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Technology is always changing, so focus on your message more than the tool

in Uncategorized by Colleen Newvine Leave a comment
You say you're intimidated keeping up with all the new technology? It can be overwhelming -- but the alternative is sticking with what you already know. Would you prefer to go back to video cameras this big? Creative Commons photo by Andre Chinn.

You say you’re intimidated keeping up with new technology? It can be overwhelming — but the alternative is sticking with what you already know. Would you prefer to go back to video cameras this big? Creative Commons photo by Andre Chinn.

Back in 2005, my aunt and I went to Rome for Easter. I packed what seemed like an impossibly small video camera, its case about the size of a small purse, and I captured beautiful scenes of Pope John Paul’s last Easter.

Then I got home and realized that without specialized editing software, I couldn’t do much besides play it back as is, plugging the camera into my computer.

About a year later, a friend told us about this thing called YouTube. John’s computer wheezed and stuttered as we tried to watch our first video.

As online video became all the rage, I bought a Flip, a high-definition video camera about the size of an old mini cassette recorder. Its simple interface quickly got me recording, editing and uploading video to YouTube. The name referred to its clever design — you push a button on the side of the camera and a USB connection flips up, plugging straight into your computer without a cord.

This was the first video I shot on my Flip cam then uploaded to YouTube. It’s literally almost as interesting as watching paint dry.

I was slow to the iPhone trend, but once I started carrying a high-quality camera as part of my smartphone, I rarely bothered with my Flip any more. The launch of Twitter’s Vine, a tool for sharing six-second video loops, followed by Instagram’s 15-second videos, made it easy to share video without ever touching my computer. Record the video, share it straight from the iPhone via wifi or data plan.

I shot my first Vine at SXSW Interactive … of NOLA band Big Sam’s Funky Nation:

In just a few years, it’s remarkable how much amateur video has changed — and that’s from a starting point I already thought was pretty advanced.

So many other technologies are moving just as quickly, and it can be tempting to just stick with what you already know. It can be overwhelming to constantly learn new tools.

But imagine saying no, I’d rather keep my fax machine than learn email. No, my film camera is just fine, why would I bother with a digital camera or the phone on my camera? Who needs a photocopier when this ditto machine still works? I prefer this rotary phone to a cordless push button, and I can’t see a use for a cellphone. I like these eight tracks, or albums, or cassettes, or CDs … Read more

Reply to online critics in public, discuss in private

in Uncategorized by Colleen Newvine Leave a comment
Instagram user Luxuryprgal said it best: Everyone with a computer is a damn food critic. Love this restaurant's sense of humor about it...

Instagram user Luxuryprgal said it best: Everyone with a computer is a damn food critic. Love this restaurant’s sense of humor about online criticism…

When I was at a restaurant recently, one of the owners was having a minor freak out because someone criticized them on Facebook.

It was one comment, and from what I could tell, it seemed snarky but fair. Instead of using it as a chance to say yes, you’re right, we could probably do better on that, he perceived it as an attack, got defensive, snarked back then deleted the criticism.

He missed a golden opportunity.

Here’s a terrifying truth for many businesses: people are talking about you, and not all of it is positive.

This has always been the case, but social media makes these amateur critiques much more public. Instead of just complaining about your terrible service to friends over beers, anyone inclined to shout it from the electronic rooftops can take to Yelp or Twitter or any number of other places.

Think about the Fortune 500, the American companies generating the most revenue, and whether it’s Wal-Mart, General Motors or J.P. Morgan Chase, they generate plenty of public criticism. But that doesn’t mean they shy away from being part of the conversation, as shown in this list of Fortune 500 social media stars.

One of the marketing services I offer is conducting customer surveys. Businesses sometimes pay thousands of dollars and take weeks or months to find out what customers are thinking. It’s valuable information. Social media offers you a peek into that feedback for free, if you’re willing to take it. It’s not a representative sample but as one way to take the temperature of your customers, it’s really useful.

Snark can be one of the speed bumps. Copious articles have detailed the rise of snark online, pining the blame on everything from anonymous comments to the sarcasm of the ironic hipster. Maybe you don’t just get someone saying your sandwich was disappointing, but instead “Worst. Sandwich. EVER. #lunchfail.” I get that it’s hard not to get defensive in the face of the melodrama.

So I offer these five tips to put online critics — even the snarky ones — to work for you:

1. Tune in to what’s being said — regularly check your Facebook page and your Yelp profile, for example, and use searches on Twitter and Instagram to look for comments about your business.

2. Take a deep breath — just as you might prefer your spouse tell you discreetly that your fly is open rather than shouting it across the room, it can sting to hear criticism publicly, even if it’s valid and helpful. Before you respond in anger, cool down. If you really care about your business, it might hurt to hear that you’ve missed the mark. Take time to be hurt before taking your next step.

3. Respond to complaints publicly, discuss privately – show your concern in your community but don’t feel you have to engage in a visible debate. Answer but don’t be defensive. Acknowledging concerns gives you the chance to explain. Maybe you had an off day and you know it. If you show your humanity, reasonable customers will probably understand. Then take the individual complaint off line — address it in email or by phone, for example — to offer a solution like a refund or an invitation to come back.

4. Answer promptly – if one person has a question or concern, answering publicly might save you numerous emails and calls about the same thing.

5. Communicate results — do you get a lot of complaints about specific issues? Fix what’s broken, then tell social media fans how you’ve listened to them and appreciate their help

I have found that simply responding calmly can defuse many hostile situations. The critic realizes it’s a real human being on the other end of the conversation and upon being heard might engage in a rational conversation.

You’re also communicating with more than that individual. You’re showing the rest of your customers that you’re conscientious, you’re listening and you care whether your customers are satisfied. Just as I watch how my favorite businesses handle an angry customer in person, how you reply to online criticism from someone else might give me great confidence that if I ever have a problem, you’ll stand behind your product.

That can take a #socialmediaFAIL and turn it into #winning.

Bonus tip #6 — hopefully not all social media feedback will be negative, so be sure to say thank you. When someone pays you a compliment, let them know you’ve heard it and you appreciate it.

I wouldn't recommend every business respond to a Yelp critic like Charles Hanson did -- but if you're a dive bar with attitude, this might be the right way to go.

I wouldn’t recommend every business respond to a Yelp critic like Charles Hanson did — but if you’re a dive bar with attitude, this might be the right way to go.

Marketing Monday: Goals > Action > Communication

in Uncategorized by Colleen Newvine Leave a comment

Not long ago I had a hands-on social media training session with some of my favorite clients. We covered how to send an @reply and a direct message on Twitter, how to link to other businesses and people in a Facebook status update and how to use HootSuite and Facebook to schedule posts in advance. We even got them started on Instagram, which they linked up to their Facebook and Twitter accounts to share photos.

It was the easiest part of a project I did with them to craft a social media strategy.

Each social media platform has its own lingo to learn, and it can be a little intimidating when you’re new.

But I think any effective social media strategy doesn’t start with tips and tricks, it starts with goals. Goals should be the foundation, then the actions you’re taking toward those goals, and finally how you’re going to communicate those goals.

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