'Hanging out of a tenement window' and 'an airbrushed version of reality' were two tongue-in-cheek descriptions of social channels given by Gary Ennis at yesterday's CCA Social Media Masterclass in Glasgow. Great for gossip and also a means for people to showcase an altered ego, rather than the more probable hum drum of everyday life.
It's up there with mobile in terms of its role as a business disrupter; shining a bright light into hitherto dusty corners of customer service operations in every sector.
Representatives from leading brands in the CCA network gathered at Strathclyde University yesterday to hear the latest insights as to how social is 'business as usual' accounting for around 12% of total traffic into customer service centres on average.
And yet whilst all organisations report that they actively monitor their brands, few could claim to have a fully joined up offering with sight of the various ways customers try to interact with them.
Interestingly the same traditional challenges remain in this new world, coated with a new urgency due to pace and of course its vast viral multiplier impact.
The tension between marketing and customer service can have far greater impact in a social media context where over promising can have a much bigger impact than in the traditional advertising arena.
Tesco presented the results of their mature social media offering which now boasts a 150 strong team. Their experience is that there are now much stronger bonds between marketing and service ultimately leading to better customer experience and less internal strife. This sentiment was echoed by mobile operator Three and others in the group.
Organisations have battled with the challenge of keeping large global workforces up to speed (and motivated) with rapidly changing company developments. RBS described how their employee Facebook has radically altered the way the organisation communicates, providing glowing testimonials from employees who felt more engaged and part of things since its launch.
No more need for needless meetings and multiple reiteration of cascading messages, hierarchy roundly challenged, and critically the voice of employee given greater consideration.
The third traditional bugbear has been how to effectively understand and respond to the voice of customer; there's no doubt that tweets get far more attention than call recordings by decision makers. If social represents a true reflection of what is happening organisation wide then this will be hugely positive in terms of getting things changed. If however, disproportionate voices are cajoled then the organisation lurches towards an unhealthy and unfair path risking the wrath of its core base.
The group were reminded of the FCA guidelines in this area calling for fairness. Probably the most important potential for companies is to find proactive opportunities which are exclusive to the social world. Here there are examples galore, with a strong health warning; you risk massive reputation loss if you haven't got your core service proposition consistently meeting expectations.
We heard examples from Oreo and its staggering success from an electricity outage at the Superbowl that went viral. Things that go viral are not always smart or clever and it’s easy to make unintentional mistakes. Susan Boyle’s hashtag when promoting her new album is a clear example of not fully thinking through the semantics.
Finally Cat Leaver from WeareAD warned delegates against getting fixated about existing platforms; these are constantly evolving far faster than we are used to dealing with in the world of telephony, email and chat. And of course large swathes of new users are unlikely to want to associate with the big business world culture, seeking new and relevant means of increasingly visual communication.
The biggest culture change is of course transparency, in a seemingly open world the more we try to hide things, the more appealing their outing becomes on social.
Spare a thought for the Queen this week whose indiscrete, and seemingly private view about Chinese diplomats found their way through traditional and then exaggerated on social channels. And of course PM David Cameron suffered a similar fate with his lack of awareness about the dreaded microphone.
Perhaps it's simply best to assume that's there's always a microphone when we construct communications, make sure it's what we intend to say, is helpful and authentic, and targeted at individuals who just happen to form something called a customer base.
CCA has a whole programme of events to capture the impact of this transition click here to find out more.