Honesty, Transparency, and Sunlight


No matter if you are politician, business person, or social media pro, you (should) seek to gain trust and the loyalty it provides.  Trust.  So hard to earn and so easy to lose.

You reach a crossroad and you are not sure which path to take; do I need to defend my brand or organization?  When that time comes, ask yourself and those in the room: will this decision pass the “sunlight test?”  If what you are trying to hide reaches the sunlight, what will people think?  Why would you be hiding this in the first place?

You may need to break a tie or relationship, but you will be right with a clear conscience and respected reputation.

Your comments are welcome.




Employee and Brand Advocacy


Word of mouth marketing is potentially the most effective driver in a consumer’s purchase decision. Brands are figuring out ways to tap into the communities of happy employees and satisfied customers by encouraging advocacy.  This is my recap of the 1/20 #SproutChat hosted by @SproutSocial & @sprout_sarah

Q1: What is the potential impact that dedicated brand or employee advocates can have on an organization?

  • Increased customer awareness and trust
  • Before they are advocates, ensure the know your message and know how to engage
  • Make sure to build trust by having conversations and not just pushing contnet
  • Too much employee and company generated content can actually hurt you

Q2: What are the key components in setting up an advocacy program for success? And how do you measure success?

  • Your online community is the best place to start – Measure new visitors, members, question volume growth, answer rate
  • Ensure you have a clear message, and MANAGEMENT who live it
  • Encourage employees to blog
  • Encourage employee participation within your online community
  • Encourage employees to participate in tweetchats

Q3: Is it necessary to incentivize individuals for advocacy to happen?

  • Rather than trinkets, explain why you need their help
  • Trinkets are false thanks – tell them the goal & make them part of their process – collect their feedback
  • Employees want to know how they are contributing, show them why their participation matters (and thank them)

Q4: What are some potential negatives around employee or brand advocacy?

  • Talking only about the brand and not providing customer-centric content
  • Employee advocates “defend” the brand online – let it go
  • Too much fluff content devalues the message
  • The over-share of company info: Things not made public yet get accidentally communicated

Q5: Is it always necessary for advocates to publicly disclose any relation with an organization? Legally or morally?

  • ALWAYS disclose you are an employee
  • Transparency = trust

#SproutChat takes place every Wed at 3pm EST – stop by and join the conversation.





You Need A Clubhouse


Online communities have proven value and you need one:

  • A low cost and trusted customer service channel
  • A focus group that will yield better results than a survey
  • A way to interact with and build trust with your customers

Great. Let’s build that clubhouse, but where?  What are the features we want?  How can we provide a great user experience?  How much will it cost?

If you are looking to do this on the cheap, LinkedIn Groups or a G+ Community (yes Google Plus is still around), are fine options without any cost to you.  The snag with both is limited or no reporting regarding community health as well as cataloging / recalling conversations.  Check out both by joining group on both platforms (before starting yours) and make notes of what you like and what you don’t.  Maybe you do have some money to spend.

If paid options don’t scare you, I recommend Jive and Lithium.  Both of these platforms are easy  for your customers to use and can be utilized for internal and external communities.  There is quite a bit more set up required for these options, but the reporting and user experience is much better.

No matter your budget, do not go forth without a Community Manager, clear goals for your community, and metrics that define success.  Building a community takes time and I am happy to discuss that too; first decide where you want to build your clubhouse.

As always, your comments and questions are most appreciated.



Don’t Be Afraid – Engage


Social media is a funny thing: brands covet its reach, but often forget about engaging with those who provide valuable feedback.  Finding the right channel(s), social listening, and crafting the right outgoing messages are important, but without engagement, you will not be trusted; without trust, you will not succeed.  Let’s discuss keys to engagement and resolution.


The customer reaches out via Tweet, Facebook, or a post within your community with a constructive, objective issue they have with your product or service.


  • The customer should receive a response within the hour
  • Apologize and show empathy
  • Research the customer’s history:
    • Products utilized
    • Their past issues
    • Is there already an open case for this issue?
  • If possible, answer the question at the initial contact; if an off-line chat is needed, offer the customer communication options:
    • Instant message
    • A link to a related discussion within your community
    • A private chat room within your community
    • A one on one phone call that may include a WebEx session
  • Engage, listen, understand:
    • Problem scope
    • Business impact
    • Pain points
    • Customer expectations
  • Offer solutions that are a win-win
  • Get customer buy-in to your solution and its timeline
  • Deliver results
  • Confirm customer satisfaction


  • Never take things personally or argue publicly with the customer
  • This may be an opportunity to improve your product or service
  • If this is a recurring issue, eliminating issue eliminates future cases
  • The customer may not be as familiar with the product line as you; he is frustrated and deserves your attention and help.
  • All companies and services encounter problems, the very best acknowledge them and respond creating brand advocates and loyal customers.


Don’t fear complaints.  Engage with customers, take ownership, fix the issue, amaze them, and build advocates.

What are your engagement challenges or fears?








Blogging to Sell


“I’m just calling to check in.”  

This must be one of the worst and overused opening phrases uttered by salespeople and account managers.  Without valuable, customer-centric news to share you may as well be honest and open the call this way: “I’m calling to look productive, keep my boss off my back, and waste your time.”  Don’t check-in; inform.

“Good afternoon John, you have been using our widgets for years and I am calling to let you know about a blog one of our senior engineers just published because I believe it would be very beneficial to your business.  It highlights three of the most important changes upcoming in our next product release and how they will benefit your business.  I will email you a link to the blog; let’s connect next week to discuss and please feel free to contact the engineer directly through the blog.”

Rather than checking-in, you are educating your customer: this builds rapport, decreases their need to open cases, and increases their use of and loyalty to your solution.

Blog, educate, and increase wallet share.

How are you utilizing blogs to increase customer interactions?




Think Before You Content


It is important to find the relevance sweet-spot: a message that highlights you or your brand AND peaks the interest of your target audience.  Too often time is wasted on catchy visuals, perfect language and grammar, and over-sharing on social networks rather than what is most important: understanding your audience’s needs and what they value.

Ensure you understand:

  1. Who is your audience?
  2. What is important to them?
  3. How do they want to be reached?
  4. Is this for brand promotion or something my audience will value?

No matter a marketing piece, blog post, or knowledge base article, your goals should be:

  1. Quality over quantity
  2. Helping my audience

If you are writing with an internal focus or intent, you have not only wasted your time and resources, but your customers’ too.  Think before you content.

Thank you for your comments.



Sticks, Stones, and Advocates


If you are a blogger, community manager, or simply spend time on social media, you have had a run in with a troll.  Rather than using their experience to help others, trolls concern themselves with asking “gotcha” questions or starting arguments with other others for the purpose of attention.  It is important to have an engagement plan of how to deal with them.  Here are some simple guidelines to get you started:
If the post, tweet, or comment is a legitimate complaint:

  • Your response should come within the hour
  • Apologize and show empathy
  • Answer the question or provide a resolution
  • Confirm resolution, satisfaction, and thank the customer
If the subject seems to be a troll’s rant:
  • Your response should come within the hour
  • Ask the poster to define his expectatiions
  • Offer a private engagement channel like phone or email (NEVER argue with troll in public)
  • Fighting with a Toll will only encourage him to continue – sometimes ignoring or deleting the comment is best

Before responding, step back and remember there are objective third parties who see the difference between a legitimate customer complaint and a troll’s rant.  If the post is a legitimate complaint: excellent, you have an opportunity on your hands because all brands encounter problems from time to time – the great ones acknowledge and overcome them.  It is not always what is said about your brand, but how you respond to it.  People follow you on Twitter or join your community to learn from and engage with like minded folks; they do not want to be bullied or read fights.  It is often best practice to not respond to trolls, but sometimes these folks can be transformed in to brand advocates.

As always – I welcome you comments.