Are Twitter and Facebook the new call centres?

Last Friday night, I was evacuated from the Odeon cinema in the Metrocentre half way through a film. Whilst being stood outside for nearly 20 minutes with no Odeon staff around to ask what was going on, I took to Twitter to voice my complaint. After being let back into the cinema and finding out from a member of staff it had been a fire at The Handmade Burger Company next door, I tweeted again. “So after a long time waiting it turns out it was a fire @handmadeburger“.

On Monday morning, I received a tweet from The Handmade Burger Company (@HandmadeBurger) asking me to email them with further information about my complaint. A few emails later, I was told I would receive drinks vouchers from the company as a way of apologising for my inconvenience.

On the same day, I read an article on the BBC news website asking if “Twitter and Facebook are changing the way we complain?”. This got me to thinking, pre social media would I have complained about the evacuation? Or would I have just got on with it?

We’ve all experienced some form of poor customer service, but would that normally lead us to calling the company’s customer service department to complain? I think not. Social media has given people the opportunity to complain there and then, on the spot, and this can have a huge impact on companies.

One of the first things I did after being evacuated on Friday night was to get my phone out and take to Twitter to voice my opinion. Something I would never have thought about doing a year ago. Social media is no longer for just communicating with friends.

In the BBC news article, it discussed a number of cases where people have taken to Twitter and other social networking sites to complain, with problems being resolved very quickly. It seems like the idea of public humiliation is what causes companies to take problems a lot more seriously online. It poses the question though, why do we need to publicly humiliate a company for them to take us seriously and react?

If companies didn’t realise before, surely they realise now how important social media is for their relationships with customers. I’ve still had no reply from the Odeon Metrocentre, however Handmade Burger Company handled my complaint very well and I look forward to receiving my vouchers and dining with them in the future!


The importance of social media…

Since breaking up from University for summer just less than four weeks ago, the importance of social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook have become more apparent to me than ever before.

In the past four weeks not only have I won a £50 shopping voucher courtesy of Metrocentre and their ‘What’s in the bag?’ Twitter competition, I’ve also won a free car valet courtesy of Benfield Motors and their ‘Enjoy the Journey’ campaign. I’ve also spent some time helping out at Newcastle United Foundation, with the aim of raising the profile of the charity and the work that they do.

The more my personal use on sites like Twitter increases and the more industry experience I gain, the more I’ve realised that in todays market, social networking sites play a huge importance in an organisations development.

Organisations who don’t use social sites need to quickly come to grips with the idea that social media is fast becoming the main way to communicate with an audience and they need to understand how and why these sites can work to benefit them.

It is no longer enough for an organisation to just have a Facebook page or a Twitter feed. An organisation must be constantly using these sites to connect with existing and potential customers, ensuring the information they post is both timely and relevant. Having a Facebook page is one thing, have an effective Facebook page is another.

Running competitions on Twitter like ‘Retweet for clean seats! Free valet for 1 winning car lover at a Benfield dealership’ can generate a huge amount of interest in your company. When I saw the competition on my timeline last Tuesday, I automatically re-tweeted without thinking about whether I would win or not. By Tuesday night I was the winner of a free car valet and I haven’t stopped telling people about it since. I don’t know exactly how many people I’ve told, but I’ve definitely talked more about Benfield this week than I ever have before, I think that speaks volumes for itself!

Organisations need to understand that social sites aren’t difficult to run or operate and they can bring huge benefits to a company. All it takes is a little bit of time and effort…

Here comes the summer…

This week I finished my second year at university and just like last year a feeling of great excitement hit me, I was about to start my four month summer holidays! However, a feeling of both reflectiveness and nerves started to kick in too. This was going to be the last time for a while that I would have a four month summer holiday, as this time next year I’d be just about to graduate and be getting ready to go into the big bad world of PR.

For the first time since starting at university, I thought about how much I’d learnt about myself as a person and the knowledge I’d gained. I realised I’d learnt a lot more than I first thought! Writing a critical evaluation for my social media module, the main reason I started this blog, made me realise just how much I’d learnt. Evaluating my blog and the online presence I’d aimed to create in January really got me thinking. When I first started university, I didn’t know a lot about PR apart from ‘it being something to do with communication’, now I can’t understand how I didn’t know about it, when everything that surrounds me on a day-to-day basis bares some relation to the PR industry.

Not only have I gained a huge amount of knowledge about the PR industry, I’ve also realised the importance of social media tools and personal reputation management. This time last year, I can remember both Philip Young and Josh Halliday telling me in a social media workshop that Twitter was the best thing since sliced bread. I took no notice what so ever, saying that I just couldn’t understand it and it looked so complicated. Over the summer of 2010, I made it my mission to understand the frenzy and one year one I don’t know how I survived without it!

My era of being addicted to Facebook has finished, and I’m now addicted to Twitter. Not only do I use it as a tool to communicate with influential people in the industry, I also communicate with friends through it and I now find out the latest news right from my own phone! It’s the last thing I look at at night and the first thing I look at on a morning, (sad I know!)

All of this thinking made me decide that instead of having four months off doing nothing, I’m going to really make the most of my time. I’m going to continue to maintain (and hopefully increase) my online presence and I’m going to gain as much experience of the PR industry as possible. So that this time next year, the prospect of being in the big bad world won’t seem as big or bad after all!

How the rise of social media is changing the world of PR

Stephen Waddington (@wadds) of Speed Communications is the second guest speaker we’ve had at university this past week and boy did he make an impression! This is the second time I’ve saw Stephen do a guest lecture and he never fails to deliver.

Stephen discussed how the rise of social media is changing how we do PR and even went as far as saying that ‘PR is becoming more and more integrated with marketing’. He also believes that in the near future PR will become ‘more integrated with sales’.

Facebook and Twitter were, as predicted, a major discussion point with Stephen showing us examples of how these social networks have played a big part to some of Speed’s most recent and very successful campaigns.

One of his main examples of Twitter being used effectively was of @mmm_newcastle who may only be a small business but are using this social network in such a way that they have a total of 3,727 followers who they continually engage with on a day-to-day basis. Stephen described how sometimes, a product they are selling may be sold out before it’s even arrived in the shop due to the content they are creating online. This for me just reiterates the point that ‘you don’t need to a big business or have a big budget to create engaging online content’ and succeed in the social world.

He concluded his lecture with tips on how to get noticed in the PR world:

  • Create your own microsite so people can see who you are and what you’re all about
  • Network- use Twitter and other social networks to connect and engage with influential people
  • Comment on articles on PR week- don’t say anything for the sake of it though!
  • Stand out from the crowd- create content such as a video for interviews
  • Create your own content- create blogs such as Josh Halliday’s SR2 Blog

I’ll definitely be getting to grips with the concept of having my own microsite and the idea of creating content such as video for interviews really interests me! Social media gives us so many opportunties that half of us don’t appreciate, hopefully lectures like this make us realise what we can all potentially achieve!

The lecture will be available for everyone to see on Stephen’s blog: Wadds’ PR and Media Blog.

Do not fear, help is at hand

Even after looking at other PR student blogs and writing my first blog post I still don’t feel 100% confident that I know enough about PR to write a communications based blog and I’m struggling to find topics to talk about. Yesterday, Philip uploaded a post to our module blog Puzzled ExPRession that caught my eye. The post talked about trying to find a voice in the blogosphere with links to posts which we may find useful to look at.

A link which really helped me was the blog Teaching and Thinking about public relations. There was a post written about tips on potential blog topics PR students could discuss. The tips are as follows:

  1. (If you’re on Twitter) Would any of today’s tweets be useful to media or PR students?  Why? (tip: follow @digicasity and @mediaguardian for useful ideas).
  2. Find an article on a media-related theme in (for instance) The Guardian or on the BBC website.   What are your views?
  3. Think about the last five films/gigs you saw.   How did you find out about them? (Poster? Newspaper/magazine advertisement?  Word of mouth?  Email newsletter?  Facebook fan page?  Via other social networks?   Trailer or clip emailed to you by a friend?)  Many media commentators have heralded the death of conventional advertising, but what’s your experience?
  4. The five (or more) bloggers every PR student should follow … and why.
  5. The five (or more) things I’ve done to secure a job in PR … and the five things I must do.
  6. Review of any of your PR textbooks (without peeking at other reviews!) – if it was published in 2009, so much the better.
  7. Interview with anyone who works in PR (no matter how junior or senior).  How did they get into PR?  What advice would they give to others?  What does their job involve?
  8. Why I will/will not useTwitter/Posterous/FriendFeed/Typepad/(insert platform of your choice)  … and why.
  9. Interview with a PR lecturer.  Well, why not? (first come first served on this one though!).
  10. How (unpopular sport star of your choice) is represented in the media.  What could they do to redeem their reputation?

After reading this post, I’ve realised that commenting on tweets, looking at articles on media related topics and analysing the media are things which I already do on a more than daily basis. All I need to do is expand on those thoughts and hey pronto my communications blog is well and truly on it’s way. Really, it isn’t that hard after all. I hope these tips help other PR students, just as much as they’ve helped me!