Moderate Like a Person, Not a Brand

When it comes to moderation, many brands struggle with establishing guidelines and then implementing those guidelines. Besides actively engaging with users on social platforms, moderation is the next most important thing brands can do to build trust and loyal customers. Why? You are making sure your brand’s pages are a welcoming, safe environment for users. No one should feel alienated or uncomfortable while engaging with your brand. They need to trust your content and find it valuable, as well as, the content generated by others. The only way to tackle this is by consistent moderation.

Moderation starts with a great community manager, who is your biggest advocate and enforcer. This person is the “voice” of your brand and that’s important when interacting with users. On social media, people want to talk to people, not brands. Remember, to always keep engagement and moderation personal and sincere.

Below are two examples of negative user generated content left on brand pages. Below each is how I would respond if I would a community manager for those brands.

Example 1:

 “I am disgusted about the state of your store on 1467 Justin Kings Way. The counter was smeared in what looked like grease and the tables were full of trash and remains of meals. It makes me wonder what the state of your kitchen is?!!! Gross.”

Response: Thank you for bringing this situation to our attention. You’re right, what you experienced is unacceptable. Our brand does not stand for our locations being dirty. We have taken your comment straight to this store’s general manager and asked for a reasoning behind your experience. We’ll plan to fix any operational issues that may have lead to this, and in a timely fashion. Again, thank you for taking the time to let us know and we hope in the future we can regain your trust as a loyal customer.

Reasoning: When moderating negative comments on social media it’s always important for the user to believe your brand is really listening to their complaint (the same is true for face-to-face interactions). In my response above, I acknowledge the person’s complaint as valid and agree it was unacceptable. I then go on to say how we’ll fix the situation. First, by following up with the store’s manager directly and secondly, by addressing any operational issues. I end with another “thank you.” By keeping my response sincere and timely, hopefully this customer will give our brand another chance. I would also consider following up with the customer again to let them know if the issue was resolved or changes were made. This could go a long way in regaining that brand trust.

Example 2:

“Your reporting on the Middle East is biased in the extreme. You gave almost all your air time to spokespeople for the Israelis last night and there was no right to reply for the Palestinians. The conflict upsets me so much and your reporting of it, saddens me even more and makes me f**king furious.”

Response: Thank you, for your feedback. It’s our policy to remove any comments with inappropriate or obscene language posted on our social media accounts. Please send us a email us (include customer service email) and we’d be happy to discuss your frustrations further with you. We appreciate all of our viewers and want to keep this environment a welcoming one. Thank you.

Reasoning: Brands cannot open the door to obscene comments. Many may not consider the f-word that bad, but it could open the door to much worse language from users. After responding to the above comment, as a community manager, I would screenshot the comment and my response for my records, and then remove the comment from the public account. Hopefully the person would send an email, so we could better address their issues. Or even better, re-post the comment without a curse word! Then I would explain to the viewer that we actually did give equal time to both the Israelis and Palestinian spokespeople. The response would probably include a link to video of the story, along with other stories where we had coverage from both sides of the conflict. It’s hard when people feel so passionately about a cause or issue, but again opening a social network page up for inappropriate language could be a path no brand wants to travel down.

Whether you’re removing a comment for violating your brand’s moderation guidelines or facing crticism head on, brands should have the same goal: to right a wrong. Moderation should lead to resolution, not more conflict and the best way to do this is for brands to remember to be human.


Social Media Behavior

SocialMediaBehaviorSocial media is integrated into most of our daily lives, so it’s no surprise that it not only impacts how we behave in person, but also online. We are products of our environments, right? So, if a social network is one of our primary environments, we’re destined to be influenced by it. Each social network has developed its own culture, with loyal users who interact and behave certain ways. It’s hard to say there are “normal” behaviors on social networks, but there are certainly trends brands need to be aware of and moderate.

For instance, on Facebook many users are looking to strengthen pre-existing relationships that were established outside of the social network. Of course, this isn’t 100% true, but when even looking at my own personal Facebook connections, I already know all of my “friends.” I’m not friends with any strangers. The same is true of brands. Brand pages that I “like” are brands that I am familiar with–that I have a pre-existing relationship with.

I cannot say the same for Twitter and I don’t think I’m alone. Twitter lends itself to much more broad reaching relationships. Yes, we can follow people we have pre-existing relationships with, but we can also follow celebrities, industry influencers, or complete strangers easily. I think a lot of this has to do with the use of hashtags. While Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and even Google+ utilize hashtags, Twitter rules supreme. If a live event utilizes a hashtag in real time, Twitter users may grow their followers depending on what they tweet and if it attracts a broader audience. This is not as easily accomplished on other social networks.

I think user behavior on social media also has a lot to do with the primary focus on the platform. For instance, platforms like Instagram and Pinterest are visually based. These may be more appealing to those of us who enjoy creating and sharing visuals. While Twitter and Facebook may be more for real-time updates and news events. Also, LinkedIn is a great example of where our professional and “social” worlds collide. I’m sure most users who create content on LinkedIn, tend to have different behaviors on other social platforms. Using myself as an example again, many of my LinkedIn updatCubes - 379 - INFLUENCEes have to do with work projects or industry news. I very rarely post this same content on Facebook. It’s just not the same audience, and not the same connections for me. Now, if I have a business page on Facebook I would post that same content, because I would assume anyone who “liked” my page cared about healthcare marketing or social media.

Just like in the real world, behaviors on social media change from platform to platform or situation to situation. After establishing connections (either pre-existing or new), users are influenced by those around them. I think most of us have a larger impact on our social connections than we think. We are all influencers in one form or fashion, and we need to behave accordingly.



“United Breaks Guitars” and Trust with Customers

With 14 million YouTube views and counting, Dave Carroll’s “United Breaks Guitars” video is a hit song, but not in the traditional sense. In 2008, when United Airlines broke Carroll’s guitar, he decided to not just complain about it to the company, he decided to sing about it to the world. 

Since Carroll did not receive an immediate, or even relatively immediate, apology from the company, it’s clear the airline was not prepared for a social media “crisis” situation. Below is an action plan outline of how I would have handled the situation if employed as a reputation manager at United Airlines.

1. Act Quickly!

act nowWhen it comes to social media, there is nothing worse than a “silent” brand. Fans, followers, and users engage with brands because they expect a response, and a timely one at that. United Airlines could have saved itself a lot of bad PR if it had responded to Carroll’s complaint immediately. Instead, after a year-long battle with the company, simply for compensation for his broken guitar, Carroll took matters into his own hands. Customers are in charge, and don’t forget it! Whether an immediate post on social media, or one that comes a year later, customers will voice their opinions, and those opinions always have the chance of going viral.

After initially seeing Carroll’s video, United should have responded immediately. The brand could have done this in several ways, but publicly is the best bet. The brand could have commented on the initial YouTube post asking to speak to Carroll directly, while at the same time apologizing to him and letting him know they would like to resolve the issue.

2. Fess Up!

keep-calm-and-stay-truthfulAfter the initial response, United should have been preparing a more public response. This could have been done in the form of a blog post or the brand’s own YouTube video. I believe the CEO or the lead customer service representative should be featured. This not only gives the brand a voice (and face), but a more personal “human” response to a negative situation. The response should come across as real and truthful. The brand needs to fess up to wronging a customer, and apologize for the delay in resolving the issue. Owning up to mistakes in such a public fashion can go a long way with regaining trust amongst customers. By remaining calm the brand can appear genuine and not hostile toward the customer.

3. Spread the GOOD Word!

People Marching with BullhornsAfter responding a public way, the brand should begin highlighting some of its attributes. This can, of course, come from content created by the brand, but in United’s case it may be good to feature positive customer experiences. I would create a series of web videos (again showing, not just telling customers what makes the brand a good one), which could show things, such as families being reunited via airplanes, a child taking its first flight, a profile piece on great employees (again highlighting good customer service), and maybe a fun behind-the-scenes look video on a piece of luggage’s journey from one location to the next. The last video topic idea could prove that United does take care of luggage (customer’s personal belongings) as it travels through its system, and maybe also inadvertently show people that Carroll’s experience was a unique one and not the norm.

4. Follow Up!

followupAfter a brand has completed the previous three steps, it’s time to consider a follow up. Don’t forget this step! Assuming the previous three steps have lead to a resolution, publicly let people know the status of the situation. United could once again post  a comment on the Carroll’s YouTube video discussing the resolution, and maybe challenging Carroll to create another song about his more recent (and hopefully more positive) experience with the brand. United could also blog about the resolution and maybe include a quote from Carroll, again keeping the tone more personal than business-sounding. Or maybe if the brand is feeling really brave, it could wager an online campaign reaching out to more of their unsatisfied customers. This could be a form on the United website where people could post complaints or issues, and then the brand could respond (again publicly) showing others the resolution. This type of initiative would take lots of planning and resources, but again it would be a big way to show customers the brand recognizes it messed up and is willing to change.

While I believe my action plan could have helped United Airlines handle the Dave Carroll situation better, the bottom line is it took him over a year and an extreme measure to even elicit a response from the company (and even that took awhile!). It would be hard for any brand to change that type of situation from negative to positive.  If anything, United sure has boosted itself into the social media world of “what not to do!” I’m sure a lot of other brands have used this as an example for developing strategies on how to handle unsatisfied customers on social media. The goal for any business should be to listen to their customers and respond quickly. Not doing either can lead to very bad reputation, online and otherwise.




Managing Relationships on Social Media

reputationmanagementReputations can be a hard thing to manage, whether it’s personally or for a brand.

This week, we learned about an incident involving British Airways. When I initially heard about the promoted tweet sent out by @HVSVN about British Airways, I thought, “Wow, this guy is really mad!” Then, I thought what a great way to make yourself heard. I would have never thought of complaining about a business or brand and then paying to promote that tweet so more people would see it. But I guess if I was that mad at a company I would consider it now! This is the risk all brands take when entering the social media world. It’s great to learn about customers and listen to them, but with the good comes the bad.

British Airways did respond to this follower, but not until several hours later. As a brand, it stated that it wasn’t available during the time of his tweet, but would look into it. I think the airline could have handled this better. Besides not manning its social media handles 24/7, it could have initially apologized and tried to sympathize with the customer right off the bat. I would have tweeted something along these lines:

“We are sorry for your unpleasant experience and would like to make it right. Pls send us a DM with more info and we’ll contact you directly.”

Is that groveling? Sort of, but I think in this instance it’s necessary. The follower blasted the brand across an entire social media channel (and across the internet) and British Airways needed everyone else to not only see that they cared, but that they were addressing the issue head-on. It’s a shame this did not happen.

This week, we also learned about the “follow up.” This is something new to me, which I have not considered before. How genius! After this incident happened for British Airways, the brand should have followed up with this customer a week or so later, and in a public way. Maybe this could have included some sort of compensation. I would suggest a free flight or something that the customer would personally enjoy. This would help the brand seem more “human” and go a long way with other customers. They should have tried to make him a “fan” again, and let everyone else know they were doing so. Now, whether that would be realistic or not is unknown, but they could at least try. Sometimes a brand’s biggest “complainer” can become the best ally, especially in a social space.

Has your brand ever “followed up” with a fan a week or later after a complaint? If so, what did the follow-up include and did the fan seem appeased?

Starbucks Brews Strong Relationships on Social Media

StarbucksSignStarbucks is a brand many have admired for years, both in traditional advertising and online. As one of the early adopters of social media, Starbucks continues to push the envelope on cultivating and managing relationships in social settings. The coffee giant has always been able to translate its offline brand strategies online. In a sense, its created a network of “online baristas” to serve customers online instead of necessarily in one of its locations.

Starbucks mission is ” to inspire and nurture the human spirit – one person, one cup, and one neighborhood at a time.” The personal and “local” feel of a company that is so large translates well on social media. People look at their local Starbucks franchise as a local coffee shop, and that’s mainly due to the brand’s voice in advertising, as well as, on social media. Beyond its mission, Starbucks boosts several values: honesty, sincerity, and connecting with customers on a human level. All of these values obviously translate well in a social online setting where people are looking to not only trust brands, but also connect with them.

With over 36 million “likes” on its Facebook page, Starbucks has cultivated a strong online community. It actually doesn’t take the “traditional” business social media strategy of posting several times a day, rather lets fans drive the page’s content. That being said, when the brand does create content, it is very casual and similar to what their fans post, i.e. images of drinks, inspirational quotes, charitable causes, etc.

As you can imagine in the beverage and food industry, the brand gets its fair share of comments, questions, and feedback on a daily basis. While it may not be posting its own content everyday, all day, it does respond to fans in a timely fashion. All of the posts I’ve seen have received responses within 24 hours. A reputation that probably sits well with fans and critics alike. Below are a few screenshots of how they’ve responded to both positive and negative feedback on Facebook. You’ll see their casual, yet personal responses to each fan.Starbucks_PositiveCommentStarbucks_NegativeComment


Starbucks acknowledges each comment/post, even if it’s just someone wanting to thank their husband for a coffee drink. The brand is clearly listening on social media and interacting with fans who just mention the brand. It’s a clear commitment to the social world we live in. When it comes to complaints and negative feedback, the brand directs everyone to its customer service email. It’s great that Starbucks has something like this set up (since the amount of issues they receive is enormous), but I will say it does get repetitive that they have almost the same canned response for each comment (also see Twitter screenshots below). I would suggest they create a variety of responses, that all lead back to the customer service email, but don’t all sound the same.

The one thing that really stood out to me with their brand voice, was the company’s ability to harness and encourage ideas from fans. Starbucks often directs people to its My Starbucks Ideas website to submit ideas for improving products, sharing customer experiences, and cultivating community involvement.


On Twitter, Starbucks maintains its brand voice when responding to followers. Its voice is fun and casual, while still being attentive and responsive. It’s clear the brand cares about it’s fans/customers and wants to react in a positive way to all interactions. Below are a few conversations between the brand and its Twitter followers.

Starbucks_AppProblemComment Starbucks_NegativeComment2 Starbucks_PositiveComment2

Any brand can learn about social media engagement from Starbucks. It’s not just pushing out promotional messaging or ignoring questions, compliments, and complaints. It’s addressing them all, while keeping that “human spirit” of the brand. A consistent brand voice is so important for social media, and cultivating that voice to be one your fans/followers can relate to is even more important.

I look forward to seeing what the “online baristas” serve up on social media in the future!


Building Social Media Relationships? Keep it Real.

brandvoiceHow do you build better social media relationships? Keep it real. Or in different terms, remember to always remain human. Create content in the way in which you would say it to a friend or colleague. Find a tone that fits your brand, but also fits your audience.

Many brands struggle with this because they don’t want to be seen as unprofessional, but being conversational doesn’t equate to unprofessional. Brands need to relate to their audience. So, the first step is knowing your audience. Are you listening to them? Do you know what content they are sharing? Do you know how to respond to their questions or concerns? You need to be able to say “yes” to these questions in order to create content followers will find valuable and engaging.

At my organization, Carilion Clinic, finding a brand voice on social media has been a journey. As a healthcare organization, like many in the U.S., our overall focus has shifted away from promoting clinical services and physicians to being seen as a resource for health and wellness information. Due to healthcare reform, we are in a place where we want to keep people healthy and out of the hospital, by helping them manage chronic health conditions. If these types of conditions (diabetes, heart failure, COPD) are not addressed early on, they will end up costing us more down the road and lessen a patient’s quality of life. Both of those things are not what we want. This shift to a health and wellness focus has actually helped us find a brand voice on social media.

Beyond Facebook and Twitter, social platforms like Pinterest have enabled us to better create content our audience (significantly female) will want to use and share. We’ve created boards for Healthy Foods, Child Safety, Adolescent & Student Health, among others. This type of content isn’t just about promoting our services or providers, although they are sometimes highlighted, it’s more about raising awareness of health conditions, consumer recalls, safety tips, easy recipes, etc. — all things a female audience may relate to.

On Facebook and Twitter, health and wellness tips (posts and videos), links, and infographics far outperform our posts highlighting new physicians or community events. Due to this, we have decreased those promotional posts and increased health information content. I think developing our brand voice over the last few months has been easier for our social media team because our organization’s overall brand voice is clearer.

Companies that have a clear vision/mission will make it easier for that voice to coincide with social media strategy, which ultimately builds relationships and trust amongst followers. If you “keep it real” on social media, followers will see your brand as a real person and want to connect with you. Keep it social. Keep it real.

Social Media: Trust No One or Everyone?

socialmediafriendsHow many Facebook friends do you have? How many Twitter followers do you have? When I think about my respective numbers: 804 and 334, do I trust each and every one of them? No. Do they all trust me? Probably, not. Social media makes it so easy for us to connect with people from all of the world, but that doesn’t necessarily mean we are developing stronger relationships with these people.

In a traditional way of thinking, trust is something that is earned over time and through multiple personal interactions. On social media, that doesn’t necessarily have to be the case. A person can be following someone’s updates for awhile before ever actually engaging with that person. You could be earning someone’s trust and not even know it. For me, when it comes to Facebook or Twitter, I look to follow people who post valuable content in my opinion. That could mean a number of different things: something I find humorous, something I can relate to, something I can use on a school assignment, something I can share with a co-worker, etc. Nothing can earn trust more on social media than valuable content.

One of the great things about social media is you don’t actual have to know someone personally to gain their trust. In a 2012 study, 51% of Millennials (age 18-34) say they trust user-generated content and anonymous reviews over recommendations from friends or family. Word-of-mouth recommendations take on a whole new meaning on social media.

Screen Shot 2014-05-27 at 10.49.20 PMSomeone specifically that I “trust” on social media is Kim Garst. Not only does Kim post interesting information concerning social media trends and platforms, she also posts motivational content and keeps her online presence very “human.” (see screenshots). While I’ve never met Kim in person (I hope I can someday), I trust her because I find her content helpful, valuable, motivational. If she endorsed a certain company, platform, or person I would trust her opinion because she has proven herself to me as a trustworthy resource on social media.

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Another thing to consider when discussing social media and trust is engagement. Social media is a two-way communication tool. If users engage with brands or individuals, we want a response — even if it’s just a “like” or a “retweet.” That small acknowledgement can go a long way with users.

I’m by no means a social media “guru” or “expert” but I feel like I’m laying the groundwork for when someday I could be a trusted resource for others. The benefit I think I bring from my trust is “retweets” and “shares” and mentions in my blog. While a whole lot of people may not be following me yet, I’m hoping to build on that credibility by mentioning other credible sources, and in turn their content is reaching a broader audience. Sharing each other’s content and engaging with one another is what social media is all about. The more we do those things the more trust we will be able to create.

How do you measure trust on social media? Is a “like” or a “retweet” enough for you or do you need a deeper level of engagement?

Has a brand or individual been able to regain your trust through social media after losing it?