations. We will ask intelligent questions. We will have some level of information about the other party's interests and demographic and we will reflect that in our responses and questions back to them. We will invite other resources and people to the conversation, as appropriate. We will NOT monopolize the conversation. And most importantly, we will not assume that people have any interest in what we are saying until they indicate so, so we will not continue to go on and on to the same people when it is clear that they are looking for any way to excuse themselves from the conversations, up to and including leaving the room and "blocking" us.


Does all of this sound like basic interpersonal etiquette? As I have suggested before, the principles for success in social media and networking conversations are founded in the manners with which most of us were schooled. Be nice; raise your hand; wait your turn; ask about the other person's interests and hobbies; say please and thank you, etc., etc., etc.

As always, my warmest regards,



Merriam-Webster Online


1 a: the process, function, or power of perceiving sound ; specifically
: the special sense by which noises and tones are received as stimuli
2 a: opportunity to be heard, to present one's side of a case, or to be generally known or appreciated
b (1): a listening to arguments
(2): a preliminary examination in criminal procedure
c: a session (as of a legislative committee) in which testimony is taken from witnesses3chiefly dialect
: a piece of news


: to pay attention to sound <listen to music>
: to hear something with thoughtful attention : give consideration <listen to a plea>
: to be alert to catch an expected sound <listen for his step>

Friday, July 10, 2009

So You Went and Set-Up a Corporate Twitter Account

When I was 11, I decided with a friend of mine one Saturday morning that I wanted to have pierced ears. I was supposed to wait until I was 12, at which point, my mother and I were going to make a special day of the event. As a rite of passage, this was particularly important to my mother, yet in the spur-of-the-moment, often impatient "must-have-it-now" mood that has driven many of my decisions throughout life, my friend and I jumped on our bikes, rode to a strip mall beauty parlor and proceeded to bring our ears into adolescence. In keeping with my mother's hallmark graciousness and ability to flexibly accommodate my often challenging rush through adolescence, rather than insisting that the studs come out and that I wait for our special day, she let the earrings remain and I have since had a 30 + history of branding myself with a variety of statements hanging from my lobes.

In the mad rush to participate in the social media and networking universe and not be left looking like an 11-year old in a world full of teenagers, many of us are creating and implementing a corporate presence prematurely, despite advice to the contrary. As a number of my posts have suggested, the pitfalls of launching a social media profile without a strategy are numerous and the depth and breadth of the community that is immediately aware of our launch can mean that a tentative approach to participation is akin to throwing raw meat in the lion cage. In an attempt to channel the grace and ability to roll with the adolescent punches demeanor of my mother, rather than post some "I told you so's", I want to offer suggestions for making sure that your premature toe-dipping may lend itself to a more robust, sustainable engagement in the SMN conversation. So, to all of you who have jumped on the Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin, blog, etc. bandwagon without waiting for our "special" moment of carefully planned profile, content and infrastructure decisions, here is your first set of earrings:

  1. We Know You're There: It is quite likely that as soon as you have created a Twitter, Facebook or other profile that includes your company name or any information about you, that some customers who have been waiting for you are going to know about it . (Your competitors will definitely know about it!) Even the most rudimentary search engines and crawls are set-up to immediately alert your communities of interest when you have joined the conversation. Just as it was difficult to hide my newly pierced ears until the "right" moment, as soon as a Twitter account is implemented, add-on modules are designed to find it.
  2. Say Something: Because our digital presence is increasingly obvious and discoverable, it is critical that as soon as you create a profile that you begin to do something with it. Whether the long term strategy for social media participation ends up being passive or not, posting a static account with a basic bio in it is counter to the dynamic of social media and networking ethos all together. Your customer and prospects may run across your profile one time and bookmark or create an alert for it, but if you don't begin even a minimum level of posting, or content refreshment, they will quickly delete you from their search and their interest. The virtual ear holes will close up unless they are rotated, changed, and noticeable.
  3. Ask/Disclose: Take a proactive approach to engaging your current client base or community of interest. You've gone ahead and established your presence, rather than waiting for people to discover you (and they will) and then responding blankly when they ask what your intentions with the profile are, take the high-ground and query your established communities for what will engage them in conversation with you in these areas. My earlier posts suggest that participation in these environments provides a rich opportunity for us to break-free of our collateral ruts and respond to new and different communities of interest and information needs. One way of "masking" a too premature leap into the conversation might be to try something completely transparent and invite our current clients and prospects to provide suggestions and (gasp) content to us! In other words, take out the diamond studs and offer to let others design your new look.
  4. Don't Be Shy: This may be repetitive, but remember, particularly in the case of Twitter, this is a CONVERSATION not a BOOK. Post questions, brief comments, ideas, "coming-soon's", etc. Get engaged in the conversation: as quickly as a negative Tweet will be passed around, honest and credible, if somewhat immaturely formulated Tweets and post will be forgiven as long as you are participating in the dialogue. What will be noted and dismissed (and discussed) is a too heavy-handed, formal marketing approach to your participation. The backlash that the thousands of sales appeals on Twitter have begun to experience should be a lesson to those thinking that a Tweet that just directs people to a lead gen page or a sales pitch is going to be enough.

The Newbie Twitter Challenge

Rather than continue to opine at the 50,000 foot level about things to do when you have set up a social media and networking presence sans a comprehensive strategy, I thought I'd issue a challenge that contemplates that four tactics outlined above. As long as you've gone and set up a profile, I challenge you to at least minimally engage your potential listeners and conversational participants by doing the following……TODAY

  • Search for and find a negative/positive Tweet (blog comment, article, etc.) and ReTweet it (post it, etc.) and ask for comment or respond.
  • Tweet the question: What would you like to see here?
  • Identify someone (anyone) in your organization who has responsibility for at minimum, monitoring the social media and networking communities in which you have chosen to participate. Not listening to the dialogue when you don't have a presence is unfortunate enough, but putting yourself out there without any mechanism for responding to the conversation is extremely dangerous!



Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Very Influential Assets™ - Part II What Are They?

I am finally seeing some daylight in my inbox, voicemail, and snail mail after 10 days in Peru, and quite appropriately the avalanche of information that accumulated in my absence begs some answers relevant to Part II of my musing on the concept of Very Influential Assets ™ and how their identification and promotion in the customer relationship and reference dialogue elevates our conversation with various audiences and hopefully introduces a focus and efficiency to our attempts to delight and attract new audiences to our particular messages. As always, a big fan of the dictionary, I find all five of Merriam's top four definitions interesting in the context of VIA ™ in the B2B customer relationship world:


1 a: an ethereal fluid held to flow from the stars and to affect the actions of humans b: an emanation of occult power held to derive from stars2: an emanation of spiritual or moral force3 a: the act or power of producing an effect without apparent exertion of force or direct exercise of command b: corrupt interference with authority for personal gain4: the power or capacity of causing an effect in indirect or intangible ways : sway5: one that exerts influence

It is axiomatic that certain pieces of evidence collateral are expected and de rigueur in sales cycles and in our marketing efforts. What I have begun to posit in this sense, is that certain of our evidence assets appear to achieve the almost "occult power" suggested by the dictionary. As I have suggested in the past, our presentation and identification of these assets has become a chicken and egg exercise in the absence of comprehensive measurement and evaluation tools for using case studies, interviews, press releases, and most importantly customer reference collateral in our sales and marketing exercises. Often, we consider an asset influential simply because it is associated with our largest clients; it was used by the majority of our sales team; or we just "believe" that it is a strategic and key piece of our information arsenal. I gingerly suggest that we often fall into the trap of believing that information that we present to our prospects and other external audiences is considered influential simply because we have "always" used certain case studies, they become known commodities and we leave it at that. In this part of the Very Influential Asset ™ series, I begin to discuss my definition of influential assets and how we might begin to mine for other pieces of evidence that have the "capacity of causing an effect in indirect or intangible ways" in our customer conversation. I make no pretension about providing an exhaustive list of potential Very Influential Assets ™, but in the spirit of this concept and breaking our traditional approach of churning out case studies. The idea here is to kick off our collective creative brain power in terms of thinking about non-traditional assets:

  1. Customer conversation goes on in many more places than we think and influential assets are not always produced by us or our key reference clients.
  2. Just because it isn't a pretty html page or marketing piece with our careful branding, doesn't mean it isn't influential.
  3. Our competitors may provide us with fodder or material to which we can react or that will inspire ideas.

What are the potential buckets of Very Influential Assets ™?

Think internal and external

Think customer and non-customer

Think "People" and "Content"

    VIA™ We May Already Have/Use

  1. Okay, of course we include our existing library of audio/video interviews, case studies, press releases, survey results, data sheets, etc. But let's apply some analysis to the determination of whether they are influential or not.
  2. The laptops of our top sales people. What hidden documents, slide decks, and email messages do our top sales people use?
  3. Technical documentation, training, company videos. Why not? A well-scripted "how-to" guide may be a better indication of our bench strength in a sales cycle than a quote that says we provide great implementation support.

VIA™ To Consider

  1. New customer references-always.
  2. Communities, blogs, and networks that are focused on our industry and solution.
  3. The Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc. profiles and information from our employees.
  4. Ditto for our customer, our vendors, and our partners.
  5. Our competitor's blogs, websites, and collateral.
  6. Comments and posts about our companies, solutions, people, etc. anywhere, anytime, on any topic
  7. Negative Tweets
  8. Comments from any employee in your organization; interviews with any employee in your organization-NOT JUST SALES, SME's, OR EXECUTIVES.
  9. And many, many more.

My intention with this exercise has been to emphasize the hidden caches of content that social media and networking participation has exposed as customer collateral possibilities. The next parts of the series will begin to address ways in which we might assess the "very" modifier of your influential assets and how we might align our focus to elevate those assets in new ways in our customer dialogue.

I very much welcome comments and thoughts and as always, warmest regards until next time.

Copyright 2009 Lisa M. Hoesel