Mirror, mirror

The who-ha surrounding the reaction of Argyll & Bute Council to a critique of school dinners by a nine-year-old pupil has sparked in turns outrage and disbelief. If the intention was to not appear heavy-handed, the council fell at the first hurdle. I want to widen the discussion in a moment but first the background if you’ve missed the story.

The Never Seconds blog is an example of the kind of imagination and initiative that we should nurture and encourage in young people. A dinner is selected and illustrated with a photo and rated with ratings as helpful as ‘Health Rating’ and has humorous as ‘Pieces of Hair’.

Not every critique is positive but no one’s perfect. But a negative blog was seized upon and a ban imposed. The problem was that Never Seconds had already built up a worldwide following of young people sharing and comparing their school meal experience. Oh, and the young blogger was using the blog to highlight her charitable fundraising (since the story of the ban broke across the Twittersphere the total rose from £2,000 to £12,000 in 24 hours – every cloud etc.,) . The topic began to trend on Twitter and even Jamie Oliver got involved.

Wishing to make their position clear, Argyll & Bute issued a statement. And the whole they’d dug themselves became even bigger (note revised statement below).

Now contrary to popular belief, the world of social media is not solely inhabited by trolls. Informed onlookers like Paul Clarke offered considered responses. Note, the opportunities for get-out-of-jail cards but these points aren’t even mentioned in the original response. Edinburgh Eye added more common sense.

And the story rumbles on. But here’s the point I’d like to make. Social media holds a mirror up to an organisation. Like Narcissus, organisations may have an idealised notion of what they look like. But the social media mirror is far more honest. It will show you as you really are, warts & all. And it’s okay to admit to a few warts. We’ve all got them. It will show everyone how you cope in a crisis and how you cope with criticism. Criticism and complaints aren’t necessarily a bad thing, they should be welcomed as I addressed a while back.

The young blogger is not to blame for the uproar. It was clearly an accident waiting to happen. Let’s draw breath and remind ourselves that we are here to serve people not deliver at them.

STOP PRESS: Revised statement from Argyll & Bute

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Be Prepared

I’m indebted to @johnpopham for finding an interesting blog by Eric Jackson on the Darwinian process behind the rise and fall of tech companies.  Will Facebook survive and should we care? When you consider the amount of time some of us have invested in creating Facebook pages for our services, should we be concerned? It’s a topic I touched on a while back on this very blog.

It took a while before we got the Internet but the journey from basic web to social to mobile has been a white-knuckle ride. Jackson makes the point that in the world of tech development, the now generation is only now for a moment. They’re already being nudged aside by the next generation and the now generation didn’t see it coming.

So where does that leave us? Second guessing the next evolutionary stage of social tech is a job best left to the experts (good luck with that). Organisations need to focus on first principles if they are to keep pace. These principles should be based on what’s best for the B2C experience. Go where the conversation is, be open to comments, complaints and suggestions, be engaged and stay focussed on the social business approach. That way, whatever comes out of Palo Alto next, we’ll be fit for purpose.