Is any social media better than none at all?

Over the last week there has been a bit of a change within the social media landscape here in Australia, out biggest, slowest telecommunication company, Telstra, decided to get into Twitter via their ISP Big Pond My personal view is thee way they implemented this is a complete failure and not the way any company should attempt a social media strategy.

In summary for the first few days their tweets looked like:-

@bushgeek Got a BigPond® query?! Ask about BigPond® via this link 5ufhvf & a BigPond consultant will email you back.

Almost robotic like. Now this whole approach has seen the experts in social media in Australia come out explaining why the approach is wrong. If you want to look at the initial commentary here is a summary:

Following the initial backlash Telstra came out in defence of their approach claiming the Australia SPAM Act as to why they were replying the way they were:

Since the early stages of development, BigPond’s primary concern has been protecting the customer’s privacy. We want to ensure that our communications to customers are not commercial electronic messages.

Sending commercial electronic messages without the customer’s consent would amount to a violation under the Spam Act.

This has lead to even more discussion on:

From Zac’s post on Pigs Don’t Fly there are a couple of interesting quotes, first the SPAM Act:

The Spam Act 2003 prohibits the sending of spam, which is identified as a commercial electronic message sent without the consent of the addressee via email, short message service (SMS), multimedia message service (MMS) or instant messaging. The requirements under the Spam Act apply to all commercial electronic messages, including both bulk and individual messages.

Second is from the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA):

Any message that doesn’t meet the following three conditions is defined as spam…

+ Consent – The message must be sent with consent of the consumer.
+ Identify – The message must contain accurate information about the person or organisation that authorised the sending of the message.
+ Unsubscribe – The message must contain a functional ‘unsubscribe’ facility to allow you to opt out of receiving messages from that source.

Now I am not a lawyer but it does raise some interesting questions.

Taking the ACMA 3 points. Consent is provided by the user basically having public profile, and/or not blocking the user. Identity is provided by the Twitter account, and finally the user can block the Big Pond team using the Twitter Block function. So from my perspective it is not spam under the ACMA guidelines.

Now the SPAM Act is a little more difficult, but I would suspect the “without the consent” activity is again covered by the public profile. So not spam.

But like I said I’m not a lawyer so who knows if this is true.

Simon Sherwood pulled together a podcast on the issue in the last 24 hours, go have a listen it is a good overview. Where Brady Jacobsen, BigPond’s Director of Customer Operations actually seems to be wanting to work with the community to grow and learn.

Big Pond failed on several levels while launching this new service. It seems they did not try and employ a social media expert, if they did it looks like they ignored them, well at least to start with. Following their initial mis-step they now seem to be listening and learning.

With any social media you need to have an identity, build a reputation and then trust. If the account had been setup and started to communicate with people maybe announce service outages, features, basically engage on a more person human level to join in the conversation, earn a reputation, continue the conversation, finally develop trust. Then maybe just maybe you can use Twitter for business. This type of engagement would have built a reputation and trust so when they extended a hand of support the response would have been very different.

A final thought.

Social media involves participation, decentralisation, transparency, and user generated content. All of these attributes go against traditional media and businesses approach to media. But the issue does not stop here. A businesses approach to media is driven by the culture of the business itself. Therefore you cannot change you approach to media unless you change your culture. And this my friends is where things get complex!

The change of this culture impacts, oh and that means your people, their knowledge and behaviour, your organisation and its processes, finally technology used will all need to change.


I originally drafted the post this morning and went out for a few hours, while I was out the community on Twitter started a very interesting experiment. The Twitter Agency. What is it?

Twitter Agency
This is where you learn how to market, PR and otherwise engage on Twitter. Any of the people contributing here are available for hire as Twitter experts. The Pages give you resources on how to use Twitter. The Twitter Agency is available for $30 million dollar pitches. Heh.

7 thoughts on “Is any social media better than none at all?

  1. A nice summary of the events so far. Good work.

    I’ve been looking into this a fair bit lately, even more so after my post. I like your definition of “consent”, but I think the Spam Act sees it differently. From what I’ve read, not saying no does not count as consent. However consent is given when the consumer approaches the brand where a reply would be reasonably expected.

    So if Bigpond initiate contact; illegal. But if they respond; legal.

    But, this doesn’t matter. I’ve been in touch with the ACMA and I’ve been told that a post on Twitter is not a “commercial electronic message” and therefore is not subject to the Spam Act.

    Interesting, eh? I’m going to keep reading up on this stuff. And thanks for the link!

  2. Hi Michael,

    I am the blogger that posted the BigPond Twitter blog on Now We Are Talking.

    I disagree with your inference that Telstra has a poor culture.

    I think Telstra’s use of Twitter is driven by our cultural focus of ‘anything possible’ – providing the customer a better experience.

    The BigPond team is a case study that our ‘anything possible’ cultural value is alive and well.

    You also mentioned our Twitter service is a ‘complete failure’. That’s pretty strong words for a service that’s been up for a week.

    I’ll refer to my blog – ‘since the early stages of development, BigPond’s primary concern has been protecting the customer’s privacy’.

    This last week has produced a lot of great interactions between Telstra and the blogosphere.

    While building relationships in the blogosphere is important, our first priority will always be the customer.


    Mike Hickinbotham–evolve-insights-from-launching-bigpond-twitter

  3. Mike,

    Firstly thanks for taking the time to comment her and other place and showing a human face to Telstra.

    My comment on a complete failure is around the way it was implemented, vs the service will be a failure. Yes the last week has produced lots of interactions with the blogosphere, my point is having those interactions before the launch would have more than likely produced a much better initial product. Just a thought.

    I am not aware of the cultural values being developed inside Telstra, one of anything is possible is fantastic. If that is being driven broadly then we need to get that message out more so we can help you implement the vision.

    Many of the people in the blogosphere are either your customers or directly influence purchasing decisions by your customers. So it is great to see you building the relationship.

    I would be very interested to find out if Telstra is finding that their employees who are engaging in social media are feeling more engaged and satisfied. See my post from today.

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