Tag Archives: corporate use of social media

The Savagery of Social – implications for internal communication

This, I suspect, may get me into trouble. Let’s talk about the nastier side of social media for a moment, and then let’s consider the implications that arise for internal communication and the already established trend of using enterprise social networks like Yammer, Workplace by Facebook and, well, Sharepoint. (There are others, clearly – like Slack and Unily – arguably collaboration tools, or bespoke intranets, but as it’s all about ‘sharing’ – and odds are on that ‘conversation’ is also being mentioned – they’ve got all the characteristics of the established social media channels.)

And that’s the issue, really. Here’s a piece from The Irish Times (written by Jennifer O’Connell) which says ‘social media has shown us that when humans gather with no rules, savagery prevails’ and goes on to say ‘there’s a brutality now in the way we communicate with one another that did not exist before social media’. The article, which is definitely worth a few minutes, starts out looking at Ed Sheeran’s decision to leave Twitter, touches on the Orange Mussolini in the White House and uses personal experience to further illustrate the point. And it’s all demonstrably true.

Quite some time ago, I attempted to categorise this phenomenon. (If you can be bothered, you can find my original post here.) It’s ‘an ailment that afflicts a small but significant proportion of the population when they are presented with the opportunity to post whatever they like to a public forum’ – appearing to be compulsive and involuntary. It can take the form of simple intolerance of anyone else’s point of view, or extreme bad language, or posting of inappropriate material (visual or written), or racial harassment or career-threatening stupidity. That it’s a small proportion of the population is important – although the Brexit ‘debate’ has shown that the proportion may be larger than first imagined – however, as is always the case, it only takes one.

So – what does this mean for enterprise social networks? First, let’s go back to the Irish Times piece (above) and note the words ‘with no rules’. Social media have no rules, and anyone can say whatever they like, hiding behind a blank avatar and an anonymous username. Obviously, in the workplace, there will be rules governing the use of corporate intranets, collaboration tools and how employees represent their employer on external social media. Won’t there?

Well, actually, not necessarily. From personal experience, there are companies that have not thought about a code of practice. That do not have a Use of Social Media Policy. That – and this is terrifying – won’t implement guidelines because they don’t see them being at one with the spirit of social media. It’s all about sharing and collaboration and conversation, apparently – placing guidelines on how you do it would stifle its very essence. Hang the potential consequences.

Again, quite some time ago, I did a piece on my experience of implementing a very early version of an enterprise social network. (And again, if you can be bothered, you can read the whole thing here.) The conclusion was – ‘give people a voice and they will use it, as if it is a right. They will use it despite the fact they have nothing to say. They will use it to settle grievances, even scores, wash dirty laundry, put hearts on sleeves, bare souls and share the unthinkable. And probably try to unscrew the inscrutable, given half the chance.’

There are many companies (three that I know personally) – no names, no pack drill – who use enterprise social networks. There are consultancies who offer to implement an enterprise social network in your business. My experience is that they do not work – amongst the workplace as a whole – as they were meant to, generally because a busy workforce does not have the time to add an extra layer of complexity to its day-to-day and also – obviously – because not everyone wants to share their work. Because it’s theirs.

So what happens is that the expensive tool becomes a means for the few to blow their own trumpets and a further few to ‘like’ the fact that they’ve done so. And there is always the risk of wholly inappropriate, reputation-damaging content – although, in fairness, there is a less of it than I envisaged, way back when. But still, the expensive tool is a reflection of the shiny object that it imitates – faint, but a reflection nonetheless. And if social is becoming increasingly savage, thoughtless, stupid and radical then – without the policies, guidelines, checks and balances in place – so must your internal network.

From all of this, there are clear take-outs:

  • If you have an enterprise social network, govern it with a strict policy
  • Have a corporate ‘Use of Social Media’ policy in any case – you never know when you’ll need it
  • If you haven’t got an enterprise social network, think carefully – do you need one, or is it Shiny Object Syndrome?
  • Remember, the role of internal communication is to keep the workforce appraised of the organisation’s successes, vision, values, strategy, policies, procedures and its corporate religion, thereby generating a sense of belonging, belief and purpose. It is not to encourage free debate around these things, as Google has found out.

 

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The Emperor’s New Wearable Tech

Just to be quite clear, this is one from the vaults – what I laughingly refer to as an ‘archive’. A back-catalogue, if you will. Which means it’s a little out of date, because normally, in these infrequent nusings, you’ll find me chuntering on about stuff that I’ve either been (metaphorically) hit over the head with, or have gleaned from rapid perusal of the news media. And news has always been quick to become ‘olds’, and doubly so in today’s age of instant-gratification citizen journalism, so it would be – I’m sure you’d agree – pretty much inevitable that anything I write on the topic of news is likely to be out of date fairly soon. (Is it just me or is this all a bit, well, prolix? Get on with it Jeremy, spit it out, man!)

However. The musing that I post below, while news related, actually centres around tech and the development of. What makes it interesting – and, I think, indicative of where we, as a society are headed, increasingly rapidly – is that it was written in October last year. October 2014. We’re now in April 2015 – six months on. In that time, Google Glass – for it is this tech that I’m writing about – has been introduced, has been the subject of a myriad failed attempts at assimilation by a myriad of businesses, large and small, has been deemed a failure by Google itself and has been pulled. Talk about a week being a long time in technology.

As an aside, I’m reading a book at present called ‘Twelve Tomorrows’ – twelve science fiction stories based on actual articles from the MIT Journal. All the stories were written in 2014, almost all contain some element of wearable tech. There’ll be another twelve published this year – and I wonder what shiny object du jour they’ll all incorporate.

So, a quick show of hands. Who here is getting involved with Google Glass, or any other bit of wearable tech, in a business context? Now, clearly, I can’t see how many of you have your hands up at this point, but when Google Glass is purported to be owned by 8% of the total population of South Korea, I am betting it’s quite a few of you.

The problem, of course, is that Google Glass – and indeed any form of wearable tech – suffers from the same issue that social media did and, despite its ubiquity and billions of users, still does. Shiny Object Syndrome or, in what I believe to be the current vernacular, FOMO.

In other words, the desperate and rather unseemly desire of brands, businesses and organisations to try and shoehorn wearable tech into their operational practices, in order to be seen to be surfing the next wave – in order that someone else doesn’t get there first.

And, much like social media, we’re starting to see the growth of an industry around wearable tech. The Google Glass Gurus will soon be here, the Smart Watch Swamis and the entire rag, tag and bobtail who will very soon be plugged in to your operational, marketing and customer service budgets, providing essential advice on how best to revolutionise your business with wearable tech.

And, as usual, the only people who will actually see an upside from incorporating wearable tech into sales, marketing or CRM will be the very same snake-oil salesmen who convinced you to do exactly that in the first place.

Recently there have been a number of examples of businesses who have succumbed to the blandishments of the tech gurus – a healthy sense of self-preservation and a desire not to incriminate myself prevents me from naming names – however, this time round, and unlike the unstoppable rise of social media as a marketing tool, the businesses involved have left themselves what you might call ‘wiggle room’.

I’m an old communicator. Like one of those clunky black plastic devices out of an early episode of Star Trek. When I started out (with nothing, and I still have most of it left) there weren’t social media. Actually, there wasn’t email. We used to communicate over distance using flags. (Just kidding. We used to shout.) What we did do a lot of, however, was spinning yarns – using research, and innovation and, let’s face it, stuff that, on a nice day, with a fair wind, might possibly come true, to create stories and generate media coverage.

In many cases, the wares that we hawked up and down Fleet Street came with clear ‘caveat emptor’ signs – we were ‘trialling’ this and ‘testing’ that – we had conducted a ‘limited roll-out’ and whatever it was became available in ‘selected outlets’. And this is what we’re seeing with wearable tech – the businesses I’ve mentioned are all very much ‘trialling’ the usage of the kit in their operations, they’re ‘evaluating’ its potential.

Which leaves me some hope that, sooner or later, our collective hive memory will recall the fate of the Bluetooth headset, once the darling of the thrusting young exec, now the accessory of choice of a certain type of minicab driver.

And recalling the fate of the Bluetooth headset, we’ll look anew at Google Glass and see it for what it is – a stepping stone. You see, I don’t dispute the potential of the tech. It’s widely agreed that smartphone design has evolved as far as it can – it cannot get much thinner, or much larger or much simpler to interact with.

But the future’s not wearable tech. Nope – in the future the bloke who was recently reported as addicted to Google Glass won’t have to take it off ever again. Because it’ll be implanted in his skull and hardwired into his brain.

And, obviously, available in selected stores, for a trial period only.

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The Social Media Marketing Miracle That Wasn’t

What a fantastic title this post has (even if I do say so myself), and all the better for having been delivered to me, on a plate, courtesy of The New York Times in this genuinely thought-provoking piece about the inherent value of social media and how it is linked to the socio-cultural phenomenon behind them and their growth. (Ooooh, get me and my socio-cultural phenomena!) (Yes, yes. Alright. I made it up. No, I don’t know what it means.)

Anyhoo, the key point (for me) is this:

“That, in fact, may be the ultimate lesson to draw from the social media marketing miracle that wasn’t. The impact of new technologies is invariably misjudged because we measure the future with yardsticks from the past.”

Now, being breathtakingly simplistic here, what this can be taken to mean is that social media are being judged (in a commercial sense) by their usefulness as marketing or communications tools – because there must be a way to monetise them. Worse, those who do not see them in this light, or judge them using these yardsticks, are seen as naysayers and luddites.

Obviously, this is wrong. Social media are not sales, marketing or communications tools in a commercial sense. This is not awkwardness, or a refusal to go into the light – this is trying to see beyond the traditional uses of ‘media’, by which all such channels are judged (at present).

I’m with the author of this article (well done, sir!) when he says:

“Social networks, like them or not, are fast laying out a new grid of personal connections. Even if this matrix of humanity sputters in advertising and marketing, it’s bound to spawn new industries in consulting, education, collaborative design, market research, media and loads of products and services yet to be imagined. Maybe, just maybe, it will even be able to sell soap.”

Not sure about the soap, mind.

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Is Social Media a Load of Rubbish?

Yes, yes it is. But don’t take my word for it – follow this link (which you can do by manipulating your mouse – and yes, I realise that by giving in to the temptation of including the childish mouse gag, I have now rendered this post NSFW, which means that it cannot be read in New South F#cking Wales, oops, there we go again) and read all about it.

Anyway. This is an article from the Metro (a free newspaper of this parish, and a barometer of whether someone is inbetween content on their kindle, as I am) which dares ask ‘Social Media! What is it good fia?’ In a sort of post-ironic Edwin Starr stylee.

As it turns out, it is good for absolutely nothing. Now, this is not me talking, or posturing – no – the posturing and styling is done for me by others. Oh, I know you’ll be poo-pooing it all the way to the Twitter feed, but I’d suggest you stop and think just for a moment.

Newspapers exist to be read. If they’re not read, they tend to stop existing. Which means that what’s in them is deemed by someone to be of interest to the readership. If the content is of interest to the readership, it implies that there is some resonance in it. If there’s some resonance in it, it’s a fair assumption that there is some agreement with it. If there’s agreement, then – de facto – there’s truth. For what is agreed with, amongst those who agree, is commonly held to be true. And what better definition of truth could you want than that of ‘something which, by common agreement, is held to be correct’?

(Apologies for the last paragraph. I’ve been reading too much Neal Stephenson.)

So – a happy 2013 to you all, dearest blog trotters. Let us hope that this is the year when the metaphorical little boy stares up at the metaphorical Emperor and shouts, metaphorically, “Oi – your Pomposity – you’ve got no clothes on!”

An’ thank you.

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Some More Thoughtful Social Media Commentary

You know me, not much of a socio-mediavelist on the whole – but, still, I bet you thought I’d gone a bit Southern (for my friends from the United States and America, ‘southern’ in this context means ‘effeminate’, not ‘toothless, hairy, armed and smelling of bourbon’) (and for my UK fans, yes, I am a southerner, so it is perfectly alright for me to use the word ‘southern’, as it is not offensive. In the same way I could use the word ‘gay’, if I wanted to) (which would be offensive) when I stopped ranting about t’social and how it represents a direct road to hell for civilsation as we know it.

Anyway, rumours of my descent into southernness have been greatly exaggerated, as demonstrated by this article from that stalwart bulwark of editorial honesty (on matters communication), Communicate Magazine. I cannot tell you how much I echo the sentiments in this article – not all of them, obviously, there is some very Southern thinking contained within – and how I am in complete agreement with the school of thought that says social media are completely irrelevant. (OK, that’s not EXACTLY what it says, but near enough as makes no difference. To my mind.)

I also admire the (again, to my mind) extremely clever way that one of the authors – the one in the right, obviously, the one on the side of truth and justice – has designated social media ‘SM’, which, of course, is simply shorthand for a very Southern practice indeed.

Yes, I am wholly in favour of one half of this article.

The one that I wrote, clearly.

 

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Filed under Communications Strategy, External Communications, Internet, Social Media, Writing

Social Media in a Crisis

More evidence, if more were needed, that we really do not have a clue what we are doing with social media (in using the word ‘we’ I am embracing the entire PR and Corporate Affairs community, even the slightly creepy ones, like one I met this morning. The one who was so engrossed in herself and her own importance she forgot the first rule – don’t believe your own hype. There’s nothing more edifying than watching someone who thinks they’re good being seven shades of awful).

Anyway, long story short, I was at something billed as a breakfast briefing on ‘The Role of Social Media In a Travel Crisis’. Which sounded fab – and there were two speakers, who definitely had had crises. Sadly, the session never really got past the ‘travel crisis’ bit with the ‘social media’ piece being relegated to some screengrabs and an admission that neither of the spokepeople’s organisations had either dedicated budget or dedicated resource to deal with the phenomenon that is social. Which is fine – but I know something about crisis management and I don’t need to be told to ‘have the facts’ and ‘be sincere’ – I really wanted to hear about others’ experience of crisis played out on social.

Got me thinking though. Thinking a couple of things. Once again – and in this context – social media is not a force for good – it is likely to carry reputational risk and will suck at your time like a Goldman Sachs(*). And, again once again, our industry is bullsh*tting and bl*stering its way through, ‘avin’ it large on topics about which it wots not. We do not understand social media, fellow communicators mine, and maybe it is time that we did. Maybe it is time – to address the specific point – that crisis management planning, training and simulation all contained dedicated social (new) media modules. Maybe it’s time we planned, rather than – as I saw this morning – leaving it to chance and doing it on the hoof.

I for one shall be taking this very much more seriously from here on in.

And finally – a general comment on people who work in PR. If you’re asked to speak on a topic – then speak on the topic. Please don’t attempt to spin it to suit you. It doesn’t work (mostly) with general audiences – what makes you think it’s going to work with your peers?

(* Vampire Squid)

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Filed under Communications Strategy, corporate reputation, Crisis Management Guides, Social Media

Vindicated at last!

Or I could have titled this post ‘justified’, but then someone would have accused me of being a Belieber. When, in fact, I am simply Marked. Mark Borkowskied, to be clearer.

Here you are, all of you who have sneered at my take on social media. All of you – I believe the term is – ‘haters’. All of you gurus, you charlatans, you bearers of Greek gifts, you purveyors of snake oil. You clothesless Emperors, you herd-following sheep, you shiny-object-collectors. You next-big-thingies. Yes, you. And who’s laughing now. Eh?

See!

I’d like to quote Mr Borkowski – a real PR guru, with lots of experience mind, not a pretend guru, who is using the bauble of social media to fleece gullible clients who should know better. Here you are – if you want more, clickety-linky, read fulsome!

“Twitter and social media is not a marketing platform, it’s a channel to engage with an audience. It’s not a way of actually selling more. It’s totally about visibility.

This is nothing new, this is nothing interesting.”

Nothing see here, then.

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