By now you have probably heard some of the more infamous stories of the brave new world of social media. From Jeff Jarvis’s famous “Dell Sucks” blog post in 2005 to the Motrin-Mommy-Blogger fiasco of late 2008. But what results—good and bad—can inform your own personal or corporate social media strategy? Here are some I thought worth a look.
Have you checked out Bill Marriott’s Blog “Marriott on the Move”? http://www.blogs.marriott.com/ Of course his most recent postings have been about the Jakarta suicide bombings that took place at a Marriott hotel there. Communicating with customers in times of crisis is a crucial part of communicating your brand identity—in this case, that Marriott management is caring and on top of the situation as much as can be expected. Bill also reads the blog aloud in an audio file beneath each post, which makes for a much more personal experience of the story. According to Kathleen Matthews, former news anchor-turned-Marriott marketing executive, $3 million in reservations have come in through his blog. How’s that for an ROI?
Charity: Water is a non-profit organization bringing clean and safe drinking water to people in developing nations. 100% of public donations directly fund water projects. On 12 February 2009, 200+ international cities hosted a Twestival (Twitter + festival) to bring Twitter communities together to raise money for charity: water. The Twestival raised $250,000+ and brought worldwide public awareness to the global water crisis. They also provided a live feed of a well drilling project in Ethiopia paid for by the funds, so donors felt instantly connected to an outcome of their donations. Charity: Water also cleverly provides “Tweet the Facts” resource so folks on Twitter can easily publish content relevant to the charity (“Women in Africa spend 15-17 hrs/week collecting water”). Charities have been among the first to realize the power of social media, so why not retrace their steps and raise awareness for charities and causes you support?
Zappos, the internet shoe emporium just purchased by Amazon, has 436 employees on Twitter. (Full disclosure: I love shoes.) In a recent interview for the Progressive Women’s Leadership Blog in a post called “All atwitter,” CEO Tony Hsieh said “For Twitter, we don’t really view it as a marketing channel so much as a way to connect on a more personal level — whether it’s with our employees or our existing customers.” Zappos has always stood out for its unique company culture, with a high level of customer service and a personalized, informal style. The company offers Twitter classes for employees to learn how to Tweet, but it does not have any restrictive requirements. Again, CEO Hsieh told interviewer Stephen Spencer “We’re not really looking at short-term ROI in terms of sales,” Hsieh says. “We’re looking to form lifelong relationships with our customers, and we think Twitter helps us do this.” The company has also used Twitter as a recruiting tool, because it helps prospective employees see what it’s like to work there.
The Washington Post today carried a story (“Online — and in the Loop — With D.C. Police “ washingtonpost.com http://bit.ly/y8rlP ) about how police are using email listserves to connect to community, inform the public about crimes, and help solve them. The U.S. Park Police are blogging at http://uspppressroom.blogspot.com/ . Meanwhile, on the west coast, Los Angeles police Lt. Rick Banks is quoted saying his unit is looking at Twitter as a new opportunity. What does it all mean? Federal and state agencies are embracing social media as a tool for connecting with the communities they serve. Some of these postings function more as press release outlets than places for real conversations to emerge (see http://www.usda.gov/blog/usda/ ). At least it’s a start for more transparency and faster communication in government.
As great as social media is, there is a dark side. Consider this story from the Better Business Bureau about major job scams on Twitter. The BBB wants job hunters to be aware of the following red flags when searching for a work-at-home job online:
- The “job” is actually a money-making scheme and doesn’t provide actual employment.
- The work-at-home scheme claims that you can make lots of money with little effort and no experience.
- You have to pay money up front in order to be considered for the job or receive more information.
- The exact same tweet touting the program is posted by many different Twitterers. The links in such tweets could lead you to scam sites or install malware onto your computer.
These are just a few tales to help you consider the good, the bad and the ugly ways that social media is changing our communications landscape. Do you have a social media success story or nightmare? Please share!