On an incredibly snowy December 10, I started my day with a little social media learning with a fellow LevLane-r, PR Account Manager Tracy Dabakis. Bundled up against the chilly precip, we trekked over to the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania to hit up the last sessions of the Social Media Leadership Awards' Best Practices Conference. There, we learned from some of the industry's best and most innovative about using social strategies for customer service and community creation/management. Check out the top takeaways from the morning below. If you were in attendance at #SMLA13, let me know what you found most valuable in the comments below!
The Integration (and Separation) of Social Media and PR
The moderator of the morning's customer service panel, The Wharton School's Sr. Director of New Media Stefan Frank, pointed out that 50-75% of social media managers are still part of larger PR and communications teams. From proactive blogger relations to crisis management, PR and social media teams work collaboratively as close partners, even if they are not one intertwined team. Those who work with or serve as part of social media teams will not be surprised by this, but the fact of the matter is that this can be both an asset and a detriment to social media strategies, if not managed properly. While many PR strategies focus on specifically-worded answers to customer inquiries or problems, the canned response is met with disdain in the social sphere.
Still, that doesn't mean that elements of traditional PR fall by the wayside in a technologically modern world. As Bianca Buckridee, VP of Social Media Operations for JPMorgan Chase, explained during the panel, it's crucial for PR teams to communicate with social media teams regarding buzzworthy events (from both a content strategy perspective and community management perspective), as well as anticipating and planning for positive and negative reactions across different media. This doesn't mean latching onto one canned response for the duration of an event, however. Brian Monk, AVP Social Media at Barclaycard US, said that his team often crafts several different ways to communicate the same message, so that customers don't lash out upon being served the same response repeatedly. It seems like a no-brainer, but you might be shocked to see how few brands actually utilize this simple tactic. In fact, those varied and personalized responses are the primary way in which social media and PR strategies diverge when it comes to customer service. Buckridee emphasized that at JPMorgan Chase, they have (and use) brand and conversation guidelines for customer service issues, but the most important thing is that their team members' personalities shine through. They, after all, are the voice of the brand for each customer – and that voice needs to have a human touch. Personalized responses may sometimes require a little background research (and almost-daily coaching and education to determine which responses work best), but the pay-off of having a happy customer is so worth it.
In fact, The Wharton School's Frank pointed out that, "You can delight people the most in a crisis because they expect to be let down." But what do social teams need to do before and during crises in order to delight, rather than dismay? As Dennis Stoutenburgh, Co-Founder of Social Strategy1, explains, it's about using social media tools to anticipate reactions or issues and to communicate with the larger team to proactively reach out or to provide valuable reactions to those issues. "Social care can be the early warning system that helps to create a good coordinated effort." Once an issue has reached crisis-level, American Airlines' Sr. Analyst, Social Communications Katy Phillips, emphasizes three things: honesty about the situation and what it means for customers, delivering timely updates, and (perhaps most surprisingly) knowing when to let the crisis go.
As David Berkowitz, CMO at MRY, put it in a later panel on content and communities, "Real-time marketing [or response, for that matter] is too late." That's exactly what the day's #SMLA13 sessions were all about: the need to anticipate, predict, and respond in strategic, delightful ways for customers and stakeholders, alike.
What was your favorite part of the day? Did anything surprise you? Share your comments below!