I have been wanting to tackle this idea again for a little while now, and recently a few thoughts have come together into this two-part blog post. This post, part one, is about listening and responding to bloggers. My next part will be about the free tools you can use to monitor the web and how to put them together in an interesting way.
Part one: listening.
Many people say that the first step to getting your brand involved with social media is listening. In other words, listen to what people are saying about you or your company in blogs, on Twitter, Facebook or any other social media applications. I agree; listening will help you understand how people perceive you in a qualitative way, and will inevitably lead you to social media opportunities organically, rather than trying to blindly decide where your first opportunity exists while sitting in a corporate boardroom.
I first spoke about this topic over a year ago at the Washington Credit Union League annual convention in Spokane in 2007. Almost a year ago I addressed it again at a Net.Finance conference in New York. Here is my slide deck from that conference:
What makes a post worthy of a response?
In my view it’s really simple:
If someone puts some thought and effort into their post, it deserves a response.
This means that Vancity sucks! and Vancity rules! don’t merit a response. But someone who has something to say (positive or negative) deserves, at the very least, to know we heard them (for obvious reasons, I still haven’t run across a middle of the road post that demonstrates great thoughtfulness). In a perfect world, we’d further the discussion with our response.
How do we respond?
I always like to respond with a comment from the most appropriate person in our organization directly on the bloggers’ post about us. The appropriate person in this case is determined by a combination of expertise, business unit and the amount they “get” social media and would be willing to respond authentically. I have taken on the role of gatekeeper and sometimes coach our staff on how to respond so it sounds natural and not too sales-y or formal.
The response can also take the form of an email (many bloggers have their email addresses visible somewhere on their blog) or a phone call. It depends on the sensitivity of what’s being discussed.
A recent example.
Recently, we had a blogger join Vancity. Or rather try to join Vancity. This one meant a lot to me because the blogger does PR 2.0 and joined partially because of the social media initiatives I’ve helped to create, like ChangeEverything.ca. But upon trying to join Vancity, she didn’t have the experience that she (or we) would have liked. You can see the original post here: The social media disconnect: let’s not change everything.
We have a wonderful guy as our Director of Operations in our Business Banking division named Bill Corbett. He responded on her blog and emailed her privately. The next day they spoke on the phone. Bill’s very genuine, he didn’t try to sell her to come back and give Vancity another try. He just talked about what happened and some things we’re working on internally to address exactly what happened to her. He didn’t over-promise or give her a better rate. He was just a person talking to another person about what happened. It wasn’t about blame or getting to an instant resolution. But he treated her with respect and humility and authenticity (as I said, Bill’s amazing).
What can happen.
This is a great example, because the next day, after Bill spoke to this blogger, she posted this: The power of listening: Vancity steps up to the plate. This is a textbook example of what you want to have happen. We all make mistakes, and what happened was unfortunate, but we were authentic and listened and spoke to her as an equal and turned this public detractor into a potential future member, and maybe even an advocate.
Why respond at all?
If someone emails or phones us, we respond to their issue immediately. And yet these are private communications. Not responding, in many cases, may well have no impact beyond the individual member. But a blog post is public and becomes part of your record as people Google about your company to see if they want to bring their business to you.
I’m not advocating not responding to emails or phone calls, I’m saying we need to add blogs into the mix. Because this is new and unfamiliar territory, I have taken on this role as gatekeeper and wrangler of responses. If you’re reading this, maybe you play a similar role in your organization. Or maybe this is an opportunity to become even more invaluable to your company. Or maybe you can identify the right person to act as gatekeeper, and help them get up to speed.
Who should do it?
The more senior I get, I still feel it’s important for me to play this role. I know the internal players in our organization, and they respond to me and take me seriously. Getting the right person to respond (like Bill in this last case) is part of getting it right, like the job of a director casting the right actors in suitable roles, it takes a smart, sometimes senior player. It also gives me a strong sense of our brand health, and how we deliver on our brand promise.
More recent blog posts about Vancity:
- I’m a credit to my species – The blogger opened an account at my local branch on Commercial Drive in Vancouver and had such a good experience she blogged about it. Our branch manager added a comment welcoming her to his branch.
- Progress Report: New Years Resolutions – This blogger listed his New Years’ Resolutions, among them moving from the largest bank in Canada, RBC to Vancity. I added a comment about the New Years Resolution contest currently running for the third year on ChangeEverything.ca and got a regional branch director to respond as well. This prospective member also Twittered about this specific resolution.
- A rare post about money stuff. – This blogger praised one of our Investment Specialists and started a really nice conversation that became a Vancity love-in, which is especially important in this economic climate. I sent this to the advisor who was blogged about, her boss and her boss’ boss as a congratulations. She called the member privately to thank them for their post.
It’s about community.
It’s gratifying that most posts about us are positive, and the response can be a simple thanks. When a blog post isn’t positive, often they are constructive and helpful and are about things we need to improve upon. They can be challenging to read, because they touch a nerve, but they are incredibly helpful to us. I recommend taking them with that kind of attitude and avoid getting defensive and resistant. That isn’t productive.
We’re a community-based organization, and the blogoshere is a community we joined when we started ChangeEverything.ca. Getting to this point where I have a lot of allies at Vancity who see the value in responding to bloggers is the result of a soft, slow effort, but it is paying off. It takes a while to get the organization to this point, but trust me, it’s amazing and heartening when you get there.
In the next part, which I’ll publish next week, I’ll share how I’ve changed the free blog monitoring tools I use to more effectively get a sense of what’s being written about us online. Stay tuned, and Happy New Year!