Guide to Using Hootsuite for Twitter Management

hootsuiteI love Hootsuite. I think it’s a fantastic tool for managing Twitter.

Its various features mean, for me and for a lot of my clients, it’s an easier, more efficient and more effective way to manage your Twitter campaigns – and it’s free!

Here’s my guide to using Hootsuite for more intelligent Twitter management:

1) Claim your free Hootsuite account

Go to www.hootsuite.com to claim your free Hootsuite account. You’ll need to login using your Twitter login details. Your new account will look something like this:

hootsuite guide for beginners

Here, click on the icon that says ‘home’. This will create your first stream for you, which is essentially a column filled with a certain type of tweet. In the ‘home’ stream, you’ll see all the tweets from people you follow – it’s the same as viewing Twitter natively.

2) Create a Brand Mention Stream

The next stream to create is a brand mention stream. You want to know every time someone mentions your brand, whether that’s using your Twitter handle (e.g. @lauralhampton) or not.

To do this, click ‘add stream’ (which is now at the top of the ‘home’ stream you just created) and choose ‘search’ (the icon of the magnifying glass).

Here, specify the search term(s) you want to monitor. I love to skydive and do so at a place called Skydive Langar; if they were setting up a search, I’d advise they search for:

“skydivelangar” OR “skydive langar” OR “skydivelanger” OR “skydive langer” OR “bpslangar” OR “british parachute schools”

Note here the use of advanced search operators – the use of quotation marks indicates I want to see these words in this format and this order, and the use of OR in capitals says I want to see any of these mentions. I’ve also added common misspellings of ‘Langar’ and also their old brand name ‘British Parachute Schools”. You too can include variations of your brand name in your search.

Their brand stream might look like this:

brand mentions hootsuite
By monitoring your brand mentions, you can spot the people who are talking about you and respond to their where appropriate, or simply listen to what they say. Is it positive? Great! Keep doing that! If it’s negative, how can you address the problem?

By responding to people who are talking about your brand, you expand your reach and can build brand awareness beyond your existing database.

3) Set up a custom search

A custom search is very similar to the brand mentions stream in that you select to add a new stream, then choose ‘search’ as your stream type.

Here, you can search for anything you like, and use advanced search operators as above. I recommend setting up a searches for:

Your products/services

Using the example above again, Skydive Langar might set up searches for skydivingskydiving centreskydiveskydive courseAFF, tandem skydivingcharity skydiving and so on. It’s up to you whether you lump similar terms together into one stream using the OR operator, or have separate streams for each (though you are limited to 10 in total, so best to lump them together where you can).

When you see people talking about your product/services, you have an opportunity to reach someone who is interested in what you do but not necessarily aware of you yet. See what they’re saying; if it’s a question about the product/service, respond. Are they expressing an opinion about it (“I love skydiving!”), contribute to the conversation. They might even be asking where they can buy your product/service, which is a great time for you to let them know where you are.

Your location

Another great way of building brand awareness is to look for people talking about your geographic location. For Skydive Langar, they might look for people mentioning LangarBingham or Nottingham. This will enable them to see what people are saying about the local area, and again to contribute to these conversations to become an active part of the local community.

A great example of this in use came from a coffee brand who saw someone tweeting that they were in a certain town and could really use a coffee. The coffee chain tweeted back, offering that person a free coffee from them. It was a great way to build brand awareness and loyalty, plus that person then took to Twitter to share the story, giving them even more coverage.

Another example came from Morten’s Steakhouse in America. An influential business person returning back from an overseas trip tweeted that he couldn’t wait to get back to New York for a proper steak; the company sent one of their waiters to meet him at the airport with a steak dinner. Again, built great brand loyalty and press coverage too.

Think about other searches you might set up in your business. Perhaps you have a prominent person within your business who might be mentioned regularly so you could search for their name.

By setting up custom searches, you can identify:

  • Potential customers
  • Competitors
  • Trends in product/service interest – e.g. for seasonal products or growing interest in a product/service

4) Use scheduled tweets… with caution

Scheduling is a fantastic tool to help you manage your social media presence. Done well, it enables you to appear active throughout the times that your audience is active too.

However, use caution. If all you do is schedule tweets, you lose the element of interactivity that social media is so useful for. You need to be there to respond to people as much as you need to be reading, retweeting and responding to other people’s tweets.

I use the auto-schedule function for my tweets. This works by, over time, monitoring the times of day and days of the week that your followers are most active, and then sending tweets at those times. It’s a really simple yet effective way of being there when your audience is – but again, it’s important not to just leave scheduled tweets running.

One famous example of a scheduling fail is that of Tesco, who a few years ago experienced their now infamous horse-meat scandal. On the day the news broke, the Twitter account for Tesco tweeted the following. As you can see, not great for their image:

hootsuite scheduling fail

5) Monitor, analyse, refine

As with all digital marketing, social media is most effective when it is monitored, analysed and refined over time.

Hootsuite helps you to do this by giving you access to a range of reports – even more reports if you use the paid version. These will give you insights such as the most popular tweets that week, times of day when your audience was most active, follower growth, common topics and so on.

To reach the reports, simply click on the menu to the left of your streams and select ‘Analytics’:

hootsuite reports

 

There are various reports available to you as a free user. The Twitter Profile Overview report provides some useful data, including follower growth and most popular links. You should see steady follower growth over time, which indicates good levels of engagement (whilst a quick growth may indicate spam accounts or paid-for followers – not good).

Use most popular links to gain valuable insight into the content that works – and that doesn’t. Look at the links here – what type of content has been most popular? Is it news? Product updates? Whitepapers? Use this information to plan what content you’ll create and share in future. Also look at the tweets themselves – the structure, the tone. What works? How can you learn from it?

Take a look at the other standard reports from Hootsuite too – there’s lots of great information available.

Hootsuite Paid Version

Everything I’ve outlined here is available with the free version of Hootsuite. You can also manage multiple social media within Hootsuite – try ‘Add Account’ to explore managing Facebook through Hootsuite and managing LinkedIn through Hootsuite

You’ll notice that Hootsuite also offers a paid version, with more reports and functionality. Typically, the free version will give most businesses what they need.

You may choose to pay for Hootsuite if:

  • You want to access more reports
  • You want your account to be managed by more than one person

Keyword (Not Provided). Thanks, Google.

Any SEO worth their salt will know that keyword (not provided) is a big issue. As Google continues to refine its algorithms, it’s always seemed that they were doing so with positive user experience in mind. But not this time. Google, this is for you:

keyword (not provided)

Because some things are too important to lose…

What to do when your keyword is (not provided)

I’d recommend taking a look at Moz’s Whiteboard Tuesday video for a really valuable overview from Rand Fishkin:

I’d also suggest a read of Abra Millar’s post for Hallam Internet, where she summarises well what SEOs can do when faced with (not provided):

Life after Keyword (Not Provided)

So what happens now? I’m sure we can all agree that the loss of keyword data is going to impact digital marketers. Apart from the issues we’ll face with client reporting and justifying our work, we’re simply going to struggle to understand our users in a way that helps us to improve the user experience.

Is this a money-making initiative from the Big G? An attempt to draw us all in through years of freemium services only to pull the plug once we’re ‘addicted’? Just a couple of the theories circulating the interwebs now.

But whatever the reason, however much we might feel like our parachute has been taken from us mid-skydive, keyword data is going to be far more difficult to obtain. And as digital marketers, we need to adapt.

Or…

Obviously, we’re going to need to adapt to this change from Google. But in the spirit of good spirits, I’d like to set everyone reading this a challenge in the hope that maybe, just maybe, a small movement that starts right here on the blog of a small-fry SEO, can catch the attention of Google and persuade them that (not provided) is (not right).

My challenge to you is to create your own image/video, inspired by the one above, which shows incredibly important elements being omitted to negative effect.

Post links to your images in the comments below, or share them on Twitter by tweeting @lauralhampton using the hashtag #NotProvidedWhatIf

Because if you can’t laugh about it…

Guest Post: The Impact of Social Media on Customer Service

Customer experience consultant Ian GoldingSocial media as channel for customer service has featured heavily on my blog in recent months – firstly thanks to my experience with social media customer service from O2 and then with a follow up to blogger Martin Macdonald’s experience with British Gas. In this guest post, customer experience consultant Ian Golding gives his point of view:

I am not the easiest of customers to deal with. As someone who helps organisations understand how to consistently deliver experiences that meet and exceed customer expectation, I am naturally always assessing the experiences I have myself.

If I am ever unfortunate to have a negative experience with a brand, I take it upon myself to seek out someone in ‘responsibility’ and politely feedback about that experience. Similarly, I have always made a point of feeding back when I have had a good experience, too.

Customer Service Before Social Media

One of the problems of doing this in the past was that, in order to ‘get help’ or ‘feedback’, you could only do it in one of four ways:

  1. Face to Face – easy for some to do, but not so for others. It can sometimes be intimidating or uncomfortable to seek someone out in the human form, especially if they are not completely open to feedback.
  2. Telephone – yes, the good old telephone was a common way of asking for help – and it may be a surprise to many that it still is! The number of people using telephone channels for customer service is on the rise, not the other way around.
  3. Letter – a very effective way of communicating with organisations – especially if you needed to complain. A hand written letter landing on the desk of a CEO (or Managing Director back then) was always sure to get a reaction.
  4. Email – used to be the ‘new’ channel for customer contact. Although quicker than ‘white mail’ (as letters are commonly referred to), it has always been a little unreliable – hence why most preferred to use the phone.

Recently, the way many of us have sought to rectify customer service issues or feedback positive and negative experiences has changed dramatically. Although all of the channels listed above still exist, there is now a far easier, quicker and accessible way of getting to an organisation – through their social media.

Social Media for Customer Service

The advent of Twitter and Facebook (among others) has enabled consumers all over the world to have a voice. These new communication channels have opened up new possibilities in customer service; we can send a tweet to someone, even if they do not know us.

What this means is that we are now more likely to speak out than ever before. Picking up the phone, writing an email, writing a letter – all of these methods of contact require considerable effort. Sending a 140 character tweet requires considerably less.

I started using Twitter to express my dissatisfaction (and satisfaction) with the organisations I transact with over a year ago. I have found it to be an amazing way of getting the service and help I need.  Earlier this year, one of my daughters unfortunately bit into a chocolate Éclair from Waitrose that was missing the cream! A quick tweet later and Waitrose were already on the case to sort it out:

social media customer serviceI had a poor experience in a Holiday Inn in Walsall, and again a tweet led to me receiving a call from the relevant manager in the hotel within the hour.

And I started to realise how amazing it was that customer service could become almost immediate – I also felt that, as a consumer, I could start to have more control of the experiences I had.

Consistency is Key in Social Media Customer Service

The most significant social media customer service experience for me happened in May this year. I had a poor experience at the bakery department in my local Morrisons. To cut a very long story short, my tweet to Morrisons ended up with me getting a personal call from the general manager of the store, and a permanent resolution to my issue that would benefit other customers.

To me, the impact of social media on customer service is easy to see. But is it really that simple? Can you expect to get the kind of responses that I received every time?

Sadly not. For all of the great examples I can quote, there are just as many poor ones. In fact, a good friend of mine who is a social media expert contacted other customers who had tweeted Morrisons on the same day as me. We wanted to determine if all Morrisons’ customers were dealt with in the same way or whether what happened to me was a ‘one off’; the results showed that the experience I had was not replicated for everyone we asked, and that therefore Morrisons’ customer service was not consistent even within this one channel.

There seem to be so many factors that determine if the customer service you receive is good or not. This is why consistency of service is the biggest challenge of all.

Using Social Media for Customer Service Issues

This will not deter me from continuing to use social media channels to speak to companies in the future. When I have had a negative experience in the same Morrisons store and have taken my grievance to the customer service desk, I have been met with indifference and defensiveness. Could I have been certain that the right person (i.e. the general manager of the store) would ever be told about my feedback? Social media has taken away this problem. I can leave very public feedback whether the person on the customer service desk likes it or not.

One thing I do believe though is that the consumer needs to know/learn how to use social media channels to feedback. In my opinion, just because Twitter is public, it does not mean that you should embark on a ranting excursion to bring everlasting shame on an organisation that you feel has under-served you.  Creating conflict will not enamour anyone to want to help you.

Offering factual constructive, polite feedback is an effective method for social media customer service and should lead to the response you need. If that does not work, rather than ranting, I would suggest you have learned all you need to know about the organisation you are trying to communicate with. Next time, vote with your feet and do not give them your hard earned money!

Should Social Media be a Tool for Consumer Battles?

Social media is primarily used as a tool for customer engagement, where brands grow their following through interactions and shared content.

But more and more, we’re seeing instances of consumers turning that around. In fact, in a recent post, I explored how brands use social media for customer service, and why it’s really not enough after telecommunications brand O2 failed to answer my requests until I spoke publicly to them via Twitter. Today, another case has arisen which has caught my attention.

Consumer vs British Gas

Martin Macdonald works for Expedia EAN and is well known and respected in the digital marketing community. He has a good following on all of his social media, and his blog is widely read. As I type this, Martin is launching his campaign against  British Gas (and more specifically, @BritishGasHelp ) following unsatisfactory communications with their customer service team.

Already, Martin has a Twitter campaign centred around publically naming and shaming @BritishGasHelp, which is gaining retweets from some of his influential followers (as well as some response from British Gas themselves). He’s also created a Facebook page which aims to draw further attention to his plight and what he is terming the ‘Dyno Rod Scam @BritishGasHelp‘.

And low and behold, in the time it’s taken for me to write this post, Martin’s received a response:

dyno rod british gas scamI do wish Martin well and hope it gets the resolution he seeks. He has the knowledge to utilise social media in this way and is clearly making use of it – potentially in a way that many other British Gas customers could not.

That said, it angers me that anyone should have to resort to what is essentially a social media battle in order to get results. As I stated in my post about O2 social media customer service:

“When we condition our audience to believe that they’ll only get good service by airing their grievances publicly, they’re only going to air them publicly in the future.”

What brands need to realise is that cases like mine, Martin’s and Ian Golding‘s (who commented on my previous post with his experience with Morrisons social media team) are not one-offs. Where once brands found consumers just starting out in social media, they now find consumers who are far more savvy in their use of Facebook, Twitter etc and it is those consumers who are being empowered by brands’ shortcomings – and who represent a threat to the brand they take on, and social media customer service as a whole.

Customer Service is Not a PR Activity

As more and more people take to social media to air their grievances, brands will have to find a way to manage them. I noted in my O2 post that managing expectations is key; brands need to let customers know how to contact them, what response time they can expect and so on.

They also need to make sure their social media team is just as customer-service-centric as all other customer facing departments – essentially, the customer service reps on the phones and in stores need to be just as well equipped to respond quickly and effectively as their social media counterparts.

Customer service is NOT a PR activity, nor should it be. A privately aired grievance should bear just as much weight as one aired via Twitter – customers deserve that and brands need to provide it.

A Battle to the Death?

But equally, as consumers we must act conscientiously. Whilst I have cited examples here of people taking to social media in order to get a faster response, we also see cases where a full on campaign has been launched and when this activity starts to be replicated, we risk bringing down the very platform we use to empower us.

Social media should lead to positivity. It is a medium through which brands can engage with their customers and where we as consumers can strengthen our affiliations with those brands. When we use social media against those brands, we’ve got to wonder… will social media for business continue to thrive? Or will we see businesses change their approach to social media, or even cease to use it entirely?

I’d love to get your thoughts in the comments below, or tweet me @lauralhampton using #SMBattles. You can follow Martin’s battle via his blog.

Succeeding on Google Post-Penguin 2.0 [Feature]

Enterprise Nation - Small business success post Penguin 2.0SEO is a complicated business – especially when large updates like Panda and Penguin threaten to alter the algorithms and consequently, your rankings on the Google search engine.

In a feature for Enterprise Nation, I explain how to use Penguin 2.0 to your advantage to ensure you succeed post-update. Take a look at the full article at the link below:

Enterprise Nation | How small businesses can succeed post Penguin 2.0

5 Reasons Why SEO is Awesome

Why do SEOI really enjoy SEO. Not because I’m a technophile or because I enjoy chatting about java script and HTML5. I enjoy it because it makes sense and because it forces us all to do what we say we do, to do it well and to get other people to recommend us for it too.

So when a content manager told me they don’t believe in SEO or ‘content for SEO purposes’, I was confused.

SEO is the consequence of what users want. It is the output of user searches which are themselves the result of a need or desire, and to suggest any lesser value to content which is born from SEO findings is absurd. Indeed, you might argue that content without SEO foundations is of very little value to everyone because if no one seeks to find it, it’s purpose is entirely questionable.

So for all the marketers, all the content managers, all the SEOs, all the product managers, all the commercial execs, all the finance people…. for everyone who works in anything, here are 5 reasons why SEO is simply awesome:

1) It’s all about The Truth

SEO is sometimes seen as incredibly technical with a constantly moving goal. But at it’s very core, it’s never changed. It’s about telling people what you do, being really good at it and getting other people to say you’re awesome too. In this way, it forces us to be true to who we are and what we do; attempting to fool search engines or users is nigh on impossible.

2) It helps us to be what we need to be for our customers

No SEO worth their salt will attempt to sell their clients ‘rankings’. Yes, a higher ranking results from good SEO but what is ranking without custom? In working to improve our rankings we need to establish what our value is to our customers and how they perceive it, empowering us to better understand who we are and also what they want (and adapting our offering when appropriate).

3) It puts expertise at the core of everything

So SEO is about telling people what you do. But ‘telling people what you do’ could take many forms. SEO forces us to tell people what we do by fully explaining our expertise – and to explain our expertise, we must possess that expertise. No update has been more indicative of this than Google Authorship; we must be the experts in what we do. Good news for existing experts. Good news for customers. Bad news for anyone who’s not very good at what they do…

4) It repositions content as king

In a world where web editors had started an unsavoury trend of cutting content down for the web, SEO and, in particular, Google’s Panda Update have halted proceedings and said ‘hey, no! Content is king and it should stay that way!’. High quality content spread around the web (in a natural way of course) will always win out.

5) It binds together everything we do

Of course, all businesses have a common goal – to make money. But SEO gives increased focus to that goal. It encourages every department, every team member to understand how they contribute to the expertise of the business and everything we do can be tracked to its SEO benefit. SEO is no longer something to be controlled by a collection of people who are perceived to hold an almost magical power over the Google beast – it must be embraced by everyone in the business if the business is to succeed.

Today, SEOMoz announced their rebranding to Moz. It’s a big move for the company but one which seems founded in very valid reasoning. It is a sad truth of the SEO industry that the very term could well be its downfall; people hear SEO and think ‘black hat’ or segregate the activities to a separate area of the business – or as Rand Fishkin says, “SEO is seen as a narrow set of activities that move rankings up and bring search visitors in”.

As the term ‘inbound marketing’ continues to do the rounds, I’d suggest you keep watching; SEO as term might die out but the inherent value of SEO must be embraced.

/rant

How to Start Your Own Blog

How to create your own blogStarting your own blog is a great way to showcase expertise, boost your job search or simply find a creative outlet. Starting a blog can be daunting, so here are some tips to help you along. I’ll refer to ‘business’, meaning a blog for a business purpose, and ‘individual’ as shorthand for a personal blog.

1) Identify your purpose

A blog shouldn’t be a diary. Simply writing about your day or jotting down everything you think about can make for a haphazard blog that no one wants to follow.

Instead, identify your purpose or your theme. As a business, what is your area of expertise? As an individual, what are you passionate about or expert in? Creating a consistent theme and posting on topics around that will help you create a useful resource or source of entertainment that people will keep coming back to.

Once you know what you’re going to write about, you’ll need to…

2) Find the right blogging platform for you

As an individual, there is a range of free blogging platforms for you to use. The most common are Blogger and WordPress.com. I host my blog on WordPress because it offers good analytics and is easy to use. It’s also easy to attach to CMS systems like Drupal should I ever want to incorporate it into a website.

As a business, you’re faced with a choice; host your blog on your own domain, or host it outside of your main domain. For the majority of businesses, the best choice is to host it on your own domain due to the SEO benefit and ease of use for the user.

Once you’ve found a blogging platform…

3) Choose your URL

Whether you’re a business or an individual, you’ll need to find a URL that suits your purpose.

As a business hosting the blog on your own domain, your blog will likely sit at ‘www.mybusinesswebsite.com/blog’ but think about whether you could improve that. If you’re an expert in wine, that’s what you’re selling and that’s what your blogging about, how about ‘www.mybusinesswebsite.com/wine-blog’? There is some SEO benefit (albeit relatively small) to using key terms in your URL.

The same applies to individuals – when choosing your URL, if you’re not hosting it on your own domain, it’s likely going to looking something like ‘prefix.wordpress.com’. On my blog, I chose to use my own name in my blog title, not because I’m slightly conceited but because my intention is to use my blog to build my own reputation and the name is consistent across all of my social media as a means of achieving this. You may choose to do the same, or you may think about including key terms referring to what you will write about.

4) Incorporate Google Authorship

This sounds more daunting that it is! Google Authorship is a mechanism through which Google can recognise the author of any given post and assign appropriate value to that post and to the author who wrote it. It’s increasingly more important in SEO as the author’s identity can give a good indication of the quality of the content.

Take a look at this post on adding Google authorship to WordPress for instructions.

5) Write!

The value of a good blog is in up to date, fresh content. So write something! I’d recommend setting up a Twitter account if you don’t already have one; follow people who tweet about what you blog about and engage with them, listen to what they say and be inspired. You can post your new blog updates to Twitter/LinkedIn/Facebook etc. when you post them or, depending on the platform, you can set this up automatically.

 

Good luck! Please feel free to comment below and let me know how you get on or post any questions you may have. If you’re interested in how to improve the SEO on your blog, take a look at my beginner’s guide to on page SEO.

How to Manage Customer Service via Social Media (and why it’s really not enough)

O2 social media customer service excels whilst all other forms failSocial media empowers customers. It provides all of us a public medium through which to share our praise or, as is becoming more common, to voice our grievances.

As marketers, we should embrace this. Enhanced communication is a fantastic thing and when our customers feel so connected to our brand that they engage with us on social media, we’re doing a good job.

Or are we?

When it comes to customer service, there are dangers we need to avoid. As our social media customer service improves, there are companies for whom more traditional customer service is suffering.

When social outshines traditional CS

As those who follow me on Twitter will have gathered, I’ve been having some ‘challenging times’ with telecomms provider O2 terrible customer service. Not wanting to publically air my issues, I spent over a month communicating solely with their call centre and their online chat. But it was only when I changed my tact and went via their o2 on Twittermedia that, a full 6 weeks later,  my issue was resolved thanks to the understanding and competency of the team on Twitter.

It’s fantastic news for O2 that their social media team performed so well. They displayed some real key elements of good customer service:

1) They responded within an hour – an expectation for social media comms;
2) They handled my query without passing me off to another team (although they may well have communicated with other teams themselves);
3) They weren’t afraid to take the issue offline. In fact, one girl called me directly on the phone so she could explain something more clearly.

It’s very bad new, however, that O2’s online chat and call centre services fell down on every one of these points (they even managed to damage my phone due to their poor handling of the issue, leading to them having to send me a new, upgraded handset for free).

Managing expectations on social media

Whilst ensuring social media channels are fully managed in a way that enables them to perform customer service well, it is essential that they are not the only medium for good customer service.

In the case of O2 as an example, were I to require their assistance again, I would go through their social media team without second thought. And I’d do it publically, having now been conditioned to believe that I’ll get better, faster service by asking for it with the world watching.

If other O2 customers catch on to this, they’ll probably do the same. And O2’s Twitter feed will start to fill up with queries and complaints, putting them in the position of ‘fire fighting’ rather than allowing them to develop their online voice.

When we condition our audience to believe that they’ll only get good service by airing their grievances publicly, they’re only going to air them publicly in the future.

It’s a key lesson for digital marketing. Yes, we must optimise our social media channels, but it is only through maintaining every single customer touch point that we can provide the customer experience the today’s audiences expect.

Gaining Work Experience After Uni [Feature]

Gaining experience in work post-uni can be difficult, and is a constant source of frustration for those job-seekers for whom it seems experience is a necessary pre-requisite of gaining experience…

In my latest offering for Grads.co.uk, I’ve given my advice on how to get work experience after university.

How to gain work experience after uni | Grads.co.uk