Digital community engagement for Australian enterprise

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Community organisations provide a template for social media engagement


Last week I wrote about why PR departments should lose control of social media publishing. At the recent CeBit conference Harper Reed explained how the Obama campaign raised average $65 each from 2.6 million donors on-line and won the election by targeting 15 million persuadable voters in the marginal states. This took hundreds of staff and thousands of volunteers who tweeted, blogged, face-booked, tele-marketed and door-knocked their way to victory. Somehow they managed the conversations and messages effectively, filtering out bad team comments and fixing occasional meltdowns before they went viral.

Closer to home, within the Salvation Army in Australia, posting and tweeting is not restricted to a few PR specialists. Officers use Facebook widely to run day-to-day church operations and even to co-ordinate disaster response. It seems the organisation at large has learnt to work effectively under HQ guidelines on roles, responsibilities and restrictions for all officers, employees and volunteers when using Social Media to specifically communicate Salvation Army messages.

Generation X & Y run their lives via Facebook and Instagram rather than telephone or email. You would think companies selling to them would learn to speak their social media language. Obviously there are skills, training and governance issues here but, when it all boils down, businesses have not confronted the training and internal accountability required to meet their customer’s preferences. My sense is that nimbler on-line businesses will accept this challenge and we will see rapid generational change, as customers desert hide-bound companies and engage where they can be heard in their favourite medium. We need to look more closely at the success of community organisations to find templates of effective social media engagement.


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Why PR departments should lose control of social media publishing

Managers are scared of social media and the damage it can do to their brand. They see, or worse experience, the horror stories. One false tweet and the world comes crashing down around your ears. The funny thing is that their sales and call-centre people speak on behalf of the brand every minute on the day. It’s just that only one customer at a time hears them. It’s not amplified by social media.

As a result the PR team runs most corporate social media efforts. They try to make messaging personal but they are inherently corporate creatures. Meanwhile the real business of the company is largely transacted in person-to-person sales.

While all this is going on the customers themselves are hungry for personal contact. They are deeply engaged in social media, seeking information and sharing their thoughts and intentions while seeking approval from peers. The same people are often looking for personal service from retailers and may become loyal to a store or brand just because they like and trust a sales person. In fact getting the right balance between personal service and uncomfortable pushiness is just as critical in both one-on-one sales and on-line media. Why wouldn’t it be?

What if the natural role of social media in business is to simply extend one-on-one selling on-line? Maybe be the social media horror stories are simply exposing a problem hidden in face -to-face conversations. In a world hungry for service maybe the role of individuals needs training and empowerment rather than censorship. It could be time to let sales staff into the conversation with customers instead of locking them out via company communication policies. If so a radical re-engineering of engagement software platforms is required. There is a huge opportunity for companies to empower micro social media engagement but how do they unlock it?

I’ll be sharing ideas on this over my next few posts… 

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Lessons in Social Media Engagement from Turkish PM’s Speech

I was struck by the impression Prime Minister Erdogan gave this week of a person in a mental state of siege.  I wonder how many CEOs feel the same way when people say bad things about their company on Facebook and Twitter…

‘Mr Erdogan was speaking hours before police used water cannon and tear gas to disperse thousands of flower-bearing protesters who gathered in Istanbul’s central Taksim square to commemorate four people who have died since the Turkish unrest erupted on May 31.
“The same game is being played in Brazil,” Mr Erdogan told a large rally of his supporters in the town of Samsun on Saturday. “There are the same symbols, the same posters. Twitter, Facebook is the same, so are international media. They are controlled from the same centre. They are doing their best to achieve in Brazil what they could not achieve in Turkey. It is the same game, the same trap, the same goal.”’ (as reported in The Nation).

There are elements here of a generational gap in attitudes and difficulty in dealing with internationalisation (or maybe the Americanisation) of national cultures. No doubt company managers share the same sense of isolation and even bewilderment at new cultural currents sweeping through social media and sometimes breaking over their heads. My sense is the drive for financial survival will rejuvenate middle-aged management culture like it or not.

Its either that or load up the tear gas canisters.

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Now we can see why Huawei is blocked from the NBN and the implications for what we put online

It has always seemed obvious to me why Huawei is blocked from the NBN. Australia is party to the security harvest from US security services gleaned from friendly technology vendor backdoors  and assumes Huawei would work the same way with its national parent.

According to the Guardian “GCHQ [UK’s equivalent of the NSA] has placed more than 200 probes on transatlantic cables and is processing 600m “telephone events” a day as well as up to 39m gigabytes of internet traffic. Using a programme codenamed Tempora, it can store and analyse voice recordings, the content of emails, entries on Facebook, the use of websites as well as the “metadata” which records who has contacted who.”

It is wise to assume that anything put into social media is likely sometime to be in the public domain.

To paraphrase Murphy’s Law; “Every secret that can come out will come out, and usually at the worst possible time”