You may have heard something about Real Estate III, now BHG Real Estate III, and its new relationship with Better Homes & Gardens.
You can find a wealth of local news coverage about the arrangement, if Virginia real estate is of interest.
There has been a small social media spanking underway on CvilleNews. Several people pointed the situation out to me as a potential case study for this blog. I’ve written about this kind of digital communications misstep before and how to avoid it, in Five Ways to Avoid a Social Media Spanking. The story, in short, is that Denise Hood, marketing director of Real Estate III endeavored to correct some misinformation about the company’s new franchise/endeavor/relationship with BHG in a way that was, let’s say, not thought through all the way. Read the comments on this post for the full firestorm.
I am sending a virtual hug to Denise Hood. I’ll bet she hasn’t had a worse day at Real Estate III than this one. It’s tough being in communications and having to engage in social media without being given the proper support, training, caution or insight that many of us have gained through years of study and practice in the social media space.
But that’s that. And BHG Real Estate III needs to move on.
Five Steps BHG Real Estate III Should Take Right Now
1. Define and refine messaging around the new relationship so it is crystal clear to even the most casual reader.
2. Conduct message training, not only for the people responsible for BHG Real Estate III communications but for all its agents, employees and other stakeholders. It’s critical the whole organization understand and be able to talk comfortably about the company and how it has changed and will change.
3. Invest, immediately, in social media coaching for Denise Hood and anyone else in the organization who engages in social media or media relations on behalf of the company.
4. Develop a strategic digital communications plan designed to focus the organization’s monitoring of all media, to define the process and guidelines for social media engagement and identify the goals for evaluation.
5. Engage, again, with those who have taken you to task (and yes, Denise, I mean you), by admitting that your initial engagement wasn’t the best, that you were merely being loyal and defensive on your employers behalf, and that you’ve learned from all this. Don’t go away. Stick around. There are people engaged in social media who want to help you be successful and only by developing relationships in the online community will you benefit from that, and by extension, so will your company.
I was pleased that a customer service manager went out of her way to call me and e-mail me to follow up. She even offered to locate the out-of-stock dress for me, which was very good customer service.
HOWEVER, the manager only knew about my issue because of the online chat I’d had with a customer service rep who forwarded it on to “the appropriate department.” Even though I’d tweeted and blogged, tagging the post with Chico’s-related keywords, it was NOT picked up via social media. At all.
This is a cautionary tale to companies who are “on” Facebook and Twitter. Just being there doesn’t count. If you set up these accounts you need to use them – to be responsive and listening to customers. Interaction is critical. If you’re not going to do that, there’s no point in being there at all.
1. It will make you less annoying. Offering an RSS feed to site visitors allows them to opt in to your content, when THEY want to read it. This is far less annoying than demanding they sign up for your e-newsletter. In the absence of either newsletter or feed, you’re forcing people to voluntarily remember to return to your URL. And that’s annoying.
2. Search Engine Optimization. Producing an RSS feed and creating regularly updated content to that feed helps your content get discovered. You want to be discovered, right?
3. Welcome to the 21st century. Without an RSS feed, your Web site looks like it might be your first Web site; you know, from 1999. That impression left on visitors also may make them wonder how outdated the rest of your practices are and whether you really care about your brand.
4. Convenience. There are a lot of people who say they haven’t adopted the use of RSS feeds, but then again, there are a lot of people who have, and don’t realize it. The advantage of feeds is that it allows the user to subscribe to your content by using an RSS feed reader or by having the content delivered to an e-mail account.
I was tempted by this e-mail, offering 25 percent off a dress I’d really like to own.
So I clicked through to the Web site, intending to place an order.
Is this bait and switch?
Here are some of the issues I have with this:
If Chico’s was really listening, they would have anticipated – truly- the demand for this dress and stocked up appropriately. Further, once the item sold out, they should have stopped their e-mail campaign to promote the offer immediately. Failing that, they should have followed up with an email to everyone they promoted it to, providing an update on this high-demand product.
I took them up on the option to chat with a “Personal Service Associate.”
I can appreciate that the promotional e-mail and the sale extended to the entire line, but the DRESS – the DRESS is what people want, and Chico’s knew that (or so their own content claims, since they said they “listened.”) (And, incidentally, I’m not going to go chasing this dress down in stores – if I can’t get it online, I don’t want it.)
I see this as an opportunity for Chico’s to change the conversation. They are on Facebook and Twitter, presumably to serve customers better. They have the chance to make this right for customers and come out looking like a hero.
Wonder what will happen?