Posts Tagged ‘Social Media’

An Isadora Chai followup

In addition to what I wrote last week, Social media gaffes from restaurants & how to make it worse, there’s a few more links/data points to look at:

  • The mother of Isadora Chai writes back in TMI, From mother to daughter. A recommended read.
  • BFM has an interesting podcast on this: Night on Earth: Vox Populi. Its broken up in 2 segments so listen for the whole hour. Apparently they spoke to Isadora Chai before she graduated from chef to writer: “I’m not sorry to say this, but most bloggers, this is just a glorified hobby with a huge camera and too much time on Facebook.” Seemed like perfect timing. It’s a damn good listen though because she touches on how bloggers lack ethics, and so on.
  • BFM had another interesting podcast: Social Media Suicide. Highly recommended and this segment is a lot shorter and has some good call-in opinions as well. Guest is Shankar Santhiram, who has many a training program, including one on customer service & handling difficult customers.

Social media gaffes from restaurants & how to make it worse

Egg cocotteThis weekend, there was an uproar in the Malaysian social media scene with regards to Les Deux Garcons, a little pattisserie in Bangsar.

It all started when Ee-lyn Law posted a comment to their Facebook page. They deleted it. The comment itself was merely a strong suggestion, from a regular customer: the staff are mediocre and a suggestion (constructive criticism) was to label their macaroons since staff weren’t interested in explaining what they contained.

At first they told her to go get her macaroons in Paris, rather rudely. Then they deleted the comment. Shortly thereafter she asks them why they deleted her comment with a screenshot. They reply with the money quote: “We have no time for bitches.”

About 1,450 people like this post, with over 2,618 shares at time of writing. Les Deux Garcons has since apologised on their Facebook page.

I have eaten macaroons in Paris. Not once, but many a time (I consider myself fortunate to eat where I want to when I want to). I’ve queued up to eat at Laduree (nothing like a New Year’s Day tea-time there on the Champs-Elysees – not much is open that day). I think Pierre Herme is truly the better macaroon maker, but I digress. 

People tend to have a negative view of Parisians. They claim they have attitude. Visit Paris today, and you’ll find many speak Mandarin (long gone are the days where the French parlez-vous francais). Pretty much every Parisian I’ve met has been excellent in terms of service, mainly because they are in the service industry. Just visit Paris in the thick of winter, when tourists find it too cold to go up the Eiffel Tower (or worse, its temporarily shut due to adverse weather). The French generally do understand service.

However, this isn’t about Les Deux Garcons. They have had a social media gaffe and people will thump their chests for some time, but I expect it will die down in no time and people will go back to eating their macaroons (full disclosure: I have never been there, never heard of them till this incident, and find it highly unlikely that I will eat there – I will take their advice and eat in Paris instead).

This is about the response from Chef Isadora Chai (owner of bistro a Table), in The Malaysian Insider titled: The customer is not always right. I first heard of her from the WSJ Weekend article on her by @joonian sometime last year. I put it on my to-visit list. I live a block away from her restaurant, so I can get there on foot in under five minutes. Recently, @gabeygoh told me about her degustation night and how wonderful it was, so now with two sets of data points, it has since become a lot higher on my to-visit list. I was planning on a visit on my next trip to KL.

I am glad that Isadora Chai opened up because of her genuine passion to create good food. I trust the opinion of both Joon Ian & Gabey, so I am highly inclined to think her food is generally quite good.

I have also spoken to many top chefs. I dine at their places regularly. Last week in London, it was at a Heston Blumenthal. This week in Seoul, it was at an Edward Kwon. I like food, really. Chef’s naturally don’t do it for the money but for the love, but guess what – this is true for any profession? When you want to excel at something, you do it for the love of it, the money just comes. Don’t get me wrong, chef’s aren’t exactly poor either – good chefs command great salaries. Many top chefs move on to create their own places, ending up as partners, et al. I would argue that high quality food blogs have helped make a chef’s name (rewind back a decade ago and how many people paid close attention to top chefs in Malaysia? In more mature markets like the UK, you have more mature publications that brought this to light.)

Harsh criticism for anyone can feel like a personal attack. What Isadora Chai fails to understand is that she’s in the service industry. Take the criticism with a smile, then ask yourself if you’re having an off day. Reflect. Food is very personal and have a lot to do with local tastes, so if enough people don’t like your masterpiece, it might either be your masterpiece that is wrong or your clientele’s palate that is wrong. Either way, you don’t lash out at the customer. Just look at how successful Vatos Urban Tacos does in Seoul – they’ve melded Mexican with Korean cuisine. The fusion worked. 

“Of all industries, food and beverage is the most exposed industry to criticisms from professional food critics, journalists, customers and of course, food bloggers (to the bane of our existence).” She hasn’t heard of hotels? Airlines? It’s clear that this chef dislikes food bloggers, but this is the wave of the future – sources are going direct. I generally don’t write about food I eat, but I do take a photo on Instagram. I do leave tips on Foursquare if it warrants it. Everyone is a publisher today, so a food blooger isn’t any different from a journalist. Ethics might wane (and this has been my beef with bloggers in general – asking for free meals, etc.), but once they’re outed those trust metrics go away.

Of the two chefs she talks about who quite the food industry, none of them were outed by the bane of her existence.

Malaysians tolerate abuse by street vendors? I’m sorry, I’m Malaysian through & through and I will not eat at a place that hurls abuse at me. I vote with my wallet and it doesn’t matter if the meal costs RM5 or RM500. 

In the land of black pigs, Kwon Kisoo colors themWhy are there double standards? Economics dear Isadora. While I won’t tolerate abuse of any form, many equate how much less their wallet weighs after the transaction is complete. If I eat at Kampachi or Lafite, I’m paying top dollar for food, so I expect top dollar for service. In fact, on top of service charge (usually 10%), I leave a tip even (I know, bad habit I’ve learned from America). Last I checked, that tiny stall didn’t charge me a service charge either, did they? For what it’s worth, I don’t know where Isadora Chai eats, but I eat regularly at Chinese restaurants and I’ve not encountered this so called bad service that she’s pigeonholed them into providing. It’s not an us-versus-them scenario – its a tough business, all aspects of service need to be taken into account.

Why are customers not justified in their complaints? Do they complain your food costs too much? You can mitigate this by placing price tags at your menu. For me to find out how much items cost, I had to Google and find food bloggers telling me how much dishes at Bistro A Table costs.

Why are workers in F&B foreign? Its because owners look at profits. Hiring Malaysians for below minimum wage usually doesn’t work out. At the end of the day, the owner is wanting to drive his/her Mercedes, live in a nice house, and still run a profitable business. Chef’s not in it for the money is pure bullshit. Chefs are business people too and last I checked you ran operations for a profit, not a loss. Hiring foreign workers is just a way to get to profit faster. Yes, I have invested in restaurants before, so I know a thing or two about this.

Weak argument about going to Singapore due to getting treated better. Chefs go there because they get a higher salary. Plain & simple. Restaurateurs go there because Singaporeans have a higher propensity to spend on fine dining. It is no secret that Singapore is a millionaires playground.

Side note on foreign workers. Invest in training. Oh wait, training affects profits right?

On the topic of social media blackmail. Social media is two-way communication. When you put yourself up on Facebook or Twitter, you open yourself up to feedback. If you don’t want feedback, put an ad in a newspaper. I feel that Chef Isadora Chai is schooled in the way of the current ruling regime and doesn’t know how to take complaints (I’m surprised because she seems to have been educated in Sydney, where there is a foodie culture with reviewers; I’ll argue that Melbourne has it better though :-) ). While Isadora Chai leaves an email address, the garcons above leave no such contact details. Phone numbers usually end up with the same staff that are likely to hurl abuse at you or nothing changes anyway. Social media isn’t a form of blackmail: it helps others do a +1 and say, yes, I think this needs to happen too.

Its clear that Chef Isadora Chai has disdain towards bloggers, social media and the new media movement as a whole. Rather than fixing problems, she thinks its better to bring up a legal case of defamation. Wow. Guess she’ll be hating on Foursquare, Yelp, and other services that allow user-generated crowd-sourced content. For a young gun (she was 33 in 2012), I’m surprised she acts like a luddite. 

Isadora Chai ends with the money quote:

Here’s another industry secret ― most of us have black lists (in one form or another) and we really do have a choice to serve you or not. Also, if restaurants have refrained from kicking you out and chose to serve you despite having to tolerate your belligerent demeanour, the temptation of contaminating your food has crossed the minds of most chefs. Although I am professional enough to not practise this, I am quite sure many colleagues (or their juniors) have done so at one point in time.

She refuses to serve people? Seriously? Food contamination is suggested? I’m left speechless.

While I’m at the Park Hyatt Seoul now (a place where you get service bar none), I looked for an old piece of writing and believe this makes sense for Malaysian’s involved in the service industry:

It’s not easy to build a Zappos culture overnight, and frankly speaking, South-East Asian customer service is in the doldrums overall. Many businesses can take to learning from how 5-star hotels run their operations in Asia (see service at InterContinental Bangkok, InterContinental Singapore, Grand Hyatt Singapore, Hyatt Regency Kuantan Resort and the like). The culture of Delivering Happiness is generally non-existent.

What Isadora Chai needs to remember is that disposable incomes in Malaysia aren’t all that hot despite what lies come out about the GNI/GDP/etc. People don’t get to eat at fine dining restaurants everyday. They go there for special occasions. People get more demanding during special occasions. Those prices they pay state that they want a whole experience.

I respect Isadora Chai to have an opinion. It sucks when your competitor hates on you. I just wished she hadn’t come into help Les Deux Garcons who clearly made a mistake by calling customers bitches. I’m glad that they’ve apologised though.

All that aside, I still plan to eat at Bistro A Table. I hope that Chef Isadora Chai doesn’t refuse service. I will Instagram my food as I normally do. I hope I don’t leave sick.

Google Plus is missing opportunities

When I’m in the USA, if I get the time, I do like to consume some television. I’m an odd person – I’m usually watching the advertisements more than the television shows themselves. And the promotions that surround shows.

Its very common for advertising for products to have several logos at the end: usually one from facebook with the page name, and another from twitter with the page name. Nowadays it seems to be getting common to offer a hashtag and this I presume is just useful for Twitter. (though it seems trending data now on google+ also has hashtags.)

Today, for the first time I saw an ad for Google Plus. Used by a television show called sullivan & son. They advertised a facebook page and told fans to “search google plus for sullivan & son”. For a google hangout

I searched Google for sullivan & son and ironically the Google+ page (which has a horrible URL) wasn’t even on the front-page. Google is clearly missing an opportunity here.

Two opportunities: 

  1. short-form URLs (like what gplus.to provides – in fact you have the option to do profiles.google.com/username if it is not a page, but your own profile)
  2. promoting Google+ profile pages in search results

Keeping up with the conversation

Today I read a re-tweeted tweet by a fellow Malaysian who said:

@etp_roadmap @IdrisJala_ c what I meant u all cant change. U only RT tweets that favors U all but never on negative tweets..learn 2b fair

This is probably true. You can retweet whatever you want. Naturally, you’ll only retweet things that you find are positive to you (or align with your points of view). This is the thesis behind things like Tumblr and other reblogging platforms.

This is the beauty of Twitter as a conversation medium. You can actually just search for a string. And with the @reply mechanism, you just end up searching for “etp_roadmap” and you see heaps of amazing commentary.

Granted, this is not something everyone would do. But with social media you get the choice. With traditional media, you’re forced to look at one point of view. Letters that get published don’t necessarily have to be “independent”. Social allows those that are interested to dig deeper. This is true power.

Do the cybertroopers know this? Its easy to figure things out, if you’re looking.

The Social Media Page Craze: Google+, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn

Pages. They are becoming very popular. If you’re a brand, you’ve got to keep track of these things. This is sort of a dump of my thoughts on this.

It was quite common in the day to get a Twitter page. Multiple people can update a Twitter page. There are tools for this, and Twitter has an API. You have desktop tools for this as well.

Facebook pages are common if you have a product or business. The more like’s you get, the higher chance of getting your message spread on the newsfeed. Facebook has an API, and there are tools for this. Multiple people can manage the account.

LinkedIn pages exist. The target audience is a little different. There doesn’t seem to be an API or apps surrounding it, so you end up using the web-based interface. It seems to be the least popular.

Google+ just launched pages. The target audience currently seem to be the alpha geeks. It doesn’t have limitations like Twitter, and I see people posting more long-form status updates that resemble blog postings. It has no API (yet?). It has no multiple user management (yet?). And you have to build a crowd amongst circles, because its still relatively new.

We’re told to be present on all social networks. If you’re a brand, you’d be silly not to be where your audience is. My question is, with all these social networks how do you focus?

Don’t forget, you have to manage your website. American brands are now just pointing to a Facebook page in ads (fb.com/brandname) which is fine, but its something you don’t control. Your website is something you fully control. Your blog is something you fully control. I see things like Clojure Notes and wonder the permanency of something like this.

Facebook looks to be trailblazing and seems like its going to be around for a long time. Your content will live for as long as Facebook lives. Twitter is all temporal content, you forget you even have archives. LinkedIn I have no idea, but there’s always the emails it sends out. Google+ is something that worries me — they’ve killed Buzz, Wave, Orkut, etc. and while you can take your content and run with it, you lose links.

Some people don’t care about continuity of content. I generally do.

Short names. Facebook and Twitter support this. Google+ has something ridiculous in terms of a number.

I read somewhere that the average human can keep track of at most three social networks. I can’t find a reference to this, and I know its not Dunbar’s number.

Walled gardens. If you have a Google+ album, you can’t link to an individual picture. Facebook pages and what is attached to it is not searchable via a search engine. You generally duplicate updates on sites just to keep up with these walled gardens of Web 2.0.

Bottom line: we’re all looking to engage. We all want a large audience. We all want to get the message across. But how much time are we spending on this? When do we get all the tools we need to manage all this “at one go”? Where do we put our eggs in for 2012?

Cyberwar for politicians: Overview of Tun Faisal’s statements

I read this and was really angry. Then I realised a David Arquette (by way of Buddhism) quote: “Anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.” If the opposition can use new media, I guess so can the incumbents. Anyway, let’s decompose the statements as reported in the article…

KUALA LUMPUR, July 18 — In mid-2009, Umno Youth held a course in online media for its grassroots leaders in Kuantan. The names of a few prominent bloggers drew blank stares.

“Only 10 per cent (of those present) were familiar with those names,” the youth wing’s new media chief, Tun Faisal Ismail Aziz, told The Malaysian Insider. “Some didn’t even have email.”

Statement seems incoherent. They held a course about online media for their grassroots leaders in Kuantan, and they didn’t know about popular bloggers. In fact I don’t really care about popular bloggers – most of them have their own take, spin it ways they feel like it, and don’t understand what journalism is, i.e. reporting the facts. I get my newsfeed from The Star (News->Nation), The Malaysian Insider, and Malaysiakini. A mix of that helps keep me informed.

Some didn’t have email? Well this is the UMNO problem. Postmen run as members of parliament. I could probably run with more examples, but I don’t have hard facts to back them up, and I hate hearsay. The opposition tend to be professionals, which is why I prefer them (truth be told, I’d probably vote an ape in as well, just for shits and giggles).

Who is Tun Faisal Ismail Aziz? According to his Facebook profile, he is the Special Officer to the Home Minister at the Ministry of Home Affairs. So he advises kris-waving Hishammudin. Its also clear he has a media unit that he’s heading with UMNO Youth – the cybertroopers.

The media unit that Tun Faisal heads, formed after accepting that “80 to 90 per cent” of those online were anti-Barisan Nasional (BN) in the landmark Election 2008, now claims that despite having to catch up to Pakatan Rakyat (PR) in the “cyberwar” for the hearts and minds of young and urban voters, it is now ready for a general election expected within the year.

80-90% online are anti-BN? As of June 2009, the stats show there are 16,902,600 Internet users in Malaysia. Thats some 65% of the population of a little over 26 million people. In fact, rough stats show that Malaysia has 11,303,040 Facebook users, which covers some 43% of the population and some 67% of the online population of Malaysia.

Key points to note: Malaysians that are online, not all can vote. And these statistics are misleading — counting mobile phone users possibly, people with multiple Internet accounts, etc. Don’t forget a lot are Malaysians living overseas, either as students or residents whom are looking for greener pastures.

However, Tun Faisal, a member of the Umno Youth executive committee, believes that despite having guns primed, the unit needs the government to provide it with bullets.

Bullets. Is this cash? Is this information? Considering the information sucks to begin with, one can only presume its cash to pay cybertroopers.

“Most young and urban voters perceive the mainstream media as pro-government, so they are automatically prejudiced against it,” said Faisal. “So we have to bring the debate online.

The mainstream media is pro-government. The recent Bersih 2.0 rallies show that. In fact, its not just young voters that have such a perception. Its the adults too. Admittedly my sample-size is urbanites, and the opposition clearly needs to figure out how to get the word out to non-urbanites. Years of misinformation from the Ministry of Truth (aka Home+Information ministries) has generally made everyone not believe mainstream media.

Bringing the debate online is a good thing. Why? Two sides of the coin. Comments, people responding in the open, etc. If people are willing to get the “bigger picture”, they can. Is the public ready for this though? Not many people spend time getting more information. They take things at face value.

“But the problem is getting info from the government to counter the lies from the opposition. How can we fight claims from them and journalists when we don’t have more info than them?” he said.

I’m sorry. How can any one party have more information about the ruling party? Freedom of information bitches! This centralised distribution of information (that the mainstream media has continually executed) is what people do not want! People want free & fair reporting. All journalists present, representing facts. Not opinions. Not lies. Not spin.

BN had its nose bloodied at the 12th General Election in urban centres such as the Klang Valley and Penang, ceding its customary two-thirds majority in Parliament as the opposition took a record 82 seats and, at the same time, five state governments.

But the Manek Urai by-election in Kelantan, where BN surprisingly came within 65 votes of wresting the state seat, is considered a turning point for Umno Youth in the online battle.

Umno Youth chief Khairy Jamaluddin had said that BN gained in all young voter streams, signalling a shift in young voters that was said to have backed PR heavily in 2008.

“BN gained in all young voter streams, signaling a shift in young voters”. Please continue to believe that Khairy. Believing in this would then lead to complacency, which would then lead to loss. Say it, don’t believe it. Don’t believe it until you’ve bagged your 2/3rds or decimated the opposition.

“The opposition started in 1999 after Reformasi,” Tun Faisal said. “We only started in 2009. It’s like putting university students against primary schoolkids.

Please believe that Tun Faisal. There were blogs in 1999, yes? Facebook was around in 1999? So was Twitter, right? In 1999, there were mailing lists and static websites. The BN figured they controlled the mainstream media and did not need to participate. But I’m glad Tun Faisal compared himself to a primary schoolkid — his statements reflect just that. In fact, my beautiful four-year-old cousin has more intelligent thoughts than him.

“But if you look at the results since Manek Urai, you can see that BN has definitely caught up especially with young voters.”

BN has since reversed a losing streak in by-elections, and even though PR was confident of making extensive gains in the recent Sarawak state election, BN retained its two-thirds majority in the assembly.

Tun Faisal says that one of the main factors is that his new media unit was given the mandate to strategise and coordinate online communications during these local polls.

Key takeaway? The Ministry of Truth is now not only focusing on mainstream media (radio, TV, newspapers) but also focusing on providing disinformation online. With the appropriate “bullets”, they will try very hard at spending it all on misinforming folk. Be it paying cybertroopers. Advertising. The list can go on.

“After 13 by-elections and one state election, I think we are ready to lead BN online in the next general election. But the leadership needs to have faith in us,” he said.

He revealed that in 2004, he led an Umno Youth cybertroopers unit into federal polls, at which BN claimed over 90 per cent of Parliament. But the ruling coalition’s best showing ever was followed by its worst in 2008.

“The difference was in 2004, we had a direct link to the prime minister’s department,” Tun Faisal said. “In 2008, we were left behind by the opposition, and even some pro-Umno blogs were against us.

Cybertroopers are like bloggers that write advertorials. The moment they write enough rubbish, people stop listening. That’s free advice for politicians on either side. People believe in passion. You can’t buy passion. You might brainwash someone into believing they are passionate, but eventually they will sound like a drone. A robot. And you lose your voice.

“Over 70 per cent of the issues that BN has to answer is related to government. It is unfair for BN leaders to expect party machinery to answer them unless government opens up to us,” he said.

Why isn’t the government open to the people? The rakyat? Opening up to cybertroopers is the wrong move. You’re either open or you’re not. There’s no middle ground.

With Malaysians increasingly being found online — 11.3 million on Facebook as at the end of last month — and Malay and English print circulation dropping, Umno Youth sees a return to 2004 as crucial, a belief shared by Umno vice president Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi last month.

Circulation drops. Why? Mainstream newspapers are really only good for wrapping up packets of nasi lemak. Or collecting dog poop for proper disposal. I can already see where the bullets (money) is going to be spent next. Facebook is going to make a lot from the current ruling party in Malaysia.

“Our target by the next election is that all division youth chiefs are on Twitter and every state have their own cyberwar team,” said Tun Faisal.

One wonders why? Every youth chief is on Twitter, yet they quote a Facebook stat above. The usage of Facebook outperforms the usage of Twitter by probably a magnitude of 10x. Tun Faisal is on Twitter, and has a blog.

What is interesting is that every state will have their own cyberwar team. Funded by bullets. How will the opposition deal with this?

I’m excited to see the fight taken online. At the same time, I wonder how fair the fight online will be. Money can buy you leverage in this Web 2.0 world. Maybe the opposition just needs to get really creative.


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