What Constitutes a Blog Post?

Twice today I’ve retweeted something I felt was worthy of letting my followers know.  Both times the links in the retweet went to someone’s blog post that was pretty much nothing other than a link to the original article or blog post.  Being the devil that I am and because I want the original author to get credit, I retweeted but changed the link so it went to the ORIGINAL article/post.

This got me thinking – what constitutes a blog post?  I mean with sites like Twitter, Facebook, Digg, Diigo, Delicious, and apps like ShareThis is it necessary (or even right) to create a blog post that only links to the original article with little to no content added by you?  Are we really using blogs in the right manner if posts become a version of the aforementioned sites?

Curious, what constitutes a blog post for you?

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What I Meant To Say

Image representing Twitter as depicted in Crun...
Image via CrunchBase

Why is it that you always think of the perfect thing to say after the fact?  Last night was no exception.  I taught an overview of Twitter and all the good things came to me after the class had left.  I’m left feeling as if I let them down by not passing along this info.  I had so much in my head, so much I had planned to show and talk about but somehow there is never enough time.

So here is a list of things I hope I pointed out but in case I didn’t:

  • Your follower/following ratio – this ratio should not be horribly lopsided.  5 followers but following 500 isn’t good.  More than likely that person is just in it for the numbers (so folks just want to have the most followers but aren’t really using Twitter correctly).
  • Before you follow – view their profile.  Is their bio filled out?  Who are they following?  What is their follower/following ratio?  Read some of their tweets, all of them help you to decide is this person really someone I want to follow.
  • Twitter vs. Facebook – Twitter is more informational.  Facebook is more fun.  Each has it’s place and they can connect (have Twitter update your status on Facebook) but I don’t get the same level of information on Facebook as I do on Twitter.
  • To understand Twitter you need to use Twitter.  Not that the concept is so hard to grasp just that it can have so many applications depending on what you want from it.
  • I did say this but feel I should elaborate – Twitter is what you get out of it.  I use it to stay on top of trends (professionally or just what’s going on in the world), I use it to stay informed (following BBCnews, BreakingNews, NyTimes as well as several experts in the social media arena), I use it to connect to others in my profession, I use it for note taking (I’ve live blogged a photography class I attend at the library just using Twitter.  Because I hashtagged my Tweets I was able to go back later and put all my notes into a cohesive blog post).
  • Use Twitter for what you want but be real.  If you want to connect with other like minded folks, Twitter is great for that.  If you want to promote your business, non-profit, favorite charity, etc. it is also great for that.  Just beware.  Don’t be an institution.  People want to follow real people no matter whether is it a Mom who is looking to connect to other stay at home Moms or it is a Fortune 500 company trying to connect with their customers.  Let your personality shine through on your tweets.  Don’t be stuffy.  Also don’t make it all about you – engage a conversation with your customers.  Make yourself approachable.  Twitter is just another doorway into your business – good customer service extends to the web as well.
  • Protecting your tweets isn’t always a good thing.  If you are out on the social web the point is to share.  I understand about wanting to be in control of what you share with others.  Protecting your tweets just puts another layer between you and the people/customers who may want to follow you.  This also keeps your tweets out of searches.  So if I search for dog grooming and your are a dog groomer with protected tweets I’m not going to see you and you may miss an opportunity for business.  What are you protecting?  Think twice before you protect your tweets.
  • Be patient.  Give it a try.  Twitter wasn’t built in a day.  You need to try it on, take it out for a test drive, kick the tires a little bit before you decide.  The social web has a web site for everyone – Twitter maybe for you or it may not.  But at least give it a try.
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Can you Digg It?

Digg
Image via Wikipedia

…I knew that you could, yes, yes, yes.   (gotta love Billy Crystal)

Decided I’m going to post at least once a month a link to my  recent activity on Digg.  Hope you might find something interesting there as well.

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Do Celebrities Belong in Your Following?

Guess #followfriday got me thinking about this.  I was looking through people I follow and who they follow.  I was focusing more on what I call “official” Twitter accounts vs. personal accounts.  I noticed that one library account had several celebrities it was following.  For some reason this didn’t sit well with me.  I can understand following authors, local celebs that perhaps have been connected to your library or your state but the likes of Miley Cyrus or Justine Timberlake seemed a bit off.

One could argue well if you carry their cd’s in your collection why wouldn’t you follow them?  And that is a logical argument I’m just not sold on it.  I feel that the people you follow (not necessarily the ones that follow you) says something about you.   No followers says one thing about you just as a large number of followers says another.  But it isn’t just about the numbers (some folks like the play the number game I prefer quality over quantity).  Not sure I like what a bunch of celebrities says about your official account.

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Who Moved My FriendFeed?

Image representing FriendFeed as depicted in C...
Image via CrunchBase

By now most folks who use Friendfeed know that it was acquired by Facebook yesterday.  If you visit Friendfeed today you’ll see lots of gloom and doom predictions, rats leaving the sinking ship and so on.  Ah, human nature is amazing to behold in action.  Move someone’s cheese and they just can’t handle it.

I’m not saying you have to like Facebook, I’m not saying you have to stay if you don’t feel like it but let’s wait and see if all that you are sure is going to happen, happens.  I remember when I first started at Friendfeed everyone was predicting the fall of Twitter – everyone is moving over here they won’t use Twitter.  I even blogged about this and letting the dust settle before I made any rash decisions or predictions.

I maybe one of the few at Friendfeed that love both sites and use them differently.  I don’t know what is going to happen (and neither do any of you who aren’t employeed by Facebook).  So let’s just sit back, see what happens and for once not assume the worst.  If you have to leave based on some princple then go but do it quietly please.

I guess my quote on my Momentile profile says it all – “Embrace change because it’s going to happen anyway.”   If you have been around the interwebs for any time at all you should know by now that things change, sites get bought out, new ones become the golden child and tried but true ones fade away.  It will be an interesting next couple of months to see just what happens to Friendfeed and who stays or goes.  Maybe I should have gone into psychiatry – manking and the way they thing/react is indeed very interesting to study.

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More Than Just Addition

Deep Down Inside, We All Love Math T-Shirt Design
Image by Network Osaka via Flickr

Anyone who knows me understands that math is not my strong suit.  However, there is more to using social web sites than just adding a post, a picture, a video.  What you really need to do is multiply!

Multiply your readers, visitors, followers or friends by making sure you add as much information as possible.  For example Flickr – don’t just add your photos and call it a day.  At the bare minimum you should include a catchy title (hate when I see img_0875.jpg as title), add a tag or two (being the self-professed tag whore I would say add as many as you can) and include the picture on the map.  Why?  Because by doing any of those things you can make it just a little bit easier for someone to find you, your pictures, your web site – object isn’t to make it harder for your customers (audience) but easier.

Make your audience’s search a bit easier.  If I did a search for Jackson Pollock because my child attended a class at the library and there were photos being taken, I would expect that those photos should show up in the search results somewhere.  Well, they won’t if I don’t use it in the title, description or tags.  If I leave the title as img_0875.jpg – what does that mean to anyone who isn’t a camera?  Refusing to add a description or at least a few tags leaves my audience not getting the search results they expect.

This goes for personal accounts as well as organizational accounts.  Not everyone searches the same way.  Some people will type a name into a search box, some will explore a site and dig around (but not for too long if they don’t find what they want) – the point is everyone is unique and they come at their information gathering in a different way.  So don’t expect people to KNOW you have an account on Flickr and they’ll find your photostream – maybe they’ll stumble upon you while searching tags or exploring the map.  They won’t be able to do that if you don’t take full advantage of the features a site offers.

This may take a little bit more time to do for each photo you upload but in the long run it is worth it if your customers/audience finds you a lot easier because you just did some simple math.  You can also apply this math lesson to other social web sites – don’t just add, multiply!

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When Is Too Much, Too Much?

Image representing Twitter as depicted in Crun...
Image via CrunchBase

I am probably going to be in the minority on this one.  But how many Tweets is too many?

Does your message get diluted if you Tweet too much on Twitter or does it get diluted if you have too many followers?

How do you balance the right amount of Tweets to keep your followers engaged vs. overwhelmed?  Keep in mind I’m thinking more along the lines of an official account versus a personal account but I think it can apply to both.  Is one man’s not enough another man’s too much?

I subscribe to several Twitter accounts that are linked to libraries or businesses – some of them Tweet quite often while others rarely.  I don’t seem to have a problem with the ones that Tweet more (I quickly glance at the Tweet that pops up in Twhirl and move on – just like those Thunderbird pop ups that let me know I have a new email).  Some say you overwhelm your customers/consumers if you Tweet often.  Not sure I agree with that.  The ones that don’t Tweet much at all are doing their customers the real disservice.  Don’t taunt me, tease me into thinking I can communicate with you via Twitter and then give me nothing or very little.  Is more than 10, 20, 30, 50, 100 Tweets a day too much?  Is it really about a number?  Shouldn’t it be about content?  Shouldn’t the real measure be whether or not you are providing your customers/consumers with content of value and a way for them to reach you?

So what do you think?

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My 2 Cents To Businesses Everywhere

Customer service seems to be on the minds of everyone lately.  First I posted about my recent not so great experiences, then today Strange Librarian posted on her blog her dealings with Weiss and being rushed out of the store, and then Andrew Shuping posted at FriendFeed his less than stellar experience with Cracker Barrel.  Something must be in the water.

You might wonder what do I know about customer service.  Well I served at the public service desk for many years as part of the Circulation department, I have contact with customers on weekly basis via email when dealing with technology problems, I have to interact with internal customers (staff and they are just as important as our external customers) daily solving their problems, answering their questions and helping them succeed in their roles but most importantly I AM A CONSUMER!

So whether you are a library, a retail establishment, small business or major corporation here is my 2 cents to you:

  • Hire the appropriate staff.  Make sure your interview process asks probing, clarifying questions.  Don’t just give scenarios and ask how they’d handle them.
  • Once appropriate staff are hired, TRAIN THEM.  Don’t assume because they answered questions correctly in the interview they know everything.  Technology comes along that they need to be aware of to interact correctly with customers.  Also refreshers are never a bad thing we can all benefit from that.
  • Make sure your company policies are inline with good customer service.  Don’t tie your employees hands with silly policies or rules.
  • Trust your employees.  You interviewed them, you hired them, you trained them now trust them.  That isn’t to say not to be aware of what they are doing but don’t micro-manage.  If you hover over them that kind of pressure won’t bring out the best customer service in them.
  • Reward great customer service.  Let them know you value the kind of service they are providing.  Anything from an “attaboy” to comp time to monetary rewards – doesn’t have to be big but acknowledgment is always great to hear.
  • Nip bad customer service in the bud.  One bad experience by a customer can multiply times ten and now with the social web it can multiply times ten thousand or more.  Pull that person off the front line, get them back into training, listen to them and help them learn a better way to handle the situation and if worst comes to worst fire them.  Keeping bad customer service employees in this day and age is tantamount to suicide.

I am as loyal as they come when you treat me right.  But all it takes is one wrong customer service experience for me to write about it, tell all my friends and more than likely never darken the doorstep of your establishment again.  Just ask Sears.  Had a bad experience with them back in 1989 and other than walking through their store to get inside the Columbia Mall I have never bought anything from them again.  You might think how much damage can one little person not buying anything from a major company like Sears do.  Well, it isn’t just me that isn’t buying it is my family and friends who have heard the full story – now with the social web that story can be told to many, many more.

Seriously? In This Economy You Can Afford To Offer Bad Customer Service?

I think  most people who know me would say I’m pretty fair.  I don’t immediately fly off the handle at a drop of a hat.  I am someone who will give you 3 strikes before calling you out.  So it is fair to say I gave VPI Pet Insurance more than their fair share of strikes.  I’m just utterly blown away by the experience I had today with VPI.  All because I wanted to cancel my policy.  I will say that at the beginning I wanted only to cancel my policies for now and had all hopes of reinstating them at a later point.  That point is now NEVER going to come.  VPI blew it big time.

Below is the email I sent to their customercare@petinsurance.com.  First part about canceling the policies and the numbers have been left off.  I’m still realing after this interaction.  I would never in good consceience recommend this place to ANYONE because of the bad customer experience I had today.  Sad to say one really bad experience can negate previous good ones.  Worst part is if the supervisor had taken a different route with me a lot of my frustration could have dissapated – she just added to it.

I’ve attached 2 screen shots to explain the problems I was having with your web site.  The first one shows you that I have all the information filled in and all the boxes dealt with correctly.  The 2nd screen shot is the message I got after clicking on submit.  I called to make sure there was no changes pending (as I have not submitted any claims or made any changes for 6 months) – there were no changes to my account that anyone could find.

As someone who has not only worked in customer service but also in Information Technology for over 25 years this was the worst experience I’ve had dealing with both a web site and people via the phone.  If you want your customers to be able to manage their accounts (make claims, cancel, etc.) you need to make your web site is web standards complaint (any browser, any operating system and interoperability/accessibility for all no matter what their situation might be).  At first I tried your web site in latest version of Firefox on Ubuntu (Linux) and was unable to do so.  At first I thought perhaps you were down or having problems with the site so I decided to try later.  2 weeks later (today) I try again – after filling out all the info and checking boxes (see 1st screenshot) I see a small box flash quickly (something about searching a database) and then I get the same page I was on.  I felt as if things didn’t go through correctly.  So I called the first time to verify.  I explain to that person (sorry he didn’t give me his name) and I explained in a calm voice that I was frustrated but trying to cancel my policies.  I told him about my experience.  He was (out of the 3 people I talked to) the best.  He explained that I should see another screen, he was patient with me and I with him.  I asked him if the site didn’t work with Firefox and he put me on hold to check.  Someone (don’t know who) told him the only problem they were aware of was Safari (which means you are limiting your whole MacIntosh user base).  I told him I’d try again on my WindowsXP machine.

Tried Firefox again but on WindowsXP and experienced the same problem.  I then decided to try Internet Explorer – I was able to get further than I had but was presented with a box saying that changes were still pending on one of my accounts and you couldn’t cancel my policies.  (see screen shot 2)  At this point I again called your company.  Amy helped me this time.  Although she was nice I don’t think she understood the problems I was having and after more than 30 mins of trying to cancel my policies I needed this escalated to someone who understood web browsers as well as your policies.  I asked to speak to a supervisor or possibly someone on the web team.  After several mins have gone by I finally get to speak to Jeanette.  No offense but if you have a customer who up until that point had been kind, calm and understanding but extremely frustrated and asking for a supervisor – that is not the time to try and sell me on your policies or lowering my coverage.  At that point you need to see to my frustration and needs by doing that you may have retained me as a customer.  She asked to hear my story (and I wanted to give her the details of what happened) before I had finished she cut me off and didn’t want to hear anymore.  That was just plain rude.  I lost it.  I could understand if I was being rude or if I had been yelling at her but I was not.  There was no excuse for cutting me off.  She didn’t even hear all of the problem before she just jumped in.  She was curt and rude with me for the rest of the call.  At one point I wanted to let her know that I was not happy with my customer experience and I was letting others know this.  I told her I was Twittering this.  She assumed I was trying to cancel via Twitter (NO I’m not stupid but I do have a fair following on my social networks and many of them are pet lovers like me).  She curtly asked me if I had sent the email only moments after I wrote down the information.  HUH?  Come now you need information from me, I need to log into my account – how on earth did she expect me to send an email within seconds.  She informed me that the calls are monitored.  If that is so I certainly hope as a supervisor she is given better training on dealing with customers.  Interrupting, being insulting and rude are not values we instill in my work place with our customer service staff.

I expect my policies to be canceled effective today. I don’t expect anything more than to make sure your web portal is web standards compliant and will actually ALLOW your customers to use it and to educate your customer service staff in how to best give GOOD customer service.

This is really a shame because up until today I had been a loyal customer.  In the past my phone calls have only resulted in the best customer service interaction (especially one kind lady who even called me back and walked me through a procedure to ensure I got all that was due).  But after frustration with the web site, dealing with a supervisor who doesn’t know how to deal with customer service I don’t have the same high opinion of your company as I once did.

My Tweets:

  1. @AAHAHelpingPets I’d have to say #unfollowfriday to VPI after the experience I had today. Bad customer service and poor web portal.

  2. I sense another blog post coming on – must be record bad customer service week.

  3. @rachelrapp Funny thing is one woman I spoke to (3 people total) was named Amy – my Amy knows customer service

  4. Even told the woman Jeanette I believe she said that I was Twittering about this. So VPI Pet Insurance I recommend you clean up your act.

  5. Condescending supervisor asked for my story then doesn’t want to hear it all. BAD customer service rep. VPI Pet Insur. major fail.

  6. FAIL – your site doesn’t work in Firefox or Safari and only on Windows?!! VPI pet insurance no wonder I’m canceling my policies.

Let The Social Web Document Your Next Training

social-web-researchWhile driving home from the Maryland Library Association conference I had several hours in the car alone to contemplate things.  At some point my mind wondered to those forms that we or at least folks in Maryland have to fill out to receive CEUs.

The form is boring.  The form can’t really capture what you may or may not have learned at a training or conference.  Why not allow the social web to document your next training or conference as an option.  Mind you I know not everyone blogs or Twitters or has a Flickr account but many of us do.

Submit your Twitter stream and the hashtags you used.  Give the URL of your Flickr set from the training/conference.  Set up a blog and live the sessions you attend.  All of these options would give your employer a much better idea of what you got out of a session than some form.