Category Archives: Facebook

The social media magnifying glass

I’d like to thank Pete’s Tire Barn for today’s lesson on how, thanks to social media, treating a customer well can be worth its weight in marketing gold.

A few weeks back, when I was getting my riding lawnmower ready for spring, I found that the front tire had gone flat over the winter. It was a tubeless tire and, despite my best efforts, I couldn’t create enough air pressure for the tire to seal itself to the rim.

I brought the tire to Pete’s – having no prior experience with the business – because it was the closest tire shop to my house. I expected to end up paying a few bucks for getting the tire inflated.

The guy at the front desk took the tire out back, filled it with air, and handed it back to me in about 42 seconds. When I asked him how much, he said it was on the house.

Granted, it took him all of 42 seconds, but I’ve dealt with places in the past that would still charge you for something minor. If he asked me for two or three bucks, I’d have gladly paid and gone on my way; after all, he provided a service that I couldn’t replicate on my own. (Heck, I had to pay 75 cents for air at a mini-mart only to find out that their compressor couldn’t provide any more pressure than my hand pump!). Now, if he asked me for $10, I would have felt taken advantage of and made a mental note not to go back there for anything.

Instead, for the “price” of some free air and 42 seconds labor, Pete’s Tire Barn got a shout-out from me on Facebook (and in this blog post and in the link I’ll put on Twitter to this blog post). On top of that, Pete’s is on my radar the next time I need tires.

In the past, an experience like this may have stayed with the individual customer, but now, thanks to the magnifying glass of social media, these touchpoints can have far wider reach.

In fact, as I was thinking about whether this experience was enough to hang a blog post on, two more examples appeared a few hours apart on my Facebook news feed. One friend was thanking an auto glass company that replaced his six-month-old windshield for free after it was cracked by a rock and another friend was calling out a gym for making her jump through ridiculous hoops to cancel her membership.

Both of these messages had a greater impact – for better and for worse – on my future buying decisions than any commercial, print ad, website, billboard or direct mail piece I’ll ever see from either of these businesses. My experience at Pete’s may have a similar impact on some of my friends.

So, what’s the lesson here? It’s obvious: Businesses that understand this will own the future.

I was Bruce Ismay on Twitter

I conceived and implemented my first live Twitter event in less than a day last week. It didn’t work out nearly as well as I hoped, but I still think it has some potential.

Potential for what, I have no idea.

Maybe it’s the next Fake AP Stylebook or maybe it’s clever enough that an employer will see it and hire me on the spot. Of course, that’s not why I did it. This was just for fun, which, it seems to me, is how a lot of good things start out.

Anyway, flash back to last Tuesday night, when I saw a reference about the April 15 anniversary of the Titanic sinking from someone I follow on Twitter. Somehow, I got the idea that it would be fun if I could get a bunch of my friends to create Twitter accounts representing real people on the Titanic, spend a few minutes researching who they were, and then tweet in real time for a few hours leading up to when the ship went down (2:20 a.m., April 15, 1912).

I figured that I knew enough quick wits with a penchant for gallows humor – i.e. current or former journalists – and other assorted wise-acres that if we could reach a critical mass, we could share some laughs.

I made the pitch on Facebook, sending a message to a dozen or so friends. Or course, since I thought this up at 8 p.m. on a work night – which also was the night when “Lost” had a new, Hurley-centric episode and “Glee” was back after a four-month hiatus – I didn’t have a lot of success reaching people and only got three others to play along.

It wasn’t enough to make the event, which was a little too heavy on foreshadowing and a little to light on really killer tweets, super memorable. Still, I’m grateful for their efforts, which produced exchanges like this:

You can click here to see the whole thread or search Twitter for the hashtag #titanicsinking.

Now, this being the Internet and all, I’m 99 percent certain someone else already came up with the idea doing limited-duration, real-time historical parodies/reenactments. However, a non-exhaustive Google search only turned up examples of ongoing parodies and legitimate historical reenactments on Twitter, which I already knew about as a follower of “UK War Cabinet.”

So, what’s the future for these events? I’d like to try to do others with more lead time and see how they turn out. The one that comes to mind right now is the fiftieth anniversary of Election Day 1960 (“AmbassadorK: @jfk – Mayor D says people are ‘dying’ to vote for you in Chicago, wink wink”).

Anyone have other ideas?

Dear Facebook: Knock it off

In the pre-YouTube era that future generations will regard (incorrectly) with pity, I got hooked on watching Laurel and Hardy movies on my local UHF station.

In one my favorites, “Utopia” (also released as “Atoll K”), Stan and Ollie and a few others end up shipwrecked on an atoll that magically pokes up out of the ocean. The group forms a new country – Robinson Crusoeland – with no laws, no taxes and no government. When word of the new nation gets out, crooks, bums and other lowlifes descend on the place, take over and sentence our heroes to the gallows. (p.s. They survive, even though it ended up being their last film.)

For some reason, the plot reminds me of Facebook.

No, thousands of people haven’t taken over the company to push their own selfish ends. They don’t have to. The company seems to be doing it for them – at the expense of the “utopia” where one could keep up with friends, both current and long-lost, and not be bothered.

These days, it seems every other week brings us a minor redesign or a change in the privacy settings, which were hard enough to figure out in the first place. These minor tweaks, which seem cryptic or annoying to most of us – such as changing “Become a fan” to “Like”  and the whole Facebook Connect idea – are geared to making it easier for businesses to use the site as a marketing tool. (Before the “Fan/Like” tweak, Facebook alerted advertisers that “Like” links offer “a simple, consistent way for people to connect with the things they are interested in … in fact, people click ‘Like’ almost two times more than they click ‘Become a Fan’ everyday,” according to an e-mail obtained by MediaMemo.)

Now, I’m a huge believer in social media marketing, with its emphasis on creating value, providing solutions and building community. In fact, this is about the only sort of marketing that actually appeals to me as a consumer.

 Yet … Something about Facebook’s recent steps rubs me the wrong way. I want a business to earn its way into my consciousness, not sneak in – and I think many social media marketers might agree .

Trust and respect are a big deal, and Facebook isn’t doing anyone any favors by trying to game the system.