The first wave of social media is over. The bigger tools – Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn – are no longer new. The online landscape has changed with the rush to join slowing. Customers are no longer impressed by businesses that are using social media … in some industries they expect it as a minimum. Now businesses are looking at their social media efforts and determining whether or not they’re working.
The answer to this question often lies in the objective that was set in the first place. The only real way to evaluate social media is by measuring it against the business objectives that underpin it.
Many businesses measure the value of their social media program against the number of ‘friends’, ‘followers’ or ‘views’ they have. But, as of 2017, banks don’t accept these over the counter as deposits.
Social media is a great chance to build an online community. Awareness is good – and a key step in building your business – but you need actual results to see if it’s working.
So what were your objectives? If you stated them before you embarked on a Facebook presence, measurement will be easy.
But what if you didn’t? Well, now’s the time to set some and, in the meantime, you can use some of these metrics to obtain an ROI:
- Increases in repeat business – take your customers from two purchases a year to four. How much extra revenue does that result in?
- Word-of-mouth recommendations in the online space that result in new customers – gold if you can get your customers to sell your product or service.
- New suppliers that bring real discounts in $ or % terms.
- New agreements to bulk order your product or service.
The common theme here is outcomes in the real world. These are the things you can take to the bank and effectively measure.
Communicating during a sign-up process is critical. This is the first opportunity that a new customer may have had to interact with you – their perception will be formed on this first impression. Handle it well and they will respect you. Handle it poorly and the customer is automatically wondering if your level of service is up to scratch.
The latter happened to me.
I decided to sign up to a major sports store’s online membership program. They had baited their hook with a gift voucher if I joined. It was the right kind of bait for me.
It was immediately obvious that the programmers hadn’t really thought through how a user would experience their sign-up system. As a customer, I had to backtrack, question why there were problems and look for FAQs which were non-existent in their ‘customer service’ section.
These are some of the things that happened – and how they could have been managed better.
* Personal details section: I dutifully filled in everything and then hit FINISH at the foot of the screen. Nothing happened – it just refused to submit. I did what most users do and slammed the FINISH button about 50 times but nothing happened. I was about to close my browser and start again when I scrolled back up the screen. There was a field I hadn’t filled out, which was stopping me proceeding.
SOLUTION: Rather than just not accept the information, how about telling me why it won’t proceed? It will save me buying a new keyboard and save you losing people who give up at this point.
* Further to that, the field I hadn’t filled out was marked ‘non-mandatory’. Yet I couldn’t proceed.
SOLUTION: If it’s mandatory, how about telling me?
* When I’d cleared those hurdles, I hit FINISH and my registration was accepted. Then nothing. I was waiting for some information about this gift voucher I’d been promised but instead there was … nothing. I went to the FAQs to find out what to do next but found the FAQs are only for CURRENT members, nothing about the sign-up process.
SOLUTION: When people are joining your organisation, do not presume that they know what they are doing or what you require. Walk them through the process. Tell them the next step and what to expect.
* In the absence of a relevant FAQ, I went to search for ‘gift voucher’. Their search engine only picks up the gift vouchers you can buy.
(At this point, the part of me that is a web professional who was perversely enjoying the process and realising a blog post was in there somewhere overrode the sport nut who wanted the voucher and was about to scream).
SOLUTION: When frustrated with a lack of information, people search. Make sure your search capability extends to the questions these people have.
* Then I got an email, which asked me to activate my account to get my gift voucher.
SOLUTION: If that’s the process that’s involved in me getting my gift voucher, put some content BEFORE I register to tell me that is what is going to happen.
* I activated my account and was taken to the home page. Where the hell is my gift voucher?????? I had to work out for myself that I needed to go into my account, find the section called ‘Promotions’, and then see my gift voucher sitting there. So I clicked it. Nothing. I looked for information that showed me how to redeem it. Nothing.
SOLUTION: Think about every step of the process for a new member/customer. What are they thinking when they hit submit, get an email or go to their details. And once you’ve worked that out – TELL THEM WHAT’S HAPPENING!!!!
So what’s the fallout of this? I’ve got a gift voucher which I’ve had to jump through hoops to get, but I only stuck around so I could get a blog post and a great case study I will definitely be using in my workshops. I will ring them (another step I don’t want to take) to spend the voucher. Then I’ll get future emails from them and wonder if it’s worth the effort.
Is that the kind of mindset they want in a new customer?
People are getting tired of social media. Businesses are constantly telling me that they can’t see how Twitter can be useful for them. They see Facebook as being a massive time drain without a clear indication of a ROI. They uploaded all their TV ads to the YouTube channel, but are getting no cut through. (It’s no wonder BTW).
Anyone who has been to any of our workshops – particularly the one on using social media in business – will have heard us preach incessantly about how tools arrive with a bang and then settle into a pattern; that people are like sheep when new tools arrive and lemmings when they start to fade.
But is it okay to no to social media in business?
In our workshops, we challenge participants to come up with rationale as to why they’d use social media in their business and then rationale as to why they wouldn’t.
They have come up with some interesting ideas as to how they’d embrace social media and these ideas have not only opened new avenues, but they’ve tweaked how they’d currently been running online communities.
The rationale as to why they WOULDN’T use social media are usually because their boss/manager/Chairman has categorically stated that they won’t use these tools because they’re unsafe/unprofessional/I just don’t use it.
As we’ve discussed social media strategically, some participants come to the point of realising that a particular social media outlet is not for them. The participant often nervously tells the rest of their workshop colleagues that Facebook may not work for them. The question is: is that okay? Haven’t we all been conditioned to just embrace the Next Big Thing that arrives on the web?
Our response to that is that yes, it is okay. If you have looked at social media from a strategic viewpoint and have analysed your audience’s usage and respect for the medium and have come up with a negative … or you don’t have the resources to effectively manage and maintain a social media presence then it’s okay to say no.
We’d rather you said no for reasons of strategy rather than reasons of fear.
I was trying to buy cinema tickets the other day. I had been well educated by numerous advertising campaigns that it was easy, fast and convenient to buy my tickets online. I would avoid standing in painful queues. In a time-poor world, I could take control back over half an hour of precious time by heading to the cinema’s website and buying tickets from home. I would be able to walk straight into the cinema (or hopefully straight to the popcorn counter), find a seat and start watching the movie.
What the ad campaign didn’t tell me was that the new streamlined website would chew up 45 minutes of my time that I’ll never get back. And I would end up more frustrated that I wanted to be and started my movie experience in the cinema not with a Mini Skip sized box of popcorn and a smile but silently fuming.
Here was the problem … when I was using the website to book tickets, I was carefully following the prompts and putting in information that was requested. I hit submit and sat back basking in the glow of online commerce, the voice-over from the ad campaign ringing in my ears about how easy this particular process was.
I sat there for a few seconds while the website was thinking about my transaction (or at least that is what was telling me on screen).
Obviously the website didn’t like what it was thinking about. I received a message saying ‘please return to the booking screen’ as the transaction had not gone through. So I did. I checked my information a second time, this time ensuring that I had filled out every field and that all information was correct. They were. I again hit submit and was confronted with the same problem. There was an error.
At this point, as a prospective customer, I was thinking ‘what error?’ I had checked all my information – I had filled everything they wanted me to do but apparently there was a generic non-specific error. I checked my bank balance. I had money in my account. But my only direction in terms of the problem was to go back to the booking screen.
I thought perhaps that I had somehow booked the wrong session time or even the wrong movie. So I went back to the homepage and checked all details went through the process again entering the information doublechecking this time and then again hitting submit. Same response.
The only reason I was still going through this process and not closing my browser window and heading to iTunes to download a movie is that I work on the web and had a feeling there was a blog post in it. In my experience most prospective customers don’t give you a second or third chance. They ring, very frustrated and often take it out on the customer service person or they shop elsewhere.
I pressed on and decided to ring the cinema. I had to hunt on their website to find the phone number is obviously their strategy is to drive people to online transactions instead of talking to a real person. My call was answered by an automated promotional message which thanked me for calling the cinema and then directed me to their website to buy my tickets online because it would save me an enormous amount of time. The cinema now owes me a new phone and probably a plasterer to fix the hole in the wall.
Now proceeding only as a web professional and as someone looking for a new analogy for the Writing for the Web workshop, I tried again, determined to see the process through. This time it magically worked. Why? The information I have provided was exactly the same but some reason I managed to sneak past the guards and get my transaction through.
What was the problem? From a technical point of view I will never know. But from a usability and customer perspective, the problem was that doesn’t look like anybody from the cinema has ever used that side as if they were a customer themselves.
They would know that it’s frustrating to receive error messages that don’t tell you what the problem is. They would know that when you do experience problems (and technical problems are okay, I’m not suggesting the web should exist without technical problems) you need someone to talk to or some line of information that enables people to find assistance.
They would also know that producing glossy advertising campaigns that sell online services need to be backed up by an online product that delivers. And by deliver I mean the service works with the customer from start to finish – I’m not suggesting that the web should be bullet-proof and that there should never be technical issues, but when there are they need to be managed from a customer service perspective not an IT one.
So how was the movie? The second half was good. I spent most of the first half restraining myself after the very first ad that appeared when I sat down in the cinema was promoting the website and how easy it was to buy tickets.
In our last blog post, we looked at the number one way you can get management more involved and engaged in your website, but more importantly in supporting you in the work you do in maintaining the website.
In this blog post we look at the second tactic you have at your disposal – educating them.
Guerilla tactic #2: Educating your management
One of the things about the web that is different to normal corporate business is that sometimes the knowledge of the web and its benefits is inversely proportional to the amount of time spent at the business.
We have often found that it’s the people at the top of the food chain – particularly in government, universities and large corporates – who do not understand the web, its implications or even its potential.
So in your role, you may need to be educating people above you exactly what you’re doing and how benefits the business. You may need to show them that it is more than just the design, telling them that ‘yes, there are privacy concerns but they are as manageable as any other risks in business’. You may need to educate them that your job is more than just uploading a PDF at 4:45 on Friday afternoon. You may need to teach them that social media is more than just marketing – that it can be a community where you can generate deep loyalty with your customer base.
You may also need to educate them on the wins of your website. We often suggest to clients that they regularly update management on the positives of their website, as sometimes the only information that management gets about the website is when it is broken or not working.
Next time: the third and final guerilla tactic to getting management involved in your website.
One of the things that strikes me as fascinating when talking to participants in their workshops, is the number of people in an operational role who are responsible for looking after their organisation’s website who quite openly state that their management aren’t that interested in the website.
In fact, the interest of their management is only piqued when:
- Something is out of date and someone has drawn attention to it
- The manager’s name is misspelt or one of their achievements doesn’t appear
- A competitor re-brands and launches a new website
At other times, when intrepid web editors and maintainers ask for extra time to properly maintain their website or to better integrate a campaign into the web (eg for something positive to happen to the website) the answer is, more often than not, no.
So how do you get management involved in your website? How do you engage with them? There are three guerrilla tactics you can use to do this … and over the next few blog posts we will look at those three ways.
The first of these is quite simple.
Guerilla tactic #1: Corporate jealousy
If you are working within an organisation that really doesn’t seem to care about the web, one tool that is available to you in business is to use the age-old chestnut of corporate jealousy.
Nothing motivates management more than seeing what your competitors are doing and discovering that they are behind. In fact, we have colleagues in graphic design who have made a career and generated significant business from approaching competitors of an organisation that has just rebranded and relaunched its logo. There is something innate about us that we want to keep up … and in business that is certainly the case.
So if you’re finding it difficult to get management interested in your website and in what you are doing, why not show them what other people are doing in your industry? But then importantly, follow that up with how much they are investing in it and the results they are getting.
For example, we are working with an industry-based commission, which is competing with the other states in Australia to do business. They seemed quite proud that they were spending 10% of the other state’s online budgets. Their bean-counter mentality was almost overjoyed that they had saved significant money. It wasn’t until we revealed how much the other states were generating from their website that they started to seriously consider whether or not they were massively underspending to their own detriment.
If you are like this and are thinking about going down this path, it is also worthwhile mentioning how much time other organisations are spending on their website but again tying it back to results. That may help.
Next time: guerrilla tactic #2: how to educate your management about what the web can do for you.
Just a short post this week …
There is one key difference when writing for the web that you do not need to consider when writing other printed collateral … and that is the issue of thinking three-dimensionally.
One of the key elements of writing to the web is taking people on the shortest possible journey from point A to point B and to deliver them to the information they are looking for quickly.
That’s where links are important – they take people to the next piece of information from the point at which they are thinking about it. We are not relying on them as web writers to go to the top of the page and find information.
So when you are writing, you need to understand that each page is not a stand-alone item within a website. It is a link in a chain. And that link needs to be explicit as people are reading.