While conversation and interaction was welcome in the comments box of many publications and blogs early on, as social networks evolved the commentary moved to platforms like Facebook and Twitter. For good or for less optimal exchanges, they now happen in public.
It didn't take long for people to figure out that sharing a poor service experience on Twitter would drive a faster resolution than trying to redress the issue via normal company channels. Smartphones with cameras for taking pictures and video, and connections to all kinds of apps and tools to share what is happening instantly.
The slow pace of change in companies complex policies and practices is one of the reasons why customer service in social is not fair. As I wrote in that post:
Life is not fair, we all agree on that. However, the root cause of special vs. fair treatment online comes from deep organizational disconnects. Unless your business plans to use what it learns online as an opportunity to fix internal processes, social outposts will continue to be expensive lightning rods.
When we look at the evolution of business after the introduction of social media dynamics we saw four themes emerge:
Accelerated market reputation and authority create new options
There are costs to not doing the right thing
Customers and markets don't stand still
Simplicity gets results
Point number four is still a work in progress for many organizations, especially startups and companies with a technology, technical and even scientific focus. Beyond learning to communicate simply, this touches the very operational fabric of the business.
Counter intuitively, the inclination to create processes that lock people in are a turn off or turn away. As I wrote in that post:
there are enough examples in the marketplace today that speak to how the more a system is open, the more individuals can, and thus do, choose to be part of it.
Communities evolve at a faster pace than businesses; and so do standards or commonly accepted practices and behaviors. In Simple Rules: How to Thrive in a Complex World Donald Sull and Kathleen Eisenhardt look at popular culture for examples:
Consider the case of standup comedians, a community governed by the simple rule “Don't steal jokes,” and where the punishment for violating the rule is no laughing matter.
In one 2005 incident at the Laugh Factory comedy club in Los Angeles, George Lopez grabbed fellow comic Carlos Mencia, slammed him high against the wall, and punched him. Mencia's alleged crime? Plagiarizing Loperz's material.
Joke stealing is the cardinal sin in standup comedy today, but it was not always so. For much of the twentieth century, stealing jokes was no big deal. In the vaudeville era, performers would repeat other comedians' materials without attributing the source.
Later comedians, such as Milton Berle and Bob Hope, drew on vast stores of generic jokes. Expert delivery and timing, rather than originality, mattered most. Hope was widely accused of joke stealing, and Berle was so notorious for it that he once quipped that the prior act “was so funny I dropped my pencil.”
In contrast, the current generation of comedians, including Jerry Seinfeld and Louis C.K., rely on distinctive routines that mirror their individual personalities, rather than standalone one-liners. Modern comedy is driven by unique material rather than expert delivery, and today's comedians have worked out rules to protect their intellectual property and sanctions to enforce those rules.
The “Don't steal jokes” rule emerged, like the rules of the road, out of ongoing interactions among community members, without any particular guiding hand, and is strictly enforced by the community itself.
Sull and Eisenhardt say “rules evolve to address the most pressing issues in communities.” The difficulty, however, is that:
While evolved rules benefit from legitimacy and relevance, they also have weaknesses. Evolved rules are often implicit and deeply entrenched, making it difficult to examine them critically when circumstances change, or abandon them when they become dysfunctional.
Entrenched rules may prevent people from imagining alternative ways of behaving.
The famous “this is how we do things around here” motto may prevent an organization from evolving its business model to stay in step with changed times. We see examples of this every day -- optimize, optimize more, cost-cut, reductions, cliff.
On the other side of the equation, venting in social networks has remained a common practice even as may organizations have overhauled speed of service and resolution in normal channels. This has led to unpleasant unintended consequences for individuals and groups.
Simple rules should make sense to guide direction in an organization and/or community, save time and effort by focusing attention, and simplifying how people process information.
The specifics of how we run the business should be more iterative to capture the value of opportunities when they present themselves. As for specifics in communities, they should be anchored in moral values -- which is why truth is important to us.
Still curious? See why simple rules produce better decisions.