Customer Service on Social Media: LIKE Your University

I read this interesting case study about Seton Hall University (SHU) in a post named: 12 digital and social media case study that proves customer service ROI. SHU is a private Roman Catholic university in New Jersey, United States. Like most private universities, the revenue of SHU relies on tuitions. That is, the more students apply, the higher the ROI. But how do you get students “Like” your university before they enroll?

SHU discovered that incoming freshmen get their first and lasting impression of a university by checking its Facebook page rather than official website. I bet you all know the next step they would take. Yes, SHU then gets actively involved in Facebook conversations to address students’ questions and concerns. And their effort is paid back.

2012 Undergraduate Open House

With more than 10,000 “likes” on their Facebook page, SHU is on the right track of student service. Recently they post on the Facebook wall a notice of undergraduate Open House activity. While current freshmen busy preparing for mid-term exams, university admission office has already started the spring semester enrollment. This is just the time to show incoming students around the campus, and timing is everything. Another take away from SHU’s case is the attitude to participate in social media customer service. Now it’s not a choice to integrate social media into existing customer service, but an irresistible trend. Further, multi-channel customer service works better than one-way traffic. On the top right of SHU’s website, there’s an icon called “social” with links to all the major social accounts.

My input to this case are some suggestions for SHU to continually improve customer service and increase its ROI. Managing social media takes time, a lot of time. Why not initiate a volunteer program to support online interaction? SHU could hire their own staff or students who have communication relevant background and want to get some real-time experience. Besides, if SHU also reaches to alumni and interact with successful graduates on a social network like LinkedIn, chances are high that the university can receive more alumni giving. Finally, always listen to what students and parents are saying, what customers want and what you can do to actually make that happen.

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5 Key Points of Good Community Management

A flourishing community is not built in one day. People tend to join a community that will give them a sense of belonging, keep them informed and add value to their life. That’s exactly how I feel about NYU Wasserman Center for Career Development. Wasserman is a perfect example for addressing community management in terms of it builds an active community both online and offline.

1.    A Clear Subject

What is the community about? What is the core message of your organization? A clear subject serves as the identity of that particular community. It could be a goal like “NYU Wasserman provides students at all stages at their career the help they need.” The opposite situation of a clear subject is “Jack of all trades, master of none.”

2.    Be On Target

A common pitfall in managing social media communities is “the More the Merrier”. Actually, it is critical to differentiate your primary audience and others. For Wasserman, obviously, it focuses on NYU students. So when I asked to join Wasserman Center on LinkedIn, they required and confirmed my NYU e-mail address. This is a way to better allocate resources and achieve efficacy.

3.    Meaningful Engagement

With the first two points settled, it’s time to nurture the community relations via meaningful engagement. Wasserman, as I mentioned earlier, is proactive both online and offline. Aside from Wasserman Weekly emails, students can access Hot Job and special events updates on Wasserman’s Blog, Twitter account and Facebook page. Further, students could schedule a one-on-one career counseling and attend career fair to meet potential employers.

4.    Embrace Diversity

You can image a university like NYU is composed of students from all over the world. That’s why Wasserman organizes workshops specifically for international students, encourages them to give full play of their advantage and creates networking opportunities. They also provide different events for undergraduate students and graduate students, because diversity today has a much broader definition, including different education background. The point is community managers should respect diversity and customize messages accordingly.

5.    Keep Moving Ahead

NYU Wasserman recently launched a widget and mobile site as new channels for students to be informed. A small progress shows a big dedication. The ultimate goal for community managing is to build a mutually beneficial community. In this case, when we stand out in the job market, we bring honor to our school and career center as well.

Applebee’s Campaign: Use Social Media “Against” Social Media

With go-to case like Old Spice’s “The Man Your Man Could Smell Like” campaign, now corporations can count on social media to raise brand awareness. But does the recipe for going viral simply writes hilarious and provocative videos on YouTube? Apparently, Applebee’s multi-platform digital campaign this year missed some secret ingredients.

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This June, Applebee’s Lexington, Kentucky-based franchise and Cornett Integrated Marketing Solutions conducted a “Life is Better Shared” campaign, highlighting a series of “Girl’s Night Out Goddess” YouTube video pseudo tutorials in which an abrasive woman poke fun of her female friend being online. Compared to Old Spice’s virality—6.7 million views in just 24 hours, the campaign of Applebee’s has turned out to be a controversial and limited-attention one (around 50,000 views). And Cornett had to make a statement clarifying that “We all know we spend a lot of time online. Our message is about balance.”

Still, they got some “Fantastic” reviews since they did something right. To start with, the content is original (although the idea of using fun video is not a fresh one) and entertaining. For seriously?” the Goddess would break in during the pseudo tutorials. It did bring me a good laughter when I heard something like “Are you seriously watching an online video about being online?” And the campaign is based on a survey on their Facebook page showing fewer females hang out with friends nowadays. Although the survey may not be very thorough or scientific, it is true that no great campaigns can be achieved without research on your target audience. Besides, it’s never a bad idea for corporations to outsource and hire a professional agency like Cornett.

However, Applebee’s failed to deliver a clear and convincing message mainly for two reasons. One is the use of confusing slogan, which caused many to argue we tend to share more online than offline. They didn’t bring the “balance of life” idea until they tried to appease viewers who are irritated by their condescending manner. This brings us to the second reason, which is how they said it. Audience would never like being judged, period.

It is tough to break the clutter in social media campaign for people won’t laugh at the same joke. And companies don’t want to go viral the other way, so we should always be careful of what we say and how we say it. Be creative, provocative, but not offensive.Image

Mission Possible—Get Along with Social-Media Relations

Do you guys watch 2 Broke Girls on CBS?Oh, I love it. It’s about a girl from Brooklyn, named Max who made ends meet by serving the table at Williamsburg diner where she met her new waitress friend Caroline—A rich girl came from upper-east side. Caroline’s luxury life gone for good when her billionaire father was put in jail for fraud. Anyway, two broke girls decided to start their own cupcake business when Caroline found Max made delicious cupcakes. The problem is that, for a small and new business like theirs, getting publicity seems “Mission Impossible”.

When they were in a food network party, Caroline noticed that one of the guests was an influential food blogger. So she took a shot, introduced herself and their homemade cupcakes to seek her endorsement. Later, the blogger savored their cupcakes and to their great joy, she did write about these yummy cakes for her column. What a vivid reflection of today’s media relations!

Media relations now, I think, can be better referred as “Influential Relations”. Because the emerging social media has empowered say influential blogger to generate buzz just as journalists do in printed media. Gone by the days when media endorsement seems out of the question for unknown products or small business. One major advantage is that the social media relations, or online media relations, offers PR professionals more opportunities to build relationships with media such as Caroline’s blogger pitching. It’s not just working well in TV series. A recent survey shows that 90% of small business use social media. In this case, PR practitioners now have a much longer media list than before, because pretty much everyone can report news today.

Well, social media may not have a gatekeeper as traditional media and fall short of accuracy or limited space, but they’re married to the “immediacy” and “transparency”, which is quite the beat of our society. I can’t say whether social media has made media-relations activities easier or harder, for opportunities coexist with challenges. But I do see the online-networking door is wide open.

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They wanted Martha to taste their cupcake.

“We need to get exposures”, said Caroline. She and Max hired a web master to set up their company website and at the end of the first season, they even reached Martha Stewart.

Digital World, Two-edge Sword

I can’t believe I’ve been in the Big Apple for three weeks. As most of the only children in China, studying abroad is quite an event for me and my family. The day finally came when we sorted out everything, arrived at the airport carrying three pieces of luggage and saying goodbye. Surprisingly, the line for check-in was extremely long, and after almost one hour of waiting, we couldn’t help but overhear someone in line leak the explosive news “the flight to Newark has been cancelled”.

”What?” We highly doubted it at the time, “no updates on the information board yet,” said mom. Later, the news was confirmed by the ground service, turning the whole farewell thing into a dress rehearsal. But, how did he know it before we did?

It’s no magic. For a web 2.0 society, the answer is simple: he just checked his iPhone, utilizing some flight tracking application. Then it’s not hard for us to restore the rest of the story. Probably staff in the U.S has updated the incident on the company website before the ground crew here had a chance to come up with a back-up plan, announce their following arrangement for passengers, or even update the information board!

On our way back home, aunt Sarah wrote on Sina Weibo, a Chinese version of Twitter, about my flight change, notifying other relatives and friends that I would fly tomorrow. So did I. Among those who tweeted back, one of them is my former colleague in a PR agency. What’s worth mentioning is that the airline is one of her clients. On Twitter, she’s my “friend”, but she also uses it as a working tool now. She said some comforting words to me, but from another angle, she is pacifying a sullen customer as a company rep. Although flight delays are inevitable, passengers still call for proper handling procedures, especially in today’s social media network—a little bad impression can spread instantly and extend limitlessly. To echo the book Reputation Management:

I know I can not.

“Companies that are able to respond quickly to alarms within social media are often able to stop the outcry before it spreads and becomes a crisis.”

I got an apology card when boarding, which invited me to visit the airline’s website and got a voucher for future flights with them (I prefer cash back though). But is digital communication a fit-all channel for consumers? Another airline company asked a woman in her seventies to file a complaint online, even though she was not familiar with the Internet at all. My problem was just that I left one day late but her visa expired because of the flight cancellation. Since she can’t get any help offline, the story ended up with her complaining over the radio, making it officially a crisis for the company.

Generally speaking, the digital communication is an addition to our daily life, especially for an international student like me. When writing this blog, I took a break and had a face time with my parents in Shanghai. Maybe that’s the reason I have not suffered homesickness yet.