Social Media Tactics: Engaging Your Community Pt. 3: Frank Eliason

Website: Time to be Frank
Bio: Frank Eliason is the Director of Digital Care for Comcast and handles all incoming requests to @ComcastCares on Twitter. He also runs a team of Comcast reps online including @ComcastDoug, @ComcastBonnie and @ComcastBill. Frank also writes on a blog called Time to be Frank, and speaks at events across the country.

You’d be hard-pressed to find someone who has had a greater impact on new media marketing and customer service than Frank Eliason. While everyone else focused on themselves and on “what are you doing?”, Frank did a complete 180, asking “Can I help?” While hundreds of “social media experts” popped up, Frank prided himself on being a customer “service guy.” Comcast’s success in the new media space has come entirely from Frank’s social media tactics, those he’ll readily acknowledge aren’t “tactics”, but just being helpful.

Social Media Tactics discusses various ways social and new media users build relationships and add value to their audience. Each week, we will look at one social media influencer that has managed to use web marketing successfully. In Social Media Tactics, we’ll show you some of the best ways to enhance your own brand and social media presence while demonstrating how some smart users employ social media tactics.

The Social Media Tactics series can be found here.

By treating his network not as an audience for him to speak at, but a community that he connects with, Frank has gained critical acclaim just for helping others. Though everyone knows @ComcastCares is a branded Twitter account, it is the honesty and candor that Frank brings to Twitter that catches people by surprise and instantly changes people’s opinion of the brand and cable companies in general.

Though Frank is most well-known for his Twitter account, @ComcastCares, he also runs a blog and is an incredible public speaker. I had the opportunity to see him this month at an event in Seattle. During that talk, one of the most important points that he tried to drive home was that a corporate account on Twitter is about customer service. It’s not about marketing your product or listening to yourself speak; but it’s about paying attention to your users. If you provide your users with a superior experience, you win. Frank noted at the Seattle event:

“It’s not about being an expert, it’s about being yourself… I’ve never sought to be the Comcast Cares guy or the logo or anything like that. I simply related to people and that’s where the success is.”

How Frank Engages His Community

Twitter: As Twitter gained popularity, @ComcastCares became the face of a corporate success for the space. Though Frank helps Comcast connect through a number of different communities, Twitter is by far the most recognized. It’s important to note that the way Frank engages his community is different from the way that 99% of Twitter users will engage with theirs. Frank doesn’t need to do marketing for his company. There’s millions of dollars in budgeting going out in other areas for Comcast, not to mention the fact that Comcast has its own entire media arm as a cable company to market themselves. You, on the other hand, do not have that. Few of you have a marketing *team*, let alone millions of dollars budgeted to growing your business.

That said, Frank has found success by addressing a problem that people rarely address. Helping others. At the end of the day, your community cares much less about you than they do about themselves. The best way to get your customers to care about you is to show that you care about them first. It’s just human nature to reciprocate. If you try to make social media all about you, it’s much, much harder to succeed.

At first, Comcast responded to customers having trouble with service, waiting for a technician or unsure about outages by asking the simple question: “Can I help?” Though you likely do not have the same number of people asking about your brand, you can help others having trouble elsewhere. Are you a business card company? Search for people having trouble with your competitors and offer help. Are you a shoe outlet store? Find people who are paying too much for theirs. Even individuals can find problems to solve. I’m not saying you should disrupt every conversation on Twitter, but if you have an actual, *helpful* solution to a real problem, offer your assistance.

Speaking Engagements: One of Frank Eliason’s strong suits is his ability to speak in public. I have heard him speak at a couple of events and he has a great reputation for addressing an audience. Much like Twitter, though, he makes sure to engage the audience. Where Frank excels is his ability to understand the concerns of others, and offer honest, candid responses. This works even better in person than it does online. Plus, he has to spend less time dealing with trolls.

If you have a chance to listen to Frank speak about how he uses Twitter and other social networks, do so. He is one of the few corporate marketing folk with years of experience under his belt. He can explain how to best leverage programs like CoTweet and how to scale a business in social media. But one of the most surprising things that Frank does as a corporate marketer is to be honest. Rather than beating around the bush, he’ll explain how to best deal with trolls or handle a corporate legal team. It is that transparency that has created and continues to define his success in social media.

If there’s one lesson to be learned from Frank’s style in engaging his community it is this: marketing is not about you, it’s about your customer. If you help your customer to be happy, you’ll make the sale. Stop trying to act like an expert, and instead act like a friend.

Photo Source: Mr. Noded’s Gnomedex 9.0 Flickr photostream.

Jaremy Rich writes Techshots, a blog on technology, marketing and gaming, and has learned a great deal about new media marketing from @ComcastCares.