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Please tell me how you'd like me to talk to you

A friend in Dubai recently e-mailed me with the subject line: "a note about the e-mail I owe you."


In the message, which she sent to practically everyone she knows, she said she needed to own up to how bad she is at returning e-mails.

I e-mailed her to say Bravo! and asked what was the response from our other friends. She said it felt great to have the in-box albatross off her neck -- and this was her way of not just reaching out, but also getting more organized.

When there are a variety of ways to communicate with people -- text, instant messages, Twitter, etc. -- shouldn't it also be a part of netiquette to learn what form of communication people prefer?

EcardEmail In other words, if a person hates voice mail, don't use it. If someone only wants to be contacted via e-mail, respect that.

In the case of my Dubai friend, she's not bad at communicating: she uses Facebook daily, chats with people via Skype and Google instant messaging, and still uses old-school devices like the phone and even writes actual letters. What I thought was great was that she articulated all of her communication preferences to her friends.

I think this is even more important in professional situations, because it gives you a chance to distinguish yourself. Everyone's got the e-mail signature that lists the variety of ways they can be contacted (Follow me on Twitter! Read my Blog!).

But I think in the rush to be available to everyone on all platforms, we've failed to indicate the way we prefer to be contacted.

This goes both ways: It's not just about asking people how they would like to communicate, but also about making your own preferences clear.

Anyone who has ever called my work phone knows that for years, my voice mail has contained a message asking public relations professionals to e-mail me (if they don't have it, I spell out my e-mail address.)

There are a few reasons, but mostly, it's because I like to store things via e-mail so I can go back -- even if months later, to retrieve what was sent. I'm not opposed to picking up the phone: sometimes, that's the fastest and most efficient way to communicate. It just seems, though, like SUCH a waste of time to retrieve voice mails when it's just easier to have that email as a record. (And for those who ask, no, the Herald doesn't have any type of automatic transcriptions of voice mails, or then I wouldn't be so picky about this.)

And that's my point, as well. It's not just about courtesy, it's about efficiency. These days, couldn't we all use a bit more of both?

What's your preference, or pet peeve on this matter? Weigh in below, please:

Posted by Niala Boodhoo at 12:37 PM on March 30, 2010 in Facebook , Friending , Status updates , Twitter , Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)

The Nestlé Facebook lesson: When being attacked, show that you're listening -- but don't sass back

Nestle If you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all.

That's the lesson a Nestlé social media administrator learned the hard way last week, after getting snippy with Greenpeace protesters who were repeatedly attacking the company's Facebook page.

Here's the breakdown: Greenpeace is protesting Nestlé's use of palm oil, an ingredient used in many of its products, saying it hurts the rainforests when not gathered in an environmentally sensitive way.

Protesters soon began to fill Nestlé's Facebook fan page with comments -- and many of those protesters changed their personal profile photos to be negatively altered logos, like changing KitKat to Killer and Nestlé to Nosale.

Nestlé then made a status update saying that they welcome the comments, but request that people not post with altered images of the Nestlé logos. It said any comments made by users with altered logos would be deleted.

But as the protesters cried that Nestlé doesn't support freedom of speech and they were "Big Brotherish,'' the Nestlé voice showed its annoyance, saying, "Oh please, it's not like we're censoring everything to allow only positive comments.''

Social media voices need to have personality to engage with users -- but NOT in this situation. When being attacked, show that you're listening and keep it professional. But don't sass back. Nestlé's Facebook administrator made the mistake of showing snark at multiple times, and now social media blogs are buzzing about how Nestlé handled it wrong.

Nestlé hasn't responded to our request for a comment. On Friday afternoon, the Nestlé Facebook administrator wrote that deleting comments with altered logos "was one in a series of mistakes for which I would like to apologize. And for being rude. We've stopped deleting posts, and I have stopped being rude."

The Nestlé page has also posted statements about the company's plan to use sustainable palm oil by 2015.

Greenpeace isn't just targeting Nestlé. They also are going after Dove. But businesses can learn a lesson from Dove's Facebook Page. When a user first goes to the page, they don't see a massive list of Wall posts from various users. They are defaulted to a "Home Page'' graphic tab.

On that screen, Dove, in a calm, professional manner, makes it clear that this is a place for fans of Dove -- but it also lets visitors know it has the right to remove comments on anyone being offensive or violating intellectual property rights.

The point is the tone. Companies use social media to present a voice. When people are screaming at you, it's best not to scream back.

As Nestlé sits by for days and lets negative comments take over its Facebook page, it's turning into quite the social media mess. If you were Nestlé, how would you use social media to respond?

Posted by Bridget Carey at 07:26 PM on March 22, 2010 in Facebook | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

Generations and the netiquette/etiquette gap

The backstory to today's column: this topic came up last week at a Social Media Club South Florida's event that focused on education and social media.

I wasn't there - I was at another event - but heard that some interesting topics came up. I called some of the panelists to talk to them about what they were seeing with this generation - and it struck a chord because it was similar message that I hear from teachers these days:

We've created a generation that looks great on paper, but has some trouble when it comes to real life.

That was the main message that stuck in my mind last week when I spoke with Rosanna Fiske, who teaches at Florida International University's communications school.

Her students are early adapters, finding the latest technological innovation "none of us can,'' said Fiske, who teaches advertising and public relations students.

"They do so well because they're connected -- they've literally been connected their entire lives,'' she said. "But what that's also done is create a whole issue with their social skills and face-to-face interaction.''

In some cases, it gets even worse.

Johnson & Wales' Maureen Lloyd-James told me she has some students who include texting language like LOL (that's laughing out loud) in college essays.

"I think in this day and age we presume students have a lot of computing knowledge -- but it's only in a specific area,'' she said.

Fiske counteracts this at FIU by emphasizing hands-on work. Some students have a class that features in-person interactions, so they must meet clients in addition to create websites, do writing, research and preparation.

Both Fiske and Lloyd-James emphasized that these assignments are about creating a different mind-set for students who have never thought about these things.

For Betsy Soler, a senior at FIU who is already working full-time, it was also about learning how to act as a professional -- something every college student must learn, regardless of their generation.

In her case, that has meant getting more comfortable with using the phone for work conversations, said Soler, who still puts "text-friendly'' next to her business phone number.

Soler, 19, thinks part of the issue is that because younger people are viewed more as "experts,'' they're being thrust into the working world at a much younger age.

"Professionals are approaching us a lot quicker than before,'' said Soler, who started college when she was 16.

What netiquette challenges do you see when working between generations? Share your stories in the comments below.

Posted by Niala Boodhoo at 04:50 PM on March 16, 2010 in Facebook , LinkedIn , Twitter , Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Tweak Picasa settings to keep photo-sharing private

Picasa_logo This week's Poked column answers a question from a reader who doesn't want everyone on his Google contact list to see photos he uploads to Picasa, Google's free photo editing and sharing service:

Q: I have been using Google's Picasa program to download my pictures for storage and sharing with friends. After I download pictures into the Picasa Album, I select people I want to share them with, but Picasa sends them to everyone on my e-mail list. This creates a problem for me as some of the pictures are not meant to be shared with everyone on my e-mail list.

I have asked Picasa's help section for an answer, but never received a reply.

-- Fred Hampton, Lauderhill

A: It's hard to give specific help without seeing your computer in front of me, but here's a guide to make sure your photos don't get shared with everyone in your contact list. First, make sure you have Picasa 3.6, the newest version. You can control Picasa photo album privacy settings through the software, and also through the website interface.

Upload a folder to your online account with the "Sync to Web" button on the far right of the screen. The sync can also can be turned on or off with the pull-down menu next to the Share button.

Before you start syncing your photos to your account, double-check your privacy settings. In the Picasa software, click on "Tools" in the top menu, and then click "Options." Go to the "Web Albums" tab. Select if you want the folder or album to be public, unlisted or unlisted and require a sign-in.

• "Public" means anyone in the world can see the photos.

• "Unlisted" means the world can see it, if they happen to know the special URL to find it.

• "Sign-in required to view" means it's only seen by people you specifically listed to share those photos with, and those people need to have a Google e-mail account.

Once you've shared a photo folder or album, log on to Picasa online to see who was sent invitations to see the album (picasaweb.google.com). Click to view an album, and on the right column it will show which people or groups got an e-mail notification to see it. Click "edit" to modify your contact groups. If a sign-in is required, you can change your mind by clicking the "X" near a group or individual to cancel access.

Here's a good way to keep things private: Take advantage of the "Starred Images Only'' share option. If you add photos to a folder, they won't be shared unless you take the time to mark it with a star inside the Picasa program. That way you won't accidentally share unwanted photos.

And remember, you can't set specific privacy settings per photo -- only for the entire album or folder.

As always, shoot us an e-mail if you have any vexing questions about social media or need advice.

Posted by Bridget Carey at 10:52 AM on March 12, 2010 in Pictures | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Rick Sanchez gets Kanye'd at the Shorty Awards

Bridget and I have that familiarity with Rick Sanchez that all native South Floridians have - we think it's even more so when, like us, you grew up watching him on Channel 7, aspiring journalists such that we were back in the day.

Rick's been quite the YouTube sensation this week already when Jon Stewart (oh, Hulu, what will you you do without Stewart!) took him to task for his tsunami coverage. So it's with great affection that we present, for your Friday viewing, Rick Sanchez's "Kayne" moment at the Shorty Awards, where he hosted the awards which go to the best producers of "short, real-time content" on the Web. On a side note, I was thrilled to see my long-standing crush Nathan Fillion winning in the celeb category.

Watch below for the moment just after Sanchez presenteds a Shorty to a llama. Yes, a llama. (I guess, in the interests of accuracy, that poor woman who tweets this llama account was really the Taylor Swift in this story, but we just like that Rick was involved). Hey, it was the "weird" award, made more bizarre, as you'll see, when he was interrupted by this guy known as Eastside Dave:

Posted by Niala Boodhoo at 04:01 PM on March 5, 2010 in Current Affairs , Twitter , Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)

RootMusic gives bands an easy promotion solution for Facebook pages

Bands love MySpace because of how easy the format is to promote your gig and post samples of songs.

But the people you want to reach are on Facebook!

Solution: RootMusic. It's a free tool that uses Facebook Connect to add a well-designed tab to your band's Fan page (and it must be a Fan page and not a personal page) that lets you easily post songs and show dates. It will also showcase your most recent posts on Twitter.

You can have the songs be downloaded or streamed. Just do all the updating from RootMusic's site, and it'll show up on Facebook as a tab that says "BandPage." Rock on.

Posted by Bridget Carey at 07:10 PM on March 4, 2010 in Facebook , Music | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Social networking not enough for good customer service -- and Comcast's response

Note: Below I've posted this week's Poked column, but jump to the end to read a response from Frank Eliason of @ComcastCares.

We are in the age of social media arrogance.

Companies are banking on Twitter and Facebook to be the saviors of their customer service and marketing. Self-appointed social media experts spend days praising each other's success stories and validating their jobs by spewing lofty answers as to why every company needs to hire experts to manage Twitter and Facebook accounts.

But are companies losing perspective? Is there more to making customers happy than counting Facebook Fans and Twitter followers?

It's a point that online marketer Tara Hunt was preaching to a packed house of 350 at last week's Future of Web Apps conference in Miami Beach. It was a conference for entrepreneurs to learn best practices from one another.

Our weekly Poked column strives to help the business community practice good online etiquette and use social media effectively. But when you just hear about good business examples from Twitter, it can give a false impression that Twitter alone can save your sales numbers.

The truth is, balance between real world and online solutions is key.

Hunt's 15-minute talk gave know-it-all social media marketers in the room a refreshing dose of humble pie. Social media is a Band-Aid -- not a solution. You can't simply say you can lower complaints and improve satisfaction by hiring someone to manage a Twitter account.

One of Hunt's prime examples is the often-lauded ComcastCares Twitter account. I'm the first to say it's a great example of how to use Twitter to help people who are voicing complaints. But if there are enough customer complaints to keep this guy busy all day -- and enough that Comcast has several more people doing that job -- perhaps there's another problem that needs addressing.

If Comcast fixed its problems, several people wouldn't need to do that job, Hunt said.

Cable companies are not exactly known for being the greatest at customer service, so it wasn't a surprise she also criticized Rogers Communications, a Canadian telecom and cable company.

At Rogers, she couldn't reach a customer service representative over the phone, but there were six Twitter accounts to respond to her complaints online.

"Instead of hiring people for Twitter, why not trying hiring people to answer your freakin' phones?'' Hunt said.

Lisa Barone, co-founder and chief branding officer of Outspoken Media, based in Spring Hill, Fla., has been getting buzz this week from her blog post with a similar point: People need to plant branding seeds in more places than Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. Continue your company blog. Keep doing an e-mail newsletter. Because what will you do when Twitter isn't around?

"I talk to small-business owners every day who have a Facebook and Twitter account but that don't have a website,'' Barone wrote. "I read tweets from people about how they've stopped blogging because now they have Twitter and it's `so much easier' to talk to people.''

Barone's and Hunt's views are something every marketer should hear. In this world where social media do have high importance, we shouldn't toss other solutions to the side.

~~~

The next morning, Frank from @ComcastCares reached out to me on e-mail to clarify Comcast's customer service efforts online:

I wanted to take a moment to clarify that Comcast is not "banking on Twitter and Facebook being a savior for Customer Service and Marketing."  Companies that view it this way are off base and not receiving value in the space. ... We listen through a variety of means, which include social media, but also include through standard communications channels and even a way any customer can share feedback through out ask Rick program (View our Contact Us page http://www.comcast.com/corporate/customers/contactus/contactus.html). ... At the same time I agree our service does have room to improve; that is happening and will continue to happen. What may surprise you is most of the customers we deal with in social media never even contacted us before on the topic.

I asked him to elaborate further on how many customers are helped through Twitter before even reaching out to Comcast, and how much time his team dedicates to helping customers on Twitter and other social media. His response (I highlighted some interesting facts in bold):

Each social media space is a little different. Forums for example are really about peer helping peer, often very technical conversations. Listening in that space helps us find out answers to questions we receive in other channels. Twitter and Facebook work as an early warning system, with about 75% or more of the discussions prior to calling. Blogs are more after the fact or feedback regarding products. Blogs are useful for full customer stories, as well as a means for product teams to see what customers are looking for in future enhancements. Places like Get Satisfaction, Planet Feedback, etc are after the fact feedback.

My digital care team is not structured around number of interactions, but instead how they help us improve the customer experience through all communication channels. The bulk of the work that we handle is actually through email. As a means to obtain account information from customers on blogs, we started our team’s email address (We_Can_Help@cable.comcast.com). We do also use it in other social media spaces as necessary (for example when a customer needs more than 140 characters). This creates another communications channel in which we receive about 7,000 emails a month.

My team is responsible for our help forums, which have over 3.5 million page views each month. These are usually people seeking helping from peers. My team moderates our help forums. We also listen in forums throughout the Internet. We even have a private forum called Comcast Direct over at Broadband Reports. This allows Customers that hang out there to get help in a private manner where they already are. Forums in general are about peer helping peer, so typically you will not see us participate in a public manner. Doing so would take away from the community that is there. We will private message if we think we are the best option to help. With all the forums we watch, we review 500 to 1,000 forum entries each day.

We review about 6,000 blog posts each day, with most not having anything to do with Comcast. They show in the search because the blogger has a Comcast.net email address.  We do not exclude them from our search, because we would never want to miss a post in which a customer could use assistance.

Twitter has about 1,500 - 2,000 tweets a day or more. Many of the tweets are not about assistance, but some are. We reach out to 600 - 1,000 people, and we have conversations with about 200 - 300 a day.  We typically only have 1 person on at a time, and we try to cover 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. Eastern time Monday through Friday and 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Eastern time on Saturday and Sunday. We see more activity than most companies since we are known for being in the space and spammers like to mention us. Many times when we feel it is spam, our initial response is to email. We know we never hear from them.

I think that provides insight into my little team of 10. ... I do not believe companies should be out here because it is the popular thing to do, or they see it as a space that will save them.  This is a space to have a dialogue in an open and transparent way. This is why customer service makes the most sense at handling these interactions.

I wrote the column this week as a review of refreshing points made at the Future of Web Apps, and also as a call for companies to not only jump on Twitter to solve customer service needs, when in fact larger company problems may need addressing.

I thank Frank for being so specific on Comcast's online customer service strategies and workload.

And as a side note, a member of Frank's team, @ComcastBonnie, just won a Shorty Award last night for customer service -- which is an award for people on Twitter, and finalists are chosen from online votes and a panel of judges.

The online community continues to award the company's efforts on Twitter. But will the Comcast Twitter team need to grow over time? Is it inescapable that a company that large will always need a big team to monitor online conversations?

No matter what you think about the improvements it can make to customer service, or how big that team needs to be, it is clear that they are certainly doing more online than most companies. I'm curious to see the evolution of the online customer service team in the next few years.

Posted by Bridget Carey at 12:14 PM on March 4, 2010 in Twitter | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack (0)

 
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