Friday, January 28, 2011
This is a quick update. I'm certain that there will be much more to write about after the weekend.
First, if you haven't read the story, see the first part here: Social Media Fail. Then read the second part here: More Sunshine.
Today there are some updates. If you are following the what-actually-happened story, the Metro News reports that the dismissed employees have filed a lawsuit.
But that's not a discussion for this blog. We are here to discuss how it's being handled from a social media point-of-view. And what is happening with discussions online.
And the big news here is that yesterday the Facebook page disappeared. They probably had no choice. Scathing comments had spiraled out of control and it had reached a point of no return. So gone is the Facebook page. This leaves Sunshine Village without much of a voice in the social media and online discussions.
So what are those discussions? This is important to explore, because it demonstrates what can happen online when issues go south.
There are now several ski/mountain related forums discussing this issue - one of the threads is now 20 pages long. Posters from as far away as UK are chiming in, and the general sentiment of the posts are against Sunshine Village. A new Facebook page has been started in support of the (allegedly) wronged ski patrol. A quick search of Twitter reveals dozens of negative comments. Various review sites (such as Yelp) now have fresh negative comments and reviews, with low ratings for Sunshine Village.
Unfortunately for Sunshine Village, this entire event makes a good social-media case study.
I'll have more to post next week. In the meantime, we will see how this unfolds.
Wednesday, January 26, 2011
Yesterday I posted about Sunshine Village and their handling of some controversy on their Facebook page. It turns out that I made a few mistakes.
Mr Doug Firby, Associate Director, Communications for Sunshine Village emailed me directly to point out some of the errors of my post. Some things I wrote about have not been proven as fact. So I should have used more words such as 'allegedly' and 'apparently'. For those possible misrepresentations, I publicly apologize to Sunshine Village and to Mr. Firby. At the bottom of this post I have cut and paste a portion of Mr. Firby's email which directly addresses his concerns about what I said. I believe that is fairest for me to do for Sunshine Village as it addresses the comments I made in his words, not in mine.
However, the real facts of the situation are not pertinent to this blog. I'm not here to discuss what actually happened. That is for those involved to sort out between themselves.
This blog is about mobile marketing, and by extension social media marketing. My commentary is about their handling of the event on their Facebook page. And nobody can disagree that it probably hasn't been handled in the best way.
In yesterday's post I mentioned that at no time did Sunshine Village hold up their hand to their Facebook audience and make a bold, pronouncing statement of what happened, what is happening and what is going to happen, in a way that assures consumers that the right steps are being taken. The sample message I wrote yesterday was "Yes, we know there are some challenges with our staffing right now, and we are working to resolve those issues. We are also sorry to inconvenience anybody who was planning to ski at Sunshine Village on January 19th."
Mr. Firby indicates (see his comments below) that there were numerous examples of Sunshine Village attempting to respond to comments on their Facebook page. I was wrong, he is correct.
However, responses that I saw were inside the comments. And many of them came from Mr. Firby himself, using his own Facebook ID. So it wasn't clear, from a consumer point of view, that he was responding on behalf of Sunshine Village. And while addressing the individual Facebook user comments can be important, this situation warranted something much bigger in the bold, pronouncing statement. In this case, a Facebook status update would be more appropriate, and the message should be written to assure the Facebook fans of Sunshine Village that appropriate steps were being taken to address the situation.
Although I have already apologized for some inaccuracies, it is important to note that all of my information was gathered from Sunshine Village's own Facebook page. While this doesn't exactly ensure its accuracy (much of it came from comments), it DOES represent what most people who follow the Facebook page will believe. And those beliefs (accurate or not) could lead to a negative image for Sunshine Village.
I also note that the worst part of the entire episode, the posting of a link to an article about bad behaviour on the internet, has now been removed. This is proper - it should never have been posted in the first place.
I don't believe this story has ended. Sunshine Village still has an opportunity to fix this, but it will take some work. Time will tell how this finishes.
See also: Even More Sunshine.
Here are Mr. Firby's comments copied from an email sent to me. Only the part of yesterday's post that had comments on it has been copied.
Tuesday, January 25, 2011
Nearly every business owner knows by now that they should probably have a Facebook page. The trouble is, many of them don't know why.
Most will say that it's to help their consumers learn more about their brand, or that it might in some vague way enable their consumers to spread their (the company's) brand messages. Or they simply want one because their competitors have one.
While none of this is untrue, the most important thing to remember is that it all starts with a strategy. Like any marketing activity, a Facebook page must fit with the overall brand message and be integrated into all of the other marketing activities.
Furthermore, any social media marketing activity must have a plan for when things go south.
Witness the recent activity on the Facebook page for ski resort Sunshine Village. It has been gathering interest for the wrong reasons.
Apparently several senior members of the mountain patrol staff were recently fired. The reasons for their firing have not been made public, but according to the rumourmill (on their Facebook page) the firings were controversial. So much so that a large majority of the staff chose not to come to work the following day to support their fired colleagues. This led to most of the mountain being closed, and a number of upset customers who had driven fair distances only to have the bunny hills available.
What has followed has been nothing short of a social media PR disaster for the mountain. One that every marketer should study.
On January 19th, it was announced that a number of the employees were sick, and that 9 of the 12 lifts would be closed that day. This post was made at 10:34 AM, not exactly enough time to allow people to make other plans. Following the post are 88 comments, many of them from locals who claim to know the real reason the lifts were closed; the staff were on strike to protest unfair firings. According to some posts, the original four were fired after confronting some people who were skiiing in a closed area of the mountain, one of whom is a family member of the owner.
The comments express some serious anger toward the mountain for decisions made that led to this. And for being essentially closed (except for bunny hills) on short notice. Among those 88 comments, many of which are scathing for the resort, Sunshine Village responded exactly zero times.
In another bit of storyline, two other staff members claim they were fired for participating in the non-work-day protest. Apparently some of the fired staffers are seeking legal advice.
Subsequent posts in the following days by Sunshine Village on their page offer status reports of which lifts were open. But none addressed the concerns raised in the comments. Each of these posts garnered significant comments, again many of them scathing.
In perhaps the worst bit of PR I've seen in a long time, the January 24th post by Sunshine Village on their Facebook page was this:
So instead of addressing the general concerns of their Facebook fans, they effectively accused them of collective bad behaviour. Instead of facing the issues, they became defensive.
This has led to a number of other scathing comments on their Facebook page. Clearly, Sunshine had no plan to deal with their public relations via Facebook in a time of crisis. And it has now also spilled over onto Twitter, Yelp and probably other social media areas. Not to mention the writeups in the local newspaper, the Calgary Sun and on the CBC news website.
Although they did offer a $20 discount that day (off a $70+ lift ticket), that wasn't enough. Anybody who showed up that day should have been allowed to ski their 3 open lifts for no charge, AND should have been given a voucher for another free ski day.
More importantly, at no time did Sunshine step forward and say (via their Facebook page) "Yes, we know there are some challenges with our staffing right now, and we are working to resolve those issues. We are also sorry to inconvenience anybody who was planning to ski at Sunshine Village on January 19th."
Instead they have allowed the rumours to fester and accused their Facebook fans of bad behaviour.
Marketers need to have a plan. Social media needs to be based around a strategy. And contingencies must be in place to deal with crises. Otherwise, you are just flailing in the dark.
(See the follow up to this post)
Friday, January 14, 2011
It's good to toot your own horn once in a while. A while ago on this blog, I posted about how brilliant I was. Apparently I still am.
Jeff Hasen (CEO of Hipcricket and someone who is also probably brilliant), today published this article titled "Marketers Need New Mobile Social Media Mindset". Mr. Hasen talks about the recently released statistics from Twitter and how it "shows the convergence of social media and mobile."
Apparently Mr. Hasen has been reading this blog. Only three days ago I wrote about the convergence of social and mobile. However, Mr. Hasen discusses better than I the concept of marketing silos. He explains in greater detail that as social and mobile activities converge, so too must social and mobile marketing budgets. Of course, he is absolutely correct.
I suppose then that Mr. Hasen and I are both brilliant.
Tuesday, January 11, 2011
One thing that I've been meaning to write about for some time is the convergence of mobile and social media marketing activities.
Now I hate that word "convergence". It's one of those overused 1990s MBA buzzphrases that is along the same lines as "think-outside-the-box" and "synergies". Plus, in general, the world doesn't converge, it diverges. But this is another topic.
In this case I'm forced to use convergence. Because in the truest sense of the world, mobile and social media marketing activities are indeed "converging". Just look at some stats:
- 40% of all tweets are now posted from a mobile device (up from 25% one year ago)
- 40% of all Facebook users access Facebook from their mobile device
- people that use Facebook on their mobile device are twice as active on Facebook than non-mobile users
- Foursquare, a location-based (mobile accessed) social media platform now has 5 million users, up from 500,000 just 9 months ago
- YouTube receives 35 hours of video uploaded per minute, up from 24 hours 6 months ago, a growth attributed by YouTube's Hunter Walk to the growth in mobile uploads
- a recent survey by Google of 16,000 users of YouTube revealed that 75% of respondants say that mobile is their primary way of accessing Youtube
This means that your mobile marketing budget cannot be sectioned off from your social media budget. There is much overlap.
There are thousands of examples of mobile and social converging. I recently ran across this video from KLM which offers a terrific demonstration.
Thursday, January 6, 2011
Not long ago I wrote about a text message campaign from Swiss Chalet. You might recall that I thought their campaign was a failure.
As an advocate of mobile marketing, and especially including text message marketing, I have also lamented the lack of text message campaigns here in Canada. Around the world, these types of campaigns have generated significant success. Marketers here have been hesitant to try them, and when they have, they seem to have been poorly executed (like the Swiss Chalet one).
But I have to give kudos to World Health, an Alberta based fitness club. I noticed a bathroom advert that asked me to text a keyword to a short-code for a free 7 day membership.
Almost any gym will offer a free 7 day membership if you walk in the door and ask them for one. It gives them a chance to showcase their gym and also give you their sales pitch. But asking consumers to text to receive one isn't a bad idea. It gives World Health the opportunity to continue to interact with consumers.
Perhaps more importantly, once they are members, it could potentially allow World Health to upsell consumers to extra classes, products, workshops etc - all ways to generate more income from their existing members.
Let's hope that World Heath is committed enough to follow through properly. I only signed up yesterday and have only received the initial text response. We'll see what they send me over the coming months.
Wednesday, January 5, 2011
On this blog I haven't talked much about the ongoing battle between Apple's iOS, Google's Andriod and the RIM operating system. But there's much to discuss.
First, check out this chart:
There's definitely a trend here. And Android looks to be the big winner, with RIM the big looser.
RIM is a classic Canadian tech company. Like Corel and Nortel before it, RIM established an early market lead by developing a leading product, only to stagnate and eventually watch helplessly as others passed them by. RIM's Blackberry took advantage of corporate communication budgets to grow the smartphone category within the corporate executive segment. Once it had developed a huge lead, it became an unchangable company, unable to foresee the consumerism of smartphones. Demonstrating this were RIM executives trashing the iPhone when it was first announced, suggesting that it would never be successful.
Now RIM is probably toast. I suspect it will become purchase fodder in the ongoing war between Android and iOS.
Much like Windows and Mac computer systems years ago, the Android (OS available for many hardware devices from different manufacturers) and iOS (Apple software that only works with/included on Apple Hardware) battle will be a very interesting one to watch over the coming years.
I have used both sytems: iOS on the iPhone 4 and the Android powered HTC Desire. They are quite similar and both have some useful features. And the pool of available Android apps is quickly catching up to iOS apps, with Andriod users already having access to more free apps than iOS users.
What about Windows mobile? Barely on the radar screen. I understand the latest Windows Mobile OS is quite good. Unfortunately for Microsoft, it is probably too little, too late. Previous renditions of Windows Mobile were clunky and awkward, and Microsoft has probably been left in the dust, at least for the current generation of mobile devices.
What does this mean for mobile marketers? Well it's important to know what devices and operating systems are being used by consumers. And which ones will be used by them going forward. Also, what are the different demographics of the users of the operating systems? And how is that changing, and at what pace?
Sunday, January 2, 2011
Every year at this time somebody proclaims that this year is going to be The Year of Mobile Marketing.
It's less black-and-white than that. Mobile is gaining ground surely and steadily - a characteristic of something that's going to be around for a while.
So enjoy the new year. We hope it brings prosperity and success. And some more growth in mobile marketing activities.