Ello? Is anybody out there?

Ello Invitation

Ello is promoting itself as the first ethical social network. Known as the anti-Facebook because of its anti-advertising, pro-privacy model, Ello promises not to collect and use its users’ information.

With Facebook, “every post you share, every friend you make, and every link you follow is tracked, recorded, and converted into data. Advertisers buy your data so they can show you more ads. You are the product that’s bought and sold. We believe there is a better way,” reads the Ello manifesto. Rather than selling ads, Ello said it plans to introduce an app store, where widgets and add-ons will be sold to let users customize the site and individual profiles.

Anti-Marketing or Just Anti-Advertising?

This all begs the question, is Ello really anti-marketing? Actually, according to a Content Marketing Institute article published this month, many of the people who initially joined this invite-only app were marketers and social media community managers. So even though Ello is anti-advertising, it is not anti-marketing, “particularly if the content is stylish and interesting enough to fit in with the celebration of creativity and design that Ello aspires to be.” Rather than relying on traditional advertising, which interrupts the user, Ello and its co-founder, Paul Budnitz, aim to pull marketing towards the user based on relevance and genuine interest.

Ello Invite

Ello, Goodbye

Back in September, Budnitz said that requests and approvals for access to the invite-only service were totaling 40,000 per hour. Six months later, statistics have shown that interest in the site has wained. While user sign-ups have been high, people aren’t sticking around. The network peaked at 30 million visitors in October and had only 9 million last month. It seems like the social network’s ethical approach isn’t enough to convince people to leave their beloved Facebook. Remember when Google+ was invite-only when it first came out? And we all know how well that turned out for this often-forgotten-about social network.

Ello? Anybody There?

No one seems to be on Ello. Even those who are obsessed with posting their every move to the social networks they’re currently on aren’t on it. Why is this? Well, for starters, while people might try out a variety of social networks just to see what they’re like, they’ll probably only regularly post on one to three. Second of all, it seems that the “ethical” nature was not enough to convince people to use it. In order for us to change what we’re currently using, the alternative has to be better. Ello is not better than Facebook. As Content Marketing Institute author Jonathan Crossfield said, “While some minority groups may value the freedoms and privacy afforded by Ello, many other users may not see the poor user-experience and stripped-back platform as an adequate replacement.” In other words, when you take away Ello’s manifesto, all that’s left is a poor user experience.

While, at the moment, I can’t see Ello killing off Facebook, the new ad-free social network serves as a warning to all the other major networks that people want to keep the social in social media and as a reminder that organic content should be just as valuable if not more valuable than paid content. Before Facebook, Twitter and YouTube used to rely so heavily on advertising, these platforms were about engaging in genuine conversations with people and providing feedback or answers to questions. We can’t leave the original purpose of social networks behind for algorithm updates and advertising dollars. Ello is on to something here with its manifesto. With that said, while people might be in favor of its no-advertising stance, I don’t think they’ll be jumping on the Ello bandwagon anytime soon. They’d rather stick to their ad-cluttered Facebook page, which they’re familiar with and is easy to use, rather than trade it all for a new social platform that barely has any sign-ups and offers a poor user experience.

Advertisements

Moderating Negative Facebook Comments

Moderating an online community can be tricky. While social media moderation is necessary, it needs to be done with as light of a touch as possible. The key to effectively managing any given situation is knowing when to step in to moderate a conversation and when you should just let nature take its course, so to speak. As Justin mentioned in this week’s lecture, social media sites, ultimately, belong to their users not to their community managers. According to NPR’s Ethics Handbook, “we do not impose ourselves on such sites. We are guests and behave as such.” In order to get the most out of social media, we need to understand these communities and treat those we encounter online, regardless of whether what they’re saying is positive or negative, with the utmost respect and courtesy that we’d show people we encounter offline.

This week, we’ve been tasked with moderating the following sample customer comments. We are to assume that they were left on our company’s Facebook page.

To a hotel: “I am disgusted about the state of your restaurant on 1467 Justin Kings Way. Empty tables weren’t cleared and full of remains of meals. It makes me wonder what the state of your kitchen is?!!! Gross.”

My response: Hello, (Insert customer name here). Thank you for taking the time to provide us your feedback. We are sorry to hear about your unpleasant dining experience at our restaurant. At (Insert name of restaurant), we pride ourselves on excellent service, one-of-a-kind cuisine and cleanliness. Messy tables are not acceptable. Please be assured that we have spoken with our staff to ensure that this will be not happen again. I’d like to personally invite you to try our restaurant again the next time you’re in our neck of the woods. When you come, please make sure to ask for Lynette. I would love to meet you in person.

To a mainstream news network: “Your reporting on the Middle East is biased in the extreme. You gave almost all your air time to spokespeople for the Israelis last night and there was no right to reply for the Palestinians. The conflict upsets me so much and your reporting of it, saddens me even more and makes me f**king furious.” (Let us assume the reporting was balanced, with equal time to both sides.)

My response: Hello, (Insert customer name here). Thank you for taking the time to listen to our news segment about the Middle East and provide us with your feedback. At (Insert name of mainstream news network), we do our best to ensure that our reporting is as balanced as possible, making sure we give equal air time to both sides of every issue we discuss on our network. Please know that we value your feedback and have passed your comments on to our team manager. If you have additional feedback in the future, please feel free to email us directly at (Insert email address here).

Although each of my replies were for different types of situations, I structured them very similarly. In each, I thanked the customer for their feedback, apologized for the poor experience they had, touched on our company’s values and invited them to leave additional feedback. While there is no magic formula for moderating comments on social media, I find that this way is a pretty standard and effective way to handle customer/viewer complaints, as it demonstrates empathy and honesty.

FedEx’s Social Media Nightmare Before Christmas

Contrary to popular belief, not all publicity is good publicity. While it’s good to have people talking about you, a negative comment on social media has the power to quickly damage your brand’s reputation.

Before Social Media

Prior to social media marketing, companies had time to react to situations that called for crisis management. For instance, they could pull their TV commercial or retract an entire newspaper article if they felt it was being poorly received without much backlash. Sure, people could record these commercials or save these articles, but there really was no way for them to quickly share this information with others.

Social media, however, makes things more permanent, and is therefore, harder for companies to control. All it takes is for one of your customers to take a screenshot of something you posted or upload an incriminating video and then share it with their followers to make your social media faux pas go viral.

FedEx’s Blunder

In Dec. 2011, FedEx came under social media attack after YouTube user goobie55 uploaded a video that showed a FedEx delivery man throwing the Samsung computer monitor he ordered over his fence to deliver it to him. Although the customer was home at the time, the delivery driver never bothered to knock or ring the doorbell to alert him of his package; instead, he chose to toss it. After opening his monitor, the customer noticed that it was broken and needed to be replaced. Thanks to his well-placed security security camera, he was able to express his disappointment with FedEx on YouTube. Goobie55’s video, which received more than one million views in an approximately 24-hour time span, prompted other FedEx customers to discuss their negative experiences with the Memphis-based shipping company.

It was time for FedEx to do some damage control.

FedEx Responds

After the video was posted, FedEx Senior Communications Specialist Shea Leordeanu stated “All of us here at FedEx have seen the video and quite frankly we were shocked.” Two days later, on Dec. 21, FedEx apologized via their own YouTube video. In it, Senior Vice President of U.S. Operations Matthew Thornton apologized on behalf of his entire company for the actions of their reckless delivery driver. “I am upset and embarrassed for our customer’s poor experience,” he said. Thornton went on to explain that they had met with the customer, who had accepted the company’s apology and is now satisfied. They also announced that they were taking disciplinary action against the driver.

While this video went against FedEx’s purple promise, which is to make every FedEx experience outstanding, the company decided to use it as a learning opportunity. They shared the video internally to remind their employees of the importance of delivering packages and to demonstrate that actions like this are totally unacceptable. They also incorporated it into their training programs “as a constant reminder of the importance of earning — and keeping — your trust with every single delivery.” Additionally, the FedEx communications team also wrote a blog post titled, “Absolutely, Positively Unacceptable,” to expand on their apology video.

My Take On It

I actually really liked the way FedEx handled its negative publicity. The company took note of the viral video; issued a sincere, well-written apology, both on YouTube and on its site’s blog, in which it stated that it would use this video to prevent future incidents; made sure the customer whose monitor was damaged was satisfied; and announced that it would be taking disciplinary action against the reckless delivery driver. Customers took note of the company’s response and voiced their approval of the way it handled things in the blog comments.

That being said, there are a few things I would’ve done differently. First of all, while I appreciated FedEx’s response, I felt that it was too delayed. The video was posted on Dec. 19, and it wasn’t until Dec. 21 that FedEx issued their official apology. In the social media world, two days can seem like an eternity. Additionally, while the negative publicity took place on YouTube, I would’ve liked to have seen the company post a short apology to their Twitter as well as share a link to their YouTube video and blog post on their Facebook wall, as this would’ve increased the changes of having their message reach as many FedEx customers as possible. Finally, I wasn’t able to find any follow-up articles from FedEx about how this video had changed the way they do business. So even though they said they were going to incorporate it in their training programs, I would’ve liked to have seen a follow-up blog post about how doing so had had a positive impact on their employees and the company overall.