Three Simple Tips for Social Media Crisis Management

The big story over the weekend was Comcast business and residential services being down across the United States. From South Carolina to California, most major metro users experienced a weekend outage that lasted from early Saturday into late Sunday. While watching the issue unfold from my friends on social media, I curiously took a look at the Charter Twitter accounts.

I was surprised to see there had been no update. Doing a search for #charter and #charteroutage showed a lot of customer reaching out over social media and still, the two accounts were silent. In fact, at the time of this writing, they have only addressed the issue in the last twenty-four hours. The lack of reach on social media, complied with the inability of their customer service number to handle the volume of calls left a lot of unhappy customers.

Customer service is not an easy job, especially when there is a crisis. When you’re the one who is responsible for social media, how do you respond to the outcry when something happens over the weekend? If you’re on social media people will find you there and expect a response and for your customers, it doesn't matter if it’s Monday or Sunday afternoon. Here are three quick tips for managing social media when crisis strikes and you’re away from your desk.

Get Alerts

When you manage a social media account, it’s likely that people are going to send you messages when you are not “at your desk”. Part of the responsibility of social media is to have the access to your accounts. To keep an eye on mine, I get email messages when someone sends me a reply, as well as hooking up the account so I also get text alerts. If something is wrong or there is a serious problem, customers will use available channels to get a hold of you. If you’re on social media, that is one of them.

Turn Off Your Auto Messages

One of the things that seemed to upset Charter customers over the weekend was the account of @CharterCom sending out auto responses of a contest. Of course, the debate over auto-tweets will forever continue, but it becomes even more important to be aware of what your accounts are doing in times of crisis. When you’re entire internet system is out nationwide – it’s probably a good time to turn those messages off and respond to the live messages coming in.

Send Out Something

In time of crisis, it’s not always easy to update your customers – especially when you don’t know exactly what the problem is. Since customer service usually is not IT, we get our updates as we can and while issues are being worked through – those updates are always not on a regular basis. IT’s primary concern is fixing the problem. Still, even if you don’t know what the problem is, you should at least send out some sort of notification via social media that an issue exists. @Charter and @CharterCom failed to address the problem at all, which frustrated a lot of their customers.

How do you handle social media in a crisis? Is there a difference in when something happens during the work week versus the weekend?

Secrets to Successful Conference Calls Part Two – The Right Provider


Last week, I talked to you about how planning and execution are important to having a successful conference call. Despite your new found ability to plan a great event, depending on your conference call provider, you could be setting up for a disappointing experience. Not all conference companies are created equally, so here’s a quick little guide to choosing the best provider so that you can have a successful conference call.

How Do You Decide?

In my experience, price is the most common concern for new customers. No matter if they are switching from one company to another, or if they are 100% new to hosting conferences, price is where decisions get made. I understand that – sticking to budgets is important. An excellent rate is imperative, but there is more to consider than just how much you pay per minute. Here are some dos and don’ts of choosing your provider.

DO:

  1. Choose a provider who asks you about what you need / want to do on a conference. This is my favorite question to ask customers, because not only does it help me to define what you need, it also helps me to let you know about other features that are available. If it’s your first conference call and you’re going to have a 300 person conference, I usually suggest an operator assisted event so that you can make sure the call goes smoothly.
  2. Pick the company that provides the quickest response for customer service. When choosing a provider, consider the response time if something doesn’t go correctly. More than once, I’ve had customers switch to AccuConference because other services offered zero customer service. It’s an important consideration in the process, because if there’s an issue, you want someone to answer the phone and be able to work with you to solve the problem.
  3. Shop Around. Most telecommunications providers offer some form of conference call services. However, it never ceases to amaze me when people are shopping around that are currently under contract to pay around 15 and 20 cents per minute. There are better deals with other services, with better reliability. While you’re looking around, take our handy list of questions to use when choosing your conference call provider.

DON'T:

  1. Accept restrictions. We ask to know about any conference that will be over fifty people otherwise you just use the service as you need to. For other companies, that number may be set lower or higher, and could be restricted to the times of day or days of the week. Don’t accept this when you choose a conference company, there are plenty of others.
  2. Use a service that isn't secure. When you choose a provider, you need to find out how their telephones lines work. A lot services will use public lines (and the internet) to route you and your participants to the conference room. A service like ours doesn't use public teleconference lines, so you’re going to have a more secure experience.
  3. Conference without a guarantee. Does the provider you’re choosing have a 100% guarantee on their services? A provider that doesn't work with you when a call doesn't meet your expectations probably doesn't offer customer service the way you need.

You can plan and plot your conference call or online meeting all you want, but without a reliable conference call provider, you and your participants might be disappointed in the outcome. Do ask the right questions and don’t hesitate to call us directly if you have any questions.

Secrets to Successful Conference Calls: Part One – Setup and Testing

Everyone knows that the first step to hosting a conference call is finding the best conference call provider. After you know who you’re going to use as your conference host, you can turn your attention to planning and executing your event. Over the next couple of weeks, I’ll be sharing with you some of the best tips that we’ve learned in our own experiences, as well as some of the impressively smart things our customers have been doing.

Here are the first two secrets to successful conferences.

Conference Size Estimation

Let me just be blunt with you – if this is your first conference call, you’re likely to overestimate. Let’s say you send out 300 invitations to a conference, my experience tells me that your turn out is going to be around 150. Because you’re going to pay based on how many lines you reserve, you want your estimate to be as accurate as possible. In addition, different kinds of conferences will yield varying results.

Here are three of the most popular kinds of conference and the kinds of attendance results we see.

First Time / Sales Types of Conferences

We have a client who hosts conference calls that are advertised on infomercials - you might have seen them if you’re up at two in the morning. They have three thousand people sign up for one conference call and in the end only about six hundred show up. Make sure the provider you’ve chosen will allow you to make changes 24 hours in advance of your call; you don’t want to pay for over estimations.

Mandatory Events

We have another customer who hosts conferences that are state mandated classes. People sign up for them and her attendance runs around 85%. Anything that is a mandatory meeting will have a higher than average attendance because, well, people have to attend the conference.

Pay to Attend

A conference that requires people to pay to attend will yield close to 99% attendance. No one is going to waste good money to pay for a conference they don’t attend. One of our customers sets up classes they teach through our conference calls. We know if they ask for 150 lines, they will have 150 people show up.

Considerations For Last Minute Events

Remember that the more last minute your conferences, the lower your attendance will be. More than once, we’ve had people set up last minute operated calls where they invite fifty or sixty people and only end up getting ten or eleven total attendees.

If you’re an AccuConference customer, we always suggest using registration pages on conferences where you’ll be sending fifty or more invitations. This will help you to know exactly how many of your invitations have been accepted and filled out.

Testing and Quality

Sound quality is one of the biggest issues we hear about on conference calls. Not all phone systems are created equally and your method can cause any number of poor connection issues. There are two things that can drastically affect your conference sound quality – like feedback, cut outs, and general disruptions to your conference.

  1. Phone Equipment
  2. Phone Provider

Before you start your conference, you need to run down some basic testing steps both before your call begins and while in pre-conference with your speakers.

  1. Get a co-worker and dial into a test conference the day before your conference. Testing is all about creating a dress-rehearsal, so mimic the same set up that you will have when it’s time for the live conference. Use the same phone, put yourself in the same room, and let your co-worker tell you about any sound issues like echo or feedback.
  2. On the day of the call, use a pre-conference to check the same things with your other speakers. Make sure that everyone can be heard and that the lines aren't cutting out.

Correct estimates of conference attendees and testing your equipment before the call are very important parts of your conference planning session. If you need some help planning your next event, give us a call and let us take it from there.

Distracted on a Conference Call – It’s Probably Your Brain’s Fault

If you find yourself distracted on conference calls, you might feel like you have a case of Monday’s – Friday’s. While that may be true, your distraction could be due to your brain feeling out of its element.

Your brain likes to sort out patterns and enjoys when things are predictable. When talking to another person face to face, your brain is able to draw conclusions about what the other person is saying to you and conversation will flow smoothly. It’s like a little computer, taking everything, processing it, and then spitting out answers to questions or making decisions. The problem is that your brain is always looking for data and there are some situations, like an audio conference that can be very hard on your brain.

Why Can Audio Conferences Be So Distracting?

When you and your brain walk into a physical meeting, your brain begins to break down the people in the room.

Cool – there is the speaker and her name is Judy. I can tell because she’ll be in front of the room so I won’t be trying to figure out who is speaking when I heard a voice.

On an audio conference call, your brain is severely limited on the data at hand. You only have voices to go by and since your brain wants to know everything, it starts to feel a bit like scrambled eggs. You’re trying to listen, but someone has a bad connection – which breaks up the predictability of speech your brain is loves.

While you are trying to listen and absorb the information being said, the different parts of your brain are trying to figure out who is speaking and if there is background noise that you can’t recognize, pieces of your thoughts will then be allocated to trying to figure out what that noise was.

So How Do We Combat Scrambled Egg Brain?

Add a visual element to your presentation. A simple PowerPoint will do the trick. Visual aids enhance a speaker’s word and provide positive impacts to your conference calls. Nearly 85% of information is retained when a visual aid is paired with an oral presentation.

Use conference features to limit the noise. Using things like lecture mode or muting your line when you’re just listening on a conference will lower the background noise and give all the participant’s brains less to focus on and figure out.

Have an operator host your next call. While not exactly a “visual” element, putting an operator on your call can signal to the cognitive areas of your brain that the particular event is “special” and deserves some extra attention. Operator calls can also take the names of your participants so that they can be announced by name if they ask a question. This will relieve the brain of some of that “who is speaking” pressure and allow them to focus on the question.

Remember that for as much as we like to say we can “multitask”, our brains do not function like little computers. For every task you add while focusing on another, you take away the available capacity for your brain to fully work on another task. You may be doing ten things at once but each task is only being filled at 5% capacity.

Laura Lee Interns at AccuConference: Week 3

Third in the series from our interns. Laura Lee also learned the elevator rules and enjoyed free ice cream for volunteering to go pick up the treats for the office

Well, I was not disappointed. Last Monday was the Fourth of July and the building management here threw a regular party complete with hot dogs, cookies and cold ones. I’m talking about lemonade and fruit punch here people; don’t be too jealous. On that note, the official countdown has begun. No, not the days left until I leave and go back to Oklahoma State (home sweet home), but the countdown to my 21st birthday which takes place at the end of this month. The magic date is July twenty sixth. So as my final days of being the ripe old age of 20 come to a close, I’ve been learning some cool things on the job. Last week we learned how to file with the United States government for a trademark, since we are creating new products and don’t want anyone else to steal our ideas. The process is a lengthy one, but being here at the company has taught me that our ideas (especially in the marketing world) are what really sell and what keeps the company going, so why not put a trademark on it?

I was sent on my first ‘intern run’ this week; which included getting the office ice cream from Braums down the street. I can’t really count it though- I completely supported the mission as ice cream is my one and only staple food…and they paid for my ice cream as payoff for going to get the goods. But I did feel more like a typical intern taking down everyone’s orders and money.

I am also learning a lot about etiquette in a business environment. For example: why do men ‘hold’ the elevator door for women? It seems very gentlemanlike, but the concept is just strange to me. Instead of letting the girl go first they jump in the elevator and then stick out their arm on the elevator door. That took some getting used to! The first time that happened I literally thought the guy was going to karate chop me as his hand flew out the elevator. But I’ve learned to dodge out of the way of the karate chop and gracefully say thanks to the gentleman holding my elevator door so gallantly.

When I am confused about something (this actually happens a lot- surprising I know!) there is no sweating over if I should ask someone or not. The atmosphere here is very much like that of a big family. I think that being in a welcoming environment is key to learning, and I am learning a lot.

Kaitlyn Interns At AccuConference: Week 3

Third in the series following our summer interns. This week Kaitlyn learned that taking the evelvator up one floor is risky and that we get to do some pretty cool things in the office. 

By: Kaitlyn

Well, it finally happened. Laura Lee and I got judged for riding the elevator up one floor to the AccuConference suite. I believe the judger’s exact words were, “Shame, shame, shame. Elevator foul!” He was kidding (I think), but I still felt ashamed. This occurred on our way back from our celebratory lunch. We were commemorating our one-month anniversary of working for AccuConference. Maybe it wasn’t one month to the exact day, but it was close enough. We just wanted a reason to celebrate and to eat something other than our sandwiches for lunch.

It sure does not feel like a whole month has gone by. Time goes fast when you stay busy. My latest assignment has been editing a collection of books the company hopes to publish. It feels good to know that my input is wanted. It has taken me a lot of time, but it is worth it knowing that my edits might one day appear in a published book. How exciting is that? Plus, this rewriting process has been oddly enjoyable to me. I have always liked writing, but I never knew that I would like editing, too. Perhaps I am learning more about myself than I thought I would while working here.

Another discovery I have made here is that at any moment, you just might answer the phone and a celebrity will be on the line, asking to be connected to a conference. It was pretty cool getting to rub it in my boyfriend’s face that a famous athlete called in to my office that day, although he’s still convinced he saw Roy Williams walk into his workplace once.

Aside from book editing, my agenda has been filled with learning about the tedious process of registering trademarks, writing copy for a new website, and learning about SEO strategy within Facebook. Also on the agenda, July 1st came and went, and Laura Lee and I once again assembled and sent out thank you packages for dozens of AccuConference customers. I feel this solidified my interning here for one whole month, considering I did this same exact activity the very first day I came in to work in June. Even though I have only got to do it twice, this is probably one of my favorite parts of the internship. It’s always nice to remind people that you appreciate them.

Before I know it, another month will go by, and then a few more weeks, and then I’ll be back at school again. Judging from how much I have learned during my short time here, I am sure that I will return to college with a new abundance of knowledge. Come to think of it, I will have learned so much that I’m sure there is nothing more for me to learn in school, right? How about this: I persuade the university that I have learned so much at AccuConference that I don’t need anymore courses, I skip out of my last semester of school, and I graduate even earlier than planned. A girl can dream…

Webinars Can Promote Your Business…If Done Correctly

Here's another in our guest post series, coming from Gini Dietrich. Thank you for taking the time Gini!

When I speak to business owners and leaders, I always have at least one person say to me, “I get that everyone is moving online to communicate, and I want to get on the bandwagon, but my customers don’t use the Internet.”

I call baloney.

American adults spend four hours every day online — which means your customers are on the Internet, and it’s your job to figure out how to reach them there.

Webinars are a great way to do just that. You can do paid webinars or free webinars, depending on your budget and what you’re trying to achieve, but it’s an easy way to market to new audiences without leaving the comfort of your home or your office.

But do webinars make sense for you? Maybe you run a kid’s fitness company. You’re probably thinking, “I don’t have time to also do webinars.” I always say that making time to do just one more thing is pretty difficult, but when you see the return you get on your investment, it’s pretty easy to make the time.

There are a lot of opportunities to use webinars in your own sales and marketing efforts. Think about it this way–how do you sell your product or services now? Is it one-on-one in an office setting? Wouldn’t it be easier to sell one-to-many in that same office setting? Or maybe you attract customers through promotions and coupons. Webinars offer another way to extend that message to more than just the people in your surrounding ZIP codes.

Let’s talk about what types of things you could include in the presentation.

  • Demonstrate how your product or service works.
  • Showcase your culture or what it’s like to work at your company.
  • Do you have a passion around something business-focused, such as leadership, finances, or human resources? Create a webinar around your passion.
  • Host a webinar that showcases your technical expertise.

Keep in mind, though, that webinars are about the customer, not about you or your business. So showcase what you’re about by making it valuable to the customer. Tips, tools, how-tos, and demonstrations work really well.

Now that you’ve decided what your webinar topic is, following are the top 10 things to consider when promoting to your customers and prospects.

  1. Define what attendees will get from attending the webinar. What’s in it for them? What kind of value are you giving them that they can’t get on their own?
  2. Create a line in your e-mail signature to allow people to click on, and sign up, from there.
  3. Promote via your newsletter/e-mail database by letting people know what’s in it for them and making it easy for them to register.
  4. Promote via social networks — post it to your LinkedIn profile, add it to your Facebook fan page, tweet about it, or blog about it.
  5. Include a line about your webinars on your invoices.
  6. If you have a retail location, post flyers at points of sale.
  7. Post to the home page of your Web site.
  8. Include a one-click Outlook reminder that people can add to their calendars as they register.
  9. Ask for questions in advance of the webinar in order to engage people early.
  10. Send a reminder e-mail one week, one day, and one hour prior to the webinar.

Once you’ve decided on your topic and you’ve promoted the heck out of it (don’t be shy about repeating yourself over and over again – people need to see/hear a message seven to 12 times before they act), following are some tips for having a great webinar the first time out.

  • Use guest speakers—not only to add a certain amount of credibility, but also so you can use their network in addition to yours
  • Hold rehearsals
  • Promote at least a month in advance
  • Consider having a moderator to engage the audience and field the questions
  • Limit to one hour — we recommend 40 minutes of presentation and 20 minutes of question-and-answer session
  • Ask for feedback after the webinar via a survey (SurveyMonkey is the easiest and most cost-efficient tool)
  • Don’t be afraid to follow-up after the webinar, even with those who registered, but didn’t attend
  • I’m not going to pretend that hosting a webinar is a walk in the park. They’re hard work and they take some serious project management skills, but if you use the tips included here, you’ll be halfway there and you’ll be able to drive some serious leads from your efforts.

    Once you’ve decided on your topic and you’ve promoted the heck out of it (don’t be shy about repeating yourself over and over again – people need to see/hear a message seven to 12 times before they act), following are some tips for having a great webinar the first time out.

    About the Author: Gini Dietrich is the founder and chief executive officer of Arment Dietrich, Inc. and the author of Spin Sucks, the 2010 Readers Choice Blog of the Year, a Top 42 Content Marketing Blog from Junta42, a top 10 social media blog from Social Media Examiner, and an AdAge Power 150 blog.  You can connect with Gini on Twitter or on Facebook.

    The Perfect Online Meeting Solution for Direct Sellers

    Guest Post from Jennifer Fong, jenfongspeaks.com 

    I’ve been involved with webinar technology from close to its very inception. Back in my instructional design days, I remember working with trainers employed by the corporation I was working with, trying to create an instructional script format that would make it easy for them to deliver training using this new technology.

    Since then, I’ve watched the providers of this technology move in and out of prominence, and watched the pricing structure largely favor corporations with big budgets. This has troubled me a bit, because I’ve lately had the opportunity to work with a lot of direct sellers (think Tupperware or Mary Kay ladies) and see the online meeting tool provider market largely ignore this key demographic (which is a mistake, since at last count there were 15.1 million people involved in direct selling in the US alone, and more than 59 million worldwide.)

    You see, direct sellers make a lot of presentations, but often they are moms (or dads) living on a family budget, and 50 bucks a month or more can often be a big hit. Add to that the fact that, until recently, all you could really do was PowerPoint, and these providers really didn’t do what we needed them to.

    There are a few reasons why direct sellers need a good online meeting tool:

    1. Online group sales events (“online parties”)
    2. Online events to present the business opportunity
    3. Sales force training
    4. New product roll-outs

    As part of these meetings, we typically need to share information, possibly a live demo or two, and often do some group browsing of websites.

    In order to really effectively do these things, here are some of the features that direct sellers have said they would find incredibly useful in an online meeting tool.

    1. Reasonable pricing.
    2. Video. In the direct selling business, face to face communication is a must. It would also be great to enable web cams of anyone participating.
    3. Embedded chat. Chat can be a great way to share websites, as well as facilitate discussion with participants.
    4. PowerPoint/Presentation capabilities. This is a no-brainer for any kind of presentation.
    5. Live browsing that enables each viewer to independently interact with the website being shared. Especially when doing group sales presentations, we need to be able to take people to a specific website and then allow them to shop independently.
    6. Easy recording, with the ability to download that recording (not tied to a specific provider to keep/reuse the recording.) Our training libraries are a huge asset for our businesses, and it’s useful for folks who couldn’t make, for example, a live product rollout to still be able to see it.
    7. Polls to keep participants engaged.
    8. Viewable attendee list that captures contact info and makes it available to the moderator after the event.

    Direct sales provide such an incredible opportunity for online meeting tool providers. We’re typically a loyal bunch, we are the poster child of word of mouth (we’re constantly sharing great resources with one another), and our use of certain technologies can put those tools in front of millions. It’s time for the online meeting industry to take a closer look at this demographic. There’s a world of opportunity just waiting for them.

    Do you do online sales that involve live presentations? How do you use online meeting technology to facilitate those presentations? Would love to read your thoughts in the comments below.


    About the author:

    Jennifer Fong is a social media speaker and consultant who helps direct selling companies and individual direct sellers use social media effectively as a business building tool. A former direct sales company CEO, Jennifer built her company from the ground up, and understands what it takes to build, lead, and train a team, as well as the underlying principles of any direct selling business: network, sell, and recruit. She combines her expertise in direct sales with her passion for social media marketing to provide direct sellers with the knowledge they need to put social media to work for their businesses in a strategic and profitable way.

    Jennifer offers free information about social media and how to use it for direct sales on her blog at http://jenfongspeaks.com. Find her on Facebook at http://facebook.com/jenfongspeaks, and on Twitter at http://twitter.com/jenfongspeaks.

    AT&T Data Changes

    AT&T is trying to fix the network problems. By trying, I mean, changing everything so you'll use less on your data plans. Anytime you offer something "unlimited" users are going to test the limits and it's exactly what happened with the iPhone 3G.

    AT&T announced yesterday that they will be rolling out new data packages, right in time for the OS4 launch. These new data plans are DataPlus ($15.00/month for 200MB) and DataPro ($25.00/month for 2GB).

    I figured up the usage on my iPhone plan and I realize that it might actually benefit me to decrease down to the DataPro plan. I don't know if I've ever used 2 or more GB a month, so I wouldn't mind saving a couple of bucks a month on my cell phone bill. If I do go over my plan, then it's only an additional $10.00 for each GB over. The likelihood of extreme usage is low in my case, so it's something to consider.

    These data plans are not meant to affect what I would consider to be a regular user - in fact, according to USA Today, only 3% of smart phone user's account for 40% of the data usage. The data plan package change is not directed to users like me, but instead to these 3%. These are the users who cause the network outages, and AT&T must get control of them.

    If you have a massive amount of data use each month and you know that it’s going to affect your bill and make it higher, you might want to call AT&T now and get everything squared away. My unlimited plan will be grandfathered in but it might be worth it for me, in price, to go ahead and change. We all were screaming for AT&T to do something, now that they have, how do you feel about it?

    Note: I spoke with an AT&T rep that let me know that if I decide to change my voice plan down the road, it will not force me to change my data package to one of the DataPlus/DataPro plans, just in case you were wondering if that would make a difference.

    Put Your Email Signature to Work on Promoting Your Next Conference Call Event

    How often have you gotten an email from a client where there was no signature other than their name and email address at the bottom? We all get these types of emails, but did you know that you can put your email signature to work for getting more attendees at your next teleconference?

    Think of the space assigned to your email signature as free ad space. Make sure that you have not only your name, but your contact information as well as a link to your website and a link to the page that tells readers about your upcoming teleconference.

    Below is just one example that you may want to consider when setting up your own signature.

    Janie Smith
    President
    Image Coaching for Experts

    Voice: 1-800-555-1212
    Fax: 404-555-1212

    Visit us on the Web at www.AccuConference.com
    Sign up for our free teleconference on February 15th at 1:00 PST today!

    Although these hyperlinks just go to our own website in this example if you linked to an informational page and sign up form for your upcoming teleconference you provide the instant opportunity to get more attendees at your next teleconference.

    Make sure that if you decide to create a fancy signature including images that some email recipients will only receive the text and the image as an attachment. When it comes to email simpler is better, but make sure to use this free real estate to promote your own services.