Telstra and the Sacred Cows

I remember when Telstra’s Now We Are Talking blog launched. It made a bit of a ripple, but did not really dint my consciousness, which is surprising because I am always on the lookout for brands (especially big brands) who are digging into social media. But what I do recall was a brief visit to the site and a feeling that this “blog” was going to be just what the name suggested – a whole lot of talking and not a lot of listening.

Last week, Mike Hickinbotham (from said blog), tagged me to give my two cents on whether nowwearetaking is hitting the mark. It was a nice tactic as the previous week we had a short Twitter conversation on the topic of Gartner’s hype cycle (and yes, I am still working on a post about that) … so Twitter was used effectively to reach out and break the ice, and then the blog activated to extend and deepen the engagement and conversation. “The old one-two”, as Maxwell Smart might have said.

But for me, the old one-two in social media is about the exchange of value. It is about the easy fostering of conversation and the swift conversion of that dialogue into action. In many ways, it’s more about doing than talking, after all, actions speak louder than words. And now, at least thanks to Mike, I was curious – and wanted to see just how Australia’s largest corporate blogger was dipping into the big pond.

When I visited the site, I thought I might comment on Mike’s post. Then I noticed that before being ABLE to comment I needed to register. But this is no simple registration process … I needed to also provide my postcode as a form of identification along with some demographic data. Within seconds, I have TWO barriers in place before I can even begin to have a conversation.

Recommendation: Open up comments. Make sure that a valid email address is provided, but registration is an inhibitor to conversation (which is supposedly one of your aims).

As I stepped through the registration process, I was greeted by a link to the Terms and Conditions. And while I knew what awaited me, I just couldn’t help looking for it:

By submitting material to a Forum, you: 

  1. grant us a perpetual, royalty-free, non-exclusive, irrevocable worldwide licence to use, copy, publish, publicly perform, communicate and adapt that material, and to sublicense those rights through the operation of the this site; and 
  2. agree to its public disclosure.

So not only do I have to register my details, I also have to sign over the rights to any insight I share as part of a discussion!

OK, to be honest, this does not really bother me. It is, however, an indication of the lack of “transparency” despite what seems to be good intentions on the part of the bloggers.

Recommendation: Go crazy and republish your blogs under a creative commons license. This will not only demonstrate that you GET social media and its economy of mutual attribution and participative value co-creation, it will also build you enormous and instant goodwill.

Wrap-up

Now, I am no stranger to corporate bureaucracies, to legal reviews or brand guidelines; so I have to tip my hat to Telstra’s social media team for making it this far. But, to be honest, as Cameron Reilly suggested, there is a long way to go.

There are a growing band of active Australian bloggers who also provide consulting services, strategic advice and insight as to how you can plan for, build and execute an integrated strategy with social media, trust and transparency at its heart. I am sure they would help accelerate your successes in this space (especially now that you are throwing Twitter into the mix). It’s time to slay some (corporate) sacred cows and really get the message out. Telstra has made a great start but is also faced with an almost unmatched opportunity. I’d like to see them take it.

Update: The conversation continues with Lid providing a series of tips and insights; Stephen Collins suggesting a thorough reading of the Cluetrain Manifesto and the Zappos tweetstream; and Katie Harris giving the thumbs down. Jye Smith has also chimed in.

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4 comments

  1. Gavin, I couldn’t agree with you more.
    Last night I noticed that Mike Hickinbotham had put up a new post about their Twitter challenges, and I too went to comment.
    The three part registration process threw me, as you point out, there is no need to ask for registration if someone wants to comment.
    As I really wanted to say well done for listening to the blogosphere I took the time.
    Picture then my surprise this morning when Martyn (cute dev. husband) receives an e-mail from Mike Hickinbotham pointing him to the post saying
    “Thought you may be interested to read a Telstra blog regarding insights learned from launching the BigPond Twitter service.”
    Pity Mike didn’t take the time to address the e-mail to the right person.
    So yes. One: Telstra, get rid of the registration; two, take the time to know who is talking to you.

  2. Gavin, looks like you had almost the exact same reaction to both Mike’s new blog (which I hope is allowed to continue in the vein it began) and Telstra’s ham-fisted Twitter effort. And yes, the registration before commenting is a huge barrier to participation in the conversation. I simply won’t register. Ever.
    I have it on good authority that the people at the coalface involved in these efforts are really keen to do this properly, so I’d dearly love to see corporate step back and let them run. The Spam Act excuses that are being used as a way to justify the Twitter boilerplate pisses me. There’s no way Telstra (or anyone else) would be accused of commercial spamming if they were using this the right way.
    You can see my posts at http://www.acidlabs.org/2008/09/24/now-we-are-talking-reflects-on-itself/ and http://www.acidlabs.org/2008/09/26/playing-customer-care-in-public-right-way-and-wrong-way/.

  3. Hi Gavin,
    Thanks for the feedback on NWAT.
    I’m still trying to get access to the Gartner report on hype cycles and look forward to your post.
    I’m always a fan of of new business models and approaching situations/opportunities from a new angle.
    That’s a good lead into my next point – I’m collecting all the ideas we’ve received about NWAT and will sit down with the NWAT team to explore the opportunities.
    For others interested in checking out the NWAT blog – http://www.nowwearetalking.com.au/blogs/the-scrum/is-nowwearetalking-hitting-the-mark
    Here’s the BigPond Twitter service blog. http://www.nowwearetalking.com.au/blogs/the-scrum/listen–evolve-insights-from-launching-bigpond-twitter
    PS – I apologised to Lid for the honest mistake. It looks like all is forgiven.

  4. Cameron Reilly /

    I want to marry 99.