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Corporate communications + Public Relations Adelaide

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October 2011

Social media is its own beast: the Qantas way

Anyone who’s been to one of my social media presentations will be able to tell you one of my favourite phrases is: Social media is its own beast.

Social media isn’t marketing.

Social media isn’t sales.

Social media isn’t public relations. Or customer service. Or advertising.

Qantas unofficial Facebook Page
Qantas unofficial Facebook Page

It’s all of those things and more, rolled into one, covered with a layer of intimacy and immediacy; a world that is constantly evolving and constantly surprising us.

That’s why I shudder when I hear marketers complain that social media isn’t giving them the wins they expected. It’s why I shake my head when I hear companies ask if they “still need to do the social media thing” and whether it’s a trend that’s dying out.

Social media has come about because humans love communications. We love interaction. We want to know what’s going on. You don’t dismiss it because sales aren’t forthcoming.

Individual social media platforms may collapse and change, but social media itself isn’t going away. And if you run a business, or you’re in the communications field in any way shape or form, you need to be spending time in social media – somewhere, somehow – because you’re also interested in interacting with others.

Now let’s look at the recent Qantas issue.

As the media has raked over the coals of the story of Qantas locking out its employees and grounding all flights (a controversial tactic in a long running industrial dispute), one of the aspects that’s been investigated has been (surprise surprise) Qantas’s use of social media during this time.

If you’re interested in an overview and analysis, read Qantas will learn from its social customers by Servant of Chaos, Qantas rapped for bad social media service  and Qantas dispute and social media.

I’m not going to rake over the coals, but just make this point:  the Qantas industrial dispute demonstrates again that SOCIAL MEDIA IS ITS OWN BEAST.

Right now, Qantas’s Twitter and Facebook accounts are: sending messages to customers, attempting to defend the brand, acting as a news source, enabling and displaying customer complaints, gathering research into community reaction (and of course I put this politely), enabling that community to talk to each other and ‘maintain the rage’ and engage in political debate and more – all while the news media and general public are able to analyse every post and tweet Qantas puts up.

Social. Media. Is. Its. Own. Beast.

Prakky roadshow

Once upon a time I hated public speaking. I’d rather have dental work done. Now I find it’s a regular part of my job and I’m enjoying it.

In the future, you might catch me at these engagements below including four next week:

  • National PR Directions conference about PR, social media and ethics. Sydney Hilton 25 October
  • Business Services Industry Skills Board breakfast, National Wine Centre Adelaide 27 October
  • Local Government Association (SA) AGM, Adelaide Convention Centre 27 October
  • MC for #Socadl event (social media in Adelaide) 27 October
  • Major retail organisation (yes, it shall remain anonymous) management meeting 28 October
  • SA Tourism Industry Council annual conference, 4 November
  • Australian Institute of Marketing (AIM) Adelaide, 24 November
  • Whyalla business chicks, 25 November
  • State Volunteers Congress, National Wine Centre, 5 December
  • Major professional industry association (another non),  21 March 2012

If you’d like to get in touch with me about presenting at a conference, management meeting, lecture or similar, drop me a line in comments or email michelle@hughespr.com.au

Who will remember the children?

There’s been a thought nagging me for some time.

It relates to a forgotten audience in the Facebook privacy debate.

When the community talks about Facebook, popular themes are often 1) our own privacy settings 2) how teenagers use Facebook and its impact 3) cyberbullying and its nasty side effects, etc.

No more photos, please!
No more photos, please!

Facebook defenders point out that how we use the social network is up to us, as individuals. We choose what to share. We can adjust our privacy settings. We can choose not to use Facebook at all. We should learn how to be civil online. Teens and others have reference to resources such as the Facebook Safety Centre and government resources like Cybersmart.

But there are some people who are being talked about on Facebook (and Twitter, and blogs, and FlickR and more) who may not have given even permission.

IT’S OUR CHILDREN, PEOPLE!

How many of you (or your friends) share their children’s photos on Facebook? I know I share photos and funny stories and milestones relating to my two sons regularly. Should I?

Will my sons appreciate the photos of themselves wearing watermelon helmets, emerging freezing from the swimming pool, blowing out birthday candles and looking like baboons, that they played Warhammer once upon a time? I don’t know that I would …

We talk about creating a digital footprint and personal brands more often these days. This next generation (call them Gen Z, Millenials, the Connected Generation or whatever) are having a digital footprint established for them by proud and tech savvy parents. Is this fair to them? Should they be able to start with a clean slate – like we did?

Our parents didn’t broadcast our learning milestones to the world. We don’t have our baby photos catalogued on the ‘net (unless you have loaded them yourself; stay tuned to what happens with Facebook Timeline).

This is the first generation to be facing this potentially embarrassing phenomenon. Granted, they may face it together, placing them on an even playing field, but will their childhood footprint cause them future angst and even problems if for example they need to ‘reinvent’ themselves?

We’re educated about the safety aspects of the online world. I don’t check into my children’s school on Foursquare for example and I don’t use their names on Twitter. But aside from identification issues, have you come across any educational material that prompts you to consider your child’s future online profile and the emotional impacts?

It’s a cliché to save an embarrassing photographs for your child’s 21st birthday party.

Is that redundant now? Have they all been published?

The Age of Measurement

Has there ever been an age where we’ve been so publicly measured?

As social media becomes embedded in our lives, there’s a growing number of tools available to measure our online performance, to assign us a grade, a rating or a name.

Seriously. It’s getting beyond a joke.

As a social media professional, I want and need analytics as much as the next social media consultant.

But the burgeoning number of tools that will show me how I’m tracking personally online – and which will serve me up some handy recommendations – is frankly making my head spin.

On any given morning, I can check how my profiles are faring online using Crowdbooster, TwentyFeet, Klout, PeerIndex, TwitterCounter and more recently SproutSocial. I can check out my WordPress site stats, Facebook Page Insights, YouTube channel views, GooglePlus pluses, Instagram likes, bitly link results and Google Analytics.

That’s just the tip of the iceberg.

As I said, I need to measure my results and those of my clients. It’s part of my job and I’m damn appreciative of the measurement tools at hand, particularly when they’re free.

How does your online performance stack up?
How does your online performance stack up?

But that shouldn’t stop us all from considering when ‘enough is enough’ and if there is in fact an insidious side to this that has an impact on us as human beings.

When I take a break from Twitter for example – when I’m more quiet than usual because I’m on a freaking holiday (something social media consultants should never do, right?) – I know there’s  a good chance my Klout score will dip, as will my PeerIndex listings. I may even lose a few Twitter followers. I’m punished for being offline.

Once upon a time I was addicted to Guitar Hero on Wii. Periodically, it would display a message gently suggesting it was time for me to take a break. There was a timer built in, to assess how long I’d been relentlessly playing, and I assume for occupational health and safety reasons, the Wii would kindly remind me of the outside world.

But social media dashboards don’t do that.

They’re invested in an endless spiral of pushing you to tweet, post and blog more and more and more.  Measurement dashboards like Crowdbooster and Klout provide advice about how to drive your score higher. And you can bet this revolves around posting more often, and posting content that’s “more engaging”.

Of course, we’ll all react differently when using these dashboards. Some of us will take it with a pinch of salt, other more sensitive souls will be saddened when they lose followers or nobody reads their blog. I have seen people sharing tweets of alarm when their Klout falls. But if we’re mature enough – and social savvy – we’ll recognise that our digital scores rise and fall according to our activity and think nothing of it.

I just hope that impressionable people, and perhaps especially younger people, don’t begin using these dashboards and think that these tools are a measure of their self worth …

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