Monday, February 14, 2011

Your Brand? Let's Try That Again.

Adam R. Jacobson quotes Lee Vann of Captura Group in his The 2010 U.S. Hispanic Social Media & Marketing Overview, "...the right approach is ultimately developing a social media strategy that drives value - and minimizes the fear of yielding some control to the consumer..."

Over the past two to three years most organizations have concluded that social media can provide a reasonable, if not, tremendous return on investment, despite the difficulty in coming to an agreement regarding how to best measure ROI.

More than anything else, these days it appears that the control of the brand and the associated reputational risks are what keep executives from fully diving in.  There exists a fear among many executives and other stakeholders that entering the world of social media means giving up control of the message and of the brand. But what these people have failed to realize is that they already lost control of their brand - regardless of their adoption of social media.

Web 2.0 developed a bond among peers.  This peer-to-peer phenomenon is what recently created historic change in Egypt.  The same peer-to-peer phenomenon that took messaging/influencing control away from Egypt and gave it to its citizens, has similarly affected EVERY organization's ability to control its brand.  As social networks, microblogs, blogs, peer review sites and other social media platforms continue to gain popularity, organizations continue to lose control.

Egyptian Citizens Take Control Through Peer-to-Peer Social Media Tools
Two easy social media and banking examples of the loss of control are the U.S. Bank Sucks and Bank of America Sucks Facebook pages.  In both cases the banks have lost the ability to completely control the messaging.  In these examples, peers are sharing with other peers their experiences for the collective benefit of the "community."  Once these experiences are documented, consumers can compare the collective experience of the community to the messaging being delivered by the organizations to determine next steps.

Organizations' biggest challenge is getting their heads around the fact that they no longer have total control of the brand.  In this environment, organizations are challenged to be the best they possibly can be in order to minimize harm to the reputation of the organization.

Fortunately for those that deserve it, the loss of brand does not always have to work against an organization.  In her blog post "SXSW: Rules Of Brand Fiction From Twittering Mad Men,"  Janneane Blevins demonstrates that loss of control over the brand can also provide positive outcomes.  In this case, some fans (not the producers) of the television hit "Mad Men" created social media personas for the Mad Men characters.  These individuals enhanced and created further demand for the Mad Men brand.  According to Ms. Blevins, the fans that created the social media personas of Mad Men characters "were able to use brand fiction to engage a whole new audience."
Therefore, organizations need to get over the issue of control - and quickly.  Organizations no longer hold the same control over the messaging and their brand.  Whether or not an organization is actively using social media, social media may be actively using the organization.  The best approach to getting over the fear of the unknown is for organizations to become familiar with the risks and then develop a strategy that fits the organization's risk appetite.

Doing nothing and ignoring the influence of social media is no longer an option and may be considered a form of negligence.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Your Neighbor Hates the Bank....You're Fired!

About once per year there occurs a social media-related event that gets the social media talking heads (myself included), well, talking.

This year's first nominee for the 2011 Social Media "Oh No You Didn't" Award goes to Commonwealth Bank in Australia.

The Australian newspaper titled its coverage of the story, "Bank Threatens Staff with Sack Over Social Media Comments."  The gist of the story is this...Commonwealth Bank published a social media policy that essentially "deputized" employees with the mission of reporting and eliminating any adverse social media comments - or possibly face the executioner (Human Resources Manager).

According to the published story, "bank employees have been told they must immediately notify their manager if they become aware of 'inappropriate or disparaging content and information stored or posted by others', including non-employees, in the 'social media environment'."

The policy holds employees accountable for the actions of third parties.  According to The Australian report, the policy state:  "For example, your friend could post an inappropriate comment about the group on your Facebook page or create a blog about the group."

As if holding employees accountable for the acts of others isn't bad enough, the policy then goes on to state that "failure to comply with this policy is a serious disciplinary matter and may result in disciplinary action being taken against you, which may include the termination of your employment."

Sounds to me like whoever drafted this policy did not have a good understanding of how social media works.  But even worse, this person did not know the advantages that comes with openly addressing criticism.

Back on December 17th I posted "Firing An Employee Bad Mouthing the Company on Social Media?  Better Think Twice."  While the December 17th post relates primarily to U.S. incidents, there is much that applies to any locale.  As such, it was no surprise when the Australian Finance Sector Union demanded  suspension of the bank's new social media policy, accusing it of trying to restrict freedom of expression.

Quite honestly, I was shocked when I heard about this incident.  At this stage in the game most corporations should at least know the basics of social media and employee relations - or at least ask someone that does before putting out such a draconian policy.  On the other hand, I suppose this need for education bodes well for me as just last month I released a new book, "Human Resources Guide to Social Media Risks" (shameless plug!).

Human Resources Guide to Social Media Risks

I hate to break it to Commonwealth Bank but they just made it onto every social media consultant's  Powerpoint deck.  I'm sure the story does not end here.  Let me know what you think and hear.