“Give me guys that are poor, smart and hungry…and no feelings. You win a few, you lose a few but you keep on fighting – and if you need a friend? Get a dog.” – Wall Street, 1987
I haven’t been to the cinema for as long as I can remember but I broke my bad habit last night for Martin Scorsese’s ‘Wolf of Wall Street’.
I’d heard good things – mainly that it was filled with more money, drugs, sex and 4-letter-words than the BFI can shake a stick at and certainly helped by the fact that the increasingly established Leo looks just as good as he did when he was wallpapered across my bedroom in 1998.
Without cause for any spoiler alerts, I’ll just say that the tale of wealthy penny stockbroker, Jordan Belfort, living the high life at the expense of every investor to deal with his empire, Stratton Oakmont, certainly made for some colourful viewing. However, where consumers want brands that are trustworthy and reliable with a friendly image, is there any room for corporate ‘wolves’ in the new social media economy?
Gordon Gekko, played by Michael Douglas in the 1987 film ‘Wall Street’ famously stated that “Greed is good”. However, on the ‘tell, not sell’ platforms where content is freely shared (even between rivals) and everything from knowledge and ideas to special offers and prizes are happily given out for free – does greed, for lack of a better word, still work?
So far, the FTSE 100 have had a slow start to social media – a Blueclaw survey in 2012 showed that 21% of them were completely absent from Twitter and of those that did have a presence, 56% of them had less than 10,000 followers.
In an even more up-to-date report from Battenhall in 2013 it shows that, of the 87 companies from the FTSE 100 list on Twitter, only 27 have verified accounts, 18 are not tweeting every month and 8 are still opting not to tweet at all.
Should these big corporations be investing their time in a social media presence? Should they risk the fat-fingers, clean their skirts and buy on the bad news in the hope that the dead cat will bounce? Or will they just be left with the big uglies? (No, I have no idea what I’ve just said either).
What’s causing the social media shyness?
Admittedly, using social media for corporate communications must be a much harder task: intense regulation and a careful mapping of their audience must be strategised to avoid opening themselves up to social scrutiny. Or is their reluctance more down to corporate business continuing to be money-focussed and less concerned with creating a positive brand image and user experience?
In January 2013 Ryanair hired a new head of communications Robin Kiely who completely dismissed the value of social media engagement stating that maintaining dedicated social accounts would probably mean ‘hiring two more people just to sit on Facebook all day’.
‘We find that if an issue breaks in one country, within a matter of hours or days it has spread across Europe,’ he said. ‘It is important to nip those in the bud.’ Is this a case of Robin Kiely really being tight fisted about recruiting social media managers, or was he just afraid of the backlash that being so open to the public might cause?
Well, maybe he had a crystal ball and was able to foresee Michael O’Leary’s first Twitter attempt that was due to take place later on that year…
When the Ryanair boss agreed to answer questions on the social media site, angry customers teamed with inappropriate responses that would have made Leo proud didn’t do much to improve the budget airline’s reputation. But despite this epic crash, at least Michael O’Leary understood the importance of free publicity and made an attempt to move Ryanair into the social spotlight – and wasn’t it Jordan Belfort’s wife who reassured him that “all publicity is good publicity”?
Social business certainly pushes the boundaries of exposure more than ever before and with exposure there’s a certain amount of real-time response and honesty that’s expected by consumers. But for businesses that stand on the sidelines and witness social Q&A disasters like this one, it does look intimidating – after all, there’s nowhere to hide and the perceived risks are still outweighing the ultimate benefits for some.
On viewing some of the FTSE 100 on twitter today however, the tide seems to be (albeit slowly) turning. Ryanair now have over 31k followers and even some of the non-tweeters are starting to come out of the woodworks. The growing use of LinkedIn among these companies only confirms this upturn in social use and, surprisingly, the ones that do brave social are actually viewed as more trustworthy and reliable as they’re at least prepared to engage with customers.
So maybe Gordon Gekko was right when he said that greed is good – as long as your intentions are sincere, (or as long as you are, at the very least, honest about your intentions) a little bit of greed can certainly drive you to get ahead of the game and capitalise on social media and the opportunities it brings in order to gain a competitive advantage – and even develop the customers trust in the process.