Social Media, Australian Banks, Trust, and Grey Clouds of WikiLeaks


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I came in late to a really interesting discussion within a LinkedIn group this week about the firestorm surrounding CBA’s released/leaked social media policy. The LinkedIn Group discussion is here (but note that you need to be a member of the Group as it’s still a closed Group).

The controversy seems to be around a couple of aspects of the policy document – particularly the suggestion that the Bank expects employees to report instances where a connection within their own networks speaks ill of the Bank. I’ve not been able to review the document in its entirety so I can’t nor do I want to contribute to the core discussion as to the intent, purpose or otherwise of the document.

Having said that, the group members raised some really valid points – particularly:

Vivienne Story:

I still think there is a need for a social media policy, just as we have other work place policies. Again, we need to use a web 2.0 mentality to develop them and implement them; employees should be included in the development stage and ongoing training around social media should be provided. A social media policy is an ideal tool to engage employees; not disengage them.

Hmm, good advice from a lawyer. Involving employees is straight from the IBM social media policy document…

And a buddy of mine from Sydney Robert Moorman raised a couple of good points including:

Social Media can’t be controlled by policies like those; a better strategy would be to closely monitor what’s happening in the social media environment through dedicated software or Google Alerts and tackling any issues by dealing with them head on.

Companies that are transparent and are happy to reply to criticism publicly can actually do quite well in social media. ??Instead of trying to suppress criticism, we should use it as an opportunity to shine.

Robert’s thinking here is somewhat unique in that he’s advocating an outside-in approach.

What’s interesting though is that as I scanned the comments I was surprised no one had raised the issue of trust – this to me is central to what the Bank needs to confront. The fact that trust hadn’t been raised led me to draw a comparison between the CBA and the US Army, who in Harvard Business Review recently were quoted as saying:

US Army Logo - referenced from HBR article

We trust these men and women to put a gun in their hands, have them deploy overseas, and ask them to make life-and-death decisions for their teammates, the population, and the enemy they face.

Why can’t we trust them to do the right thing with social media?
(Lt. General Benjamin Freakley, US Army; c/- HBR)

I do like this quote, but as Lindy Asimus noted afterward:

I’m mindful though, that reading the comments from the US Army, that while they trust their troops, the troops have no real reason to trust the Army, given how many have been dumped from benefits after returning to civilian life broken and denied ongoing benefits.

Trust probably does need to be earned, both ways.

This got me thinking about whether there is a correlation between Lindy’s comment and the situation between WikiLeaks and the US Government over leaked Army intelligence documents?

What Does This Mean?

Clearly technology is redefining what we understand control to be – what we know is the “enterprise” is feeling this impact now in varying degrees, and will be impacted more significantly over the balance of this decade and then into the current century.

As I was thinking about this, I recalled a blog post that Brian Roddy from Jive Software made late last year in CIO magazine. He made a number of good points including:

People’s notion of privacy is changing quickly, and the enterprise is not immune.

If we take this a step further we need to consider that there are many hundreds or thousands of trust connections being made across the enterprise every day – and this is amplified as we see more and more companies turn to social media channels in order to engage with their communities. But channels aside, the key determinant as to whether a burst of trust from an employee to another individual will last or bind has to be based on whether two-way trust has been developed between the organisation and the originating individual.

What if two-way trust doesn’t exist? What if these trust connections are being created but are based on ideals or principals that don’t align with the organisation’s goals?

The implications of this are quite broad and very significant – you can’t just puff it out and announce to the world that you’re mature enough to allow employees to use social channels. As an organisation you now need to factor in the underlying corporate culture and indeed the greater reputation of the enterprise.

P.S. This shouldn’t be a revelation!

WikiLeaks and the Growth of the Rogue Trust Agent?

So as we take yet another step, we now need to consider the dark clouds of WikiLeaks. The significance of this is that the new order has been energised by WikiLeaks – which is no longer simply a website but a whole approach – a mantra to personal satisfaction and rage against the corporation. Forget about the odd rant on an anonymous forum or a dirty video on YouTube. That’s so yesterday.

What’s impressive and frightening is that this change is coming from the ground up, and the more the enterprise seeks to institute command-and-control type models, the greater the risk these rogue agents will emerge, invisibly within the enterprise.

So whilst we celebrate the growth and impact of social technology, we face this spectre that invisible/unknown trust agent(s) may have taken control in ways we didn’t imagine. Empowered with critical information and a disposition to (in their opinion) stop manipulating on behalf of the enterprise, they quickly assume the role of a modern day Robin Hood – yet they don’t steal money or goods from you – they steal the hearts and minds of your community.

This is not some foreign phenomena, we have a near perfect example of this here in Australia with the growth and manifestation of Vodafail, firstly as a personal rant site, and then ultimately as a WikiLeaks-like portal for rage against enterprise inertia and spin. Spend 15 minutes on this site or Google Vodafail and you’ll start to understand how quickly and significantly sites like these can grow. Again, what’s significant about Vodafail is that they ended up receiving information from inside Vodafone..!

This is the key struggle.

How do good companies keep up? How do we balance commercial and reasonable needs against empowered (and potentially misaligned) beliefs? I don’t have a simple answer to this question.

But is all lost?

Not in my opinion.

If we look at the next few years as an interregnum, then the opportunity exists for many companies who in fact “do the right thing because it’s the right thing to do” to establish new internal norms of behaviour and channels of communication and collaboration.

But maybe I’m biased! As a TEC member and speaker I have the opportunity to talk to and engage with many different companies around Australia, who for the most part have a very balanced relationship with their employees and communities – which might explain why so many TEC members are recognised by their peers and industry and world-class.

Here’s my word of warning (as someone who lives in this social sphere) – Being world class will only suffice for maybe the next 2-3 years. Every organisation has to confront the challenge of democratisation of knowledge.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Mark Parker
Mark Parker is the founder of Smart Selling, and the specialist business unit – Smart Social Media. The core aim of both businesses is to help companies become better sales organisations by utilising the ideas, tools, and practices of Sales 2. and social media.


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