The dust settles after the UBank / "My Future Bank" incident

The Backstory
In October 2008, there were a string of incidents and comments around UBank's (run by NAB). For about a week or so, the blogosphere was positively pulsing with bloggers posting and others commenting about what was going on over there. Cheryl Gledhill's post (which she has since taken down) started it all and it spread like wild fire.

The fallout
It was like a car crash taking place over a whole week. The story was feeding on itself. Cheryl blogged it, then Kate Curruthers, Gerry McCusker, Stephen Collins and Laurel Papworth blogged some more about it, and so did many others. Them-there-be-fightin'-words were used: "train wreck", "crapped in their own nest", "friggin' mess" and "dishonest and not-very clever" were used to describe the incident. Comments were flying everywhere. Then others picked it up too, like wotnews, IT news and The Finanser in the UK. The fallout was everywhere. And I enjoyed reading every bit of it. It felt like scandalous school yard gossip spread by the cool girls in year 10. Oh the drama, drama, drama!

Hang on. What just happened?
But after the dust settled I started to think about what had really happened. What lasting effect is the brouhaha around a social networking "experiment" that screwed up royally going to have? Not only did the experiment fail, but the surrounding scrutiny was so deafening that it took on a life of its own. The message seemed to be "if you get into the groundswell, you had better do it right, otherwise you'll get crucified - not only by your target audience, but also by bloggers who are watching you like a hawk". Sheesh! The pressure! If you were a CEO, VP, or head-honcho decision maker in a big organisation, would this give you any confidence to approve your organisation's first foray into social networking?

The possibilities, benefits and power of social networking
I really hope the "shitstorm" (great quote from Cheryl Gledhill) surrounding the story won't stop Australian businesses from embracing social networking as an integral part of their business. Surely our messages and efforts should encourage and help nurture the burgeoning social media industry and shout loudest about the possibilities, benefits and power of social networking for organisations.

Promote the successes
So, what now? Let's sing the praises of those who are getting it right! Let's start a case studies collection of big businesses in Australia that are successfully engaging within the groundswell. Who's with me?


Stephen Collins said...

Like all the others you name, I will always point out what I see as social media business use successes. I have mentioned more than one the shift in perception that I and others have made with respect to Telstra and BigPond over the latter half of this year - they are listening and engaging really well.

Equally, we'll all also point out what we see as failings and call into question the advice the businesses are being given when they make mistakes. But I think you'll also find that we largely try to offer a handful of constructive advice about how businesses like NAB can find value in their mistakes and move ahead with successes. Trouble is, they mostly don't

Mathew Sanders said...

I didn't actually hear anything at all about this - and I'm working with an ex-NAB colleague, and in the banking space. I completely understand why Cheryl's post was taken down, but it would have been interesting to have read it (off topic, but wouldn't it be great to have some type of blog timeline tool where you could see various posts in a story how they rolled out over time?).

Anyway, this isn't the first example of it's kind where the blogosphere has reacted to a poorly executed corporate blog (Naked Conversations has some great case studies)

I'm glad that you're promoting the change from crucifying corporates that get it wrong, and instead helping them with constructive criticism instead.

The positive case studies is a good idea too!
Personally I think that with the current global economy, now is one of the best times that banks can be using social media to help reach out to customers and have an authentic conversation with them.

Here in the New Zealand market we have RaboPlus who are running a very nice successful blog, and ASB which I think are struggling (for a number of reasons) their overall approach to blogging (which they've branded as Antenna), but on the other hand for specific situations they have used blogging as a great medium for getting feedback on new functionality, and even better - acting on this advice.

As well as keeping case studies of what works, I think it would be useful to point out what isn't working, and offer constructive feedback for change.

Have you had any thoughts on how the case studies could be managed? Perhaps as bloggers we could agree on a common Delicious tag to link the case studies togeather?