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Review: community engine Platform

There has always been a bit of a gap between Social Media & Selling through Social Media. Too many in the industry, to do both together is somewhat a bit of a taboo. But as Social Networks grow and flourish with users (Customers), businesses must learn to adapt to this market and have the ability to be able to not only use these platforms as a form of communication, but to monetize them.

Many people will read the above paragraph and think, “Social Media is not for sales” and simply not read on. However, we are fast entering a phase of Social Media where Social Commerce will become just as important as the media itself. Look around, we are already moving into a world where Mobile Wallets are being used, Social Media data is used for targeted advertising and big players like Amazon, Facebook and Google have implemented their own commerce facilities.

Recently, I was invited (and happily accepted) to participate in the beta release of a new Social Commerce Platform, called community engine.

What struck me first about this platform was the beauty of all being about me. If I wanted to follow a business, I would see its offers and notices. This has a deep connection with consumers such as myself, because frankly, I tune out to all the white noise online and only watch, listen, see, read and engage with the content that is relevant to me.

Coming from the world of Social Media & operating a Social Media company, I have used many platforms in my day to day activities. My phone has 32 Social Media related apps that I use at least once per day for both business and pleasure. But community engine seems to link all the pieces of the puzzle together in a perfect symphony that appeals to every one of my Social Media Receptors as a Consumer and a small business owner.

For the small business side – I am able to create my own piece of real estate on community engine and explain everything about my business. Surely this feature is available on Facebook, LinkedIn and Google+ but it is only on community engine that you are able to integrate this with a sense of Community amongst other businesses in your network. Be that current stakeholders or new invitees!

In fact you can build a community from scratch around your business, by creating the space and sending out invites. There is no intrusive ‘adding to a group’ feature like Facebook, or the constant begging of people to follow your business profile like that on LinkedIn. A simple email is delivered to the recipient and if it is in line with their interest, they accept and become part of your Community.

Think that none of your customers will want to visit yet another Social Platform? Here is where community engine has made it very simple. Import your existing mailing lists / database into community engine and the invite is sent automatically to them.  Such simplicity derives such beauty in the connections we need to make but struggle to find the time to do so in our daily activities.

community engine is not like a Facebook page where you can leave a post and your fans have to visit the page or see the post in the active news feed to interact with. No. community engine offers a real-time communication network with your community, your members through the usage of the noticeboard and newswire.

The newswire behaves like a status feed of all your connections recommendations and posts – be that news, a special offer or a notice. The left hand column provides a chronological history of real social qualitative data that your network has communicated – this ticks the first box because it reduces the white noise of everything else you really do not want to read about. The right hand column still gently reminds us that we are part of a network of businesses that have products / services we are interested in – deals, offers and promotions in an easy to digest presentation.

The Noticeboard, which behaves much like a Pinterest exploration tab, gives the user an overall easy to scan view of all the output the communities they follow have shared on community engine. This helps me as a time limited business owner to review visually the right information I need to make that engagement possible. No fluff, no time wasting.

To make this platform even more social, each business can claim their own business (most are already preloaded for you) and use the platform to customise their profiles, message, receive feedback and obtain recommendations from customers, in addition to the general social media buttons we have grown custom too (‘Like’ & ‘Recommend’). This completes the circle of Social Interaction between business and Customer. A direct social channel to help all forms of communication is now open through the community engine Platform.

And if you think all this has nothing to do with Social Commerce – community engine once again integrates the perfect facilitation of transactions between business and customer. The platform contains an online payment facility driving the customer to purchase from the business (through community engine) with the click of a few buttons. In the past many companies have struggled to obtain a merchant facility that can help drive this revenue back from the digital platforms into the ledger books. In fact attempting to obtain a merchant facility can prove to be bigger than Ben Hur these days. But the community engine platform has just revolutionised this with one quick step that when linked to offers and promotions. These purchases are based on offers directly created by the business and not based around the terms of a deals conglomerate (e.g. expiry date, limitations) with the intent on making a quick dollar.

Sure these might be a special offer, but as they are not created to be sold on mass, they won’t create a negative experience. If a business has a special deal to place, it places it directly, and within a 1 week turnaround time, Community Engine facilitates a smooth payment transition between business & customers. Goodbye Groupon. Hello respectful Social Commerce.

Thus there are many features that businesses can use on the community engine platform that help make life for business owners, in one word, simple. Yes as a business owner, it’s my favourite word to hear on a daily basis too.

As a consumer, I can tell you that these features are so in line with what I want. I don’t want to be harassed by business in any way, shape or form. This includes my Social Media newsfeeds being flooded with constant invaluable information or selling from companies. I don’t want to have to go through a middle man such as the Daily Deals companies where I may or may not receive the end product with ridiculous clauses and restrictions. I don’t want to have to scroll through a never ending feed of jargon that doesn’t apply to me.

I simply want to glance over the things I’m interested in, have special offers capture my attention, communicate with the communities I’m interested in (on my own terms) and use Social Media in my own way. After all, this is also my piece of digital real estate. I am your customer, but I am not just another statistic on your social metrics.

Speaking as a Social Media professional and as an everyday customer, community engine offers an extraordinary experience that feels respectful of my needs and wants. It has bridged the gap between Social Media, Social Commerce and the customer in a way that allows Social Media to be used as a selling tool without having to do the selling.

Most importantly for me, it opens up the doors to small business owners around the country to a new tool that allows them to harness the power of Social Media to something more than a communication channel. And teaches our customers that they are the biggest influencers and assets our businesses will always have.

Simple.

As always, Share + Enjoy.

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Review: Social TV – You’re already hooked.

Lately, I have noticed that Social Media has begun to slowly sink its many tentacles into traditional media.

It has begun to utilise these mediums by linking back social metrics about our likes, habits, behaviours and wants into mainstream media, that brings a strong need to connect with brands, due to the way our brains are wired after the Social Networking revolution (circa 2004 - current).

Here our brains make the connection between: Familiar Advertising Methods (e.g. TV) and Social Media Data (e.g. Our ‘Likes’).

Over the weekend, I got to preview some new technology coming out towards the end of this year. For many, this is going to blow your mind. But before we get into this, let’s highlight the current context of Social Media infiltrating traditional media.

It all began as businesses started to get on board that good old beast called Facebook. Suddenly, adverts in print, radio, billboard and TV started appearing with “Find us on Facebook” … this slowly evolved to “Find out more about this deal on Facebook”.

Twitter came along and with our mobiles, allowed us to converse in real-time with brands, on the spot if we had to, rather than having an experience, getting home, writing a letter / email and sending it off to the customer relations team. No, these days the complaints letters are tweets and updates on Social Media against your brand (hence the importance of Social Monitoring).

There was also a time not too long ago when print ads asked you to call a number or visit a website. These have now been replaced with QR Codes, which deliver the user straight to the appropriate destination.

Australian twitter users would probably see lots of online conversation with the hashtags #qanda #thevoiceau in their streams …. Oh yes – we’re all already hooked on Social TV!

But the best is yet to come. This year, we will see a revolution that will more than likely have impacts on the way we watch TV, gather information, do our shopping and generally interact with brands and businesses.

As mentioned, over the weekend I got to preview some new technology around the Social TV. As this was not an official release, I will not advise the source or the stakeholders. I won’t even advise on all the new features. I will advise that it did most certainly WOW me.

One feature I really enjoyed was the Multi-Screen Feature.

Imagine watching your favourite cooking show. This is the first layer in your multiscreen. Along with the usage of Hashtags and Social Polls, it will pretty much contain what you know as TV today.

Now comes the beautiful technology integration.

The second layer. This sits behind your first layer, and can be accessed very easily. This layer now contains all the information you will need to make an informed choice about purchasing whatever has been placed into the first layer. In our cooking show example, this is the recipe to the dish being made. The method on cooking and the required ingredients.

But it doesn’t stop there. The third layer, sitting comfortably behind the second layer, is that list of ingredients with prices. That list links straight into your local / favourite grocery store. And with the press of a few buttons, your credit card is debited, and you have just purchased the items you have selected on the show you are watching.

Oh yes, the future is certainly here. Still a bit more tweaking to go with these features, but they are well and truly existent. I got to play around with them and am already hooked.

And as I said – that is only One of many brilliant, futuristic and mind boggling features coming out with Social TV.

As always, Share + Enjoy!

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Facebook Timeline for Brands is Here!

So this morning (Sydney Time) I got to tune into FMC (Facebook Marketing Conference) NYC for some of the upcoming changes on Facebook for Brands – and the big announcement is that Timeline is coming to Brands.

The biggest and most notable change of course will be the Timeline header – an image that will be the opening advert for your business. Remember the saying ‘Don’t judge a book by its cover’ – well in the land of Social Media, the time-deprived customer will take one look at your header image and if it’s not for them, they will not go any further. However, if you captivate them – they will be willing to spend a little extra time scrolling through the rest of your page and making it more ‘sticky’.

With this recent update, it’s now time to think about what is working and what isn’t for your Facebook page and campaigns and what you can do better. Seen something that your competitor did 3 months ago, and you really liked it? Work with that. Have a light bulb idea of a new campaign, build around it. Now is the time for change, and we are given an opportunity to prepare for it. Timeline for Brands goes live March 30.

Like any good cleaning work or seasonal changes, have a quick look over all your current info on your page – is it all relevant? Is there anything you need to update? Anything you need to delete or add? How are your apps performing? Anything that is gaining lots of activity vs. little activity? Can it be removed or replaced with something more efficient to your brand?

Talking about Facebook Apps – there may be some ‘transition issues’ with a few of them, so keep your eyes out for them – but these will be sorted out between the Third Party App Developers and Facebook, so you won’t need to worry about a thing. Be sure to record all your apps in case they do drop off – and locate proof of purchase, so you don’t have to repurchase them again!

There will also be an update to the information that page admins view and use. The display unit of the new insights looks more user friendly, more open and much easier to navigate your way around. I have a feeling that with the recently slow services experienced with Insights, Facebook might actually be implementing real-time reporting to launch with Timeline for Brands – but this is only a hypothetical!

Lastly – remember that on your personal Timeline you can highlight stories to make them bigger and more prominent. This feature will also be available on Pages Timeline, so take some time going back through your history and recording date & time of updates which you want to highlight. This will save you lots of time doing this when the roll out occurs. Remember, think to yourself:

What is my Facebook (& Social Media Strategy)?

 What Image of my brand do I want my page visitors to see / feel?

Is my Page attractive and sticky enough to keep someone longer than 10 seconds?

As always, Share + Enjoy

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Are you a Social Company?

Do you remember the old water cooler? How about the ciggy break? And the kitchen-coffee conversation that lasted 10mins? And recently the reading of the paper online whilst you had your breakfast at your desk?

Ever since the dawn of time, well, the dawn of office culture, politics, teams and organisations people have always taken a few minutes of their working time here and there to catch up on their social activities.

Let’s face it, we are social creatures. We love to interact, understand, question and collaborate. There is nothing wrong with that. It’s what gives us variety and makes us stand out from the rest of the mammalian herds.

As time has rolled on, nothing has changed. Well things slightly have. Technology has. We still have those conversations, but now we are doing them digitally. We use our smartphones and tablets. We use our social networks and blogs. The infrastructure has shifted, the human aspect has not.

Recently I was featured in a Sydney Morning Herald article about employees using social networks whilst at work. A few topics were raised in the article as to what employers could do when it comes to Social Media and their employees during working hours.

Lots of employers resent the fact that their employees are spending time not working. A common concern I hear in my Social Media Training classes from C-Level and Executive Level members is that this new technology is driving unproductive, unmotivated and disengaged staff.

My response, always the same: Give them the tools, and this will work for you.

Here are 6 ways that Employers could utilise Social Media tools, behaviours and platforms to their own advantage with their staff:

Build a Wiki and Crowdsource Ideas
 We’re all familiar with the brainstorming concept. But taking this concept and making it digital can be a powerful tool for employees. The solution is simple. Take the concept of Wikipedia, and build a platform where all documentation are added, edited and peer reviewed by the crowd – the employees. Staff members will flock towards their topics of interest, and contribute to what they are truly enthusiastic about.

But why stop there? Ideas are the true driver in business behind innovation, creation and possible success. Look at the Google Employment Model as a prime example. By building a wiki, employees can submit their ideas (replacing the tired ‘suggestion box’) and have other employees peer-review the idea. Soon a culture of peer-editing on the ideas and ironing out all the crinkles can occur. If a user-generated rating system is then also implemented, employers can wait for the top ranking ideas, pick the low hanging fruit and implement these ideas.

Build an Internal Social Network; create a Social Media Policy
In the absence of allowing employees to access their social media platforms, employers should at the very least build the framework for an internal social network. Employees should then create their own profiles, upload their own images, links and content into the site. Employers should crowdsource from employees to build a mutual Social Media policy for this internal social network. Then let the employees organically grow the network, self-police and utilise the power of communication within the network (e.g. File sharing, Link Sharing, Instant Messenger etc.)This will not only reduce the volume of email communication internally, but indirectly reduce the volume of printed material and increase turnaround times as emails tend to get left behind in email inboxes.

 
Foster a Mobile Web Environment
Most of the staff in any organisation will own a smartphone with a large portion also owning a tablet. Employees should use these tools to build their own gatherings within the organisation to contribute towards a common goal. Employees could hold a session about job appreciation in their department over lunch time. Employees could participate in a social gaming session as a de-stress. Employees could contribute towards the building of an app for the company. All these ideas involve the usage of smartphones and tablets, and help foster a mobile web friendly environment.

On top of this, events, training sessions, conferences etc. can all utilise the rapidly booming geo-location and check-in features to help spread to their external networks that they are participating in Employer events, promoting the organisation as a well-regarded place to work for.

Post a blog about your company, become a subject matter expert
Each employee contributes their part to the organisation. Each employee is a potential subject matter expert in their field. Thus, each employee should be able to write their own blog and distribute towards an internal / external network. This allows employees to step up and shine in what they do best, helps build their profile within the company and also by posting to external networks this increases the employee’s chances of being recognised for their work in the organisation when applying for jobs externally, as recruiters now search social media platforms for any information about candidates.
 
By creating an ongoing blog, employees contribute towards their portfolio and CV both internally and externally.
 
Shared Platforms
Employees now utilise of different media to communicate their message. Mediums such as photo sharing, video sharing, linked sharing and blog sharing is an approach that employees can collectively take to build up an organisations profile. As employees use smartphones they can create real-time content for an organisation wanting to capture a range of different media. Organisations will be required to build the platform or use existing platforms, like Flickr, YouTube or Tumblr to allow this organic collaboration of work to thrive and grow. Once again, a review and moderation process will be required but this can be built within the employee crowd sourced Social Media policy.

In conclusion, employers need not fear the usage of Social Media in their workplaces. Remember, staff are people and people are social creatures. Why stand in the way of blocking all this social interaction, when every organisation can use it to its advantage. Build the Social tools they need, and watch employees continue to socialise, only this time, whilst still completing their work.

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An Introduction to Social Monitoring

Social Media plays a huge role in our lives today. Most of us use it on a daily basis as a minimum, and many of us use it on the go, from our smartphones. Needless to say, Social Media now plays a vital role in our daily communications and obtaining information. As businesses have begun to recognise the value of our time on Social Media sites, they too have now jumped into the Social Media game, by having a presence in Social Media. It is here where the two meet: Consumers and Business. And it is here where, businesses must monitor, like any marketing strategy, what is working and what isn’t.

Social Monitoring is the process of using Social Analytics Tools and applying this data to measure, review, evaluate and highlight business achievements and campaigns.

As businesses are starting to see the value of their presence in Social Media and start communicating, engaging and influencing through their Social Media Platforms with their customers, naturally, they would want to see the value of using Social Media and the metrics it can provide into how effective Social Media is for them. As such, businesses can now use a whole range of Social Analytics tools to help them understand their brand engagement on Social Media Platforms.

Thus, it is not enough for businesses to only have a Social Media presence but also to be monitoring their activities, their customers and their success through their Social Media presence.

Social Analytics and Social Monitoring tools can provide businesses with a huge array of data for them to pour over, analyse and utilise to their advantage. For example, businesses can measure their positive vs. negative sentiment ratio which measures the number of good vs. bad mentions about the business. Businesses can also measure detailed demographic data such as Gender, Age and Location of their customers. The ability to also gather data across all Social Media platforms (along with the web) to continually monitor any negative feedback, and address this in real time is extremely imperative in a world where every Smartphone is now a consumers tool to praise or destroy a business – in real time.

One very important aspect of Social Monitoring is that you are able to tie this back to your Return On Investment. Remembering, now we don’t only measure ROI in financial terms, but also in digital assets, in online reputation management and in brand equity, businesses can tie this data back to their one true reason to exist – revenue.

An example of this would be to graph over x amount of time, the number of positive sentiments a business received as measured through Social Media Analytical tools. Then on the same graph, overlay the revenue the business earned for the same period. Any correlation?

Another example would be to measure the value of revenue generated out of Social Media campaigns. Graph this against traditional marketing campaigns. Now look at the underlying costs of your Social Media campaigns vs. your traditional marketing campaigns. Which provided a better net return? Which had a bigger reach? Which required fewer resources?

Social Media Monitoring tools come in different shapes and forms, and all of them can provide you with the tools you need to get started in measuring your campaigns.

There are free tools such as: Twitsprout; Klout; SocialMention; Facebook Insights; Twitter analytics and there are enterprise tools such as BuzzNumbers, Radian6 and Dialogix.

Generally, the free tools provide you with a high level overview, however for a much more focused and accurate result, purchase and usage of the enterprise tools is highly recommended. Whilst some businesses may see this as an additional investment in Social Media and be reluctant, but can businesses really put a price on the data and information these tools can provide? If so then businesses are only achieving half of what they should out of Social Media, after all, there is no use of jumping into any marketing campaign unless you are able to measure its effectiveness. That includes Social Media.

As always, Share + Enjoy!

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Social Media + Smart Phones - Who Controls Our Tech Freedom?

Over the next 3 weeks, I am blogging a 3 part series about how Social Media and Smartphones are the best technology marriage we have seen in years, how smartphones are driving a new web for us all and how are smartphones are going to replace our wallets. Tune in!

The UK Riots were ‘apparently’ caused by Social Media networking on Smartphones; the San Francisco BART operators shut off 4 Mobile communication towers to avoid protestors organising themselves and several witnesses all used their smartphones to capture the moment a concert stage rig collapsed in Indiana.

It seems everything we hear on the news there is some involvement of Social Media and that it is mostly generated by the general public using their Smartphones.

This week the question was raised if the Social Media and Smart Phone marriage was a benefit or limitation to our societies. Personally, I think it is a benefit and has helped our society come a long way. Below I describe why.

The biggest topic last week was as @pembo put it so eloquently in his article (featured in The Punch) ‘The World’s Biggest Bludger Uprising’. The London Riots. The riots caused by many youths have been linked to Social Media and Smartphone usage, as a key driver in the organisation of such a destructive event. Twitter was blamed for the social network to host the organisers’ information, and Blackberry the tool used by the culprits to communicate. After 4 days or rioting several government officials played around with the idea of having a ‘kill switch’ on Social Networks.

To be blunt, this has to be one of the most hypocritical ideas in history. Only several months before, these officials were praising the use of Social Networks and Smartphones for the liberation of countries like Egypt, Tunisia and Libya.

The mechanism, communication and tools were the same. A large mass of people organising themselves using the latest technology to revolt against a common cause. But are the Social Networks and Smartphones to blame here?

No. They are neither the cause nor effect of the outcome. They are simply the medium through which the outcome travels. As such, placing a ‘kill switch’ at the power of a few to control the masses is not only a huge leap backwards, it’s actually counterproductive. What would have happened if Mubarak or Gaddafi had a kill switch on their nation’s social networks?

So in conclusion, the parallels between the benefits of Social Media and Smartphones to our way of living are very clear, and derive a positive outcome for societies around the world. We are more connected, we now have all the information we need in real time, we have built a web of trust on our connections opinions and we can save more lives in events like natural disasters.

Should anyone person, organisation or government control Social Media, or have the ability to switch it off? No. Social Media, like the internet does not belong to anyone of us. It belongs to all of us. As such, we should be able to use it as we like. 

What do you think? Should Social Media be controlled or should it remain free for all to use as they see fit?

As Always – Share + Enjoy!

Next Week’s Blog Teaser: How Mobile is your Web?

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The Social Brain - Why our brains need Social Networks

Our lives are moving at a rapid pace. So fast, that we can barely keep up with everything. In fact, we can’t. It’s impossible to be able to be three steps ahead with everything in your life. That’s because there is so much going on. Our brains are moving into a new phase of evolution. We now no longer require the growing brain capacity to do the thinking for us. Instead, we are smart enough to build machines to do this.

Once upon a time, we had our close group of family, friends, peers and work colleagues, that we called our social network. Now, we are all connected to as many people as we possibly can, like never before in the history of our species.

The human brain is designed to maintain approximately 150 stable social networks. This is called Dunbar’s number. This is where you brain knows the person and how each person relates to every other person.

However, in these hyper connected times, which we are propelling forward faster and faster in time, we are connected to a whole lot more than 150 people.

Think about your immediate family, then your second cousins, then their immediate families, then your work colleagues, then your immediate friends, then your school friends, then your special interest friends … the list goes on. Most of us will have already bridged the 150 mark just thinking about the above.

This is where the need for online social networking comes in.

Humans have built technologies like computers and the internet to record and store information. Online social networks like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn have come along at the perfect time where we need to outsource this part of our brain to the internet to hold this information for us.

Online Social Networking has given us many advantages, and we are now so accustomed to it, that if it were to disappear tomorrow, our lives would be in disarray.

We are use to having this information delivered to us at such rapid speeds, with no limits on distance that we feel utterly disconnected when we don’t receive our ‘hit’ of what has happened online.

From organised events, to photo sharing, our digital opinions about brands, products and services to the simply checking in on how our friends and family members are, without the need to speak to anyone.

Is this a good thing or a bad thing? Are Social Networks destroying real life interactions, or enhancing them?

Many would argue it is bad, because the human interaction we all crave is starting to fade. Whilst less face to face interaction may occur in certain aspects of our lives, does this really have to be labelled as a negative to our social brains?

No.

Remember, we have now shifted our social brain online, outsourcing this once limited computing power of the human body, to the infinite collective thought of everyone connected to the internet.

We now organise charities, raise awareness and build engaging relationships with people whom we were previously unable to access, all in the search for social good.

We now share our lives, stories and news with the world in a way that humans are now regaining power from governments to become a more humane society. We have witnessed these events through the power of social networks radiating away from several Arab nations.

We now assess our brands, products and services not from greedy corporations whom have a message delivered to us in advertising with their profits in mind, but rather we source our peer reviewed content about these brands and products. Our Social Networks have shifted the power to the consumer.

We are now able to stay in touch with more than our 150 social relationships with such a high quality of detail, which we no longer need to worry about distance as a barrier to this connection. Instead, we now follow, interact, reach out and influence those whom are of most interest to us.

The human social brain didn’t stop growing in our bodies because our brains stopped growing. We built Online Social Networks to allow our species to maintain its lead on the rapidly changing and driving technologies we created and evolved.

Therefore, Online Social Networking has brought many great advantages to our species. It has helped us rapidly advance well ahead by maintaining our greater power of knowledge over our social relationships and allowed our brains the capacity to compute our daily activities, which come with living in a social world.

Welcome to the next stage of human evolution. The internet and our Social Networks are now an extension of our human brains.

As always, Share + Enjoy

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#SocialBrain

The Rise of the Digital Consumer: How the power shifted from Business to the Customer

Information: the source of all power in this day and age. The gatekeepers of information have been able to control its flow and access over millennia and as such, decide how power is distributed.

This is what the companies of the old world knew. This is how they developed their empires. The consumer was the slave, born in the bondage of capitalism.  The organisation, the dark lord which possessed the ring of power.

In the old world, information, like time, was one directional.

This world has come crumbling down. We have witnessed the revolution that the power of information-sharing, collaborating, influencing and engaging can bring. And this unlimited power source is wholly owned by its creators, its sharers, its spreaders and its controllers – today’s consumer.

Last week, I exercised my right as a consumer to battle not one, but two, of Australia’s big banks. David beat Goliath with a stone. My weapon of choice – Social Media.

In summary, my funds were transferred (by me) into an invalid account. Sure this was my fault. But when this happens, surely basic customer service dictates that companies, especially banks, should not abandon their customers.

After a couple of phone calls to each bank, I was told my funds were in limbo by both banks. No one wanted to claim responsibility. Furthermore, neither bank was pro-active in helping me, their loyal customer.

As such, I turned to Social Media. Not as a form of attack, but rather a test. I wanted to see how well both banks would stand against one single consumer in the big bad world. So why did I choose Social Media?

Social Media is fast becoming a large part of many companies’ marketing strategy. Why? Because this is where their consumers are. They are not in front of a TV awaiting a one directional message to be beamed into their lounge room in the form of an advertisement. They are hunting for information, growing ever more hungrier and feeding off any data they can find online about brands, products, services, companies etc.

As such, companies, crippled at the knees, have bowed down and been forced to be open, transparent and provide as much information as possible to the ever more knowledgeable consumer. If this consumer hunger for information is not satisfied, the company is easily passed over, as the consumer finds the next company that can satisfy their needs.

But the consumer does not stop at sourcing information. This was the dawn of the internet age. We now live in the age of attention, where this information is interchanged. This information is shared. This digital currency can make or break companies with 140 characters. The power of the digital opinion is now mightier than the pen and sword combined.

Common sense dictates that each company would have some form of Social Media presence, monitoring and engaging. Why? Because if something goes wrong, the consumer now has the technology to spread this negative PR globally at incredible speeds. Social Media and the internet have now armed the consumer with Zeus’s lightning. Social Media has now shifted the power from companies to the consumer.

Companies need to be able to not only react quickly, but also to become more pro-actively engaged in online conversations, in developing relationships with their consumers and in staying ahead of trend bubbles, which rise and pop at immense speeds. Yesterday’s fad was a lifetime ago, tomorrows sensation could be the difference between a million and a billion dollars. It’s explosive and the zenith continues to climb!

I turned to Social Media not only to directly confront these two banks in a public forum, but also to share my experiences with anyone else who feels the same way. Sure, this may have not have happened to other consumers, but the thought of it happening was enough for them to join the conversation and also to express their opinion about it.

My experience provided me with two different approaches that these companies took with their social media. One bank just scraped through to keep me as their customer. The other, well, let’s just say after a lifetime of banking with them, they have lost a long-term promoter of their company.

Let’s begin with the everyday bank. Even though I stated their name in my posts and used hashtags on twitter, never did I hear from them. To them, I am a single drop in the ocean, and one they are happy to live without.

How could such a huge organisation let negative publicity slip past? How could they allow such comments to be distributed across the internet for thousands to read? If I were to place an ad in the paper with my comments, would this company still allow it to occur, or would they counter-attack with their own ad?

There is only one thing worse than negative publicity, and that’s not managing it at all. This company indulged in the cardinal sin of social media by allowing the issue to slip past as they slept through the night, living the Stepford dream that their customers are the happiest people in the world.

The online bank however, did engage using social media. Did they do it in a way that their customer was happy? No. But 10 points for attempting. I at least have respect for that. Sure, they might have a training issue when it comes to their Social Media usage, but at least they are using Social Media.

The issue with the online bank was that their social media representative made an assumption that they understood their industry more than their consumer. However, one should never underestimate the knowledge and power of the consumer, especially in a world where information freely flows.

Just because a company is using Social Media does not mean they need to abuse this use by assuming they still hold all the information. This old method of one-way communication was not what I was looking for.  Rather, I was asking the bank to use social media to turn my bad experience into a positive issue for the bank.

It finally took the founder of the bank and the current general manager to provide me with a personalised, accountable service with a solution. Yes, I got my money back the next day. Yes, the online bank’s general manager was helpful. But did I really have to go to such extremes? Shouldn’t the Social Media representative have been able to provide me with this service to begin with?

Some lessons for companies from a digital consumer’s point of view:

1. Definitely have a Social Media presence that is being monitored, engaging and pro-active. There are a multitude of free online tools which any business can use and utilise to listen carefully. If companies want to make a real investment, there are some great software purchases which will help fine tune this to the business’s core needs.

2. Just because you’re in Social Media, don’t assume you know everything. Information is now exchanged at rates faster than you can imagine, and sharing, collaborating and interacting now form part of that information. The quickest solution to this is to be as transparent as you can with your customers.

3. Do not underestimate the power of the Digital Opinion. Word of mouth information is many folds more trustworthy, and moves at faster speeds around the globe due to our hyper connections.

This is where these two companies failed their consumer. This is where I now have the power to spread my information about my experience to other consumers to ensure they are not treated in the same manner. This is the power shift from the business to the consumer in the digital age of attention. And most importantly this is the power of Social Media.

Naturally, I will ask you to Enjoy + Share.