How NOT to use Twitter for Customer Service

A recent article published by Ishbel Macleod on The Drum demonstrates how NOT to deal with your customers on Twitter. Cineworld customer Alan Bishop sent a tweet asking for justification about the £8.30 ticket price for a simple 2d movie. The response to the customer from Cineworld was littered with belligerence which has astounded me.

Ok the customer asks an awkward question, but he never swears once and raises a genuine question asking Cineworld to justify their high ticket price. One thing is for sure, after this customer experience Cineworld have lost at least one customer.
Cinema ticket prices are extremely high and there may well be justification for the high price. Perhaps an answer should have been something along the lines of “we provide value for money” or “recent upgrades to seating and our interior have caused us to raise our prices”. Or as one respondent to the article points out, an unlimited viewing card is available for just £15 per month.

I believe that the customer in this case is not a “troll”, but the writer does raise a valid question about companies engaging with trolls. However what the article does highlight is the dangers of allowing your employees to control a firm’s social media channels. I’m all for employees implementing a firm’s social media strategy, but they should be trained and monitored to avoid bloopers such as this.

The full article can be seen at:

http://www.thedrum.com/stuff/2013/04/26/customer-always-right-cineworld-suggests-not-twitter?utm_source=MailingList&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=The+Drum+Weekend+Newsletter%3A+27%2F04%2F2013

The Barriers and Benefits of Social Media with Micro-Businesses

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Social Media requires planning, time and effort. Don’t worry about having the knowledge to operate social media effectively as this will come in time. Micro-Business owners of Beauty Salons, Restaurants, Shops and a vast array of business types are extremely talented in their specialist fields. Ok you’re not Marketers but you are experts in your field of business and you should be promoting your knowledge and expertise to tell your audience why they should buy from you over your competitors. The explosion of Social Media usage in society really has been a game changer and represents a monumental shift in communication, marketing and technology.

Search the internet for research relating to Micro-Businesses and Social Media and you’ll struggle to find anything substantial. It’s all about big business and big data; well it’s time to change that. During my recent research with Micro-Business owners we discussed the problems and benefits they currently experienced with using Social Media channels such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. Here are some of the most prominent benefits and challenges they faced:

Benefits of social media

Influence of friends and family network
The vast reach of social media networks
Fast flow of communication
Customers use social media to search for local businesses
Ability to conduct business on a smartphone or tablet
Good source of information
Cost effective

Challenges of social media

Lack of Training
Lack of knowledge
Lack of time
Too old for social media
Don’t know what to write about or post
Distraction from core business activities
The impersonal and imposing nature of Facebook

Benefits

Micro-Business owners primarily experienced success via Facebook to promote their businesses and were dependent on their network of friends and family to promote their products and services; this was discussed in more detail in our previous blog Social Media Research for Micro-Businesses. Facebook Groups were cited as the most successful method of their Social Media activities which indicates the application of segmentation. Although no distinct segmentation strategy was applied by any of the research respondents, they inherently knew where to find their target audience.
Most interestingly some Micro-Business owners bypassed their company websites and used their smartphones to upload images directly onto their Facebook sites. Is Social Media replacing the traditional website?

Challenges

The challenges faced by Micro-Business owners far outweighed the benefits of using Social Media and perhaps the age of the respondents (average age late 30’s) may help explain this. The research sample did not include young start-ups who’ve grown up with Social Media and ambidextrous thumbs, but late adopters of technology. Knowledge will naturally come with time and more focused Social Media usage and training.

Lack of time was the unanimous downside of using Social Media. NONESENSE! Make the time and make Social Media a priority of your business. What’s your alternative choice? Pay for a newspaper or Radio ad? Plaster online ads on Facebook or banner ads? NO! As Micro-Business owners with little to no Marketing budget, your time is all you have to offer. Research proved that spending around an hour a day on Social Media will result in increased results. Plan formally and devise a strategy before embarking on your Social Media journey. If you’re lucky enough to have employees then delegate accordingly, use the resources you have at your disposal.

Harness the power of Social Media, make the time every day and you’ll reap the benefits. It’s fun! Give it a try…

Social Media Research on Micro-Businesses

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Do micro-businesses not exist in the UK? Upon conducting research for my honours Dissertation I was shocked at how little research and information was available about micro-businesses and SME’s for that matter also. An official definition of a micro-business is an organisation which has 10 or fewer employees with an annual turnover of €2m or less. All UK private sector businesses comprise of 99.9% SME’s with sole-traders accounting for 62.7% of the total market. Therefore a substantial portion of UK businesses are operated by micro-businesses whom are mainly sole-traders.

Micro-businesses play a vital role in our economy and business communities yet nobody seems to care enough to give them the credit and attention they deserve. I’m glad I decided to focus my attention on the “little guy” as they truly need support and guidance through more detailed research and analysis. Having conducted research with a small group of business owners in the Scottish Borders about their social media usage a few interesting issues were raised.

Initially I wanted to focus on how micro-business owners use social media for business rather than personal purposes. However research concluded that most micro-business owners actually depended on their existing network of friends and family to promote their companies on social media. Failing to separate business and personal contacts means micro-business owners apply limited marketing strategies such as segmentation and targeting. Micro-business owners were reluctant to separate their personal and business use of social media as they depended on their personal network to gain exposure and benefit from peer recommendations. The growth lifecycle of the business may be significant as businesses with no or very few employees may reap success by capitalising on personal networks. However as the business grows the number of employees using personal networks will become more difficult to manage and formal marketing planning would then be required.

One primary conclusive finding from the research with micro-business owners established that companies selling products experienced more enquiries and sales than companies selling services when marketing their businesses through social media. In particular this finding signifies that social media platforms like Facebook may reap better results selling products instead of services. Using personal networks on social media may prove to be more difficult when selling services indicating that companies offering services require a professional network to achieve similar results. “Content is King” is a favoured buzzword in the marketing community, yet product-based companies seemed to prove this wrong. However I doubt that this approach can be sustained over the long-term.

Being small is actually a big advantage on social media as true engagement with prospects and customers can be achieved which multi-national big brands cannot offer such a personalised service to their followers. Small is good and use this to your advantage by engaging with individuals and groups on a 1:2:1 basis and create a competitive advantage over larger competitors.

More research will follow in the forthcoming months about how micro-businesses use social media and the problems and benefits they encounter. Lack of time and knowledge were cited as the main barriers to successfully implementing a social media strategy, so let’s get them the knowledge they need to become successful.