Friday, 10 September 2010

The Resonance of Writing

I was discussing with a colleague the other morning how we like to make complaints when we have received bad service. Not in a - I want to moan about everything - kind of way, but when you have fair reason to discuss the poor (or lack of) service you have received.

When you open your wallet, be it to buy a cinema ticket, a pair of shoes or a slap up dinner, your money is not purely covering the cost of the consumable item. You are paying for the service as well. We are pretty well accustomed to returning faulty goods, as they are ultimately NOT what you have paid for. So why should the service you receive be treated any differently? You ARE paying for it!

We were talking about the most effective way of lodging a complaint, and were both in agreement that a letter in writing (hand writing that is) holds an air of authority that an email or phone call cannot match. It got me thinking about why...

We have such easy access to online mediums of communication today; smartphones, e-mail, the web, social media, so getting in touch with those you wish to discuss disservice with is very simple. Perhaps this is one of the reasons that electronic complaints hold no resonance - the weight of your matter is undermined by the efforts of your submission. How many times have you used an online email feature or used a customer services email and got a response? Personally my ranking would be 0. I manage my company's web comment system, and make a point of replying to each and every message, but I am very aware thy this is not the case in the most place.

E-communications, unless between friends, family and acquaintances are impersonal and more-so unfamiliar, and hence anonymous. Regardless of the tone, content or relevance, you can discard digital communications in an instant, with the age old fail-safe of 'I never received it' - placing false blame on the very technology that delivered the complaint. Genius.

So putting the digital option aside, what else are you left with? If you are lucky enough to find a phone number these days, AND actually get through to a human being, there is no saying that the people you speak to will a) understand your queries, b) be able to aptly deal with them, or c) know who to transfer you to in order to speak to the right person. Assuming by a stroke of luck you do get through - I can pretty much guarantee said individual is well versed in placating your concerns in a wonderful customer service/sales fashion. Always an excuse, always a get out of jail free card. Even if you talk to someone truly genuine, the argument still remains that you are anonymous, and clearly have a distance between you that ultimately poses no threat to the operatives supposedly dealing with your issue. At the end of the day, what can you really do from over the phone? Honest answer: Not a lot.

So we then arrive back at the long forgotten art of finding a piece of paper, a pen, an address, and constructing a well rounded, thorough and poignant address of dissatisfaction.  The effort involved in doing so far outweighs any of the other communications mentioned here, not least that it then requires a trip to the post office and a price paid to deliver that message. Perhaps this goes some way to emphasising the grounds of your complaint.

A letter is also tangible. You can hold it, smell it, taste it (if you were so inclined), and the writing on the letter is like your fingerprint - it is 100% unique to you. You have in effect delivered a small piece of your identity in a letter, the same way that your signature holds the authority of your acceptance, seal of approval and unique confirmation of your physical self.

Now this isn't to say that a letter cannot be discarded in the same way that an email or a text can, but it still sits in your bin/in tray/recycling box. It's still there. Even if you shred the damn thing it still exists as a physical entity. A letter hence has a permanence unchallenged by any other form of communication.

If you buy a house, your correspondence is legally bound to be in written form between sellers, solicitors and financiers. Open a bank account, you need written justification of your address. Leave the country and you'll need a physical passport. In matters of importance - only a physical letter/document will do.

As a recent purchaser of a flat, I'm all too familiar with the letter-only exchange. It's archaic, frustratingly slow, and highly prone to error, yet it's still the legal practice and only accepted form of corresponding.

In an age where our world is turning digital on every level, I find it fascinating that the written word is still the most revered form of corresponding. You may well choose to interact online with brands, businesses and services, but it would appear that there is still a superficial air to the quality of that interaction.

That's not to say you shouldn't or indeed can't continue to do so, but don't forget where the art of these interactions are born from. In the same way we should respect our elders, you should still respect the origins of the power of communication... When such needs should arise.

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

Choosing Social Media Platforms

The most important thing when embarking on/improving your use of social media marketing and networks is firstly assessing exactly what it is you want to achieve. This is then coupled with what information you are offering.

We make choices everyday dependent on thousands of factors... What clothes to wear in relation to weather, purpose, situation; what food to prepare based on availability, cost, time, health requirements and dietary considerations; which email to deal with first depending on urgency, person, interest.

These variables exist and are vital to determining who, what and why you intend to target social media marketing. The depth of analysis is relative to the size of your project, but ultimately, your steps are as follows.

1. Identify why you want to create a social dialect for your business.
2. Assess what information you have available to communicate.
3. Understand your audience demographic and where you can reach them.
4. Evaluate the tools available to you in the social media platforms.
5. Determine the type of interaction you wish to partake in with your chosen tools.
6. Plan your Social Media Marketing (SMM) strategy
7. Do it
8. Continuously evaluate it

I think the most important point on this entire list is the evaluation. Online marketing is now supported by a wealth of analytical tools that help you build success profiles of your marketing efforts... for free! When assessing your available online tools, don't forget to consider the Back Office operations to your implementation, and how to make it all work for you so that you can always keep your finger on the pulse and evolve in the same way that social interaction does with web content.

And if it sounds daunting, start off small. If facebook can do it, so can you! Besides, evolution is the ultimate raison d'etre of the web!