Happy? None Of Your Business!

This ISN’T a political blog. It really isn’t – I have to say that straight off before you read further.

OK? Good.

I am a dyed in the wool direct marketer, taught to measure everything, a firm believer in “what gets’ measured, gets improved”. This is so true in the world of social media activity and if anybody tells you that you cannot measure ROI of social media activity, punch them on the nose, or at the very least, show them the door.

Social media activity can indeed be measured in terms of ROI, but the ‘I’ really needs to stand for involvement, rather than ‘investment’.

But I heard the other week that the UK Government is to spend £2m on measuring the nations ‘happiness’.

Apart from this being a dreadful waste of money at a time when cuts are being made into every area of public spending, I have to ask, just what business is it of a government, how happy I am?

It’s none of their ******* business!

I’m sorry, but this seems like the tentacles of government spreading further and further into our private lives.

Now I ‘m a huge fan of Kevin Roberts, the charismatic CEO of Saatchi & Saatchi Worldwide and his blog post just reached my inbox, in which he supports this move. So I find myself at complete odds with Kevin for the first time.

I sense my libertarian instincts suddenly being roused by this announcement. I’m sure I won’t be directly affected by it, and doubt I’d miss the effect on my taxes of the spending, but the principle that a government wants to find out how happy I am is ridiculous at best, sinister at worst.

For the record, if government got out of the way, removed red tape, repealed the overwhelming health and safety legislation, cut corporation taxes and just let people get on with their lives, then happiness would spread organically –  As the bumper sticker says “Work Hard – Be Happy!”

But I don’t want to annoy anyone, let alone a small ‘l’ liberal like me.

Am I out of sync?

The Future is Here!

Check out this video from Accenture. It shows thoughts of experts in field of cloud computing – their explanation of just how this new concept works is highly eloquent and cuts through much of the clutter around this subject you may have read about.

Oh, one thing. These experts are ten years old. They know nothing else. They can’t remember a time before the internet. They are your key influencers of the very near future.

Financial Services and Social Media

After some investigation into the area of the use of social media by those companies governed by the FSA (Financial Services Authority), it is heartening to see that such a heavily regulated industry has some fairly light rules that its members are asked to observe.

Whether this refreshing lightness of touch is down to the firm belief amongst those in the FSA, that by its very nature social media is more volatile than traditional media channels and so needs less guidelines, or whether it’s down to a lack of understanding of the potential pitfalls and opportunities, I’m not sure. But I have my suspicions.

Nevertheless, it would appear that a two page pdf is enough to guide its members at this stage.

It is interesting however that the FSA guidlelines are entitled “Financial Promotions using New Media”.

Why first pick “Promotions”? Surely because the authors assume that this is another push channel for its members. In fact the opening section states, “We have produced this update following a review into the media channels that firms use to communicate financial promotions to customers. In particular, a shift towrds the use of ‘new media’ has been noted”

It sounds like the warnings that parents of teenagers heard in the fifties, when warned of the dangers of this new music called ‘rock ‘n’ roll’!

They do suggest guidelines for “Non-promotional communications”, which quite rightly state that communciations be “..fair, clear and not misleading”.

Finally there is a section called “What should you consider before using new media?”

  • New media may date more quickly than traditional • media channels, so regular reviews to ensure that information is up-to-date may be required.
  • It is important to consider whether this channel is a • suitable method for the type of communication. For example, Twitter limits the number of characters that can be used, which may be insufficient to provide balanced and sufficient information.
  • It is important to consider whether the risk • information could be displayed prominently and clearly using this media channel.
  • Promotions and communications made using new media must meet the requirements for
    stand-alone compliance.

So remember that Twitter can only handle 140 characters! “There will be no dancing in the aisles”!

It seems that as long as companies follow the current guidleines they’re covered. But the lack of detail is revealing.

What’s even more surprising is what’s not covered.

There is nothing here about blogs and Facebook pages that will solicit third party content. Nothing about staff training and supervision on using social media tools, nothing about SMS or chat rooms and nothing about the role of  agents of companies governed by the FSA.

By comparison FINRA, the US equivalent of the FSA, have published a lengthy report, also aimed at helping its members.

So, I’m beginning to feel as though the FSA is acting a  little like rabbits in the headlights and perhaps hoping this will all go away.

But guess what?

Interestingly FINRA has a blog, several Twitter accounts and a Facebook page.

The FSA doesn’t.

“A Journey of a Thousand Miles Starts With Just one Step”

This quote credited to Lao Tzu, a Chinese Philosopher who lived 500 years before Christ, could not be more apt when people think about starting a blog.

Just recently I’ve heard a number of different reasons why companies have yet to start a blog. Time, resource, subject matter – lack of each of these is cited as an excuse, for really that’s what they are – excuses.

Writing this I’m struggling to think of any organisation that can really justify these excuses. Just yesterday somebody told me, “but we have nothing to say”. That’s just extraordinary! What do they talk about all day long?

Write about your world, your market, your experiences, tell your stories. Maybe people aren’t reading enough? Surely just reading an opinion piece about your market will provoke a response in your mind? Write it down.

Lack of time? Really? Why not set a target of say 3 posts a week – can that be so hard? Remember how to eat an elephant? Write things down as they come to you. A pen a paper by the bed can be invaluable.

Lack of resource? – I don’t get this at all. Somebody in you organisation should be blogging, but just who that person is does take time to decide. Should it be the office junior “because they do that stuff all the time” or should it be the CEO? This deserves plenty of thought. But don’t let the decision delay you too long. But here’s a clue – the office junior is NOT the right person.

How much freedom will the writer have? Again, I sympathise with those wrestling with these questions. Some businesses work within very tightly regulated industries where the legal department checks every piece of material before it’s released. That’s why listening to Donna Rossi, from Western Union at the Engaging Times Summit last month was so liberating. The first thing to note is that Donna is the Global Customer Experience Manager for Western Union – not the Head of Marketing. Important because it highlights that social media begins with customer care – but that’s another blog post! Donna explained just how Western Union had wrestled with the letting go that is necessary to really engage with their customers on the social web. She demonstrated real trust in WU employees to blog and vlog appropriately without breaking some pre-set guidelines.

A final obstacle that may be front of mind for people is the fact that nobody will read it! Well, that’s probably true. You could be talking to yourself for a time. But this is the time to try different things, to see how your writing style develops. Don’t think that by building it, they will come. You have to work on your blog distribution channels and encourage feedback. Do this and they will come.

Am I happy with every aspect of this blog post? No. Will I read it later and think I could have written it better? Yes. But that’s always the case and the road to nowhere.

Go for it!