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A Very Social Thanksgiving: The Conclusion

Last month, I wrote about how Jimmy John’s Facebook page inspired me to start a campaign to give thanks to the businesses that have given me great products and services that I might take for granted.   The goal was simple: to help make my industry colleagues feel a little better about what they do, and to let companies know what they’re doing right, rather than just complain when they do something wrong.

A month has finally passed, and I’m back to write about the experience. How did it go? Better than I could have possibly imagined.

The first post I made, highlighted at the end of the last blog post, was to Jimmy John’s (since they were the inspiration for this project).

JJ
A few hours after I published the post, Jimmy John’s social media team contacted me after reading the blog post. They asked if they could have my address so they could send me something. In true Jimmy John’s “Freaky Fast” fashion, there was a box waiting for me by the next afternoon. It looked like a catering box, it was several feet long, and for a brief moment, I wondered if Jimmy John’s had just sent me a month’s supply of sandwiches (which would be a nightmare to keep fresh, but great for lunches). However, upon opening the box, I realized it was something far more impressive than that. Inside was a plethora of Jimmy John’s merchandise: a ball-cap, a sock hat, three t-shirts, a thermal, a surprisingly comfortable hoodie, a high quality duffle bag, and a $10 Jimmy John’s gift card. When they originally asked for my address, I figured I would just be getting a T-shirt. To say that I was floored by all of this would be an understatement. All of this, and it was only the first day. I realized that this was going to be a very interesting project.

JJ

Having brainstormed of a few companies ahead of time that I wanted to thank, the first few days of the project were easy. However, after I exhausted that supply, I realized just how difficult it can be to train your brain to think of the positive business experiences in your day-to-day life. Of course I had a few negative interactions during this time of year, but I swore off complaining on the social media sites, choosing to focus solely on the positive and fearing that anything else could cause me to slide backwards. Surprisingly, even if my posts were initially appreciated by the company’s social media teams, other fans were not happy with my posts. The thank you note below was published on Walgreen’s page, which received a reply from them asking for a private message with more details. It wasn’t long until some dissatisfied Walgreen’s customers used my post to air their frustrations that Walgreen’s had responded to me but not to their criticisms. A simple “thank you” had quickly spiraled into an argument between fans over what they thought of the company. I  wondered if their social media team was as pleased with my note as Jimmy John’s was.

Week 1 Walgreens
Seeing as how I was sick with a nasty cold after Thanksgiving (an annual tradition of mine), I was drinking lots of orange juice at the time. I realized that every winter, I head to the grocery store and stock up on the same brand of orange juice without even thinking about other brands: Tropicana. They had a great lighthearted reply, along with a Tropicana hashtag that tied into a marketing campaign, that made me confirm my side in the ever-important Pulp Wars (let the record show that I’m a Pulp Man). 

Week 1 Tropicana
It’s worth noting on the Tropicana post that several of my personal friends liked my comment (all names have been hidden to protect identities). By this time, many of them had caught wind of the project and some of my daily “thank you”s were starting to show up on their news feed. I can’t say how grateful I was for the support, and it even inspired some of them to start posting their own positive experiences, as my friend Kyle showed.

Kyle
Not every business was as outgoing with their responses, and surprisingly, not everyone was on Facebook or Twitter (in those cases, I posted positive Yelp or Google reviews, or in one case, a simple e-mail). I won’t bore you with the more mundane ones, but the majority were gracious and appreciative, and it didn’t take long for the daily project to become second nature.

I would say that the “Social Thanksgiving” project was a success. Not only do I have enough Jimmy John’s attire that I could likely pose as an employee, sneak behind the counter and start making myself a sandwich, I learned just how much it meant to some of these social media teams that I took the time out to praise the brand or experience I had. The smart brands took advantage acting as a brand ambassador for them, and they used my comments as a jumping-off point for a fun conversation or to highlight a campaign. Most importantly, I learned from the consumer side just how great it was to see a brand genuinely appreciate a positive comment and engage with me. It was an eye-opening experience, as I found myself feeling slightly let down by the companies who either ignored my note or gave it a simple “like” with no further comment. More than anything else, this lesson will carry over into my professional career, as I make sure that I’m taking enough time to truly engage our fans when they take the time to write us. Social media is a two-way street, and the best brands are the ones who are embracing the “social” aspect.

Overall, the project has changed my view on the brands that I rely on, and made me start to think about business interactions in a more positive light. Instead of dreading retail sales transactions, I found myself looking for the positives in the experience, and realized that I was noticing an employee going above and beyond for me as a customer. Even though the month-long project is over, it’s a perspective that I feel has bled into my daily life. I recently came back from a trip to Omaha, and without thinking, I tweeted a “thank you” to a microbrewery that treated us really well during our visit. It wasn’t until I put my phone down that I realized I did this of my own accord, since the project had already finished. November might be over, but I think this is going to be a positive mindset that I’ll be starting off 2014 with.

You don’t have to undergo a month-long project like I did, but I highly recommend that the next time you have a great experience with a brand, business, or restaurant, that you take a moment just to say thank you. Not only will it benefit them to know what’s bringing their customers back, you may notice that it starts to have a positive effect on you as well.

One comment on “A Very Social Thanksgiving: The Conclusion

  1. Stephen, while I didn’t comment on company websites last month, I did follow your example and pay compliments in person. For example, I know Walmart gets a lot of flak, but we were invited to purchase a Walmart gift card for someone who has fallen on hard times (for a secret donation), so we went there to shop. When we found the cards but no envelopes, our cashier was so friendly and helpful — taking time to leave his register (he had no one else waiting) to help us scout out the envelopes. He couldn’t have been more cheerful. So before we left the store, we stood in line at the customer service counter just to compliment our cashier to the manager. You should have seen the manager’s face! When she emerged from her office, she had the harried, tired look of a Walmart customer service manager during holiday shopping season. As soon as she found out why we had stood in line ten minutes just to see her, her whole face lit up with relief. I thought she was going to hug us.

    We did the same several times during the holiday season when we encountered someone who tried to remain helpful and cheerful throughout the rush. The most recent was the entire staff a Comfort Inn in Rawlins, Wyoming. We didn’t meet a single rude staff member, from custodian to front desk clerk. So on the way out the door, we told them so! Why does everyone always act so surprised when they receive a compliment from a customer instead of a complaint? Because it just doesn’t happen that often, I guess. People only like to speak up when they’re unhappy.

    Steve, thanks for the experiment and for passing it on. I intend to keep up my habit of paying a compliment when something goes right throughout the year.

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