Friday, October 23, 2009

Our responsibilities when interfacing to corporate social media presences

I've previously stated my opinion that adding a social media presence to an unresponsive organization is like putting a lipstick on a pig. If your organization does not have adequate processes (either formal or informal) to address problems, then adopting a social media presence just because all the cool kids are doing it won't be worthwhile in the long run.

But while an organization with a social media account has a responsibility to incorporate the account into its entire corporate structure, those of us who interface to an organization's social media account also have a responsibility to interface properly, and in the right way.

An example will suffice. I just spent the last several days staying at the Hilton Hotel in Costa Mesa, California, which has a Twitter account (@hiltoncostamesa). I had mentioned the Hilton in my own Twitter stream, primarily in connection with the FourSquare game. For example, here's an October 18 tweet:

2nd checkin today; Twitter ate 1st (@ Hilton Hotel - Costa Mesa in Costa Mesa)

Well, eventually I noticed that the @hiltoncostamesa account was following my @empoprises Twitter account. And eventually I received a tweet from @hiltoncostamesa:

@empoprises We hope you enjoy your stay with us! Please let us know if you need anything!

I received that tweet on Thursday morning, and we were trading tweets all day, primarily about a Barrett-Jackson automotive event at the Hilton (see my post) unrelated to my own event. (Late Thursday evening, I went to our own event organizer and said, "Thank you for arranging for all of the cars for the employees!" Luckily, she did not kill me.)

So then Friday morning came, and I received my bill. And it contained errors, primarily related to special discounts and freebies that I should have received as a conference attendee, but did not.

Now at this point I could have tweeted @hiltoncostamesa and said, "Hey, my bill's screwed up!" But I didn't. Instead, I waited until checkout and addressed the issues with the front desk. The front desk was very proactive, and took care of one of my two issues before I even brought it up. Now after everything was resolved, I DID choose to tweet to @hiltoncostamesa:

@hiltoncostamesa thank you for wonderful stay! (@ Hilton Hotel - Costa Mesa in Costa Mesa)

Now this message actually originated in FourSquare, which passed it to Twitter. From there it was passed to FriendFeed, and then went on to Facebook. So while bad news travels fast, good news travels fast also.

However, the question remains - if the Hilton hadn't corrected my bill, would I have tweeted about it? It's hard to say, but perhaps not in this instance. But if a competing hotel (let's call it the "Richie") had engaged in some clearly fraudulent or life-threatening behavior, perhaps I would have tweeted about it. Maybe I wouldn't have received satisfaction from the offending entity, but I could have warned others about the problem.

And that's the power of social media - a power that people like the sales director at the Hilton Costa Mesa clearly understand.

OK, but I do have one tip - because the photos in the Hilton's Flickr account were not Creative Commons-commercial licensed, I was unable to reproduce any of them in this blog. In fact, the only Hilton Costa Mesa image with appropriate licensing is my own (license), so that's what I used (or re-used) in this post.
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