danniewriter

Head butting, reconstructed

If you own or manage a business, it’s likely that one of the least-favorite aspects of your job is responding to customer complaints. And, if you are on social media, it’s possible that the headache turns into a migraine if a troll has latched onto you.

Business Unplugged’s Carol Roth compiled a great collection of advice from business and communications pros about how to handle complaints, and trolls, and how to tell the difference. Some tips mentioned often:

Don’t respond in an angry or defensive manner, especially if you are dealing with a troll instead of a legitimate customer. Trolls want conflict. Don’t feed them.

You may feel that a customer’s complaint is unfair or possibly even untrue. It is your job to listen and respond with professionalism. Provide them with a way to communicate with you directly about their complaint. Direct messaging via the platform (Facebook or Twitter, for example), is the best way to start.

When you respond with patience and restraint, your faithful customers and supporters will chime in with their stories of great experiences at your business.

Respond, even if you need to step away from the computer for a while first to cool down. The silence of not responding screams to current and potential customers, “I don’t care if you’re happy or not.”

You have no control over reviews and comments on other sites such as Yelp, but it’s possible for you to block a follower from your own Facebook or Twitter feed. Do this only as a last resort. If you are dealing with someone who simply wants to rant, and if you have made an effort to respond in a reasonable and professional way, you can control who can post on your feeds. Do it too often, however, and you get the same blowback as not responding at all.

Finally, try to keep a sense of humor about everything. It’s not always easy, but it’s possible it will keep your blood pressure in a healthy range. As an aside, it’s OK to approach complaints and haters with humor, too, but make sure you really have a gift for it first. It’s a tricky business to convey sarcasm online. Check out some pros who do it really well, Moon Pie and Wendy’s.

(Out)Pour with care

It’s still raining in Houston.

The impulse to do something, anything, to try to help the untold number of people affected by Harvey is very strong. It’s a great impulse. An outpouring of assistance is needed, but it is important to do that “pouring out” with care.

It is way too easy for fraudulent charities to capitalize on tragedy via social media. That link in a Facebook post, Tweet, text, or email may be going to someone’s back pocket instead of a reputable charity. Share these tips on your business’ or non-profit organization’s website and social media accounts as a way to show your support of those affected by the disaster:

Know the charity. If you are contacted by a non-profit organization that says they are soliciting donations for storm relief, take a few minutes to do some homework before you make that gift.

Type in URLs. Don’t use embedded links to take you to a charity’s website. Type the name and/or address in your browser.

Give money, not in-kind donations. With few exceptions (bottled water and disposable diapers being the biggies), in-kind donations are a bad idea. Sorting and distributing in-kind donations is a labor-intensive exercise, and every volunteer who comes into a disaster area takes away from the already overtaxed resources needed for displaced residents–chiefly fuel, food, and potable water. Wise donors give their money to organizations with expertise in deploying well-trained and well-equipped volunteers.

Three exceptional non-profits consistently rise to the top of disaster relief efforts:

American Red Cross

Salvation Army

Southern Baptist Disaster Relief

 

Toxic Trolling Takes a Toll

Writing for Thrive Global, Gigi Falk recently shared a post filled with links to great articles about cyber bullying and the generally toxic online environment we have today. There are fascinating advances in technology working to pinpoint trolls and shut them down. Additionally, mental health experts are going on record that the uncontrolled rage exhibited in online discourse is resulting in symptoms of anxiety, depression, and other ills. (Go figure.)

It is easy to fall into the trap of passionately arguing a position without listening to those with whom we disagree, however, when that occurs, we are only making noise. If the point of our discourse is to persuade others to agree, or at the very least, understand, our point of view, it makes no sense to unload profanities, obscenities, insults, and other toxic rhetoric. What troubles me is that, for the worst of the trolls among us, there’s really no interest in persuasion. Having been given the capability of free and instant expression, the best that many of us can do is to use it as a weapon.

Falk’s post points out that, in addition to the technological advances in fighting cyber trolling, a group of German activists have developed a program, Zero Trollerance, to actually reform cyber bullies. Time will tell if the program has legs. If so, I hope it will be replicated on a global scale.

Illustration: Trolls don’t think very fast. This one has been caught by daylight and is now becoming a mountain. Lore tells us that most Norwegian mountains are made of trolls like this one. (Copyleft: This is a free work, you can copy, distribute, and modify it under the terms of the Free Art License http://artlibre.org/licence/lal/en/)

That was a stretch

I ran across this Facebook post recently and felt compelled to share it.

Bill Penzey Jr., CEO of Penzeys Spices, has been very outspoken about his disapproval of the new president. First and foremost, Penzey is in the business of selling spices, herbs, and extracts, but he is managing to get his political views out there while keeping his eye on the ball.

No doubt many marketing experts will find his attempt clumsy and longwinded, but I was delighted when I read it. Make no mistake, it’s a long stretch to connect the product to the politics but I found the result genuine, and even a little charming.

And by the way, no matter your politics, I recommend Penzey’s products. They really are wonderful.

Following is Penzey’s post on the company Facebook page regarding a recent promotion of its spice blend “Tsar Dust Memories.”

A sitting US president’s administration is being investigated by the Justice Department and the FBI for colluding with Russia to deny American voters a free and fair election? We have a blend for that. It’s Tsardust Memories, and it’s tasty. And through Midnight Tuesday April 4, a $6.95 value jar is free with any $5 purchase.

At the heart of cooking is the idea that when you take care of people in need, the world becomes a better place. It is this idea that makes us human. And much like the caring, empathy, and kindness of cooks create better futures for those around them, the caring, empathy, and kindness of America has long been creating better futures for all those that share this planet. Our kindness brings us much good will. It would appear it’s this good will that Russian leadership hoped to undermine in helping to get our current administration elected.

Now is the time for Tsardust Memories, because now is the time to be reminded of the humanity of even our adversaries. Tsardust is an amazingly good blend. These are flavors that Americans are familiar with, but how, over the decades and even centuries, Russian cooks evolved the way they brought these flavors together to please those they cook for really is something worthy of our attention and respect. The Russian people are not our enemies. This time, if the allegations prove true, the enemies of Democracy are very much our own.

Tuesday is also the last day for free Penzeys Minced Garlic, also with $5 purchase. If you are coming into one of our stores today, make sure to bring this Facebook post with you. Spend $5, and you will get your choice of Tsardust or Minced Garlic free. Spend $10, and you will receive both.

Online it’s pretty much the same good deal. Visit us at penzeys.com, and after spending at least $10, proceed to checkout and enter 28552C into the apply code box while checking out for your free Tsardust Memories and then 44350C to get your Garlic. If you spend just $5 you can have your choice. Regular shipping and handling will apply, but regular shipping is always free on orders over $30.

And if tomorrow is Election Day in your community, please vote. It makes all the difference.

Don’t help build a bridge to nowhere

My personality is a slightly bizarre combination of cynicism and optimism. I’d like to consider myself a healthy skeptic but there are times when I just want, even need, positive things to be true.

Case in point: I fell for two … not one, but two … April Fools’ “news” stories on Saturday.

I share this so you will know that I understand how photos of abused animals, critically ill/injured children, and other assorted traumas can inspire a profound need in people’s hearts to respond in some way.

Unfortunately, parasites (cleverly disguised as human beings) have learned how to capitalize on the good intentions of their betters in combination with the popularity of Facebook.

They are “like farmers.”

They steal a heart-wrenching photo and write accompanying text that implores people to “like” and “share” the post and/or type “amen,” “God bless,” or some other benign comment as a way to demonstrate solidarity, sympathy, or as the equivalent of a prayer.

The post explodes with thousands of responses, which translates into thousands of Facebook users leaving a trail of digital breadcrumbs back to their accounts. The “like farmers” then sell this access to the highest-paying slimeball who then harvests the login and password info from those good-hearted-yet-naive Facebook users.

Said slimeball often introduces malware into users’ accounts as the icing on the cake. An additional insult often occurs when the content on the original post is replaced with something highly objectionable, linking your approval with content you wouldn’t be caught reading much less endorsing.

The website thatsnonsense.com has written several informative posts about like-farming and other social media/internet scams. I urge you to read and post these articles to help stop the madness.

As someone who enjoys sharing articles on her Facebook page, I understand the instinct to respond, immediately, to something that is emotionally moving, but consider how useless the “like,” “share,” and “amen” gestures really are. It’s like building a bridge to no where. Taking the time to actually pray for a person or a cause (finding a cure for cancer, for example) and possibly contributing to a reputable charity are far more meaningful than anything you can post on your Facebook timeline.

Need guidance in your marketing and communications efforts? Contact me today. The initial consultation is free.

About the photo: The Big Four Bridge is a former railroad route spanning the Ohio River from Jeffersonville, Ind., and Louisville, Ky. For more than 40 years, the center portion of the bridge remained suspended over the river, rusting to ruin. In 2013, the Big Four re-opened with pedestrian ramps on each bank and a beautiful walking path in between. It is no longer a bridge to no where.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Embrace role of ‘own worst enemy,’ then learn

hidinghair1

The saying goes, “Be the change you want to see in the world.”

You may think peace, love, and a chicken in every pot when you hear the phrase. It’s likely that was the original intent of the author, however, for someone who frequently shares advice on writing, marketing, public relations, and other topics, the mandate resonates for the more mundane, too. Examples:

  • Spelling
  • Grammar
  • Links
  • Contact information
  • Call to action

In other words, the blogger/consultant’s equivalent to making sure the proverbial fly is zipped.

A couple of resources I happened on since last week have driven this point home. Now, both of these authors offer products and services, and if that is off putting to you as a shoestring marketer (such as myself), I encourage you not to tune out. There’s excellent insight here even if you don’t purchase a thing.

First up is Courtney Johnston’s post about email marketing from her company, The Rule Breaker’s Club. I found myself nodding as I read. A bonus is her assurance that email marketing has not gone the way of the Dodo, MySpace, or the Blackberry. Email is free, free, free. If you aren’t using it consistently and strategically (and yes, somewhat sparingly) for marketing and fundraising, you are making life tougher on yourself.

Johnston points out several things I need to be doing, and I also like the fact that she cops to having her own struggles in some of these areas.

A much more comprehensive “best practices” piece comes from Social Media Examiner. It didn’t take long for me to get a bit overwhelmed, and even slightly discouraged, at seeing the number of loops I have yet to close in my own work. And that’s what it’s about, closing loops.

It won’t help your business to introduce a great new product or service if the link to your online catalog is broken, or if the street address ends with the word “Lane” instead of “Boulevard.” (Try doing the latter in Atlanta with the word “Peachtree” and you’ll see what I’m talking about.)

Are you a non-profit communicator? What good is a heartfelt challenge or appeal without giving your prospective donors and volunteers a starting point to meet that challenge? When is your office open to receive volunteers? How secure is your online giving tool? Where’s the list of donations? Is it posted online and in a print-friendly format?

That’s loop closing.

Are there times when I am my worst enemy? You bet. But rather than be overwhelmed by Ben Sailer’s excellent post on Social Media Examiner, I’m going to print it out and use it as a checklist with the goal of addressing a few of these each week until I knock them all out.

Need some help closing your own loops? Give me a call.

One little list, weeks of ideas

postingsked

As someone who constantly stares down the empty screen and the unblemished page, I am always on the prowl for something that can get the synapses firing with fresh ideas. I ran across the Simple Posting Schedule above on Pinterest and knew it was a keeper.

The graphic itself was designed by GroSocial and is one of several ideas for social media inspiration shared by marketing blogger Rebecca Coleman.

If you graduated from the old school, like me, you might be rolling your eyes at this point and asking yourself what possible interest your Facebook followers might have in “a day in the life” at your business or organization. “And, aren’t there plenty of funny videos, GIFs, photos, and stories circulating already, why should I add to the mix?”

What we old schoolers sometimes forget is the “social” aspect of “social media.” Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, et. al., aren’t billboards without the scaffolds, newspaper ads without the newsprint, or catalogs without those annoying 3 x 5 cards falling from between the pages. Social media is community.

Commonalities of geography, education, affiliations, (and more) create communities within the larger community of people who live part of their lives online. Dogs or cats? Tea of coffee? Beatles or Rolling Stones? The beach or the mountains? Shared affinities are like stepping stones that, once aligned, create a bridge between individuals.

The sooner we accept the value that comes from sharing a piece or two of ourselves on a human level, and reject the notion that it’s all about trying to sell your stuff or your cause, the more genuine those social connections will become. And when we turn that corner, our community becomes our sales staff, and advocates for our cause.

Some habits aren’t tough to break

Woman is getting bored on date while her boyfriend is typing sms

I ran across a wonderful article from HootSuite recently. As a rule, I try, often without success, to avoid writing and using negative headlines, but in this case, the content of the piece is too valuable to write off simply because it is written in a negative voice. The author, Sam Milbrath, knows her stuff.

Were I a betting woman, I’d wager the most frequent reason that businesses/organizations repeat themselves, often ad nauseam, on Facebook, Twitter, etc., is that they’re fresh out of anything new to say. As someone who struggles with this myself, I err on the side of deafening silence rather than the drone of repetition. The former is bad news, but the latter will get you unfollowed much more quickly.

In Milbrath’s first point, she mentions a previous post about the social media “rule of thirds,” that’s also worth your time. Here’s the breakdown:

  • One-third social content that promotes your business, converts readers, and generates profit.
  • One-third social content that surfaces ideas and shares stories from thought leaders in your industry or like-minded businesses.
  • One-third social content based on personal interactions and building your brand.

Regarding bullet point two, a great place to find those ideas and stories is from your own Twitter and Facebook feeds. Every business or organization has its own trade publications, online communities, accrediting/oversight boards, and industry big hitters you should be following.

When you share content from other sources, be sure you give them appropriate credit. Often you will find a blog post or article that is framed around another article, such as the one you are reading right now. If there are no fresh insights and it essentially just links to another article, make sure you use the original piece in your blog. There’s no need to separate the content with another “generation” of social media unless it provides some unique, helpful insights, something I hope my posts provide.

Every few months, I review who I’m following on Facebook and Twitter. I drop those whose content I’m not reading or sharing, for whatever reason, and find a new source to follow for a while. It’s worth your time to do the same.

I can’t encourage you enough to take to heart the author’s suggestion to develop contests, giveaways and other ideas for user-generated content. Not only does it give you original material, it broadens your base of followers, and thus, customers and donors.

Take stock of your social media habits as you read point five. If you are new to social media, it’s possible you are creating spam and don’t even know it!

Finally, don’t forget, every reader/customer/donor interaction is an opportunity. Always put your best face forward. Be polite. Own up to mistakes. Accept constructive criticism, and even rude complaints, with grace. Social media is here to stay. Develop tactics for the long haul.

Need assistance or ideas for getting started or moving to the next level? Give me a call. Initial consultations are free of charge.

 

Tendons, social media engagement; it’s about bridging gaps

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For nearly nine weeks, one of my digits has been in a splint, which is why the blog has been on a bit of a hiatus. It’s a case of mallet finger, which isn’t terribly painful, but at my last checkup, the ruptured tendon in question still had some mending to do. I certainly hope the splint is effective, otherwise I’ll need surgery. Based on the one YouTube video I dared watch, the procedure may involve hammering a piece of what looks to be the world’s thinnest rebar through the top of my finger.

Now that I’ve given each of us the willies, I’ll let you know what mallet finger has to do with marketing.

The splint forces the ruptured ends of the tendon together and promotes healing. If the splint doesn’t keep the joint fixed in the extended position, in comes the rebar to bridge the gap.

Take heart, dear reader, let me assure you that bridging the gap between your business or non-profit and your audience is must less painful!

You’ve probably read, repeatedly, that social media is about relationships and “engaging” with your core audience of customers, donors and other “stakeholders.” Here’s a quick recap on the concept from Digital Marketing Strategies 101.

Just like bridging the gap between two pieces of torn tendon, dialogue is needed to connect you to your stakeholders. This is achieved by inviting feedback from your audience and then responding to what they share.

Sometimes it’s as simple as asking questions via your Facebook or Twitter feed. Remember, you’re looking for useful feedback that will help you better connect with your core audience. Phrase questions so you get more detail than a “yes” or “no” response. Questions that begin with the words “how” and “why” should stimulate conversation.

Ishita Ganguly penned a great post for Social Media Examiner that should give you several good ideas. Like so many efforts, follow through is key. Make sure your social media account is set up to notify you when someone has commented. You can have notifications pushed to your cell phone so you won’t miss an interaction. Thank the commenter and see if you can keep the conversation going. Chances are other followers will chime in.

If you’re nervous that your effort won’t yield results, enlist a few of your most faithful customers or donors and ask them to share their thoughts to get the thread moving. The more time and effort you put into your first interaction, the more steam you’ll have to develop an online environment that embraces dialogue and responds to stakeholders’ questions, concerns and opinions.

Need more assistance? Consider giving me a call. There’s no charge for an initial consultation.