Thursday, August 23, 2012

The POWER of Social Media

I used to hate social media. I still hate some aspects of it (all those dang Facebook game requests!). I use Twitter more than any other social medium, but I have it post to my Facebook status sometimes (I use Selective Tweets). I sometimes blog on this blog, and my other blog about music. I just checked in on Foursquare (which I just started using last week) in my neighborhood and stole the mayorship. Yes, folks, I'm now the Mayor of Stonehaven. I'm learning about a couple new services that look interesting. One is Medium and the other is Branch. Both are 'invitation only' right now, but I'm sure after they see I mentioned them in this post they'll extend my invite. :)

I'm starting to really like social media. I've learned about the POWER of social media, for both good and bad. It's amazing the reactions people have to a Twitter or Facebook post. It's also amazing what companies will do when you post about them.

I once heard a story about a woman who posted something rather unpleasant about her boss on her Facebook  status. Her boss promptly commented that she must have forgotten that she friended him on Facebook. She was summarily fired. I've seen a lot of good and bad happen on Facebook. It's a great way to catch up with friends and family, but you really better be careful about what you post, cause you know the person that would be offended by it is sure to see it! Other social media platforms can be dangerous too. Better be careful what you tweet about your job or family or friends! I don't really like Facebook much, but I use it anyway. Good things come from Facebook too. For example, I was in a restaurant about to pay for our dinner when I noticed a sign that said if you check in on Facebook and like their Facebook page, you get a discount. 10% off, baby! (Disclaimer: this restaurant may or may not be currently offering this or other discounts, you'll have to check for yourself). I think Foursquare sometimes has the same type of deals... I dunno, I haven't really used it much yet.

Twitter, however has been my friend. I got into Twitter because I saw this story about a journalist named James Buck who got arrested during a protest in Egypt and had time to tweet only 1 word: Arrested. His friends and family saw it and knew something was wrong and was able to immediately start working to help him. Awesome.

I've had a lot of good come from some of my tweets.

We currently use AT&T for our wireless service. Honestly, they've hacked me off quite a bit, especially their customer service. Really the only reason we are still with them is we are 'grandfathered' in on their old unlimited data plan. I think they are really trying to get rid of customers like me, or at least they are trying to force us to change data plans. Apparently they don't like unlimited data users. Just recently they announced that they will not allow FaceTime to work on these older data plans. You have to move to their more expensive Mobile Share plans to be able to use Facetime. I think that sucks. But what sucks more is what I think is deliberate harassment of their unlimited data plan users. Back in December 2011, I got a nasty-gram from AT&T telling me that they would throttle my data speeds if I kept using so much data! This was news to me. I'd never used more than about 1GB of data in a month. Suddenly my data usage was at an amazing 8GB! Check out this usage chart from my account:
Uh....say what?? Data usage inexplicably jumps from 1.1GB or less per month to a whopping 7.9GB! I can assure you that my phone usage did not change at all. No new data-sucking apps or media streaming or anything out of the ordinary.

I contacted AT&T. They said I use too much data and they can throttle me if they want. I could not get them to cooperate with me to figure out what the heck happened. WHY was my data suddenly so HUGE?? Since AT&T would not cooperate with me and assure me that my data would not be throttled, I decided to become somewhat vocal about it. Hello, Twitter! I posted several posts expressing my displeasure at the situation. I searched the net for other people experiencing the same issue. Guess what I found? I found this article about a guy that sued AT&T for throttling his data. Guess who won? The guy. Not the mega-huge communications corporation. I started tweeting and posting about this relentlessly. AT&T responded a couple times, basically telling me if I didn't like it to change data plans. But then I think they got tired of all the negative publicity.... check this out:
Uh...say what? Data usage inexplicably DROPS from 7.9GB to... is that for real? 0.6GB. Yup. back to pre-December levels. What gives? I guess AT&T was starting to feel the pressure of negative publicity?  

I've used Twitter against them for another problem. When I signed up for U-Verse, they promised me all these discounts. Those discounts never happened. That is until I tweeted about it and their Twitter customer service people picked up on it. They contacted me, and to their credit, made it right.

That's not the only thing that's happened for the good after I tweeted something. Here's some other examples:

Back in July was my #4th birthday. I decided to do an experiment. I tweeted the following 2 tweets to see what would happen:
"Lets see if I can get any celebrities to wish me happy birthday..." (including the @ of celebrities I follow)
"Hmm....Wonder if I can get any companies to send me a b-day gift?" (including the @ of the companies I follow)
This experiment had AMAZING results. You can read all about it on my Twitter Experiment post on my other blog. In summary; several celebrities responded, and I got nice gifts from a few companies as well. It was a great birthday! (I think I'll try it again next year! Or maybe for Christmas! Hmmmm....)

The reason I'm writing this post, however, is due to what happened today.

In May 2012 I bought a new Ford Focus. With my lovely new little car came a Sirius satellite radio. When I called Sirius to activate the radio, the dude told me I was getting 15 months free trial. Cool. My dealer said 6 months, but this dude is telling me 15 months. I kinda argued with him some but he insisted that there was some special promotion or something going on for new Ford owners. 15 months. Cool.

I got some mail from Sirius the other day telling me to call them and they'll upgrade my trial to their Premium package for 6 months. Premium. Cool. So I called and inquired about it. While I was talking to this different dude, I asked when my current subscription would end (I didn't have the papers in front of me and I couldn't remember.) He said November 12, 2012.

Uh....say what? I can count pretty well and that's not 15 months. Not cool.

Dude says he sees that I had a 15 month trial but that it had been cancelled. I sure as heck didn't cancel it. He says that only myself or my dealer can cancel it, so it must have been the dealer. He also said only the dealer can change it back. I called the dealer. They said that they don't do anything with anyone's Sirius account. Once you drive your car off the lot, the deal is between you and Sirius and they're out of the picture. So I call Sirius back. I won't tell you about the conversation, because it was unpleasant. Basically they kept telling me only the dealer can change it. Dealer says they have nothing to do with it. I'm stuck between a rock and a hard place.

Twitter to the rescue!! I posted the following tweet earlier today: " is losing a customer in me. I don't like being lied to!"

Almost immediately I get a reply from them. Here's the ensuing Twitter conversation:

I sent them an email explaining the situation. A couple hours later I get a call from another dude. I like this dude. Didn't like the other dudes. Cool Dude apologizes and says they're leaving the 6 month trial in place, but then adding 12 months of free PREMIUM service starting the day the trial ends. Check out this email I got from Cool Dude: "Thank you for taking the time to speak to me today. As we discussed I have added a 1 year follow on plan to start on Nov.12/2012 and will run until Nov.12/2013. At that time you will receive an invoice in the mail letting you know that your service is up for renewal and the cost."

Dang. That there, my friends, is what you call good customer service. Cool Dude even gave me his direct contact information and said if I had any further problems to contact him directly and he'd help. Follow-up tweets:

I'm now a happy Sirius customer, and I'm much more likely to renew the subscription once my free trial ends. This is how companies should treat their customers.

Social Media. Power. I never really expected these things to happen, but it's fascinating that these situations turned out the way they did. Companies clearly don't like negative publicity, even from a nobody like me. You can use Social media for good or for bad. You can get results. You could even save your life. Just ask Buck.