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To Tweet or Not To Tweet? – Amber MacArthur Interview

Don’t Be Scared Of Negative Feedback On Social Media

For many people, the idea of actively engaging in social media is down right scary!  And, for big brands, it can be even more scary.  After all, how will they respond when social media attacks your brand?  There is a saying that goes “All press is good press”.  But, in a recent “Twitter Fiasco”, I think Air Canada could argue otherwise.

I first heard of the “Air Canada Breaks Wheelchairs” story through an article written in the Globe and Mail.  The article titled “5 Social Media Lessons For Air Canada” was written by Amber MacArthur and offered great insight on how Air Canada could have improved their response to the negative press they received via social media.  For anyone (or any business) that is interested in understanding how to properly react to negative feedback on social media, Amber offers some great advice in this interview!

Meet Amber MacArthur (aka. AmberMac)

Amber MacArthur is a new media host/producer, strategist, and speaker. Most recently Amber worked at Citytv as its New Media Specialist in 2006, reporting on new media and interactive news and trends on a national news program and hosting/producing Webnation, a half-hour current affairs program about internet culture. Prior to Citytv, Amber spent two years working as a TV host/producer with tech guru Leo Laporte at G4techTV, a national television channel entirely devoted to technology.

Amber also developed “commandN,” a popular video podcast that covers online and offline technology trends. Aside from experience in the broadcast industry, Amber spent four years as a web strategist at Razorfish and software start-up HigherMarkets, both in San Francisco. She also worked as a web strategy manager for Microsoft Canada, but she is a Mac fan at heart.

Amber is represented exclusively as a speaker with The Lavin Agency. You can also find Amber blogging at ambermac.com.

Social Media Interview

1. The article that you wrote recently in The Globe & Mail about the “Air Canada Twitter Fiasco” has received a lot of attention in the social media world.  But, even in the traditional business world, it’s kind of opened the eyes to some big businesses to show that it’s one thing to engage in social media, but it’s another thing to put up accounts and not use them. I think your article was a great example of that.  Can you give everyone a bit of a background on the situation and what your perspective is?

Well, I think for people that followed the story, it’s the story of 10 yr old Tanner who flew to NYC and his wheelchair got broken.  Air Canada took it to get it fixed, however there was all this information happening on Twitter where people were talking about Air Canada.  And, Tanner’s aunt hadn’t heard from them and was very critical of them. The whole thing exploded, so over the course of like 16 hrs, there were all these negative comments about Air Canada.

And, unfortunately, Air Canada didn’t really participate in the conversation at all. I was a little bit critical about their response in the sense that for a huge brand like Air Canada, I believe you are serving the public and you have a responsibility to monitor the web. And, there were comments on the Globe & Mail article where people were saying “Well, it’s a lot of money to hire someone to watch out what’s happening on Twitter and all these different sites”. Well, I’m pretty confident that Air Canada can afford to put some resources there and it’s 2010 and that’s what people expect.

So, I think they made a mistake, and I think it’s unfortunate because there was so much press about this certain incident. I hope that they will do something to change their social media practices.  Try to reach out and just be smart about engaging online. I mean, they need to get control of the Air Canada account on Twitter, they need to actively be using Facebook and not just use it as a broadcast platform to talk about Air Canada sales.  But, instead to engage with people who are upset about their interactions with the brand, there are also customers who are happy about their interactions with the brand. And, they really need to embrace the social media environment.

I think over the next few months we’ll see that happen, or maybe it doesn’t happen. Maybe there is a follow up article here?

Trevor: No kidding.  I think, to what you are saying there, you have to wonder what the cost of all the negative press was.  It’s really tough to put monetary values on these things.  But, if you want to talk about the cost of employing someone, what was the cost of all the negative press that Air Canada received over this?  I know I personally commented on the article and I was actually quite blown away by some of the responses that people were giving saying that Air Canada should completely avoid social media, act as though it doesn’t exist.  I’m to the complete opposite belief and I believe we can both say that confidently.  It’s one thing to be really aggressive and actively involved, but at the very least, to be monitoring what people are saying so that you can react to those types of situations in a timely manner.

There are definitely a lot of people that still think social media is all nonsense.  “It’s just people out there complaining”. I would say to the same people who commented on the Globe & Mail article. There was a lot of people who were anonymous and wouldn’t even put their names there who had negative comments. And, so, if they think the social media space is sort of this “big uncontrolled party that they shouldn’t get involved with”, then hey, I respect their opinion.  But, at the same time, when they go and comment anonymously, I have to ask myself that hey, if you feel this strongly about something then use your own name.

So, I was very surprised by some of the posts.  But, at the end of the day, we just don’t know who those are coming from. It could be one person logging in with different names.  And, this is one of the negative sides of the whole “commenting” environment.  Whether it’s on newspapers or other sites, it can be manipulated. And, in this circumstance, I think the only good thing was that there was a really healthy and hearty conversation happening there.  And, I would have liked to see Air Canada perhaps get more involved.

Trevor: Ya, it was very cool to see.  I was one of the ones that put my name down because I actually made that comment too that a lot of people were throwing out all these opinions, but they weren’t really standing behind anything by saying who they were. It doesn’t hold the same kind of weight.  I even knew that I was throwing myself out there a little bit to be criticized, but it is what it is.  You stand behind your belief and go from there.

Anyways, that is somewhat of a side topic.  I just wanted to commend you for the article because I thought it was great.  I thought your perspective was bang on with the way that they should be considering approaching this and like you say, we’ll see what happens in the coming months here.

2. So, speaking specifically about you Amber, how did you get involved in the whole social media world?  If you can summarize how you started and what’s got you to this point where you have all these online properties and manage multiple accounts. You’ve seen a lot of success.  You’ve written a book recently as well!

Ya, I mean, I think in the social media space many people hear that term and they think this is something that is brand new.  But, if we look back at the history of the internet, there are many social networking sites. Kind of the early days of the online message boards and the community forums.  For me, in 1999, I had a great opportunity to work at a company called Razorfish in San Francisco during the dot com boom.  And, there was a lot happening there as far as trying to build these communities online.  We just didn’t call it social media.

So, during that time I just got so excited about the idea that you could use this platform to connect with people all over the world.  It’s the first time we’ve truly had a platform where we could do something like this.  And, I just knew that I would spend my life essentially building content and working on projects that allowed these connections to happen.

So, fast forward 10 years later and now social media has really exploded. Fortunately I was just in the right place at the right time. I had followed web trends along the way as they’ve sort of gone into the social media space in a significant manner.

3. So, how do you find the balance now that you’ve got all these different properties, both personal and business. How do you manage those? Is there a separation between your personal and business brands?

I think that’s a really good question. I mean for me personally, there isn’t much separation with anything I do.  Whether it’s between personal brand or professional brand, between personal life and professional life. I find it’s all just in one bucket.  You know, I basically live in an environment where I may be online at midnight and I may be working on a project through my company MGI Media, or I might be updating or leaving a comment on my video podcast CommandN.

So, all the worlds are kind of connected and they all sort of leverage each other.  And, that kind of works best for me.  I don’t need those lines of separation. I love that technology is so exciting and it’s such a fun space to work in, so I see how some of the different projects I work on really compliment other projects. I mean, people always ask “How do you come up with so many ideas?”.  I mean, I write about 5 columns a week, I do multiple shows every week.  But, when you do that much content, you can leverage articles that you’ve written and that ends up being content on TV.  Getting a client because of some connection between interviewing someone on my shows.  I mean, there really is (and I hate using this word), but there is some nice synergy there.

Trevor: Ya, and repurposing content is a good thing to take away from what you are saying.  You are utilizing your blog articles or your videos, turning them into blog articles, creating interview opportunities. It’s a great way to build content for those that are starting up a blog for the first time and wondering what the heck they are actually going to write about. It comes together pretty quickly.

4. Are there any particular online sources or blogs that you read to keep up with all the trends in social media?

Honestly, the number one place that I go, and it’s so popular, lots of people are familiar with it, is Mashable. Mashable tends to be this ultimate guide for all things social media.  What I love about it is it’s been following social media trends for a few years now and they have case studies for different industries, they really keep up to date on a lot of the different tools and services that launch on the web. And, so I read that religiously.

There are a couple of other blogs that I read maybe once a day, but with Mashable, I check in at least a few times a day. And, I really believe that for the average person that is interested in social media, if you check into Mashable and spend 10 minutes a day there, you could eventually get a really good grasp on what is happening in the social media space. And, you could start to understand what works and what doesn’t work in that environment.

Trevor: Definitely, Mashable is always a great place to start. And, with regards to blogs, do you use RSS to filter everything into one RSS reader and try your damnedest to stay up to date with it?

You know I find I’ve used a lot of the different readers, but     what I ended up doing a lot is just following people on Twitter and getting some of my best content there. I do follow a lot of people on Twitter, so it’s not that easy to sort through all of the different updates.  But, I find it to be an invaluable resources. Because, there are some people I follow, I’m thinking of Scott Stratten (@unmarketing), Mathew Ingrim (@mathewi) who used to work for the Globe & Mail, Mitch Joel (@mitchjoel).

All those people in some way or another contribute to the news information I consume on social media. So, if they post a link, I automatically end up retweeting it, looking at it.  Guy Kawasaki (@guykawasaki) is another person.  And, that ends up being a major news source for me. So, for anyone who wants to try to follow along with content, one of the best things to do through your Twitter account is, just get it setup so you follow certain people. And then maybe you use a desktop service like Tweetdeck or something else, where you put those people into different groups and you have your “social media experts”.  That way, you can really focus and get all your updates based on one specific topic.

Trevor: Ya, that’s great advice.  It’s very timely and if it’s coming from trusted sources, you know that it will be worthy of your time. Those people build up their reputations over time that makes you want to read stuff that they have to share.

5. I find everyone has some type of story, that WOW moment with social media that makes them believe it is a game changer in the way we do business or personal life. Do you have any stories like this?

Well, I always talk about this one moment.  It was a couple of years ago when I was travelling down to Washington, DC to speak at an event.  And, before I had left Toronto, I went onto Twitter and said “What hotel should I stay at in the DC area?”. All of a sudden I had dozens of replies and recommendations. I saw that the majority of people are recommending this one hotel, so it must be good. And, then I’m thinking to myself at the time, well, how did I used to get this information? I used to go to Google. And, I would do a random search and I would get a million plus results and I’d have to go through all these pages and I wouldn’t really know which content was paid for.

Well, forget about that, social media had become my avenue to chose how I was gonna spend money, who I was gonna connect with, what brands I was going to support, what news information I was going to consume.  So, my content interests really shifted and I developed this trusted network of people who I follow and network with on a regular basis.

So, that was kind of the “Ah Ha” or “WOW” moment for me. And, I think you’re right, everyone does have that.  And, I always encourage people that think overnight they are going to understand how social media will help their brand or business. That’s not going to happen. You need to invest and commit to social media for a few months and then you will have that moment. But, it won’t happen right away and you need to be patient.

6. And, you are leading perfectly into my last question for you. Is there anything else that you would give for advice to individuals that are just starting out in social media that might be intimidated by all of the noise and everything the feel they “need” to know?

I know, it’s scary.  Within my book, Power Friending, I actually devoted an entire section to the fears.  And, it’s something I added in at a later date because I realized that one of the reasons people are not adopting these tools is because they are afraid of the technology. And, what I would say to people is “Stop focusing on the technology because the reality is, the technology has never ever been easier to use”.

It’s quite simple to update your status on Twitter, upload a video to YouTube.  I mean, you need some pretty basic computer skills. What people need to realize is that social media is about being social. It’s about building communities.  it’s about having social graces.  It’s much more about how you network than it is about the tools themselves. Sure, you need to know them, but don’t be afraid of them.  Because, the good thing about the social media world, I believe, is that people are very forgiving, they are very helpful and they will lend a hand along the way. So, what you want to do is just get out there, start tweeting, start blogging, facebooking, all these different things and building a community around you that will support you as you navigate these online waters.

Trevor: And, I think those are great tips for individuals, small businesses, even big businesses like the Air Canada’s out there that are looking to just get started.

Connect With Amber

Current Occupation: New Media Host/Producer, Strategist and Speaker
Company: http://mgimedia.ca
Speaking: http://thelavinagency.com
Shows: http://webnation.tv
Blog: http://ambermac.com
Facebook (Fan Page): http://www.facebook.com/ambermac
Twitter: http://twitter.com/ambermac

Trevor Turnbull is the President of T3 CONNECT Sports Marketing, COO of Sports Networker & Sports Executives Association, Contributing Writer for Entrepreneur.com, the lead Linkedin trainer for Route Three Marketing and co-producer of Zero To Money Making Website & WordPress Authorities. Connect with Trevor on Google+
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About Trevor Turnbull

Trevor Turnbull is the President of T3 CONNECT Sports Marketing, COO of Sports Networker & Sports Executives Association, Contributing Writer for Entrepreneur.com, the lead Linkedin trainer for Route Three Marketing and co-producer of Zero To Money Making Website & Wordpress Authorities. Connect with Trevor on Google+