Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Two very different tales of social media listening

Over the last few days, I've been thinking about the need for any organization to monitor social media both in routine and in crisis situations. I'd like to highlight two very different approaches ... one that works and the other, well ... that is totally sub-standard.

Let's start with the easy one. I'm a user of the transit system in the Toronto suburb where I live. I've been a transit rider all my life. We have a car but my wife drives it and i don't believe I should get one so it can sit all day at the commuter train station. So, that means I take Oakville Transit ... which in my humble opinion (and I've lived in Montreal, Toronto, Saskatoon, Edmonton and Timmins among other places) has the worst service I've ever experienced.

These tweets show my recent frustrations: 

patricecloutier  There must be a by-law prohibiting hiring smart ppl at #oakvilletransit ... Or those who can tell time or read a schedule
1 day ago  

patricecloutier  idiots at #oakvilletransit never cease 2 amaze me. we sit for 15 minutes and when the next train pulls in, The bus leaves with ppl running
1 day ago  

sail0rchan  Why are most bus drivers asses? Especially when they're late and make you miss your next bus. #OakvilleTransit
1 day ago  

patricecloutier  Yet another day where the idiots at #oakvilletransit are doing their utmost to ruin my sunny disposition ... Worst public service ever ...

Now, you'd think that after a few months of this, someone at Oakville transit would have contacted me ... but nada ... total silence ... and I'd be willing to listen to them too ...So no social media accounts listed on their 1990s era website ... no real engagement ... I can't even tweet back and forth with them.

Now contrast that with Via Rail ... which a few weeks ago dealt with a tragic train derailment that cost three employees their lives. I blogged on this incident in the hours that followed.

I followed the twitter feed as soon as I learned about the accident and commented on it:
Although in took Via Rail about 3 hours to update their website and issue a news release ... they did put out a constant stream of info on their Twitter account ... more importantly, they were LISTENING and engaging in real-time with people all over the world. That helped them keep a good handle on the threat to their corporate reputation:

 So they contacted me directly ...engaged me when they thought they could benefit from it ... by helping me realize that they were indeed "on the ball" ... at least through their use of social networks. In fact, others came to their defense and that's also something we see often:

  can't report until the investigation is filed.

So, I then did the only thing I could do. I amended my original criticism to adopt a more positive tone and recognize they were doing some things right (hey ... I can admit when I'm wrong !):
 What's the take-away from this story? Engagement pays off ... first and foremost. The benefits of listening on social networks cannot be overstated.

Second, you can't react to a crisis by starting to monitor SM if you don't do it in routine situation can you engage realistically if you're not present most days? would people find you in an emergency? 

Finally, you show that you're genuine, engaged and responsive and generally of good faith and people WILL stand up for you.

Now, that good will can only be counted upon if you're a trusted source and truly social in your use these communications channels.

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