The Basics will always be the same.

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In three weeks time I will be attending WIT and participating on two panels.  And today I enjoyed a lovely lunch with Siew Hoon talking about the event, all the arrangements and how tweeters and bloggers can participate in the true spirit of engaged and connected consumers.  We talked a little about Foursquare and other trends and technologies that dominate the space, some of which those involved in promoting their travel products and services are still trying to get to grips with and understand how they can best use these for their promotional, marketing and engagement-making ends.  All good stuff and I look forward to some enthusiastic discussions and exchanging of ideas and views.

 After my lovely lunch and the engaging company I made my way over to the gym for an afternoon workout.  I go to the Fitness First in the UOB Centre in Raffles Place.  It’s not close to home and not even close to my last permanent workplace but the staff are delightful and being greeted by smiles is always a great start to my session.

 After my workout the manager spoke with me.  “Hi, Carl”, he said, “how are you doing? And great to see you back after your trip – New York wasn’t it?” 

“Actually, it was California and Nevada, but thanks for asking, and how do you know my name?” I replied.

“I always make a point of looking at the names of those who visit the gym” he said, “and I like to find out a bit about them.”

Hi name is Ernest and he is man who, for me, stands out because of the simple steps he took to interact with me – one of his customers.  He took a few seconds to find out my name and a quick bit of information about me so that he could address me directly and engage briefly in some relevant and timely conversation.

 There will be lots of conversation at WIT about search optimization, the implications of location-based social networks like Foursquare and what to do with those fifty thousand fans you have on Facebook.  But whilst those at WIT would do well do understand the technologies and their implications here’s a little reminder from one of your potential customers. Some simple and basic things like knowing a little about your customer and making them feel just that little bit important by engaging in some relevant and timely dialogue goes a long way towards building affinity and getting me to love you a little bit more. 

 The online space provides more and more possibilities for brands to interact with their customers but whilst potentially being swallowed up with technology driven innovation we shouldn’t forget those little emotional triggers that, when all is said and done, can often be the reason why I might choose, for example, one hotel booking site over another.  Or even one gym over another. 

 

Social Media Day and Social Media Strategy

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June 30th was Social Media day.  It was actually Global Social Media day as declared by Mashable. It was also a day when I went to
discuss Social Media strategy with a large company based here in
Singapore.  Our Social Media Day event
at Zsofi in the evening was great fun,
and a chance to meet some great new people as well as catch up with old friends
and to also meet some more virtual acquaintances in the flesh for the first
time.

 

Something kept getting said on that day and it was this: people
kept talking about Social Media strategy as a ‘resource’ – as a person.  They were implying, I think, that one
view of what constitutes a Social Media strategy is having a person sit all day
on Twitter or Facebook responding to people’s
complaints or questions.  And,
indeed, for some brands in Singapore and elsewhere, it appears that their doing
exactly this seems to be a large component, if not the entirety, of their
strategy.

 

This doesn’t feel like a strategy to me.  In fact, what it looks like is the kind
of conversations usually reserved for Customer Support Staff (probably on the
phone or via some support email address) happening on a Facebook page or via a
Twitter conversation.  I should
point out, however, that being responsive to a customer’s query on Facebook or
Twitter is, I think, at least for now, a necessary component of being in the
space.  I hasten to call it a
component of the strategy per se because responding to customers’ queries does
not feel strategic to me – it feels just like something we should do
anyway.  I’m not going to dwell on
how brands will need to deal with this obligation at the moment.  It feels like a bit of a problem and
I’m not sure how it will resolve itself. 

 

At the moment, opening your brand up on Facebook leads, in
some cases, to a lot of niggly little conversations happening.  A typical exchange I see (on a brand
fan page) opens with the brand saying ‘Hi’ to all its Facebook page fans and
then the announcement of the day’s special offer. There will then be a bunch of
comments about the offer interspersed with complaints and moaning.  So, what the visitors to that brand fan
page are actually seeing is some essentially one-way brand marketing
communications followed by publically visible customer service issue
conversations.  All in all pretty
dull, uninspiring and boring. 
There’s an inevitability to having to respond to queries as I said, but
the sooner we don’t all have to look at it, the better.  I put it down, in part, to the ‘brands
on Facebook’ still being a model in its infancy.  I have my own ideas about how this could be managed but
that’s for another time.  Back to
strategy.

 

Putting a product offer on Facebook that you may have put in
the newspaper a couple of years ago isn’t good Social Media Strategy.  There’s some immediacy to be gained
from it I suppose and there’s no doubting that your target audience are
probably hanging out on Facebook. But re-purposing collateral and messaging for
another medium without looking at and embracing the nuances and opportunities
offered by that new medium is rarely compelling for the customer. 

 

Social media is about people coming together around your brand
– it’s about a shared experience, about storytelling and, ideally, about
content creation and sharing.  One-way
brand messaging and planning to administer your dirty laundry in the open won’t
get you where you think you might want to go.  Integrating the unique collaborative and shared experience
of what social media offers and integrating this with an event, a competition
or another (more traditional) component of your marketing and branding strategy
whilst facilitating brand advocacy might just.

 

Social Media Expectations – Starhub and Resorts World Sentosa

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Resorts World Sentosa's Facebook Fan Page

I was asked to participate in a social media panel a month or so ago as part of a lecture course for INSEAD MBA students.  It was there last lecture on Social Media and I, along with 4 or so other people, were asked to field questions from the students.

In the couple of days leading up to the panel I had tried to engage with a couple of Singapore brands via Facebook and Twitter.  My opinion had always been up to that evening that if a brand was to have a Facebook or Twitter presence then I should rightly expect to receive an answer to any query or question I may have about their products or services within a day or so.  One of these brands was Starhub and I have had some quick and useful responses from them on genuine queries I have had. They have been very responsive over the last week on a specific issue (below)

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Some interaction with Starhub(cares)

However, on the days leading up to the panel I had asked Starhub a question and it had not been answered and I arrived at the panel venue all ready to huff and puff about this one incident. (Un)fortunately, there was a fellow panelist who worked for the agency that does a lot of work for Starhub including their twitter presence.  Anyway, I huffed and I puffed to the crowd including this guy when the opportunity arose about this one incident of no reply whilst trying to temper it with several mentions of good contact from them.

After the planel, I had the chance to speak with the guy from the agency – Vocanic (I can't remember his name – sorry) – and I got to asking myself whether or not it is indeed reasonable to expect an individually tailored reply to every query.  My benchmark has been heavily influenced by a 'campaign' I have been following from Resorts World Sentosa (top of post) who, without fail, have responded to every post and tweet I have directed at them even when it has been to simply acknowledge their excellent work. I still can't help scanning down their fan page to see if they routinely address every individual who has a question and I think that they do.  They kept doing this during some slightly turbulent times too when there was some negative chatter over the soft launch date and one or two other issues.

This is just one level of engagement I suppose and it's not far off what I have experienced with Starhub I suppose.  Indeed the one 'non-reply' from Starhub stuck out all the more because of their general consistency in responding to me.

My question is should we continue (if at all) to expect this individual service and response from organizations who choose to engage with us on Facebook and Twitter?  What should our expectations be? and how might those expectation change over the next couple of years.  I was listening to a guy on the BBC World Service this morning who clearly defined Social Media marketing as 'peer to peer' in distinguishing it from more traditional advertizing.  Maybe he still expects a personal responses but I wonder for how long he might get one…

Singapore Tweetup Update

Come and meet fellow Singaporean and Singapore-based Tweeters at
Singapore's first ever Tweetup. Ever wondered who really lies behind
that @name ? – well, come and find out! A great networking opportunity
and chance to make new friends.

There will be some free food and a great one-for-one drinks deal.

My thanks to Andrew Peters and to Geek terminal for helping organize and being so generous with their hosting.

See you all there!
Tweetup_sticker

All Are Welcome!!!!!

Date:
14 May 2009
Time:
19:00 – 21:00
Location:
Geek Terminal (Raffles Place MRT / Golden Shoe Car Park)
Street:
55 Market Street #01-01


So, I have decided to organize a Singapore ‘tweetup’ -well, I say organize….

Tweetup_sticker So, I have decided to organize a Singapore 'tweetup' -well,
I say organize – I will sort out a venue and date and time and do my best to
see that it's well-publicized.

Why am I doing this? Well, the lovely @belindaang encouraged me (unsuccessfully
I should say – my own laziness) to attend a recent event she was going to
saying it would be nice to put a face to the tweets.  I agree with Belinda
and I'd like to put her face to her tweets too. 
I was also one of three people (@aplink and (the wonderfully named) @popmycherry
being the other two) who briefly tried to get the Singapore twestival up and
running a few months ago. We were beaten back by the Singapore Government
requiring several weeks' notice to grant permits for events that involve
fundraising.

I muted this idea of an informal tweetup at the end of last week and got some
positive responses from several people so I think there are enough people who'd
enjoy it.  I'm not sure if we should have any specific objectives for the
event other than it generally providing an opportunity for Singapore based Twitterers
to meet each other.  I am also very conscious that a 'physical' meet up
isn't necessarily what Twitter is all about for some people and I'm half
expecting some ardent local Twitterers not to be interested in attending. 
That's fine of course.  (I'm actually quite disappointing in real life but
I will be there!)

                                                                 Singapore                                                                                                                                  But, I would love to hear from anyone who has some ideas on
what we could or should do – maybe for future events if not this one.  I for one am looking forward to meeting (if
they are able to come) the wonderfully Web 2.0 @belindaang, the very bright and
informed @Nisha_Lakshmi, the very funny @roycheong1, the ever-popular  @AngMoGirl, my new good friend @callumlinden,
some of the Twitterers with the best profile pictures @applelovesshoes and
@deliciatan, the @StephenFry loving @laure_f  amongst others and all the other Singapore
based Twitterers that brighten and inform my day.