Social media and customer service - some examples


Image by JMC Photos via Flickr

Earlier this week we wrote about Thomson Holidays and how a blogger can impact your brand reputation and how with social media, complaints have moved from being a customer service issue to being a branding and corporate reputation one.

Earlier this week I was running a ‘masterclass’ in social media and customer service at the Call Centre Focus & Customer Strategy Conference 2009. The session looked first at the different types of social media that businesses use and the reasons for and benefits of this. The ROI that businesses can get from online customer service communities. And we then moved into some examples from customer service: some good, some bad and one just ugly. The slides below probably lose something without being presented but the case studies are interesting, each for different reasons.

  • Zappos. A ‘Good’ example, Zappos is great at microinteractions. They show how you can grow a customer-service centred organisation and the real value you get from interacting with people in social media. Traditional customer service has been private and one-to-one (typically by phone or letter). With social media you can interact with people in a public place (one-to-one-to-many). These ‘microinteractions’ can have huge impact on word-of-mouth.
  • Virgin Trains. Another ‘Good’ example that shows how you can make effective use of Twitter. Richard Baker is General Manager for Virgin Trains in Wales and North-West England, and he has been showing how individuals in a business can make effective use of Twitter to engage customers. We analysed his activity to show the mix across the seven ways businesses can use Twitter: sending out information on offers, informing people about what’s going on, responding to people and taking action, listening to what people  are saying about Virgin Trains, correcting inaccuracies in things other people are staying, educating people an, finally showing that you are human.
  • Dell is an example of ‘bad turned good’ and has moved from its period of ‘Dell Hell’ to being perhaps one of the best example of businesses having an integrated approach to social media. We discussed in the workshop the case of how Dell make $3 million on Twitter, and how their forums are so well used that peers are solving others’ problems and saving Dell significant amounts of money on support costs.
  • United Airlines. Finally we looked at the ‘ugly’ example of United Airlines and what happened when Dave Carroll had his $3,500 guitar broken on his way to a gig with his band Sons of Maxwell. He started to produce music videos about United Airlines which have each now been viewed by up to six million people.

These are just a small number of examples that businesses can learn from. The main advice from the session was to identify core business objectives at the moment and then experiment with social media in a controlled fashion to see what impact it can have against these.

Social media and customer service - some examples
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The brave new world of Traveler 2.0


My suitcases
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I recently chaired a roundtable on social media in the travel industry for Travel Trade Gazette where agents, providers and those working in PR in the travel industry discussed best practice use of social media and also what they hoped and thought would happen in the future.

The travel industry is a great place for social media innovation, as is seen by the many examples of online communities in the travel industry. Consumers tend to search for information and advice before making a purchase and want advice from people that they recognise as being like them. If these people like that particular hotel, resort or country, then I might too. And travel is an industry which generates a lot of stories, media and experiences, which are perfect for people to share with others. So people are looking for information to help make their purchase, and other people are generating a lot of stories, pictures and media. If organisations get it right, travel should offer a real opportunity for innovative and effective use of social media.

This week’s Required Reading at FreshNetworks comes from David Griner, and looks at how the role of the traveler has changed with social media (and the rise of what Griner refers to as the Traveler 2.0) and at how organisations in the industry can use social media to leverage this growing breed. The basic advice is the simplest (and best): encourage customers to share their stories, interact with them when they are doing it and start your own stories.

The presentation is below and is great for it’s look at how traveler (and consumer) habits have changed, but especially for a wealth of examples of great use of social media in the travel industry.

The Brave New World of Traveler 2.0
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Mobilising people in social media: the #welovethenhs debate


heart-shaped buttons
Image by alice-palace via Flickr

Update: in the first week of the #welovethenhs debate on Twitter, 18,000 people shared over 37,000 stories.

In the last two days, almost 11,000 different people on Twitter have entered into a debate about the benefits of the UK healthcare system. Between them they have shared over 20,000 different stories that range from individual experiences to debates and evaluations of the merits of public health care over a private health insurance scheme. The levels of involvement are impressive and have been driven primarily by people sharing their own personal stories rather than being driven by a corporate or organisational Twitter campaign.

This discussion and debate is a great example of people coming together on a shared topic of interest. They are telling their stories or giving their opinion and tagging it with the #welovethenhs hashtag so that others can find, read and share what they have said. At it’s very simplest this is a great example of how social media work, and in particular of the kind of dynamics that exist in an online community:

  • People with a story to tell write about it and tag it, so that
  • People who want to find similar stories can easily sort through the information that has been shared, and
  • These stories can then be passed to other people and shared again so that more people can read it

People who don’t know each other can read and comment on each others’ stories - they are connected not by the fact that they actually know each other, but that they are interested in similar issues and want to talk about the same things. There are, of course, limits to hashtags as a way of sorting information on Twitter, but for quickly escalating debates like this they are a useful way of showing the strength and weight  of opinion on a particular issue.

But perhaps the most interesting element of the NHS debate on Twitter is the subject matter itself. With less than 12 months to go before the next General Election in the UK, the public are having a debate about an issue that is always a major component of any election campaign, and they are doing so in social media. And Prime Minister Gordon Brown joined in the discussions with his own opinions. Expressed via Twitter.

We’ve posted before about how Social Media can sometimes be the wrong medium for politicians to express their opinions or to make announcements (especially about Gordon Brown’s YouTube trauma). But this is a case where users themselves have started and are having a discussion on an issue that is of keen political, and electoral, interest. If they are this engaged now, on an issue of great interest but sparked by remarks by a US politician then we might be looking at an interesting and engaged set of debates on Twitter and across social media during the upcoming General Election.

I hope all the Parties have their social media strategies sorted.

* For up-to-date statistics about the #welovethenhs hashtag go to what the hashtag?!

  • Brown joins NHS Twitter campaign (
  • Britain To Civil Servants: Go Forth And Tweet (
  • #welovethenhs takes over Twitter (
  • Twitter Army defends UK healthcare system (

YouTube culture and the politics of authenticity


We are big fans of the work of Michael Wesch at FreshNetworks and have previously posted about his great presentation: An anthropological introduction to YouTube. His latest presentation builds on this and looks at the impact that social media sites such as YouTube has on society and also how society is influencing them.

The presentation looks at social theory, a segmentation of why people use YouTube and an analysis of why we use it in this way. A great 30 minutes of insight and learning, and our Required Reading for this week.

  • The Web is Us/ing Us - check this video (
  • YouTube as a Medium for Community (

Our top five posts in July


Five / Cinco
Image by Visentico / Sento via Flickr

At FreshNetworks we aim to bring you the best posts in social media, online communities and customer engagement online. In case you missed them, find below our top five posts in July.

1. Guy Kawasaki explains the art of innovation in 10 steps

Our most popular post is July highlights a great video from Guy Kawasaki presenting tens steps to innovation. In the current economic climate it is, perhaps, more important than ever that firms innovate, try new things and work to gain an advantage on the competition. Kawaskai’s video is a great overview of the steps to creating an innovation culture in your business.

2. Michael Jackson flash mobs

In the aftermath of the Michael Jackson flash mobs, Charlie Osmond looked first at some recent flash mobs and then at three of the best. From the T-Mobile dance in Liverpool Street Station in London to the MC Hammer dance.

3. Twitter 101 – a guide to Twitter for business

July saw Twitter launch Twitter 101; a guide for businesses of how to use Twitter. The guide itself is part a how-to guide, part an explanation of what Twitter is and part a set of ideas and examples. It encourages businesses to: listen to what is being said, set up their own presence, follow relevant people and respond where needed. But perhaps the first step that any business should take is to work out exactly why they are using Twitter in the first place. What business aims will this use of Twitter contribute towards and how can you measure the success you are having.

4. Older users becoming dominant on Facebook

Analysis by iStrategyLabs shows that the biggest group of users on Facebook are 35-54 year olds. The study of figures for the US that are publicly available to advertisers shows that over 28% of Facebook users are in this age-range, with a further 12% of users aged 55 or over. In fact the 55+ age-group is the one that has seen the largest growth in the six month to July 2009 – an impressive 514% increase in users. Whilst the study reports figures in a way that prevents real analysis (the age-ranges are of different sizes), what is true is that Facebook is not the preserve of the young alone. Older users are there too, in increasingly large numbers.

5. Build your own community or go where people are? Do both

Another popular post over the last few of months, examining the debate about whether brands should engage customers where they are online (and so in social networks) or build their own site to bring them to (a branded online community). Here we look at the Hub and Spoke Model of Social Media Engagement. Showing how the most effective thing for any brand to do is to do both.