The Facebook Generation

Facebook did not become popular because it was a functional tool — after all, most college students lived in close quarters with the majority of their Facebook friends and had no need for social networking. Instead, students logged into the Web site because it was entertaining to watch a constantly evolving narrative starring the other people in the library.

Facebook was like an online community theater, customized with a backstage and lines delivered on the very public stage of friends’ walls with photo albums; every Facebook act was a soliloquy to our anonymous audience.

It was all comedy… making one another laugh matters more than providing useful updates about ourselves, which is why entirely phony profiles were all the rage before the grown-ups signed in. One friend announced her status as In a Relationship with Chinese Food, whose profile picture was a carry-out box and whose personal information personified the cuisine of China.

But does this more reverent incarnation of Facebook actually enrich adult relationships? What do these constellations of work colleagues and long-lost friends amount to? An online office mixer? A reunion with that one other guy from your high school who has a Facebook profile? Oh! You get to see pictures of your former college sweetheart’s family! (Only depressing possibilities are coming to mind for some reason.)

The way in which people frantically communicate online via Twitter, Facebook and instant messaging can be seen as a form of modern madness, according to a leading American sociologist. “A behaviour that has become typical may still express the problems that once caused us to see it as pathological,” MIT professor Sherry Turkle writes in her new book, Alone Together, which is leading an attack on the information age.

Turkle’s thesis is simple: technology is threatening to dominate our lives and make us less human. Under the illusion of allowing us to communicate better, it is actually isolating us from real human interactions in a cyber-reality that is a poor imitation of the real world.

But Turkle’s book is far from the only work of its kind. An intellectual backlash in America is calling for a rejection of some of the values and methods of modern communications. “It is a huge backlash. The different kinds of communication that people are using have become something that scares people,” said Professor William Kist, an education expert at Kent State University, Ohio.

The list of attacks on social media is a long one and comes from all corners of academia and popular culture. A recent bestseller in the US,The Shallows by Nicholas Carr, suggested that use of the internet was altering the way we think to make us less capable of digesting large and complex amounts of information, such as books and magazine articles. The book was based on an essay that Carr wrote in the Atlanticmagazine. It was just as emphatic and was headlined: Is Google Making Us Stupid?

Another strand of thought in the field of cyber-scepticism is found in The Net Delusion, by Evgeny Morozov. He argues that social media has bred a generation of “slacktivists”. It has made people lazy and enshrined the illusion that clicking a mouse is a form of activism equal to real world donations of money and time.

Other books include The Dumbest Generation by Emory University professor Mark Bauerlein – in which he claims “the intellectual future of the US looks dim”– and We Have Met the Enemy by Daniel Akst, which describes the problems of self-control in the modern world, of which the proliferation of communication tools is a key component.

The backlash has crossed the Atlantic. In Cyburbia, published in Britain last year, James Harkin surveyed the modern technological world and found some dangerous possibilities. While Harkin was no pure cyber-sceptic, he found many reasons to be worried as well as pleased about the new technological era. Elsewhere, hit film The Social Network has been seen as a thinly veiled attack on the social media generation, suggesting that Facebook was created by people who failed to fit in with the real world.

Turkle’s book, however, has sparked the most debate so far. It is a cri de coeur for putting down the BlackBerry, ignoring Facebook and shunning Twitter. “We have invented inspiring and enhancing technologies, yet we have allowed them to diminish us,” she writes.

Fellow critics point to numerous incidents to back up their argument. Recently, media coverage of the death in Brighton of Simone Back focused on a suicide note she had posted on Facebook that was seen by many of her 1,048 “friends” on the site. Yet none called for help – instead they traded insults with each other on her Facebook wall.

But even the backlash now has a backlash, with many leaping to the defence of social media. They point out that emails, Twitter and Facebook have led to more communication, not less – especially for people who may have trouble meeting in the real world because of great distance or social difference.

The “real world” that many social media critics hark back to never really existed. Before everyone travelled on the bus or train with their heads buried in an iPad or a smart phone, they usually just travelled in silence. “We did not see people spontaneously talking to strangers. They were just keeping to themselves,” Kist said.

The ROI of Social Media

Social media has captured the attention and awe of the marketing world with the promise of increased customer engagement and lower marketing costs. Yet behind the buzz lies the question of how to measure its success. With no standard means of measurement, it is difficult to decipher the value of different platforms and determine the true ROI of social media marketing. To make sense of the situation, MDG Advertising created an eye-opening video based on the findings and figures from its recently-developed infographic. Watch as we feature the facts, factors, methods and metrics that marketers need to know to understand the real return of social media.

ROI Infographic

Social Engagement and You

Your online reputation matters, now more than ever. But you can impact that reputation in ways you never thought possible. Here are some of the reasons to pay attention to social feedback and how to effectively engage with reviewers to build lifelong brand advocates.

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Social Engagement is Connecting

It’s simple, you just have to connect with people who post comments about you in social media sites. These people are your customers and they provide opinion, fact and detailed feedback about their interaction with you online. Contrary to popular belief, these people are not just teenagers or random people with an axe to grind, they are your customers.

Social Sites are Growing in Importance

As social site popularity grows, so should your awareness and understanding of your online reputation… Your prospective customers are on the prowl for every nugget of your online reputation.

Impact of Poor Online Reputation… Gone are the days when tweets, posts and opinions faded into the digital ether. With the surge of smartphone usage, people of all ages and social economic persuasions are using the information out there to decide about their next purchase. Your online reputation has the potential to kill your brand because people will change their mind, mid-buying cycle. You have to Listen and Act.

There is Real Value in Every Connection

Engaging with online reviewers allows you to uncover opportunities for operational improvement, increase customer loyalty, and improve your online reputation. Make no mistake about it, social media feedback can help you grow your business, perhaps in ways you never thought possible. You can glean details about your service, product or offering, your pricing and promotions. Yep, all that information is at your fingertips.

The Numbers Speak for Themselves…

85% of customers are very happy when businesses respond to their public comments in online forums and social media venues.

27% were “delighted” with a public response to their social feedback.

34% deleted their original negative review after being engaged.

Follow four simple steps to improved reputation

  1. Listen to all reviews from all social sites, review sites, blog posts and any other digital source.
  2. Target social reviews based on author influence and reach, review star rating, and keywords used in the review.
  3. Connect with the reviewer as fast as possible and use the best practices we spell out below.
  4. Watch your star ratings increase and your location’s online influence grow.

 

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5 Engagement Best Practices

1. Marketing Sanctioned, 1 Brand Aware

Responses should mirror brand image and voice. Ensure that everyone authorized to reply to posts understands your brand voice and be sure to refresh the team as your brand voice changes. Create and distribute brand-voice guidelines. Provide a standard structure and keep your replies consistent. For example, ensure you end with a standard email for customer service and signature of replier including title. Do not copy and paste replies, rather, customize the reply to each reviewer by keying off the core messages in their review.

2. Don’t Take it Personally

Keep calm and think practically. Avoid knee jerk reactions. If you have to, give yourself a time-out before replying. Research with others before replying. Remember, customers don’t usually lie but they do embellish. Find out the details so you can address concerns confidently. Take the high road, don’t defend yourself and remember a heart felt apology never hurt anyone. As with all business, keep religion and politics out of it. This is about your company and product, not your social beliefs.

3. Target both Positive and Negative Reviews

NEGATIVE

  1. Apologize
  2. Reference the situation and commit to improve
  3. Offer help or ask what you can do for them

POSITIVE

  1. Remind your brand advocates that you’re listening
  2. Tell them something they didn’t know
  3. Invite them back

IN BOTH CASES

  1. Respond quickly, within the day if possible
  2. Be thankful for their feedback, every situation is a learning experience
  3. Reply on the public review site, but take the conversation to a designated email address that’s monitored by more than one person

Remember the “Golden Rule,” treat others as you would like to be treated!

4. Don’t just Talk…Act

Make sure you aren’t just paying lip service to the customers with whom you engage. You Must Follow Through!

First, pass the information onto the people who can make a difference in your business. Get it to the regional and general managers and their leadership teams and empower them to fix the issues quickly.

Next, encourage GM’s to use the information in pre-shift meetings for long term improvement. Reward staff whose efforts yield amazing customer service with monetary gifts and team-wide recognition. Consider creating a social media Hall of Fame or provide incentives for staff mentions: gift cards, shift priorities, time off, priority parking, and so on.

5. Measure your Progress

Ensure you keep track of engagement replies including who replied, reply date, and actual reply content. This is valuable for audit and training purposes.

Give yourself targets for engagement defined as numbers or percentage of total reviews. Some examples of goals include:

  1. % of reviews engaged: shoot for engaging with 50% of all online reviewers, even tweets
  2. % of engaged customers who reply: monitor how many customers reply to your outreach
  3. % of engaged customers who return: use your loyalty program and customer relationship management (CRM) platform to track customer return rates
  4. % who re-evaluate and repost reviews: give yourself bonus points for reviewers who change online reviews due to your efforts

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Grow Your Efforts As You Grow

Next you might wonder how to size your social media efforts. Keep it in proportion to your business and your online presence. As you grow, increase your outbound engagement, and distribute the workload after proper social media training.

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Reviews about your business are out there, it’s imperative that you listen, respond and fix the issues before they recur. Plan a time, even if only a few minutes a week, to reply to social media reviews using these best practices. Ensure you size your team and efforts to expand as you grow.

 

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