Tag Archives: social media

Negative Online Reviews: What’s Really Going On?

By Melonie Curry, MBA

Don’t we all cringe when we see that negative review on Facebook or Google? Because a driver made the choice to ignore the sign, we are now scammers and money grabbers.

As an organization that issues parking citations, too many limit their reviews of our services to only issuing parking citations. Our reality is that more than 80 percent of the people who write reviews of our organization write them after they receive a parking citation.

Unfortunately, it seems the loudest voices on social media today are the most negative. Many organizations have not begun to use social media or limit its use due to negative comments. When you take a big picture view, the negative reviews are not as impactful as you think.

From 2020, ParkHouston received 30 reviews on Google and we have rating of 1.8. When you look at the big picture, over 10,000 customers per month search for our name. From 2014, we have a 1.6 rating with 49 Facebook reviews. However, our page reaches over 2,000 customers per month. We have clearly educated far more customers on parking safety, our services, and programs than the 60 or 65 customers who left negative reviews.

Never ignore the reviews–respond to their concerns. They can have a legitimate issue. Take the opportunity to demonstrate your customer service and responsiveness. You can take the conversation offline to assist them. You may even change their opinion. Facebook now hides profane comments. If you are not a government agency, you can delete or mute followers who are are just there to harass.

Don’t avoid social media. The one negative review is a very small voice compared to the number of people you can educate and create consumer awareness about your products and services. Get to posting!

Melonie Curry, MBA, is a staff analyst with ParkHouston.

It’s Not You, Social Media, It’s Me

woman closing/opening her laptopBy Vanessa Solesbee, CAPP, CCTM

I grew up with a passion for public service, and while I never thought that passion would take me into parking, I am so glad it did. When I had the opportunity to take classes at the Disney Institute as part of a summer internship between my freshman and sophomore years in college, I remember thinking I had found my people and my calling. Cultivating the ability to navigate even the most difficult customer interactions—to listen, educate without talking down; to really engage with someone that had a strongly held belief that was different from mine and to do so in such a way that they left them feeling like something magical had taken place? Um, yes, please. Count me in.

So why, with my passion for solving the toughest problems head on, did I decide a few weeks ago to hit the pause button on part of our current community engagement strategy and take a break from social media?

In preparation for implementation of paid parking this summer for the first time in our town’s history, we have been on stakeholder engagement overdrive since 2017. Public meetings, online tools, intercept surveys, booths at the farmers’ market, nearly 40 presentations to community groups (in the last four months alone!), weekly “parking office hours”,”door-to-door visits downtown—you name it, we’ve done it. While some of these interactions have been challenging, none have held a candle to the constant and vitriolic response when we post on social media. The content itself makes no difference—from announcing new incentive programs to sharing that we are planning to spend the revenue to reinvest into future parking and transit offerings, it doesn’t matter. The online fury is swift and intense.

Like many communities, we have a few, very vocal stakeholders who are absolutely incensed about paid parking. This situation is not unique to our town. However, I have been doing stakeholder outreach, community engagement and communication work since 2002 and the tone over the past, say, 12 to 18 months feels different to me. While the responses to our parking-related posts on social media have been particularly acute for me personally because I care deeply about our community and this program we are building, I have also heard from many colleagues and friends in other, diverse fields (events, public information, public health, business associations, recreation) that they are struggling as well. Nearly every message posted brings with it a few hyperbolic attacks and the whole post quickly spirals out of control.

At what point do we stop posting information on social media that (we think!) is helpful to those we are trying to serve?

Social media is ubiquitous and for years, it has served a vital role in helping parking programs communicate with their stakeholders in fast, visual, and interactive ways. However for many, social media has always been a double-edged sword. When does providing answers or offering assistance to an angry customer move from being viewed as responsive to antagonistic? And depending on what platform you use, are your customers or stakeholders really there or are you just fanning the flames under your own feet?

While many of these questions may seem rhetorical, they are ones that anyone currently engaged in any sort of social media outreach or strategy should actively consider. Is the value proposition social media once brought still there, or is it something we feel that we “need to do” to check that box in our outreach strategy? The answers to all of these questions will depend on your town, university, airport, business, or campus; however for us, the decision to move away from social media temporarily has allowed us to focus more time on other, more meaningful strategies. It has also allowed us to take a step back and realize the damage that we may have been doing to ourselves by continuing to remind folks (with our clever graphics and helpful tips) that they absolutely hate what we are doing.

While I am sure we’ll revisit our decision to take a break from social media at some point in the future, for now, you can find me at a table near the farmers’ market, engaging with our residents and visitors in meaningful ways that build community instead of tearing it down. And you know what? I think Mickey would be proud.

Vanessa Solesbee, CAPP, CCTM, is parking & transit manager with the Town of Estes Park, Colo.

Negative Online Reviews: To Respond or Not?

Stick figure man being punched by fist flying out of computer screenBy Melonie Curry, MBA

“That sign was not visible.” “I’ve never heard of that parking regulation.” “Why don’t you address real crimes?” “This is just a money grab by a corrupt government agency.”

Sound familiar? How many times a day do you hear these or similar comments? Receiving a parking citation is a very unpleasant experience for most. Now, they are empowered to write an immediate online review in the heat of the moment. They can freely express their frustration about the undeserved envelope on their windshield and give your organization the lowest rating possible. It won’t be long before the members of their social media network chime in.

It often seems futile to respond because the review is posted and the damage is done. How many people will read the review in future? The author’s frustration is understandable, and you cannot change that. But is what they posted accurate? Does it include misinformation?

You already have the negative review, so what do you have to lose? Take this opportunity to clear up any posted misinformation. It may be printed on the citation but make sure they are aware of their options to contest. Provide a link with refresher course on local parking regulations and help them avoid future citations.

Some will comment with further fury. Often, many comment, “Thank you.” They are surprised that someone actually responded and they feel heard. They may not give you a 5-star review but they will appreciate the effort and learn some important information on how to avoid future frustration.

Melonie Curry, MBA, is staff analyst with ParkHouston. She will present on “Using Social Listening to Improve Your Customer Service” during an IPMI webinar, Wednesday, March 17 (1 CAPP point). Click here for details and to register.

Becoming the Social Media Hot Rod

By Kim A. Spagnulo

Let’s face the facts: There is a lot more to the parking industry than just pulling into a garage or valeting your car for a few hours. In an industry advertising cement parking structures and wide-open surface lots, we’re tasked with the challenge of making that look exciting. We have to think outside of the box and show that cement and pavement can sparkle!

Social media is our opportunity to stand out and show how our company and its employees are what bring that sparkle forward every day. At LAZ Parking, we believe in showcasing our people, our culture, and our excellence in service delivery.

Developing a social media strategy is the first step to ensuring your company is tackling its goals. Are you going to focus on sharing more content, increasing brand awareness, using social media as a recruiting tool, or all the above? Start small and don’t think you’re going to go viral overnight. It takes time to cultivate and nurture an engaged social media community. You have to actively engage with your audience to show your followers that you aren’t just posting content, but that you actually care about what they have to say too.

Consistency is key! Your strategy should include a content calendar that is planned out at least a month in advance. Then, as new content becomes available, you can weave it into your existing calendar. Look for content that will encourage your audience to engage with your posts, with the ultimate goal of them sharing it on their own pages.

With a strong social media strategy your organization is well on its way to being a social media hot rod in the parking industry!

Kim A. Spagnulo is director, branding and creative services with LAZ Parking.

How Often Should I Post on My Brand’s Social Media?

By Stacy Stockard

A few nights ago, I was finishing a design project for my local chapter of a national nonprofit. As I looked up some identity guidelines, I stumbled across the national organization’s suggested social media posting frequency. It recommended starting with five social media networks and making 60 to 151 posts weekly across those networks–for an organization running solely on volunteers. If you’re wondering what’s too much, that is too much for nearly every local chapter of that group; in fact, not even the national organization posts that frequently.

I believe this is where taking on social media becomes intimidating. Many tell you what you should be doing without taking into account the resources needed to accomplish those goals. Most businesses do not have an entire team of people devoted solely to social media to create that volume and level of content. It can make you want to give up before you start!

The ultimate goal of social media is being a valuable presence to your target audience, and you know your customers better than anyone else does. Identify where they are online and what you believe interests them. Tailor your posts on those networks to those interests. Assess your available resources to determine which networks you can successfully take on and remain active. Post when you have something worth sharing; you don’t have to post just to be posting.

Your audience wants you to be present and helpful on at least one network. Focus on their needs, and your strategy will come.

Stacy Stockard is media relations coordinator at Texas Tech University. She will present on this topic at the 2019 IPMI Conference & Expo, June 9-12 in Anaheim, Calif. For more information and to register, click here.

How to Use Social Media in Real Time

By Josh Cantor

Years ago, as social media started to explode, many had hesitation about using it for business and professional purposes. I remember attending several sessions even at the IPI Conference about the role of social media in a parking operation. It certainly takes a thick skin to be on social media in parking and respond to customers, like other service-based industries.

One thing I learned early on about using social media is that people appreciate being answered, acknowledged, and even corrected at times. It’s time consuming but worth the effort if you can use the tools to your advantage, whether it’s on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or Reddit among others. As it’s tough to communicate when you’re limited to only being able to send occasional emails and knowing that not everyone drops by the parking website like they do espn.com, using social media to share information, often in smaller, more digestible chunks, has been helpful. Compared to an email where you are only communicating with one person normally, via social media, you can have everyone see your answer which will then often save others from emailing you with the same question. Often if our office gets the same question over and over via email or by phone, we’ll use social media to post and clarify whatever the confusion is about.

So for those still on the shelf about using social media in your parking operation, my advice is try it and have fun with it!

Josh Cantor is director of parking and transportation at George Mason University.