Making social media a source for ideas.

Using social media is not innovative, but it can create innovation.

By making small changes to existing social media efforts you can quickly improve what you do for your customers.

But we listen! We talk to our fans, our customers! We engage people. We retweet and cross-post.

I am sure you do. But this is not about tweets and Tumblr. There is an opportunity to use design thinking (don’t worry, we will keep it simple) to change what you do, not just how you promote it.

We will look at these changes in two groups, both a common part of design thinking methodology:

  • asking questions
  • getting feedback
Design thinking methodology.

Asking questions.

Too often organizations look at Twitter and Facebook as ways to share their message. To enter the conversation with a pre-determined purpose of getting the customer to talk about them in a positive light. Leveraging the ambassador, right?

We have our promotional calendar of what we need to tweet, gram and post to engage our fans in the wonders of what we do. Kudos and congrats that come from the customer? Retweet! The questions and concerns, yeah, we will get those out of the way as quickly as we can.

This is your first opportunity.

Asking questions to develop empathy.

Because we are using social media to grasp for relevancy, our focus is placed on us, on our messages, on our calendar. The other stuff? The communication from the customer? Get to it fast, send them a clever remark (make it funny!), check the box and add them to the ‘resolved’ list.

Back to our calendar.

Certainly a generalization, but not unrealistic. Far too many organizations miss opportunities to improve their service by simply asking a follow-up question.

The Utah Transit Authority communicates a lot on Twitter — service updates, answering questions, helping people use the service — but like many other organizations, they miss opportunities to dig just a bit deeper.

In the case above, Tom has gone out of his way to tell the UTA there is an issue with their service for disabled customers. To their credit, UTA solved his symptom — giving him an update on train status — and even asked how else they could help, but then ignored an opportunity to identify and fix the root problem.

Why does this happen?

Is it the pressure to move on to the next tweet, the next post, to answer the next question without giving thought to the cause of the question?

What if @RideUTA replied back with:

Good suggestion Tom, have you seen this anywhere else?

Thanks Tom, can we follow-up with you via email to get some more information?

Tom was right there. Ready to help. He took an often overlooked, but big step to make his need public on social media. He identified his wish, was ready to contribute, but ended up being counted as simply ‘resolved.’

This is the first change — teaching your social media team to:

  • observe the context, not just the immediate need
  • to ask ‘why?’, not just ‘anything else?’

Identifying a potential root cause and asking about it is just the first part. Now, you need feedback.

Getting feedback.

The examples of social feedback are nearly ubiquitous. I liked this, enjoy that, hated when you did this, had a bad experience with that. We can think of this as post-experience feedback.

Service experience feedback.

But what about feedback prior to an experience? Or invisible feedback?

Again, most of our social strategies simply say to address the problem quickly, resolve it and move on.

Or in some cases, ignore the issue completely:

In these examples, we can see an obvious issue (David) and an implied issue (mine), but no path to provide feedback. Consider the actions of the customer, both of us felt the best next step was a tweet.

This is your second opportunity.

Getting (or grabbing) feedback.

Feedback is what connects one design thinking idea to another. It is critically important to solving current issues and creating innovation.

For David, being able to provide feedback would not only help solve his issue, but perhaps the same issue for hundreds of other customers. It is a pre-experience issue, preventing him from actually experiencing the service (Skydeck Chicago).

It could also be considered invisible feedback, because other customers may be having the same issue, but none have identified it.

A simple chart could help the social media team determine if feedback is available and how to direct it.

Social media interaction feedback chart.

Invisible feedback is more challenging to gather. It might require general messages to your entire audience to uncover the a customer with a perspective you don’t share.

This is the second change — gathering and acting upon feedback — which requires:

  • identifying the feedback opportunity
  • using simple methods to gather comments
  • taking action upon the feedback

What if @SkydeckChicago replied with a simple feedback form?

At minimum they could direct the comments to their web developer and correct the issue. Or perhaps they could identify an unknown issue that was negatively affecting sales. Even establish a customer-review board to meet regularly and identify new ideas.

Social design thinking.

Customers like David and Tom are not going to solve these problems for you. They have already taken the first step, they have interrupted their social media lives with a need, a problem or a complaint.

You need to show empathy.

You need to grab this fleeting opportunity for feedback.

By making small changes to existing social media efforts you can quickly improve what you do for your customers.


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