Is your business listening and responding appropriately to those who reach out? Last February our post, 6 Superb First Social Media Tactics For Business caught some buzz and conversation. We discussed the importance of listening and offering unconditional service to new friends and customers, when they obviously seek to engage

The more I travel the world, broadcasting experiences as I go, the more this basic tenant resonates. I’m always surprised by who’s listening and who’s not.  In the last 36 hours, I’ve had revealing experiences with two iconic Minnesota brands, Mall Of America and Mayo Clinic, that illustrate this crucial social media fundamental splendidly. One brand got things really right, the other was not listening. No matter whether your customer’s channel of choice is Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, LinkedIn, or a lesser known community or forum, answering the call of users who want to engage is key.

This version of the ah-hah moment started innocently enough. Visiting the Mall of America, I tweeted a picture of the 2 story Lego robot on my way to find some pistachio ice cream.

After a few minutes, I was happily surprised that a MOA community manager reached out in thanks and offered more information about the Lego sculpture. Cool!

My first reaction was professional. I wanted to understand the social media monitoring and community manager corporate structure that led to such a terrific and welcoming response.  When customers reach out in mainstream channels expressing a willingness to engage, businesses must be there to listen and respond or an opportunity is lost.

I love way the Mall Of America Twitter profile is wired. The avatar is a picture of the MOA building and the handle is transparently @mallofamerica. The community manager goes by the initials -lg. There’s no way to determine whether it’s a woman or a man. Because I’m me, I read female into to conversation. Wonderful! Great business avatar concepts are fully transparent in their commercial intent but, like a great song, leave users enough space to build their own human inferences into empowering experiences. Maybe during the week the CM is -MW or -EF, it does not matter. I love it…great concept. MOA community managers are interchangeable and human-feeling, without compromising transparency. 

Then it hit me: This CM person, was ready to support.  At the time -lg engaged me, I was unsuccessfully looking for pistachio ice cream.  Hmmm :)

I reached out.  I was curious as to whether -lg would be politically correct and suggest several MOA ice cream shop options, or give me a true read on what ice cream is best in her/his opinion.

He/she did not disappoint. Looking around I saw that I was right in the vicinity. My mouth was watering. Paciugo was straight ahead, walking out the mall door of Macy’s.

I headed on over.

There it was, blessed, creamy, tasty ahead. MMM, pistachio almond gelato in all its twitlicious splendor.  I tweeted that I thought a blog post would come out of this, andsome darn good frozen treats.

It was a little taste of heaven in the mall. Of course, I tweeted a picture.  The CM engaged again. That was smart. When customers engage, keep the conversation going as long as they want to continue so long as the timbre is appropriate and sentiment positive. After all, the customer is advertising your business for free.

When Brands Don’t Listen
Then this morning I was at Mayo Clinic for my annual checkup.  I was taken by the magnificent architecture of the famed Gonda Building, and tweeted a picture in the early morning light.  I love Mayo, as 5 years ago they saved my life. However, every time I return to Mayo, moved, broadcasting, the incredible art collection, thoughts about their blessed mission, Mayo’s brand, heartfelt, they ignore.

Maybe some attorney told Mayo that the HIPAA Privacy Rule, which provides federal protections for personal health information, somehow applies to answering a guy like me broadcasting grateful pictures of the hospital.  That sounds like bunk to attorneys I’ve talked to. There’s no private information here being transmitted here. What are they thinking, that they can’t reveal I’m here? Dude, I tweeted first! How difficult would it be for @mayoclinic to simply welcome tweeting visitors to the campus and wish them the best? #FAIL.  That’s no way to make friends.

Brands that don’t listen come across as deaf. Broadcast-only is not social media. Social media is about being social, two ways.

Maybe now that Mayo is opening an outpost at Mall of America, they’ll get into the swing of things. Are they going to ignore social media users broadcasting about the new Mayo mega mall satellite?

It’s always surprising who’s listening and who’s not.  Social media best practices certainly means to monitor mainstream and salient niche’ channels and being there to respond, as appropriate. Those are the basics we all learn in kindergarten. Here’s sending out a hat tip to @mallof america and a sad, was-almost-nice-talking-to-ya’ to Mayo Clinic.

Is your business listening?

  • Spambot 9001

    I am the arch nemesis of Herobot 9000: Spambot 9001!

    • Marty Weintraub

      @Spambot 9001: Resistance is futile. You will be assimilated…

  • Joe Thornton

    Marty – great images help too! I follow Aimclear on Flipboard and the robot pic drew me in. Great example of effective real time communication … But it would be helpful to give something like five easy tips to be MOA and not Mayo in this case!

    • Marty Weintraub

      Joe Thornton: You made my day. That said, I would not go to MOA to get my broken leg repaired, but I would go to Mayo clinic to find a great ice cream cone! :)

  • F. Irwin

    Why would the Mayo Clinic ever need or want to engage in Social Media? Might that not be seen as frivolous by patients who want to know that their doctors are working on…doctoring? Also, do you really think that the Mayo Clinic is grasping at straws for customers, or that they have as many as they can handle and then some?

    Not every marketing channel is necessary or appropriate for every business. The Mayo Clinic should not be wasting its time Tweeting.

    • Marty Weintraub

      @F. Irwin: Excellent question. Thank you. Yes, Mayo clinic has all the customers they could ever want, but that’s not my point. Mayo Clinic “Customers” are there to recover from cancer or have their heart repaired. Ask yourself, why do they have information desks? Why do they bother fielding a force of volunteers in blue coats, to guide, make visitors feel welcome, or pass out information? The reason is because those functions are necessary in such an institution.

      Today, people seek that input, guidance, and warmth from alternate channels other than the traditional ones. That’s what Twitter, Facebook and other social media communication outreach tools are for. That’s why it’s important to listen and participate…so nobody using different tools is left behind.

  • F. Irwin

    Marty, I’d wager another scoop of that pistachio ice cream that your average Mayo Clinic user is not on Twitter and prefers the information desk and volunteers. I had fairly serious surgery myself in March and the last thing on my mind was updating my Twitter status…

  • F. Irwin

    Touche! I still think seeking medical advice via 160 characters or less is a bad idea.

    • Marty Weintraub

      @F. Irwin: It’s not about proffering medical advice using twitter. Obviously that’s a bad idea. I agree. I’m only saying that these users should be welcomed to the fold, directed to the best resources, welcomed to the clinic’s grounds, etc… Thanks a lot for the conversation. you’ve made good points.

  • Rufus Dogg

    lg is fantastic and really understands her role at @mallofamerica (if she pipes in and discloses her identity, that is for her to decide) I’m still waiting for her to host @hansonmusic though! :-)

    @clevelandclinic engages without issues on twitter, so I can’t see any reason why @mayoclinic wouldn’t. That’s too bad they don’t. I don’t see tweeting as a waste of time. I see it as a sign they are connected with the people who go there for services. They charge a fortune for what they do and responding to a tweet from me is just one more reminder that they are probably worth the cost. Or at least, not NOT worth it…

    • Marty Weintraub

      @Rufus Dogg: Good point. @clevelandclinic is very good and intentionally reaches out. Here’s a beautiful example, “#nursesweek ends tomorrow! Is there a nurse who has made a difference in your life? Let us know about him or her!” Go check out the CC Twitter page: http://twitter.com/#!/clevelandclinic. Thanks for stopping by Rufus.

  • Joe Thornton

    Some of this discussion underscores a big challenge for many organizations…BANDWIDTH (and I’m not talking about Internet bandwidth). Marketing/communications teams are strapped for time and most are still trying to figure out the basics of social media. I’d like to see five tips on making real time social media PR a reality. We hear a lot of good stories and examples (LOVED this particular post BTW), but most organizations seem to stop at “but we’re not there yet with social media.”

    • Marty Weintraub

      @Joe Thornton: Great perspective. One word: REALLOCATE :). Always nice to see you in these threads Joe. Keep on keeping on.

  • albert maruggi

    Agreed on lg one of the best in the world on social engagement which goes well beyond social platforms. This example to me is one that all customer facing representatives must learn from and hospitality is the primary offender of this rule. The online attention to customer’s comments are rarely extended to the physical space. Example, imagine if the greeting at the Paciugo when you ordered pistachio was “oh so you are aimclear? thanks for coming over. ” creepy? no not at all. think what kind of experiences customers would have if their digital personalities were acknowledge in the physical space.

    On the Mayo side I think you’re being a bit harsh. Yes perhaps because you were a patient there is some policy implications of which you are not as sensitive? This idea about the transparency in a new 21 century still operates in the legal and regulatory codes of the 20th century. Mayo and it’s social media leadership under Lee Aase has done a tremendous job advancing the discussion and practice of social media in the health care space. Given my knowledge and years of engagement I’m more likely to give Mayo the benefit of the doubt without throwing them under the bus.

    • Marty Weintraub

      @albert maruggi: Thanks for the thoughtful comment. I’m grateful for the perspective and insights. Yes, Mayo does some super cool stuff and, I’m guessing, that there is more on the way. Regarding code regulations, I doubt there are restrictions, other than internal. Please check out how Cleveland Clinic does things, http://twitter.com/#!/clevelandclinic. Also, to be clear, I love Mayo. I’m a lymphoma 3b survivor. Just driving south from Duluth makes me feel safe. That’s why it is so disappointing when I tweet my love of Mayo in public, to dead air. I’ve been on the Mayo campus, scared, tweeting to my friends as my coping mechanism. I just don’t do the blue jacket volunteer for my comfort. I, and many others like me, go social online for comfort.

      Not responding to users who reach out directly in social media, often users who have adopted these types of communication paradigms as a way of life, is akin to closing all the information booths, and shutting off the phones. It’s not like these channels are only for early adopters. There are 600 million Facebook users, 100 million LInkedIn, CNN and every news outlet in the world mines realtime news from Twitter. Even Google looks to tweets as a significant part of their organic ranking algorithm. The phone is ringing at Mayo, and sometimes nobody answers.

      I’m not sure I would categorize this blog post as throwing Mayo under the bus. It’s more just being honest. aimClear works with companies, from multi-national to SMBs globally. As I write, I’m in a room with about 30 APAC marketers with 5 team members, teaching these marketers community management. We study human behavior, social media, and social platforms all over the world. We learn and teach by case studies and, happily/sadly no cow is sacred. The reality is that Mayo is a great example of a broadcast-only SMO approach in a number of channels. Other businesses can learn from the case study. Mayo can learn from itself. It does not diminish my regard for Mayo as an institution. Trust me, I owe Mayo my life. That’s why it hurts when my public expressions don’t even matter one lick.

      Mayo would be well served to reach out to a specialized external consultant that works with many companies, as opposed to keeping things only in-house. I have not met Lee, but I’ve heard from Mayo insiders that he’s a very cool guy. My guess is that these restrictions are at a systemic level and not about Lee.

      Thank you again Albert.

  • albert maruggi

    Marty, I appreciate your position and you may or may not appreciate mine. I too work with Fortune 100 and SMBs, You and I perhaps have been online the same amount of time. I also know commenting from afar and without the benefit of internal knowledge is easy.

    Defending Mayo not responding to a picture tweet is like trying to defend a typo, (ever do that?) I also don’t know what it’s like to be a patient, so the emotional connection is not something I can comment on. So I’m not into the back and forth here. I just know that stuff happens in big organizations that may not make sense to those on the outside, but within the daily grind of a company one can understand how it can happen.

    Your public expressions should matter to you and to all of the people that follow you. Sure, would Mayo benefit from a simple Thanks for the tweet yes. and to all of the marketers in the room your point well taken. Perhaps your point is – hire a consultant to deal with this essentially “small talk” conversations so that the internal team can focus on strategy and online conversations that have greater significance.

    But I bet if anyone in the room works for a large or conservative style company, doing what may seem simple and obvious, is really moving mountains. In my experience, those companies have a lot more to address than whether they respond to a friendly tweet. Those companies are simply either A) not ready for what will come in the future or B) will be a reason the social web doesn’t reach it’s full potential to impact society and business culture

    On your point about CNN etc, they don’t respond to tweets either. Should they? Wow, that would be like talk radio to the one thousandth power in terms of potential work load. Lord knows, however, there are enough social media consultants to take up the slack : ) All the best

    • Marty Weintraub

      @albert maruggi: Thanks for the thoughtful clarification. I totally appreciate your opinion. Please know that I’ve been tweeting at Mayo for years. This goes to your point regarding, “Responding to a picture tweet.” They don’t respond to much of anything. Twitter.com/mayo. It’s a broadcast only channel. To your point regarding CNN. True, the network does not respond, but the team members. http://twitter.com/#!/sanjayguptacnn, and in their official roles. The answer at Mayo may well be having the blue-coated ambassadors man the feed for such inquiries.

      Albert, if you are going to be at any SES, SMX, PubCon, ISS or MediaBistro events in the next few months. I would love to meet. Please reach out to connect on LInkedIn, if you want. No offense taken if not. Thank you very much for this conversation. This type of dialog is what I’m in it for, and you made my day sir.

  • F. Irwin

    Marty, I just think that (in spite of the search results on Twitter yesterday for ‘Mayo Clinic’) you’re overestimating the amount of people that want to share something about their personal medical process/experience in such a public forum as Twitter. I know that when I had my surgery, which was scary and life threatening but nowhere near close to what you went through, I was looking for “meat space” comfort from friends and family, not the disconnected form of interaction that takes place over Twitter. I had my very intelligent phone with me for 5 days of recovery in the hospital and I didn’t do anything but post (to Facebook) “I’m going in” beforehand and “I made it” afterwards. Attributable to different strokes, I suppose?

    Still, could Mayo Clinic train one of the blue-shirted volunteers to monitor Twitter on a company cell phone? I don’t see why not. Albert makes a good point though, in a large organization like Mayo it’s going to be difficult to convince someone of the value of that. Social Media ROI is still a tough sell- it’s too subjective in it’s nascency.

    • Marty Weintraub

      F. Irwin: First, I’m sorry about your illness. I had Lymphoma stage 3B and at some point will have my heart valve replaced. Second, I was sharing nothing about my health.

      So far as even finding my way around, I am shy, actually. I’m not comfortable when a stranger comes up to me in the flesh as I’m worried about my health. Once when I had a benign tumor on my neck, I was greeted by a University of Minnesota volunteer, who explained that she, “Lost half her face when that happened to her, and that I looked strong.” I know that is not representative of the larger group of blue-coats, but it’s always stayed with me. Social media is perfect for me, as it is for many shy folks. This happens to be the one area of my life where I’m shy.

  • albert maruggi

    I’m pretty much a homebody, did the speaking circuit a couple years back, but I’ll check some of the local ones you mentioned.

    As for conversations that align differences of opinion in this thoughtful a manner, I wish I could get my wife to see it your way. those usually end with , “Ok I’ll do it, or get it, or something that alters my priorities” : ) we’ll meet up I’m sure.

    • Marty Weintraub

      @albert maruggi: Excellent. Very glad to meet you. Thanks very much for the dialog. As I said, that’s why I’m in it.

  • F. Irwin

    Interesting…I never thought of social media as an alternative form of communication for the shy!

    • Marty Weintraub

      F. Irwin: It’s so true! I know folks who are total introverts and found there courage and voice in social channels.

  • Kimberly

    Hello Marty,
    This is my first comment on your blog. I really like this post. It’s interesting to see how two totally different companies handle the same things. It’s also quite interesting to read the varied responses. There remain those who really don’t get the INTERACTION involved in executing any sort of social media presence. I’m sure the Mayo clinic as someone said “isn’t clamoring for customers” but that doesn’t mean they should take the ones they already have for granted. In a way – small business has benefited so much from social media in ways that a lot of big businesses will never do.

    Because the small business (ie the small clinic you refer to in these comments) is a smaller lesser known clinic, they are going to tweet to raise awareness of their brand, they are going to try harder. When analyzing it all I can see why Mayo isn’t focused on marketing via their social media – but I agree totally they need to acknowledge people. So many on twitter who follow big brands, companies, celebrities, etc are just thrilled when the ‘identity’ they have been tweeting to answers back. It’s simple acknowledgement, common courtesy can go a long way to have positive brand images in the public’s mind. Personally when it comes to medical facilities, someone’s abilities to treat me are most definitely of the utmost in my considerations, but I also want someone with a bit of good “bedside manner’ to talk to me, explain if I have questions, etc.. to me on a social media level.. answering patients or visitor’s to one’s facility back would be proper.

    I look forward to networking with you in the future and reading more great blog posts from you!

    • Marty Weintraub

      @Kimberly: Thanks for the thoughtful response. I like what you say about courtesy going a long way to build a brand. It’s true that we learned the most important lessons in Kindergarten.

  • Ankush Kohli

    Right! That’s why every small & large business unit use social media sites to build their brand & grow image.