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The 10 faq about social media and conversation management


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    1. The 10 most frequently asked questions about social media & Conversation Management Since the publication of my book ‘De Conversation Manager’ (2010), I’ve worked with quite a few companies to inspire and advise them in this new marketing field. The same questions keep coming back across all regions and sectors of activity. Social media, community and conversation managers will definitely recognise them, because they are the same type of questions they hear from colleagues every day. ? In view of these recurring questions, I thought it would be a good idea to make a list of the 10 most frequently asked questions and their answers. The contents are open to debate and new arguments can certainly be added to this summary. Please feel free to add your own contribution. b-conversational.com | twitter.com/stevenVBe B Conversational

    2. The 10 most frequently asked questions about social media & Conversation Management 1. Aren’t social media exclusively for B2C and not for B2B? 2. What is the profile of a Conversation Manager? 3. What if the boardroom doesn’t buy into social media? 4. What is the role of the product in social media? 5. Is operational conversation management something we do ourselves or should we call upon an outside company? 6. Are Facebook likes and Twitter followers important? 7. How do I get a lot of followers and likes? 8. How do I react to really negative people? 9. If I become active on social media, do I run the risk of stimulating negativity? 10. What use do I have for conversation management if my customers aren’t on Facebook or Twitter? b-conversational.com | twitter.com/stevenVBe B Conversational

    3. Question 1 Aren’t social media exclusively for B2C and not for B2B? The basic philosophy of conversational thinking is pretty simple and as old as the hills: the best kind of publicity is an existing client convincing someone else to work with your company. For years, manufacturers were able to exert a strong influence on public perception through intelligent and creative publicity. In those pre-social media days, publicity produced an endless stream of information about everyone and everything, thereby diminishing the impact of word of mouth. B2B marketers got to benefit much less from this luxury and, as a result, conversations have always been important in a B2B context. Besides, I’m convinced that B2B marketers hold several advantages over B2C marketers: For a B2B company, this is simply the next step in their existing approach; for a B2C company, including the consumer in the decision-making process often takes some getting used to. • Customer feedback has always been a first-hand experience. In a B2B organisation, direct customer feedback comes with the territory. Since sales and service people work hand in hand with customers, they get feedback on the company’s operational processes and service straight from the horse’s mouth. In a B2C context, though, feedback usually comes from a market survey. A slightly lower percentage of reactions is negative, but they are less personal and less direct than in a B2B context. • Knowing clients: a good B2B marketer knows who the company’s clients are (certainly the top clients). For instance, it is much harder for Coca Cola to find the consumer who drinks the most Coke in Holland than it is for a company selling iron ore. • smaller volume of conversation. A final advantage is the fact that B2B companies average a smaller number of conversations. In terms of online conversations, an industrial company will average a lower volume than a food manufacturer. On the one hand this makes it harder to get the conversation started, but on the other hand it’s easier to manage and follow up. • Co-creation is ingrained in the mentality: a lot of B2B companies habitually involve clients in R&D projects. What’s more, a new product or technology is usually developed for specific client processes. Today, social media make it possible to convert co-creation into structural collaboration. b-conversational.com | twitter.com/stevenVBe B Conversational

    4. Question 2 What is the profile of a Conversation Manager? • Choice no. 2: the conversation manager as a facilitator of strategic change Let’s consider why so many companies are looking for a conversation manager. The answer is simple: we are living in a time of change. There isn’t a company out there that doesn’t realise we need a new form of interaction with the consumer. They want to engage the consumer in conversation so they go in search of someone to manage that conversation. Logical, isn’t it? What companies are really looking for is someone to aid them in that transition. In order to facilitate that change, a strategically competent conversation manager is the best choice. In this role, the conversation manager is proactively involved in determining the strategy. The conversation manager heads the most important projects but also involves the other departments in his plans. He makes sure that the learning effect ripples throughout the organisation. In his ideas, he takes a proactive approach to other departments. The conversation manager determines the content agenda of his organisation on a strategic level. He thinks a year ahead and goes in search of the most relevant content in order to maximise the effect of the conversations about his company. He designs a conversion strategy: how can all these conversations lead to conversion and consequently impact our turnover? Since the publication of the original version of my book ‘The Conversation Manager’ (2010), many companies have gone looking for someone to put in charge of their social media strategy. In quite a few cases, the job description was ‘conversation manager’ – thank you very much for that, by the way. When we analyse the many vacancies for conversation managers, it’s apparent that two profiles are in demand. There’s the strategic approach on the one hand and the operational approach on the other. Both jobs are valuable and both are essential to effective conversation management. I found the inspira- tion to describe both routes in the various papers of Jeremiah Owyang. • Choice No. 1: The conversation manager as a reactive helpdesk A large portion of the job descriptions for conversation managers remind me of the profile of a modern webmaster. These guys start up the conversation for the brand by sending Facebook and Twitter updates. Every day they go looking for a small amount of content to put online. They represent major brands and help companies find their way in conversation management. Every one of these tasks is of crucial importance but they are very operational in nature. They execute the assignments they receive from various departments. When someone is conducting a campaign, the conversation manager is there to help him promote it. When there’s a crisis, the conversation manager monitors the situation on behalf of those involved. Again, each one of these tasks is important but they still only cater to the operational aspect of the job. b-conversational.com | twitter.com/stevenVBe B Conversational

    5. General MGM HR the choice is yours We’ve explained there are two different ways of looking at conversation management. Both roles are important: one is an operational, executive role whereas the other has a strategic focus. When writing the job description, it’s a good idea to think about the place of the new role in the overall structure of the organisation. R&D sales Conversation Manager Cust Care Mkt Most companies simply look for the operational people. However, operational people need ‘the (wo)man with the plan’. Combining both profiles is what generates true change. it Legal b-conversational.com | twitter.com/stevenVBe B Conversational

    6. Question 3 What if the boardroom doesn’t buy into social media? The answer is simple: If you want to convince management of the use of social media, then don’t talk about social media. Instead you should talk about things that managers find important. One of the challenges for top managers is improving customer satisfaction at a lower cost. Another challenge consists in consolidating sales results in a world where customer contact is becoming a rare commodity. Base your arguments on the challenges they face. Explain the long-term advantages of your plan. Contribute to one of the company’s main goals through your social media plan. Also, it’s always a good idea to submit a concrete step-by-step plan. Such a plan brings clarity and sets people at ease. The plan consists of a number of pilots. Pilots with a long-term plan have the biggest impact. A successful pilot survives the initial test phase. The ideal pilot is a pilot with the ability to keep evolving with time. SOCIAL MEDIA PLan Try to include a broad spectrum of factors in the plan. It shouldn’t merely outline the external communication strategy but also the role that staff will play. Take the structural changes into account and be transparent about the investments required for the plan to be successful. b-conversational.com | twitter.com/stevenVBe B Conversational

    7. Question 4 What is the role of the product in social media? It goes without saying that the quality of the product is essential. Analysis of consumer conversations clearly shows that customer experience is the topic of conversation in more than 50% of cases. This experience is always a combination of product quality and the quality of the service. When these two elements are satisfactory, you’re off to a flying start on social media: thanks to the quality of the product, consumers will already be exchanging their product experiences of their own accord. The product has already created a positive buzz, regardless of what you yourself are doing. Develop conversation starters around your product/brand Help customers with issues, thank them for compliments Grow an active group of brand advocates if product/service quality is OK If your product is lacking in quality then you will be confronted with that fact in a hurry. Faster than ever before, careful observation tells a company what’s wrong with its products. We can help consumers by taking part in the conversation, but even more than that, it’s crucial to bring the observations into the R&D department and make actual improvements to the product. Product & service if product/service quality is not OK In other words, product quality has a major impact on conversation management. If your product and the accompanying service are up to par then you can start brainstorming about creative content campaigns because consumers are prepared to talk about your company. If either your product or the service are below average, then you will need to focus on observation and on neutralising conversation management. Of course, this also creates an opportunity. Using consumer feedback to improve your product makes a company look good to its consumers. Improve/new product Listen and be empathic for negative feedback use consumer feedback thank consumer for feedback b-conversational.com | twitter.com/stevenVBe B Conversational

    8. Question 5 Is operational conversation management something we do ourselves or should we call upon an outside company? In a perfect world it’s better to implement conversation management ourselves. Managing the direct relationship with the customer yourself is undoubtedly an asset. In some cases, though, it’s better to use a partner: • If round-the-clock availability is required but the terms of employment don’t allow it. • If the company lacks the in-house knowledge to take part in the conversation. • To provide assistance at peak moments. For instance, if a company can handle the daily flow of conversations but needs outside help for a product launch, they may call upon an outside partner to help them deal with the peak in activity. • In case of a pressing need for specific competencies that are not available within the company. In the future, marketing organisations will try to become more flexible. As a result, the number of in-house staff may drop as companies are quicker to call upon a specialised outside firm. The service providers’ expertise on the subject of online participation may become so high that working with an outside partner becomes an asset. The conclusion is that apart from the ideal case scenario, there’s also the everyday reality to take into account. b-conversational.com | twitter.com/stevenVBe B Conversational

    9. Question 6 Are Facebook likes and Twitter followers important? Still, keep in mind that your efforts should be based on a clear strategy. You can devise a strategy using the four steps outlined below: Many social media experts would say ‘no’ but I beg to differ. However, two conditions must be fulfilled: first of all, the fans and followers must be gen- uine fans instead of ‘purchased fans’. And secondly, you have to get those followers involved. An entirely passive audience has little worth. If these two conditions are fulfilled, building a wide reach is a great asset. This is true for several reasons: 1. Draw up a content conversion plan Think carefully about which content areas you would like to tackle. Also, it’s a good idea to select a digital location that offers the best odds of conversion, of reaching your goals. Next you try to bring as many people to that location as possible. • The main reason: while the investments in campaigns and content remain the same, their impact increases. In turn, this generates a bigger impact on investment. 2. Build reach Once the strategy is in place, you have to build reach. See also the next question for more pointers on the subject. • Managers like figures and success indicators. As a conversation manager, you will have to report to your superiors from time to time. A growing online reach may help you secure additional means. 3. Generate commitment through content The content should be worthy of conversation. It should invite interaction and make people feel involved with the brand. • The perception of the outside world is still determined by volume and reach. 4. From likes to ambassadors The final step consists in activating people. When your fans start talking about your brand to other people, that’s when the likes have been converted into ambassadors. b-conversational.com | twitter.com/stevenVBe B Conversational

    10. These four phases are obviously not entirely sequential; there is an overlap between phases 2, 3 and 4. In our strategy, it’s not that hard to define the necessary actions for the various steps. In real life, though, we need to be flexible enough to adapt to consumer needs in a moment’s notice. Once a certain stage is reached, phases 2, 3 and 4 become iterative steps in an eternal loop designed to build reach and create more ambassadors. Conversion Convince with content & interaction Build reach through campaigns Content Touchpoint plan tiMe b-conversational.com | twitter.com/stevenVBe B Conversational

    11. Question 7 How do I get a lot of followers and likes? • Campaigns worthy of conversation: invest in strong online campaigns to boost the reach of the online channels. • Competitions & free giveaways: giving away free products is an effective method of building reach in the very short term. The drawback of this approach is there are no guarantees of attracting the right people. Many companies get a lot of ‘fans’ this way but their quality is often questionable. When using this strategy, the trick is to convince people through high- quality content. • social advertising: good content deserves to be seen. Promote your content with social media ads. • activating staff: a company should always have more fans than staff. If your own staff are not interested in the content then you can’t expect the customer to take an interest. Train and coach your staff so they become active ambassadors of your social media activities. • Offline communication: building reach goes way beyond the online channels themselves. Mentioning the online channels in every form of communication will help build your reach on a structural level. Mention the online channels in all communications: TV commercials, banners, posters, printed ads, publicity at the mall … • Work with partners that have a wide reach: If you have a good relationship with strong brands that already have a wide online reach then you should look into the possibility of them sharing your content as well. Three conditions must be fulfilled to build reach: 1. strong content: the most important way of building reach is sharing relevant, creative and enjoyable content with your network. Not only should the actual content be good, but more than anything else it should also be visually convincing. Our communications are slipping back toward the age of hieroglyphics: text is slowly but surely disappearing from the online world and photos and videos are taking over. 2. Discipline: doing something fun once a year just isn’t enough. You have to settle on a rhythm for making and sharing strong content. Keep to that rhythm even if not much is happening in the short run. Discipline coupled with patience is a second condition. 3. Be human: don’t fall into the trap of one-way communication on social media. Keep it human. Play an active role in the conversation, react to other people’s input, joke around… Make the personality of your brand tangible. Then there are also a number of more commercially oriented possibilities to build reach. The challenge is to balance the scales. Don’t just go for the fast build-up of fans but always concentrate on finding good fans. I have outlined a few ideas that work but you should take care to use them in a way that fits the brand while still attracting good fans: b-conversational.com | twitter.com/stevenVBe B Conversational

    12. Question 8 How do I react to really negative people? There are two kinds of negative people. The first kind had a bad experience with your company and the second kind is negative by nature. The first are relatively easy to convert. The second are the so-called grouchy smurfs that are impossible to please. Both groups require a different approach. Haters: ignore their hate but understand its source Negative reactions after an incident: open a dialogue This group has lost all trust in your company. They are convinced your com- pany simply can’t do any better. Everything you say and do comes across the wrong way. The thought of having anything to do with your company makes them shudder. You won’t change their minds, not even through dialogue, so there’s little sense in reacting to their negative comments. Anything you say will only fuel their anger and it’s a discussion you can’t win. Don’t pay any attention to them. Do not delete their negative comments but simply ignore their remarks. By reacting, you are giving the impression they’re succeeding in their mission. The only interesting thing is to determine (listen) the cause for these extreme feelings. You can learn from the past to keep other people from developing the same feelings towards your company. This group often spreads negative content about your company. They feel you should do better (as opposed to positive criticism from those who think you COULD do better). Open a dialogue and listen to their feedback. Maybe you can make some actual improvements that will change their opinion of your company. Make sure their negative comments are processed in a posi- tive, empathic manner. Even if their opinion doesn’t change, at least you’ve neutralised the negative conversation. b-conversational.com | twitter.com/stevenVBe B Conversational

    13. Question 9 If I become active on social media, do I run the risk of stimulating negativity? still about understanding your customers and reacting appropriately. In other words, it all starts with listening to what consumers have to say. Consumers don’t need your permission to talk about your company. Conversations will take place regardless of whether or not the company itself is involved. If you’re not, then you don’t know what they are saying and you can’t react; by participating in the conversation, you are aware of what they are saying and you can react. If your company is hesitant to create an online presence it can be very helpful to fall back on the three steps of conversation management: • Observe: start by listening before you join in the conversation. As long as you are uncomfortable participating, the least you can do is listen. • Facilitate: make it easier to talk to you and about you. • Join: take part in the conversation. Leave the safety of your brand identity and put a face on the brand in your capacity as marketer. Also, your presence will have a psychological effect in limiting the number of negative conversations. After all, people are reticent to make negative comments when the target of the remarks can hear them. It is very easy to be angry with someone who isn’t in the room. Arguing with someone who is actually there takes more nerve. The more human your style of conversation management, the fewer negative conversations take place. Nevertheless, a major mistake by your company will result in an avalanche of negative comments. Again, this is not related to your presence or absence but to the mistake itself. As a manager As a brand As a peer observe Facilitate Join Not being active on social media means turning a deaf ear to your customers’ feedback and that’s obviously a bad idea. After all, marketing is b-conversational.com | twitter.com/stevenVBe B Conversational

    14. Question 10 What use do I have for conversation management if my customers aren’t on Facebook or Twitter? Conversation management goes beyond Facebook and Twitter. It’s about establish- ing an emotional connection with customers that results in positive conversations. These positive conversations are the basis for growth. I’ve never heard of a company that doesn’t care about positive conversations, regardless of the channel being used. Needless to say, the new media also play a role in conversation management. While it is true that not everyone uses these channels, they are still important to every company. Digital marketing goes beyond Facebook and Twitter. Company’s often underestimate the importance of their own website. Establishing your own channel for interactive communication with the customer is also part of a conversation strate- gy. This involves a larger target group, viz. the entire internet population. In addition, the indirect effect of social media is often much bigger than the direct effect. More and more, news is being shaped online. Once the classic media pick up a story, it grows and may eventually become a fad. The quickest road to offline visibility is scoring on social media. The opposite is also true: the quickest road to online success is your offline behaviour. In other words: thinking in silos is not a good idea. Everything is interconnected and every channel has its own part to play. b-conversational.com | twitter.com/stevenVBe B Conversational

    15. To learn all details about my vision, check out my two books... b-conversational.com | twitter.com/stevenVBe B Conversational

    16. Feedback & suggestions? I hope these questions and suggestions for answers help you to tackle questions and issues in your day to day working environment. If you have other experiences or suggestions, feel free to contact me. Steven@VanBelleghem.Biz @StevenVBe linkedin.com/in/stevenvanbelleghem facebook.com/theconversationmanager Thank you and good luck! b-conversational.com | twitter.com/stevenVBe B Conversational