Below are some of the quotes I recorded from Gartner analysts and senior IT leaders. They are not all verbatim and have been reordered to flow more logically.
- Social media is not about technology, it's about collaboration - the only risk is in ignoring it.
- There are 20 exabytes of social media information available online today - it is real, it is not a fad. It doesn't matter whether you are using social media - you cannot ignore it because your customers use it.
- In a world where people can talk to people, as an organisation you had better be believable - traditional PR no longer works. If you wish to be credible in social media, you have to tell the truth. Black box organisations will not survive.
- The public will judge organisations not on whether they make mistakes, they all do, but on how they visibly recover.
- Google's PR strategy made mistakes OK, so that customers don't mind. Organisations that try to pretend they don't make mistakes and then attempt to hide their mistakes create huge media attention and serious reputation damage. It is better to be honest and truthful and not create those types of unrealistic expectations.
- Bloggers are hugely important public influencers. Organisations no longer control the message, they must influence the influencers. This is an entirely new approach to public relations.
- You could allow marketing to lead social media initiatives - but there's a risk it will disappear down a black hole. Organisations need a broader strategic approach. BHP tried all traditional communications approaches with the Gulf oil spill and they didn't work.
- If staff want to discuss confidential matters they will - banning them from Facebook at work doesn't make a different, they will use other channels, like a phone, or their own devices. Secure their communications through training and support, not their technology.
- It isn't the right of ICT security to control social media issues - privacy and record-keeping are corporate governance issues.
- IT is shirking its responsibility by not providing organisational platforms for online monitoring and engagement. IT needs to be a source of data, information and strategic advice to marketing for social media as it changes.
- IT must support and facilitate business to realise social media opportunities. If it doesn't, its role will get smaller and less significant. Twenty years ago ICT stepped back and allowed marketing to run websites, we can't afford to step back to that again.
- You should own your own '[organisation] sucks' domain and site. Use it to listen and respond to customer complaints.
- Organisations struggle with how to engage via social media - the answer is to listen, rectify issues, contact and invite comment. Imagine a customised 'Tripadvisor.com.au' service where the public could comment on your service and rate you. It may not be far away.
- The more layers of management, the more barriers to collaboration and transparency.
- If you want to change culture, budget one year per layer of management, for example if you have eight layers of management a single culture change can take eight years (requoted from an ex-Senior Officer).
However, the comments were not from any 'Social media in Government' workshop.
They were from a 'Social media in the Banking industry' workshop that I attended after my panel to see how the financial industry was addressing Web 2.0 opportunities.
After the workshop I've formed the view that banking is about two to three years behind government in Australia in engaging with social media effectively.
I can see some real shake-up coming to the industry based on several other statements by Gartner analysts:
- Financial services companies are inherently conservative and don't attract innovative people.
- The reality is that banking industry runs on opaqueness - it is the only way it can keep the prices high and profits substantial.
Increasingly, banks are seeing the rise of services like Paypal, which the panel said that banks laughed off only a few years ago but now see as a genuine threat to their business.
They are concerned about the risk of Google starting a banking business, as they believe Google has a better reputation and greater capability to be agile.
They are worried about online comparison services, which make it easy for the public to compare banking and insurance rates; and about online services, which offer substitute banking services more conveniently.
In other words, the banks are facing reputation, transparency and agility crises, brought on by a culture that resists change and innovation, at the hands of social media empowered individuals and small, agile, innovative organisations.
Government isn't always slow, conservative or inflexible, particularly compared to large institutional banks.
Maybe, in the public sector, we're doing much better than some people might appreciate.