Last week saw the conclusion of this year’s Student’s Guild Sabbatical Officers election campaign at the University. Once again the Guild here broke records for the levels of participation and the campus was filled with enthusiastic students having fun boosting their favourite candidates.
The web has long had a role in student elections here – we’ve had online voting for 6 or 7 years – but this year things seem to have moved to a new level. We had a call the Friday before last to say that some of the students had staged a flash mob on the Piazza in the middle of campus, and that we had some film footage. We thought for a while about whether this was the sort of thing we should be running with, wondered whether it gave unfair promotion to one of the candidates, then stuck it on our YouTube channel and tweeted and facebooked it. By the following Monday the clip had been watched 4,000 times. A week later and it’s pushing 9,000 views.
I thought this was an example of one of the candidates stealing a march on the others, but no. It turns out that you couldn’t be a serious candidate in this year’s elections without your own campaign videos.
We had other, slightly less appropriate Flashes (Warning: Slightly Not Safe For Work).
Some managed to combine campaign messages with serious larking about:
Others seemed to be working on a more subliminal level, although quite what they were conveying wasn’t always clear:
Some of them had fantastic production values:
Some of them were creative sweeties, and even included QR codes for mobile voting:
Some came across as bizarre performance art:
And some seemed to lay their candidates open to a charge of littering:
Very few of the clips went for straight manifesto delivery. All the candidates seemed to conclude that a video could do a thousand times more than a poorly photocopied poster in terms of establishing an impression with their electorate. Even those clips which did detail a specific platform played with the format and tried also to show some personality.
And if all else failed and you couldn’t ape the established news media, you could always just co-opt them!
With one exception, each of the clips above – and these are just a selection – was watched more than 1,000 times during the campaign, that’s against a total number of votes cast of 6,501 which perhaps says something about the reach of videos like these. Of the 5 elected candidates, 4 had online video as part of their campaign.
We may look back with regret in years to come when our candidates are running slick attack ads against each other, but for now we applaud their ingenuity, their hard work and their sense of fun.
I was asked to speak to our University’s Customer Service Network earlier this week. They are a group of colleagues who deal with staff and students all day every day and who get together every couple of months to share experiences and talk about how they might further develop.
Over the last couple of years they, like most of us, have found the phrase ‘social media’ intruding into their conversations more and more. They wanted to know more about it and how it might be used to improve customer service, so they asked me along.
They claimed that they had no idea about social media so I started from first principles, even though I recognised some pretty switched-on people in the audience. As a result I talked. A lot. I think I probably ate up most of the time they had for the rest of their agenda. I’d like to think that’s because there were so many interesting things to say, but you’d have to ask them whether ‘interesting’ was applicable, and please, don’t tell me what they really thought.
Mainly what I talked was figures and examples, pulled from all over the place. I’m sure their heads were spinning with take-up rates, demographic splits and user interaction volumes and that was before I told them that 150 years of YouTube are watched every day on Facebook.
Through all my waffle, one reasonably simple set of figures seemed to cut through and make the point about social media and its impact on customers. They came from this chart:
Put simply this piece of research shows that only 29% of users who had complained about a company via twitter had subsequently been contacted by that company.
If you shift your gaze over the right hand side of the chart, you’ll see that of those who DID receive a reply 83.5% either liked or loved being contacted and 74.4% of them were either somewhat or very satisfied with the response.
In case this isn’t clear enough, let’s put it another way.
Your customers are out there talking about you. Some of them are complaining about your goods and services. To their friends and their friends friends and the whole world if they care to listen.
If you care to respond to them, there’s a roughly 80% chance that they will stop being annoyed with you and start being happy with you.
Yet still 71% of companies aren’t listening.
This is what highly paid, luxuriously upholstered social media consultants and commentators would call a NO BRAINER.
The effect of getting involved can be dramatic. What makes social media such a powerful tool is the amplification of what an individual says across their network and the networks of their connections. So, when you help someone via social media you’re doing more than just closing down a public display of dissatisfaction, you’re giving active and engaged customers something they really like and creating an impression they are very likely to pass on to their friends. And their friends’ friends.
We’ve been monitioring social media for a couple of years now and we engage whenever we can. If I haven’t argued this point sufficiently, here’s a real example from our twitter feed in 2011. I’ve tried to anonymise it, but let me tell you that the original tweet was by a student from New York State and was sent out as a general observation to her 300+ twitter friends, rather than directly to us. We picked it up and the conversation shows what happened.
Hopefully she left as one of the 80% of the 29% and who knows? Maybe one day she, or one of her friends, or one of her friends’ friends, will become a student of ours.