May 25, 2018

Of Management, Media & Minds (part two)

The story so far……

Back in the balmy days of autumn, GSM Careers hosted a meeting of college academics and key figures from both the public and private sector. They assembled to enjoy “Tea Cake & Conversation”.  The conversation focused on the impact that Social Media has had and continues to have on all our lives. In my initial blog I focused on the part of the discussion which considered the rise and rise of social media marketing campaigns.

Now after a period of reflection the final part of my blog looks at best social media practice, as well as a couple of horror PR stories. I also check out the emergence of social businesses models and their impact on future careers.

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Corporate Social Responsibility

Since that meeting in October my own attention has been drawn to the types of social media engagement accessible to companies.  By definition social media is all about sharing, it therefore follows that at one level it can be as seen as an extension of current Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) policy.

Aligning your social values to both your existing and prospective clients is not new, but using social media to support it in ways that are both creative and captivating is.  For a few examples just pick at random some of the “pulse” blogs on LinkedIn and watch the endless list of “corporate click bait”.

On Twitter Innocent Drinks adopt a rather different approach with a stream of amusing comments, offers and gentle quips that bring a smile to the reader and encourage further sharing via the re-tweet button.  More traditional companies such as Barclays Bank combine elements of their CSR programme with some powerful careers/employability messages.  Their current set of Life Skills TV adverts are a good example of this.

But Innocent Drinks and Barclays have gone one step further and by doing so have made the Life Skills message even more powerful. This clip has combined two company reputations, two social media platforms (promoted on Twitter delivered on YouTube) with one powerful employability skills/careers campaign piece.  Not only very integrated but very clever indeed!

Business Models

This type of cooperation and joined up messaging is probably some of the current best practice in social media. Unfortunately you do not have to look very hard to find social media news stories that are not as positive.

The past couple of years have seen the meteoric rise of so called “social sharing companies”. One of the best known examples of these is the ride sharing cab service Uber, which was valued at $18 billion dollars by the NY Times in June 2014. However, recently Uber has found the “ride” rather bumpy and in November it endured what many observers were called a PR meltdown.

It began with a senior executive allegedly threatening to investigate a journalist’s private life by using personalised journey tracking data. This data is obtained by the company each time a customer uses the service. This was apparently in retaliation for a critical story they had written about the Uber business model. The alleged abuse of customer data in this manner, escalated into a national news story.  In response Uber were forced to make a public apology, and hire a nationally known lawyer to lead a review of their company privacy policies.

If this was not bad enough things were about to get much worse…….It was revealed during the  Sydney Lindt Chocolate café siege that Uber prices had doubled as the crisis unfolded in the affected Central Business District (CBD).  The company were widely condemned (ironically via social media) for using the crisis as an excuse to hike prices. They responded by arguing that their price surge algorithm was automatically invoked, and was actually a normal business response to encourage more drivers to come “online” to meet demand.

Not everyone was convinced by this explanation, and later the company were forced to promise refunds to those who had paid higher fares as a result of the criticism.

Now it might be that these incidents are indications of “growing pains” from a company that (astonishingly) has only been in existence since March 2009. On the other hand these incidents may be further evidence of the moral disruption that such business models bring. These are business models that can send out waves to rivals, jobseekers and employees alike.

Crowdsourcing – The career path of the future?

There seems little doubt that the metaphor of “climbing a career ladder” sometimes with just one employer is now consigned to the dustbin of career development theory. Those who seek to be successful today must be mobile, tech savvy and prepared to move often and without hesitation.  Individuals must fully conversant with how social media can support their career aspirations. This means more than just having a strong LinkedIn profile, the model of crowdsourcing employment pioneered by Uber, allows drivers come “online” at times which suit them and at rates of pay which are acceptable to them.  This is classic market disruption fuelled by the technology of social media. New entrants are encouraged to markets where traditional brands or modes of operating have previously prevailed. Companies such as Uber and AirBnb have the potential to avoid many of the fixed expenses and regulations that rivals face.  For example; no employee pensions, fewer buildings, and reduced marketing branding expense.

This is a world where the emerging technologies of Big Data, social media and predictive analytics all combine. The result can be the potential for vast profits. Consider this; Uber take a straightforward 20% commission on all fares, which considering the size of market they are entering gives them potential for some huge revenues and profit. Rivals are quick to cry “foul” and in many countries Uber have experienced a backlash from incumbent taxi and black cab organisations.

From the perspective of an employee things are less clear. The Uber example does not necessarily mean lower salaries. It is estimated that the average annual salary of an Uber driver in New York is $90,000 compared to $30000 for a yellow cab driver. On the other hand job security is virtually non-existent and all pension and healthcare costs are transferred to the individual. Do we really want a job market where large parts of the workforce are effectively on a zero hours contract or self-employed?

Where next for Social Media?

As it is the start of a new year I’m afraid I can’t resist the temptation to finish this blog with a few of my own thoughts on what the future might hold for social media in the next 12 months. So here goes……The future exit here!

  1. It is almost inevitable that that social media marketing will evolve to become social media e-commerce. In 2014 Twitter launched a “buy now” button option in their US release. I would not be surprised to see this become part of the UK release soon.
  2. Many companies have scrambled on to the social media bandwagon, but we have yet to see this evolve into specific industry social media platforms. Maybe 2015 is the year for this to happen.
  3. Finally it will be increasingly difficult to escape from social media spam, in fact we may find ourselves subjected to it at a level which previously had only been the stuff of our nightmares.

So love it or loath it one thing is for certain social media is no passing fad, it is very definitely here to stay.  And that means more and more of us will find it very difficult indeed not to succumb to its addictive lure.

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