Conversocial shows why social customer support requires specialized tools

I had the chance recently to meet with Joshua March, the CEO of Conversocial, and to hear him and others on a panel session at Social Media Week in NYC, as I reported in We’re at the customer support stage of social business). As I wrote in that post, describing the panel session,

The big take away for me was that social customer support is happening, and it is growing fast. More importantly, tools that people use for social media marketing are likely to be a mismatch with the needs of customer support staff. However, in a lot of companies, marketing ‘owned’ the social channel to the business. They were the first out there, using Twitter and Facebook, analyzing sentiment about the company’s products and services, and trying to influence influencers to advocate.

Or said more directly, social customer support requires specialized tools. The social tools that businesses start adopting first are — in one order or the other — social marketing tools or work media (enterprise social network) tools.

Social marketing tools are generally adopted and managed by (d’uh) the marketing folks, and are generally oriented toward customer/community sentiment analysis, marketing campaigns, and competitive analysis. In many cases, companies get out ahead of their social capabilities but customers simply expect responses when issues are raised in social channels. However, expectations are rising very fast: a recent NM Incite research report says,

  • 47% of all social media users have used social care, with usage as high as 59% among 18-24 year olds.
  • Even among the oldest social media users, nearly one-third (30%) have used social care.
  • Social care use is consistently high across gender, income and education levels.

And people expect a fast response, as Jay Baer recently reported:

24% of American internet users 12 years-old and older who have contacted a brand in social media expect a reply within 30 minutes, regardless of when the contact was made.

But the marketing department is in no way prepared to handle the hand-off of incoming support requests to conventional support staff, and the support staff aren’t necessarily trained in the use of online networks as a medium for support, either. Along with a concerted training effort, the business will need tools that connect to Twitter, Facebook, and other services, and allow for integration with existing customer support tools, like Zendesk or the like.

I recently got a quick demo of Conversocial, where support team member share an automatically prioritized stream of support-related updates, with support requests or just product compaints pulled from social networks, and allowing collaboration, assignment, and coordination by support staff, as you can see below.

agent desktop

Conversocial Agent Desktop

Analytics is an important aspect of support, and these metrics are one of the areas where social media marketing tools simply diverge in their goals and operations. Here you see response time figures and the graph of incoming messages from Twitter:

channel analytics


My bet is that the only way to get a real sense of the use of tools like Conversocial would be to either see it in use at a multiperson support organization, or a well-orchestrated video showing the life cycle of a customer complaint through social channels, with communication to and from the customer as well as behind-the-scenes discussion of support staff. (I think Conversocial needs to make that movie, by the way.)

We are going to go through a quantum shift in customer support in the next few years, and products like Conversocial are making that possible.

Here comes the social resume

Enterasys is a self-identified social business, and the network infrastructure and security solutions company — ranked as one of Boston’s coolest companies, and one of the cities best places to work — is growing, and they are looking to hire a social marketer. So far, business as usual. But the reason I am writing about this is that the company is not accepting paper resumés. They are only accepting a ‘social resumé’, operationally defined as your presence in business-facing social networks like Twitter, Linkedin, and Tumblr.

Vala Afshar, Hiring A Social Marketer, No Paper Resume Accepted

  • Recruitment will begin on Feb 18 and end on March 18.  A job description will be posted via Twitter at the beginning of the recruitment process. At the end of the application period, Enterasys will select several candidates for interviews based on the qualifications described in the job description.  In an effort to use social media to its fullest capacity, Enterasys will also crowdsource Twitter for candidate endorsements using #socialCV hash-tag and reserve an additional interview spot for any interested candidates that received the most Twitter endorsements. The candidate will also interview with the marketing team and members of our executive team. At the end of this process, Enterasys will extend an offer of employment to the most qualified candidate.
  • All interested candidates should apply via Twitter using the account- @ValaAfshar. Please include #socialCV in your response to ensure your application is being reviewed. Additionally, interested applicants can also send a directed message (DM) via Twitter and provide your LinkedIn account or other references.
  • A minimum Klout score above 60 is required.
  • A minimum Kred influence score of 725 and outreach of 8 or more is also required.
  • Applicants must have more than 1,000 active Twitter followers.
  • Enterasys will use Google and/or other available public profiles to search for publically [sic publicly] available data.
  • Marketing experience must be demonstrated via web content – i.e. blogs, community involvement, new articles and other searchable publications. Enterasys is looking for a marketing professional who can drive the Company’s social networking strategy. Consideration will be made to those applicants who have published works regarding social media, peer influence, digital marketing, and related thought leadership.  Enterasys will also evaluate press coverage or influence with other leading industry bloggers or companies.
  • IT and enterprise technology background preferred but not required.
  • This is a Boston based position, working out of our headquarters location in Salem, NH (40 minutes north of Boston).
  • The salary range for this position is $70,000 USD to $100,000+ USD depending on the skills and experience of the candidate. A full description for the position can be found on our Careers site.

Leaving aside the wise crack that being such a social beast isn’t going to make you a millionaire, the implications of something like this are intriguing, but obviously the requirements listed are intended solely for a social marketer, and do not represent a general shifting to social resumés for all jobs.

I will leave aside a deep dive into the specifics of how Klout and Kred is computed, and simply state that these companies have proprietary algorithms that measure the authority and reach of individuals on various social networks, and try to turn it into a metric that allows comparisons to be made. The single biggest knock for the use of these numbers is context. If one has a Klout score of 67 blogging and tweeting about tech (like I do), what does comparing me to someone with a Klout of 73 who blogs about music mean? Although Enterasys prefers someone with IT and enterprise technology background, by not requiring it they are sending the message that understanding social media influence is the key thing in this job: they can teach you about their products, I guess.

The truly radical thing here isn’t the Klout and Kred scores: it’s the openness of the process, and the idea of crowdsourcing the process of hiring, and specifically the idea of open endorsement of candidates. This reminds me more of the voting process for panels at SxSW that a traditional hiring process.

Also, I think it would be more coherent to use a digital profile solution like Vizify to pull all this information into one browesable experience, rather than just a stream of Tweets. Here’s my Vizify home page:

vizify 1

Vizify home page


Vizify’s pages are interactive, so clicking on any of the elements of this network of data opens more detail, like the I Talk About node:

Things I Say A Lot On Twitter

Things I Say A Lot On Twitter

And my Vizify Career page, which is an interactive resumé replacement:

vizify 2


If you click on any element, a summary pops up:

A Career pop-up

A Career pop-up

Given a tool like Vizify would have made Enterersys’ work easier, and that of the crowd assisting in the process. They could have stipulated that the candidates should create specific Vizify pages, like the Words and Career pages, and specific ‘Factoid’ pages for Kred and Klout scores, Twitter followers, and so on. Here’s a Factoid from my account:

Vizify Factoid

Vizify Factoid

Instead of a tally of the stitches in their heads (yes, that’s a real number) the candidates could have created a Factoid for Twitter followers, and so on.

I am not looking for work, but I think having such a profile online is helpful for general purposes. I used the share feature to publish the profile on my Tumblr blog, too, but it’s just an image linking back to the site. I moved it into the sidebar. (I just wish Vizify included a page type for public speaking history, like they have for education and career. That would help me a great deal.)

LinkedIn is best bet for small business social media in Wall Street Journal survey

I was surprised by the results of a recent Wall Street Journal survey. While 60% of small business owners said social media tools are valuable to company growth, Linkedin was highest rated and Twitter came in a distant third.
use v usefulness
This is likely going to change, however:

Emily Maltby and Shira Ovide, Small Firms Say LinkedIn Works, Twitter Doesn’t
Many owners, including Ken Lopez of Washington, who started using social media to market his consulting business in 2011, tend to think the “value” of social media comes primarily from measurable factors, such as pageviews, click-throughs or direct sales.
“We will tweet 10-plus times a day, and we will put roughly the same number of posts on LinkedIn per day, yet we get dramatically different results,” says Mr. Lopez, whose A2L Consulting offers services to law firms.
Two days every week for the past two years, he has focused on driving traffic to his website using LinkedIn, YouTube, Facebook and Twitter. And the work has paid off. He says A2L now gets 12,000 website visitors a month, up from 800 in 2011, and his Web-driven revenue has increased fivefold.
But A2L gets little traffic on its site from Twitter, compared with other social-media outlets. “LinkedIn is the dominant traffic driver,” says Mr. Lopez. “Twitter is a small percentage by comparison.”
Richard Alfonsi, Twitter’s vice president of global online sales, says Twitter needs to do more to educate small businesses on the benefits of using its service to reach potential customers and on the most effective ways to use the service.
“We’re just at the start of both of these efforts,” he says, adding that there are already about 4.5 million smaller businesses using Twitter, even without much small-business outreach by the company.
Twitter said nearly a year ago that it would begin to let small businesses buy ads on the service, to circulate their Twitter messages more prominently or to targeted groups of Twitter users. Previously, Twitter allowed only larger companies to buy ads on the service. But it acknowledges that it has moved slowly with the small-business ad service to make sure it’s just right. The ad service remains in a test mode with a selected group of clients.

We’ll have to revisit in a year, once Twitter rolls out solutions for small businesses.
My sense is that using Twitter to simply post information is a weak approach. Companies may have to use additional tools to listen to Twitter users by searching for keywords, end then engaging directly with prospective customers or disgruntled users. It can’t be used as a simple broadcast, or as a replacement for radio ads or coupons.
A better characterization might be that small business owners find LinkedIn a good resource because it matches the way they currently do marketing, which isn’t very social yet.

LocalVox raises $7.4M for one-stop shop for local marketing

LocalVox, a New York-based startup that targets small- to medium-sized businesses with a comprehensive online marketing platform, has raised $7.4 million in Series A funding. The company currently operates in New York and Hartford but plans to scale to 20 markets nationwide.

Gannett purchases social media marketing company BLiNQ Media

After a summer that has seen increased activity in social media marketing, media giant Gannett Co. today announced that it has purchased BLiNQ Media, which helps companies execute and manage ad campaigns on Facebook and other social networks.

Oracle buys Vitrue to hone social marketing chops

Just when you thought Oracle might be done buying stuff, it buys something else. Today the database giant said it is purchasing Vitrue, a company that offers a SaaS service that lets companies better utilize social networking for their branding and marketing efforts.

5 Problems With Measuring Social Marketing

For weeks now, I’ve been struggling with offering social media marketing services to clients and being charged with coming up with some rational, defensible measurement system, so that someone, somewhere can justify their company or organization’s foray into using social networks, blogs and the like.