Archive for February, 2009

Who is on Twitter?

twitter2In the Office Products industry, Twitter is very much in the ‘early adopter’ stages of its life cycle. But initial signs are good, with an increasing number of people setting up accounts daily.

A great article in The Times recently entitled ‘Twitter: all we need to be in the loop’ gives some hints and tips in addition to a brief beginners guide as well as some fascinating commentary on how people are using the micro-blogging platform.

But one thing I was asked recently was ‘How do we know who is out there, who to talk to and who has an account?’.

One way is to look at Twitter Search and put a relevant search term in the ‘Search’ box, such as ‘office products’ or a brand or product such as ‘Papershow’. You can then identify who is talking about it and see if you want to link to them.

Some office products dealers already have Twitter accounts to link with their customers. Office Essentials, Euroffice and UOE Limited are all UK dealers on Twitter. Some are literally getting the feel of it whilst others are starting to be more proactive.

In addition, other than myself, you’ll find people like Phil Jones, Sales & Marketing Director for Brother in the UK, Steve Hilleard of Office Products International fame and Dealer Support magazine on there.

If you’re in the office products market and on Twitter, attach a comment below with your Twitter identity and maybe we can work it out together!

February 28, 2009 at 4:34 pm 1 comment

Is a ‘code of ethics’ required?

codeThere have been many stories over recent months about the practice of ‘Astroturfing’ or generating fake recommendations or enthusiasm for a company or its products on the web. A recent article in the Financial Times entitled ‘Blogs that spin a web of deception’ discussed the case of Belkin and an employee who arranged to pay people for posting positive reviews of Belkin products on Amazon. The article goes on to look at other instances where the web is abused and the associated potential impact on businesses.

It is not, however, just ‘Astroturfing’ that has an impact. The anonymity of any post, whether appealing for fake positive feedback or denigrating the very company that pays their wages, can have a huge PR impact on a business.

But can you impose a code of ethics, and is it the right thing to do?

In my view the issue which tops the charts is that of ‘fraudulent’ posting, or posting anonymously claiming to work for a different company…maybe a competitor. This is both unprofessional and hugely damaging…remembering, of course, who pays your wages. I do have serious issues with people who do this as they are both cowardly and are potentially putting other peoples’ jobs at risk.

There is another group, however, of people who post anonymously about their own business, just to be heard. This is a tricky one, as it is often a result of poor management, not allowing people to have a ‘voice’ in the organisation and have their views heard and considered, that results in such behaviour. It may be down to fear of retribution that prompts them to post anonymously to see if they are, maybe, not alone in their views.

So should their be a code of ethics? Many companies and organisations believe so. IBM developed their first social media policy back in 2005, insisting that employees write under their own names, use the first person and ensure that it is clear that it is their own view, not that of the company.

It is, however, difficult to police who is complying with the code if they post from outside a network. But I believe it could alert people to the potential impact of their post and make them think twice. It could also suggest that they address issues off-line with someone in their business (beyond their line manager if they are uncomfortable doing this) before they express their views to a much wider audience.

The internet has ensured that there is now no longer any control over a company message. But a responsible business that is open and engages in conversation both internally and with the broader customer base online, and offers guidance to employees without totally restricting engagement online, will ultimately be the one ultimately viewed in a more positive light.

February 22, 2009 at 2:23 pm Leave a comment


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