Friday, May 25, 2012

When You've Crossed the Line Between Fan and Friend

Social Media has provided all of us with almost unlimited access to communicate across previously unbreachable distances. Geographic distances mean nothing, and Time is not nearly the issue it used to be. Even the distance between fans and their idols are decreasing. Your favorite actor may not follow you back on Twitter, but you know...they may. Or they might respond when you have something important to say to them. People in niche fields have unprecendented access to people they admire, where they are likely to get personal reponses from creative minds that even a few years ago would be walled away behind a publicity machine.

As fantastic as it is, this access is not without problems.

This week I posted a rage comic on my personal Facebook account. A "friend" took offense to it and 'splained why I had no right to post it. When I suggested that people who 'splained was, in fact the problem, they 'splained again why I was a jerk.

The problem here is that this person was not, actually, a friend of mine. This was a fan who has access to me as a "friend." The fact that they took offense and used the opportunity to 'splain to me how rude it was was ironic, since the comic was specifically about how fans tend to 'splain.

To be clear here, I should probably explain what 'splaining is. 'Splaining is short for mansplaining, or whitesplaining or, in this case, fansplaining, in which a person presumes to know more about a thing than the people they are talking to, based on the fact that they are a member of a privileged group or because they simply don't know or care how much the other person knows. When a woman asks a group about what SSD to get, and a guy in the room starts to talk to her about memory and security like she doesn't already understand that, that's "mansplaining."  Fans of popular culture have a habit of wanting to win a conversation, or show how much they know, so they "fansplain."

The real problem is not that this fan chose to 'splain something I already knew to me, it was that he chose to lecture me on my personal FB account. He crossed the line.

I've seen people get very angry when an admired idol doesn't respond to their tweets. Or be furious when their emails are blocked. Not everyone wants to be friends with their fans. Even people who are relatively relaxed about that have a line in the sand they don't want crossed. My line is this - don't presume to tell me what I should or should not say on my own spaces. For one thing, you don't know what my intent is. Secondly, and I mean this in the nicest possible way - you are not actually my friend. So, please, don't cross that line.

Because you can contact someone on Social Media, do not presume that your are actual friends.

Be mindful of your privilege as a fan, and enjoy, but do not overstep those boundaries.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Sharing Content vs Sharing Activity

If you've been anywhere near a social platform, you've seen messages like this: "Friend A likes this update" or "Friend B" has read this article" (and, clicking on the article title seems to always require you to hand all your information to the publisher before you can see the content.)

Facebook, in particular is very keen on you seeing your friends' activity. LinkedIn, too, wants you to know that a connection has followed a company, connected with someone else, answered a question, joined a group.

The problem with that is exactly the same problem as talking to a friend who walks you through every step of their day, without degree or distinction; waking up, brushing teeth, eating breakfast, commute, meetings at work, home, etc... no one wants every single detail of your day. What we'd like to hear is the juicy bits, the good stuff. ^_^

Each social platform is a different conversation. Even when you have the same people talking about the same thing in the same place, there's subtle differences in audience, tone, attention, and acceptable length. Posting Twitter conversations on LI is meaningless to anyone not already in that conversation.

Be mindful of the difference between "activity" and "content." 

Facebook wants us to know all our friends' activities. What they read, what they commented on, what games they played, etc.

If your Twitter feed is automatically sent to LinkedIn, all your contacts are getting all of your activity, your RTs, your @s, your replies. The only thing that will be meaningful to many of those people in all of that is any content you share. And how patient do you think your contacts will be when they have to wade through 3 dozen chatty posts to get to a brilliant piece of content?

Quora, a platform I adore, yesterday launched a new feature that shared your Quora activity on your Facebook Timeline. I enabled it and ten minutes later, disabled it. I have no doubt my friends on FB would be interested in some of the answers I post to questions there, but equally, I have no doubt at all that no one not already on Quora cares which other answers I upvote. While the content I generate there may be of interest, my activity on Quora is entirely irrelevant to the folks on FB.

Small and medium sized businesses on Twitter, and individuals whose expertise is their business, often have only one Twitter account. To be authentic and real, these people tend to chat as well as share good content from this same account. This works really well on Twitter, where each tweet is viewed individually but, when it becomes a stream of half the conversation on a Twitter feed embedded on a web page, it simply makes no sense at all. Like sitting next to a person on the train who talks loudly enough that you can't not listen, you're getting an intrusive half a conversation you don't really want to hear.

Worse, when companies keep their Twitter account for purely professional contacts, that embedded stream becomes an obsessively narcissistic stream of "me me me." Again - it works fine on Twitter, but watch where else it gets shared or you can seem like you are incapable of listening to others.

So, by all means, share content! Just be mindful that your not drowning it out with all of your activity.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

The Importance of Not Ignoring the Problem

As happens quite frequently on today's Internets, someone I admire was sharing a bad customer service story. And, like anyone who exists today, I also have had bad customer service stories.

Ken Mueller wrote a post about a bad experience he had at his local post office, and on Twitter, I mentioned that I had had similar experiences at mine. As I did, I started to think about that particular problem and realized - every single time I had that issue, it was the same exact person who caused it.

I'll bring an envelope or package to any of the other employees, they send it. Person A demands full customs forms for just about every kind of thing one can send, right down to a birthday card. The discrepancy isn't the real pain point though - its the incredulity with which this story is met by any side. I tell her, "Well J let me send this same thing without customs," and she rolls her eyes and shrugs, refusing to send it. I tell that story to J and T at the counter and they shrug and say that they have never heard of such a thing. These three people have been working together for 10 years and this has happened multiple is it that no one had ever encountered that problem but me?

Obviously, that is not the case. What is true is that everyone is ignoring the problem.

J lets things through, because he's the "nice guy" of the staff. T follows the rules by the book, but if the book lets you avoid the customs then you do, but she gets all bent out of shape when you make her add a surcharge for sending something weirdly shaped. A demand all forms be filled out before you get to her window, and you will fill out ALL forms that might, potentially be needed, because probably once she was reprimanded for not doing that.

Here's the problem - there's no consistency between the way they handle things...and no acknowledgement that the others handle things differently.

So you go in and hand the letter with customs form already filled out to J and he scoffs at the form, tells you don't need it, what are you thinking? You hand it to T and she hands it back, but bitches "what's IN here?" and hand it to A and she rolls her eyes at the fact that the zip code is not legible enough. You have to do it over again.

Thinking about your customer service - are you ignoring the problem? Are you or your employees ignoring the actual issue? Is it divide and conquer - "no one else has reported that problem, so it must be you"? Is each person picking up the phone giving a different story, a different process, a different set of requirements?

Imagine if you're your client or customer - you'd want a consistent set of rules and a consistent set of outcomes. Ignore the problem and you're sure to give the consumer the customer service from hell.

Project Wonderful