You Better Think!

There are so many out there guilty of a Social Media faux pas that it seems commonplace by now. That alone makes it pretty much unacceptable for a Social Media professional to get on this naughty list. So to an even greater extent than the an’average joe,’ we need to think strategically before we hit the post button. I mean, we’re dealing with the World Wide Web, here people– if we let a fiery email cool off before hitting send, we should be doubly sure before sharing a post. Lots of misguided rhetoric may never reach the mainstream. Time and again, it’s shown that commentary likely to incite constituents often isn’t even worth the satisfaction found in those first sweet seconds after posting. (Enter the edit option on many sites now.) So if I had to craft a Social Media Code of Ethics, its guiding principle would be, “You Better Think!.”

First, let’s start with what not to do. Anyone representing a brand of mine would be asked to follow these tenets:

Business is Never Personal
When you’re representing a brand, YOU ARE REPRESENTING A BRAND. This should not be confused with representing self, or your personal beliefs. Rather, an agent of my brand(s) should always speak from the heart of the brand as opposed to his or her deeply held beliefs. In an ideal world, they’d be fairly aligned, but that’s not guaranteed in the business world.

Truthfulness is expected, but being purposefully Mean Spirited is Unacceptable
There are some who just don’t know how to fight fair. Let’s not be one of those people. Sure, you can put your own spin on anything you’re in charge of editing, but let’s not seek to hurt more than to inform.

When in doubt, remember the Brand!
It’s always imperative to consider in those last moments, as your finger depresses the ‘post’ button, will this ultimately help or harm the Brand? If the posting in anyway diminishes the brand, it is ill advised to continue with the posting. Ultimately, most brands want to be seen as cutting edge, evocative and sometimes even edgy. But nobody campaigns for the title of school yard bully. Let’s ensure we stay on a level playing field.

Unfortunately, there are some who got the memo regarding the folly of poorly-thought-out posting. Let’s hope these lessons don’t go unheeded.

I Don’t Wanna Miss A Thing

Like many, I only paid a cursory amount of attention to the warnings that Hurricane Sandy was headed up the East Coast. We all have a certain amount of disdain for weather reporters and they often swerve at the last minute. No worries. But as the week progressed, and the reports remained steady, I took note. I really became a believer when flashlights and batteries flew off the shelf the Friday beforehand. Okay, I take that back. I really-really believed when I went to get a flashlight that Sunday and it finally computed that they’d all been grabbed up by those who aren’t members of the ‘Procrasti-Nation’ where I apparently reside.

When the winds began whipping up and slamming against the walls, I was enthralled by what those in the evacuation zones must be going through. At a time when power was (and still is) quite the luxury, I sat safely in a bedroom in the Bronx, and became obsessed with the pictures cataloging the event I found across social media and news outlets. Anyone one with an old school grandma knows that I probably shouldn’t have been on the computer and needed to be in the dark. Yet, I was fascinated and probably stared unblinkingly at my computer screen for ten hours straight, afraid to miss a moment of updates. The pictures told the story without having to endure the droning voice of anchormen, foolishly reporting from the scene.

As I sat listening to the dissipating wind force its way through neighborhood trees, I learned of the city’s suffering at Sandy’s hands. New York City and surrounding areas was decidedly in a state of emergency. Mayor Bloomberg had shut down the transit system and with Subways shut down, the majority of us who were fortunate enough not to be in the midst of all the devastation had no choice but to stand watch. Pictures of the flooded train stations seemed unreal, as did many of the photograhs which scrolled across our screens.

Con Edison continues to work towards full restoration of their services, and most of the city is in recovery mode. Thankfully, FEMA has already been in contact with many who experienced the grreatest losses. What becomes more evident with each trial the Big Apple faces is the spirit of the people is insurmountable. We will band together, regroup and rebuild again, as a community.

Computer Love

All the (marketing) world loves a viral video. Is Viral Video the Future of Advertising?

At least that’s what it seems in this day and age.  But while thousands of crafty marketing professionals gather round the water cooler diligently plotting their successful induction into the annals of viral-viewing history, thousands of others are pounding their heads against their desks at their failed foray of a similar nature.  

But what’s the real deal with viral videos and why we’re so obsessed with seeing everything through our computer screens these days?  Are we really too lazy to take the ten steps to the couch to view advertising as the predecessors intended — while munching on Jiffy Pop, petting our golden retriever as our 2.5 kids digest mom’s meatloaf and freshly whipped mashed potatoes?  Uhm yeah, apparently so.  

Every good brand marketing strategy finds a way to connect with consumers on an emotional level. But the very bad ones find a way to connect and then betray said consumers at the end. Truly a Viral Marketing Failure, this company clearly spent money to diminish their brand once all was said and done. One of the main starting points in marketing is to know your customer. The marketing team behind this gem obviously didn’t put enough stock into what they should have known about their potential customer. Additionally, given the product they were selling, insurance, one would think that what you want to instill is a feeling of trustworthiness. To the client’s misfortune, the agency did just the opposite of that and likely had a negative impact on their brand. I don’t know too many people who’d put trust in a company that invested so much into a farce of that magnitude.

Although agencies are hired to make a certain statement and garner more positive attention for brands, it almost seems like the best way to go viral is to do so organically. Careful planning and clever copy helps a lot, but many of the most highly orchestrated viral campaigns find a way to somehow crash and burn. Ironically, though the insurance company’s slogan, “Unexpected things happen in life. Be insured to have your loved ones assured,” underscores the assurance their customers would want, though the campaign undermined it. Hopefully, it’s a lesson well learned.

A Hard Day’s Night

I watched the first episode of Grey’s Anatomy on a whim. I’d dabbled with the first season of E.R., but not since fighting to stay awake in my youth for snippets of St. Elsewhere had a hospital based drama kept me so riveted.  I was so enamored that I went to ABC’s website to see if they’d dangle a few hints of the upcoming episode when I stumbled upon it… an online community for viewers to chat (well, type) along as the show unfolds.

I was simultaneously relieved to find others as bewitched as me, and a bit daunted at signing up to join them. While I’d certainly become aware of blogging by then, I remained a bit skeptical of the whole process. Written words don’t convey the commenter’s tone as well as the spoken word and it just seemed a little weird to talk to strangers about the faux lives of characters.  Keep in mind — 2005’s skepticism has morphed into 2012’s slight disdain, but that’s another topic.  I think it’s safe for me to blame the folks above for turning me on to joining the forum almost as quickly as abc.go.com turned me off of it!

Gaining entrance into those password-protected gates proved quite the feat.  This is because somewhere down the line I’d signed up for another ABC affiliated site and while they couldn’t identify which one, my email address was linked to it.  So the site urged me to dredge my memory for that golden password since it was all connected.  What? Who has time for this when ‘Grey’s’ is coming on??? Certainly not I, so in a flash of brilliance, I toss out another email, strictly for online chat purposes and yes, I promptly forgot the new password on a weekly basis.  I’d even get online 45 minutes to an hour in advance so I could tussle with the virtual gatekeeper, but soon became weary.

I missed the catfights and defending McSteamy’s appeal over McDreamy’s, but I had to wean myself off the site and after a few questionable plot twists, the show, itself.  At this juncture, they’ve gotten much better with transparency so that you know it’s all in the family.  But also, the option to save a username and/or password on sites have facilitated traipsing in and out with much more ease.  That darned technology thing is really starting to grow on me.

Keep the Customer Satisfied

The Customer (Service Rep) is Always Right

The push – pull between customers and customer service representatives goes back to the dawn of time. The classic Saturday Night Live skit exhibits the crux of the problem, most readily apparent on anybody’s hotline at 3 a.m. in the morning… what’s being said by one person isn’t necessarily what’s being heard by the next! I’ve found this to be most true when calling my beloved cable companies; and yes, I’ve tried them all. (I’m way out of the closet about my addiction to reality TV, Game Show Network and IFC.)

Comcast’s foray into the twit-olution may be too little too late for current and former customers, like myself. Disgruntled, disgusted and disillusioned, pretty much sums it up. But I applaud the effort to take the customer by the hand and let them click their way back into the light if they’re savvy enough to know the virtual help desk is out there. Unfortunately, I missed this boat and have succumbed to far too many excessive holds to ever return. If they really want to assist their core customer– those who after a 12 hour day just want to cozy up to cable– the branding should be more aggressive. Why not purposefully divert the phone traffic? They could put a scrolling message on the blank screen when service crashes, inviting customers to meet them on line for a quick fix. Additionally, lots of us who can’t be bothered with postal mail do electronic billing, so an embedded link in the email would make it all too easy.

If nothing else, a few incentives might also make more customers want to meet them online with a cooler head rather than holding 10-15 minutes to cuss someone out live.

Everything must change…

Many, many moons ago, I worked for the now defunct, MCI Worldcom.   Around the office, we often said that it stood for Many Changes Instantly because you’d come in at 8:45 a.m. and your Manager was no longer your Manager by 9:15 a.m.  The rules changed swiftly and you really had to learn to adjust or be forcibly re-adjusted.  That’s essentially what comes to mind for me when I think of what digital communications and social media has done to how we share and receive information.   I can vividly recall this day in history, eleven short years ago when I found out the horrific events which were unfolding.  I had very few lines of communication and foolishly tried to call.  What a difference a decade makes.  Having a cell phone was still optional back then but now, some have 2 or 3.

Initially, I thought it was my trembling hands causing the misdials to my best friend.  No luck on her land line.  I made another few fruitless attempts to my “boyfriend” in Jersey, before I accepted that everybody across the world with ties to the New York metropolitan area must be dialing like crazy.  It took all of my technological savvy to come up with the brilliant idea of sending emails — which would remain unchecked indefinitely.  To add to my anxiety, the CNN website was frozen with the same image and update each time I refreshed.  I was out of ideas and it took about 72 hours before I knew my loved ones were alive.

If anything of that enormity occurred today, we’d likely see video feeds on You Tube before the media even became aware of the situation. We’ve evolved into a culture where no matter how big or small the news is, we can text it, tweet it and blog about it with the push of a button, privacy be damned!  I think I saw a kindergartner updating his Facebook status from the monkey bars yesterday.  There’s also Instagram, for those who aren’t partial to actual words.  This will be most helpful in dispelling those pesky celebrity death rumors, often spread while said celeb is skiing in Aspen.

I’m not sure it’s worth the overall annoyance I have for those who document every moment of their lives… but I would’ve loved to see, “I’m OK” tweeted out by every New Yorker I know within nanoseconds after the planes crashed on September 11, 2001.