Pulling up my socks: More perspective on human social media

Pulling up my socks: More perspective on human social media

Online channels are managed by human beings with feet and feelings

Since first posting about the comfort of strangers earlier this year, I have been working away on my thoughts about human social media. Here is another story that I would like to share.

It has been over a decade since I proudly took on the new role of ‘Online Communications Manager’. At the time this role was as innovative as today’s social media strategist and online community manager. You cannot imagine how excited I was to improve the company’s current internal and external websites, run website diagnostics and focus groups on how to improve the website, and in general, make our online portals sing and dance. I was young, creative, and excited to share my passion for all things online.

What a shock to me, early in my career, when I realized how negatively people reacted to changes to the company website.

Move the location of their favourite website? Don’t you dare!

Change the large banner that links to the company bulletin board? How could you?

I soon realized that websites, especially in the early 2000s were very new for many employees and any change at all could bring about headaches and even calls from a vice president’s office. That story is for another day.

Interestingly, the one thing that garnered the most visits, but also the more issues, was our company employee directory. It far outranked any website for number of visits. People didn’t write down a colleague’s telephone number or save it to their contacts, they would simply return, repeatedly, to find their phone number.

Why was this issue? Well, imagine, when the employee’s contact information was outdated, missing or just plain wrong?! The horror! Rita got a new haircut? Why did she have red hair in her profile picture?!

I will never forget the day an email came into from website feedback page from an employee who was trying to get her contact information fixed. Now before I go on, let me say that the employee directory was fed from a different department and not one that I had any control over. However, this person, while contacting our general feedback email address to tell ‘me’ to ‘pull up my socks and get it fixed’! I was young, a little sensitive, and doing my best. What can I say? It hurt my feelings.

The first thing I remember thinking was that this was a very rude person. Didn’t they read my lovely fact sheets and how-to documents? Didn’t they see the flashing arrows (well, okay, they didn’t actually flash) and all the tips we posted to help people update the employee directory profile? No, they didn’t because that is not what people choose to see. People’s experience with websites is very different, some react to images and others focus more on words.

What has been consistent throughout my career is how much more aggressive people can be when they are communicating through a computer. In an email, you can insult someone for not doing their job, for mixing up your order, or just in general messing up. This is normally done using language that you would never do otherwise. Now, I’m not naïve. Some people really are as rude in person as they are in an email, but they are the minority.

I eventually grew a thicker skin. I became accustomed to getting negative feedback emails about the websites that I managed. I resolved this by picking up the phone to contact the individual and explain how the issue could be resolved. Each time, the person on the other end of the line would apologize for their language. Some were even a little sheepish about what they had written.

What had I done differently? I had put a face to an email address. I wasn’t feedback@XX.ca. I was Christine. In conversation, they learned that I was a human being. I had a daughter. I loved my cat. During our discussions about their website issue, they discovered the email they had sent went to someone who did not deserve their wrath.

The same thing applies to social media. Day after day, I read Facebook comments or tweets to companies whose accounts are managed by human beings. I get it. People are frustrated. Their dishwasher isn’t getting fixed. They got the wrong shoes. Their Internet isn’t working. I also see real human beings answering those rants with words like ‘don’t give up on us’ or ‘give us another try’.

No matter how bad the situation, it is never necessary to use bad language or insinuate that everyone who works for the company is an idiot. We know better than to rant and rave in personal conversations (for the most part) but we need to remember that respect is also needed when we type words into an email, tweet, or post.

Social media channels and websites are considered impersonal channels of communications, but in reality, they are not. Someone is watching behind the scenes and usually doing all they can to make the website the best it can be.

Emails strip away the body language that takes up so much of your attention. All that is left is a screen with words written on them, some lovely and some bad. It is up to us to ensure that these words include please, thank you, or whatever the situation requires.

To return to the individual who told me to ‘pull up my socks’. A few months later, I met her face-to-face when she was introduced to me by a mutual friend. Interestingly, when I told her about my role with the company, she remembered sending the email and even acknowledged what she had written was inappropriate. She apologized. It was a nice moment, and while not everyone apologizes, I remember hoping that when her next frustrating moment arose and an email was being typed out furiously and with great acrimony that she would remember online interactions go to human beings like me.

November 20, 2013Permalink Leave a comment

The World is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-First Century

worldflatI first read Thomas Friedman’s The World is Flat in 2005 and recently had the opportunity to re-read parts of it. While some of the content is dated, it is still a great book.

The World is Flat made me think about my children’s future. The flattening of the world will affect them. Our parents used to say ‘eat your food because there are people on the other side of the world who are starving.’ After reading The World is Flat, I believe as parents, we should tell our kids to get a good education and stay in school because there are people on the other side of the world who will take their jobs. There are people with the passion and drive to eat your breakfast, lunch, and supper!

The fact that someone would write a brief history of the twenty-first century may seem odd , that is unless you consider how things have changed over the last few years. 5 days can bring about tremendous change to our world.

The World is Flat includes Thomas Friedman’s Top Ten Flatteners; events or actions that have contributed to the world’s flattening. They include such events as the collapse of the Berlin Wall in 1989 to the un-official launch of the World Wide Web in 1995.

Actions that have greatly contributed to our flat world also include open-sourcing, in-sourcing, and supply chain management. I have said this frequently; being productive is crucial. Throughout the industrialized world, it seems like everyone is striving to produce more with less.

Thomas relies heavily on the fact that leveling or ‘flattening’ is taking place because of technology. Take Japan for example. Thomas describes a colleague working online while sitting on a bullet train, traveling at speeds over 200 km/hour! He also mentions the massive technologies that are in place in India; companies are hosting customers 24/7, 365 days a year. Thomas also explains that a flat world will enable us to work virtually and in a socially responsible manner. Companies, like HP, are working with developing countries to help their neighbours improve their lives, using their technology, of course.

Although a book written in 2005 may seem out-dated, it is still an interesting read if you want to know more about how the world is no longer limited by time zones and continents. Here is the book to read if you want to know how and why this has happened.

The Comfort of Strangers: Human Social Media

The Comfort of Strangers: Human Social Media

My latest guest post from Spin Sucks is all about the comfort that strangers provide using social media platforms.

Read my blog post - The Comfort of Strangers: Human Social Media - and tell me if you agree with the fact that people are turning to social media to grieve and honour people whom they have lost.

Spin Sucks is a Professional Development Online Network for PR and Marketing Pros. The Spin Sucks blog publishes guest posts, like mine, posted on a range of topics.

On the hunt for my next adventure

This time last year, I was working on building this very website, fine-tuning my personal branding and meeting with new clients. I had finally decided to step away from the corporate world that had been my safe and secure world for over 13 years. I was leaving a job that I did well to be my own boss, coach, manager, bookkeeper, cheerleader and all the other roles that an entrepreneur must perform on a daily basis.

Although I had learned many valuable skills during my career, I realized that I had become too comfortable, too assured in the work that I did. While I was taking on new roles and responsibilities, especially in the field of social media, I had become complacent and knew that I needed a change. I knew the majority of people in the company I worked for had started and stayed in the same role their entire career. I never wanted that for me.

I wanted to try something new, to create social business initiatives for companies keen to engage with their customers.

Without giving the whole thing much thought, I left the safey of a large ship and rowed my little boat out to sea, taking risks I had never taken before. I made mistakes and learned from them. I met incredible people who taught me how to market myself and share my knowledge and experience. I leveraged my bilingual skills and wrote blog posts for websites that I had always visited but never thought I had anything valuable to share. I have given workshops on social media and secured great clients, and even learned how to network; a skill that does not come easily to me nor to most other people as I have learned.

The most important thing that I learned over the past year is what I want for my next career. Whether I continue working as a consultant or accept a permanent role, I know I want to work with a group of creative and ambitious individuals who are dedicated to working as a team to accomplish their goals. I am keen to choose companies who put their customers first and who won’t achieve their financial success to the detriment of their employees. I want a role that excites me to work hard and think big, empowers me to achieve great things, and gives me the experience that I am looking to build.

Do yourself a favour if you feel you have lost your motivation for your current role.

Take a risk.

Try something new.

You may lose the security of a great/safe job, but you will find something you didn’t know you had lost, a career that makes you proud.

Why I didn’t celebrate Earth Day today…

dreambig smallToday was a day that I am very proud to promote on social channels and to my friends and family.

Earth Day is an event that I have celebrated for as long as I can remember, although I didn’t realize it has been going on since 1970. I remember celebrating in high-school when I was running a small environment committee with a few friends and we would collect paper and pop cans from milk crates that we had put in each classroom. I remember taking part in an Earth Day clean-up where we pulled shopping carts from the river that runs near the Bedford Place mall. Every year, I try to do something to recognize this special day, knowing that one day a year is not enough for a planet that keeps providing us with all the things we need to survive.

 

And then this morning, I read a tweet that raised what has been nagging at the back of mind every April 22, when I am proudly putting trash in a garbage bag. A fellow Mom blogger who I respect tweeted “Happy #EarthDay!” while reminding her thousands of followers that while we should recognize Earth Day on April 22, every day should be a day focused on making the earth a better place to live.

butstill

 

 

And she is right. Garbage should be picked up 365 days throughout the year. People should remember to reduce their energy and water use yearly and not only one special day. Maybe April 22 can eventually be a date where we promote tips that we have in place throughout the year. One can always hope.

So, while I didn’t make a big splash today and I don’t have any great photos of me with bags of garbage. It’s my fault that I didn’t find a clean-up I could participate in. I can tell you what I did do. I ran around the house turning the heat down and lights off before leaving for the day. I took the bus to work, like I always do. I drank (most of) my coffee out of my re-usable mug.

This post isn’t meant to sound negative or preachy. I was glad to see all the companies and organizations who had Earth Day activities or promoted some great information. I only hope Earth Day continues to serve as a reminder that we need to do our part to help our planet.

My Happiness Project: Being a not-perfectionist

happyI read The Happiness Project in January and to say that I loved the book is an under-statement. At least once a day, I think of a phrase I read that resonates with me or read one of Gretchen’s daily emails and instantly feel that I am doing something to move forward in life with a smile on my face.

I mentioned this book at a birthday party recently and realized that I just had to get a blog post up in order to make myself feel happier. I need to prove to myself that I can write an imperfect blog post; a post that shares how much I Iove a particular book without me spending numerous hours writing and editing (in detail) why you should buy or borrow The Happiness Project.

So, here it is – I love The Happiness Project and I think you should absolutely read it. This book helped me uncover the fact that I can work to be happy even if I know I am not perfect. I was the university student with two part-time jobs who worked on Friday nights while her friends were relaxing. I was a “proud workaholic” in my last career who thought it was cool to work on a Sunday night so that my Monday mornings were stress-free. Was working to be perfect helping me feel happier. Nope.

It’s not all bubble baths and tickle fights

Let me be clear. The book’s author, Gretchen Rubin, never mentions being perfect; she encourages people to focus on finding things that make them happy. However, things that make her happy are activities that I also love – having a process, being polite, spending out – so this book resonated with me.

As well, Gretchen’s Twelve Commandments are ones we can all related to, including:
1. Be Gretchen [insert your name here].
2. Let it go.
3. Act the way I want to feel.
4. Do it now.
5. Be polite and be fair.
6. Enjoy the process.
7. Spend out. (This is probably the most enigmatic of my commandments.)
8. Identify the problem.
9. Lighten up.
10. Do what ought to be done.
11. No calculation.
12. There is only love.

I love that reading this book helped me identify how while it’s great to work hard in life, trying to be perfect all the time makes me unhappy. Even writing this proof is progress! I have so many great blog posts in my head, but if I do not have 8 hours of uninterrupted writing time, I don’t write them. So now it’s written and going up with only one round of editing and spell-checking (Hey, it’s progress…)

Do something for yourself. Read this book. It’s not a self-help book. It’s a personal reflection of how important it is to be happy.

  • Visit The Happiness Project website
  • Check out the quizzes, videos and even tips to creating your own Happiness Project!
  • And if you find a typo, contact me. Just because I am trying to write more and worry less about imperfect posts, doesn’t mean I want a typo in here!

Hotels as a city’s social media ambassador – Part 1

Thoughts while on route to the Boston Park Plaza

I am on route to Boston (literally writing this while in the plane) to stay at a hotel for the next four days. My trip is business-related, meaning long days, business meetings and enjoying very little of the niceties that come with the beautiful hotel where I will be staying. I will not be found in the huge gym or any of the lavish meals in the restaurants.

So why am I so excited to go?

Other than the fun of visiting a new city, I am most looking for to seeing my home away from home, the Boston Park Plaza. A hotel that is well-known for its beauty and proximity to Cheers.

Now, why has a hotel so impressed me before I event get there? After all, I booked my room using the conference website, choosing it for its affordability and location to the conference centre. How could one hotel stand out from so far away and weeks before my stay?

Simple. All it took was one tweet from me mentioning my stay in Boston and a request for places to go and eat. The social media team at Boston Park Plaza took this one simple request for information and began sending me suggestions for places that I could visit, like the New England Aquarium, which I am so going to visit, and special restaurants. That simple exchange – a few tweets back and forth – is one of the human interactions that I so enjoy about using social media.

Boston Plaza tweet

It is also one of the major benefits of social customer service, where a social media team can serve as the hotel’s brand ambassadors, helping their future customers. If there are some people who still do not believe it, they will come around to the need to use social media as a crucial customer service channel to complement any marketing efforts.

Not a day goes by that I do not see someone tweet about a hotel or resort they are or will be staying in. A tweet this morning by someone I follow indicated that they were looking forward to their stay at a Westin Hotel. If I respect that person and remember the hotel they mention, where do you think my next stay will be?

Someone mentions a hotel or resort, what happens next?

If the hotel’s team is doing a good job, they will respond by telling their soon-to-be hotel guest that they can help in whatever way possible. This happened to me when I started tweeting about going to the Keltic Lodge this past October and was I ever impressed to exchange tweets with them.

If they are doing a great job, they will make notes in the customer’s account that they have an online presence. I do not suggest that all Twitter mentions require a special gift or discount. I would suggest the hotel staff know that this particular guest have a stronger voice than non-social media users. With today customers’ almost total reliance on websites and apps, there is very little need for any human interaction when booking a flight, a hotel, or even a restaurant reservation.

Although we live in an online world, there are channels that cost little to manage and maintain and have a wonderful return on investment when it comes to creating a positive and ‘human’ customer service experience before stepping foot in the building. I firmly believe all companies could benefit from sending a few tweets now and then to inquiries like mine.

Today’s post is entitled Part 1. I am anxious to share Part 2 of my hotel experience after I have left on Tuesday. I hope it is as good as I think it will be. I know that their recent interactions with me have prepared me for an excellent stay and I may even grant them a little forgiveness if something does not go well simply because of the goodwill they have built.

Positive online mentions from a Canadian, a blog post (and maybe two) and goodwill in the bank should the towels go missing. Not a bad investment for a few tweets, don’t you think?

My greatest work of art – My daughter

Donica's 16 years

16 great years with Donica

My girl turned 16 today.

We’ve had birthdays before (obviously) but this felt different. I could not help but feel that it was a monumental milestone for us. She is on her way to becoming a great adult, now eligible for driving lessons and part-time jobs.

We’ve gotten over the hurdle of early teen years where they won’t tell you what’s wrong because most of the time they don’t know what is wrong! We are in the home stretch.

As I looked at the pictures compiled on Facebook from the past few years, I could not help but wish to go back and do it over so that I could enjoy it the second time around.

That’s not how life works, unfortunately, so I am thankful for the pictures to remind me of special vacations and moments in our lives. I love that I have so many images of her life and plan to capture as many of my son as I can given that his 16 years will be coming soon.

I also kept reflecting on numerous things today as I look back to choices I made as I was raising her. Some of the things that used to keep me up at night now make me laugh when I think of how silly they are…

  • Spoiling her as much as I did created no adverse effects. She’s polite, kind and self-effacing.
  • Although she slept in my bed for most of her young life, by age 6 she was happily sleeping in her own.
  • Even though I lied to her, like when I told her salmon was pink chicken, she does not hold that against me.

We have a mutual respect for one another that not all parents and their children have. I think she is a great young lady and she is impressed with my Twitter followers. She is my greatest accomplishment and I am so very proud to have her as my daughter.

If you have young children, keep in mind that they grow fast and thrive from your love and attention. Cherish them all the more for it.

February 28, 2013Permalink Leave a comment

My Teenager, the Space Traveller

For all those single moms with teenage daughters, my first blog post on the Yummy Mummy Club portal asks a question to all those whose kids comes home from a weekend with Dad sporting some serious attitude.

Read - My Teenager, the Space Traveller - and tell me if you have experienced this same issue.

Yummy Mummy Club is one of the top online networks where multitasking moms can manage their busy lives with articles, advice and tips on parenting, pregnancy, fashion, kids, health and more. Learn more.

February 22, 2013Permalink Leave a comment

Book Review: The Tao of Twitter

First off, what does Tao mean when it comes to this book? My favourite short definition that is not a paragraph long is that it is ‘the path’ or ‘the way’ to Twitter. Those two definitions work for me especially as they apply to this book.

Second, Twitter is not simply for people who work on a computer all day. Anyone with enough experience to turn on a computer can use Twitter. If you are new to Twitter, you will learn what is so important about Twitter and why it is a game changer when it comes to personal and professional use.

What I liked

My two favourite phrases that I challenge you to find and understand – “authentic helpfulness” and “Social Media is P2P – Person to Person”.

What I think this book helps you understand

One of the most important sentences that rang true to me is “Faking it on Twitter is dangerous business.” Your business can suffer if you do not leverage social media consistently and with transparency.

What small and medium businesses should read first

If you want to know why you should be thinking about using Twitter as a customer service tool, look on page  88. Mark understands Twitter is a two-way communications channel for customers to connect with companies, except instead of the poor customer service representative on the other side of the desk or phone hearing their issues it is visible and can be shared for the world to see.

What else I liked about the book

  • Take Mark’s advice on the 22 steps to attracting followers, visit the websites he suggests, and follow the people he mentions as they are definitely influencers.
  • Learn why you cannot get 1,000+ followers overnight. You should want them to grow over time and not because you have found a way to buy them.
  • Think of the social web as a dinner party (Mark’s suggestion!) Be kind, listen well, and engage with people even if you do not know them well.
  • Create a content strategy that focuses on who you are. People on Twitter are smart and can see past a fake façade. I mean it. I have seen the mobs!

The Tao of Twitter is a worthy read

You should read this book because it focuses on it all:

  • Why/When you should tweet
  • How to do it well
  • Who you should connect with
  • What tools are available
  • Where Twitter tools can be found

Buy it for clients who are beginners. Use it for yourself as a reminder of all the ways to use Twitter. I guarantee you will learn something new.

Want to learn more about the book?

  • Visit the website to buy an electronic version of the book and start reading it now
  • Read a short book excerpt to ensure you want to buy it (Always a favourite thing for me to do before buying a book!)
  • Find Mark W. Schaefer on Twitter (where else?)
December 29, 2012Permalink Leave a comment