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September 2010

Acting as Your Community’s Referee

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No matter what your niche, you’re always going to have community members who don’t agree with one another. Sometimes, it can get personal and nasty. I see this most often in forums, but if you don’t have forums on your website, you may see disputes popping up in your comments section, or even on social networking sites. Too often, bloggers are asked to serve as a community referee.

The trick is that you want to make all readers feel welcome and able to express their opinions while still diffusing a volatile situation. When two members (or groups) of a community are hashing it out, other members, especially new people who are coming to your site for the first time, may feel like outsiders. They don’t comment because they don’t want to be attacked or take sides in any way. Being a community ref is essential to building readership. Otherwise, you’re fostering a really negative atmosphere on your blog.

At the same time, too much moderation can also be a problem. If you delete comments or forum posts from your more vocal members, you run the risk of killing your community fairly quickly. No one wants to be part of a website where they can’t speak their mind. That’s part of what blogging is all about – interaction and opinion.

Keeping all of that in mind, here are a few tips you can use to successfully ref your community:

  • Have a clear comment/forum policy. Readers should be aware if you’re going to delete or edit their comments because they’re inappropriate. Your policy could include things like “no name calling” and “no using the f-word.” Make sure your policy fits in the spirit of the site.
  • Talk to community members before a ban. Banning someone from commenting or posting in the forums might be for the best if they’re disrupting the entire community. Before you do so, however, reach out to that individual with your concerns. Make sure you explain what they’re doing that you don’t like (for example, calling another member an idiot), and ask them to clean up their act. Give them a chance to do so.
  • Close comments if the debate gets too heated. Sometimes, two sides just talk in circles, which just wastes everyone’s time. Consider closing comments if things start to get nasty, but make sure you update your post with a note about why you’ve done so. This should be a last resort!
  • Invite the two members to a debate. When the whole Thesis vs. WordPress crap was going on a few months ago, the leaders of both sides were invited to a one-on-one debate. It definitely diffused the situation a little and allowed both sides to give clear statements on their opinions without name-calling.
  • Avoid taking sides. It’s your blog, so you should make your opinion known, but avoid taking sides in an us-vs-them type of way. Make every effort so understand and acknowledge the other person’s point of view, even if you don’t agree. Don’t lose readers because you get caught up in the drama of having to be right.
  • Be consistent with your policies. If you’re going to delete/edit comments, posts, etc. or go as far as to ban people, make sure you’re doing it to everyone who breaks the rules. Be fair, not playing favorites because you agree with someone’s position or they are a long-time reader.

Luckily, most communities are pretty self-regulated. In the vast majority of niches, you don’t often have to act as a ref simply because communities won’t engage sometime who is antagonizing everyone else. If you need to, though, don’t back own. You’ll build a strong community by serving as a ref, not by ignoring the problem.

Mark Penn And Karen Hughes To Keynote BlogWorld Expo

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For those of you who don’t know this already. I began this journey that is BlogWorld & New Media Expo as a political blogger. So today’s announcement about Mark Penn and Karen Hughes giving a Keynote Talk at BlogWorld has me all geeked up. From the old School press release:

Mark Penn, CEO Worldwide of Burson-Marsteller and CEO of Penn Schoen Berland, and Karen Hughes, Worldwide Vice Chairman of Burson-Marsteller, will feature a joint keynote presentation on the state of digital communications in politics. Their presentation will take place on Friday, October 15, 2010 at 9:00AM ET at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas.

Mr. Penn and Ms. Hughes, the former chief message architects for President Clinton and President Bush respectively, will address results from a research study surrounding the use of social media in the 2010 U.S. House and Senate mid-term races, and present an analysis on emerging digital strategies within the political arena. Mr. Penn and Ms. Hughes will assess how top 2010 Republican and Democratic candidates utilize Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and texting in their campaigns, and how candidates integrate their messaging on their websites and social media platforms.

Having key presidential advisers to the last two sitting Presidents of the United States come and talk to a bunch of bloggers and social media geeks is a pretty big deal if you ask me. Love them or hate them, blogs like Powerline, Daily Kos, Pajamas Media, Talking Points Memo, Huffington Post, Hot Air and Michelle Malkin have changed the rules of American politics.

It was never more evident to me that the old guard of political power players had realized this than at the 2007 Yearly Kos Convention in Chicago. Every Presidential Candidate (including our current President Barack Obama) running for the Democratic nomination was on the stage together addressing a crowd of about 1,500 left leaning political bloggers and activists. The energy for the entire event was high. The bloggers knew they had real power. But I couldn’t help but notice the scattering of suits in the crowd. These were the political operators and you could see them trying to figure out what the hell these bloggers were up to, and how could they possibly direct them into supporting their particular candidate and use them for their advantage.

It was a striking juxtaposition.

This will be very interesting talk for news junkies like me as well as anyone interested the influence of the blogosphere and social media on politics and society as a whole. How are the 2010 mid term candidates using tools like blogs, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube?

How are they planning to utilize bloggers and other social influencers to win their respective elections?

What trends do they see for the 2012 Presidential election?

Do either the Democrats or Republicans have an advantage when it comes to new media?

Is the blogosphere a dangerous wild card for a Senator, Congressmen, or President to play?

Creating a Resume Blog

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Here at the BlogWorld Expo blog, we often focus on making money with a blog, and we also reference hobby blogging occasionally, but there’s another reason why you may choose to create a blog – to show potential employers. In today’s job market, having an edge when you apply for any open position can help you stand out among thousands of other job-hunters. A resume blog has a different goal than a monetized blog or hobby blog, so if this is something that interests you, here are a few pointers to help you get started:

  • Your blog needs focus.

What type of job are you trying to get? That should be your blog’s focus or, in more bloggy terms, your niche. Employers aren’t going to care about your website if all you do is post funny YouTube videos and rant about your bad days. Essentially, you want to avoid creating an online journal if you want your blog to serve as a resume. Instead, think of your blog as a portfolio. If you aren’t applying for writing jobs, that’s ok. It doesn’t have to be a portfolio of your writing work – it should be a portfolio of your knowledge and experience in your industry. Through blog posts, show that you understand your field and are continuously working to improve your skills. For example, if you want an executive chef position, post recipes that you’ve created in your home kitchen or if you want to work as a lawyer, post articles commenting on recent cases in the news.

  • Concentrate on your About Me page.

While some potential employers will read your blog, most will skim over the entries on your home page and skip instead to your About Me page. This should be a generalized cover level of sorts, but feel free to be more casual with your About Me page than you would in a cover letter. Don’t forget to post a professional-looking picture or two of yourself. It’s easier to imagine yourself hiring someone when you can see their face.

  • Post your one-page resume.

Your entire blog will serve as a resume, but you should have a page specifically called “resume” linked on an easy-to-find place on your homepage. Keep this resume brief and to-the-point, since most employers will have a full resume from you already. Make mention at the top of the page that this is an abbreviated version and a full resume is available upon request. You also likely don’t want to list your references as part of this online resume, since it isn’t necessarily a good idea to post personal contact information for these people online for the world to see.

Do you have a resume blog? Have you ever been hired after sending employers to your resume blog? What tips do you have for job hunters who are thinking about starting their own blogs?

Are You Tracking Your Monetization Efforts?

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Early today, I was catching up on my feed reading and I came across “3 Simple Steps To Running Your Blog Like a Business,” a guest post by Srinivas on DavidRisley.com. He makes a number of great points throughout this post, but what I’d like to highlight today is his first point: if you intend to make money with your blog, you need to do quarterly reports on your monetization efforts.

Srinivas’ point was that you should have a way to track what you’re doing on your blog. I’d like to back up for a moment, though. Before you can track anything, monetization or otherwise, you need to set blogging goals.

The Goal Game

Setting goals isn’t as easy as saying “I want to make a ton of money.” Of course you want to make a lot of money. Who doesn’t? What you need is a tangible goal, a specific goal. Your goal has to be something you can achieve. How do you know when you’ve earn “a lot of money”?

The problem with setting goals is that it can be easy to feel like you’re a failure if your goals aren’t realistic. I once set a goal of earning $500 per month with a brand new blog I was developing. That was a totally unrealistic goal for my niche.

On the other hand, in some niches, especially after you’ve been running the blog for a few months, $500 per month is in no way an unrealistic goal. In fact, you might surpass your goal by so much that you don’t develop the blog to its full potential. You feel like you can rest on your laurels because you’re doing so well, when in fact, your blog could be making ten times the amount with a little more effort.

I recommend making your first monetization goal, “I want my blog to support itself.” Pay your hosting. Pay for anything you’ve purchased for the blog, like a header design. Pay for Aweber or whatever email subscription service you use. Pay for prizes that you give away. Make your very first goal to break even. From there, you can more easily set goals that are out of reach right now, but achievable with a little work. You want your goals to always be just a little out of reach so you’re always moving forward.

From Goals to Monetization

Once you have your monetization goals set, it’s time to figure out how to reach them. I think this is where a lot of bloggers fall short. Once you set your goals, how are you going to get there? If you just start throwing ideas out there, seeing what sticks, your success will be as fickle as your methods. If you have a plan, on the other hand, you have a much better chance at actually reaching whatever goal you’ve set.

Think about the different ways you can monetize a blog. Which ones will work best for your blog? Come up with mini-goals for each effort in order to reach your overall dollar amount goal. For example, maybe you make $100 per month with Google ads. Maybe you make $300 per month in sidebar ad sales. Maybe you make $50 per month in affiliate sales. You get it the idea.

Tracking

Now we get to the real reason I wanted to highlight Srinivas’ post – monetization tracking. Whether you reach your goals or not, it’s important to have a quarterly report so you can see clearly where you’re succeeding and where you’re failing. It’s easy to look at your overall goal and say, “Yes, I’ve made it” or “No, I’ve fallen short,” but unless you analyze why, you’ll never grow as a blogger.

The key is to not get too discouraged when your reports aren’t what you want them to be, especially as a new blogger. It takes time to build a blog. If you aren’t seeing results after several months, you should rethink your approach to blogging. Tracking make it easier to see how you’re failing and why, so reorganizing is much easier if you need to do so.

In Over Your Head? Six Ways to Reduce Blogging Stress

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When life happens, it’s easy to feel like your blog is a weight, pulling you down. We all have moments that are so stressful that we contemplate throwing in the towel when it comes to blogging. Even if your blog is seeing some success, the responsibility can feel too stressful at times. Recently, I’ve been feeling blogging stress, and working through these moments, when there are so many other things in life to worry about, can be difficult.

I’d like to share with you my very best tips. I’m hoping you’ll do the same by leaving a comment below!

1. Have a time set aside to write posts every day (or week).

If you sit down in front of your computer and say, “I’m going to work,” sometimes hours can go by before you write a single post. There’s a lot of back-end work involved in blogging: topic research, comment moderation, reading the posts in your feed reader, answering emails, social networking…the list goes on and on. At the core, though, are your posts. If you don’t post regularly, you’ll lose readers and money, which definitely induces stress. Instead, set aside a time every day or week specifically for writing. Close out your browsers, turn off your phone, and get into that zen writer state. Pat yourself on the back whether you hammer out one post or ten posts during the time you’ve set aside.

2. Announce that you’d accepting guest posts.

Guest posts are great for filling your blog when you’re feeling stressed and uninspired. Don’t be fooled: this is still tons of work, as you have to read submissions, contact people, upload posts, and doing promotion through social networking. Sometimes, we all need a break from writing blog posts, though. Put up an announcement on your blog or make the announcement over Twitter. I bet you’ll get some response.

3. Get by with a little help from your friends.

Lend me your ear, and I’ll sing you a song. I will try not to sing out of key.

When you’re feeling overwhelmed with life, don’t be afraid to ask for help. I think that’s one of my biggest personal problems – I have a hard time admitting when I need help. Your friends (both personal and people you’ve met online) will help you though. People will chip in if you can’t pay your hosting. People will offer to post if you’re ill and can’t manage your blog. People will lend an ear, and somethings that’s what we need most. The world is full of rotten jerks, but for every ass out there, you’ll find ten people who are willing to help you because they believe in what you’re doing. When you’re stressed, swallow your pride and do what is best for your blog – accept a helping hand.

4. Brainstorm in the bathtub.

Sometimes, one of my biggest blogging stresses is writer’s block. When you don’t even have a topic in mind, staring at a black white page is first intimidating, then frustrating, and then infuriating. Get away from your computer. Run a hot bath, put on some music, light some candles, and let yourself just think. I like to keep a little pad of paper by the bathtub and jot down post ideas if I think of them, but this shouldn’t be a hardcore brainstorming session. Make it more relaxing, just allowing your mind to wander. You’ll be surprised how it can de-stress you and when you’re not stressed, ideas will flow more easily. If you don’t think of anything, don’t be discouraged. Focus first on feeling more relaxed. The ideas will come later.

5. Paint yourself out of a corner.

Blogging promises can create a lot of stress. You paint yourself into a corner when you tell your readers, “Once a week, I’ll be posting about…” or “On this date, I’ll be posting about…” or even “In the future, expect a post about…” Don’t be afraid to paint yourself out of a corner if you’re feeling stressed about a deadline. Don’t constantly make promises you can’t keep, but if you have made a blogging promise that isn’t working out, you can update your readers with news that there will be a delay or complete change of plans. It’s your blog. Self-imposed deadlines can be pushed.

6. Write something fun!

Blogging doesn’t have to be serious business. One of the ways I like to reduce some stress is to post about something fun. It should still be relevant to your audience, but not every post has to be serious tips about your niche. Playful posts are often extremely successful because it encourages your readers to come out of the shadows and leave comments.

Your turn – blogging is a big responsibility. How do you reduce the stress, especially when there are other stressful things happening in your life?

Is Social Networking Killing Search Engines?

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Last week, one of the top stories from SmartBrief on Social Media was an article from the New York Times called “Search Takes a Social Turn.” The theory is that social networking sites, like Twitter, are taking traffic away from search engines because users can instead quickly poll their friends when they have a question, rather than turning to searching Google for the answer. Could we see a huge drop in search engine usage as social networking becomes more and more popular?

The Trust Factor

You can’t trust Google.

I don’t mean that you can’t trust the company or any other search engine for that matter. However, at the end of the day, your results are still automated and you have to weed out the most relevant sites. Let’s say you’re searching for “best restaurants in New Mexico,” for example. The results you get will most likely contain ads, restaurants near New Mexico, restaurants that are new and in Mexico, and other irrelevant sites. Even the top sites may not actually lead you the best restaurants as voted by fans or ranked by some kind of expert. Instead, they could very well be sites that have spent a lot of money optimizing themselves for the search term.

Your friends are going to give you their honest opinions on the best restaurants in New Mexico. They essentially act as a search engine result filter, and you can trust that what they give you is going to match your “search term” so to speak. Your friends are humans. Google’s search engines are not. This is not The Matrix. Yet. Humans – 1, Machines – 0.

The Conversation Factor

When you “search” for something via your friends/followers, you have the chance to hold a conversation about the topic. For example, let’s say that you need to know the definition of a word. Instead of using a search engine, you ask your Twitter friends and someone replies to you with the answer. If you need further clarification, you can just ask. With a search engine, there’s no conversation with their results. If you need further clarification, you have to reword your search term and try to find it yourself.

The best part on a social networking site is that you have the ability to talk to multiple people at once about the topic. The conversation isn’t a one-way street, like on a search engine, nor is it even a two-way street. It’s a whole network of streets. Again, a win for the human race. Humans – 2, Machines – 0

The Results Factor

There is one clear problem with using social networking to replace search engines, and it’s why search engines will never die. When you poll your friends, there’s a good chance, even if you have a million Twitter followers, that you won’t see any results. If no one knows how to answer your question or even has an opinion, you’ll hear crickets chirping and be stuck high and dry. On a search engine, that doesn’t really happen. Sure, you may occasionally type in something obscure that gives you no results, but in general, you’re going to get a list of relevant websites.

Plus, I’m guessing that most of you don’t have a million friends on any one social networking site. If you’re brand new, you might still be working on building up a following. The fewer people you have to poll, the less likely it will be that you get results. Unfortunately, it just takes time to build up your social networking sites. If you need an answer today, it doesn’t help you to wait a month until you have more connections. A search engine will give you results even if it is your first day using the Internet.

Even for easy-to-answer or opinion questions, you might not get a reply via social networking if you’re asking at an off hour when most of your friends are sleeping. Search engines don’t sleep. So, I have to give this round to the machines. Humans – 2, Machines – 1

Overall, humans do still come out on top, but the last factor probably needs to be more heavily weighted. Social networking may take away some search engine traffic, but we aren’t going to see Google or other search engines up and disappear because of this.

Still, the article is a good reminder – don’t forget to use the real people in your life when you’d normally type something into a search engine. If someone can give you a result, it’s likely to be better than the results list you’d receive via a search engine.

Check out the other top stories last week from SmartBrief on Social Media:

  1. 5 lessons from the best social-media campaigns
  2. How much is a follower really worth?
  3. Are you better off targeting Twitter or Facebook users?
  4. How Cisco keeps its social-media teams on target
  5. How big brands learned to love “like”
  6. Twitter 2.0 offers new tools for advertisers
  7. Why social marketers must learn to think local
  8. Search engines are dead, long live social search
  9. Foursquare campaign boosts McDonald’s foot traffic
  10. Why social media is the new standard for small businesses

Overheard on #Blogchat: Wordcount (@gallaghermeg)

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Yep, I’m a day late with Overheard on #Blogchat this week. I was at an 80s-themed bachelorette party, so I had a good reason!

Do you participate in #blogchat? Every week, this weekly discussion on Twitter focuses on a specific topic and bloggers everywhere are invited to join in. Because I often have more to say than what will fit in 140 characters, every Sunday night, I post about some of the most interesting #blogchat tweets. Join the conversation by commenting below.

(Still confused? Read more about #blogchat here.)

This week’s theme: Open mic!

My friends all make fun of me because my emails are usually super long. I’m a wordy person, mostly because I like to explain myself clearly so as not to cause too many questions. Because I’m rarely brief, this #blogchat comment caught my eye:

@gallaghermeg: is there word count that you try to keep your blog posts limited to? I worry that too long = less reading.

I worry about that too at times. My posts are typically long, often times between 700 – 900 words and rarely less than 500 words here at the BlogWorld blog. On After Graduation and Binge Gamer, I’m also not the briefest person in the world. Could that actually be causing me to lose readers? And, if so, why the heck am I still posting uber-long blog posts?

First, I would like to note that yes, I think that long blog posts can deter readers. It depends on a number of factors:

  • Does your target audience have time to read a long post?
  • Is the post well organized with headings?
  • Is it necessary for all the info to be in one post, or could it have been split into multiple posts?
  • Do you use pictures to break up the text?
  • Do you use short paragraphs, blockquotes, bullet points, numbered lists, etc. to break up the text?
  • Are there shorts posts on your blog too, or do you only write long posts?
  • How often do you update your blog?

If you post walls of text, you’ll drive readers away no matter what your demographic. It’s about formatting as much as it is about wordcount.

It’s also about saying what you have to say as concisely as possible. Whenever I hit 800 words or more, I reread the entire thing with an eye on every sentence. Do I really need that sentence to convey my point? Self-editing is never more important than when you’re writing a long post.

Remember, every niche is different, and beyond that, every blogger is different. If longer posts work for your style and readership, there’s no reason you have to stop writing. Good content will drive readers, even if you’re long-winded like I am.

What do you think – do long posts scare off readers? How long is your average post?

Overheard on #Blogchat: The Squeaky Wheel (@BillBoorman)

Author:

Yep, I’m a day late with Overheard on #Blogchat this week. I was at an 80s-themed bachelorette party, so I had a good reason!

Do you participate in #blogchat? Every week, this weekly discussion on Twitter focuses on a specific topic and bloggers everywhere are invited to join in. Because I often have more to say than what will fit in 140 characters, every Sunday night, I post about some of the most interesting #blogchat tweets. Join the conversation by commenting below.

(Still confused? Read more about #blogchat here.)

This week’s theme: Open mic!

Mama Boyer has a saying: ” The squeaky wheel gets the grease!” She usually says this in regards to complaining about something. If you don’t speak up, no one will fix your problem. My mom is someone you can count on tell you if service is bad.

Reading over the #blogchat transcript, since I wasn’t able to attend last night, this stood out to me, making my think of my mom’s saying:

@BillBoorman: 95% of your audience will never interact. Dont be swayed by only the noisy ones

Not every reader on your blog is going to be a squeaky wheel. Usually, people are outspoken when they’re feeling an emotional extreme – like anger from disagreeing with what you have to say. Of course, emotions can be positive as well, but every time you write a blog post, only a small percentage of people will actually comment.

That doesn’t mean you should listen to them, necessarily. You want to help your readers as much as possible, but at the same time, it is important to keep in mind that the readers giving you feedback only make up a small percentage of all the readers visiting your blog. If you want to create the best blog with the most active community possible, you have to consider the needs of all of your readers.

That’s the tricky part. If someone isn’t a squeaky wheel, how can you give them the grease?

  1. Consider polling your readers. Often, people aren’t enticed enough to leave a comment, but they will click on a poll choice to help make their voice heard.
  2. Check out what pages are most visited. Don’t just look at entry pages, since the top pages on this list are likely optimized for search engines well or were linked by people to drive traffic. Instead, look at which other posts people are visiting an how long they’re spending on these specific posts.
  3. Run some tests. See if your traffic numbers spike or dip with a new theme, for example. Even though readers aren’t talking, they’re voting with their visits.

The squeaky wheel may get the grease, but a blogger knows that all of the wheels on the cart deserve some attention. Don’t ignore the huge number of readers you have who are lurking in the shadows.

BlackBerry & Social Customer Service

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… An Interview with David Armano and RIM’s Social CS Team

Research In Motion (BlackBerry), is one of the sponsors for BlogWorld 2010 and also an Edelman client (my employer), but what you might not know about them is that they are quite active in the social media space, especially when it comes to providing customer care in addition to tips on how BlackBerry fans can get the most of their devices. With over 154k followers on Twitter, the CS (customer service) group regularly engages customers out in the open in a variety of ways. I was able to catch up Michelle Kostya and Baldev Solanki who are two of the architects’ behind the social customer service efforts at BlackBerry.

DA: Blackberry offers support to customers in a variety of ways including online forums. Why did you extend this in places such as Twitter with @blackberryhelp?

MK: Due to the nature of the business, customers usually dealt with their carriers rather than directly with us. This meant that when we launched the forums we were able to truly connect with our customers in a way that wasn’t possible before. All of a sudden we had the ability to gather valuable feedback and work directly with our customers to solve their issues. By being able to help our customers immediately and by showing them neat tips and tricks we were able delight them! But, we recognized that just as not everyone will call to get help, not everyone will visit a forum to ask for help. It became our goal as the Social Media Support team to be where our customers were. Our Digital Marketing counterparts had set up channels on various social channels and customers were asking support questions – it only made sense that we were there to help!

DA: Doesn’t interacting with customers who may be frustrated with your products open the door to public displays of dissatisfaction? How do you manage the risks?

BS: On the contrary, every dissatisfied customer is an opportunity for us to provide a great support experience. The real risk is not engaging. Our goal is to always be professional and follow through. It is a great feeling to delight a frustrated customer and see them become a raving fan.

DA: You decided to take a somewhat personal approach to providing customer care in a social channel by putting the faces of the team behind the account vs. it being the single brand. Why?

MK: Customers service is about a 1:1 conversation. Even when you are talking about traditional customer service it is one person talking to another on the telephone. We wanted our followers to know that the team on Twitter are real people. So they sign their name on each tweet and have their pics up on the background. And, we are taking it offline too! At Blogworld two members of the team will be “live” at the BlackBerry booth providing on-site help and tips!

DA: In the traditional customer care model, success in channels such as call centers is often measured by volume and time per call. What are some of the ways you measure success?

BS: Sometimes defining success measures feels like a quest for the holy social media grail. We tweet a lot of tips so we use retweets as a measure of how useful the content is. In addition we treat positive tweets and thanks as a measure of customer satisfaction. On our forums, Accepted Solutions from the community is a good measure. Remember that some of the standard call centre metrics still apply. Response time and mean time to resolve are definitely things to track.

DA: @blackberryhelp isn’t the only social embassy you’ve built to help your customers get the most out of BlackBerry products. You also have the BlackBerry Help Blog. In the age of Facebook, Twitter and other “shiny objects”, what does a blog get you?

BS: Blogs are about sharing with authenticity. A good enterprise blog can help you really connect deeply with your customers in a meaningful way because the content is not only relevant but insightful and personal. I think most enterprises miss that point. When you do it right, your customers will walk away not only having learned something new but will also feel much more connected to your brand.

MK: Some of the CS staff already wrote how-to posts for Inside BlackBerry Blog and we discovered that these posts were incredibly popular. Our customers wanted to be better (or, the best!) at using their BlackBerry and these posts gave them the info they needed to do this – in a fun and personal way. As with all of the Inside BlackBerry blogs our intent is to get our readers the inside scoop – just focused on the know-how we have on cool tricks, shortcuts and how-to in more than 140 characters.

DA: What are some of the most common requests you get from BlackBerry users? Do your responses vary?

MK: There isn’t really a “typical” request coming to our @BlackBerryhelp team. They get 800 tweets a day from our 155,000+ followers and they range from technical questions to feature requests and from questions about release dates to conversational tweets asking the team how they are doing. So, yes our responses definitely vary although we do have some typical answers for more common requests. Plus, we have a huge library of helpful tips and tricks that we share throughout the day.

DA: What is the one piece of advice you would give to other major brands looking to help their customers leveraging social media?

BS: Don’t succumb to “Cheshire Cat Syndrome” (remember how confused Alice in Wonderland was in choosing a path?). Be careful of starting down the path of social media customer support if you don’t know where you want to end up. Define objectives first, and then try a pilot to limit the risk. A lesson learned from the trenches – most of the time in Social Media land, when you open a door, it’s really hard to shut.

MK: I would say the biggest piece of advice I have is that you need to recognize that customers don’t care what department you are from when they are talking to you via a social channel. A customer is just as likely to ask a technical support question, as they are to provide you with product feature requests, or post they are looking for a job at the company! No matter who “owns” the channel internally– you need a way to route feedback and respond when necessary to your customers. Participation in social channels means breaking down silos inside your business.

Michelle, Baldev, Thank you both for your time and insights. If you’re reading this and attending BlogWorld (and have a BlackBerry device), feel free to bring it to the BlackBerry booth to receive complimentary tips and general assistance from members of their customer service team.

BlackBerry Help:
Twitter: @blackberryhelp
Website: http://helpblog.blackberry.com/

David Armano:
Twitter: @armano
Website: http://davidarmano.com

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