After seeing 700,000 customers desert it due to network failures and being the subject of a popular #vodafail social media campaign Vodafone Australia certainly didn’t need an employee-induced social media crisis. When Arthur Kotsopoulos (@GrathiusXR) tweeted disparaging remarks from the floor of a Vodafone shop which ridiculed customers and vendors Vodafone had yet another PR mess to clean up. Kotsopoulos was suspended, and an “investigation” started.
To top it off I’m serving mentally retarded people who buy phones and have no clue how to use them. Asking me to message people for them..
— Arthur Kotsopoulos (@GrathiusXR) July 31, 2012
What could have been better done to minimise the risk of this type of event in terms of social governance? I don’t want to add to the social media knee-jerk, however it is important to understand a little about Arthur Kotsopoulos because that adds value to the discussion of governance. He’s certainly hoping that this event will blow-over, and life get back to normal, and he seems quite logical and able to promote his own view to the traditional media in asking for interviews to tell “his side of the story”.
He offers a rational answer as to why he described himself as a “social media expert” – because Vodafone apparently described him as that in an email about his role as a “TNT Ambassador” (later apparently revoked).
What’s the point of all that?
It tells you that Kotsopoulos appears to be a reasonably coherent person, and this lapse of judgement on his part might equally befall any other employee in the absence of a proper system of social governance. (Conversely, as one commentator pointed out, a bit of social media research shows that Kostopoulos is actually a high-risk candidate to be a Vodafone Ambassador.)
The flurry of articles already posted about this, and how to manage it, have all focused on having an effective social media policy, and training. While they are important, but not the whole story of social governance and risk. The key is how governance fits within the overall social strategy, and how that links with business strategy.
Social Business Framework
Phase 4 of our 8 Phase Social Business Framework is “Protect”, which follows Assess, Strategies and Create.
The Protect Phase sets up the basis for governance, which is capped off by Phase 8 which is Monitoring.
The points we cover in Phase 4 Protect include a range of social governance steps on the journey to social business:
Social media policy and guidelines in place and consistent
Regulatory compliance considered
Data collection, retention and archiving determined
Employee protections in place, including the social media policy and training
Company protections in place, including legal
Social architecture assessed in context of risk and monitoring
Crisis management plan developed and integrated
Risk assessment and risk management in place – and practice is conducted
Executive and Board reporting in place – critical items in relation to business strategy and risk
So from that list of points we can see that the social media policy per se is only one part of an overall set of “protection” activities. We’re familiar with many excellent guidelines on social media policies, and when it comes to social media employee training companies like Dell lead the way. Executive and Board reporting relates to oversight, audit and risk management. For Protect to be effective it requires active social media monitoring to be in place, and that’s covered in our Phase 8.
So we know all the pieces, and there are many good examples.
The missing link – the coherent whole
What’s usually missing is how all this hangs together as a coherent whole and aligned with business strategy and business outcomes. It’s by taking a strategic approach that risk is minimised, because it’s far more likely that all the pieces will re-enforce and support each other.
Take social architecture for example. A structured and strategic approach takes into account the need for a coherent and effective social architecture – in our case this is an output of Phase 2 Strategy. If that is not done then it is difficult to properly undertake the other phases of our approach to developing a social business. For example it is not possible to do Phase 4 Protect or Phase 8 Monitor properly unless you know the complete and accurate social architecture. The risk assessment and risk management aspects of our Phase 4 would highlight this exposure – where the social architecture was missing or inadequate.
But not before more than 280 employees had taken it on their own back to set up Facebook accounts and Twitter profiles. The result was a huge brand mess that saw hundreds of employees talking to an audience of around 2 million people, with almost no management or marketing involvement or oversight. Microsoft spent more than a year closing these accounts and transitioning their fans and followers to official company profiles.
As you can also imagine, having an ill-defined social architecture makes the use of social during a PR or other crisis far less efficient and effective as we’ve seen recently in the Brumbys PR problems. In terms of risk management you are already batting against yourself unless you get the social architecture right. The type of “brand mess” referred to by Pring is something we see very often in clients, and we see it emerging around us everyday as we observe organisations continuing to approach social media as a brand or marketing exercise, and not as an integral consideration in their business strategy.
Where was the point of failure for Vodafone?
The simple answer is that we don’t know. But perhaps a clue lies in the question. Vodafone no doubt has invested considerable resources into countering the #vodafail campaign and also in the PR aspects of managing their customer defection and network problems over the last 18 months. They no doubt have a well-exercised social media policy. But perhaps all that investment and those processes are point solutions?
Perhaps they had no time, in the face of events, to properly work through a coherent methodology which would have built the most effective social strategy and risk management processes? That’s quite likely.
So in that case where Vodafone failed the social media governance test was not in not having a social media policy but in not developing governance as part of an strategic, holistic approach to social business and business strategy. And a key point to emphasis is that social governance is far more than just a social media policy and social media training.
Do you have an Arthur Kotsopoulos lurking in your organisation and about to spring a leak in your social governance practices?