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Social Media Horror Story With A Happy Ending

Dennis Yu BlitzMetrics CEO
Today’s article is a guest post by Dennis Yu, an international speaker and author on search engine marketing and Facebook marketing. Dennis is also Chief Executive Officer of BlitzMetrics – creating awesome Facebook dashboards that show how you stack up against your competitors.

Everyone has their travel horror story to share — the obnoxious front desk clerk, flight delays, or whatever form of unexpected aggravation. Consider yours and see if this helps you out the next time you’re in a jam.

The Candlewood Suites Fiasco

A few days ago, I was flying into Portland. A two hour flight delay put me in after midnight. Worse, I somehow lost my credit card between the airport and the hotel. This I discovered when trying to check into the Candlewood Suites on a pre-paid reservation.

The clerk wouldn’t let me check-in, citing hotel policy. No exceptions, she said. Don’t even try to escalate, since she is the manager. She reminded me that this is my problem, not hers.

Of course, she was just doing her job – perhaps with a bit more attitude than we’d expect. But it was my fault for not having a credit card for potential incidentals, even though I had my photo ID on a pre-paid reservation.

Exhausted and not knowing what to do, I used one of my lifelines and posted a status on Facebook at 2:24 am. Even though it took 2 hours and 4 minutes for Candlewood to reply back at 4:28 am, I got an immediate response from friends.

Candlewood Suites Facebook

Incidentally, for the brand managers and agencies reading this — if your favorite company took two hours to answer the phone when you called, how would you feel about them? Are you monitoring your response times or even aware of people talking about your brand? We know retailers that monitor complaints for their competitors, then offering those customers immediate help. One hotel chain has a process to monitor Twitter, where they will say “Hey Dennis — man, sounds like a bad day. How about coming over across the street for a free drink in our bar? Ask for Jim.”

Anyway, back to the story. A friend suggested that she could fax in her credit card and photo ID to authorize incidentals on my behalf. She had been in this spot before and knew exactly what to do.

Sheepishly, I went back to the front desk and mentioned this. Yes, the clerk said – this is a valid method to get around the issue.

At first, I felt like the winner of “Who Wants To Be a Millionaire”, except on Facebook or Twitter, I have an unlimited number of lifelines, not just three. And though I didn’t win a million dollars, it was certainly better than not having a place to sleep. No offense to those who rely upon Google for their answers – it’s just not so easy to find specific help on this topic.

And then the clerk volunteered to tell me that she knew this was an option all along, but didn’t want to mention it for fear of potentially being yelled at. She’s been yelled at thousands of times, she stated.

Imagine if this poor girl was in charge of that local Candlewood Suites social media presence and said something like that? But at the same time, can a corporate office possibly be able to monitor and handle every customer service issue at all locations across the country?

Where is the line between what is handled at the local level versus centrally — and how do they work together? This is a major issue for retailers who have thousands of locations.

As their social presences grow (yippee – we hit a million fans!), the excitement of what was originally a marketing push starts to fade into customer care and operational scale issues. Social is a two-way street, not a TV broadcast medium. What happens in your call center will happen on social. How will you adapt?

But this is not a bad thing, nor is social necessarily negative ROI. It’s a mixed channel of both marketing and customer care. And this is what makes it so complex – you are representing the brand while also addressing individual concerns.

Social media is easy for companies that produce soft drinks and TV shows. But not so much for airlines, phone companies, B2B companies and retailers.

The Oracle Debacle

Recently, Oracle, the company that bought Vitrue and Involver, tried to sneak a middle of the night migration of all these fans onto a brand new Oracle social page. Boom — over a million fans overnight. Success, until the hundreds of complaints started pouring in, saying that they didn’t become fans or the page or appreciate the auto-fanning.

Oracle Facebook

Oracle did eventually respond, noting it was Facebook’s mistake for doing it four days earlier than planned. The million unintentional fans would get an explanation on Wednesday, they said.

Meanwhile, hard-core Involver and Vitrue consultants tried to spin this into a non-issue, claiming that being a Facebook fan was property of the company, just like being on an email list. Of course, this didn’t work on an audience of people who do social media for a living (ice to eskimos, people), especially from a company that sells social CRM software.

Happy Endings & Lessons Learned

Oracle and Candlewood learned some valuable lessons in the last couple days. You can’t PR-spin your way out of problem. Reply quickly and honestly. Actually make things right, as the problem is not PR — it’s that you messed up.

A happy ending – not only did Candlewood fix the problem, but offered me one night’s stay to make up for the inconvenience.

In Related News…

Do you know which hotel chain is #1 on Facebook?

Best Western has more fans than anyone at 492,296 fans. But Hilton at 370,264 fans, has 33,354 interactions in the last 30 days, compared to 8,294 on Best Western. Yet the highest engagement rate is by the Four Seasons, with 31.56% engagement (44,020 interactions on 139,459 fans). And the Ritz has the most interactions of anyone at 51,688 for a 31.36% engagement rate.

Blitz Metrics

Explore it at https://blitzmetrics.com/dashboard/?account=hotels&page=industry

So the “winner” in travel and leisure depends on what your goal metric is – fans, engagement, sharing, check-ins, or whatever. And not all interaction is good, as we’ve seen. So going for activity is just one measure. Further, certain brands carry more status. I wonder how many of the 164,796 fans of the Ritz have actually stayed there? And how many people who personally love to save money at Motel 6 want to share that they’re checking into a Motel 6?

Dennis Yu BlitzMetrics CEO
Today’s article is a guest post by Dennis Yu, an international speaker and author on search engine marketing and Facebook marketing. Dennis is also Chief Executive Officer of BlitzMetrics – creating awesome Facebook dashboards that show how you stack up against your competitors.

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