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Introduction

Get to know me and why I’m here.

 

Hello everyone, and thanks for stopping by to read my blog! My name is Chloe and I am currently studying human resources at NAIT in Edmonton, AB. My career so far has been all about the hospitality industry, which I hope to continue in and strive to great success. I love this industry as it’s fun, and of course has lots of food and drinks! I love seeing people come to my restaurant and enjoy the food and beverages, and overall experience. It’s my passion to be in this industry and work with employees in a human resource role, to ensure we have the right people with the right attitudes, to take the business to its full potential. Employees are a businesses biggest asset, so we as managers need to ensure we are working with these people every day to bring out their best abilities and traits so they shine to all customers. After all, our business wouldn’t succeed without great employees, so why wouldn’t we invest in them if they invest their own time into our work!

This blog is for my social media marketing class, which I will blog about the readings and ideas presented to me, and how I interpret and feel about them, while relating it back to the hospitality industry. I hope you enjoy and look forward to your own thoughts! Cheers!

Energizing the Groundswell

As described in chapter 7 of Groundswell, energizing means tapping into the power of word of mouth, by connecting with your most committed customers (Li & Bernoff, 2011). Word of mouth is successful because it’s believable, it’s self-reinforcing, and it’s self-spreading (Li & Bernoff, 2011).

Word of mouth is super honest, whether what people are saying is good or bad, as it is not coming from your direct employees. It’s previous and current customers talking about your services and products. This form of energizing has become so powerful that companies are willing to pay critics to talk about their company (Li & Bernoff, 2011).

Techniques for Connecting With Energizing Enthusiasts

There are 3 basic techniques a company could use in order to connect with their enthusiastic energizers:

  1. Tap into customers enthusiasm with ratings and reviews

    This works best for companies with direct customer contact, like the retail or hospitality business (Li & Bernoff, 2011). People will buy your products, and then review them online for the world to see. Encourage those who love your products to get online and write reviews to get your company ratings up, and drive business.

  2. Create a community to energize your customers

    This technique works best for customers that are truly passionate about your products, and have an affinity for each other, especially in the business to business setting (Li & Bernoff, 2011). 

  3. Participate in and energize online communities of your brand

    This technique is used when there are already online communities created by people that are not associated with your company. When these communities are already thriving, it is best to join them instead of starting a new one. They’ve already done all the work, now its just time to start communicating!

Techniques for Applying Energizing to Your Company

  1. Figure out if you want to energize the groundswell

    Energizing isn’t for everyone, so the first thing you will need to do is listen to your customers. Figure out what they are saying about your company and products, whether good or bad, and see if you want to pursue. The benefits are great however, and you get to hear and see what people are thinking.
  2. Check the social technographics profile of your customers

    You need to determine where on this ladder your customers are in order to really embrace the groundswell community, and ensure you are communicating in the right area. Theres no point trying to push people to write reviews and blogs about your company if they are only spectators on the ladder!

  3. Ask yourself, “what is my customers problem?”

    It’s rare that communities form themselves around your products. Again, listen to your customers and see which problems are arising, and then go in the direction you need too.

  4. Pick a strategy that fits your customer’ social technographics profile and problem

    Make sure you know your customers technographic profile, and build a strategy based on that. If your customers are spectators or conversationalists, its best to get on social media sites and start conversations through those!

  5. Don’t start unless you can stick around for the long haul

    A community is something that needs constant care and monitoring. If you don’t have someone that can take care of this then maybe it’s not a good thing to begin.

Energizing in the Restaurant Biz

In the hospitality and restaurant industry, in my opinion the best technique for connecting with your energizers from the 3 listed above would be to tap into the reviews and ratings. One of our main goals is to keep customers coming back, and while there’s only so much advertising we can do to keep people coming in to the restaurant, we can use those already regular, energized customers to do it for us. We can encourage people to go on review websites like TripAdvisor, OpenTable, or Tomato and write reviews for everyone to see.

Figure 7-1 taken from Groundswell describes the different sources people trust. At the top of the list is recommendations at 73%, so we can see that word of mouth is a super powerful tool that restaurants can also count on. Embracing every customer that walks through those doors and give them an unbelievable experience will hopefully encourage people to talk to their friends about their experience and bring in new customers.

Consumer ratings and reviews fall third in the list at 62%, which is still a good amount. This is why encouraging the regular customers, or even those that enjoyed their experience to review online will be a good ROI. I currently work for a restaurant that puts an advertisement in all the bill folds that encourages people to write a review, and provides the website that they can go to. This way when the customer is paying their bill, they see the card and will remember (and hopefully go on to) write a review.

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From personal experience I am also one to go on review sites to check what people are saying about a restaurant before I visit. I do trust what people say and it definitely helps my decision whether to visit or not depending on what they are saying. From this, along with working in the restaurant industry and knowing how important word of mouth and reviews are, it’s something I encourage all restaurant managers to implement energizing into their strategies.

Until next time!

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Reference

Li, C., Bernoff, J. (2011). Groundswell: Winning in a world transformed by social technologies. Boston, MA: Harvard Business Review Press.

Tapping the Groundswell with Twitter

Twitter is one of the easiest, but powerful social media sites that is available to us right now. Twitter is now an essential part of the groundswell, and all companies that want to have an online presence should get on Twitter and start up some conversations; In 140 characters that is. However, “the richness that Twitter packs into these tiny updates is amazing” (Li & Bernoff, 2011, pg. 197).

Here are some elements that makes Twitter so unique to the groundswell:

  • Followers: Twitter also people to connect with whoever they want, which forms connections quickly, and enables people to develop followers in the thousands or hundreds of thousands (Li & Bernoff, 2011).

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  • Hashtags and Searches: Hashtags are more precise than other searches, and because by default they are public, it makes them searchable (Li & Bernoff, 2011). This makes it super easy for people or companies to see what people are talking about.

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  • Mentions and Retweets: Twitter makes it easy for people to reply or reference another Twitter user within a tweet, simply by using the @ symbol, along with the users Twitter name (Li & Bernoff, 2011). As for retweeting, this allows you to share others messages at the simple click of a button, and allows for ideas to spread virally, really fast (Li & Bernoff, 2011).

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  • Links: Only having 140 characters makes links very convenient in your tweet. This could include links to articles, blogs, websites that you want to share with your followers, and gives more space to write something along with it! You can also shorten links using a URL shortener, like this one.

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  • Lists: Twitter added the ability to create lists of people you follow and share them (Li & Bernoff, 2011). This allows you to organize your followers and share this information with others, so they may follow them too.

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  • Apps and Tools: One of the best tools for Twitter users is TweetDeck. A free application that links with your Twitter account, to see your news feed, messages, and notifications across one full size screen in real time. This allows for better organization and engagement. Below is an example of my personal TweetDeck.

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Twitter and the Five Groundswell Objectives

As we’ve talked about before it’s important to listen and talk with your customers online. Every company needs a primary objective, however being ready for anything is always a good thing. Here’s how to use Twitter for each of the groundswell objectives:

  • Listening to Twitter – Someone should always be monitoring this, and keep track of what people are saying about your company and products. Look at trends people are tweeting about, and identify if any influential people are talking about your products.
  • Talking to Twitter – Get involved and start talking with people, just listening isn’t always going to work. Respond to questions and concerns, retweet interesting things your followers might like, and market your business. But don’t overload your feed with advertisements as this could annoy your followers.
  • Energizing with Twitter – This starts with listening, and enables you to find those you want to energize. This includes people that like your product and current follow you. Energizing simply means responding to fans and retweeting them, as well as giving them content to tweet about (Li & Bernoff, 2011). People will get excited if a big named company starts following them and retweeting things they are saying, it gives them a following too!
  • Supporting with Twitter – More companies are using Twitter as a means for support, by answering customer inquiries, questions and concerns. Instead of waiting on long drawn out phone calls, people resort to tweeting to the company in order to get the answer they need.
  • Embracing with Twitter – collaborating with customers on products or marketing strategies can be the toughest objective, however can be beneficial (Li & Bernoff, 2011). Twitter makes it even harder, as there are only 140 characters available, and be able to gather a big enough following. Driving customers to partake in surveys along with an incentive to do so will help this spread. Asking people for new ideas will also help them feel empowered, and keep the conversation going on your Twitter.

What to Include in Your Twitter Strategy

Below are a list of things to incorporate into your Twitter strategy to help in succeed.

  1. Lock up your handle
  2. Listen first
  3. Be ready to support people
  4. Follow others
  5. Be ready for a crisis
  6. Respond, retweet, link
  7. Staff it
  8. Check with legal and regulatory staff
  9. Having gathered a following, don’t waste it

Reference

Li, C., & Bernoff, J. (2011). Groundswell: winning in a world transformed by social technologies. Boston, MA: Harvard Business Review Press.

Helping the Groundswell Support Itself

In chapter 8 of Groundswell, Li & Bernoff (2011) explain how companies are switching from the traditional way of customer support, to new and innovative ways like blogs, wikis, and forums. These can be used instead of the old fashioned call centres, that actually cost way more money to run, an average of $6-$7 per call, and that increases to $10-$20 if you need technical support (Li & Bernoff, 2011).

Companies have resorted to outsourcing to try save costs in labour. Call centres run about 40% lower in wages than in North America (Li & Bernoff, 2011). However, customers don’t really care how much money a company is saving, they care about the service and getting their problems resolved fast and efficiently. People are tired of long wait times, hit or miss quality, and lots of paperwork (Li & Bernoff, 2011). That’s why people are resorting to online forums, Q&As and wikis to answer their questions and fix their problems. They don’t even need the company in order to get the answers they need; they can use each other. People can post questions and answer them between themselves. Companies can just monitor these sites, get involved and respond back, or create their own forums.

There are 3 things to consider before starting this move:

  1. What problem is your support activity trying to solve?
    Look at this from the customers perspective. Why do people want to participate? Don’t participate in a narrow market either, and specialize in one area of the business. Branch out and think bigger.
  2. How will you participate?
    These communities need activity, so regular updates are key for success. You also need to ensure you are reaching out to the right customer base, using your technographics profile you created on your customers. During the first year, the community will require lots of your attention, with staff and resources dedicated to it (Li & Bernoff, 2011). Drive customers to these forums and blogs, get people talking, and talk back!
  3. Should you create a support community or join an existing one?
    There are forums and blogs out there that companies didn’t even create, but are getting a lot of buzz and responds on them. Most of the work is already done for your company, you just need to get involved and start responding, and make it clear that it’s your company that is talking back. If these don’t exist, then you should create your own. Eventually these will blow up and get lots of people talking, and eventually they will do most of the work for you.

Advice for Getting Started With a Community

  • Start small, but plan for a larger presence- As in many groundswell activities, starting small leads to success. Figure out what works best for your customers, specialize it, and expand. 
  • Reach out to your most active customers – Find those who participate the most in the online forums and ask their opinion on how to run things. They have expertise, so keeping their support and enthusiasm is crucial.
  • Plan to drive traffic to your community – No one knows you exist, so you need to find ways to drive traffic. Advertise the forums where your customers browse, shop and on your own website. Consider buying search listings on Google or Yahoo! search.
  • Build in a reputation system – Give those who participate a lot points, which will give them more credibility towards others. People will see their expertise and knowledge in areas and go to them for advice.
  • Let your customers lead you –  The customers know what they want, and you should let them tell you what you are doing right and wrong. It would be helpful to set up a “how can we improve” forum and let people comment, but pay attention to what they are saying and fix what needs to be fixed!

 

Reference

Li, C. Bernoff, J. (2011). Groundswell: winning in a world transformed by social technologies. Boston, MA: Harvard Business Press.

Talking with the Groundswell

This week was all about talking with our customers, and not just shouting at them when it comes to advertising and communication. In 2009, marketers spent more than $400 billion on advertising , mostly on TV commercials (Li & Bernoff, 2011). This isn’t talking, this is shouting. Companies need to create personalized ways for communicating with their customers, instead of the old fashioned way of TV commercials which are becoming  ineffective.

The Marketing Funnel

Below is the marketing funnel concept, which describes how consumers go down the path from awareness to purchase and loyalty (Li & Bernoff, 2011). Advertisements, or shouting, brings people in to the funnel metaphor, and once they get to the middle, shouting doesn’t work at all (Li & Bernoff, 2011). Once customers are in the middle of the funnel, this is when companies need to reel them in with a personalized experience, which will hopefully bring in a purchase. Using the social media sites and communication forums we have discussed in previous blogs, companies can start conversations with current and potential customers, instead of shouting at them in commercials.

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Techniques for Talking with the Groundswell 

Although there are many ways to talk with customers, below are four of the most effective ways to communicate, along with some examples within the hospitality industry!

  1. Post a viral video 

    Post a video and let people share it amongst their social media sites. A great example of a company who does this is West Jet. I’ve seen so many videos of amazing things they do for so many people, and although this isn’t advertising people to buy their flights, its a form of communicating in which people remember the amazing things they do and will more than likely choose their company over another.This video is one that’s close to home. The Fort McMurray wild fires brought so much devastation to so many people, so West Jet decided to host a Christmas party for them to release some stress and create memories with their family. They also threw in a free flight for everyone that attended! How amazing is that! This video was trending all over social media, which thousands of people saw. Yeah they gave away some flights, but image the publicity they got and how much more money they made by connecting and communicating with people on a personal level like that.

  2.   Engage in social networks and user generated content sites.

    Creating a social media presence online is a great way to extend your brand reach. A company that does really well with this is Taco Bell. They are all over Twitter replying to peoples tweets. Below are some examples of types of conversations they get into. They have a great sense of humour that so many people love!enhanced-buzz-23115-1342106429-8taco-bell-social-media
  3. Join the blogosphere.
    Empower your executives and staff to write blogs, and don’t just listen, talk! Responding back to comments and blogs is an integral part of the strategy (Li & Bernoff, 2011).

    Marriott International is one company that connects with their customers through a blogosphere called Marriott on the Move. This blog is written by Bill Marriott, the executive chairmen, and chairmen of the board for Marriott International, as well as the son of the founder of Marriott. Although he is in his 80’s, he realized that the world is changing to a heavily online presence, and the internet is a huge part of a companies success. He adapted to this change and is succeeding in it quite well through his blog. Goes to show you are never to old to join the online world!

  4. Create a community. 

    Communities are powerful ways to engage with customers and deliver value to them (Li & Bernoff, 2011). As long as you listen and don’t just shout, this is also a good way to market your brand (Li & Bernoff, 2011).

 

10 Tips for Successful Blogging

In Groundswell, Li & Bernoff (2011) give 10 tips to implement the strategy and goals you wish to accomplish. Remember to first start with the POST process before beginning.

  1. Start by listening.
  2. Determine a goal for the blog.
  3. Estimate the ROI.
  4. Develop a plan.
  5. Rehearse.
  6. Develop an editorial process.
  7. Design the blog and its connection to your site.
  8. Develop a marketing plan so people can find the blog.
  9. Blogging is more than just writing.
  10. Be honest.

 

Reference

Li, C. Bernoff, J. (2011). Groundswell: winning in a world transformed by social technologies. Boston, MA: Harvard Business Press.

 

 

 

Strategies for Tapping the Groundswell

This weeks reading was all about the POST process. POST stands for people, objectives, strategy, and technology. This is the foundation of groundswell thinking; a framework for creating a plan (Li & Bernoff, 2011).

Breakdown of the POST Process

People – The technographics profile will come into play here. It’s important to understand how your customers will engage, based on what they’re already doing (Li & Bernoff, 2011, pg. 67). We need to understand what our customers are doing in order to build the right strategy, otherwise we could be wasting our time and the whole strategy will fail.

Objectives – What goals and objectives do you want to achieve? There are five powerful objectives one could use in order to achieve your desired outcomes which include:

  1. Listening – Choose this goal if you are seeking customer insights to use in marketing and development (Li & Bernoff, 2011).
  2. Talking – Choose this goal if you want to achieve a more interactive channel (Li & Bernoff, 2011).
  3. Energizing – Choose this if your customer base already has a good following, and just want to improve the enthusiasm in your customers (LI & Bernoff, 2011).
  4. Supporting – This is great for companies with significant support costs and who have customers that support each other (Li & Bernoff, 2011).
  5. Embracing – The most challenging, however best used if the company has already succeeded with the other goals (Li & Bernoff, 2011).

Strategy – How do you want the relationship with your customers to change? How are you going to achieve your desired goals and objectives? You need to have a proper, well executed plan in place in order to achieve your outcome, and measure the success once the strategy is underway.

Technology – After you have decided on the people, objectives, and strategy, you can now decide what technology you are going to use. This technology would be that described in chapter 2 of The Groundswell, and includes blogs, wikis and social media sites (Li & Bernoff, 2011).

Relating POST to the Hospitality Industry

In my future endeavours, I would like to be a HR manager in the hospitality industry, whether that be in a hotel or restaurant chain, I haven’t fully decided yet. I would like to show an example of the POST process relating to my industry, and to narrow it down I will choose a sports bar chain.

People

First we need to look at our technographic profile of our customers, which would be male or female, ages 18-25. This would be our target clientele. On the technographics ladder, they would most likely be conversationalists and joiners. They would participate across many social media platforms, including Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, post frequently, engage in conversations, and maintain a profile (Li & Bernoff, 2011).

Objectives

As this target market is heavily involved in social media, some objectives that would be considered include:

  • Engage in conversation with potential and current customers across social media platforms.
  • Listen and record what people are saying about the company, by tracking review sites and social media sites.
  • A marketing tool, as it is a free or cheap way to reach many customers. Share photos, events and information about the bar to engage potential and current customers.
  • As this is a sports bar, sharing information on sports stats and games would be good to incorporate also.

Most of the staff that work at the establishment would be around the same age of the target market (18-24), meaning they also would be heavily involved in social media. So it would be a good idea to get them involved as well on our social media pages and share information and events with their friends and followers.

Strategy

In the hospitality industry, building relationships with customers is key to success. We will need to use our social media platforms to stay connected with them outside of the workplace. People get annoyed with your social media sites if all they see is a company trying to make sales. Engaging in meaningful conversations and interesting topics will keep customers engaged in the site. For example, we can post stories, sports stats, photos and videos of sports related content, and keep customers up to date on the latest news for local sports teams. This shows people that we are more focused on relationships than trying to get money out of them (even though that is a goal of course).

Technology

The types of platforms we will use include social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, as well as review sites like TripAdvisor and Google reviews to monitor what people are saying about us. Our goal is to engage in conversations and update our customers on our business, so these types of platforms should be enough to do that. As long as we are keeping up to date and using them regularly, our groundswell strategy should work.

Reference

Li, C. Bernoff, J. (2011). Groundswell: winning in a world transformed by social technologies. Boston, MA: Harvard Business Press.

How Connecting with the Groundswell Transforms your Company

Traditionally, companies use expensive television ads, or even go as far as Super Bowl ads to connect with their customers. We learned that Dove spent $2.5 million for a 30 second ad at the Super Bowl in 2006 (Li & Bernoff, 2011). Or Unilever, who spent $2.1 billion in the US on marketing in 2006, with 40% being primarily on TV, print, and the web (Li & Bernoff, 2011). We see companies spend millions of dollars each year for advertisements to connect with customers, yet there are so many free tools available to us with a much more personal touch.

In Groundswell chapter 11, we read about Dell, who successfully started blogging as a way to keep in contact with their customers, give advice, and resolve situations that occurred with their customer service or products. Dell first used the technique of listening, which is explained in chapter 5 of Groundswell, or in my previous blog. They then went on to talking with their customers, through the use of blogs, whether or not they were directly talking to someone, customers were still listening to what Dell had to say. Other than the cost of labour, Dell didn’t spend millions of dollars on TV advertisements to connect with these customers, just simple blog posts on the internet.

Li and Bernoff (2011, pg. 230), have five steps that companies should do in order to help them succeed with connecting to customers:

  1. Start small – The transformation will take time.
  2. Educate your executives – They can use this technology themselves, including blogs and social networking. Show them a technographics profile of the companies customers for a better understanding of who they are dealing with.
  3. Get the right people to run your strategy – Pick the person who has the most passion with connecting to your customers.
  4. Get your agency and technology partners in sync – If they don’t understand groundswell, get them to do some research (or find a new agency).
  5. Plan for the next step and for the long term – you want to know where this is going to take your company.

Restaurants can hop on this trend as well. Like I talked about in my previous blog, “Listening to the Groundswell”, we can use our social media and review sites to stay in contact with our customers. But what about thinking outside the box? Restaurants can get their customers to blog for them. People tag on their Facebook page when they visit a restaurant to show all their friends where they are. Or one of the biggest uses for Instagram, taking pictures of dishes from the restaurant you are at and posting it to your page, usually with a bunch of hashtags. This is advertising and blogging that is done for free, and a way for restaurants to connect with their customer base and see who is visiting their establishment.

Take for example the hashtag #yegfood on Instagram. This hashtag has over 233,000 tags of pictures from various restaurants in Edmonton that people, bloggers, or possibly restaurant staff have used to promote where they are eating or what dishes they ordered; that’s a lot of free marketing! Restaurants can jump in on this and create their own pages, hashtags, pictures, or even reply to other peoples posts to connect with them online. It’s time for restaurants to move into this online world and transform their business into something special, and reach out to a broader range of current and potential customers.

Reference 

Li, C., Bernoff, J. (2011). Groundswell: Winning in a world transformed by social technologies. USA: Forrester Research

Listening to the Groundswell

In chapter 5 of Groundswell, Li & Bernoff (2011), explain how listening to consumers, or in other words, market research, helps businesses understand what customers want, what they like, and what the business can improve on. We were introduced to two successful examples from the NCCN (National Comprehensive Cancer Network), and MINI, that used the idea of listening to help promote and drive business. These companies used market researchers and surveys to figure out what their customers were saying about their company.

We were also introduced to the idea that “your brand is what your customers say it is.” (Li & Bernoff, 2007, pg. 78). By listening to your customers you will be able to figure out what they think about you brand, and what they associate with it. Ricardo Guimaraes, founder of Thymus Branding, explains that “brands belong to customers, not companies.” (pg. 78). I do agree with this, as you don’t have a business without customers, and they are the ones that are buying into your product to keep you going. Companies create this idea of a brand, in hopes of something that they want to be. Now, they can go get the best quality products and market as much as they want, but if customers don’t buy into it, then there’s no value to it. Customers are the ones that are buying the products, and if they like it, will market for you by word of mouth, by writing reviews or blog posts, and will continue to buy your product; that is value. If it’s a bad product and no one buys it, no matter how much time, money and energy you put into it and how great you think it is, if customers don’t like it then it’s a dead brand with no value. Again, this all comes down to listening to what your consumers are saying about the products, and working with their feedback to improve or stabilize your products.

When it comes to the restaurant industry, we can listen to our consumers by monitoring our social media sites (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram), as well as the obvious review sites like TripAdvisor or Google Reviews. Review sites are becoming more and more popular to write good or bad reviews, and by listening to what customers have to say on these sites, we can figure out where the issues are and what we are doing right. Not only is it important to listen, but also to respond and create a solution to problems being presented to us. By taking the time to respond to these reviews on these sites, we are showing our customers that we care about their opinion, and can hopefully resolve the situation.

Unless you are a huge restaurant franchise that is bringing in sufficient revenues to invest in these companies that do market research for you, then it can be quite out of the budget. Although the information is very useful, it is a little pricey for most restaurants to use. Managers also don’t have thousands of hours to search through sites to see what customers are talking about, as the restaurant industry is very hands on and time consuming. Managers should however still be listening to their customers, and set time aside to search the internet in hopes of finding helpful information and reviews. Some tips from Groundswell (Li & Bernoff, 2011, pg. 93-96), to improve your listening include:

  • Find out what your brand stands for and how people perceive it.
  • Understand how the buzz is shifting, by what people are talking about.
  • Find out who is influencing your market the most, and on what sites people are talking the most.
  • Manage crisis early to avoid them spreading, and resolve situations sooner rather than later.
  • Figure out your technographics profile of your customers
  • Dedicate certain people\to manage this online presence, preferably one with expertise.

If your company has the money and resources to invest in expert companies that can manage this online listening, then great, invest in it and use it to your advantage, as this will only benefit the company and the consumers. If the company doesn’t have the money to do this, then using the simple tips listed above will help improve your listening and help you improve the service for your customers. Simply scanning social media and review sites will be a great place to start listening to your customers!

Reference

Li, C., Bernoff, J. (2011). Groundswell: Winning in a world transformed by social technologies. USA: Forrester Research