Get More Twitter Followers (The Good Kind)

1. Don’t follow everyone. It’s okay if the number of people you’re following is LOWER than the number of tweets you’ve put out. While there are no hard and fast rules about how many people you follow, you probably don’t want to follow more than about twice as many people as are following you. When you find Twitter users whose updates you really enjoy, mention them in your #FollowFriday lists. Remember, real people provide interesting opinion and perspective. Follow-bots provide followers who have no opinion or perspective, and nothing you can retweet.

2. Spread your tweets out through the day. If you have regular marketing messages, use something like Hootsuite to schedule them. Sending all your tweets in a five minute spell just gets you lost in the tweet streams of your followers. Or worse, your followers think you’re spamming them. That’s okay for marketing messages, but you need to remember that Twitter is a community, and it’s imperative that you actually interact in a person-to-person way, too. Auto-tweeting doesn’t include you in the conversation, or build relationships. And if you don’t do those things, you’re not going to get the best out of your Twitter experience.

3. Hashtag EVERY message. Using hashtags will get your tweets out in front of more than just your followers, and will generate more followers if your content is compelling. If you tweet good quality content out about a specific subject, and you do it with consistency and regularity, you’ll fast become an expert around that subject’s hashtag. And experts find themselves getting retweeted often.

4.  Don’t follow users who don’t tweet regularly. Don’t follow people who only tweet self-serving marketing. The well-known rule of thumb is that for every self-serving tweet you put out, you should be putting out four informative tweets. Start by following a couple of magazines in your sector, and a couple of well known or interesting users. To begin with, only follow users who participate and who tweet regularly. Avoid users who have very few tweets, or are following a disproportionately high number of users compared to how many followers they have. If you follow Guy Kawasaki don’t expect that he’ll tweet your content. He won’t (most likely.) Follow interesting people, retweet them. Thank them if/when they retweet your stuff.

5.  Retweet. This gets you on the rader of users you follow. Eventually, if you’re putting out original tweets, and not just retweeting the thoughts of other users, they’re likely to follow your tweets and retweet them. Making sure specific users get to see your tweets by giving them an @mention is a good way to let them know you exist. Just make sure what you’re giving them is something that they might be interested in, and not just spam.

6.  Link shorteners. There are dozens of them. Use one. Your 140 characters are precious, don’t waste them. Link shorteners also make it easy to track your clicks. For most of them, paste the link into the address bar and add + to the end to get click statistics. For example, http://goo.gl/xJRNL is the link, http://goo.gl/xJRNL+ is the statistics for the link. Really, it couldn’t be easier.

7. Lists. Get listed in the right lists. It’s just as important as getting specific followers. Use hashtags to become an expert in a subject — users following that hashtag will add you to their list of experts, and are more likely to retweet and share your updates. There really isn’t an easy way to get listed, other than by posting links to great content and being retweeted. It’s about reputation.
FollowFriday is a great way to share the handles of users whose input you’ve found really valuable. Create a list for people you include in your own #FF lists, and you’ll find yourself growing your list of followers in the best way possible: with people who contribute to the thousands of conversations going on in Twitter at any given moment.
People tend to follow and list people like themselves. If you have a few users whose tweets you look forward to reading, look at the users they’ve listed, and start to follow the twitterati in those lists. They’re likely to be interesting to you, provide you with great talking points when they tweet, and some will follow you back. Make no mistake, growing your audience this way is time-consuming, but you’ll see that it’s worth the effort.

8. Analytics. Know which of your tweets get the most clicks. See what content resonates with your followers. There are tools that claim to measure influence, like Klout, EmpireAvenue, and PeerIndex. They’re free, and provide metrics about how your network is interacting with you and the world, and vice versa. My favorite tool for tracking my Twitter, though, is TwitterCounter, which gives charts for followers, how many people you follow, and how many tweets you’ve posted.

9. It’s okay to grow slowly. Don’t stress out about getting hundreds or thousands of followers immediately. Certainly don’t follow hundreds of people right away. Remember that it’s an information exchange community — if you’re consuming more than you’re putting in, you’ll find it hard to get followers.

10. Know what to tweet. In a sample of 10 tweets, you probably want a breakdown that looks something like:
1 x Public reply @usertweet
2 x Marketing tweets
3 x Retweets
4 x Original thoughts/links to interesting content

And really, that’s about all you need to know about Twitter to get started using it effectively. I know, it’s a lot to take in, but if you don’t have your expectations set too high you’ll find that it’s a useful tool for getting traffic to your site.

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Posted in marketing, social media, top 10 | Tagged , , , , ,

The Customer From Hell

The Customer From Hell
I’m a hard-sell when it comes to customer service. I have pretty low expectations, and it bothers me when they’re not met. So let me get those expectations out in the open so you can see that I’m not a crazy-man.

The short list is:

  1. Work with me, and dont make excuses.
  2. If your company’s screw-up or mistake affects me adversely, you’re going to have to own up to it and compensate me for my trouble.
  3. Follow up, and fix problems, not symptoms.

The longer list is in the form of an advisory:

  • “No” should not be in your vocabulary. If you tell me it can’t be done, I’ll tell you that if you escalate it high enough, there’s someone who can make it happen now and you should be prepared to escalate to that level if you need to.
  • Customer service is for the 0.0001 percent of customers who experience problems.
  • That 0.0001 percent of customers will tell 100 percent of their friends.
  • Customer service is what you do when things go wrong. It is not covered by your procedures or call center scripts.
  • They’re your processes and procedures, make them work or break them.
  • If it’s your core business activity, be competent. If something goes wrong, own up to it, and fix it.
  • If you make a mistake and it affects me, you need to compensate me.
  • If you need to compensate me, it needs to be overwhelming.
  • There is no such thing as a private customer service conversation. Companies record them for quality control, I post them on my blog and live-tweet them.
  • I can out-wait you on the phone. If you can’t fix my problem I’m not getting off the line. At some point the call-monitor is going to let a supervisor know you’ve been on a call for way too long. And then I’ll speak to them.
  • Your Director of Customer Service is on your Web site’s About Us page. I’m pretty sure I can figure out his email address and let him know, by name, which of his customer service people are naughty, and which are nice.

Okay, maybe I am a crazy man.

I recently had this experience with GoDaddy (which I’m going to talk about at length), who clearly did not know that I have these guidelines which I, perhaps irrationally, expect them to operate under. GoDaddy also announced today that they’ve been sold for $2.25 billion. I hope that some investment in their customer service staffing is on the agenda, because they need to improve it. Urgently, and significantly. Just read on if you don’t believe me.

The Problem

Tuesday. 2:50pm
I decide I’m moving my blog to WordPress. So I set up the WordPress account and then go to GoDaddy to set up hosting.
All I need to do is:

  1. Set up a new hosting account.
  2. Remove thatduncan.com from my current hosting account, set a new domain name as the primary domain for the current hosting account.
  3. Add thatduncan.com as the primary domain name on the WordPress hosting account.

Easy, right?

For the rest of Tuesday I’m stuck at step 2, which shows as “Pending” on my account, but the process could take as long as 24 hours, according to the pop-up message when I switched the domain name on the hosting account. So I’m not too concerned.

Wednesday 3:54pm
Twenty-five hours have passed and I still can’t use my preferred domain name on my WordPress hosting account. Which means I can’t upload the WordPress software to my domain, which means I can’t get into working with it.

So I call. I’m not going to use any names here, but I’m told that there was a problem, and that the event is going to be replayed, and while it could take as many as 72 hours, these things are usually done inside 24 hours. Great, another day wasted, but at least I know when I’ll be up and running, right?

Phone time: 10:01 – Total Phone Time: 10:01

Thursday 9:22am
I get this email from GoDaddy:
Thank you for bringing this to our attention. We sincerely apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused. The issue with changing the domain name on your hosting account has been addressed and is resolved. The primary domain name on your hosting account has been updated and you are now able to access without issue. If you continue to experience delivery or access problems after today please let us know. We appreciate your patience and understanding in this matter.

Please contact us if you have any further issues.

So if the problem has been “addressed and is resolved” you’d think I should be able to use thatduncan.com on my WordPress hosting, because it’s no longer associated with the other hosting account, right?

Nope.

So I make the call, and I’m told that the event failed again, and that it will be replayed, but it would be another day before the change would show on my account.

I ask why, if the event had failed, did I receive an email saying it was “addressed and resolved?” That was an error. Really? You think I can’t deduce that, GoDaddy? I know it’s an error, but what it tells me is that someone opened a ticket, someone closed a ticket, someone didn’t check if the ticket had actually been resolved. Incompetence or laziness is my guess.

Phone Time: 36:50 – Total Phone Time: 46:51

Friday 10:55am
Another 24 hours has passed and I’m still stuck at pending. The first person I talk to tries to explain what happened and why they need to replay the even and why that will take another 24 hours.

It bothers me that I had to raise my voice and tell him to stop talking. It bothers me that he was more interested in explaining what went wrong (though not how or why) and telling me that there’s nothing that can be done other than replaying the event. “It’s so rare that this happens” he assures me. Well, it’s happened to me three days in a row, so it doesn’t feel particularly rare to me.

My feeling is that if it’s failed three times in a row, maybe someone needs to start the event, make sure it succeeds, and keep trying until it works. I’m informed, in a tone that’s more than a little annoyed, that the process doesn’t work that way.

I ask to speak to someone who can make sure that it doesn’t fail this time. I’m informed there isn’t anyone. I am pretty sure that’s a lie. I ask to speak to a supervisor, and I’m told that “you can speak to a supervisor, but they do the exact same things, and they’ll tell you exactly what I just did.” Which begs the question: what do GoDaddy supervisors get paid for if they don’t have any additional authority? It took several minutes and several requests to get a supervisor. That’s just bad customer service. In the end the impatient techie says he’ll put me onto a supervisor “who won’t be able to help me any more than he already has.”

But he was wrong.

The supervisor agreed that the process failing was unusual, but that he would talk to the admins and have them replay the event, he’d call me back as soon as he had an answer.

Phone Time: 38:00 – Total Phone Time: 84:51

Friday 12:14pm
The supervisor talked to the admins and came back with their answer: they’ll replay the event at 2:48pm, and that would fix it. 2:48pm Pacific, so 5:48pm Eastern. In about 6 hours. But that was the best he could do.

Phone Time: 7:06 – Total Phone Time: 91:57

And that’s when I started tweeting.

How to Make Frenemies and Influence Customer Service Outcomes

 
So the issue was fixed faster when I started tweeting. And while I’m happy that GoDaddy have someone monitoring this stuff, I shouldn’t have to start attacking their brand in order to get adequate customer service. It should be a reasonably simple process to empower front-line reps to fix problems. Using social media to protect your brand rather than engage and deliver great service isn’t going to work long-term. Engagement needs to happen on the phone and on the Web site, not just in social space. Customers will see that the interest here isn’t in improving customer experience, it’s in managing complaints and getting the squeaky wheel to shut up before it does more damage.
Valuing Your Customer, the GoDaddy Way (ie. Not much.)

For the record, it’s July 4th, and I’m still waiting for a response from GoDaddy that makes me feel like they really value me as a customer. $5 makes me feel like they don’t value me at all. Hopefully by sharing this post on Twitter and letting them know just how badly I feel they screwed up, how unengaged they were, how it took an hour-and-a-half on the phone to get almost nowhere, and how I haven’t felt, at any stage, like GoDaddy care about whether I am a customer of theirs or someone else’s, I can influence them to reconsider their valuation of future business I might transact with them. Or not.
What I do know is that GoDaddy were engaged on Twitter until they said “here’s $5” and they haven’t responded to me for three days. That’s not what being an engaged social space company is about. It’s not about paying me off, it’s about making me feel valued.

Feel free to message me or comment to let me know that my demands are both extreme and irrational. What do you think GoDaddy do to make this experience right? Would you be angry with this service, or do you think that it’s acceptable?

Let me know…

Posted in customer service, social media | Tagged , , , , , ,

The Unwelcome Guest

CustomerServiceBell

All marketing is bullshit. Know why? It’s all done to get you to buy something, and the moment that the purchase/sale transaction appears on the agenda, every piece of communication is aimed at making you feel inadequate or afraid, in order to persuade you to make a purchase that’s going to make it all better. Or so the marketing tells you.

Marketers make up words to sell their stuff, or give new meanings to existing words. The problem is…there are already perfectly good words that more accurately describe whatever it is the marketer is redefining (badly).

What’s In a Name?
“I can help the next guest in line,” shouted the bored-looking part-time student staffing the register.

I looked around, and realized that her proclamation had been aimed at getting my attention. But…guest?

At what point did I become a guest in this store? I don’t remember checking in, though I really did want to check out. Nobody had taken my bags, I hadn’t been told to enjoy my stay when I arrived. Nobody was asking if I needed to order a cab, and my car had not been valet parked when I arrived. And, most annoyingly, there was no minibar.

I might be a curmudgeon about this, but calling shoppers “guests” is total and utter bullshit. It doesn’t make me feel more welcomed, and it doesn’t make me feel better taken care of. It’s fancy frosting on a cake whose ingredients are not known by the eater.

What or Who Are Guests?
The problem I have with calling paying customers “guests” is, I think, that’s it’s dishonest. Hotels have guests. People come, and they stay. Overnight. Restaurants (excluding fast food eateries) have guests. People come, and have care taken that their personal dining needs are met.

Neither Webster’s, nor the OED define “guest” as a consumer of goods in a store.

In the stores that use this misnomer, sales assistants don’t take a special degree of care to make certain that the shopper…sorry, guest…has a great experience. There is no personal touch. Most barely communicate above a grunt. If hotels and restaurants attempted to engage their guests with the same level of apathy as the assistants in these stores, they’d be the easiest places to get a reservation.

In your store I am a customer. I am there to procure something. I am there to engage in a transaction where I give you money and I get a product, and in order to give you that money I have to stand in line.

What’s The Difference Between A Restaurant and a Store
In a hotel I can check out from the TV in my room. In a restaurant the bill is brought to my table. You see, those are payment solutions that are created for the convenience of the guest. If I have to stand in a line that has a light-up number at the front of it I am not a guest, I’m a customer. And no matter how many times you call me a guest I’m never ever going to have that warm and fuzzy towards your store that I have when I think of some of the great hotels I’ve stayed in, or some of the amazing restaurants I’ve dined at.

So How Can a Business Engage and Be Genuine?
Call me a customer. Call me a consumer. Actually, don’t. Train your staff to make eye contact with me, smile, and politely say “Hey, I can help you now. Thanks for waiting. My name is ______, are you enjoying your day?” And then really engage. The benefit to you? You don’t need to pay a marketing idiot to reassign meanings of words, and I’m more likely — much more likely — to come back to your store.

Posted in customer service, marketing, retail | Tagged , , ,

The Importance of Consistency in Social Media

Consistency has two arms.

First is consistency of message, second is consistency of updates.

Consistency of Message
Consistency of message is sometimes referred to as “having a niche” but I find that “having a niche” means that you potentially lose a lot of your value. Let me share this example:  When I moved to Atlanta I had a hard time finding work. I’d left a job as a business analyst in the power company where I lived before, and I’d specialized in process measurements and metrics. So when I couldn’t find that type of work, I started working in a coffee shop.

The day after I was hired, my resume was forgotten. Any skills I possessed that weren’t directly related to making coffee, serving customers, and managing my team were not relevant. I still had those skills, but they weren’t needed, and so customers and senior managers alike assumed I didn’t have them. Employers and clients will reduce you to as few dimensions as they need or can utilize, you don’t need to do that for them. And next time you get coffee at a coffee shop, ask the barista what degree they’re working on, or what job they’d prefer to be doing? Barista is at the top of the employment food chain for precisely zero people.

That’s niche writing. If you focus so much on being an expert in one field, people will assume you have little or no knowledge of other areas.

And that’s not necessarily a bad thing. If you’re an economist, write about the economy. Just know that expanding your readership outside of economists depends on being able to talk about other things to engage those other people.

Consistency of Updates
The other part of consistency is posting regular updates. I’m not talking frequency here — you can consistently post updates every monday, or every lunchtime. Eventually your audience will expect to see an update at your usual time. What I mean is that if you post every Monday lunchtime, do it every Monday lunchtime.

Having said that, if you only share information once a week, you’re going to have a hard time creating a reputation as an expert in your field. If you post on the hour every hour, you’re probably outsourcing your messaging to other individuals or to technology.

I used to use Hootsuite to schedule tweets to get posted when I was asleep. I just wanted to stay visible. But here’s the thing about that. Twitter is a giant ongoing conversation about everything. Using tweet-scheduling is like putting a dummy in your seat at a conference. It’ll look like you’re there but you won’t learn or contribute anything.

My advice is that if you’re going to schedule anything, schedule your impersonal self-serving stuff. That will leave you free to make everything else that you tweet something personal and memorable.

Scheduling Tweets Can Go Wrong
There’s another problem with scheduling tweets – you have to remember what you’ve scheduled. You’ll only hurt your credibility if your scheduled tweet refers to something that changed between when you scheduled it and when it posted. For example here’s a hypothetical situation. You write a blog about government, and had scheduled a tweet to go out on May 1st, 2011. The tweet said “It’s time to release your long-form birth certificate Mr. President.” Unfortunately for you, you forgot that you’d written that tweet, and it went out as planned. And made you look like an idiot, because President Obama released his long form birth certificate on April 27th.

If you’re scheduling, you have to also make sure you’re reviewing for accuracy, and if you’re doing that, you might as well live-tweet, right?What you’re trying to do is pull off a high-wire juggling act. Tweet enough, but not too much. Tweet stuff that celebrates other people, but don’t for get your own web site. Have a schedule but don’t be too predictable. It takes time, and it takes patience, and more than anything it takes a lot practice and a lot of learning from mistakes.

Posted in marketing, message, social media | Tagged , , , , , ,

Why Do You Care If People Unfollow You?

Mechanical Twitter Bird

I’m on Twitter. I don’t auto-follow. I don’t care if you follow me. I don’t care if you unfollow me. Here’s why…

A couple of months ago I started using an app called Qwitter. It purported to let me know which followers had stopped following me, and what the last update they received from me was. The idea, as I understood it, was to see if a particular kind of message turned people off.

After using it for a month, and seeing it update itself only a couple of times, despite a revolving door of followers and unfollowers, I quit Qwitter.

And I found that whether I can see who unfollows me or not makes, and I can’t overstate this enough, no difference at all to how I engage with the people I follow and who follow me. In that month I came to the realization that people will follow me, some will find I’m not their particular flavor of social network, and then stop following. Or they’d stick around because I was tweeting and retweeting things that make sense to them. And that’s the audience I want. I’m not about to change to try to win back people who don’t like how I tweet. I’m going to continue being myself for the people who understand and appreciate me.

The other thing I realized is that there are a lot, and I mean A LOT, of autofollowing bots. They’re the ones with 12,000 followers, and 4 tweets (like the picture below). If they follow you and you you don’t follow them back, they unfollow you. So who gives a crap about them? Not me!

Who the heck would you follow this guy?

I have, and I much prefer it this way, a small-ish group of people whose tweets I look for, respond to, and retweet. If they introduce me (by retweeting or #FF) to other great people, I’ll follow them. If they don’t follow me back that’s not a big deal, I don’t expect it. When your follower-base grows by reciprocal follower agreement, it’s not an engaged network, it’s you making your stream fair game for spambots.

But Dunc, what about my Klout score?
What about it? Does it mean more to you than having engaged followers who’ll make you smarter? If it does, disregard everything I’ve ever said about social media and be prepared for all the real people who follow you to abandon you. Just like high school, you’ll be judged by who your friends are.

If you want an army of self-serving sales zombie-followers like @davidjankovic, be my guest. Knock yourself out. Get a killer Klout score. Just know it’s fake. And if you’re more interested in how things look than how things really are, then that’s a conversation you should maybe have with a therapist.

If what you want is a list of followers whose tweets you actually can’t wait to read and share, whose information, advice and conversation actually makes your day better, here’s a simple way to do it:

Engage, retweet, celebrate successes in your network, use hashtags, and #followfriday every week. Add followers and keep posting and retweeting information that captures the imagination of your network.

Easy, no?

Do I want you to follow me? Absolutely, if I can introduce you to interesting people; or if you know people who’ll interest me, I really want to follow you. But will I follow you because you followed me? No. But I will follow you because you’re interesting.

And that’s how it should be.

Posted in social media | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Customer Service Stories

I was dining in a restaurant in Atlanta, recently. It was a restaurant that my girlfriend had dined at many times, though not recently, and she was excited to be going back. We were seated promptly, asked for our drink order, which arrived quickly, and we made our meal selections. So far nothing out of the ordinary compared to millions of dining experiences all over the world every day. The food came, and while mine was excellent, my girlfriend, who had ordered a dish she’d eaten and enjoyed at this place dozens of times, was less than impressed. Something had changed in the recipe, or there was a new chef, and the quality was not what she expected.

The server approached the table at that moment when I’d just shoveled a giant helping of rice into my face, and asked “How is everything?”

And this is where the experience differs from most of those around the world.

Those three words almost always prompt a positive response from diners. Not this time. I explained (while my girlfriend cringed) that my food was great, but the other meal, not as good as expected.

And this is what separates good customer service from the rest: the wait staff asked whether the food tasted “off” or if it was poorly prepared or if there was something else. It was something else, it just didn’t meet the expectations the restaurant had set on dozens of previous visits. They offered to re-make the dish, and if that wasn’t something we wanted, to simply order something different — either way, they wouldn’t be charging us for her meal.

Compare that to service I routinely experience from my cable company following an outage. Their standard response for service recover is that “we’ll credit your account for the days you didn’t have service.” Really? That’s customer care? Not charging me for a service they didn’t provide? That isn’t actually customer care. I don’t expect to be billed for not receiving a service EVER. But that’s as far as my cable company goes without prompting. Most of the time, the CSR on the phone can’t see that not charging me for not providing service isn’t actually doing anything to make it up to me. I’m not saying that I expect a bunch of free stuff, but some recognition that there was a service failing would be nice.

If you fail to provide the service or customer care I expect and it affects my enjoyment of the product or service you provide, my expectation is that your customer recovery policy will be overwhelmingly over-the-top.

Take Sony for example. I am a PlayStation Network subscriber. When their servers were hacked recently, and customer information put at risk, Sony shut down the PlayStation Network. For weeks. I have a Netflix account I use through PSN, and since I couldn’t go online with my PlayStation, I couldn’t watch any Netflix movies.

What did Sony do when they brought their network back online? Two free game downloads for the PS3, two for the PlayStation Personal system, a month of free access to PlayStation Plus (which allows free and discounted game and add-on downloads), or 60 days for existing Plus subscribers, and 100 free virtual items for PlayStation Home users (which is some kind of a virtual world, like the Sims).

The value of that stuff added together is about $100. That is how to exceed expectations.

So ask yourself, what kind of care do you give your customers? Have you ever turned a customer’s frown upside-down, and then some? Do you know what it takes to turn a complaining customer into an evangelist for your company?

Posted in customer service | Tagged , , , , , , , ,