Social media: The cult and culture of transparency

Matthew Tod is the co-founder of data analytics business, Logan Tod which was acquired by PwC in 2012, he now heads up the UK Digital Intelligence team.

 

Our recent, annual survey of the hopes, fears and desires of CEOs across the world shows how UK CEOs, more than leaders almost anywhere, want to strengthen engagement with users of social media. And they’re right. The revolution in digital communication and information is a mega-trend, changing the dynamics of many conversations companies previously preferred to keep to themselves. It’s also providing real and rich opportunities for companies to enter genuine (and potentially more profitable) relationships with their customers.

Who would have thought a few years ago that a cash machine not working could start rumours about a run on the bank? Well, it can now. Companies are learning that they cannot count on information about executive pay, finances, employee relations or environmental behaviour remaining private for long. Thanks to social media, everyone with an opinion can be heard.

Media-savvy campaigners and individuals now have comparable resources to corporate entities in that they can collate vast amounts of information, present it in an impactful way and very quickly distribute it to interested audiences as part of a co-ordinated campaign.

At their different speeds, companies are coming to terms with the fact they need strategies to deal with this. Some organisations now have dedicated people to monitor and respond to on-line conversations. Leadership teams are learning that they need to take a degree of public criticism in their stride.

But information from online conversations can also be turned into intelligence, giving companies an edge. Leaders who recognise how their relationship with consumers has changed forever also know that data, turned into digital intelligence, is the ingredient that will help them thrive. This digital intelligence can be used to inform activities such as marketing, PR and sales. But some industry leaders are taking it to the next level by using it to better understand their customers' real needs, attitudes and experiences. From this rich data they are designing new products and services that help consumers in other areas of their lives.

For example, insurance companies are combining customer information with real driving data collected from car sensors to tailor their policies and offer premiums that reflect real risk, not just the cruder categories of age, gender and geography alone. Retailers are collecting multiple sources of data to offer consumers products that more closely meet their personal goals, such as healthier, lower fat diets.

Talent and skills are an issue here. We know that UK businesses have been acquiring data analytic capabilities over the last twelve months, but there’s less evidence that they know how to apply this expertise. Data scientists and analysts are in high demand but can only deliver alongside the skills of intelligent interpretation and the ability to feed findings into strategies that will lead to profit.

For more fresh insight into what’s on the minds of UK and global business leaders, dig into the findings here www.pwc.co.uk/ceosurvey