TechTalk ep7: Let Social raise you up

Paramita: Hello people welcome to PwC Luxembourg TechTalk. After our initial conversations on AI, Digital and data analytics, we thought of taking a slight detour just for the next couple of episodes. As you know, communication techniques have evolved massively since the times of the last industrial revolution, to the point where today when we say the word “viral” it actually doesn't refer to a disease. Technology of course has played its role in this evolution to say the least. On the next two episodes of TechTalk, we'll take up two of today's indispensable tools that have completely changed the face of communication: social media and video.

So, here's our fabulous social media team, Luis Salerno and Andreia Joaquim talking to me about Social.

P: Hello!

I am so happy that I have… not my team actually but kind of my team… part of it with me today. So there is Luis and Andreia, our super-duper social media team to answer all my rapid fire questions. I hope you're ready because they're going to be tough, the questions.

Luis/Andreia: I think we are ready. Yeah I think we are. Bring it on.

P: All righty. First question to Andreia Joaquim... OK so social media you know we use it like an extension of ourselves nowadays right. But talking about business. When did it become so important for businesses and why?

Andreia: So I can almost give you the year that it became or started becoming more important for business. It was around 2009-2010 when Facebook started emerging especially in Europe. Because in the United States where already you know people were using it and we had all the examples from the international brands like Coca-Cola and all that. They were using social media already and especially Facebook. And of course in the United States, we had Twitter and brands were you know using it already. But I think, and this is my opinion, in Europe and it was with the rise of Facebook because for us, for most people when we think the emergence of social media, we connect it to Facebook. Maybe someone can tell me now that is not true but I remember starting having conversations in university about social media and how to use it with brands… It was in the last year of my bachelor's degree that we had a big scandal with one of the biggest brands in Portugal and actually the decision for example was to take down the brand’s Facebook page.

Because we didn't know right… it was still the experiment phase. The brands wanted to be on social media, wanted to be exposed, wanted to connect with the costumers but people didn't think about the other side: what’s the cost to be exposed, what’s the cost to have a costumer have access to give you feedback 24/7.

P: So that was the flipside right of having exposed your brand to the masses?

A: Yes and I think it was that year when we started having or people started looking at social media and say OK we have a goldmine here how can we use it. But you have to use it properly.

Luis: I agree absolutely with Andreia. Right this morning I was reading… this week Facebook turns 15 and when I was reading the story it was exactly saying more or less by 2008-2009, Facebook became the thing. But you know to summarise what Andreia just said, I think the massive adoption of social media is what made it such a big thing. Facebook with 2 billion monthly users more or less never comparable to the Chinese social networks for example but still I mean it’s still the most relevant on social media in the occidental world at least.

P: Even for brands, right?

L: Absolutely. There is no brand, organisation, non-profit organisation or business that is not on Facebook. And so yeah I guess just to summarise, I think massive adoption is what made it so powerful. And this connection you have directly with the brand while before when you had this massive kind of marketing… that wasn't really possible.

P: And so that brings to my next question. And like Andreia pointed out that was the flipside… of the Portuguese brand that she was talking about and that they had to pull the page down. So it can be dangerous, right, social media? Luis what do you think… it can be if not managed properly it can be dangerous?

L: I think every public tool can be dangerous. It's all about how you use the tool and how you prepare to potential things that might happen around that tool. But that's what we call crisis management because this is particularly massive. And everything you mentioned in the beginning is something about “virality” because everything is spread so quickly. And basically now you don’t need to pay. I mean it's really cheap. It's not like before when you wanted the radio to say something about your brand, you had to pay and everything was prepared. But now when the user or the customer has the power to say whatever he or she wants then is when - and I wouldn't say the problem - the challenge comes. So a company, businesses need to be prepared to listen and to react as quick as possible if there is something detrimental for the brand. So it is potentially dangerous.

But it is also an opportunity I think.

P: What are the pitfalls you think that we need to avoid, Andreia? You know like Luis said it can be dangerous, any public tool can be dangerous…

A: Exactly. But I wouldn't call it dangerous. I think it's one channel of communication that brands have now. And it's actually a two faced channel because users can use it as well as the brand. It's not anymore like an advertisement in a magazine where it's only the brand who communicates. I think… I wouldn't consider it dangerous. I don't consider it dangerous at all. I just think that brands need to be prepared. It's more how prepared are the brands to you know take the criticism from the public. It's how you behave as a brand online that will tell your story actually. So for me it's like someone who’s studied public relations is prepared for a crisis management. That is not new. Everyone knows that. You have to have a crisis management plan for your brand because the newspaper could you know come with horrible news about you and it was even worse because you didn't have this immediate thing that you can you know go on social… You couldn't go on social media because there was no social media. And now if someone says something bad about your brand, gives you a bad review, you can have the person responsible for it (social media) giving the right, the proper answer. You just need to know how to behave when those things happen. And that's I would say the old-school kind of learning things from PR for example is helpful. We always had to deal with that. But it's something that you just need to adapt to the new realities. Because if you have a communication crisis management, or public relations… if something happens to your brand, if something goes wrong you know if something happens to someone that works in your company and it's automatically related to the brand as we know… so you just need to adapt to social media. Of course it's more immediate, it can go viral. But your answers can go viral as well right.

L: So that leads to something we consider very important. Businesses need to take social media seriously. So to avoid crises, everything starts with thinking of a social media plan, a social media strategy. You know what to do in cases of… you know how to communicate. I know there are small businesses that probably don't have the budget for a full time person you know but someone is accountable for what's happening there. I think that's very important. It’s all about accountability and who will answer to whatever happens on social media and who is the spokesperson and that's super important. I think big brands now don't have any doubt about how important it is but small brands still might be short of budget. They still don't see the importance… and who can deny in 2019 the importance of Social. It's just undeniable.

P: And since we spoke about crisis management, Luis, if I ask you here because I know a lot of our listeners might be interested in it and if I just ask you give me some tips on social media and social media crisis management basically… some tips. What would the tips be?

L: The first, I mean to avoid the crisis is what is required…

P: Crisis management… to manage a crisis. Avoiding a crisis probably is a different area that we can get into…

L: Well the first one is to clearly define the spokesperson. Sometimes, big brands or big companies have different people connected to a certain channel… let's say Twitter. And maybe when they see something going wrong all of them want to reply, sometimes without any coordination. That's a natural reaction, I mean, a human reaction. I want to defend or protect brand I work for, the company I for… so I just go and answer. So that's number one: it's to know the correct or decided channel and the person but in advance. That's something that should be written in the crisis management plan.

The other is the message which is fundamental. You know there are these disastrous situations where companies have replied in such a proper way that that disaster became maybe an opportunity. And I've seen cases when people's reaction to this is such a positive thing saying wow, so you acknowledge your mistake. And now you know it's cool. But there are others, other situations where the answer was basically a fight. You are telling something or you're saying something about my brand. Now I'm fighting with you.

P: Yeah it becomes a blame game kind of…

L: It becomes a blame game… it becomes even childish sometimes because it's like a children's game and fight and you know you say A, I say B, you say C, I say D. So I think just these two quick tips are fundamental, they are very necessary.

Well the three… the channel that you want to tackle because probably you have to spread the word through all channels you have. The second one is the spokesperson… the two or three people who will be behind that. I always prefer one because it's a clear message. And the third one is what you will say. I think that's obvious. I mean I'm not saying I'm inventing the formula but really in many cases those things are not even decided.

P: Exactly. So even if it's obvious, people don't think about it. And I would probably ask you what do you think about… so let's say there's a crisis that takes place. Do you think that brands should react immediately or take some time? What do you think?

A: It actually depends on the topic itself. Sometimes you can answer right away. And sometimes you need some time to think about what you will say and how you will say it. You can use sometimes a funny way to, you know, because haters are all over and they can start a crisis. And sometimes humour is the best answer.

P: So you’re talking about humour and it's so true because I just remember I don't know whether you remember that there was a photo on Instagram or from Intermarché, the supermarket. There was a photo of cabbage and somebody thought that. And that actually said that on their Instagram that “here this is a fresh lettuce”. And they replied very wittily after you know attackers like haters like you said they pointed out no it's not a lettuce it's a cabbage.

But I remember they replied to it very wittily. And yes so that's a very good point actually…

A: It depends much on the topic. But even if it's a heavy topic sometimes if you go with humour it's the best answer because then the typical haters will fall…

L: Haters are going to hate… something to add to that is you know our sector is financial services.

And we all know how it works. And it's… decisions are made normally by a committee or a board.

So probably it may take a little bit of time. Sometimes if the thing is small, maybe the reply is quick as Andrea said. It really depends on the situation. But if it's a big thing, I imagine the board or the executive committee will need to meet, come up with certain answers and then you know drive that and then coordinate with the communication department or whatever department works.

P: Proper strategy to how to deal with it…

L: Yes. It may take a lot of time. It cannot get too long. I cannot tell you one day or two… but it needs to be as quick as possible. Probably that’s the formula, as quick as possible considering how the company works and the magnitude of the problem.

P: Yeah. Because you also can't have like something happening today and then you reacting after a week, when everything has gone past and people have bashed you…

OK, so we understand a little bit about the tips. Now to come back to your preparation phase and how brands and businesses and all kinds of companies in different sectors, how can they leverage social media properly and you know avoid crisis?

A: I think, it’s for the people that work in communication, we shouldn't focus on let's avoid crisis, let's communicate to avoid crisis. Let's be honest. Let's have fun and communicate. If the crisis comes, we will deal with it. But for me, my primacy in social media is always to actually be honest, transparent. Because if you are transparent with your consumers even if everything is planned as we know that it is… they can tell you they can give you the reviews they want they can do their comments they want. Probably the brand doesn't even need to step in. Sometimes you have fans that come and they help you. And the brand, in that case, just you know just looks and it's like just a watcher. And for me it's like that… you shouldn't communicate to avoid a crisis.

You should take advantage of the social network. You should take advantage of being close to your consumer. You should take advantage of what they say to you even if they give you a bad comment. You should take it. You should take it into consideration. You should look at what people say. Because five or 10 years ago we had to do focus groups. We had to do tests to listen what people had to say. Now we don't need that. I mean of course people still do that or brands when it comes to launching new products and all but actually you just need to go online to put yourself there and listen to your customers. They love that. If you tell them I'm giving you the power - of course we will always as we said have the haters - but you also have people that go and they help the brands because then there comes the sentiment they have with the brand itself and all those things. So for me it's how you can take leverage from social media. It's like be there and enjoy. Enjoy the fact that you can communicate, that you can have a one to one conversation with the people that are there.

L: Absolutely. You know Andrea mentioned transparency and honesty… in all and all that comes down to trust. And yesterday I had a conversation with one of the partners here and it was about digital trust. It was an interview with him on how this is becoming so important and how brands… now the equation of trust is becoming a little bit more complex because of digital technology. And I'm actually I'm remembering a question I asked him: is trust something you build or is it something you gain?

It seems to be a rhetorical question but it's something that really we can spend half an hour drinking a nice wine trying to reply to the question.

P: OK let's do that afterwards. Yes.

L: And the answer was it's actually a little bit of both.

Now to gain trust you need to be transparent. But there is something I consider fundamental is being consistent. If you say you do what you say you do you become trustworthy.

And the other day I was reading an article to write a blog article and it was saying that trust is based on how predictable businesses are. And in the beginning it shocked me enormously because I am very much a believer in innovation, innovating things and you know changing things and I said being predictable, can that be possible?

P: It does make sense though…

L: Makes sense because if you are predictable my clients will know how we will react… Or even how innovative I am. And they can inspect things based on how or what I did before. And that predictability is what…

P: I'm sorry to interrupt because when you talk about predictability and I was also reading recently you know I'll take the name of the brand Weight Watchers and you know and how clients they prefer predictability. You know recently they changed their brand name to WW, from Weight Watchers to WW, and the shares just for that reason apparently went down.

So it is somewhere understandable that when you're used to a certain kind of an image, certain kind of you know… you expect that to continue and we can't say that you know we love change or we will be talking to…

L: Chang is painful. Changes is always painful. And bringing back, mentioning one of my favourite… I'm not endorsing any social network but I think Snapchat is particularly innovative and just nice. But when they changed the way they present themselves, you know the display, it was a complete massive disaster. They lost tons of users. But I was a little bit more indulgent. I was saying wait let's test this out. Yeah but you know people are not patient. And especially when there is something they love and it’s changing then they react in a bad way. You know sometimes people react just… it’s visceral. But it shouldn't be that visceral if that's something I cannot change. Personally I certainly would give a try. I would see how it works and that's what I wanted to say about trust and the importance of trust.

And then the other is advocacy because also Andreia mentioned that sometimes the clients themselves defend the brand. They you know, they stand for the brand and that's based precisely on the trust built before. If I trust you, if I like you, if I see you are trustworthy, I see you are sustainable you do, you bet on sustainability things, you care about the people around you, that makes you love the brand. So they will protect you. They will stand for you. They will say hey shut up you know I am here, I am a user. And I think you know maybe the brand made a mistake or the business had made a mistake but it doesn't mean they always make a mistake.

P: Wow. So what comes out of it is that social media still is this vast opportunity that brands businesses can leverage and take advantage of and have fun.

L: So just to complete this, what I'm seeing lately, commonly, is social media is turning into a… it’s going private which means chat based social networks are now shining.

And that's Instagram, What's app, Viber, Facebook Messenger… this is where people are. So the beginning, the golden years of social media when you went social because you wanted to show how cool you were, I wouldn’t say are gone. But we are thinking of a different social media. That's why stories became so successful, they vanish. We don't want to be there anymore all the time. I think it's that we finally realized how dangerous it is to say something that will remain forever. So that's why the concept of Snapchat concept became so successful. It’s because they went against what every social media wanted in the beginning. Social media wanted you to remain forever. That's why you put the pictures there. And how many likes you were getting were making you feel super happy. The other one is completely opposite. Do whatever you want because it will just go away forever.

So the messaging apps will be the next big thing in social media. Stories will not go anywhere. They will stay. I read that even LinkedIn maybe is thinking of some vanishing system somehow.

And well that's it. I think they are not going anywhere. Probably some of them will go blockchain which means they will give more power to the user. There are already some social networks based on blockchain but they're not massively adopted.

P: Social based on blockchain? OK, you know what guys? We need to sit again, one more day talking about techniques and you know all these the different techniques that we can use on social media: the stories, the videos, the live streaming. And how you know again I'm using the word dangerous because we saw what happened just a few days back in New Zealand and about that becoming viral and yeah I really think that we need to sit one more day to talk about the techniques and let's go for that wine now.

L: Let's go. So yeah absolutely. All right. Wait. White or red?

P: I’m all for white.

L/A: It was very nice. Thank you.

P: Thank you so much.

P: So that was Luis and Andreia. I really hope that you enjoyed the show. And as always please comment with the #PwCTechTalk. I'll see you next time.

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