Learnings from Likeable Social Media

I finished Dave Kerpen’s new book, Likeable Social Media, a few weeks back and thought it was great. The book is about how businesses can create social media campaigns that are more ‘likeable’ (as in, the Facebook ‘like’ button). The book is geared towards people who are familiar with social media tools but haven’t yet run serious social media campaigns, though I would argue it would also serve as a great refresher for people who have been working in social media for awhile. In this blog post, I hope to share three big learnings I took from the book, but in no way can this serve as a substitute for reading the book itself.

To start off, let me explain the principle of a ‘like’, which is how Kerpen makes the case for social media. Facebook’s Like button allows users to endorse companies, articles, photos – you name it – for all their friends to see. What’s so important about it is that the like button highlights what a Facebook user’s friends are buying and endorsing, which means that it is a far more trustworthy recommendation than an ad on TV. It’s word-of-mouth, but at the ginormous scale of Facebook and Twitter.

Likeable Social Media walks through what it takes to be a ‘likeable’ company, with case studies of companies who have done it right and wrong strewn throughout. Below, I’ve condensed its eighteen chapters into three takeaways: why social media is a great tool for making your business likeable, best practices for using social media to be likable, and things to watch out for along the way.

#1 – Why social media is worth it

  • Social media chatter is free market research, if you’re paying attention. By listening to what your consumers say about your business as well as your competitors, you can learn how to make more compelling products, services, and offers.
  • Social media gives you the opportunity to create positive experiences out of negative ones, which will help you retain customers that might have otherwise defected, and will also likely result in word-of-mouth praise.
  • Engaging with customers through conversations, story sharing, etc. makes fans out of them and builds brand loyalty.
  • Interesting promotions drive interest and sales (just be careful this isn’t the only thing you’re using social media for).

Social media tools are not designed for selling more product, but they are great for getting a better understanding of your customers and your company, which in turn helps you build your business. Moreover, social media is great for deepening  relationships with customers. While that’s sometimes difficult to link to ROI, it’s a clear win for companies.

#2 – How to use social media effectively

Throughout the book, Kerpen shares principles of what you should share on social media.

  • Share surprising, valuable content – meaning, give away free value to your customers. For a consulting firm, that might be white papers on methodologies. For a packaged food company, it might be recipes combined with coupons for some of the ingredients.
  • Share stories, and encourage your customers to share them too. Stories about how the company was founded, about your awesome employees, and about what you do for customers make your company human and relatable. Of course, even better than sharing your own stories is getting your customers to share theirs, so make sure to thank and recognize customers who do.
  • Don’t limit yourself to Facebook and Twitter. Videos are great pieces of media to share via YouTube, and Kerpen also suggests location-based networks (like Foursquare), niche industry networks, LinkedIn, and blogs.

Additionally, Kerpen offers strategies for how to share content on social media:

  • Think like a customer. As you post something to social media, think “would I click on this/find it valuable if I were them?”
  • Be authentic and transparent. A CEO’s Twitter account should be the CEO, not her assistant. If you do need a team to run your social media platforms, be upfront about it. It may make sense to sign tweets/updates, just so people know who they’re talking to.
  • Be engaging. Social media isn’t about pushing out information like announcements or offers, it’s about having a two-way conversation. Use twitter to respond to your customers, Facebook to start a wall conversation, or YouTube to share stories and ideas.
  • Integrate social media across the entire customer experience. Kerpen writes a horror story about one social media campaign that pushed out a promotion for a nearby shop to his Foursquare account. When he got to the store (with several friends he invited along), the sales associates had no clue what he was talking about. Instead of creating a positive experience, this campaign created a negative one, and was worse for the company than doing nothing. To avoid this, make sure every department is clued into your social media strategy.

In sum, social media is about people interacting with one another to share who they are and what they care about. Any company that tries to use social media purely for advertising misses the mark and will anger its customers. Likeable companies speak openly about themselves, interact with the community, and respond to feedback.

#3 – What to do when things go badly

Occasionally, bad situations get blown up into huge stories through social media. When this happens, your objective as a company should be to respond to the situation as quickly as possible and turn it around into something positive. Kerpen uses a JetBlue case study to showcase this. In 2007, JetBlue blew it when a string of storms combined with internal dysfunction made them cancel hundreds of flights. JetBlue’s CEO quickly filmed a YouTube video apologizing and promising this would never happen again. He followed it up with several media appearances in which he continued to apologize, and the incident was soon forgotten.

To be as savvy as JetBlue, Kerpen offers some key principles for responding to negative social media situations:

  • Do not delete a customer complaint unless it’s profane/bigoted/obscene. Savvy customers know when they’ve been brushed under the rug, and censorship will only anger them further. Instead, respond quickly – within 24 hours if you can.
  • Say “I’m sorry” and then figure out how you can fix the problem beyond a customer’s expectations. Saying I’m sorry doesn’t admit responsibility, it just empathizes with the customer and shows them you care.
  • Have an crisis plan in place – figure out ahead of time how you will respond to, say, a negative YouTube video that’s about to go viral. Who is able to decide about the appropriate response, and who will actually take care of it? What happens if it happens over a holiday or on the weekend?

Social media is scary for companies because bad reviews can spread so quickly – but so can good recoveries. When things go awry, use social media to fix the problem right then and there.

This post was intended to share at a high level what I learned from Likeable Social Media. If you’re interested in learning more, his book has many more details, insights, and case studies, and I highly recommend grabbing a copy. You can also follow Dave Kerpen on Twitter (@DaveKerpen), and subscribe to Likeable Media’s blog to learn about new developments in the social media space. I love that Likeable Media practices what they preach in the sense that they’re constantly giving out valuable information for free, which ends up giving them a lot of credibility as industry leaders.

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2 thoughts on “Learnings from Likeable Social Media

  1. jono says:

    Thanks for the great summary!

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