Posts Tagged "bestpractices"

I am an awful customer

Posted by on Nov 4, 2009 in opinion

I am an awful customer. I want and want and want and I have NO sympathy for your issues. You are getting paid to serve me.

I am very open about service (or lack thereof) that I receive. Rogers has done more than well by me, Netfirms has been surprisingly available (although, they never did fix the issue), and then there are the ones I talk about with less satisfaction.

This week, I signed a new one year contract with a company that has ridiculous red tape to service, high prices – and has in the past randomly withdrawn extra money from my account that I still have not received back.

Why? My health. Their product is the solution, and as much as it bugs me to give them business, I’m not going to ‘kill’ myself over it.

(Think about how often I am going to recount my woes to other potential customers – hopefully they will lose more than what I’m paying them, in the form of lost business).

None of this is really my point (thank you for reading though!). When I signed my deal with the devil, the front staff asked me about my history with products of this type, what I was looking for, etc. They asked why I wanted to try the service before signing on and why I was reluctant to do business with them despite the strength of their product.

And they sympathized! They are so friendly and nice, and getting paid next to nothing. We’ve all been there. Most of us have worked places that we would have changed if we could have at the time – from fast food to marketing. As much as I want to grouch through the sign on process, I can’t take it out on this innocent, sympathetic, my new best friend, front desk person. It simply would not be fair.

As the ‘face’ of a recent redesign – I need to become the front desk person. Separating myself from the changes coming down from on high is how a webmaster or mistress can best survive the roll out of a new look and feel. Not many redesigns are done solo, and the person with decision making power is rarely the messenger when it comes to unveiling and softly enforcing a new web onto a community.

How do you manage change across the organization? How did your web team go about introducing and implementing change?

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eduWEB 2009: “Web Content Provider 101 — When Knowing How to Type Just Isn’t Enough”

Posted by on Jul 28, 2009 in conference, higher ed

Presenter: Terri Vaughan, Web Customer Support Specialist, Clemson University


Are you one of the lucky individuals who provide support for your organization’s Web content providers who have little, if any, Web experience? Does your organization think typing and word processing skills are all that are needed to be a Web content expert? Is the “Webmaster” role part of a job description’s “other duties as necessary,” If you answer yes to these questions, this presentation is for you. You can transform your Web content providers into Web content experts by teaching a few simple skills. Reveal the “magic” of the internet and how it differs from “the Web.” Show how their Word skills can help them create interesting and informative Web content. Explain writing for print and writing for Web and why it’s important to know the difference. Inspire your content providers to learn these skills and more to transform them into Web content experts and you into a Web support genius!

Notes from presentation …

Many content providers given the job without volunteering and without specific skillset (they can type).

What they want:

  • Someone else to do it for them.
  • Want their web files and folders to be organized like on their desktop.
  • To never learn markup.
  • Drag and drop.
  • Word like interface

What they get:

  • Unfamiliar file structure.
  • Inadequate graphics tools – training.
  • Unclear or hard instructions.

What they do:

  • Put off content.
  • Insert improperly formatted graphics.
  • Create unfriendly urls.
  • Upload documents instead of web pages. (Don’t make users download.)

Clemson is on cascade, good because feels like word processing. Content providers are happy. Don’t have the other skills

What do they need:

  • Adequate technical experience.
  • Learn web best practices.
  • Easy to use img editting tools.
  • Ability to adapt print to web.

What we should do:

  • Select staff w the right skills.
  • Develop training program.
  • Require attending training.
  • Provide positive reinforcement.
  • Periodically check on their web and offer positive as well as support.

Training Regimen:

  • Basic computer skills
  • How the web works
  • Web best practices
  • Multimedia formatting and best practices
  • Simple tips for writing for web
  • Site specific hands on training w tools
  • Basic html

How to teach Content Providers:

  • Show them confidence
  • Avoid tech speak
  • Explain why skills are necessary
  • Analogies that they can relate to
  • Entertain and engage during and after
  • Follow up w reminders, cool tricks and compliments
  • If you can compare it to ms word, they will get it.
  • Stress the increase in their marketability.

Content Providers Love:

  • Copy paste from word
  • Activate previous version of updated page
  • Restore accidental deletions
  • Wysiwyg
  • Seeing their content live right away


  • Clemson has 460 content providers. Manual monitoring process. Run report to see what’s been touched. Go out and look at their sites – this is what my job should be.
  • Clemson redesign had 4 templates – full, left, left + spotlight, right, in multiple looks.
  • Decision makers don’t understand web any better than admin
  • Training infinitely better when one on one
  • With workflows, someone needs to be in charge.
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Groundswell in Review 0

Groundswell in Review

Posted by on Nov 12, 2008 in bookreview, socialmedia

Reviewed by Melissa Cheater, Academica Group Inc.

Authors: Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff

Groundswell is a must read if you are involved in marketing, sales or communications. I recommend this book for the advanced social media junkie as well as the beginner.
Groundswell is a crash course in

  • the new communications technologies that are no longer really “new” so much as “here for good,”
  • the ways that people are putting these technologies to use,
  • how to spot the next big technologies, and
  • ways that companies are winning and losing in the new media environment.

Li and Bernoff also outline the P.O.S.T approach to social media implementation. The book is packed with stats and case studies galore. This review will summarize the main takeaways of the book, with a few added notes from my own experiences as a daily inhabitant of the groundswell and some higher ed perspective.

Groundswell (def’n): “A social trend where people use technologies to get the things they need from each other, rather than from traditional institutions like corporations.”

For higher education, this means that prospects are getting information about your school from not just official marketing materials and representatives, but also from each other, current students, alumni, employers, parents and counsellors – and anyone else with an opinion on the subject. They are getting their answers from the groundswell rather than you – and when they do consult you, your answers are cast to the groundswell for verification.

Traditional sources of information are still valuable – the viewbook, calendar, program information, campus visits, email and direct mailings – these all still have an important role and are still being used by prospects during their decision period. The groundswell does not ask us to abandon the old way of doing things – it simply means acknowledging that prospects are consuming large quantities of information that you cannot brand, angle or control – on top of the traditional diet of viewbooks, tours and official homepages.

Li and Bernoff start with the “People, not technologies” anthem that might seem like a constant refrain to social media gurus but is still a earth-shaking realization that everyone in the field HAS to accept. Technology is an enabler, but not all technology will be the right answer for your institution.

Example: Blogs offer increased visibility, a platform to answer customer questions, a place to comment on PR problems and way of collecting customer feedback and insight. Blogs are a fantastic technology if your goal is improved search visibility and a more open conversation with your clients. The technologies you implement should be picked to meet your goals, and also should be picked according to your resources. A blog will not work if you are not interested in hearing from your consumers. It will not work if you do not keep it lively and up to date. And it will not work if your target audience simply does not read blogs.

The crowd is more powerful than any single company – Wikipedia leaves Britannica in the dust in terms of number of entries, and web traffic (aka influence). The online world may be “virtual” but can actually impact the offline world – its knowledge, and its economy. Whether or not you or your organization have explored social media, you are both being talked about. 25% of online Americans read blogs, and 11% write blogs (Groundswell p.19).

I remember when I first registered for I was wrapping up my fourth-year thesis back in 2006 and needed to figure out the terms used for things like comments (wall posts), homepages (profiles), shared content (posted items). I dropped in my full name and email address and looked happily at my blank profile – then noticing “Photos Tagged of You.” My peers who signed up for Facebook ahead of me had already been uploading pictures of me – and tagging them! When I registered, my profile was immediately cross-referenced with these photos. Before I even created an account, I was linked to personal photos thanks to my Facebook friends.

Back to Groundswell, Li and Bernoff recommend starting small with social media. Identify a need and consider which technologies would have the support (users) they need to flourish, and then go from there. Add new technologies gradually and constantly stop and review how your approach is working. I fully agree. A full-on social media strategy can be as bulky as your overall marketing or recruitment plan – and can take just as long to put together and have approved. The thing with web and social media is that your cutting edge plan will be last year’s fad by the time you run it by your team, manager, their director and the worries of hesitant technophobes. Rather than changing the world in a day, start with something small, relevant, cheap and strategic and push it through. Follow each success with another small move forward. The great thing about online work is that you can change directions on a moment’s notice – there are no boxes of misprinted course calendars to fill up your storage. Think of the web and social media as a direct mail piece that you can edit after it has been sent.

Groundswell Typology of Social Media Uses:

  • Creating (expression, commentary)
  • Connecting (social networks)
    25% of online Americans visit a social network at least monthly (p.22)
    22% of teenagers check daily
    Victoria’s Secret has more than 250,000 Facebook friends
  • Collaborating (wiki’s, open source)
    22% use a wiki at least monthly (p.25)
  • Reacting (review sites)
    20% read reviews (p.27)
  • Organizing (tagging, social bookmarking)
    7% of online Americans use tags (p.29)
  • Accelerating Consumption (RSS feeds, widgets)

The Groundswell Social Technographics profile (STP):
Li and Bernoff break users into six categories…

  • Creators
  • Critics
  • Collectors
  • Joiners
  • Spectators
  • Inactives

Many of these terms were already in use but are becoming more and more widely recognized in the industry – with the STP and P.O.S.T. method becoming sort of a social media bible for many.

The Groundswell P.O.S.T. method*:

  • People (technographics)
  • Objectives (your goals)
  • Strategy (how, and what do you need?)
  • Technology (see how it comes last?)

*This is a fantastic approach. I do, however, think that you should hammer down your goals (O) before you start thinking about your audience (P) and strategy (S) – which is why I recommend O.P.S.T. instead.

Part of your planning should acknowledge that social media will change your relationships. Will this be OK? Are you ready for change? Also stop and consider your brand and whether or not it is liked. Opening the floodgates to user-generated content could be a disaster if your approach violates the rules of the community (be it the web at large, the blogosphere or Facebook), or if your company simply is widely disliked. The old days of brand bibles are fading – more and more, “your brand is what your customers say it is.” (Groundswell p.78)

Your school, or organization, has a choice about how they use the groundswell. Li and Bernoff outline five types of participation, starting with simply listening and peaking at embracing (including your customers in development). In between there is Talking (participating, contributing content), Energizing (asking supporters to become brand advocates), and Supporting.


Not surprising given their background, Li and Bernoff recommend focus groups and surveys throughout your work. Participants are very likely to reveal things that you haven’t even thought to explore (or have included as a safety question but assumed you already knew the answer – only to find out the contrary!) These are ways to monitor your brand, campaign or project in a controlled environment but you can also fly under the radar by subscribing to monitoring services (such as Google Alerts and Technorati). Somewhere in the middle of formal research and data mining is the option to set up a private community (either on your own server or on a site such as where you have access to user data and content.


Mass media is SHOUTING, the groundswell is a conversation. We live in an ad-saturated culture that seems to have deaf ears to TV ads and direct mailings. It turns out that the new way to grab attention is to simply speak at a normal volume, therefore sneaking by our “ad filters” that are expecting flashing colours and excited salespeople. When you enter the groundswell, do so with the intention to have conversations with consumers. In the groundswell, the company and the consumer are equals and the company is expected to take part in two-way communication.

An active, healthy groundswell needs support and participation. Sometimes the most effective way to jump start your community is to build it within a pre-existing community. Don’t rebuild if you can simply tap into what your consumers are already doing for you. Even if a .com-hosted solution makes the most sense, try not to turn your back on pre-existing communities who could potentially be interested in your content.


Energizing is the third level of company participation in the Groundswell – “finding enthusiastic customers and turning them into word-of-mouth machines.” Consider this:

  • 18% of online US consumers are “creators” – they are writing blogs, speaking out with podcasts and making laugh with online videos.
  • 25% are critics (they might not have their own blog, but they are contributing reviews to sites such as eBags, Amazon and TripAdvisor
  • 50% are reading the content and reviews produced by the above

According to Li and Bernoff, 80% of user submitted reviews tend to be positive.

Energizing means increased uncontrolled conversation about you or your brand – are you ready for this? Do you have supporters to energize? These are important questions. If you do decide to energize, focus on connections and empowerment rather than restrictions and damage control. Control is not the perk with energizing. The perks are that energizing is believable, self-reinforcing and self-spreading – and sometimes much cheaper than other approaches.


Product development is hard, so why not let your customers help you? Facebook did a great job of using its own technologies (fan pages, photo sharing, newsfeed alerts) to include its users in the development of the new Facebook profile. Embracing your users might be something like the open environment for sharing progress and collecting feedback that Facebook employed, or it might be formal market research such as focus groups, surveys or user testing.

Dove’s “Evolution” campaign on YouTube earned double the traffic of its superbowl ads. Dell used its corporate blog to dampen the disaster of the flaming laptop. Best Buy’s BlueShirt nation turned scattered retail employees into a supportive, engaged community. Li and Bernoff urge “rather than think about the things that can go wrong, think about the… lost opportunity.”

Groundswell Tip: Fail cheaply. Social media is quick, easy and cheap. Avoid making a bureaucratic strategy nightmare with baby steps, senior exec supporters and education for major decision makers.

Groundswell Code:

  • Be a Good Listener
  • Be Patient
  • Be Opportunistic
  • Be Flexible
  • Be Collaborative
  • Be Humble

Groundswell is clear account of social media and the opportunities and risks that are emerging for organizations. Li and Bernoff’s passion for the subject shows and their experience is proven by the strength of their methods (P.O.S.T.) and the army of social media leaders who have taken up groundswell and its recommendations as their guide in the new world of public information.

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