CATEGORY: Social Media

Progressive Goes Backward: We Can learn from the Auto Insurance Company Fail

When I first read the story about Progressive Auto Insurance and the death of one of their clients, a woman named Kaitlynn Eileen Fisher, I was pretty perturbed. I wasn’t alone. The Internet lit up. The tragic accident and ensuing court debacle was being retweeted thousands of times per minute. From a mere human perspective, death takes a toll, and as a father I can’t fathom what the parents of the young John Hopkins graduate have endured. But from the point-of-view of a business, and a company that thrives  on great customer service, it’s painful to see such a large company stumble and fail. Repeatedly.

It all began with a guy running a red light. His SUV plowed into Fisher’s Honda. A split second shredded everything those families knew, and in the scrambling for answers, the least they could hope for was the compensation they’d secured to help cover those suddenly trivial accumulations, like Kaitlynn’s student loans. It didn’t happen like that, and according to the now viral blog post written by her brother, Matt Fisher, Progressive Auto Insurance failed to follow through with what was expected from her policy.

Here, Matt explains what went from the typical death claim, to that of an arduous legal battle.

progressive auto insurance debacle

His accusations go so far as to say Progressive’s lawyers defended the man who ran the red light. Progressive has now denied that (and Fisher countered), but–and here’s where they defy the odds and continue to screw up–they’re doing it two days after the blog came out. Two days in insurance lawyer land is an eternity on the web. Progressive finally put humans out front to explain themselves. That’s only after the auto-responses on Twitter made them look even more like assclowns.

Here’s the frigid Twitter outreach conducted by an Autobot:

progressive auto insurance

So here we are with young life gone, a family shattered and an insurance company not prepared to deal with being caught as Satan’s puppet. There are so many things wrong here that I’ll start post-mortem, actually even post trial, and suggest that a company that boasts on their website that from 1996 to 2005 they “grew an average of 17 percent per year, from $3.4 billion to $14 billion” should be able to afford someone to sit on their Twitter and make an actual human response to a tragically human situation.

Even more importantly though, is that social media has pulled back the veil on this creepy marriage between big money and poor service. There’s a helplessness that people are supposed to feel when they are confronted by a team of lawyers from a behemoth oligopoly. But now…maybe not so much. We know that the chance of something going viral is insanely small, yet the odds that people truly care, people not even being paid a premium, are big. And now Progressive needs to know that. All companies should.

To do that, give your insurance company a call and ask about their policies. It’s time to put their customer service to the test. If we can be up answering tweets about ten-dollar domains, then the least they can do is comfort those paying thousands for something as precious as piece of mind.

Things Your Website Should NOT Do:’s Facebook Friends Focus Group

At we do domains, websites and hosting. You get a domain and some hosting and then you’re all set to burst onto the web, but before you put a whole lot of work into a snappy Flash intro, or have your friends in the bongo/zither duo make some awesome home page music, pay heed to what some experienced web users have to say about what NOT to do:

Do not do this to your websitewebsite don'tswebsite don'tswebsite don'ts

Like a free focus group and you didn’t have to provide finger food. Although we’re not sure what a couple are talking about, and I think Kelley Bryant is actually selling auto parts, but this is good info to keep in mind for the best presence on the web.


Social Media Success Story: Making Criticism Constructive

When we added the .XXX extension to our ever-expanding list of domains, we received a lot of criticism for reminding customers to register it defensively. Below are Tweets that exemplify some of the feelings about .XXX and the campaign to have businesses and institutions use it to defend their trademark. Their arguments are not without merit, which is something any social media manager and/or customer support person should note: never write off someone’s issue. To you it might not make sense. To them it could be the biggest deal in the world. (I think marriage helps with this type of empathy.)
I’ll go through some play-by-play to highlight what may have worked here. I say “may have” as results may vary.
So we got this Tweet:
Robb Fitzsimmons
@robbfitzsimmons Registrars like @namedotcom functionally blackmailing the internet with .xxx emails like this; tactic as gross as porn.
SLAM! That’s well said. @robbfitzsimmons used his 140 characters wisely and with a very sharp point. And anyone who can properly use a semicolon can be kind of intimidating. At this point I have two options:
1. Ignore
2. Kindly thank him for his feedback.
3. Do a little research and let him know that while our XXX email may have insulted his intelligence, we don’t think he’s dumb.So I go to his profile, a great place to find out a lot about someone.
social media success story
On his website I see he is no slouch. He’s associated with Harvard and MIT. This guy already knows that we hear him, now we need to let him know that we HEAR him.
@robbfitzsimmons Well said. We feel that if you’re going to get zinged by somebody that it’s best it’s someone from Harvard and/or MIT.
It’s easy to get mad at a website, but when you demonstrate that your company is made up of actual people who care, well then zing. You’ve made a valuable connection. Conversation ensues:
@namedotcom so, i think i need to be more fair. i’m a satisfied client, very happy with the service. just felt it was a bit opportunistic.
And when the anonymity of the Internet is blown away, you are left with real humans having real conversation.
@namedotcom PS if you would refrain from buying and posting porn to it as retaliation, that’d be appreciated. 🙂
@robbfitzsimmons No, you’re safe with us. And we appreciate the insightful comment. It’s a fine line keeping up with the ‘net & its content
@namedotcom agreed and will continue to turn to you guys for domains; i think you get it which is why i tweeted in the first place.
There is no tactic or trick here. There’s nothing at all cynical about Twitter conversations (actually, there can’t be or you’ll be sniffed out and ignored.) It’s simply about paying attention to people. HINT: If someone has a Twitter or Facebook account there’s a good chance they don’t mind attention.  Also important is getting everyone in the building to understand why the company is about to embark on something, and then making sure they are informed. XXX was not without its controversy within the office, and those discussions helped to hone the office policy as to why we decided to market it.
With that kind of confidence, you can converse like a normal human who has nothing to hide…because you don’t.
Thanks for reading this and, as always, remember social media is a great tool, but please don’t be one.

Social Media Success Story: Conversation with a Doubter

I’ve been trying to write a “tips & tools” series on using social media, mostly Facebook and Twitter, but I’ve found that new media defies the classic “Lesson Plan.” The successes and failures I see are fluid. They can repeat themselves, but not in the same black and white fashion that, say, 2 + 2 always makes 4. Besides, who doesn’t love a good story. Today, I bring you one that highlights the greatest glory of social media: we’re no longer proactive or reactive, WE’RE INTERACTIVE.

So last week I’m monitoring Tweets when I see this: is questioned

If you’re not familiar with Twitter, Fionn, whose Twitter handle is @_DrunkFox_ , is telling @MikeKaSoft that another domain registrar has better customer service than Well that can’t stand because while I don’t know much about Namecheap’s support, I know ours is the best in the world. So I reply: customer service for domains hosting and websites

Now that might seem a little harsh, but there’s a steadfast Social Media rule: If you stand up for what you believe in, and can defend it well, you’ll gain more follower/friends than you’ll lose.  People respect backbone (there seems to be a lack of these days.) Although @_drunkfox_ is taken aback: customer support and service for domains websites and hosting

OK, so maybe I was abrasive, but it forced a question: “What kind of company asks that?” This is a great opportunity to explain just what kind of company we (you) are: open, honest and transparent. Before I can even get started, a third party steps in: customer support and service for domains, website and hosting

Awesome. @MikeKaSoft helps save the day. WHY? Because we’ve previously engaged him in conversation. Our rule is we don’t care how many followers someone has, if they take the time to talk to us we’ll make the time to get back. The result is great third-party evangelists like @MikeKaSoft. Because remember, PEOPLE DON’T CARE WHAT YOU HAVE TO SAY ABOUT YOURSELF; THEY WANT TO HEAR WHAT OTHER PEOPLE HAVE TO SAY. Sorry for shouting, but it’s what makes social media and Yelp and Trip Advisor and all those review sites so valuable. As a company you’d better be on it.

Anyway, back to the conversation. @_DrunkFox_ is a smart consumer: customer support and service for domains, website and hosting

And now, in about twenty minutes of casual banter, we have someone not only interested in being our customer, he’s also thinking about being a valuable part of our affiliate program. As far as I can tell it came down to two very basic human functions:

1. Noticing someone

2. Interacting

If there’s more to that with social media, you’ll read it right here. Next week we’ll discuss some success stories of dealing with doubters…and maybe even haters (hush falls over the crowd).

Facebook Investors: Suckerbergs?

People are going bonkers for Facebook’s IPO (Initial Public Offering). It’ll rock the stock market on Friday. But does anyone remember when Yahoo! was valued at one hundred billion dollars? Well they were and, well, Yahoo! has become the VCR of search engines. People are starting to drop the exclamation point. But…BUT…Yahoo! still has nearly as much ad revenue as Facebook.

So how can Facebook keep both their investors and their users happy?

facebook ipo poll

We conducted our own Facebook poll.

Facebook makes most of its money selling ads. Do they have enough space to sell enough ads to make enough money to raise the roof every year? What kind of “tweaks” are they going to have to do to their privacy policy to make ends meet?

I’m a little concerned that they’re going to have to resort to crazy/sneaky activities to merit their $96,000,000,000 valuation, as well as to maintain profits. True, maybe they can be straight-up business peeps who do no evil and make everyone happy, but it looks like there are some roadblocks to warm handshakes and giddy users:

1. General Motors just pulled a boatload of ads off Facebook (to the tune of 10 mil). Will others follow?

2. People might be getting tired of social media. It won’t go away, but Facebook will not grow as fast as it did to 900,000,000 million users.

3. My Aunt Jeanne who used to e-mail really lame forwards is now doing the same on Facebook.

I’m not hating on Facebook here, just trying to figure out how this is going to work. As a matter of fact, we love what the platform has done for us. The money we spent on Facebook advertising delivered some incredible ROI. But how do they avoid going the way of AOL, MySpace and now maybe Yahoo! (all innovators in their own right)? Just how is Facebook going to keep from being buried by the next…Facebook?


Social Media Tip #1: Don’t Think About It

Welcome to a new series about how to be more than mildly successful in social media. Today’s lesson: Stop Thinking. The more you think about a Tweet or a Facebook post, the more it becomes convoluted and uninteresting. The good news is that most of us are already naturals at speaking without thinking. The bad news is that with social media we have a tendency to check how many “followers” or “friends” a user has and then change our answer accordingly. Don’t do that.

Please come as you are to Twitter and Facebook

Act Naturally.

Back to the good news: You can access your natural ability to communicate by verbally replying to the Tweet or post, and then tap what you just said into the computer. Now if your verbal reaction is, “What an asshat!” then you may want to turn on your brain for a little editing, but keep it honest. The trick to remember is that you, in real life, reply with heartfelt conversation all day.

Example 1: Be You

There’s no difference between this verbal dialogue:

Person in real life: “I love cheese!”

You in real life: “I love cheese too!”

And this Twitter back and forth:

Twitter Follower: “I love cheese!”

You: “I love cheese too!”

You’ll note they are completely identical. You might think that proclaiming your love for cheese is trivial and unnecessary, and it is, but what you’re doing when you reply is…relating. And if social media has given us anything, it’s the ability to interact and relate with people we would have otherwise never known existed. If you have a business and want customers, do yourself a favor and talk to them.

Side Note: If you don’t like cheese, then take a stand. When you take a stand and either have fun with it or defend it well, then you’re going to gain many more people than you lose. Plus, you’re developing quirks. We’ll discuss more about quirks and their importance later.

Side note 2: This is a good opportunity to ask, “Who doesn’t love cheese? Do you not like cheese?” Or give your hard working office something fun to do by asking them and reporting, “Here at Big Bill’s Insurance twelve of us like cheese. Two don’t. We’re calling an emergency meeting.”

Example 2: Cocktail Party  

Think about the best jokes. When they’re quick and left to the imagination, they are much funnier than the guy who explains in detail what happened with the nun and the monkey and the cowboy (for example). Here’s the rule: Think about yourself at a cocktail party. When the conversation is rolling and everybody is hip to the dialogue, the best one-liners are casually slipped in with no explanation at all. In this Socially Connected world, we are all already hip to what’s going on in this big cocktail party called the Internet, so let ‘er fly. Side Note: Type out a reply. If it doesn’t suit your company or reputation, then “Favorite” and “Like” are your friends. Cocktail Party Champs

We’re very good at cocktail parties.

If you’re using your Twitter and/or Facebook (and sure, Google+) do your customers a favor and HAVE FAITH IN THEM. You can write long posts on Facebook and hit the maximum 140 on Twitter, but make sure it doesn’t lumber along unsure of itself and anyone who reads it.  It’s good for you and your business if you’re not condescending (often unwittingly) to the people who want to know more about you. So if you’re scrolling through your feed, and think of something to say, get it down. Even if it’s just a ‘Thank you’. If you don’t get that initial (positive) impulse down then, like a dream, the chance to meet a new customer will float away with the day.

Nothing Like a Retweet: A Love Rap

It all began with a little refrain that I couldn’t get out of my head…”Nothin’ Like a Retweet.” With the help of the lyrical stylings of one Mr. Owen Borseth, this video blossomed. Well, to say “blossomed” insinuates some kind of smooth and natural process, when in fact it was like building a Slinky out of firewood. But, please, don’t be cruel. It’s easy to attack the rhythmless. We can’t move. So there was a lot of recording and re-recording, syncing and re-syncing, and trust me, I don’t think any of us will ever again doubt the talent of Lil’ Wayne.

But it’s here, and we’re happy, because now we’ve finally found a way to express the joy of your Retweets. AND there’s this little thing about Retweeting and winning an iPad 3.
Watch…and share (if only there were an easy way to do that…)

Who’s responsible for this?

Shooting & Editing: Mostly John Brill @betheguy, who should be your video guy for all your future projects, and some from Jared Ewy @jaredewy
Writing: @jaredewy and @owenborseth
Music: @listenstudio AJ Hochhalter (brilliant beats, sound, rapper guy GET HIM)
Audio recording/editing: @betheguy @jaredewy@korybrunsonband @goodman933 (of Denver’s Channel 93.3)
Producer: @jaredewy Customers & Friends Syncin’ the ‘Retweet’:

Cubs Guy: @markedwards
Guy in Wendy’s: Jay White
Girls (courtesy their mother): Tabitha, Sarah and Jessica
Guys in Pakistan: Zain, Zaid, Usama and camera guy Jahangir
Dude in front of coffee shop: Patrick Urn (and cute woman friend with pretty eyes whose name I’ve forgotten)
Professoinal in coffee shop: Mark E. Jones
Yoga guy: Our Founder and CEO, @billmushkin Rappers and Playas:

Opening Rapper Dude: Jared Ewy, Community Holler
Beer Thuggin’ Dude: Owen Borseth, Senior Software Engineer, Leader of Labs, Director of Shiz, Protector of the Unknown Realm, and High Council to The Three Wolves of Howling Moon
Beer Theft Victim: Chris Gaston, System Overlord
Customer Service: John Rupp & Katie Blitzer; Customer Service Agents (alt: BadAss Mofizzles)
Inquisitive Bronco Guy: Nick Salvadore; Code Monkey, Housebroken
Dev Table Syncer: Smitty, Development AdVISOR
Miss Seo Friendly: Caroline Temple; Master of her Domain Concierge, Rhythm
Coffee Website Dude: Dave McBreen; Backend Boss Guy, Hilarious
Back of head: Bo Bergstrom, Marketing Master of Marketing and Keywords Marketing
Primary chorus singer: Patrick ‘P-Mo’ Moroney; Smart Guy, Regaler
Back-up Singer: @ajaxera Michael Combs, UX, XD Engineer
Deep-Voiced Guy: @livet0ski Pat ‘P-Fro’ Ramsey, Keeper of Fro
So Sweet Women: @smashleyfork Ashley Forker and Katie Blitzer; Ashley is Marketing Coordinator, or Marketinator
Board Breaker 1: @snowkitten Melissa Dafni; Black Belt in Domain Portfolio Managing, Marketing, LaX
Board Breaker 2: Ryan Clarey: Black Belt in Funny, Monkey upkeep, Customer Support
Smiling CS Guy: Nicholas Steinbach; America’s Most Wholesome Youth
Montage of “That is your Fate”: John Rupp, Cedar Diegal, Henrik Kronstrom, Ryan Clarey, Nicholas Steinbech: CS Agents o’ Joy and Positive Reinforcement

Big Thank YOU to INK! Coffee and Whole Foods (who had no idea we were shooting at their salad bar)