Facebook And The Daily Mail – Two Of My Favourite Things

As you may know, the Daily Mail is having a go at Facebook for leaving its younger members open to abuse by older – how shall we say – more predatory members. The gist of the story was that someone posed as a 14-year-old girl, and, “within 90 seconds, a middle-aged man wanted to perform a sex act in front of me”.

Now, as this piece from a BBC blog rightly says, there are a number of issues with the story. First, because of the way Facebook works, it’s practically impossible for it to have happened. Second, the someone who posed as the girl a) didn’t write the piece b) sent in corrections to the piece which were ignored and c) was using another social medium anyway.

Daily Mail issues an apology – but the paper being what it is, it was small and on page 4. But an apology nonetheless.

Regardless of the rights and wrongs, however, the story does throw up (yet another) issue with social media. It’s open to abuse. We’ve all heard stories about various people’s Twitter feeds being hi-jacked and messages sent to all their followers, proposing the sale of under-the-counter medications or the perusal of overly-endowed women with no clothes on. It started with spam, and now this stuff is becoming more insidious. It simply underlines the complete lack of any sort of control or regulation – which is what you get (or don’t get) when you’re dealing with media that can be accessed and utilised by absolutely anyone, regardless of proclivity or state of mind.

I suppose it’s a question of what sorts the wheat from the chaff? And if you’re a large brand or big organisation looking to leverage a social media strategy for a commercial end – you may think that you’re wheat, but how are you going to prevent someone turning you to chaff? You won’t know about it until it’s happened, at great cost to your corporate reputation. Is it, after all, a risk worth taking?

But back to the Facebook/Daily Mail standoff – I do think the paper has a nerve. Complaining about the danger posed by things presenting themselves as things they are not. I mean – I read the Daily Mail once, and was completely taken in by the way it presented itself as serious journalism. It was only much later that I realised I’d been conned, and that it was simply trying to take advantage of my naivety.

Social Media – Les Twittes Francais

Another fascinating example of what social media is actually good for. Tittle-tattle.  Scuttlebutt. Gossip. Prurient  – and some might say, inappropriate – interest in the doings of others. Destroying the careers of powerful men.

Hold on – what? Yes – Nicolas Sarkozy, 23rd and current President of the French Republic is apparently ‘avin’ it away with the karate-chopping Chantal Jouanno, his (and I hope I won’t get accused of being sleazy when I state, quite attractive) 40-year-old Ecology Minister. Good grief, she’s young enough to be my slightly younger sister!

Apparently, it’s in reaction to his slightly taller wife, the fragrant – and self-confessed anti-fan of that outmoded convention, monogamy – Carla Bruni doin’ the do with Benjamin Biolay “a musician six years her junior” (this courtesy of the breathless, soaraway Daily Telegraph).

Now – I will confess I have enjoyed writing about this, but there is a point. And I’m not going to labour it.

The affairs – if indeed they actually exist outside the fevered minds of the gossiping classes – came to light via a rising tide of Twitter buzz, which gained critical mass and, in so doing, migrated into the – if I can use the term – mainstream. This is what Twitter – and indeed all social media – is good at. Taking a story with a hint of gossip, salaciousness, controversy and/or sex and spreading it far and wide, regardless of what the truth or reality might actually be.

This is why non-one can afford to ignore social media – not because it is a valid commercial communications, marketing or sales tool, but because it moves so quickly that it poses a real threat. When social gets you – you’ve no time to prepare – you’re back-footed and it’s damage limitation time.

There are two courses of action therefore. One, as I’ve said before, is to prepare for the issues that might happen, before they do – and monitor, monitor, monitor. The second is become President of the French Republic.

Apparently they’ve all had affairs and it’s not damaged a single one of them. Gotta love the French.

Corporate Reputation – Toyota And The Need For Purpose

I am very fond of the internet. (Even though, obviously, I don’t know all of it.) It’s mostly the way that things just crop up, without one necessarily looking for them, which provide insight into, and opinion on, stuff that is instantly resonant and relevant. There’s always someone out there in webworld who sees the connection between events and best practice, in any field, or sector, or discipline, even when you haven’t. Everything I’ve just said here is, of course, stating the obvious – that’s what you’d expect from the feral communities engendered by the net – and it’s not that which astounds. No – it’s the serendipity with which the net throws things one’s way – almost as if there was some sort of a fate lending an ethereal hand.

Most likely, it’s to do with quantum. Algorithm’s gonna get you.

Anyway – here’s a piece that I think is splendid. It’s from a blog called Decision to Lead – Expanding the Practice of Leadership and it’s by a lady called Frances Frei, who is (according to the blurb) ‘Harvard Business School’s resident expert of service excellence’. Which, to my mind, gives her a bit of gravitas.

The piece is about the whole ongoing Toyota situation of which we are all aware, even if we’re not sure how many cars have been recalled and what, exactly, they’ve been recalled for. Mechanical bloopers, shall we say. Frances comes at it from the angle of what I will call ‘corporate religion’ and what she calls a purpose. You can read the post yourselves, dear blog snorkellers, but Frances posits that Toyota lost its focus on its corporate purpose of ‘improvement’ – improvement of its product and improvement in the way its product was constructed. From the pursuit of this purpose came business success – sales and profits. Toyoat lost its focus – or rather its focus shifted, from improvement as a corporate purpose, to sales and profits as goals in themselves. As these became the goals of the company, so corners were cut, so the pride and motivation of the workforce became less – and it was then but a matter of time before what happened, happened.

It’s a great lesson – shame that it takes a global product recall, and its affect on the consumer, to teach it. The lesson is that businesses and organisations that have true longevity, that are the ones that enjoy enduring success (in the form of sales and profits), that are the ones that engender respect and admiration in their stakeholders – these are businesses for whom sales and profits are not goals in themselves. They are function of the bigger corporate purpose – the mission, the vision, the intent, the corporate religion – whatever you’d wish to call it. With a clearly defined and articulated purpose comes pride and motivation and – yes – reward for the people that make the business or organisation run.

(PS. Lest I be accused of being an unreconstructed, irredeemable hippy, I know that there are industries and business sectors where the purpose is nothing more or less than profit, and the people who are involved in them are wholly subsumed in the pursuit of the purpose – banking, mostly. I will be hippy-ish, mind, and ask whether we’d be in such a global economic bind right now if, perhaps, the bankers had had another purpose, other than sheer greed.)

(PPS. The need for corporate purpose has been around forever. I say this to prevent anyone trying to tell me that it’s part of the New Age of business, where everyone has a voice and everyone’s voice is important, which has been brought about by that life-changing, world-shaping phenomenon, social media. Horse droppings.)

Public Relations – A Question Of Ethics

Credit where credit is due – good feature in last week’s PR Week (probably still on sale at a newsstand near you, this week’s cover price £53.47) on the subject of Professional Ethics: Should You Promote These Products?

And it was a good piece – not only did it address the issue of whether who you work for and what you stand for are, possibly, different things – it also rounded up some decent spokespeople. I’m not saying it wasn’t flawed – have a quick shufti here – but it was thought-provoking and it did address one of the big industry issues.

It was particularly resonant for me because it’s an issue that I had a quick go at, some time ago, here on this very blog. If you fancy it, you can have a quick scan here.

In brief, I said that I didn’t care very much – I’m a smoker, I drink, I’ve been known to eat chips and fatty foods and, as someone has to defend the reputation of the arms industry, then it might as well be me.

I should qualify it, however, and in the light of the PR Week article, by saying that while I (obviously) have the life principles and overall standards of a weasel, I would not consider, on behalf of any client, running a communications strategy that was illegal, unethical or harmful. I think this is where the confusion lies – just because a company’s products may have the potential to be harmful (alcohol, tobacco, guns), doesn’t mean that the comms strategy has, or needs, to be.

(And yes, within my own moral code, lying on behalf of my employer is allowed – where the greater good of that employer and its stakeholders would be compromised by my not so doing. Which is a very rare occurrence.)

So was there anything that I wouldn’t touch with a bargepole? Well, yes. And this is why the PR Week article struck a chord. Very topical.

It was the thing that (I think) the PR Week article missed out. Forget guns, booze, fags, porn and fried food. It’s much worse than that. It’s something on which – I think – we can all agree.

It’s Nick Griffin and the horrible wingnuts over at the BNP.

Social Media – Vodafone Twit Highlights Need For Corporate Social Media Control

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – corporate use of social media is a dangerous thing, and if you are going to dip your toe, then you need a frankly medieval ‘corporate use of social media’ policy in place to ensure the wingnuts do not scupper your dinghy.

As happened earlier this month over at Vodafone, a rather large purveyor of telecommunications services to the global community. Vodafone’s on Twitter, d’you see, and although it’s only managed to garner some 9.5k followers with its 5k-odd tweets, it’s pursuing its strategy with verve.

Suddenly, last week, a tweet was tweeted suggesting that – avert your eyes, those of a sensitive disposition – “@VodafoneUK is fed up of dirty homo's (sic) and is going after beaver”. Well. Here’s commentary from www.pocketlint.com, suggesting that Voodoofone’s Twitter account is internally compromised.

Of course, it wasn’t, and – whether you choose to believe it or not, you have to give credit to Mojambofone’s crisis management people – pocketlint posted this yesterday, recounting Jujufone’s official explanation. For those of my blog snorkellers what is hard of de clickery, the explanation is pretty much ‘a big boy did it and ran away’. Only in this case, they appear to have found the big boy, and I can only imagine that he (or she, even) is in a small room somewhere, tied to a chair, while some HR lovelies get all 16th century on his ass.

 Moral of the story? There need to be rules. Perhaps Blackmagicfone has a ‘corporate use of social media’ policy, but it sure as hell ain’t working. As I’ve postulated before, there’s always a proportion of employees – and of the general public, as it happens – terminally afflicted with Twitterette’s. This is the unholy urge to shout ‘bum!’ and ‘poo!’ in public places and at inappropriate times. Generally when confronted with a mass medium (like Twitter, or Facebook), the implications of which they do not fully understand. They do not understand that their ‘bum!’ has a potential audience of – ooooh – everyone. (Luckily, in this case, it was an immediate audience of 9.5k people – although you can still find the post, because it’s been re-tweeted and re-tweeted – whatever that means.)

Anyway, bottom line – a proper use of social media policy, with proper rules, is absolutely imperative. It won’t stop this sort of nonsense altogether, but it may make the f*ckwits think twice. I recommend really, really serious disciplinary action. Boilings in oil. Skinnings alive.

But really, the way to deal with it – folks – is NOT TO GET INVOLVED IN THE FIRST PLACE.

How many times do I have to say this?

Social Media – Best Practice Social Media Policy

This was first posted in 2010. Starbucks are still global coffee shop of choice and divide opinion in much the same way as political allegiance, ‘leave or remain’ and the debate over whether Wonder Woman is really a feminist icon and, if she is, why does she go into battle wearing wedges? And yes, I know the answer, which is ‘because she can and because she wants to’. And who’s arguing with a god?

The Coca-Cola Company are still displaying the document that I found so praiseworthy and, revisiting it, I still find it so.

Two firsts in one week – Starbucks display best practice in reinventing themselves through employee and customer care (yes, I know, I had difficulty as well) and now this.

Yes, your eyes do not deceive you. It is a document entitled ‘Online Social Media Principles’ from The Coca-Cola Company, and it is – dear blog snorkellers mine – as near to a best practice social media policy as you can get.

OK, it’s not quite draconian enough for me – I’d like to see a list of cruel and unusual punishments for those found to be in breach of the policy, but – hey – you can’t have everything.

What I particularly like about it, however, is that it’s not all evangelical. It doesn’t start from the position that social media is the biggest thing since the Bible, and that it is going to transform the world as we know it and everything in it. It is sensible, and considered, and everything I would not necessarily have expected, rightly or wrongly,  from Messrs Coca and Cola.

It also – beautifully – can be easily adapted and plagiarised. These guidelines could be applied to any business or organisation – go ahead, fill your boots. It’s also, as I’ve recommended on this blog before, something of an ’employee benefit’ – in that it advises employees on how to use social media in their personal lives as well as on company time. It demonstrates a duty of care – without ramming it down their throats.

Finally – another big thing of mine – it would sit very nicely in a crisis management plan, and provides a good basis on which to build the social media section of that plan.

It is genuinely brilliant. I’m lovin’ it.

(Oh – hold on……..)

Social Media – Social Media Policies in Practice

Came across this on Mashable – it’s a story about this, which is social media policy devised and published by Australian company Telstra for the benefit of their 40,000 employees. To date, according to the company, 12,000 employees have been ‘trained’ or ‘educated’ in the ways of social media.

I’ve said,  in previous posts, that a good social media policy might actually be seen, or used, as an employee benefit – Telstra’s policy is exactly that. This is something that has, quite clearly, taken time, resource and investment to put together, and has been formulated to educate employees and provide them with a skill, or skills, which are applicable in their day-to-day lives as well as their work lives. I particularly like it because it doesn’t shy away from threatening disciplinary action should anyone contravene the policy.

What it doesn’t do, however – and it’s telling – is explain how employees can help the company through their social media activity. It doesn’t explain the company’s social media strategy. It might be said that it begs more questions than it answers. It strikes me as a guide to social media – all well and good – but not a social media lever. It’s about stopping people making inadvertent (or deliberate) mistakes – rather than ’embracing the social media opportunity and bringing everyone in to the conversation’ (as I imagine the cyber-hippies would have it).

This is not a sign that social media has become mainstream and infiltrated Big Corporate – rather it’s a sign that Big Corporate has recognised the damage that can be caused by social media and is attempting to mitigate its effects.

This is pre-emptive issues management, nothing more or less.