The Value of Jury Duty

2 months ago, the mail slipped through our mail slot like it does everyday. Like everyday, my two dogs charged full-steam to the door and started barking their heads off. Nothing special, just a normal day. Thumbing through the envelopes, it was all the normal stuff - the electric bill, credit card offers, and catalogues addressed to the previous owner of our house. But one letter stuck out. It was from the St. Louis Circuit Attorney’s Office. 

Cut to me to last Wednesday I was actually excited for jury duty. Working from home has a ton of perks, I can’t stress that enough. Working in sweatpants is awesome, need I say more? But it was actually energizing that day to shower, wear non-sweatpants, hop in my car and drive downtown.

When I walked into the jury waiting room there were about 300 potential jurors each wearing a three digit number clipped to their shirt. After about an hour of just waiting, numbers started getting called. 248. 198. 337. 

337? That number sounded familiar. I looked down to the number hanging off my shirt. 337. Wow, third number called. I joined the line in the appropriate order and after another period of waiting, I was led into the court room along with the 75 or so other jurors called. The order in which we were called ended up being important and we filed into the court room in that specific order. The first 12 were led to the jury box. The second 6 sat in the alternate jury area. The other 60 or so sat in the general seating area of the courtroom. 

Yep, I was one of the 12 right off the bat. The jury selection process in and of itself is fascinating. I bet a lot of readers have been through the process, so I will skip ahead to say I was not removed from the 12 and when it was all said and done, I was on the jury.

I’m not going to talk about the case or what the outcome was except to say that after 2 days of opening statements, testimony, evidence, closing statements and deliberation, we the jury did come to a unanimous verdict.

So why am I talking about this on my blog post? Well first of all, last week when I was supposed to be working on my blog post I was on jury duty. Second of all, if you can’t tell from my story I actually was excited to be on jury duty and I think you should be too. Also, Thin Pig is extremely supportive of our employees serving on jury duty, and your company should be too. 

Regardless if you are an employee or an employer, serving on a jury is a sacred duty in our country and should be supported. During one of the many, many periods of waiting during this process, another jury member said, “If you have ever lived in a country that doesn’t have free elections, you would vote in America every single election.” I think there is a similar sentiment to jury duty in the United States. A couple hundred years ago it was a novel and inspiring idea that your peers would decide your fate. A jury by your peers is a fundamental component of American democracy and participation in what is one of the most direct implementations of our Constitution should be exciting.

Unfortunately, jury duty makes some employees nervous. Am I going to get paid from my employer? Am I going to get in trouble? What if the trial goes on for months, will I still have my job?

Thankfully there are federal and state protections for jurors. For instance, in Missouri an employer is prohibited from “discharging, threatening, disciplining, or otherwise taking adverse action against an employee because he or she takes time off to serve on jury duty”. Also, Missouri law “prevents an employer from requiring that an employee take vacation, sick leave, or other paid time off to respond to a jury summons, participate in the jury selection process, or serve on a jury.” 

However in Missouri and other states, an employer is not required to pay an employee for days served on jury duty. For the jury I served on, you received $14 per day for appearing for jury duty and a whopping $18 per day for actually serving on duty. For people who are unable to work because of jury duty, there is no way that $18 per day covers what you lost. And I think that is a bummer. As an employer, I suggest not taking the viewpoint of “well the employee did not work that day, so why would I pay them?” but instead squint your eyes and think about what you did get out of your employee serving on jury duty. 

From first hand experience, I can say that there was a wealth of value gleaned from serving on a jury. Serving on a jury provides a first hand experience with the constitutional values of “Participation, deliberation, fairness, equality, accountability, liberty, and the common good.” I believe that those values directly translate into just about every job. 

For instance, the experience of formal deliberation, 12 jurors in a sealed room working together to unanimously come to a decision that will affect multiple peoples lives, is a skill that translates to any team-based organization where people need to work together to solve problems, compose proposals or even just decide where everyone should go to lunch that day.

The argumentative nature of a courtroom also breeds an awareness of how formulating strong, cohesive arguments can further causes within your organization you champion. Understanding how evidence can either benefit or denigrate your position can easily be applied to the professional workspace. 

In conclusion, I personally relished the opportunity to see American democracy in action from the jury box, and the insights gained will absolutely influence in a positive way my work performance. I hope employers will take a cue from Thin Pig Media and view jury duty as not only a solemn civic duty, but also a unique opportunity for the professional development of their employees.

Tips for Successful Hotel Review Management Responses

As an agency managing the online presence for many hotels, we know that social media networks aren’t the only places where businesses can shine online. In fact, hotels are fortunate enough to have additional sites like TripAdvisor, Expedia, hotels.com, etc., where potential guests can read what others say about the property and gauge whether or not it’s the right hotel for them. Hotels can certainly benefit from being active members on review sites by responding to guest reviews.

Barbara Messing, chief marketing officer, TripAdvisor says, "There is no denying that reviews are a powerful and a significant part of the travel planning experience...not only are travelers referencing reviews before they book, they are clearly more highly engaged by businesses that respond to reviews.” In fact, according to PhoCusWright, 77% of global respondents usually or always reference TripAdvisor reviews before selecting a hotel.

While many hotels understand the importance of responding to guest reviews, many do not understand exactly how to respond. Many times, they get nervous that their responses may actually work against them and push potential guests away, or that it's not worth the amount of time it takes. What we have found is that guests want to see management responses. They want to know that the hotel cares enough to read reviews and respond. And with the following recommendations, your hotel will be on the path to review management success!

  • Be genuine yet professional, while still maintaining the tone of your property. Responses should not sound like copy and pasted scripts. Instead, really take the time to read and understand from where each guest is coming.
  • Stick to the facts. Don’t get too emotional, and when responding to a negative review, don’t get aggressive or angry. Try to stick to the fact of the matter while still being constructive and getting to the bottom of the guest’s dissatisfaction. 
  • Respond in a timely manner. Depending on the number of reviews your hotel receives, daily or weekly response times will be appropriate.
  • Treat each review as a learning opportunity. In most cases, the past guest is giving their honest feedback regarding their stay. Learn from their experience. If you see the same complaint frequently, do something about it on-site. The more improvements you make based on the reviews you receive, the less you’ll see these constructive/negative reviews.
  • There is no need to respond to every review. In fact, a recent Cornell University study found that "responding to some reviews may be beneficial, but perhaps that impact decreases as hotels start to respond to all reviews.” A good rule-of-thumb is to respond to all 1, 2, and 3 star reviews, and 50-75% of 4 and 5 star reviews.

Remember when you respond, you’re not just responding to the guest who wrote the review. Anyone who is looking at your hotel reviews will likely scan the review and your response. These stats from PhoCusWright were especially informative when remembering this recommendation:  

  • 87% of users agree that an appropriate management response to a bad review "improves my impression of the hotel.”        

  • 70% of users agree that an aggressive/defensive management response to a bad review "makes me less likely to book that hotel" 

  • 62% of users agree that seeing hotel management responses to reviews generally "makes me more likely to book it" (versus a comparable hotel that didn't respond to travelers.)

Lastly, if you are responding, and plan to take action, be sure you thank the reviewer and let him/her know that you will be investigating, or taking some action based on their review. Not only will this be a positive mark for the guest to read, but also other readers.

 If you are looking to partner with an agency and have experts manage your review management, don’t hesitate to contact us

A Guide to Creating the Perfect Facebook Post

In today’s world, it’s safe to say nearly everyone you know is active on at least one social media platform. With nearly 2 billion people reported on Facebook alone, publishing a post should be a no-brainer (hey, if your 70-year-old grandma can figure it out you should be able to, right?) In reality, putting up a great post may require a little more TLC than you think. Here are a few best practices for creating your Facebook posts to ensure you’re getting the best organic performance possible!

Status Update:

First things first, what are you trying to say? Know the message you are trying to convey to your fans and execute it in a clear and concise way. The key is to keep your words short while still making them enticing enough that fans will want to engage with your company both on-and- offline.

-A study conducted by digital entrepreneur and marketing blogger, Jeff Bullas, found that Facebook posts with 80 characters or less received 88% more engagement than longer posts. It’s also important to remember Facebook posts that are too long will get cut off in people’s feeds, forcing them to expand the text to read more. The more “work” you ask your fans to do, the less they’ll want to engage with your post!

-If you’re going to provide a link in your status update, make sure to “Bit.ly” it. Bit.ly is a URL “shortening service” that allows you to condense long URLs. It also allows you to track the activity of your link so you know how well it’s performing.

-It’s important to make sure you properly tag any other company or brand mentioned in your post. This way, their fans will be more likely to see your content and that brand will be more likely to pay it forward in the future.

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Images:

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If possible, always include an eye catching and relevant image in your Facebook post. A study conducted by Buzzsumo, found that Facebook posts with images performed 2.3 times better than text only posts.

-Make your images mobile friendly. It is estimated that 80-85% of social media users will see content on their mobile devices. The ideal Facebook photo size is 1200 x 900 pixels. Choosing photos that are the correct size will ensure that the entire image is visible and will not require fans to click on it to enlarge.

Videos:

Take your post a step further and include a video instead of a photo. In March 2017, Facebook IQ performed a study in UK and UAE and “discovered that people gaze 5x longer at video than at static content”. 

-Similarly to photos, there is an ideal format for posting videos to attain the highest level of fan engagement. Facebook video size should reflect a 16:9 or 9:16 aspect ratio with a maximum length of 1 minute. 

-85% of Facebook videos are watched without sound, so it’s important to include an informative and catchy title for your video.

Now that you’ve compiled the perfect Facebook post with a short message, a link, a captivating photo/video, it’s time to publish your post! But don’t just set it and forget it. Make sure to continually interact with fans on your post after it’s live. Having a conversational dialogue through comments will help build relationships within your online community. Show fans you care about them by encouraging them to come back and interact with more great content in the future. Continue implementing these best practices into your Facebook posts and you’re guaranteed to set yourself up for success!

5 Steps To A Robust Social Media Presence

Your business created a Facebook page months -- or even years ago -- and no one is actively managing it. Does that mean you’re "on social media?" Not really. The key to a social media presence is just that - being social. The Sandwich Board Approach to social media (where you create an account for everyone to see but do not use it) is worse than no presence at all. It gives the impression that your business does not understand marketing in 2018. A true social media presence is one that is consistently active and relevant. It is a continuous process of refinement to find, keep and engage your target audience.

Here are five pieces of advice for making the most of your social media presence:

Baseline Assessment

Consider your target audience. What do the demographics look like? Who is your customer? Each social media platform has its own demographic. With over 2.2 billion monthly users, it’s hard to go wrong with a Facebook page for your business, but there may be other platforms to consider. There is no need to create a presence on every social media platform. Instead, focus on the best fit for your brand message. Quality, not quantity, is key.

Establish Goals

Set goals and use social media analytics to measure and refine them. Once established, focus your efforts on using social media to converse with your customers. If your goal is to make sales, making every post a 'sales-pitch' post is a sure way to drive people away. It’s okay to sell your product once in awhile, but your social media presence should be much deeper and much more thoughtful than that. Brainstorm content your audience finds valuable. What are the best ways to share this content?

Consistency

A successful social media presence is a time-consuming activity. You cannot just create a presence and leave. In many cases, that actually turns people off when they visit your page and see outdated information. Once you begin posting, stick with it. Each platform has an average number of posts that work best. For example, posting at least 3 times per week, but no more than 10 times per week on Facebook is recommended. On Twitter, surveys show many successful businesses tweet a minimum of 5 times per day, with many tweeting at least 10-20 per day. Whatever posting schedule you decide works best for your business, remember a well-planned digital advertising strategy must go along with your social strategy.

Listen and engage

Once you begin posting, you’ll want to make sure you are listening to what your fans/customers are saying, and responding. It’s called social media for a reason. Create content that is engaging to earn genuine rapport with your fans/followers. Respond to questions and comments as soon as you can, and have a genuine response. Businesses that take good care of their fans online are often recognized with shout-outs from the happy guests…and we all know word-of-mouth advertising is a huge win, even on social.

Analyze & Adjust

Once you try a few different types of posts, you should analyze which ones worked better than others. What days/times drew more engagement? Which posts were shared more than others? With the help of various social media reporting software, you will be able to clearly see what elements it takes to create a successful post -- and then repeat your formula.

Social Media Presence

This is just the tip of the social media iceberg, but the key takeaway is that social media is a commitment that takes on-going management, and more importantly, timely engagement from your business. At Thin Pig Media, we collaborate with each of our clients and then manage the entire process in order to ensure a rich, cohesive social media strategy.

Let us know if you have any questions. Tweet us @ThinPigMedia.

My SXSW As Told Through Timelapse GIFs

Everyone and their intern has already shared articles, discussions, and photos about all the fun they had at SXSW 2018 in Austin last month. So I figured, why not throw my story out there in Timelapse GIF form? Now, it would have been quite boring to relay Timelapse GIFs of the speaker sessions and panels I went to. But SXSW is more than just learning; it’s a visceral experience for all five senses. For that reason, I decided to document my 5 favorite categories:

FLIGHT: I loved the flight from Seattle to Austin. Huge variety of landscapes and terrains. And I got to study up on my SXSW guide so I wouldn’t miss a thing. Who else actually loves flying?

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FOOD: At least a dozen people told me in advance that I simply HAD to try one food or another while I was in downtown Austin. My clear favorites were Gus’ World Famous Fried Chicken, Voodoo Doughnuts (originally from Portland), and Moonshine Bar & Grill. What restaurants should I have tried that I didn’t get around to?

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MUSIC: These days, Austin is even more popular for its music scene than Seattle is (blasphemy!), and rightfully so. Every day and night of SXSW, live bands and singer-songwriters were packing the bars, entertaining the pedestrians, and setting a sweet mood for the whole city. The highlight for me, although it was too dark to get video, was Sassyblack who lit up the house with her cosmically funky one-woman-band vibes. Ever heard of her?

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CROWDS: First off, I had never rode on the back of a pedicab bike. It’s an awesome feeling. Second, call me crazy, but I truly enjoy being somewhere that's overflowing with people who are united in a common reason to be there. Festivals, expos, conferences—I get caught up in the excitement every time. And what better place to get lost in the crowd than here?

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EYE CANDY: Put simply, Austin is weird. The art, the architecture, the people—you name it. And SXSW takes full advantage of that weirdness. I don’t think I’m alone in saying that there’s something cool to look at, no matter what street you’re wandering down. For instance, have you met my baby goat friend from VICELAND?

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Every SXSW attendee experiences the festival differently. What did you do in Austin that I missed? Make me jealous in the comments!