About Len

  • Len Devanna offers over 24 years of digital innovation experience at Fortune 500 brands. He helps companies with all aspects of their digital ecosystem, including online strategy, engagement marketing, and social brand management.

Disclaimer

  • The opinions expressed here are my personal opinions. Content published here is not read or approved in advance by my employer and does not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of anyone other than myself.


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Len,

You raise interesting points that someone like me, who hasn't worked for such a large global company, has ever had to deal with. Are you over analyzing? Maybe. But what I think you are tapping into is how, with the social nets, people are more aware of connections than ever before. And, those connections are public. So, when you work with a company that has so many connections, bitching about Bob's Bait and Bagel might not be the most productive way to handle it. And, frankly, maybe how far you take it in your post would make you seem like a bit of a nut job - which I know you're not.

My point is, sure, you could talk about your bad experiences at Bob's, and well, maybe you could forward them your post to see if they do anything? The point of social media (IMHO) is about connections, both positive and negative. Maybe your experiences would resonate with someone else's and suddenly Bob's will carry more plain bagels.

If you stick to the adage that you should only post online something that you'd be ok sharing with your grandmother, you can apply similar rules here. And, maybe apply some kind of reverse index to what you are thinking of posting - meaning, how would you feel if someone bitched about Len Devanna and created a Facebook fan page for other likeminded LD haters?

Hi Len. I think social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook increase our opportunities to stick our feet in our mouths exponentially. With that said, I think more or less the same rules apply as with analog social interactions, with some new challenges for us as communicators and listeners. Something like this:

a) Don't say anything in the social realm that you wouldn't say to anyone's face, directly. I don't think it's that you have to know your audience; it's more that you have to know all audiences. I realize many have expressed a desire for the ability to segment social media experiences by friend-groups, but in the end, isn't it all public regardless?

b) Consider the karmic value of what you're saying. Are you adding or taking away from the world? There's nothing that says a rant isn't healthy and worthwhile from time to time, as long as the ranter understands the trade-offs.

c) There's a responsibility on the listeners' side of the social conversation digital blob as well, and that is to perhaps listen more and judge less. Our humanness, virtues and flaws alike, are swarming through the ether more than ever before. I think our culture will be adapting by simply caring less about tones and messages that may have seemed (and still may seem) ill-conceived, half-baked, exploratory. The upside is that an "I'm okay, you're okay" attitude may make people jollier, overall. The down side is that we may be devaluing more constructive thinking processes to our intellectual detriment.

Those are my thoughts, for what they're worth.

Over analyzing this? Not at all.

It’s a complex matter, and should be treated more.

It’s not a secret that many of the top executives are relative new to this “market as a conversation” thing.

However, I’m aware that when someone becomes EMC’s spokesperson they remain whit the responsibility all the time. Here in Mexico we teach them that and advise them to talk whit caution. Everywhere.

It’s obvious you cant rant about a service, client or competitor in a blog whit the support of your brand, but many people have “anonymous blogs” for this kind of things.

Hope this will helpful.

Regards.

I'm a cyclist who promotes cycling, so the distinction between my personal and professional lives is vague, and there's a lot of overlap between my work contacts and my friends. I think that's an issue for anyone who works in an enthusiast industry. But I'm also self-employed; my personal brand is how I earn my living. So, social media is especially tricky for me.

The upside is that "work" can be really fun. I'd blog and twitter about bikes even if those weren't two of the best marketing outlets for me to engage with the cycling community.

The downside is that I don't use my blog or twitter to keep up with my non-cycling friends. They're not interested in bikes, but talking about my off-bike personal life would be both counterproductive to my work goals and unfair to my girlfriend. I've chosen this line of work; she hasn't.

To answer Len's question, I'd say that if work is part of your social media life, a conservative approach is the right one - not just to avoid work-related gaffes, but also to be respectful of the people close to you. Although I'll occasionally post stuff on Facebook like a video of my cat extinguishing candles with his paws, I'd have to say that I use social media primarily work and I always think about that before I click 'submit'.

PS - Yelp is perhaps the one exception to this. I don't use it for work or personal networking, and I see it as returning a favor to others whose reviews have been useful to me.

It's a line we all walk. I am usually careful, but I do step in it sometimes. I once had an angry person call my CEO about what I wrote on my blog - the ironic thing was, I meant that particular comment as a compliment!

But it can cut the other way, too. Let's say "Bob" was blogging about his company's newest gadget. Even though Bob knows it stinks, blogging and twittering and such has become part of his life and work, all mixed up together. Maybe people start asking him about it online. So he has to say what nice things he can. This can come back to haunt him later, once his friends try it out and realize what garbage it is!

I don't have the answer, but it's a fine, fine line we walk. We all appear to be friends, sociable, and honest. But we're not necessarily any of these. We're doing much the same as people always do - trying to make the best of work and life without stepping in it too deeply.

So does this mean I can never say anything negative about anything just in case it hurts my employer's brand or the brand of one of my employer's customers? In our case, that means we can never talk negatively at all. I personally think that has really dangerous implications for innovation.

Is it talking negatively that is dangerous, or is it the *bitching*? Sometimes there are negative issues that need to be discussed...why should everyone suffer alone every time they enter their time sheets? Why not use the collective power of the crowd to really pinpoint the problem, and come up with a solution?

I think all of us have been frustrated by a service or a product at some point in time. If we can talk reasonably about the negative experience in the public arena, maybe someone else can chime in a with a solution or a way to help us see things from a different vantage point.

Taking your example, why aren't the Timekeeper folks paying attention to your dissatisfaction? Is it their responsibility to make you (their internal customer) happy so you don't get to the point that you are complaining to anyone who *will* listen? Is there an internal way to complain about it, or is part of the reason for complaining outside that you need a way to relieve the frustration because it seems as if no one is listening?

Len, I've also put a lot of thought into what you're talking about, though I admit I hadn't specifically thought about offending a customer and getting a gag order.

It's interesting to me because the problems aren't new, but the scale and permanence of them are. For example, someone who drives a company car is benefiting themselves (hey, free car!) and their company (hey, free advertising!). But they and their company take a risk - maybe someone gets cut off by that driver and refuses to do business with that company.

Of course, on the Internet it's a bit more far-reaching.

I think if we want the benefit of hitching our wagons to the powerful horse that is the corporate brand, we have to accept some of the cultural norms that come with that. Likewise, if the corporate brand wants us out there, they accept some of the risk that we bring to them as well.

It's a tricky game.

Tremendous and thought provoking comments. Thanks much for weighing in folks.

@copydiva - For the record, there's a very healthy Anti LD community out there. They even have a secret handshake ;)

@Ruth - Interesting points around desensitizing ourselves to the noise. And man do you have a way with words - Why aren't you blogging again?

@ouroboros - Teach folks early about the ramifications - Good point. Help them understand the reach they have via something as simple as commenting on a blog. Gracias por el comentario.

@John - You raise a good point in that folks like you and I (that is, people who focus on SM as part of their jobs) may have to be a tad more sensitive than say someone with no direct 'online' responsibilities. And for those that don't, the onus is on us to help them understand the slippery nature of the slope. BTW - I *have* to see that video.

@Stephen - I like the reverse engineering approach. I think @copydiva eluded to same. I always try to keep in mind the longevity of digital content. If I sing the praise of Bob today, as example, and if in 5 years Bob's business has gone to hell and my 'trusted network' looks at my positive recommendation - my personal brand takes a hit.

@gina - I took the examples to extreme for point. And you're right - there's a line (albeit fine) between complaining and constructive feedback. And yes - 'brands' should be listening - but we all know that's the advanced class. Most talk for years before remembering that they do in fact have ears. What's the old saying - we have two ears and one mouth for a reason...

@David - You're right - it's not new news - It's the reach of the medium that amplifies the signal times a thousand. And I tend to agree with you - I signed up for this and think it reasonable to expect some impact on my non work voice - but it's a two way street. It will be interesting to watch this evolve in coming years as more and more adopt the social web and brands adapt to the good and bad of having thousands - if not tens of thousands - of brand voices.


Great discussion Len.
Maybe I've read 1984 too many times, but I think some constructive dialogue is a good thing. Now while there are plenty of people trashing things publicly (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zSP8xm_gaK4), I agree with Stephen's point that a critical and honest look at things adds a lot more value than just empty praise.
Just as I know that when I look at TripAdvisor that even the best hotel or restaurant will have a bad review, you can expect the occasional disgruntled customer or annoyed employee in any company.

As another BigCompany employee with a social media presence, this is something I've had to come to terms with as well. I don't think you have to confine yourself to never saying anything negative -- but it should be kept to a minimum and it should always be in some context and justifiable.

"OMG, XYZ sucks and I hate them" might not make it into my Twitter feed anymore, but venting about a canceled flight or saying "That was possibly the worst burrito I ever ate, too much raw onion = fail!" .... yeah, I'd Tweet that. We're only human after all.

very interesting thanks.
i think saying harsh words is always a problem and people dont listen. they hear but they dont relate. if u express yourself better people listen and take it in

Great topic, and great comments by everyone. I have refined my POV based on all this information:

1.) Think of a rant as screaming at someone else in public. You wouldn’t do it, would you? Instead, perhaps *help people solve their problems*. For example, in the “Bob’s Bait and Bagels” you could say “hey, Bob’s no matter how much of an early bird I am, I still can’t get a worm. What gives?” In the case of EMC’s timekeeper, maybe you don’t mention the company’s name. What if you said something like “Urg. Nothing worse than dealing with a timekeeping system that completely wastes my time”. Gets your frustration out, invites people to vent with you, doesn’t hurt anyone. Then go to the person at EMC who could actually solve the problem.

2.) The idea that we rant because we feel we aren’t being heard is interesting to me. Heck, I sound like a reasonable person, but *I’ve* done it. But are you really NOT being heard, or do you just feel like people SHOULD know better? Think about the reason for your ranting. And then, think about whether YOU want to be seen as a “ranter” or a “problem solver”. Sometimes people want to be seen as a ranter – it makes them appear passionate. But I like copydiva’s point about thinking of whether we are “adding or taking away from the world.”

3.) Josh had a good point: DON”T say something good about something if it’s not good. You WILL lose your credibility. If someone asks me to endorse something that I don’t find worthy of putting my name on I *always* have a private conversation with them and tell them exactly why.

Thanks again everyone.

@Stu @Rachel @Foodcook and @Lisa all touch on a similar theme... And I love it.

There's a radical difference between me saying

"Brand X sucks! I HATE Brand X! Never buy from Brand X!"

and

"Boy, Brand X could sure invest a bit more in support offerings. I find it very difficult to find XYZ when I need it"

Either of these could come from the same frustrated user. The difference is one's productive and adds value.

More importantly, Brand X in this case would hopefully be much more receptive to the constructive feedback. After all, how do you respond to 'You Suck'? Through all of my years in school, I never managed to figure it out ;) . Reacting to "I'm not a fan and here's why" is something I'd be much more open to. It's constructive.

I try not to post, in Twitter or on my blog, anything I wouldn't want my grandmother to see in tomorrow's News. I also work diligently to separate Work from personal. I never name the Company That Employs Me. I don't name co-workers. I assume that current and future managers will read my blog. If they're written and published (and the Internet is published) then I stand behind my words.

For everything else, I have a private journal, stored privately at home.

Found this thread following a link to it, and really like the discussion, thought some remarks from one of the masters might be in its place..:)

------

The Socrates Triple Filter Test

In ancient Greece , Socrates was reputed to hold knowledge in high esteem.
One day an acquaintance met the great philosopher and said, “Do you know what I just heard about your friend?“
“Hold on a minute,” Socrates replied. “Before telling me anything, I’d like you to pass a little test. It’s called
the Triple Filter Test.“

“Triple filter?“

“That’s right,” Socrates continued. “Before you talk to me about my friend, it might be a good idea to take a
moment and filter what you’re going to say. That’s why I call it the triple filter test.“

“The first filter is TRUTH. Have you made absolutely sure that what you are about to tell me is true?“
“No,” the man said, “actually I just heard about it and…“

‘All right,” said Socrates. “So you don’t really know if it’s true or not. Now let’s try the second filter, the filter
of GOODNESS. Is what you are about to tell me about my friend something good?“

“No, on the contrary…“

“So,” Socrates continued, “you want to tell me something bad about him, but you’re not certain it’s true. You
may still pass the test though, because there’s one filter left: the filter of USEFULNESS. Is what you want to
tell me about my friend going to be useful to me?“

“No, not really.“

“Well,” concluded Socrates, “if what you want to tell me is neither true nor good nor even useful, why tell it to
me at all?“

----------------

This should really be a test everything passes before leaving anybody's mouth/keyboard or through other channels and services. If what you say is both true and bad, make sure it helps the problem in some way..:)

Also, even though the mediums are new, common sense and good behaviour should not go out the window. We are still humans in each end of the internet wire, and we should behave like humans.

My 2 cents

John

Great food for thought. In fact, so much so, that I finally put my own thoughts into words in a blog post. My Blog has consisted mainly of my creative writing and musings on happenings in my own little world, but I have found that my internal censor is constantly on, anticipating the virtual audience instead of writing straight from the gut as I do with my Writers' Circle of friends.

Thanks for posting!

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