Last weekend, I attended a conference at a nice resort and brought the whole family. We tried the hotel restaurant and went on Foursquare to look for tips and a possible check-in special. To my surprise, the hotel was very active on Foursquare and offered a free appetizer for checking into the restaurant. When I showed the unlocked special to the server, he looked puzzled and said he had no idea what I was showing him. He had to go back and forth with his manager a few times, and eventually, everything worked out and I got the shrimp tacos on the house. They were delicious.
Very happy about the deal and very satisfied with the meal, I tweeted about how great the offer was, even though the staff had no idea they were on Foursquare. Not long after, there was an @reply from the resort apologizing for their uninformed staff. Of course, it was no big deal for me because a free appetizer is a free appetizer.
Spending just a few minutes looking through the resort’s profile, it was obvious that they were very well-versed in the social media space. Their Twitter account had over 2000 followers, 3100 tweets, and were on over 130 lists. They were very engaged and responded quickly. They retweeted useful content, used hashtags appropriately, and had a very likable personality…displaying all the good practices for businesses on Twitter. Likewise on Foursquare, they had over 1500 check-ins from over 800 people, being available for at least the past two years.
So why was the staff unaware of their social media special? And why was I not surprised?
Perhaps the restaurant staff that night was new, but it’s a very unique situation. Plenty of times I’ll go into a business, show them the check-in special, Facebook coupon, Twitter discount code, or any other social media promotion, and get a “let me ask a manager” confused response from the person behind the counter.
Which makes me wonder, is your social media activity done in a bubble, or is it integrated with related business lines? For some organizations, especially in government, social media is an experiment or a “pet project” done on the side, disconnected from the rest of the organization. However, social media activities should involve related business lines and program areas, since they are the ones that engage with customers. If your communications expert/social media guru/marketing maven/web 2.0 ninja is interacting with your customers, most likely it’s being done behind a closed door. Eventually, the customer will need to interface with the organization, and it would make for a more pleasant experience if the person behind the counter were aware of the situation.
Of course, some transactions will be specific to a single customer and it’s not practical to inform your entire staff that Mr. so-and-so might be walking into any one of your 11 stores with a particular issue. Regardless, your staff should at least be aware that
- you are on the social network,
- you do offer certain promotions or special deals for customers, and
- what an authentic promotion code looks like.
Eventually, if your social media “experiment” turns out to be a viable and sustainable program area in your organization, it is important to integrate the activities with relevant business lines and staff. Just like any IT solution, it should be aligned with the program it supports, especially if customer service is involved.