On flexibility & emotion

A week ago I attended a digital marketing seminar organized by Marketing Interactive, a Singapore based company. This was my second time joining their event in Jakarta. Last year, the seminar talked more about how customers’ behavior had changed in the face of the digital era and how companies of different industries turned to digital when it comes to market their products and services. It was also emphasizing the power of visuals. This year, the keynote speakers – that came from medium to gigantic scale corporations and startups – mostly focused their strategy to making engaging videos. Still visual, but moving. Brands move fluidly to respond to fast-pacing change of trends. Customers are hardly loyal. Generation Z are not a loyal group. Their attention needs to be constantly disrupted. Patterns need to be broken in order to get attention, let alone, go viral. Companies splurge on video making to project their brands’ images. Video making companies flourish offering customer behavioral approach at a skyrocketing cost, well seen from the perspective of a small company’s worker like myself, of course.

After Day One was over, I met with some friends at a bar not far from the 5* hotel the 2-day where the seminar was taking place. One of my friends works for a reputable travel magazine – one of a few print magazines that still survive in the wake of  the ‘everything digital’ age. Newspaper and magazines met their dooms one by one. Only those that either have segmented readerships or have solid digital platforms keep thriving. Lucky for my friend, she works for the thriving one. It’s no secret that advertising in print media is expensive, thanks to… well, all the labor of printing! Businesses now turn much of their marketing budget to online advertising, simply because it is cheaper and more measurable when it comes to ROI.

It was just after 6 PM when each of us finished our second glass of cocktail. Tipsy and all, we started to strip off our surface gentility and reveal ourselves more true to ourselves. Turned out six of us (there was about 12 of us) were Javanese, so we took the liberty of mixing English, Bahasa Indonesian, and Javanese in our exchanges that night. It was so much fun. So fluid. Everyone was laughing. Nobody was offended. All felt good.

Catching up with friends and cocktail are two ways to good feelings!

Emotions. Those are what tie people together, whatever changes that may take place. Emotions are what people share and spread. Bad emotions: anger, sadness, anxiety, a loss of some sort. Good emotions: cuteness, silliness, the world-is-still-a-good-place-to-be kind of feeling. One of the keynote speakers from a company called Unruly at the seminar couldn’t stress this enough. Brands play with emotions these days. They can’t help that.

A room with a city view

I came to remember the day I checked in at a hotel in Jakarta; what I experienced was multiple disappointment. First, I had requested a smoking room, but I could not have it. “We are full,” the receptionist said. “But we can move you to a smoking room tomorrow.” How convenient it was to have an elevator ride to the hotel foyer every time I had the urge.

The next day at the hotel, I got most of what I’d wanted granted. I got a smoking room and my phone’s reception went normal. I didn’t have the city view like what I had in the first room, though. In fact, there was no view at all, but I did not want to fight for a view at this point. I guess the hotel had successfully played with this particular guest’s spectrum of happiness. By being flexible, they restored most of her good feelings. Emotion.

I understand not all business people understand the concept of flexibility and emotion. Like the other day when I gave a hotel voucher I had won in an event to a friend of mine because I thought I was not going to use it. Bad news was its validity would expire within days and my friend did not plan to use it anytime soon. Then she emailed the contact person who happened to be the hotel’s PR to ask if it was possible to have it extended. Good news: it was possible. BUT… here comes the bad news, she still had to mail the original physical voucher back to the hotel so that the PR could issue a new one. Small, but itchy inconvenience. Knowing her (the PR), I texted her asking if she would give some sort of leniency as to allow my friend to bring the invalid voucher upon check in. Her flexibility had stopped the moment she told my friend the voucher was renewable. My friend was disappointed. I was disappointed, not so much because of the fact that the hotel’s rule was different from that of my company when it comes to being flexible to business peers, but mostly because my collegue PR expressed her irritation over my friend’s and my queries. The exchanges between us ended up in somewhat ill feelings, but point was taken.

The whole thing got me thinking. If my brand is associated with being flexible in offering customers solutions to their problems, thus giving them good feelings at the end, the chance that they will return is better. Being rigid will cost a business misfortune in the (not so) long run. My brand has to respond to what the customers need. Their headaches should be lessened, if not made gone completely.

My boss loves saying, “My hires are the company’s assets. They are our investment.” I agree. Giving good feelings is also investment. Doesn’t matter if we’re in the stone age or in the Snapchat age.

Fingers crossed!

On Sharing Online

 

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Certainly sharing something online has become a more and more common daily activity. I share, and even multi-share my selfies, pics of my food and office assignments, my blog posts, funny images, some-rocking-peep’s quotations on daily basis. I share interesting news pieces or practically anything that draws my attention and is, in opinion, worth sharing. What I post is mostly personal stuff; and by sharing them, I am more or less aware of the consequences of revealing some aspect of myself and that people may react differently to it. Funny comments, sarcastic attacks, retweets, likes, trains of conversations, or nothing at all — ready or not, I must accept that they color my social media existence.

Most of the time I am conscious of an image I want to project of myself whenever I post a material online. No, not so much because I am narcissistic (to some extent, hell yes, I love taking pics of myself and sharing some of them on my socmed), but because of measured social and professional consequences of who and what I am when I decide to share something online. Because people can read my professional identity online, I think I should behave responsibly online as well. I leave my accounts open so that people can look into my profile as they wish, and they will find that I don’t update on problems at work, or on how I feel about a certain coworker, nor would they find me an angry person by going through my online posts. There are certain times, though, when I blur lines between my private and social life, just to have fun with myself and let others see my silly side without having to make people think, “Oh geez, how could this company hire this witch in the first place?”

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How do I react to reckless posts made by my contacts? There is an excellent feature on Facebook and I love it so much I use it many times. If a post is annoying beyond belief, I will easily click ‘I don’t want to see this’. If the same person has a pattern of making stupid posts (such as controversial news pieces from god-knows-what media), I will unfollow or even unfriend this person completely. Life is too priceless, and your day is too beautiful, to be tainted by other people’s bitterness or weak judgment. It was when MH370 went missing and all social medias were flocked with shared updates of the search that I got really bugged with the fact that some people were mindless enough to share posts that looked more like a gossip than a reliable news piece. Of course everybody is dying to know, but, darling, let me tell you: it doesn’t help at all when your updates come from unreliable sources. 

If you care about your online credibility — because human beings are assessed in this manner too, nowadays — mind the sources you share your posts from, if what you post is an article or news piece. If you vent your anger online, and you think you can hide it by writing it in Swahili, please bear in mind that people do use Google Translate. If the post is light in nature, such as health tips and funny images, sources are less important than in the case of the missing aircraft updates. A note to keep in mind: we tend to take TIME’s or Huffingtonpost’s health articles more seriously than some teenagers’ magazine articles. Having said that, if you aim at entertaining, some cool sites like Buzzfeed have fun stuff to share on your contacts’ timelines just for the heck of fun (like the “Is Ryan Gossling Your Soulmate?” quiz).

End note: Follow any media you like, and start sharing wisely.

What’s Your LinkedIn Profile Picture saying?

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Are you aware of what you’re projecting in your picture on your LinkedIn profile? Did you put up the same goofy avatar you put on Twitter? Hope not, because different social medias take different approaches. It is acceptable to put up a picture of you in a creepy Halloween costume on Facebook and Twitter, but it may not be a wise thing to do on LinkedIn.

Unlike Twitter that allows you to write basically anything you like under Bio section on your profile, LinkedIn and Facebook structure your profile based on first: occupation, second: education. While Facebook goes on in detail with these two categories, also with ways to contact you (similar to LinkedIn), it also offers much room for personal details , such as family members and relationship status.  These later details are irrelevant on LinkedIn because LinkedIn is meant to connect professionals around the globe.

Because of the space allotted for personal information and relatively high level of informality, it is not surprising that pictures FB and Twitter users put up on their profiles can be goofy, silly, scary, sexy, nonsensical, anything! You can even put up your dog’s picture. Unless your industry wants to project this ‘unprofessional’ image on purpose, stick to the basic, simple rule when it comes to putting up your profile picture on LinkedIn: look professional. Imagine that a company of your dream comes across your profile and… ! Well, everybody has every right to dream, right?

  1. Unless you are running a company profile on LinkedIn, show most of your own face on your profile. People tend to look at the eyes, because eyes can say a lot of things.
  2. Forget old-fashioned, unsmiling, photo-studio picture. This kind only projects rigidity and poor taste!
  3. We know not everyone is lucky enough to have good looks, but hey, who cares? Charm has little to do (if any) with the shape of your nose, the smoothness of your skin, or the thickness of your hair. Project confidence, content, happiness just enough. Who wants to hire someone who looks insecure, or, on the contrary: someone who looks arrogant?
  4. Embossed, sketched, color-inverted pictures wouldn’t help, would they? They don’t help you look better. Worse, they may attract a thought that you’re ashamed of how you look. Stop worrying about your less-than-perfect facial features. Don’t fret that it’s easier to look confident when you’re good looking either. Even when it’s true, at the end it’s your skills, expertise and attitude that people hire. And attitude is somewhat projected on your profile picture.
  5. You’ve been around yourself for so many years that you know your best angle. Play with it.
  6. Use a camera that generates good results and minimize retouching. Outdoor or indoor, it’s your call, but outdoor settings may project a warmer, ‘openness’ feel.

More and more employers nowadays check on candidates’ social medias to give them some kind of assessment on these candidates’ personalities. While a Facebook profile that depicts you in the middle of a party – projecting your active and engaging social life – may be desirable for some businesses, LinkedIn, on the other hand, is your mini CV. Surely you want the focus of attention is undividedly: YOU.

What is your current LinkedIn profile picture projecting? Is that the intended message? 🙂

On using non-English in social media

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Is English the only language you speak? Don’t be ashamed because it means that you don’t need to be afraid of losing followers on Twitter who don’t speak your language. Put yourself in the shoes of someone whose timeline or newsfeed is stuffed with words or letters they don’t understand. Oh, you’ve been in those shoes? Don’t you feel frustrated? If English is the only language everyone is using, it will save a lot of problem, no? At least, nobody will feel abandoned because others write status updates in another language. Facebook understands the feeling! That’s why now you can always click ‘translate’ on every news feed they detect using a language other than yours. On the other hand, some people who are bilingual may wish otherwise. No more “talking behind” on contacts who speak only English – which we, bilinguals or trilinguals, sometimes do in certain cases to be safe, for example when we make political statements that may offend people from a certain country. Yes, being able to speak a foreign language means that we have the ability to screen our readers. So, no more secrets eh, Facebook? Hmm… not quite. Facebook has not been able to translate Javanese language, for example. If you are the secretive type and speak Javanese while some of your contacts don’t, you can play with the option!

I speak Bahasa Indonesia, Javanese and English (in proficiency order). I use English with awareness to reach wider audience. I want my friend who is a Thai, for example, to be able to understand and probably retweet my post. And who says I don’t need to practice my English? I’m not an English teacher anymore, and I speak Bahasa most of the time at work, so I have a mild degree of fear of losing my English proficiency if I don’t keep using it. Owing partly to social media, thank God, it’s still there!

I use Bahasa almost instantly in social media. I comment on current national or local issues in Bahasa and attract further comments from the Indonesian speakers on my contact list. I currently live in Indonesia and it’s my current reality that I observe and comment on from time to time on social media. I switch to English with consciousness to have a conversation with the English speaking readers.

It gets amusing with using Javanese in social media. It really does. It’s like going to a (‘Western’) cocktail party where you are the only one wearing a traditional batik sarong and somehow feel funky about it. At least, that’s how I feel. I often find tweets in Javanese made by people I follow very funny. I know that they speak Bahasa and could have tweeted in Bahasa, but they use emotive Javanese instead to better represent their mood. I also observe the rise of Javanese language (and other regional dialects) in social media that goes along with the rise of pride to be part of a nation with multiculturalism and multilingualism. Using Javanese in social media is a way to preserve culture.

Using a non-English language in social media sometimes has nothing to do with abandonment or talking-behind. As I mentioned, it sometimes is the case to be politically safe. Think of a Javanese speaking girl whose crush doesn’t speak Javanese, and on a frustrating day she wants to pour it all out in social media without being too offensive to the guy. That simple. 🙂

On temptation to social broadcast your locations (and your food!)

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Do you really have to always update your status (on BBM, Twitter, Foursquare, etc.) every time you enter a new location? Not always, you may say. Of course, not. We’re not always location-conscious. But my annoyed state-of-mind’s next question is: in what situations are you normally location-conscious, and resulting in social broadcasting your whereabouts? Here’s my guess list. Don’t get me wrong, I came to the list based on my own struggle to resist the temptation!

  1. When the location is so cool that you think some of your contacts may be jealous of, e.g., “In Ku De Ta“; “Party on on Recharge Night! (along with an image of a glass of red wine)”, “DND – at Thalasso spa, trying out the aquamedic pool!” 
  2. When the occasion is so overwhelming that you can hardly contain yourself, e.g., “At Changi airport, waiting for my next flight to Tokyo,” “At NOAH concert – OMG!! Ariel is sooo hot!!! (with blurry image of the artist).”
  3. When you sit there and don’t know what else to do, e.g., “In my sanctuary waiting for him to come,” “In Hotel X (while Hotel X is where you work every day!)”
  4. When you’re hoping that by sharing your whereabouts hopefully your crush will read it and, who knows, he’ll go there too! (Or at least, PING you!)
  5. Combination of some or all of the above.

As I said, it is often difficult for me to resist the temptation, especially since my smartphone is almost always in my hand when I go out. However, happy to share here, I manage to reduce the location-based social broadcasting to some degree. Reason #3 above is the easiest. Why would I update the same status over and over with the same, boring material as my own home? There’s no surprise in going to your own workplace, either (unless it’s your last working day there, or Forbes’ richest CEO pays your company a visit). Unless there’s an element of surprise, stop boring your readers!

Reason #1 makes me contemplate whether it’s the seed of inferiority that’s speaking. Why is going to Ku De Ta a big deal to me? Is it? If I make it public, will people think I belong to the affluent society (which I don’t), or will they think I’m just a annoying brat who’s reality is too ordinary and boring to share? Every time I stop short at the question, I stop myself from hitting the ‘Enter’ button. But when the dessert in front of me looks extremely enticing, and I can’t help photo sharing it, I know that I’m doing #2 which, in some cases, means that I’m allowing myself to be some sort of brand ambassador of that particular dessert  in case any of my contacts is curious to know more about it.

If the coffee shop around the corner is ‘that’ good, some people out there may be interested to go there too, so don’t hesitate to social broadcasting it. Sharing to your readers where you are can be less boring and less annoying.

A hotelier’s note – On Privacy

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A couple of years ago, a tv program that claimed itself to be a reality show carelessly, and unknowingly to many, made a “fatal” mistake. Every episode of the show that was hosted by two celebrities told about a guest’s search for a missing family member. On this particular episode, as it went by, the missing person – the guest’s husband – was detected staying in a famous 3-star hotel chain. The hosts and the guest rushed to the hotel to investigate and were met by the receptionist. Asked about the man’s whereabouts, the silly receptionist said:

Mam, your husband is staying with us, but he’s out at the moment.

Whether the poor woman finally found the culprit or not is not the concern here, but if you travel a lot and stay in a hotel during your trip, or if you are a hotelier like me, your common sense would have suddenly detected something weird in the receptionist’s remark. Hotel staffs are not supposed to release information about their guests under most circumstances. I hope I could tag reality show producers and get them to be more responsible (and resourceful!) so that they don’t send wrong messages to wide audience.

Then again, today, I happened to read my timeline on Twitter where I found the Twitter admin of a big 5 star hotel in Jakarta tweeted names of their VIP guests with warm, cheerful welcoming statements. By doing so, I know that this hotel PR was trying to make a positive image of the hotel – because they are capable of hosting these hot shots – but, at the expense of the guests’ privacy? How could a PR (at an international hotel brand) have lost it? I hope nobody sues anyone after that.

Some hotels make guest privacy notion very clear in writing.  They even make new employees sign an agreement that under no circumstances can they release information about their guests to a third party, even when this third party claims to be a guest’s mother. Jeopardy of privacy can result in expulsion. Some other hotels are not very strict in putting their regulations in words, and they must have been lucky so far if they have not been put in trouble because of this absence. However, privacy policy is some kind of basic agreed rule among hoteliers. At the absence of a supervisor, use your common sense when you have to make a quick decision. I personally think that it doesn’t take much to decide not to release any information about my guests to anyone, especially in social media. Because the consequence is too frightening to face, should things go wrong.

I’m lucky that I formerly worked in the front office where quick decisions had to be made in daily basis in relation to the issue of privacy. Someone claiming to be a journalist asking if so-and-so stayed in our resort. A man calling saying that his wife stayed with us and wanting to give her a birthday surprise and therefore wishing me to let him know her room number. A friend curiously asking if it was true a famous porn star was in house. These were only a few examples.

Working in the operational side also allows you to see things from the perspective of a guest. An ambassador checked in on one day with his lovely wife, and with his lady friend on another day. A world-famous illusionist who wished to have a short break from controversy. Or simply anyone who wanted secrecy for reasons we may not need to know. Isn’t that something we sometimes need, too? There’s less and less space for privacy nowadays, thanks to new gadgets and social media. How do you feel when you pay a hotel dearly in order to “disappear” only to find that they betray your trust?