BTRIPP (btripp) wrote,

As platforms change ...

As those of you paying way too close attention to this space may recall, I won this and Likeable Business: Why Today's Consumers Demand More and How Leaders Can Deliver a year or so back, for livetweeting the most from a talk Dave Kerpen was giving here. I might have gotten around to reading Likeable Social Media: How to Delight Your Customers, Create an Irresistible Brand, and Be Generally Amazing on Facebook (& Other Social Networks) before now, but I'd lent it to some friends and only reasonably recently had it back in my to-be-read piles.

Now, this is a relatively current book, but I'm wondering with all the changes over at Facebook, if Kerpen is starting to regret his “hitching his wagon” to the the whole “like” thing, given how devalued that's become. Time recently reported that in the most recent revision of how posts show up in members' FB newsfeeds dropped the average penetration to those who have “liked” your page from an already anemic 12% down to 6%, and I've seen other reports showing that trending even lower, to 3.5%, with rumors of things heading for a 1-2% reach. It wasn't too long ago that every company was clamoring to build up their Facebook pages, and get people to “like” them with the promise that what the brands posted would be at least potentially seen by the audience they'd built. I know I've had discussions about abandoning Facebook when pages that I'm involved with are only getting 2% of the eyeballs of people who have expressed interest (ie “liked”) in seeing what's posted there. Frankly, in the time between reading the two books, the whole concept of “Like” has become a touchy subject for me, with it having a twisted “bait and switch” vibe to it now … thanks, Zuckerberg.

I bring this up because it really IS a whole different world now than it was when Kerpen was writing this in 2011, and a lot of the specifics relating to Facebook are no doubt changed at this point, and a lot of the examples of how companies were reaching wide swaths of their customers are likewise no longer achievable under the new realities. How long are people going to expend the time and effort to make Facebook outreaches if only 2% of your audience is going to see it?

That being said, Likeable Social Media is a fairly useful book on a “philosophical” basis, in the subtitle's “Delight Your Customers” area. Even if you throw out everything about Facebook, there's quality material here, from the Introduction's notes that:
1. Social media cannot make up for a bad product, company or organization.
2. Social Media won't lead to overnight sales success.
3. Social Media is not free.
to the initial chapter's “Listen First, and Never Stop Listening”, this starts with over-all good advice, even if the particular platform has gone over to the dark side. “Listening is the single most important skill in social media, and one that's easy to forget once you get started with all of the sexier, more exciting things you can do.”

One note on a “structural” element that I really liked here … each chapter ends up with a section of 3-4 “action items”, and then a paragraph summing up the subject of that chapter. These provided a format that gave a sort of “manual” feel to this, with a plan for moving into the social media arena for those who hadn't been there yet.

Some of the advice in here relates to responding to comments, both good and bad (a chapter on each), with suggestions like:
... there's no way to entirely stop people from making negative posts about your company … so, why not prepare yourself and, instead of avoiding it, embrace negative feedback, comments, and criticism?
This is in the context of “not deleting negative comments” (the first reaction of a lot of MBAs), leading into not ignoring them either. The author goes into ways of saying “I'm Sorry!” without your legal department busting bloodvessels over it sounding like admitting some actionable culpability … “If you can respond quickly and authentically, with an apology and a solution, you can avoid any damage to your reputation.”

One of the hardest lessons for a lot of MBAs, executives, and salespersons to “get” is the “Be Authentic” chapter … “Many large companies have a hard time being authentic in their interactions with customers.” … attempting to maximize efficiencies with scripts, models, and processes, leading to the customer being subjected to the company's needs and not their own. Or, in the terms of a sub-header: “Authenticity Breeds Trust; Inauthenticity Breeds Fear”. Similarly, there's the “Be Honest and Transparent” chapter, which highlights Kerpen's interaction with what he had been led to believe was a local State Senator … only to find the Senator wasn't there, and that the entire social media outreach was designed to drive contributions … followed by other examples of “astroturfing”, where employees of companies posed as customers to come to the defense against legitimate hostile comments. This leads into a section about WOMMA (the Word of Mouth Marketing Association), and the guidelines it offers to keep one's interactions on the good side of the FTC.

Another chapter looks at how things improve if you ask questions of your social media audience … not only can you find out what they're interested in within the context of your social channels, it can be like having a 24/7/365 focus group, with none of the expenses involved in running formal focus groups! This can even grow into actively “crowdsourcing” which can provide popular changes to existing products, line extensions (many companies have done this of late to get new flavors), etc. There is a chapter about providing free stuff (content) without expecting an immediate sales return, and another about sharing stories.
When you hear the story of how a company was born, or one about the impact an organization has had on a customer's life … you feel an emotional connection with that company. Social Media … allow(s) you to share your stories with your customers, prospects, and the world, further building powerful connections.
And, once you've gotten the conversation started with your stories, you can reach out to get your customers to share their stories, since “once people start seeing other customers posting their stories, it'll remind them of their own experiences that they might want to share.”, or:
If you can connect with your customers on a deeper, more emotional level, you'll be much more likely to inspire them to share their stories about you with their friends, family and their own fans.
On the corporate side, Kerpen recommends that social media be infused into all areas that touch on the customer experience: advertising, marketing, PR, customer service, operations, sales, R&D, IT, and even senior management. A tall order, to be sure, but as he notes in another sub-heading: “Everyone and Everything Is Word-Of-Mouth Marketing”.

Other chapters talk about owning up when your company screws up (and he has some very interesting case studies in this), and ideas to “consistently deliver excitement, surprise, and delight” … leading up to a situation where you no longer have to sell, as your engaged audience of prospects will buy on their own accord.

Obviously, all of the above is “good advice” across all platforms, even if Likeable Social Media is targeted primarily to Facebook … the broad strokes (as above) are hardly specific to any one. There's lots of good stuff in this, even if it is focused on a old reality on a now less-useful Facebook. While this has been out a bit, it's still available in hardback, paperback, and e-book, with the online big boys having it at a fairly substantial discount (41% off at this writing). Oddly, the used channel is still right up around what the discounted new copies are going for, so it must be still pretty popular. Again, if you can filter out the Facebook specifics, there's still a very useful book here that is worth the read.

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Tags: book review
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