Social Isn’t Just About Being Cool — It’s About Being Present

This post was first published at The Agency Post.

When I first started in the agency world, I learned very quickly how important being “present” meant for the company and the clients. There was a policy of “engage everything.” At first, I thought it was a waste of energy, but I have now come to believe that everyone deserves a response from a brand. Everyone.

I’m not talking about inspirational quotes about living life in the present. I’m talking about the need for a brand to be present. In that context, it means listening and interacting, even if it’s a lot of work.

Of course, this is something we all know already, right? Guess again.

As a New York City resident, I hear about a lot of great local food and dessert locations, and I do my best to try them out when I can. I had heard rave reviews about a local ice cream shop and decided to give it a try. The Big Gay Ice Cream company began as a food truck and has since expanded to two physical locations.

It did this because its growing fan base demanded it. But, through that growth, it also lost its human touch. On my first visit, the service was great. The second time, not so much. The staff was rude to my boyfriend and me on our anniversary.

That night, we both posted on Foursquare and sent the company a message, and to our surprise, one of our Foursquare negative reviews was liked by the company. And our message has gone unanswered.

On the flip side, I recently found a new coffee shop in Astoria by way of a street campaign inviting me into the store. It was old school. Free bagel? Sure! What I found at the New York City Bagel & Coffee House was not only great food, but also a friendly staff and an even friendlier owner.

On more than one occasion, the owner has come out to say “hi” and even takes the time to comment back on the company’s Facebook page. He has taken the time to listen and be present.

Now, I know I am not Peter Shankman (see his experience with being a respected customer and a bad one with US Airways), and this feedback will likely go unheeded, but the point to marketers in the social media space is simple:

Your “digital” customers matter as much as your physical ones.

  • 1 in 3 consumers prefer to contact brands on social media rather than the telephone.
  • Only 36 percent of consumers who make customer service enquiries via social media report having their issue solved quickly and effectively.
  • 71 percent of those who experience positive social customer care are likely to recommend that brand to others, compared to just 19 percent of customers who don’t get a response.
  • Being present with social-media marketing means building a program to handle, manage and resolve customer service issues. To be an agency that doesn’t believe in this does a disservice to your brand and the brands you champion.

A Facebook page is like a live 1-800 number. You would advise clients to answer their customer service lines, and I would advise clients to respond to as many people as possible on social channels.

Be present.

Super ‘Flat’ Bowl

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This column tri-weekly column, “From Richard’s Oft Cluttered Desk” appears every third Wednesday.

The Super Bowl is over and the postmortem on the $3-million ads are over but I have a few final thoughts.

First, the game was mediocre. I had really been looking forward to the Super Bowl. First, it may be the last one we see for awhile with the current issues with the Collective Bargaining Agreement. But mostly I was excited because not only do I love the game, but I had just moved and watching the Super Bowl was my movement back to “non-moving” mode.

Secondly, while I don’t forgive Christina Aguilera for messing up the lyrics to the National Anthem, which I know happens, the song, in my musical opinion was bad. Sometimes when people make their own renditions of the Anthem it is amazing and makes my skin tingle and believe in the idea of America again. But this year, I just wanted it to be over. She sounded bad. Her rendition was bad. It was just bad. I should have taken that as a sign and shut off the television and prepared for four hours for the return of Glee. But I didn’t.

Granted, I did enjoy the time with Nathanael, his friend Brian, and this wonderful potato dish I made out of Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution cook-book. But I wanted a good game.

But okay, the game was mediocre. I still had the mega-ads to entertain me, right? Wrong.

Those two fell flat on someone who enjoys them, but doesn’t watch only for them. I’m a sports fan who has the opportunity to enjoy these pieces of art. Or, crap as I’m going to call this year.

Watching the ads I will say that a few made me smile and laugh. But most left me scratching my head. I spend a lot of time reading and practicing marketing (of other companies as well as myself) and I couldn’t help but ask myself a simple question over and over: “What the hell were they trying to do with that ad?”

After a few commercial breaks, Nathanael and I, stunned at the amount of sub-par ads looked at each other and almost at the same time, said, “They are trying too hard.” The Super Bowl has become too big for it’s own good. The advertisers have two challenges when it comes to making a Super Bowl ad.

First, it has to be memorable in order to have people talking about it for weeks after the game.

Secondly, it costs $3 million to air; once! That is a meda-ton of pressure!

In my humble opinion, many of the advertisers failed on both accounts. Why? Because they were simply trying too hard.

This problem happens in life too. We can all get into ruts where we start trying too hard. Hockey players grip their stick tighter. Golfers pull out on putts. Musicians try to the No. 1 single. First-time novelists try to write the best-seller on their first try.

I’m not writing this column to urge you to not try hard. On the contrary. I am writing to encourage you to try as hard as you can – but be focused. Be deliberate. And do what you do best. If what you are doing isn’t feeling right, stop, pull back and evaluate.

The Super Bowl is an entertainment spectacle and I have a simple piece of advice for the NFL, the game’s advertisers and you: get back to basics, do what you do well and good things will happen.