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The age of privacy is over? God, I hope not.

January 14, 2010 24 comments

Not an original post by any stretch, but I wanted to give me two pence worth to the Facebook-Privacy debate.

I read the post by Marshall Kirkpatrick for ReadWriteWeb , the interview with Michael Arrington is embedded but you can check it out on UStream here as well. At no point does Mark Zuckerberg  say the age of privacy is over but does say that “People have really gotten comfortable not only sharing more information and different kinds, but more openly and with more people. That social norm is just something that has evolved over time.”

I would agree 100% with that if he had put ‘Some’ in front of People. Making the call that you are going to dictate the default privacy preferences of 350m people is a huge gamble in my opinion. I think if you force everyone to share everything, then a lot of people will share nothing. The value in networks is that the users will disclose far more about themselves and connect deeper with eachother if they think they are in control of their personal information. Humans want security in their envirnoment, offline and online – that’s a base need and why I think Facebook was initially so successful. There was a sense among college students that this was ‘their thing’ and certainly back then, Facebook was privacy mad and even as recently as 2008 .

We can’t undersestimate the impact Twitter and real time in general has had on Facebook and from a business perspective, it is certainly favourable to have everyone’s ‘everything’ in the domain but to assume we all want to be ‘famous’ is a totally different thing. We want intimate connections with our friends, family and loved ones, and strong, secure connections with businesses providing us services  but all of that has to take place on OUR terms. Assuming people want to publish personal details to the world is misunderstanding that as individuals, we are all different in our ‘outgoingness’.

Where’s the line?

Zuckerberg cites the rise of blogging “and all these different services that have people sharing all this information.” Yes, but sharing it on their terms and as Marshall Kirkpatrick  states, there are a fraction of bloggers to the  350m on Facebook . I think  they have a duty to be data hosts and that means you don’t decide for your users what is going to happen with their data and information, you facilitate their decisions. Don’t you? Or am I missing something?

So, where do we draw the line? Should we open up our emails to everyone? What if we are secretly gay and participating in a Facebook group about that? What if we are planning to propose and are chatting with our future spouse’s friends about the details? What if you are unhappy in your job and want to research other opportunites but don’t want to risk getting fired? There are thousands of examples where it probably isn’t best to assume we want to share everything with everyone.

Are we all culturally the same?

There may also be a cultural thing going on here. I am going to write another blog post about this later, but assuming everyone wants to share their personal information is to assume that everyone has the same personal need to put their stuff in the public domain? We all know that isn’t the case. No one  human is the same, some are shy, some are secretive, some are media whores, some are confident and out going…you get the picture. And I think you can take that further and look at the different cultures of the US vs Europe vs Asia for example.

I know you can control your privacy settings on Facebook and if the users understand this then there shouldn’t be a problem. But that again is an assumption that isn’t always the case. My girlfriend for example, has only been on Facebook  for around 6 months and didn’t even know there was privacy controls! Luckliy she isn’t into too much weird stuff so when her current employer checked her profile out…she passed the test but there are countless others that have fallen foul to Facebook’s openness.

Chill out or change things?

Michael Arrington posted on Tuesday that the luddites should chill out. He wrote “Howard Lindzon nailed it the other day when he said Equifax, Transunion, Capital One, American Express and their cousins raped our privacy,” and then “Honestly, a picture of you taking a bong hit in college is mice nuts compared to the mountain of data that is gathered and exploited about every single one of us every single day,” Funny and true (or funny because its true? – never mind) …but that is going on in spite of what users want. Given the choice, I am sure most people wouldn’t want these corporations controlling our data and deciding who gets to see it and when. I think, ideally, most people want to control their own data and let businesses, individuals and organizations interface with it only when they choose.

Please take a look at VRM, if you are not already familiar with it, for an approach that I believe is more in line with what MOST people ultimately want. I am planning on attending a VRM hub meet in London at the end of the month for the first time. I am not sure I will bring much to the party but it is a theory and practice I believe in and hope that, one day will become a reality, and that I am alive to see it!

Why social media should be on Football Clubs’ radar

January 6, 2010 1 comment

My name is Ed, and I support Southampton FC. It’s been a while since I said that in public!

Anyone who follows football (soccer for the US dudes) may have noticed The Saints slipping further and further down the leagues in the last few years and they now reside in the third tier of English football. They succumbed to the same problem that has been plaguing many clubs, some much bigger than Southampton…they screwed themselves financially. I won’t go into the details as its fairly basic stuff, but this season, the same fate has befallen Southampton’s great south coast rivals, Portsmouth FC. This is by no means a post to gloat or rub the proverbial salt into Pompey’s wounds, rather one about how inept most football teams are at communicating with their fans.

So, Pompey continue to slide towards administration and seem to have resorted to the same tactics that other clubs and indeed businesses have done in in the last 12 months – pretend it isn’t happening and hold the ‘official party line’ of – All is good.

Tired PR tactics

The most recent post addressing the issue is here, clearly coming straight from the PR/Legal department. Read it, its non sense!

“Portsmouth Football Club has not been formally served with a winding up petition and is shocked and surprised this action has been taken in respect of VAT, PAYE and National Insurance Contributions which either have been, or are about to be paid, or are disputed.”

Shocked? That is what happens when you don’t pay the bills…your creditors come for you.

I remember when Southampton were going through similar financial hell last year and recall vividly how the tired, corporate spin each week on the official site would proclaim ‘All is well, carry on as usual’ It is so insulting to assume the fans, who are the clubs customers SHOULD be kept in the dark. It reeks of the kind of corporate arrogance that social media is gradually eroding in the business world. Organisations can’t pretend all is well with their product or service (in this case the football club) when the customers (fans) are seeing the reality – staff not being paid, team getting humped each week, costs being cut etc. And yet it continues….

Social Media

One way to keep the fans abreast of what is going on, really going on at the club would be to open a dialogue with them and social media is pretty good at that. So what is happening on the biggest social channel – Facebook?

Pompey have no official Fan page. In fact, if they wanted a nudge as to what their customers are demanding, they should check out the What Is Going On Group ! and yet nothing from the club.

They aren’t alone though, Even Man U do not ‘officially’ contribute to their page and they have 300,000 fans!

Chelsea have the right idea. Their Fan Page integrated with the official site, regular updates etc – is this systemic of a club not up the creek. They have no fear of being open? Liverpool as well do a good job and have over 1,000,000 fans. Arsenal, not too bad either.

I haven’t checked them all so apologies if your club is social media awesomeness personified, I am making a general point about how bad most sports teams are at engaging with their lifeblood – the fans.

Fanatical Brand Loyalty

I have been focusing on Facebook as the channel as I think Fan Pages lend themselves perfectly to sports teams  – where people are actual Fans. If brands such as Starbucks can do such good stuff through their fan page, then sports teams really have no excuse. The US sports teams are much better at it and examples such as New England Patriots show what can be done. We also see more of the athletes themselves embracing the tools, all be it under constraints from the various governing bodies.

Football fans are the most brand loyal people. It is the most adhesive, one sided relationship I can think of (maybe religion but that’s for another post!). If you support a team, really support a team, then even if you want to change allegiance…you can’t! It affects you on a cellular level and the clubs need to realize this. The non-playing staff at football clubs will move on to other jobs in other industries and in most cases don’t have any affinity to the club in the first place other than they pay their wages ( or not in Pompey’s case), they need to realize the fans make the club, they are the paying customers.

If major corporations are realizing they need to be open and honest with their customers then Sports teams need to wake up to that as well. It isn’t going to make the millions of pounds of debt vanish, but it may create a siege mentality amongst the fans and keep them coming through the gates and spending money. As soon as you create a them vs us scenario in terms of information, you are on the slippery slope. When you insult your customers intelligence by spitting out press releases that contradict reality, you are almost at the bottom of the slope and in the shit pit.

I don’t think sports teams realize the potential they have to bring the fans and the players closer and the kind of brand equity that will buy the club. Most clubs have ‘fans forums’, and by that I mean physical meetings once in a while where a few hundred fans are allowed into a staged conference with the manager, Chairmen, players etc. This is good but impractical to do on a regular basis. Social media can provide the next best thing and if nothing else will create the feeling that the club cares and respects the fans. If they can’t at least do that then they deserve to drop down the leagues…and stay there.

Do the tools mask what social media really is?

November 27, 2009 Leave a comment

I have a ridiculous amount of godparents. My mother says she didn’t want any of her friends to be left out so my brother and I have around eight each! This, of course, has many benefits. In my early years it ensured a high yield of gifts on birthdays and at Christmas, and this week I was invited by one of my godfathers to a Livery Dinner held by the The Worshipful Company of Salters. Oh yes!

Out of my league

I wasn’t too sure what to expect. My godfather was a solicitor and having Googled the Livery Companies, I had an idea of the company I would be in plus there had been talk of having to wear white tie and tails…and I am still not really sure what that is. Anyway, I found myself amongst diplomats, MP’s, chairmen of some massive corporations and high ranking chemists, with some of the wearing robes, medals and animal hide! It was patently clear I was way out of my league on so many levels and when I explained I was in the social media, emerging technology ‘field’ there were various glazed expressions and one “…how funny!”. Awesome.

Very minor epiphany

During the dinner I, again, found myself trying to ‘pitch’ the industry to Dr. Gordon, a chemist from Geneva who knew way too much about wine. He was fascinated by the theories and possibilities of social media that I was attempting to explain, but couldn’t see any practical purpose for himself. He used email to stay in touch with his family and had heard of Facebook and Twitter but certainly wouldn’t consider himself a social media ‘user’. Reaching for examples or case studies that I could launch at him, I asked what his favourite pastime was? “Easy, wine.”

“Cool”, I replied, “there are loads of ways to use social media for wine …” And then the minor epiphany happened. He cut me off and said, the only thing he had really done online was buy wine at an auction through a live feed. He went on to say how amazing it was to feel so connected to the actual event and could bid in realtime, see the auctioneer, other bidders etc. “And you said you have never used social media?” I said. “What, that was social media was it?” was the answer!

Look past the tools

My point is that it is so easy to see social media as the tools or platforms that grab the headlines rather than a wider capability to connect you to people and places, which is where the real magic is. Dr Gordon had a ‘real’ human experience using social media for what it is meant to be…and he apparently got a good deal on the wine!

Measuring success in social media

November 13, 2009 Leave a comment

measuring_success I have been thinking for a while about what constitutes success in social media  and are we still caught up in the old metrics that served display, CPC and before  that, broadcast media? By all accounts (unfortunately I couldn’t make it across  the Atlantic to be there in  person) Katie Paine’s Social Media Measurement:  Establishing ROI (Full  slidedeck is here) was an  excellent presentation and  highlighted how some,  socially optimized,  companies are measuring the hard,    financial metrics that  will directly impact their bottom line. About time too!  She also brings to light  the old metrics which simply won’t (or shouldn’t) cut it  anymore.

Social media measurement has to start web metrics and these non-financial impacts are certainly important. However, as Olivier Blanchard put it, they are like hugs – everyone likes them but they won’t pay the bills! (Olivier also has a pretty awesome slidedeck on social media  ROI here). Impressions, fans, followers, retweets, views etc  don’t, and never will equal success in social media. That only comes with sales, donations, efficiencies, the ability to change sentiment and opinion towards your company. And these can all be measured with a combination of web analytics, social media monitoring, human sweat, corporate financial information…and time.

We, as agencies, consultants, planners or analysts, may have to get ready to be kicked out of a few meetings and turn down the quick money on offer from doing a social media ‘campaign’ or broadcast message. We should focus on the clients who are in it for the long haul, who want social media fully integrated into the marketing strategy, who want their departments (sales, customer service, PR, marketing)  tapping into the same knowledge base and data insights gleaned from social media.

Measurement will always be imperfect when trying tie it squarely back to a purchasing decision but we don’t have to hide behind that and use it as an excuse for not focusing on the difficult problems. Just because the client doesn’t ask for ROI to be measured properly doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do it. We all know if we can show financial and brand building value to an organization then social media will gain a bigger slice of the budgets, which is nice! But, this will also lead to something much more impressive – businesses will become more customer centric.

Let’s face it, no one is curing cancer here, but to think the purpose and value of social media activity is to put the next ‘cool’ video or app in front of as many unsuspecting people as we can is really depressing. If we are in this for one thing that could be considered valuable or ‘game changing’, it has to be the humanizing of business again (Chris Brogan blogs, talks about this all the time). Certainly, that is why I am in this. If we can help businesses care more about their customers and give the consumer a better, more personal, more informative experience with brands then that has to be  a good thing. The only where we are going to get there is if we measure and prove success.