My Musings

October 6, 2010
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Social Media Club Melbourne – October 2010

SMCMelb - Where even the panel is too busy tweeting to pay attention

This month we had the telco kids in, with the Head of Online Communications and Social Media for Telstra, Kristen Boschma (@Kristen_Boschma) and Stephen Ronchi (@SteveatSensis), Strategic Communications Manager Sensis discussing “The Social Challenge: Moving Big Business into Social Media”.

Telstra and Sensis (formally Telecom and Yellow Pages) are excellent examples of old world organisations being pulled kicking and screaming into the new age, both now exploring the peril and opportunities of engaging with your customers in the online space.

They also provide some keen insights into two organisations going through a period of operational and cultural change; Telstra is stripping jobs while maintaining they are moving towards a ‘customer-centric’ focus, while Sensis is seeing its core business model of producing phone books rapidly slipping away to the Googles and Facebooks of the online world.

Kristen from Telstra started the discussion around how to craft a social media policy, suggesting the key was to keep it simple, be authentic, and enable your people. This was in stark contrast to a recent banking SM policy I reviewed, which constituted a 30 slide PowerPoint deck, explaining what a ‘Facebook’ was, and how to keep twitter messages under 140 characters.

She went on to mention that Telstra’ Social Media Policy had been the ‘basis of inspiration “for a number of policies for similar big business”, which she considered a testament to its simplicity and strength.

Telstra’s policy touches on “three r’s” – “Representation”, “Responsibility” & “Respect”. At its core it suggests:

  1. If engaging in the social space, let people know that you work for us.
  2. Be responsible, understanding the rules around what is and isn’t OK to post online. Complete Telstra training before you go out there.
  3. Be respectful. Don’t go slagging off competitors. Please don’t call our customer stupid.

Kristen also mentioned that key to embedding this was delivering training on Social Media to its 40,000 staff. She didn’t expand on the level of effort required to make this happen, but you can imagine it wasn’t an easy task.

Next both Telstra and Sensis discussed using the social space to get bloggers to do the work for you.

Sensis famously ran their Hidden Pizza campaign earlier in the year, which aimed at increasing awareness of the Yellow Pages service by getting people to find a free temporary pizza joint set up out of a warehouse in Fitzroy. Sensis used the tag line of “just look it up the way you would any other business” to drive customers towards their site, however it’s a bit difficult to say that this achieved the desired result, as suddenly everyone was googling hidden pizza and retweeting the address.

Telstra discussed forgoing the traditional tech media route by using the twitterati to review a new HTC phone. They created an online competition for 25 bloggers to suggest why they would be a good candidate to review, and then sent free units to play with, review and keep. The basis of this strategy is building buzz through non-traditional channels, and doing it pretty much free of charge. The only issue I can see here is if you are giving cutting edge people outdated technology, then you better prepare to see a lot of negative feedback!

The audience asked a question on which businesses are doing impressive things in the social media landscape. Both commentators suggested Optus which I thought was a pretty honest approach to give your competitor a plug.

From personal experience, Optus absolutely nailed the leveraging social media for the iPhone 4 release. They built buzz, got people excited, were there to provide guidance and assistance, and created an awesome self-service system to easily upgrade your existing phone. I’ve also had a lot of success dealing with the team there to get a few of my service issues resolved in other instances. Definitely on organisation to watch.

The panel did highlight the issues around being consistent across all your servicing channels. It’s no good being great on twitter if you can get the call centre right.

Finally, there was a bit of discussion around what was next for both organisations. Briefly, it appears that Telstra is all about interacting with their customers through these non-traditional channels, while Sensis seems to be content to watch and wait at this stage.

My takeaway from this was Telstra seem to “get it”, which I would suggest is a testament to Kristen’s fantastic leadership. Her passion and understanding of the potential for social media as a channel is refreshing. Sensis I’d be a bit more worried for. Over there it feels like a case of “we need to be doing something, can someone ask the marketing team what we need to do”. Hopefully they can move past this and get some fresh blood in who, like Kristen, feel empowered to make some tough decisions to move the channel forward (CV is here Sensis!)


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