Clubhouse is all the rage – and the likely site of the next business crisis

Don’t get me wrong. I think Clubhouse, the audio chat app that is taking the world and Indonesia by storm is fantastic.

Here you have an app that makes interaction easy among people with same interests. And because its audio only it also creates a feeling of intimacy and ability to network during sessions.

Another added benefit is that since it is organized usually as an informal and chilled-out chat, there is little preparation needed.

The result: Every Indonesian what fancies themselves as connected has signed onto the service and many have already organized Tchaikovsky rooms from a few people to a few hundred. Either that or they are desperately waiting for an invite to get onto Clubhouse.

The ease and informality of these chat rooms are Chatroom’s great strengths. But they also harbor its great danger – the likelihood of uncontrolled blabbering, under the mistaken notion that its an informal chat and there are little consequences to speaking your mind.

Users of Clubhouse or any social media application should always remember that whatever you do or say there can be recorded or copied and shared to a wider audience. There is little control once words are written, images are shared or words are uttered and you can never be sure who will be listening in, first hand or second hand.

Today I saw a chat room discussion on PR matters in which a spokesperson for a company that was recently in a crisis-like situation agreeing to talk about their recent experience.

Sharing is great but when your company has just undergone a reputation all crisis and nerves are still tender, one wrong word or phrase can plunge it back into the couldron.

I am sure that there will be a crisis or two arising from Clubhouse chats.

This is not to say that people should avoid something new like Clubhouse . They should try it and use it by all means but they should never underestimate how whatever happens on social media can often be taken out of context.

No matter how new or sexy the technology, skill, deliberation and awareness are still needed.

Eiger IV: Wow, what a turnaround – in a good way

CEOs are like the rest of us. They make mistakes.

But because of their elevated position and their egos many times its easier for them to bluster and get defensive over these mistakes. And it takes a really big man to admit theirs and ask for an apology.

After the Eiger letter berating Youtubers reviewing its products went viral, the brand came under a groundswell of criticism.

The CEO , Ronny Lukito, then issued a non-apology, failing to take responsibility for the incident, to be genuinely contrite and to explain why something like that would not happen again.

His critics weren’t assuaged and many were further inflamed. Unspun wrote about that and said that he failed to adhere to the 3Rs of crisis communications, which are Regret, Reason and Remedy and that he should seek professional help in his communications.

He must have, as today he issued a YouTube video and a statement apologizing to the affected YouTubers and taking full responsibility for the incident.

He explained that it was his idea to issue the offending letter. His PR, Marketing and legal teams tried to talk him out of it but because of arrogance he overruled them.

He has since realized his mistake and this incident has been a humbling and educational lesson for him. He has since appointed professionals to help him come up with better policies and improve their communications.

The result: if the comments on his YouTube posting are any indication, Netizens have forgiven him and appreciated his honesty and humility.

This is a good lesson for other CEOs on what to do during a crisis for their brand. I’m sure that Eiger will go from strength to strength from here if Mr Lukito maintains such an growth mindset.

I always loved their products. Now I love them more.

First Media: Snark can’t buy them love

First Media’s blundering tweet last night is a lesson why corporations and brands should be concerned about their social capital.

At about 10pm First Media social media admin thought they’d be clever and ride on the Eiger letter fiasco that earned the ire of Indonesian netizens.

Through its twitter account @FirstMediaCares they posted a letter similar in format to one sent out by Eiger competitor Arei, which was used to shade Eiger’s obtuse letter because its invitation for consumers to review its products was very laid back and inclusive.

Obviously, the First Media admin thought they were being smart and witty. Afterall, many companies had done the same and they raised a chuckle and approving plaudits from Netizens.

The posting attracted the attention of Uber influencer Ernest Prakarsa who simply commented: “Aduh. First Media. Aduh.”

He followed this with another tweet saying “Heads gonna roll” and attached the image of the First Media letter.

What followed was a long chain of replies and comments from other Netizens and disgruntled First media customers spewing invective with the common refrain: get the bloody service right before trying something snarky

PANIC!

The First Media admin began their first aid by deleting the posting with the image of the letter, thinking that they could mitigate the barrage of criticism.

As always, on the internet once something is posted there is bound to be a Smart Alec out there who has downloaded or screen captured the image. You just can’t put the Jinn back into the bottle.

True enough, netizens began posting the taken down image and First Media became the laughing stock on Twitter.

This incident provides a good example why corporations without strong social capital are often attacked and criticized.

Social Capital is about a network of relationships built on shared values, trust, cooperation and reciprocity. In other words you have to take care of your stakeholders and win their trust instead of just taking their money and shafting them when it comes to after sales service.

Social Capital, if you observe from the many complaints and invective of dissatisfied and angry customers directed to First Media on social media, is something that the company obviously has a deficit of.

As such trust in the company is low and at any given opportunity the tendency of its users is to trash it. Even an innocuous attempt at humor like the letter last night backfires because the brand has such low social capital.

What can the brand do? It can start by listening to its customers and acting on their complaints for a start. The number of people who feel like they were banging their heads against a wall when trying to get First Media to restore their service is legendary.

I know that there are many disgruntled First Media customers out there. If any of you are disgruntled and think First Media is unresponsive or ineffective in servicing you, just leave a comment below for them to know how low their Social Capital is among their most important stakeholder – you the consumer.

Eiger III: the Legal Eagle’s wings are clipped, but has the root cause been addressed?

Note: I got the information about the sacking from an online news portal in Indonesia. Have been told that the twitter account of Hendra Lim is actually a fake.

So apologies all. Disregard this post but rather than me deleting it I think it best to clarify it here and leave the rest as is so that others might be able to know that it’s fake as well. Hendra Lim apparently still works at Eiger.

Eiger has sacked the legal manager whose insulting letters to YouTube reviews of its products has put them under an uncomfortable spotlight, (see here)

The sacking is confirmed by the Leggal manager himself in his own twitter account

Hendra, however, seems unable to stop shooting himself on the foot, lamenting in a twit that politics between businesses, artistes and YouTubers and virtually the whole world is conspiring to keep The People poor and heap blame on them.

He’s young and perhaps will recover from this but any prospective employer looking at his social media feeds (and we employers do check, or have people point it out) would do a triple take before taking a chance on him in the future.

Be that as it may, he is now out of Eiger’s hair. Does his departure, however, mean that Eiger’s problems are over?

It depends. If the management there has owned the problem then they’d be ok moving forward.

As I said in the last posting, if they had learned from this incident they’d recognize it is as much management’s as the legal manager’s failure that triggered this incident.

If they realize this then they’d take communications and reputation protection seriously and hire professional communicators to to a communications job.

If they haven’t then they will remain a crisis waiting to happen. Time will tell, WFH audiences await the next installment.

Eiger II: A lame apology and more trouble coming

Latest update on Eiger saga here

Yesterday the outdoor adventure gear brand Eiger got into a hot mess when its Leagal Eagle went a step too far and dissed off YouTubers reviewing their products. (See post here)

By late afternoon the Eiger CEO Ronny Lukito had had enough and decided to take matters into his own hands. He apologized for his Legal Eagle’s letter with his own letter.

All good apologizing but you have to wonder who is advising him on the PR front because the apology was not really an apology. When this happens it usually invites ongoing resentment and possible future attacks.

He started the latter with an apology to the community. He then admitted that the offending letter that had gone viral had indeed been sent by Eiger and they realize that this was a wrong and inappropriate action. So far so good.

Then he had to say that the original intent of the letter was to provide input to the reviewer so they can improve. Bang! Another shot in the foot. Although he tried to paper over the hole with “we realise that how we conveyed that was wrong”, he had stumbled.

This is what communicators classify as mixed messages. It’s when observations, inferences, feelings and wants are jumbled up.

Here it would have been fine if he said that whet they did was wrong, he as CEO takes responsibility for the act, he’s sorry for all the frustrations and angst caused. Instead he went on to explain their intent which still sounds patronizing, because its an outdoor gear maker telling a YouTuber how to improve shooting review videos.

Lukito also left out a vital element of apologies in crisis-like moments. He failed to say what action he’s taking to make sure that this does not happen again. Without stating this he is giving the impression that the company is not taking responsibility for the incident and not interested to learn from their mistakes. At worst, many would think that they will get back to business as usual once this kerfuffle is over.

All this leaves the company open to more criticism if the opportunity arises.

Lo and behold, the opportunity came this morning when some Netizens uncovered an incident where the legal department of Eiger asked the giant online e-commerce site to take down a reseller’s product posting of a Sritex face mask. And Tokopedia complied!

Now it looks like Eiger has not only shot itself on the foot but is also extending its foot fetish toTokopedia.

Like I said yesterday, I think Eiger makes great products. It has also been quite smart and savvy in its design and branding. It is now the victims of its own success but it is something that it can easily fix by seeking professional help.

It takes skill and experience to communicate well. To entrust it to a legal flunky is being careless with your hard worn reputation as it takes skill and experience to communicate well, with authenticity and ethically.

They should seek professional help in the short term while they look to hire an experienced communicator in-house expressly for reputation all management.

I

Plumbing the depths with Eiger

I love the Eiger outdoor brand. Their products are affordable and often of good quality. A sandal I bought has lasted me years and looks like it will continue for at least another year or two. Damn comfortable too.

But good as they are in making outdoor gear they apparently suck at customer relations. Here’s what happened:

On 28th January, competitor outdoor gear brand Arei’s issued a letter inviting Netizens to review its products.

Arei’s invite sounded very inclusive and cool. Reviewers could use any method, any camera, any theme or in any location they liked to do these reviews.

Eiger must have thought it could do the same but when netizens began reviewing their products and uploading them on YouTube – and the reviews weren’t flattering – Eiger’s Legal General Manager began to get antsy.

He started sending nasty letters to the reviewers. They began with a faux politesse of “Firstly, we thank you for uploading a review of our product on your YouTube channel…” then quickly drew out the stiletto.

Instead of explaining in a rationale manner whether the review was fair to Eiger, it instead criticized the video’s quality, specifically the angle it shoes to show their products in an unflattering manner.

The Eiger Legal Manager also was an audiophile. Complaining that the sound quality was bad to make it quite inaudible and lastly, he criticized the suitability of the location of the shoot.

With that, the manager hoped that the YouTuber would take down that posting and, a bitchy parting shot: “We hope you will become a better Youtuber in [shooting] review videos.”

That’s a shot in their own foot by any measure but that’s not all. When news of that came out on social media it, of course, went viral and Eiger became a trending topic.

Eiger’s troubles did not end there. It turns out that the manager had sent out at least identical letters to two other YouTubers.

That makes it at least three shots to two legs. How many shots the manager had fired nobody really knows.

Netizens have a habit of digging up interesting information about foot shooters and one of them dug up a poster of the manager giving a talk.

The topic: How to Implement Agile Human Capital in Transition and Shifting Era. Oh irony of ironies.

Makes you wonder the caliber of people invited to give talks these days. And what possessed Eiger to entrust its communications function to a legal person instead of a communications professional

Al manager

Trending Topics Exposed

I remember a colleague coming up to me with pride in his voice, saying that we managed to get our event last night on the Trending Topic of Twitter.

I applauded his enthusiasm but then asked him what did it mean for our company and the event?

He couldn’t really explain, apart from saying that theoretically a lot of people would be aware of our event, and therefore our company, because the hashtag made it to the Trending Topic.

I then asked him how does one get on Trending Topic on Twitter. He wasn’t sure but mumbled something about x number of retweets, y of them by users with huge followings.

This incident underscores the difficulty a rational mind would have when it comes to the question of how to measure for success on social media.

I come from an old school tradition that says that whenever a client pays us to help them communicate, whether using media relations or through paid, earned, shared or owned media, the communications must yield a result: it should either increase awareness of a brand or corporation, shift people’s attitude toward it or change people’s behaviour. All else is meaningless.

But because social media is so relatively new, many people do not understand that it is a tool, a channel like any others. Taking advantage of this misunderstanding, charlatans posing as messiahs of a new age have introduced all sorts of fancy terms and measurements so that they can make marketeers feel comfortable in hiring them.

So now in social media we have success measured in terms of reach, impressions and engagement. How these metrics will help a company or brand remain mysterious. Output is mistaken for outtakes and outcomes.

So its refreshing to see articles like this below that strip the mystique of Trending Topics as a measure of success. What do you think?

Trending’ on Social Media Is Worthless

By Brian Feldman  @bafeldman

In the wake of last week’s Parkland high-school shooting, right-wing conspiracy theorists are pushing the ludicrous story that the teenage survivors speaking out against gun violence are “crisis actors” — dupes hired to pretend to be victims of tragedy.

Earlier this morning, the top trending video on YouTube was one implying that David Hogg, one of the students pushing for legislative action on gun control, is an actor. What does it mean, exactly, for something to be “trending”?

YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter all make frequent use of the term, but none of them have a public or transparent definition — let alone a common one. When we sort through our feeds, “latest” has an obvious chronological sorting mechanism; even “popular” has a fairly clear and agreed-upon definition.

“Trending,” however, does not. It’s similar, but not the same as “popular”; generally speaking, it means “popular, in some relative, technically defined way.” That is, the “trending” sections of major platforms are, as of now, algorithmically determined, their contents selected by formulas developed internally at those companies and kept private.

Automated software determines what is trending, and it does so by examining the content according to a set collection of factors. YouTube, for instance, identifies trending videos by examining aspects like the view count, the rate of audience growth, and the age of the content.

A five-hour-old video is more likely to be trending than a five-year-old video; a video that goes from 100 views to 1 million is more likely to trend (yeah, it’s a verb now) than a video that goes from 250 million views to 251 million. Other factors might be considered as well.

A YouTube star with millions of subscribers and hundreds of uploads might be judged on a different acceleration rate than breaking-news footage uploaded by a guy with 19 subscribers.

Read more

The call to boycott Traveloka

I posted this in the Maverick blog today:

 

A snarky comment on the eagerness of the mob to boycott brands at every slight whiff of suspicion

 

Deliberate misunderstandings and righteous piety seems to be the order of the day in Indonesia’s poisoned and acrimonious political settingThe latest flap involves a call to boycott travel site Traveloka and uninstall their mobile app following a walkout by detractors when newly installed Governor Anies Baswedan delivered the keynote speech at Canisius College’s 90th anniversary on November 11.

The walkout was led by well-known composer Ananda Sukarlan who objected Anies’s politicking methods to win the gubernatorial election.  The walkout generated lots of publicity and social media chatter and somewhere out of this mess t someone somewhere gan to spread information that one of Traveloka’s founders, Derianto Kusuma, had walked out on Anies together with Sukarlan. Derianto had been slotted to receive a recognition award from the College.

From there things snowballed an soon a “movement” was formed where its supporters asked other netizens to uninstall the Traveloka app on their mobile phones as a sign of protest against Derianto’s action.

The fact of the matter, however, was that Derianto, as explained by Traveloka in a press release, was unable to attend the event as he was traveling overseas. So he couldn’t have joined the walkout.

read more

Guerrillas and Telkom’s Netflix Blockade

My latest posting at the Maverick blog on Telkom’s decision to block Netflix.

 

The block and tackle surrounding Netflix

Netflix’s entry into Indonesia caused a bit of excitement because it offered the consumer more choice. But shortly after its entry into this market it came across a seemingly huge obstacle. State telco PT Telkomunikasi Indonesia announced on January 27 that it was blocking access to Netflix from its platforms IndiHome, Wifi.id. The Great Blockade was ostensibly carried out, said Telkomsel on the headline of its press release, “to protect customers.”

 

What is it that Indonesian customers need to be protected from? Telkom, again through its press release, listed violence and pornographic content as well as to prevent it from business operations that are “against the public interest, morals or disorder.” Horror! Violence and pornography? Have the decision makers at Telkom watched Indonesian TV or other internet sites recently?

Somewhere along the line Telkom also said that it was upholding the law with the blockade and protecting the “sovereignty of Indonesia from foreign players.”

Very strange reasoning here but while one may be a bit down with a possible rise of moral policing, degradation of the powers of reasoning, and jingoism at any opportunity, we here in Indonesia should also rejoice by the fact that there is competition as well [Read More].

 

 

 

Cutting through the clutter about the Cut the Crab incident

One of the ever-present threats of companies in the Food and Beverage business is food poisoning. This is especially so when you deal in seafood that spoils easily.

Cut the Crab, a hip new restaurant chain with a great gimmick – eat the crabs served on the table without plates, forks or spoons – recently found out how difficult it is to deal with allegations of food poisoning, especially when these allegations are boosted by social media. The allegations, and their consequences especially when they are amplified by Twitter, provide an interesting study for students of crisis and issues management.

So what are the salient learning from this incident (which has been summed up meticulously in  Zeit Post – see below)?

  1. Hip restaurants attract hip, young diners who use social media extensively. If they have a complaint, whether justified or not, they will Twit first, think later. Companies that court such clients must have a response plan or a SOP to handle complaints, especially when the swarm starts to scale up these complaints.
  2. The chances of seafood spoiling at some point in time are very high, even when you take all the right precautions. So anyone dealing with seafood – and food generally – must prepare for the probability of complaints of stale, spoiled food or food poisoning. The restaurant should have a response plan not only to investigate the complaints and how to reach out to the victims – but also to demonstrate these actions to the media.
  3. The media, especially news portals with dedicated food writers such as detikfood and Okezonefood, will pick up whatever is hot on Twitter and run with it. Their coverage will in turn fuel a spate of Retweets and comments, in a Voracious Cycle around the issue. Controlling the situation means slowing the momentum of this cycle by engaging both the individual users and engaging the media proactively to demonstrate that you regret the incident, the reasons why it could have happened and what steps you are taking to remedy the situation – the Three Rs of crisis management.
  4. When under siege it is never a good idea to sound defensive or to point fingers. It only arouses people’s suspicions of you when you are already under intense scrutiny. Therefore saying that you’re a victim of sabotage by rivals is a definite no-no

The Cut the Crab incident is still on the boil (ok, pun intended) at this posting. Will the franchise emerge out of this unscathed, as continued crowds at the restaurant even after the Twitter-news portal brouhaha broke out, seem to indicate; or will their business take a hit? Let’s watch the incident unfold.

 

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Cut the Crab, Pelanggan Keracunan Makanan – Zeit Post

FEBRUARY 26, 2014 BERITA

Mungkin akan terasa asing bagi anda mendengar nama restoran Cut the Crab. Tapi jika anda orang yang up to date dengan berbagai macam restoran seru di Jakarta. Cut the Crab adalah salah satu restoran seafood yang fenomenal.

Cut the Crab, Makan Kepiting dengan Bebas

 

Tentunya anda tidak makan kepiting layaknya di restoran all you can eat. Bebas yang di maksud adalah anda bisa makan dengan tangan dan bergaya seperti di rumah. Penyajian nya juga unik, pesanan anda akan datang di dalam kantong plastik bening dan di tuang begitu saja di meja makan. Tentunya meja sudah di sterilkan terlebih dahulu sebelumnya!

Ilustrasi: Penyajian Cut the Crab yang di sajikan di meja makan

Wow seru sekali bukan? Tentunya dengan penyajian yang unik ini, banyak orang yang penasaran dan kembali lagi untuk pengalaman lain menyantap makanan seafood. Restoran ini mengusung kepiting sebagai salah satu menu spesialisasi. Restoran ini juga ramai dan selalu penuh pengunjung pada akhir pekan.

Baru kali ini terjadi pemberitaan yang mencuat di media semenjak di bukanya restoran ini pada Mei 2013. (Belum di ketahui apakah ini restoran di CTC Cikajang atau cabang lain).

Masalahnya ..

Pelanggan yang Keracunan Makanan

Tentu tidak ada restoran yang ingin mencelakakan pelanggan, apalagi menyediakan sajian yang tidak segar dan berpontensi mengandung racun.

Read more

The Buzz about Buzzers in Indonesia

So here we have it, the widespread use of buzzers in Indonesia to push the products or brands of companies.

The questions marketers need to ask before they embark on their next foray with buzzers are these:

  1. What competitive advantage is there for their brand when their competitors are all also doing the same – paying buzzers to endorse or “create buzz” around a product or event?
  2. Is there any credibility in it at all given that everyone using social media knows that buzzers are guns for hire and are a promiscuous lot? If there isn’t, what’s the point of using the buzzers?
  3. Are brands squandering their resources by using buzzers, since it is transplanting the old world practice of using Key Opinion Leaders to influence others? That idea is grounded in Edward Bernays’s theory of Influencing the Influencers that is at least 85 years old. A lot has happened since then, specifically the social media that renders most things transparent and demands authenticity and relevance from brands
  4. Shouldn’t brands focus more on how they can use social media to create a great customer experience for their audiences instead?

 

In Indonesia, buzzers not heard but tweet for money – RTRS
23-Aug-2013 04:00
By Andjarsari Paramaditha
JAKARTA, Aug 23 (Reuters) – In Indonesia’s capital Jakarta, a buzzer is not an alarm or a bell, but someone with a Twitter account and more than 2,000 followers who is paid to tweet.
Jakarta is the world’s tweet capital and advertisers eager to reach the under-30 crowd are paying popular Twitter users to spread their word through social media, starting at about $21 per tweet.
While celebrity endorsements via Twitter are common worldwide, Indonesia is unusual because advertisers are paying the Average Joes too.
These Twitter “buzzers” send short messages promoting brands or products to their followers, usually during rush hour, 7 to 10 a.m. and 4 to 8 p.m., when Jakarta’s notorious traffic jams create a captive audience with time to scan their mobile phones.
Jakarta has more Twitter users than any other city In the world, according to Semiocast, a social media market researcher, and Indonesia is home to the world’s fourth-largest population, with half the people under 30. All ingredients for a social media marketer’s dream.
“Indonesians love to chat. We love to share. We are community driven as a culture. For us it’s very easy to adopt social media because it is a channel through which we can express our opinions,” said Nanda Ivens, chief operating officer at XM Gravity Indonesia, a digital marketing unit of London-listed advertising giant WPP Group WPP.L.
For advertisers, using Twitter buzzers is a way to personalise the pitch, connecting someone who may have a special interest in a product with like-minded potential customers. A local photography buff, for example, would be a good target for a camera company.
An effective social media campaign will generate real conversations and genuine endorsements, said Thomas Crampton, Hong Kong-based social media director at advertising firm Ogilvy. But one issue with paid buzzers is that they may be seen as endorsing something only for the money.
“It’s not going to be transparent to the people reading the Twitter feed whether they’re being paid, and that’s not very honest,” said Crampton.
“The followers will see that this guy is for sale. It’s really like talking to a friend. If your friend is being paid to tell you something then a) you wouldn’t consider that person your friend and b) you’re not going to believe them.”

MEASURING SUCCESS
PT Nestle Indonesia, a unit of global food company Nestle SA NESN.VX, counts teenage pop singer Raisa (@raisa6690) and heartthrob actor Nicholas Saputra (@nicsap) among its brand ambassadors. They recently tweeted their experiences at a large Sumatra coffee plantation in a campaign supported by hired buzzers who were retweeting the celebrities’ comments and other sponsored messages from the company.
The challenge is measuring success.
“We do have quantitative measurement, which is the number of followers, the number of likes and the number of clicks,” said Patrick Stillhart, head of the coffee business at PT Nestle Indonesia. “But how do we relate that to brands and sales? There’s left a question mark.”
Stillhart said the company uses social media for more than a dozen brands and about 15 percent of its advertising spending goes to digital media. Apart from Nestle, competitor Unilever Indonesia UNVR.JK also followed similar path for their products.
Sometimes things go wrong.
Prabowo (@bowdat), 33, who quit his day job two years ago to scout for buzzers, recalled one cautionary tale about tweets meant to promote an Android product 005930.KS that were sent through a rival BlackBerry BB.TO or iPhone AAPL.O device. Followers could see the gaffe because tweets often include an automatic tag indicating how the message was posted.
Stand-up comedian Ernest Prakasa (@ernestprakasa) fell afoul of the “twitterverse” last year while promoting the Mini Cooper, a popular car made by BMW Group BMWG.DE
“There was a viral video. The idea was, I had to pretend to be locked in a container for several hours and then I escaped with the car. I was asked to act as if I was captured,” said the 30-year-old, who charges advertisers 7 million rupiah ($670) for 10 tweets.
Some of his friends didn’t realise it was an act, and began retweeting he had been kidnapped. They were furious when told it was an advertising gimmick.
“I was cursed at, accused of only trying to create a sensation. I had around 15,000 followers so I didn’t think it could become big. But I also learned that whenever this sort of fiasco happens, stay silent. It won’t last more than two days. Something new will come along and people will forget anyway.” ($1 = 10,490 Indonesian rupiah)

(Additional reporting by Jeremy Wagstaff, Editing by Jonathan Thatcher and Raju Gopalakhrisnan) ((andjarsari.p@thomsonreuters.com)(+62 21 3199 7170)(Reuters Messaging: andjarsari.p.thomsonreuters.com@thomsonreuters.net))

What is the end game for all social media investments?

Unspun was conducting a social media workshop recently when the topic settled on KPIs – Key Performance Indicators. The answer was simple but I could tell it was unsatisfying to the audience: it depends.

The audience wanted definite answers to tell them when they were getting their money’s worth if they poured money and resources into using social media to connect with their audiences. It would have been easy to pull one of the metrics suggested by off-the-shelf social media monitoring systems and tell them that that was it; or, try to convince them that hashtags and followers/fans are an indication; or even the by-now-ubiquitious “engagement” metrics mainly of comments to a Facebook posting.

The problem, however, was that we had decided to embark on the road less taken by many communications consultants: to tell the truth even when it can be inconvenient.

And the truth is simple. If you subject an organization or brand’s social media efforts to the question: “What is the end game of getting into social media?” the long-term answer must be “to build belief in the organization/brand.”

This is because on the Net, the audience has an overabundance of choice. The audience is also skeptical and  yet prone to what behavioral and cognitive scientists call System 1 Thinking. In less than a blink of an eye, if you are less than “trustworthy” you would have lost them, perhaps forever.

What this means for organizations and brands, more than ever, is for them to develop a distinct point of view — and, if you are old-fashioned, you could call it character — and use this as a compass to navigate themselves through the virtual sea.

Will this result in the organizations and brands increasing their sales? Not necessary. And this is the scary part for most business entities – to contemplate investing in social media that may not yield immediate bottom line results.

Yet what choice is there in a world dominated by the the Net where social media levels the playing field like never before and overwhelms its denizens with so much choice they have difficulty picking one from the other. Should trust be the new metric for social media?