Starbucks’ Cups Enrage People, AGAIN

Some days I seriously wonder how humanity got this far in the world. I call those my cranky days, and yes, the past week has been full of them as people unload socially on the new Starbucks cups.

Some days I seriously wonder how humanity got this far in the world. I call those my cranky days, and yes, the past week has been full of them as people unload socially on the new Starbucks “Unity” cups.

Let’s look at the cup in question:

Okay, so that’s a nice message, and the design is pretty neat. Plus I really like green.

However, others feel VERY DIFFERENTLY about these cups. Let’s take a look at some tweets:

Fine … nothing really wrong with preferring last year’s design (though she might be in the minority, based on the hullabaloo from 2015 over the red cups).


I’m half-hoping he’s being sarcastic …

The following tweet was deleted, but not before CBS News included it in its article about the uproar over the new cups:

Seriously? These cups are giving you anxiety? Try scaling a wall of looming deadlines while planning a business trip to Lisbon (more on that below).

https://twitter.com/RadioAnna/status/793467698030211072

Ummm … political? Say what?

But everyone can chill out, because on Nov. 4, Starbucks announced the red holiday cups would return on Nov. 10, and better yet:

… Customers who buy one holiday beverage and can get another one free* to share at participating Starbucks stores in the U.S. and Canada November 10-14 from 2-5 p.m.

There? Happy yet?

Look, here’s the deal: The 2015 freakouts over the red cups and now the outrage over the green “unity” cups from Starbucks is a reminder that humans are fickle, when they don’t like something many of them will voice their distaste, and social media helps magnify this 1,000-fold.

And I know not everyone feels the way as the folks who tweeted above do … but still. There’s a lesson to be learned here for marketers. I’m not saying you can’t make changes … just be prepared.


Melissa Ward Web Summit 2016Oh hey, so I mentioned Lisbon? Well that’s because I was invited to be a speaker for the 2016 Web Summit!

I’m super excited about the experience to moderate a session on video with Suchit Dash of Dubsmash and Michael Litt of Vidyard, host a fireside chat with Youtube star Meredith Foster, attend numerous speaker dinners, help judge the PITCH startup competition, and attend countless sessions from some of the smartest people on the planet.

Envious yet?

You can follow me on Twitter as @Sass_Marketing, as well as on Instagram as Sass_Marketing to keep an eye on all that Lisbon has to offer — I’ll be back stateside Nov. 14, but will be taking that week off from the blog. You know, jet lag and all that, but I’ll be back and posting Nov. 22.

Until then, thcau!

 

Get Outta My Tweets (Don’t Get Into My Car, Though)

Is it annoying for a brand account to search/respond to indirect Tweets? Or is it in the name of good customer service, even a PR necessity?

Twitter ChatFor all intents and purposes, I’m pretty sure what I’m about to talk about is just the newest model of the age-old aggressive salesperson debate. You know the drill: You walk into a shop at the mall, or a handmade/organic soap store which shall remain nameless but is notorious for its overly enthusiastic salespeople. Maybe you know what you’re looking for, maybe you’re just browsing.

A greeter at the front of the store asks, “Can I help you find anything today?” “No thanks,” you answer, “Just looking.” Cut to 10 minutes later, you’re trying to decide which scent of bath bomb you like best, when another rep wanders over, “Have you tried this one before? Let me show you how it works! Also, have you thought about using it with this product over here?” Etc. Rinse, repeat.

If you’re anything like me, it’s more uncomfortable than it is helpful, and knowing it will happen makes me hesitant to go into a store. After all, if I wanted help, I’d ask for it. “Well, that’s your own socially awkward problem,” some might say. “They’re there to sell products, they’re doing their job.” And clearly, as this practice continues to thrive and stores continue to employ it, they have a point.

All of which brings me to the topic at hand: brands’ interaction with consumers on Twitter. First, a tiny bit of clarification: When a person tweets at a specific Twitter account with the intention of the tweet appearing in that account’s notifications, it’s known as a “direct” Tweet. (“Hey, @Starbucks, love the new flavor!”)

On the other hand, when someone tweets just the name of a person/service/company without directing it at the account via an @, the kids these days call it an “indirect” [tweet]. (“omg went to Starbucks this morning and the line was so long help.”) Indirects don’t show up in a person’s notifications, one would have to do a keyword search on Starbucks to find these. So, my question: Is it annoying, even intrusive, for a brand account to search for and respond to indirects? Or is it in the name of good customer service, even a PR necessity?

In my humble (Millennial) opinion, it’s totally the former. I know how Twitter works, I know how to get an account’s attention if I need to. If I make a passing comment, yes even a complaint, about a product, I didn’t deem it important enough to take further action and, in my mind, there’s no customer service necessary. And if it’s not a negative comment that seems necessary to address for reputation purposes, what’s the aim?

I once tweeted something like “Oh hey, there’s a School of Rock musical now, who knew?” And the School of Rock account responded minutes later: “Hey, glad to see you’re enjoying it, which song are you rocking out to??” Like … chill. You wouldn’t butt into a stranger’s conversation like that IRL.

Uber is somewhat notorious for this, usually on the basis of correcting some wrongdoing or keeping an eye on their drivers. Actually, this whole post was somewhat inspired by this guy who wouldn’t snitch. Now, again, I get it. Like the guy said, he knows Uber has a business to run and rules for their drivers to follow. But in this case, it totally backfired. And why wouldn’t it? The customer wasn’t even upset, he said right there, he was laughing so hard he had to apologize.

So now you have two things happening: The customer didn’t @ you, so clearly they didn’t feel the need to get your attention, AND the customer was perfectly content, even amused, with the situation. So … what was the point of playing customer service cop again?

Get Off the Content Hamster Wheel

Content is king, to be sure. But how did we end up on this crazy treadwheel, cranking out B-to-B content for content’s sake? Daily blog posts. Three tweets a day. Monthly whitepapers. Infinite infographics. We’re sacrificing quality for quantity. We’re becoming irrelevant. We’re knee deep in Content Spam. This has got to stop.

Hamsters in a Wheel
Are you spinning the content, or is the content spinning you?

Content is king, to be sure. But how did we end up on this crazy content hamster wheel, cranking out B-to-B content for content’s sake? Daily blog posts. Three tweets a day. Monthly whitepapers. Infinite infographics. Videos everywhere. Podcasts, e-books. We’re sacrificing quality for quantity. We’re becoming irrelevant. We’re knee deep in Content Spam. This has got to stop.

Check out these stats from IDG. They brilliantly ran a study of IT buyers in the US and UK that directly connects irrelevant content with sales results. Of US tech buyers, 66 percent said that digital content needs to be “more aligned with organizational objectives and relevant to the decision-making process.” It could be that IT buyers are more demanding than those in other job functions — but I doubt it.

Wait, it gets worse: 79 percent of the buyers told IDG that the level of content relevance affects the vendor’s “likelihood to make the short list.” Now, that hurts. But here’s the zinger: A vendor is 25 percent more likely to be actually dropped from the shortlist if its content does not meet a minimum level of relevance. Uh-oh. This is the opposite of customer relationship management.

In the SEO world, the notion of “content spam” has been around for a couple of years. Search professionals decry the practice of loading up websites with keyword-stuffed crap designed to fool search engines into thinking they are informative and popular. But what I am talking about is customers and prospects, not search engines. We are loading up our customers with crap.

To keep your content relevant, here are five principles to live by:

  • Tailor your content to the market need, by analyzing your customer’s buying process and buying roles, and developing a library of content assets to help them solve their problems.
  • Be disciplined about new content quantity. Do you need this item? Will it fill a gaping hole in your asset library? Stand up against the pressure to generate content for content’s sake.
  • To feed the SEO beast, repurpose existing content instead of relentlessly creating new. There are zillions of options for clever reuse. Good quality content is likely to have an evergreen capability to serve incoming prospects over time.
  • Cull your content regularly. It’s hard, I know. We all fall in love with our creations. It might be a good idea to bring in a third party to assess your library, and give an objective opinion on what can stay and what needs to go.
  • Choose your content distribution channels carefully. Joe Pulizzi — who should know — makes a compelling case for limiting yourself to a few key communications vehicles, and doing them really well.

Let’s go for relevant, top quality content. Less is more.

A version of this article appeared in Biznology, the digital marketing blog.

All About eMail 15: The Great Twitter Roundup

Here’s the deal, fam: This past Thursday was the All About eMail Virtual Conference, the live virtual event that brings together the best and brightest minds in the industry for a full day of sessions, resources and chats that are (say it with me now …) all about email.

Here’s the deal, fam (and if you read my last blog post, you should already know this): This past Thursday was the All About eMail Virtual Conference, the live virtual event that brings together the best and brightest minds in the industry for a full day of sessions, resources and chats that are (say it with me now …) all about email.

I was lucky enough to be able to attend the show for its full course, and walked away from my desk stuffed full with new email tips and strategies, and a heaping side of downloaded resources to peruse even after the show had ended.

If you didn’t get to check it out, don’t you fret — the show and all its content is available on demand until Feb. 16. Click here for immediate access!

I also got to scope out the social scene during the show (try saying that 10 times fast). Lots of great activity in the #AAEM15 hashtag, and I thought I’d share a little roundup of bite-sized takeaways and observations from the show I found on Twitter.

A-five six seven eight!

Of course, there’s only so much 140 characters can tell you about 6.5 hours of content. So if you’re hungry for email expertise, be sure to sign up to check out the show on demand. I think these tweets do a good job of showing why it’s worth your while. Hope you enjoy!

And now for a little announcement unrelated to virtual shows or tweets. Recently I’ve taken over as marketing manager for one of Target Marketing’s sister publications, and it’s been an exciting and fulfilling whirlwind but, as you can imagine, busy and demanding. That being the case, I came to the difficult but necessary decision to put this blog aside for the time being.

My hope and my intention is to be back and better than ever in 2016 once I’ve gained my sea legs with this new undertaking, gotten all my ducks in a row, and other various water-related metaphors for “gotten my **** together.” Just think of it as … taking a short caffeine break! (Waka waka!)

Thanks so much for all the fantastic support so far — hope to see you back here in 2016!

Talk to the (Twitter) Hand: The Perils of Non-Engagement

Every day, companies are jumping on the Twitter bandwagon—and perhaps, yours has done the same. Maybe it’s the lure of gaining new followers. Or possibly the attraction comes from all those Twitter success stories circulating the ‘Net. Or maybe it’s because Twitter takes five minutes to set up and doesn’t cost a dime. That’s OK, too. The thing is, many brands forget that Twitter is more than having a “who’s bigger” follower list or having the ability to Tweet pithy sales pitches.

Every day, companies are jumping on the Twitter bandwagon—and perhaps, yours has done the same. Maybe it’s the lure of gaining new followers. Or possibly the attraction comes from all those Twitter success stories circulating the ‘Net.

Or maybe it’s because Twitter takes five minutes to set up and doesn’t cost a dime. That’s OK, too.

The thing is, many brands forget that Twitter is more than having a “who’s bigger” follower list or having the ability to Tweet pithy sales pitches. Twitter is two-way communication, people. Not a one-sided soliloquy where you’re Tweeting solely for corporate self-gratification.

So let’s talk about two major brands that “get it” and use Twitter to its fullest potential. And then zero in on one company’s massive Twitter #fail.

Alaska Airlines and Starbucks give really good Tweets. When you read them, you get a sense that there is a person behind the computer—rather than a faceless corporate PR entity. In fact, Alaska Airlines even names the person handling the Tweets that day. And yes, their Tweets are more than just what these folks had for breakfast. For instance, Alaska Airlines promoted gift certificates and Starbucks previewed an upcoming sale on Cyber Monday (see the actual Tweets in the media player at right).

But here’s what makes both companies decidedly different: These brands engage with their customers. Starbucks and Alaska Airlines chat with their Twitter followers, answer questions and provide real-time customer service (see more examples in the media player).

Pretty cool, eh? And that’s why many people follow Alaska Airlines and Starbucks. The content is good, you know you’ll get a response and you’ll learn something. Maybe it’s early notification of a sale. Maybe it’s when in-flight wi-fi will be back. It’s useful information.

Let’s compare this to Citibank’s Twitter stream.

To say that Citibank has had reputation management issues in 2009 is putting it mildly. From taking bailout money to hiking credit card rates on some customers to 29.99 percent, the bank’s latest missteps have caused many good customers to cut up their cards. If there ever was a time for a robust social media campaign so people could “meet” the friendly customer service team members behind the scenes (that is, humanizing the corporation), now would be that time.

The good news is that Citibank has a Twitter account. The bad news is that it’s running it all wrong. Rather than using Twitter as a way to engage customers, the firm’s locking its customers out.

For instance, check out some Tweets mentioning @citibank in the media player, above, followed by a screen capture of Citibank’s Twitter page.

So, OK, let’s give Citibank the benefit of the doubt. Maybe it signed up for a Twitter handle to protect its brand identity—but doesn’t plan to leverage this account for some reason. You could almost forgive the bank … except for the Twitter account promoting the Citi Forward credit card (see the media player again, please).

Here are three problems:

  1. Although it will re-tweet, Citibank doesn’t answer Tweets (I tried)—so there’s no real interaction
  2. Saying that Citi Forward is “the card that rewards you for good behavior” seems a bit disingenuous considering that other Citibank customers with good credit histories have had their interest rates hiked to almost 30 percent.
  3. There’s no customer service component.

In short, Citibank is basically telling its Twitter followers to “talk to the hand” (or perhaps, its middle finger.) Rather than dealing with its reputation management issue head-on—communicating with folks and showing the human side behind the financial institution—Citibank is sending out Tweets that provide useful tips, yes … but talks AT its followers rather than WITH them.

If you’re planning a Twitter account (or currently maintaining one,) remember that Twitter is a real conversation (in 140 characters or less.) You wouldn’t keep a friend who constantly talked about herself, seemed oblivious to how other people perceived her and never listened to you.

It’s no different in the online world.

The perils of non-engagement in the Twitter universe are real—and the rewards for an excellent, interactive campaign are also real.

After all, what would you rather do? Tell people to talk to your Twitter hand or, instead, engage with your prospects and customers in a new, interactive (and profitable) way?

Seems to me, the choice is easy.