An Open Letter to a New Social Media Consultant

Below is an email response I gave to someone I did not know who is determined to reinvent themselves and reposition their very talented skills in the social media arena.

Dear _____, you’re right, most companies don’t understand what it takes to be engaging, and most don’t have the right staff deployed, and some are not sufficiently funded to create engaging content-but they’re getting better.

And it is a never ending battle to get all the right departments involved and on the same page to really interact with people in a total 360 degree process.

Yes, you’re right, I am an evangelist trying to change this situation, but I am nowhere close though to being an expert, no one is; But I do try to come up with social media based creative, promotional/engagement ideas that are tailored to the client which work to begin the transition into social media- that’s a big part of what I do. I love it. Soup to nuts if you will, from strategy to implementation and all points in between. But I would say 50% of the battle is education on the front end, with a concerted effort on the back end to get them comfortable enough internally to be social externally without me, in the long run.

The great thing about social is that we can suggest specific ways that they can use social media to amplify what they are doing, that might be of interest to people who are not brand enthusiasts- and we can tailor platforms and tools to meet the needs of staff and customers. But in the end- what really determines success is not what I preach and instruct them to do-it’s a concerted effort to “do” it on their own. They need to own social. Not me. I already own what I do, because I have a belief in it’s transformative capabilities. Passion? you bet.

As I have said in the past. “I can teach you how to use social tools and social platforms, but I can’t teach you how to be social. That’s not my job.

I applaud you for reaching out to me because it sounds like you may be starting to drink the Koolaid- but it is a process in which a lot of people try to hopscotch the conversation and go right for the sale. Don’t do that. Be real. Be transparent. Be authentic.

But before you can start selling yourself as a social media consultant. You have to use the tools yourself, utilize the platforms and take some companies from point “A” and back again. Fail some. win some. and try some different things.

It sounds and looks like you have the background-but now you have to apply that to the new media world.

The easiest way to start, would be to grasp something like and or Posterous or even WP, and start to share your thoughts, ideas, wisdom and experience with others. Join a community like you did with SM2day, comment on blogs and start to build up some new media credibility.

The good news about social media is that it is ever evolving and the diverse backgrounds of some really successful people who are doing some great things for companies of all shapes and sizes is expanding daily, so there is plenty of room for you on this train. Just don’t give up easily. It takes time.

Look forward to talking with you when you come to Naples


The customer experience slips through the cracks for Regal Entertainment Group

Yet another cautionary tale.

Crisis management, contingency planning, reputation management, leadership, why are these so hard? why are they so hard to grasp, to fathom and to implement? Maybe there is a perception that because they don’t figure into the day to day operations of organizations large and small that they’re not that important. Or are they?

It’s funny though, just when they’re needed most, you can’t find them; and it’s right then that everyone seems to ask-“What do you mean we don’t have policies, plans and procedures in place for “…

We talk all the time about the need to have social media crisis management tools, procedures and policies in place for good reason. Why? They work. They help. The mine field is littered with companies that have not done a good job in this area. The most recent is obviously BP Oil.

Why are crisis management policies and plans needed? Because customers, consumers are empowered now.  When customers and people are upset and have been wronged, they can take to social networks and the power of viral socialness and vent and complain and create momentum to make a difference and affect change.

Companies need to be prepared for this-even if it never happens. Because you never know when things will fail and when someone might complain. You never know when groups, large groups, will take to social networks, large social networks and complain about your company. Why wait?

It’s why you monitor. It’s why you listen. It’s why you have these policies/plans in place.

Here’s a mini situation. Two days ago another opportunity to get it right fell by the wayside. This one though isn’t neccessarily social media related, yet the difference now is whereas before there might not have been a way or platform to complain there now is. So it does have social media undertones.

I decided to take my son to see Toy Story 3. There was a huge storm sitting on top of Naples, Florida, so a movie seemed like a great idea. The Regal Entertainment Group operates the largest and most geographically diverse theatre circuit in the United States, consisting of 6,745 screens in 546 theatres in 38 states. So they are a large outfit.

Yet it would appear that they have no  customer service contingency plan in place for when their systems “go down” to complete transactions. Their contingency if you will, is to take cash, which systemically eliminates the huge section of their customers that came armed with a debit or credit card only

So here’s how it went down.

3 windows all open and yet all were saying they could take cash only because their systems were down. Wait, no this one says it can…  We went from one window to the next to the next. And yet one window was able to take debit or credit cards?  Wouldn’t all windows be on the same system? The information seemed to be inconsistent. No messaging to let people know of the current situation. No one out front, no signage, no manager, nothing.

We were able to get in, but I was already thinking about the disconnect in “managing” a customer service situation that seemed to be getting uglier by the minute.

Next up, popcorn and snacks. My assumption? I used the debit card out front, so the system must be back up and on line. Long line later, I order, present my card and am told that the system is down and they can only take cash. Are you serious? I tell them I just used it out front. They say they are told that the system is down. I tell them to try it. They say, like robots, that they are only to take cash. You mean you’re told only to take cash? Yes. You can’t even try and swipe the card? No. I just waited in line for 15 minutes. Sorry.

I look behind me and the line is swelling. I look to my left and it’s like this exact conversation is happening across the board. Where’s the manager, where’s the signage, where’s the “make it right act”? Rainchecks? free popcorn? Something?

I resolve to blog about it because I don’t have time to talk to the manager who I do spot trying to handle several large groups of irate people. I wonder what would have happened if I had tweeted about it? What would have happened if they had been proactive? I probably would have blogged about that as well.

But now a not so favorable customer experience will now end up online thanks to the intersection of search and social media…Oh well.