The first event of Like Minds at Social Media Week London, on Truth and Trust and why what you do matters on social media…
David Cushman, MD of 90:10 group
Truth and trust: you can’t have one without the other. It’s not’s just about trusting if something can be good all the time. We trust Ryanair to be of a certain standard – which doesn’t mean good. Ryanair will get you there on time, and they fly the latest aircraft. But the dodgy emergency landing and the fine that followed has a cartesian effect on the trust – do you still trust them?
Essentially, the concept of privacy emerged with the idea of the fireplace. We were able to have separate rooms, to sleep in separate rooms. And the idea of privacy changes – just before the last election, he was in a queue in Starbucks, and a young David Cameron lookalike walked past him, and sat at a table without buying anything. A big case comes out, a young lad brings him a coffee and they start chatting – and it turns out it is David Cameron.
Cushman twittered this, and then asked if he should know Cameron. Cameron introduced himself, and Cushman brought up Twitter and the infamous “too many tweets make a twat” quote. Cushman’s image of Prescott was changed by Twitter. Cameron countered with politicians needing to think before they talk, making Twitter unwise. Cushman disagreed – saying that he’d rather know what Cameron really thought.
Shortly afterwards, Cushman discovered that a photo of the two of them talking had been published on FourSquare. Permission? No. Control? No.
How about Will & Kate? She was sunbathing topless – that’s true. But does that mean it should be published? There was a telephoto lens involved – but what if Google started publishing all satellite images everywhere? And is the fall of privacy a good thing, if we can run surveillance on those who run surveillance on us?
Unless you are doing good for the world around you, why would I choose to work with you? This is going to be an increasing driver of the way organisations work – because they’re all being watched – us. We can now identify bad behaviour really fast – and share it really fast. We’re so interconnected that bad news about a business can destroy it.
Panel Discussion – chaired by Andrew Gerrard
- Jenny Afia – Schillings
- Guy Stephens – CapGemini
- Euan Semple
- Benjamin Ellis - Redcatco / Socialoptics
- David Cushman – 90:10 Group
JA: There are issues with the speed you need to respond to crises on social media, with the legal team’s desire not to comment immediately. How do you reconcile this? How do you adhere to regulatory conditions?
GS: Speed is an interesting one. Very few organisations are geared up to respond quickly – I’ve seen the difficulty come because everyone wants to have a slightly different message. Can we agree a message – can we agree when to admit liability or say sorry? I’ve spent hours talking to companies about the word “sorry” and the different shades of meaning it can have.
ES: Too many people have too much at risk to do this. How can I trust a company that doesn’t trust itself? As Dave Winer said, if you don’t want people to be rude about you on the internet, don’t make shit products. But it’s naive to think that companies should just blog their competitive trade secrets. You either have everything locked down with lots of rules – which arguably makes you more at risk because no-one knows the rules – or you have an ongoing discussion about risk.
AG: I”ve come across organisations with a locked-down policy, which leads to social media failure – but I’ve also see that happen with companies with more open policies. Where is the happy medium?
ES: Don’t run before you can walk. There’s this rush into social media – paying agencies to talk for you who don’t know about your business, or too many of your staff piling in.
DC: At one end of the scale is sharing everything, at the other is complete secrecy. People let secrecy infect everything they do.
BE: A lot of this is about false dichotemies: am I lying or am I withholding information? Social media is driving transparency, but what it really is driving is continuous partial transparancy. By it’s nature, it’s open to misinterpretation – and so is a form of lying, because it’s not the complete truth. People aren’t punished for lying, they’re punished for not telling a coherent narrative. If I tell the truth, but there are inconsistecies, I get lambasted for it.
DC: The thing that gives us the ability to give people some slack is that we believe in the journey they’re making.
ES: That’s partly because we’re existing in a half way stage between media as it was and how it might be. Bloggers often find out what they think by writing it – organisations could do the same thing.
JA: I’m getting increasingly concerned that we’re undermining the importancy of privacy of individuals, and thus companies. Privacy is a fundamental right, and talks to concepts of autonomy. We should have autonomy over our private lives. The decision will be affected by what position you adopt in society. The circle of privacy around a politician will be smaller than around me, for example. In the US, employers are demending the Facebook logins of people before they hire them. We need not to be mugs about this. In the USA privacy means the ability to live your life without the interference of the state. In the UK and Europe, it’s more about identity and privacy.
BE: We tend to take a very individualistic idea of privacy. He was at a Like Minds event in Exeter some years ago, and someone stood up and talked about his love of rugby, and the problems he had with friends taking photos of him “celebrating” -damaging his reputation. Our friends determine our reputation now, not us. The same is true of companies. PR no longer determines your reputation – other people talking about you does.
ES: We’ve devolved a lot of responsibility to other people – to marketing, to PR, to IT. A lot of these things are up for grabs again, and we need to take responsibility back. We need to push back against comms and IT – but people are too diffident about that.
BE: The big challenge is the journey along the transparency curve. There are lots of benefits to secrecy, and also to transparency, but the transition between the two is difficult, and contradictions start to emerge. We’re programmed to pick up on diconnects as evidence of lying – but often it’s not.
Andrew take a poll of the room – very few people believe they work for organisations with a social media crisis policy in place.
DC: A lot of the problem is that not everyone in the company is aligned with the purpose of that business. If everyone’s aligned, you have far less risk of those disconnects. Get back to the basics: what are you in business for? A lot of them aren’t even in the “brand value” stage, let alone knowing why they are in business.
ES: Use the tools like they are meant to be used. If you’re head of information security, blog about the information security issues. It’ll work more naturally like that.
GS: When something like Eurostar’s problems happen – should they have been geared up for that? It’s very easy for us to sit on the sidelines and say “they’re shit” – and companies need to make a decision. If they decide not to be in social media, they need to know why they’re not there.
DC: If you’re talking to a company, you start by talking about what the problems are – but then, you can show them that it’s an information source – they can see where their problems are more quickly, and they can fix them. Companies who don’t engage are wilfully damaging their own future.
ES: You need Trojan mice – not big brand initiatives. All the big success stories have started with one or two people doing it well.
DC: First Capital Connect are actually a really good example – they’re working from the perspective of what’s good customer support, not good social media.
BE: I was in Reading the other week, and there was a power cut at the station, which only hit the car park. And suddenly there were loads of people in high-vis jackets, who knew exactly what to do. You need to plan, you need to know what to do in a crisis. Organisations are designed to systematically reward lying, sometimes. You have to look at your organisation and spot where it’s really designed to punish transparency, and deal with that. If you have a culture of not sticking your head above the parapet when things go wrong, you have a problem. How do you deal with people who are transparent? Do you reward them, or march them out of the building?
GS: When we started with social media in Carphone Warehouse, we just started experimenting. How do you take that first step? How do you persuade someone to send the first tweet? It’s not a bit of technology that you just plug in. It’s only later on that you realise that how fundamentally it changes your organisation. If you’ve never sent that first tweet, how do you know what a crisis plan looks like?
ES: I’m coaching a guy at the moment who has “digital” in their job title, but no social media experience – he’s not a wimp, he’s a grown-up guy. He’s really terrified of his first blog post. We underestimate the pressure it puts on individuals who are going to have to say something.
GS: Authenticty and trust are pretty scary words for most businesses. It’s about being sympathetic to that. Half the time we’ve no idea what authenticity looks like.
ES: Most commenters have never worked inside big corporates and have no idea how dysfunctional they are.
DC: Most organisations are not actually monitoring for things that actually matter in what people are saying. It’s becoming about learning what has gone wrong, and making sure you deal with it. There need to be routes in the organisation to people who need to know about it.
AG: Dealing with the sheer volume of comments means diverting resources away from the core business to engage with social media. But on the other hand, if you have a customer service Twitter account which just points people to traditional channels, that’s a bigger fail than not engaging.
DC: BTCare used to be really impressive – if you can get a response, you were impressed. But now, they’re tagging everything, but not doing it really well, so you can make the same complaint repeatedly and get someone different every time.
ES: The bigger the company, the more people there should be out there on social media. I’ve had people pick up on problems who weren’t in the customer service part of the business, but who have tried to get things resolved.
BE: Your brand is partially what you do as a business – that’s the small bit. The big bit is the sort of stories and narratives you set up. People’s opinion of a product is more based on their social graph than their brand. The stories we tell, the quality and the passion, changes your perception.
GS: Customer service is moving into the front line triage role. What becomes more interesting is when it moves from a customer service department to a layer across the business. If you can start fundamentally changing processes on the fly as comments come in, then you’re getting somewhere. It’s a long way off as a goal, but it’s a great goal.
BE: Twitter can create a very competitive dialogue. You should always respond to issues, but you need to think carefully about where you take that dialogue. Some things can’t be solved in 140 character bursts. Take it to a different place and focus it in a different way.
GS: Twitter isn’t great for customer service. Acknowledge it, and move it elsewhere.
ES: Acknowledgement is sometimes what people want – to be treated like a grown-up, being dealt with by grown-ups.
BE: The biggest lie of the last decade is that companies communicate only in one way, through one department, through mass media channels. Companies have always been vulnerable to what people say down the pub, but that balance of power has shifted. You don’t have a “brand spokesman” defining the message – and you never did.
DC: Customers may not want you to take the conversation elsewhere – that takes their power away. You want to cause the company hassle, because they’ve caused you hassle.
ES: If a company is about to spend a significant amount of money on your products and they can’t find you anywhere ese on social media – how do they know they can trust you?
BE: One of the challenges of social media is that we think it gives us equal power – it doesn’t. It can give the whingers too much power. These people can be toxic – they have an audience and their behaviour is being rewarded. That’s the time to move things to appropriate channel. Don’t look like you’re covering up – make it clear that it’s an awkward customer you’re taking out of the room so they don’t annoy everyone else.
DC: A crap filter is an essential part of a 21st century skill set. Check people’s track record – often there’s a plan to deal with a particular person.
BE: On twitter, no-one can hear you fume. Your monitoring doens’t throw up the quietly dissatisifed, and if there are too many of those, you have a day of reckoning coming.
AG: On the other hand, Andrew Grill pointed out that on social media, everyone can hear you scream.
DC: But it is an early warning system we didn’t have 10 years ago.