Imagine your company is a Fortune 500 company that sells a product, an expensive product, the kind of thing that makes an Mercedes look like a value meal. And imagine that your company is making a huge investment in a direct mail piece. This kind of effort will cost a lot, but it will net more interest in the product, and that might lead to a very rewarding sale.
What if you’re a social media enthusiast? What if you start listening online and find that people are actually talking about the campaign? What if they’re asking how to get involved? That’s just what landed in front of “Bob” (not nearly his real name) recently, but it’s what happened after he got permission to engage with these people on a popular online forum around his products that Bob ran into trouble.
Not too long after that, another manager from a different division of our company sent a note saying that he highly advised that no one from the company should be inteacting with customers online and it was a slippery slope to do this. His words were that we should not be talking to people online and representing ourselves as being from our company when doing this. What! My boss at this point told me to stop what I was doing and to not further engage with them anymore.
What comes next is that Bob, being raised to be helpful, kept engaging with the customer base. He answered some questions, got into some conversations, and brought the company’s story to these people. Of course, someone was bound to find out.
All of this leads me to what happened next. My boss was sent a nasty email from the manager from the other division who originally recommended that we do not engage with these customers. By the way, thisÂ manager never ever gave a valid reason why we should not other than saying it was a slippery slope. The nasty note basically saidÂ he was “disturbed” and very upset that I had continued to talk with these customers (remember, all I was doing at this time was asking for feedbackÂ and not giving away trade secrets, etc.). At this point, my boss called me into a room for a meeting with him and asked why I was continuing to disobey orders and talk to these customers. I tried explaining that I was only trying to put a face toÂ our company and help these customers with their needs and desires to be heard.
I was told that what I did was very wrong and that I would be facing consequences now. My manager’s boss got a note also which only ticked him off and he told my boss to take whatever corrective actions he felt were necessary. I will admit that I am very grateful to this point that my boss did not fire me rightÂ then, but that is when he told me that he was told to put together a “performance improvement plan” that would put restrictions on me, etc.
Also,Â a meeting with HR was set up and that is where I will be going on Monday. I will learn at this meeting what they plan to do and what type of restrictions, corrective actions will be taken to make sure I do not overstep my job description boundaries again and do what I am told.
Just to throw a little more fire onto it all, Bob’s bosses found out that he’s going to an entrepreneur conference, the kind that talks about social media and gets everyone all excitable. They can’t say much about it, because Bob’s taken a vacation day for this, and they can’t block it outright. Instead, the boss comes to him again.
But, the day before the event, he called me and said when I get back, it was an order that I had to pass by him any communication I planned to send out to others aboutÂ what I learned at this event. He had to approve what I would send out to others first. Needless to say, I decided this was not true to who I am inÂ willing to share information with others, so I just did not send anything out at all so I would stay out of trouble.
One more point: the online community where Bob was trying to share this information went crazy when they heard Bob was there. They were thrilled that the company was taking a direct interest in their conversations around their products. In short, the customers, the ones with the money and the interest in buying all this stuff, were clamoring for Bob.
No Happy Ending
I don’t think this will end well for Bob directly at the place where he works today. I’m not guessing that company has a miraculous turnaround. I don’t think they’ll find themselves suddenly enamored with jumping into a community and talking. And Bob? If that had happened to me, I’d already have my feelers out.
There is no moral to this. There is no sweet ending. Simply, some companies won’t get on board. They won’t move forward. At least not until it hurts, and even then, it might not be the way they dig their way out.
Shiny social media pie all around, but some aren’t eating.
What do you think?
Photo credit, KM Photography
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