Thursday, March 17, 2011

Trend: Random Acts of Kindness


Not surprisingly, brands and organizations that are perceived as kind and downright human are going to thrive in the new social media world.  This ties in with the consumer trends to Generosity and Green.  But there's a lot more going on here!

"For consumers long used to (and annoyed by) distant, inflexible and self-serving corporations, any acts of kindness by brands will be gratefully received. For brands, increasingly open communications both with and between consumers (especially online), means that it's never been easier to surprise and delight audiences with R.A.K.: whether sending gifts, responding to publicly expressed moods or just showing that they care*.

*R.A.K=random acts of kindness
Consumers want a really human touch
Think about it, your customers complain about having to push too many buttons to reach a real human being.  You probably complain about it, too.  Check this out:
"71% of people “make it a point to buy brands from companies whose values are similar to my own.” (Source: Young & Rubicam, August 2010.) "
"In 2006, ‘strong financial performance’ was the third most important factor for US consumers in determining corporate reputation. By 2010, financial returns had fallen to the bottom of Edelman’s rankings, while ‘transparent and honest practices’ and ‘company I can trust’ were the two most important. (Source: Edelman Trust Barometer, 2010.) "
Generation G is hitting the corporations in the pocketbook!  Right now, consumers are going with brands and organizations they can trust - rather than judging the organization by its financial bottom line.  Big change from the 90s and 00s!
Putting it out there
This can make a person nervous.  In an earlier post I talked about social network analysis (SNA).  The field is taking off like wildfire.
Right now, consumers are being very open about their opinions and other information online.  Sharing ideas and opinions is hot.  While SNA can be used to target likely consumers for a product, it is also gathering information about the opinions of others about the organization.
"In fact, it’s never been easier for brands to listen and react to potential customers’ needs or desires in innovative or even personalized ways. As much of this happens in real-time, brands can increasingly engage with consumers right at their moment of need, making R.A.K. more relevant, and therefore better received. "
This one really hit me:
Companies being expected to be more open with customers as those customers themselves are very open with everyone else, too. And those same companies being able to react to (or even preemptively defuse) complaints.
The rewards of RAK
"R.A.K. strategy can now be cost-efficiently applied by all brands, because the 'PUTTING IT OUT THERE' effect also guarantees that many R.A.K. recipients will share their experiences with an ever-wider audience."
Do your SNA and apply R.A.K. and word spreads.  People are out there on facebook and twitter and all manner of places sharing and sharing and sharing.  Hit the right group with R.A.K. and it's all over in no time.  Print and other advertising have their place, too.  The fact remains that using social media is now the fastest way to improve your reputation - using R.A.K.
The report continues with great tips about how to do R.A.K. right
1.  Be genuine - your audience is very saavy.  Don't come off fake or computer-generated
2.  Be personal, but not too personal.  Don't become a consumer stalker.  Seeing an ad on my facebook page for an item I viewed online 20 minutes before is unsettling.
3.  Be compassionate, not crass  Marketing stunts are so last millenium
4.  Make it shareable. At least have a "share" button.  If a person's friend can benefit from hearing about another's R.A.K., all the better.  My friend got a discount?  I got a discount!
5.  Be generous  Not just kind of nice to most of the people
6.  Have meaning and purpose. Encourage consumers to engage in their own R.A.K. And then (publicly) reward them for it – leaving them with a great STATUS STORY.
7.  Get real. R.A.K doesn't just have to be received online.  Real-life is way cool
8.  Don’t intrude, or be pushy, or sell. This isn’t about you or your brand, it’s about the recipient. It's all about the recipient.  All of it
9.  Don’t make R.A.K. too frequent.  Keep it really special.
Here's a great US example of how to use social media monitoring to give out a lot of R.A.K
"In June 2010, US cracker brand Wheat Thins (owned by Kraft Foods/Nabisco) launched their 'The Crunch is Calling" campaign, featuring a Wheat Thins van tracking down and surprising tweeters who had indicated their attachment to the crackers. Each selected tweeter was filmed being unwittingly greeted by a whole pallet of the product. The videos were a success, with the campaign’s YouTube channel receiving nearly 1,500,000 views."
As always, innovation is not always about technology. 
"And of course, there’s Oprah. As someone who pioneered R.A.K., Oprah understands better than most the power of this trend. Despite previously announcing the end of her Big Give show, in September 2010, on the first day of the final season of the Oprah Winfrey Show, the host announced that she would take the 300 members of her studio audience on a trip to Australia in December 2010. Then again, in November 2010, the show's audience was given keys to the 2012 Volkswagen Beetle."
So, how does an organization decide what their R.A.K will be?
It starts with a shift in attitude. 
"R.A.K. strategy may mean a brand is no longer being seen as inflexible and unwieldy, but as more compassionate and charismatic instead. Something which is, of course, priceless and actually enjoyable. For customers and employees. "
...hmmm...are libraries sometimes seen as inflexible and unwieldy?  There must be ways for libraries to bounce out of that once in a while.  Is fine forgiveness all we can do?  There's a real thinker
We know we are compassionate and charismatic...or do we?  How do we help front-line staff fight off burnout and stay compassionate?  What empowerments might be needed?
Is it time to make time and money so a staff member can be out there scanning media to see what's being said about the library?  Jumping in with an R.A.K - even just an answer to a reference query, even just a thanks for noticing the library - and doing it real-time can reap huge rewards.
On my own, I have come to the conclusion that I don't even need to know which library people within 10 miles of me are talking about.  What the heck?  Why not just respond to any library comment in a genuine, caring, non-stalking way?  Libraries are collaborative.  This is collaboration on a big scale!
Lots of challenges in this trend - let's get out there and dig the R.A.K!

Monday, March 7, 2011

26 Checkouts and Charlie Sheen

You can't swing a cat without hearing about what 'ol Charlie Sheen is up to for the past week or so.  Here's hoping appropriate help is found for him.

In libraryland, you can't swing a cat without running smack into HarperCollins limiting checkouts to 26 on their e-books.  Since everyone else in libraryland is writing about this, I will also.

HarperCollins?  Your idea is a huge FAIL.  

For more erudite discussion on the matter, see:
Update on the HarperCollins Issue