Saying goodbye to Twitter

"I will be closing down my Twitter account today. As I said, wait till QPR gets promoted and I reach 50. I may restart dedicated accounts. Goodbye all. Maybe I return. Been fun. And damn useful. Speak the truth be brave," said the Malaysian CEO of AirAsia (@tonyfernandes) in his last tweet. “Stand up for what you believe, fight oppression and most importantly, enjoy life. Bye bye all!” [QPR is the Queens Park Rangers, the English Premier League Team, that he owns].

Tony Fernandes was well known for his very active Twitter account. He started in December 2008 and had nearly 900,000 people following him. In his 11,900 Tweets, he made major announcements about the airline, offers, discussion on the industry, sports activities, industry news, birthday wishes, work out in gyms, investor road shows and everything else. He always came up in lists on top 50 socially engaged CEOs and his disappearance from Twitter shocked his fans as this Tweet attests to: “So @tonyfernandes is leaving twitter! It’s been good to have an open engaging chairman with fans. Maybe see you back here someday!!!”

I always loved this story I read about him. When he was 6 years old, he told his dad that he would start an airline on day and his physician father replied: 'if you make past the doorman of Hilton Hotel, I will be happy." And boy did he make it to the top.

It is hard to figure out why he deactivated his account and I am not sure why turning 50 makes a difference except that this entrepreneur must be incredibly busy and decided to use his time more efficiently. This departure made me wonder why he did not just say he was limiting himself to fewer tweets so expect less in the future. But it sounds like he made up his mind and Twitter helped get his airline off the ground (so to speak). I am sure his reputation for being a trailblazing social media CEO will continue as he turns to other outlets. Word is that he is using Instagram. Always hate to see a Social CEO bite the dust. 

The pricey costs to social media reputation repair

The third annual study called the Computing Safety Index was just released by Microsoft and it has some real gems in it on the costs associated with online reputational risk. Repairing the damage from social media cannot be ignored because it comes with a big price tag. The facts below came from the blog of Jacqueline Beauchere, the chief online safety officer at Microsoft (cool title). 

  1. Nearly $6 billion was spent in 2013 "to mitigate risks associated with financial and time loss due to personal or professional damage."
  2. On average, the cost to users who experience online reputational damage and have to restore their reputation averages $632 per episode. When you look at this by country, the numbers are incredible. In Canada, the average U.S. dollar equivalent costs to repair one’s professional reputation totaled $484 per incident; in Japan, $500 per instance. In Belgium, that total balloons nearly four-fold to $1,979 per issue and, in the U.S., the average total was a whopping $2,600 per professional-reputation incident. Whopping is an understatement.

There are plenty of risks today but social mistakes are getting costlier and the clean-up sounds like it can wipe an individual out. It is wise to remember that social media can do wonders when it comes to helping you build reputation but it can also do horrors to wrecking what you've built. 

Thanks to Microsoft for collecting this data from 10,000 respondents in 20 countries. 

CEO sociability enhances reputation

business-social-mediaWho would have thought? Being a social CEO impacts company reputation! Well it's true. There are true business results when CEOs participate in social media. We just launched our new Social CEO study this morning -- The Social CEO: Executives Tell All, a survey of 600+ executives in 10 global markets with KRC Research about what they think about CEOs engaging online. Months ago we surveyed the landscape and saw that there really was little information about what executives inside organizations actually thought about their CEOs going social. We wanted to get a birds-eye view on how it actually makes executives (managers and up) feel to have a social CEO -- does it make you feel good? nervous? embarrassed? ahead of the competition? inspired? We also were interested in uncovering how CEO sociability impacted the bottom line if at all. Here's a few findings to get you interested in downloading the report and infographic:

  • The majority of global executives (76%) believe it is a GOOD IDEA for CEOs to actively participate in social media. The demand is there and it is not just in the United States.
  • Executives recognize a multitude of returns when CEOs are social, including improved company reputation (78% say so) and employee engagement (75%). Clearly, CEO sociability is a competitive advantage and will only grow more so.
  • CEO’s social media presence makes executives feel inspired (52%), technologically-advanced (46%) and proud (41%). Very few are nervous or embarrassed (6%). Nearly one in three (30%) find it amusing.

One of the more interesting tidbits was that executives are curious about what their CEOs are doing online. The majority (73%) search to see what their CEOs are saying in social media. CEOs are being watched carefully and social media now provides the opportunity to do so.

Most importantly, the time for social CEOs has come. The barriers are coming down and there is no one way to be social. Senior executives from around the globe envision big leaps in CEO sociability in their respective industries, projecting a 50% growth rate over the course of the next five years. Executives in financial services and business services expect the highest rate of CEO sociability growth over the next five years. As increasingly more companies, boards and leaders recognize that CEO sociability helps drive reputation, the more we will see CEOs stepping into social waters. The report discusses how CEOs can be social internally as well as externally. This is not just a social media game. CEO sociability can be driven from within. The point is that CEOs need to engage and using social means is their lifeline to starting a conversation with a broad portfolio of stakeholders.

More to come in my next post.

Social listening as reputation recovery

jcplistens-cover-photoI had heard of a new CEO listening tour but to me, this was a first. JCPenny is running a social media Apology tour. We've all heard CEOs apologize for one thing or another and we've all worked in companies where a new CEO visits different employee facilities to meet and greet and hear what is on people's minds. But JCPenny now has a new campaign on TV that apologizes for letting customers down and thanks them for coming back. If you recall, the former CEO Ron Johnson from Apple fame was booted out when his plan failed, possibly because of the elimination of coupons which drove customers into the store. The former CEO, Myron Ullman, was asked to return and now they are in recovery mode. The two ads say: "It’s no secret. Recently, J.C. Penney changed. Some changes you liked, and some you didn’t. But what matters with mistakes is what we learn. We learned a very simple thing: to listen to you. To hear what you need to make your life more beautiful. Come back to J.C. Penney. We heard you. Now we’d love to see you.”

“At J.C. Penney, we never stop being amazed by you. How you work so hard without looking like you do. How you make every dollar stretch so far and keep your family so close. So we brought back the things you like about J.C. Penney, gave you new things to explore and now, we’re happy to say, you’ve come back to us. We’re speechless, except for two little words. Thank you.”

But back to social media....using the hashtag #jcplistens, JCPenny is in response overdrive from what I saw on Twitter today. They are in constant contact with its Twitter-ites. Every customer or tweet seems to get a personal and speedy response asking to help out, mentioning they will share the feedback with the team if something was amiss and thanking customers for comments. As pointed out on Business Insider, they even told people when they were retiring for the evening. On its Facebook page, JCPenny is polling fans about their favorite brands that they want back after having been cut by the former CEO. And it looks like they are bringing back St. John's Bay, a favorite. So they are listening hard.

You've got to hand to them. They're trying. And social apology tours are a smart redemption move.

Reputation of social media in Japan

03_03_24_770_fileAm on a tour of Asia to talk about our research on social CEOs. Obviously, social media is at different stages in various markets which is making my presentations very interesting to me (hopefully to others too!). When I was in Tokyo earlier this week, we found ourselves talking about how new social media was still new (only 10 years old at most) but how quickly it had grown in Japan recently. My Japanese colleagues told me how the reputation of social media or SNS (social networking systems), as they call it, has improved after the horrific earthquake and tsunami of two years ago. Since the telephone networks were not working, people turned to Twitter and Facebook to communicate. On the Twitter blog, they said that there was a 500% increase in Tweets from Japan when the earthquake hit. In turn, I told the story of how websites changed from static brochureware after 9-11 into two-way gateways when it became apparent that people wanted to be able to find out from company websites if people were okay, if financial transactions were still going through and what time to show up for work the next day in New York. Interesting parallels of how disasters can quickly change behavior and how social media's reputation turned positive when emergencies are at hand.

LatAm Reputation Buildling

I have been traveling in Brazil and Peru for business to talk about reputation. It was a terrific visit because I confirmed once again that reputation is on the agendas of most companies wherever they may be. One of the challenges I heard several times on my visit was how non-U.S. companies do not have to deal with government relations as much as LatAm companies do. This challenge to reputation-building came up as well in several media interviews I did prior to my trip. Each time it came up, I had to chuckle. The truth is that government involvement and regulations in US markets also feel very real and intrusive. I always talk about how government used to be an “invisible hand” but today plays a decidedly “visible hand” in business affairs. For many companies, it is literally like a new line of business. In fact, I have been asked several times nowadays how government affairs departments are being restructured to more effectively manage upcoming policy and government regulations. I was in Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro for two seminars on reputation management. In our research on corporate reputation, 91% of executives in Brazil told us that they were increasing their efforts at reputation building. Much of the discussions in the Q&A period in addition to government intervention centered around culture, B2B reputation-building and dealing with social media threats. In one market, we also discussed social CEOs, a favorite new topic of mine. Apparently there are fewer socialized CEOs in LatAm than in the U.S. due to security issues I was told. I found that illuminating.

When I was in Lima this week at an evening reception, I had a discussion with two businessmen who told me how optimistic they were about business growth in Peru. They were noticeably ebullient. Considering their past history, they said they had never seen so many doors opening to them. There seemed to be no ceiling on their optimism about the future. Refreshing.

As always when I travel, I catch up on magazines because I find myself on planes. I caught an article in The Economist that ties into this post’s train of thought. One line particularly stood out…”…place matters more than ever in a globalized world.” The writer was making the point that in a global world where everything has become so homogenized (like “a universal airport lounge”), people crave a sense of place and the more distinctive, the better. While I was in Brazil and Peru, it felt like there was a definite pride in their “place “for being different than the U.S. and other regions and for the boundless opportunities ahead. That could only be a good thing for sparking innovation, building top flight reputations and surprising the global competition.

CEOs questioning communications

 A recent study just came out saying that CEOs think that marketers are losing sight of their jobs. In the survey from Fournaise Marketing Group, 70% of the CEOs surveyed said that marketers and communicators are disconnected from business results and are living “too much in their creative and social media bubble.” There did not appear to be a separation between marketing and communicators so I imagine that CEOs consider them one and the same.  Although CEOs consider the marketing metrics of the day (Likes and Twitter followers) interesting, they do not consider them critical to advancing the business. The metrics CEOs were most interested in were market share, sell-in, sell-out and linking communications spending to gross profit and other tangible returns. As the CEO of Fournaise says, “They will have to transform themselves into true business-driven ROI marketers or forever remain in what 65% of CEOs told us they call ‘marketing la-la land.’” Quite the indictment. This report on CEOs was in direct contrast to what we learned in our survey with Spencer Stuart on what is on the minds of CCOs (chief communications officers) around the world who believe that their senior management wants them to improve reputation and get their social media operations up to par. This made me wonder whether CEOs do not fully understand the impact that social media can have on their businesses and therefore consider it less than mission-critical today. Or whether marketing communications professionals were missing the boat altogether and picking up on the wrong signals. Like most things, I tend to think it is somewhere in-between. CEOs need to understand how the ground under their feet is shifting when any individual can harm a company’s reputation and bottom line and marketing communicators need not only beef up their business acumen but better explain the ROI on social media.  The two studies provide a study in contrast, to say the least.

The 1% care about CSR to a point

Am stealing shamelessly here because I found this so interesting. The survey is from the Luxury Institute and this is their press release. Traditional media is still an important source to wealthier consumers when it comes to learning about CSR efforts by companies but watch out, social media platforms are gaining. However, according to this survey, even the wealthiest are being careful about costs, no matter how ethical a company is.  

"In a new survey by the independent and objective New York-based Luxury Institute, “Corporate Social Responsibility: The Wealthy Consumer’s Viewpoint,” U.S. consumers earning at least $150,000 per year define socially responsible corporate behavior, rate companies and divulge importance of socially responsible practices in shaping purchase decisions. Responses were compared to those from the same survey in 2007.

Most (82%) wealthy Americans define social responsibility by a company behaving ethically with employees, customers and suppliers. Environmental behavior and philanthropic actions are both named by respondents as an essential component of CSR (58%).

Almost half (45%) of wealthy consumers say they seek out brands with high ethical standards, but only 39% of these shoppers would be willing to pay a premium. That’s down from 56% who would pay a premium in 2007. Apple, BMW, Coach, Lexus, Mercedes-Benz, Nordstrom, Starbucks and Whole Foods are frequently cited as highly ethical standouts.

Twenty-seven percent of wealthy consumers learn about companies’ socially responsible behavior via Facebook or Twitter. That’s up from 8% who received their information from social media in 2007. Reading news articles is the most popular (52%) way to learn of CSR efforts, down from 64% five years ago.

“Even wealthy consumers have de-emphasized social responsibility as this economy focuses everyone on price/value and away from social issues,” says Luxury Institute CEO Milton Pedraza. “Nevertheless, we see that luxury and premium brands that are socially responsible do better even during recessions because doing well by doing good is a universal and timeless concept.”

Respondents reported average income of $307,000 and average net worth of $3.1 million.