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Brands for a social age

Archive for the tag “social media guidelines”

In conversation with Jeremiah Owyang

I had the pleasure of meeting Jeremiah Owyang (@jowyang) last week, partner at social business and technology advisory firm Altimeter. I’ve always been a big fan of Jeremiah’s work, so it was a real privilege to hear some of his thoughts on the future of social business and technology. It’s fair to say that when we launched Headstream in 2006 it was the forward thinking from people like Jeremiah that helped support our idea that social was going to be big! Here are five key-points I took away:

Open will beat closed

The business models that will thrive are those which “work with the internet rather than against it”. Jeremiah believes that “open will win” and cited as an example Altimeter itself, which makes all its research openly available, compared to other research firms that charge for access. He sees Altimeter’s  business model, which gains its revenue from follow-on advisory fees, as more sustainable than the paid-for content model.

“Make the market your marketing department”

By adopting an ‘open’ business model, distributing content widely, and providing individuals with the tools to link back to your content, the entire market can become your marketing department. A business like GiffGaff is a good example of a company where the customers are working for it in this way. (GiffGaff ranked highly in Headstream’s Social Brands 100 listing, published in March)

URLs will go away

As we enter the era of the social web i.e. an internet built around people rather than machines, the traditional architecture of the internet will change radically. Jeremiah sees a future where “corporate web pages go away, URLs go away, search as we know it goes away. We will know so much about customers that we won’t need those things. Data will be used so well that we can predict and anticipate what the market wants.”

Europe vs. the U.S

Jeremiah had two observations. First, Europe is 24 months behind the U.S. when it comes to adopting social business practices, and second, Europeans are much more decorous when it comes to conversations on Twitter, in the U.S. the Twitter ’noise’ is much greater!

Teaching people to shout

If you respond to unhappy customers on Twitter without a co-ordinated and in-depth social CRM strategy in place, you are simply “teaching them to shout at you some more”. Only those companies that are prepared to introduce a service culture throughout the organization e.g. Zappos, will be able to handle customers successfully. Jeremiah is wary of any company that says it wants to undertake social CRM if the executives aren’t prepared to get personally involved.

These are a few highlights from a wide-ranging and excellent conversation over a lunch organized by Neville Hobson @jangles, and supported by Dell’s Kerry Bridge @kerryatdell. Many thanks to them for making it happen, and to the other guests @sheldrake, @benjaminellis, @jas, @abigailh and @sophiebr, who made it such a great conversation. Lovely photo here.

The U.S. Navy’s social savvy

On one level it surprises me that the U.S. Navy ‘gets’ social so thoroughly. Shouldn’t a large, complex and hierarchical organisation like that find social concepts like transparency and authenticity hard to adjust to?

Giving it some further thought, maybe it should be no surprise that an organisation that lives or dies (literally) on the quality of its communications and intelligence, should embrace social behaviours.

This Fall (that’s autumn for us Brits!) the U.S.Navy has come up with a ‘Social Media Handbook’ for personnel. Within its pages there is plenty of sound advice, and there is much here that can translate across to any civilian organisation, or business.

For the ‘time poor’ here are some highlights focusing on the U.S Navy’s overview on social, usage guidelines for personnel, and crisis communications.

U.S. Navy’s take on social

“The rapid growth of social media platforms and technologies have flattened and democratized the communication environment in ways we are just beginning to comprehend” – Adml, Dennis J. Moynihan, U.S. Navy Chief of Information (Spot on, and who can argue with an Admiral?!)

Guidelines for personnel (extracts)

  • The Navy encourages service members to tell their stories. With fewer Americans having served themselves in the military, it is important for our service members to share their stories of service with the American people.
  • The Navy asks Sailors to live their core values online, and understand that communication in social media is both public and international – even when they think they are just talking to family and friends.
  • When commenting about Navy matters, Sailors and Navy personnel need to be transparent about who they are and should identify themselves and their rank and/or position. They should also be clear that their opinions are their own, and do not represent their command or the Navy when commenting publicly on Navy topics.
  • Replace error with fact not argument, if you are engaging someone else online. If you see an error or misinformation, correct it courteously and factually but do not engage in a heated argument.
  • Admit mistakes. If you make a mistake then admit it and correct it immediately. If you do edit a posting online, make it clear that it has been updated or edited — don’t just try to make a change and pretend you never made the error. If people can’t trust you to own up to your own mistakes you will lose credibility.
  • Remember that everything posted on the Internet even for a second may live online  forever.

Crisis Communications (extracts)

  • Using social media to communicate with stakeholders during a crisis has already proven to be an especially effective use of the medium due to its speed, reach, and direct access.

  • You can’t surge trust, so your best course of action is to leverage already existing social presences. It is important to have a regularly updated channel of communication open between you and your key audiences before the crisis hits so they not only know where to find you online, but know that they can trust the information they get. (This chimes with our view on the importance of cultivating community in the good times, as per point five in this earlier post.)
  • Create a centralized location to funnel information. If you don’t have a command (centralized) presence then the people most interested in the crisis will more than likely decide as a group where they want to find information and start their own group. Whatever the case, you need to communicate where the people most affected are communicating.
  • Monitor incoming content posted by your users on your social sites so you can understand what information they need and what is happening to them.
  • Post cleared information as you have it, and there’s no need to wait for a formal press release. When you have solid information that your audiences want to know, post it.
  • Answer questions as often as practicable. Avoid just posting information on a social media presence – that is what command websites are for. (A fundamental point that many comms teams ignore in a crisis.)
  • Monitor external conversations regularly and correct inaccuracies. This is the best way to stop rumors before they run rampant. Use search engines and other monitoring tools to track discussion on the topic.
  • Share and cross -promote critical information with your network of trusted social media sites.
  • Encourage on-scene and first-responder personnel to engage via social media. You can do this by having them either use their personal accounts or feeding you information to post on the official command social sites.
  • Promote the social media presence on outgoing materials like press releases, e-mail signatures, links on the home page and even in conversations with reporters.
  • Analyze success of crisis communication via social media by looking at click-throughs, conversation, replies and reactions to postings, etc.

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Five practical steps towards better social reputation

As we head into the end of the year (how did that happen!) thoughts inevitably turn to how we’re going to do things differently in a bright, new, 2011. I had this in mind when I presented to a group of corporate communicators at PR Week’s ‘An issue ignored is a crisis invited’ conference on the 20th of October. So, as part of my session I focused on five practical steps that reputation managers can take to restructure their comms approach, and move their teams’ skill-sets and mind-sets to a place where they are better prepared to handle issues and crises in the socially enabled world.

I took five well established pillars from the ‘Old world’ issues and crisis management text-book, and considered how they should be evolved to prepare brands for the demands of ‘New world’ social reputation work. The five existing pillars are on the left in the image below, and the evolved approach on the right.

So, taking each in turn.

1. From a communications team, to an engagement team

A serious reputational issue playing out in the mainstream media has traditionally been handled by PR specialists and senior management, supported by legal teams. These are still crucial people to have in the war room, but the demands of social media require some additional skill sets too. A well-rounded ‘Engagement Team’ will now include social customer relationship management specialists, technical teams able to optimise content created for your response, analysts with the ability to make sense of the online conversation around your brand issue, and experienced community managers with the appropriate skills to know if, when and how any engagement should happen.

2. From media monitoring, to active listening

If you’re reading about a damaging issue in your mainstream media press cuttings, it’s too late. Once an issue has been amplified out of social media and into the mainstream you’re already in a ‘reactive’ position, and many companies have been caught out because of this, for example, Capri Sun.

In contrast active listening puts you on a proactive footing, listening out for issues in a real-time and persistent way. It’s also ‘active’ because you intend to take action, or assess possible action, on the basis of what you learn. Each brand or organisation can set up an active listening solution that suits them. This could be a specialist tool like Radian 6, or Brandwatch, free tools like Tweetdeck, but crucially all of them require human eyes (and brains) to make sense of the data through analysis.

3. From press releases, to content creation

Drafting template press releases, which cover likely crisis scenarios, is a standard technique to save time during a crisis. So should you do something similar for social content? Draft some tweets? Pre-record YouTube videos? Frankly, no. A social reputation situation will move in real-time, and in a dynamic manner. Rather, invest in your team’s technical and content creation skills. For example, have you got useful brand outposts like Twitter, Facebook, or YouTube for your company? Do the team know how to use them? What socially enabled content could you create to tell your story during a crisis? Have you done the necessary preparation work with your legal team to speed up sign off procedures during a crisis?

4. From media and scenario training, to appropriate social behaviour

At a recent presentation on the future of journalism at the Foreign Correspondents Club in Hong Kong, the Editor in Chief of Reuters, David Schlesinger, made the following comment. “The more you try to be  paternalistic and authoritative, the less people will believe you. The conversation about the story is as important as the story itself.” This is an insightful backdrop against which you should re-apppraise how you prepare for reputational threats in the social age. Preparation is still the key to successful crisis comms, but you need to prepare in different ways now. It’s less about ‘front of camera’ and ‘press conference‘ skills, and more about social psychology. Remember you’re no longer talking to the intermediary of the mainstream media, you’re going direct to the public. They want transparency, authenticity, honesty and speed! Your team needs to be trained how to do this. The first step is to create some social media guidelines, then scenario plan and test the team’s ability to respond appropriately in a live environment. The n keep testing, learning, and getting involved in the conversation.

5. From stakeholder lists, to community influencers

The role of third-party advocacy to respond to a crisis remains as relevant as ever in the social age, it’s always better to be defended by others than defend yourself. In the pre Web 2.0 world a comms team would focus on individuals and institutions that could provide this advocacy through mainstream media. Now it’s also necessary to think about the online advocates you can mobilise. So how do you make this happen online? Work at it, and do so over time in the same way you might look to lobby important stakeholders over time. First, landscape who is influential around your brand and vertical, next undertake some community outreach and community building. Finally, grow some roots into that community, gain trust and understanding. As a result when an issue or crisis hits you have increased the likelihood of the community coming to your defence, the ultimate in crisis recovery. Preparation is now about preparing your community to defend you, not just your own people.

In summary, we’re in a situation now as reputation guardians where we have to think more broadly, and at the same time more rapidly, if we are to effectively protect and enhance the reputations of our organisation, or brand.

Would love to hear any comments. Happy Christmas!

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A framework for social media measurement

With demand growing for social media activity to clearly demonstrate ROI this interesting deck from U.S. based research group Altimeter provides a neat, and compelling, framework. Some interesting real life examples referring back to Dell, Nike and Best Buy campaigns . 

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A cultural approach to social media guidelines

Examples of company employees creating Social Reputation issues or crises are numerous. A common theme is for staff to attack their customers in a conversation with friends, and/or colleagues, on their personal social networks. These  comments get picked up by the crowd and amplified online. When they achieve enough momentum mainstream media run with them as an easily acquired newsworthy story, giving further legs to the sorry tales of customer hatred. Staff at each of  Ryanair, PC World, and Virgin Atlantic all gained infamy in 2009 for their comments about customers. In the case of Virgin Atlantic thirteen cabin crew were sacked.

So, as an employer, how can you prevent this happening to you? Sorry, but you can’t. There is always the risk of unintentional slip ups, ignorance, or rogue staff with an axe to grind, putting your organisation in a similar position. 

But you can mitigate the risks through a set of Social Media Guidelines. These Guidelines are designed to provide staff with a framework for what you consider appropriate behaviour within social media.  There is a huge range of guidelines out there, ranging from several pages, to just a few words.

This diversity reflects the unique culture of every company or organisation, and culture should be the key consideration when you’re creating them. So don’t spend weeks drafting policies in an ivory tower, dig into the culture of your teams, think about your customer service approach, your brand and your overall tone of voice. Talk about it, run some workshops to find out what your frontline staff think, kick out a set of guidelines that are a ‘living document’ and take feedback.

In this way you’ve got a chance to create something that can be ‘lived’. And that just might stop you joining the growing list of self-inflicted crisis case studies.

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