The weakest link

You may never find yourself exchanging phone numbers with a Saudi prince, but CEOs and business leaders swap contact details all the time. For Jeff Bezos at Amazon, this was just another routine step along the path that led to a massive breach of his security.  After a personal connection, what is more natural than accepting social media contacts?

Today, companies are under ever increasing pressure to ensure their business processes are robust enough to withstand a cyberattack. Firewalls and anti-virus software are installed, patches applied and staff required to change their passwords on a regular basis. Access to files is restricted to those who need them for particular aspects of their work, processes are put in place for staff who leave and user access to the computers they use is restricted to ensure they don’t do something stupid.

Yet at the same time, we see a rise in the number of possible attack vectors open to the criminals. Social media channels offer new ways to get past the watchdogs and security measures in place. Staff are making great use of cloud-based storage to share documents and larger files. Everyone in your business has a smartphone that’s capable of wreaking havoc yet we regularly let staff ‘bring their own device’ and companies like it because there’s more appeal for staff to work late or on weekends if they do so remotely.

All of this creates more opportunity for the bad guys and more risk for organisations, and especially for business leaders. Because while security restrictions are usually put in place vigorously across the company, the one person who should have extra layers of protection tends to demand fewer.

The boss tends to get the special treatment which allows him or her to have greater access to files and services. They may receive more leniency around passwords and security protocols, and have a hands-on role with their marketing team when it comes to a presence on social media including Twitter, Snapchat and WhatsApp, even if company rules prohibit such activity for others.

Jeff Bezos’s (and other high-profile business and political leaders) Twitter use demonstrates CEOs and organisational leaders are willing to live by a different rule to the rest of the team, and that leaves the organisation open to some serious challenges.

How do you tell the boss that he or she shouldn’t have admin rights on their laptop? That they shouldn’t give out their contact details to everyone they meet, no matter how royal? What about insisting they don’t use their work phones for personal use, such as social media, even when they use social media to talk with customers and represent the company?

It’s a minefield for the security team because, of all the staff in the organisation, those at the top are more likely to be targeted by criminals trying to harvest information and access sensitive information. ‘Spear phishing’, where criminals attempt to pass off communications as being from the CEO or financial department, is a growing area of concern. Having senior leaders who are active on social media, and use it interchangeably with email and other more formal channels of communication, makes life doubly difficult for the security team.

So in light of Jeff Bezos’s breach, here are five tips about cybersecurity for CEOs:

  1. Private vs company

If you do want to share your contact details, use a cut-out service. A phone number that you only use for those instances or an email address that your executive assistant (EA) manages. Keep some distance, and keep it ring-fenced so if there is a problem, it’s limited.

  1. Security isn’t optional

Boring but true. Talk to your cybersecurity leads about how best to handle your specific needs. Routine sweeps of your accounts and devices might be required – especially if you travel overseas a lot – so be prepared for some hassle and annoyance. It’s not their fault – it’s good that they nag.

  1. Set the boundaries for staff

Make it clear how you’ll communicate with the rest of the company. You might use a social media account to talk about the company publicly but you won’t use it to message the CFO at midnight to make an urgent transfer of money, for instance. That way if you are hacked it shouldn’t lead to the company running into financial strife.

  1. If in doubt, there is no doubt

Be suspicious of every communication you receive. If a competitor suddenly wants to share files with you, if a new supplier sends you something directly via an unusual channel, if someone offers to invest large amounts of money out of the blue, be suspicious and if in doubt, check in with your cybersecurity team.

  1. Less is more when travelling

Sure, you might need a laptop and a phone when you’re travelling but you’re also more vulnerable to an attack. Talk to your cybersecurity teams about risk mitigation when on the road and how best to handle that. You should back everything up before you go. You may also be advised to take a ‘travel-only’ laptop (and, depending on the country you are travelling to, perhaps a tablet only) and a phone that can be wiped when you return.

The best defence against cyberattacks is both preparation and planning. Consider the risks, and plan and anticipate the consequences of a breach in terms of your company, your business and you personally.  Doing these things means you’re in a better place to manage any potential attack. And remember that we all suffer from ‘optimism bias’ – “why would anyone target me?” Don’t rely on having never been attacked as proof that you won’t be. Just ask Jeff Bezos how that worked for him.

David Eaton is Associate Director of Cyber Security for Datacom.

Digital transformation requires people with an appetite for disruption

Digital Transformation Banner

By Brett Roberts

Digital transformation involves using digital technologies – such as the web, cloud, mobile, social media, the Internet of Things and analytics-driven personalisation – to re-shape and improve customer interactions, business models and financial returns. An important focus area is the provision and ongoing enhancement of customer experiences that are multi-channel, data-driven and digitally-enabled.

Ideally, such changes allow organisations to embrace and exploit the exponential rate of technological change for the benefit of themselves and their customers. This often entails a shift in organisational ‘rhythm’ away from a steady, sustained marathon-like jog towards something that more closely resembles orienteering.

The agents of digital change

In a sense, the Datacom Digital, Customers and Collaboration team is at the sharp end of digital transformation. Put simply, we exist to enable digital business: everything from web design and build, mobile innovation and app development to implementing data analytics, business intelligence, Customer Relationship Management and collaboration technologies, such as Microsoft SharePoint.

As you would expect, we help customers with technology design, build, deployment and management, and deliver related big picture strategic advice and consultancy. We understand the critical roles these play, but a major part of what we do is help organisations to operationalise digital innovation – i.e. make transformation ‘stick’.

Time and time again, we’ve found that the single most important factor for long-term success is the people within the organisation. They operationalise the new technologies and processes; the enhanced customer experience. They need to adopt, embody and express the new mindset that accepts and embraces the new world of constant, or at least hastened, change.

This means that, wherever you start on your digital transformation, you should focus on your people first and foremost. A new Datacom white paper, available free for download here, examines the implications of this and provides guidance on how to do it. It focuses on four people-related areas: recruitment, leadership, change management and culture. Below is an excerpt from the paper, on recruitment.

An appetite for disruption

Hiring the best candidates is a perpetual challenge, full of risk and opportunity. If you take the best, then your competition is left with the rest – and vice versa. But in the new digital world, the best people may not be who you are looking for or who you already have on board.

Lean Startup author, Eric Ries, said: “The modern rule of competition is whoever learns fastest, wins.” In other words, you need to recruit smart people who you can teach to do anything, and who can thrive amid disruption. You need people with varied, hybrid abilities. You might think this means hiring a cohort of digitally-minded Millennials, but digital skills can be taught. What you are after is rarer: attitude on top of aptitude – which can exist in people of all ages.

For example, my team regularly interviews candidates for senior developer roles. We look for technical proficiency, of course, but favour people with the ability to have an engaging conversation with a customer about their business issues over those who are more technically skilled but unable to talk outside their domain.

In general, we look for a broader mix of skills within the ideal candidate, and a growth mindset. This means they are mentally flexible, a fast learner, comfortable with uncertainty, accepting of the need to take risks and experiment – and fail sometimes – in order to succeed and grow. They are able to stand up for themselves, but recognise, and run with, better ideas. They collaborate and communicate well, and have empathy for their customers, colleagues, partners and suppliers.

They can sit in a room with a customer and others for a week and work with them to design, build and test a prototype application that the customer takes to their Board and gets approval to fully implement. In our accelerating, digital business world, this kind of rapid ideation and prototyping activity is becoming commonplace, even core business for many organisations – and applicable to all manner of product or service innovation – making the diverse attributes described above more mission-critical every day. It’s how my team and others at Datacom work, on many projects.

Shifting demands

There is an interesting macro trend at play here – a contradiction: the more digital businesses become, the less they need people with traditional IT skills. As the example above shows, there are plenty of roles for highly technical people in specialist firms like Datacom. But as business (and consumer) technology becomes easier to use, more automated, provided as-a-Service, and so on, the need for deep technical knowledge and skills within other types of businesses recedes. If these skills and services are required, then organisations can call on the specialists.

Conversely, the need for people who can leverage new digital technology to learn faster, work more productively, be more creative, and come up with new innovations and solutions and run with them, is exploding. And if you bring in people with an expansive, flexible attitude and these skills, then you will help your organisation to foster a digital mindset and culture.

For more guidance on, or help with, making digital transformation succeed, please contact us on

Brett Roberts is Associate Director for Digital, Customers and Collaboration at Datacom. 

How You Can Use Social Media to Make Quick Business Decisions

According to Datacom’s research, nearly half of conversations about your brand are likely to be taking place on your social media channels. Keeping track of these conversations is not just important for understanding what competitors are doing and customers are saying. It also allows you to see which of your services, programs or products are performing the best (or worst) so you can use this information to guide immediate (and future) business decisions.

All it takes is listening

The great thing about tracking mentions of your brand across a variety of online channels is that it can be done without engaging with your customers at all. Simply by listening, your organisation can pick up information that allows you to quickly react in a number of ways:

  • Plan for more online advertising or awareness campaigns or order more print advertising to boost visibility of a program or event
  • Disseminate more information about a service that your customers or constituents are confused about
  • Update your website with information to fill knowledge gaps
  • Order more inventory to meet greater demand or avoid or cancel ordering more if demand is too low
  • Prepare to allow for  additional resources to deal with a potential influx of questions, sign-ups or applications about a particular event or program
  • Schedule an additional event or resources for an event based on how widely it is being talked about online

Real-word examples of how to quickly leverage social media insight

Depending on the arrangement you have with your social media services provider, you can get regular updates each day or each week to keep you on the pulse of how your programs, services, products and events are being discussed online. Consider these examples:

  • One organisation ran a safety awareness campaign which included a free gift as part of the campaign, made available through an online registration link. Datacom monitored the online activity the week prior to, and the week following, the campaign. The registration link circulated before the campaign officially launched, which resulted in all the gifts being claimed. The organisation was able to find out quickly that all the gifts had been claimed through Datacom’s monitoring and were able to order another 5,000 to cater for the demand.
  • One theatre wanted to track mentions of a major production at its venue and that of a rival theatre. The rival theatre’s show was being talked about on social media much more. However, when it came to posts which talked about the production and the venue at the same time, the main theatre’s show and venue were actually mentioned much more together than the rival theatre’s show. The theatre could then decide how it wanted to tweak its advertising or online messaging to grow or maintain its share of the conversation.

Tracking your brand online can provide immediate ROI by giving you the agility to react to fluctuating demand and customer enquiries and concerns. To learn if your organisation could benefit from this type of insight, take a few minutes to fill out our social media survey and set up an appointment with Datacom to discuss your needs.

The Importance of Social Media Monitoring in Your School after a 1:1 Program Rollout

Implemented successfully and with a clear strategic vision, 1:1 programs can foster connectedness, continuous communication and authentic experiences that escalate learning. But there are many components that go into getting a 1:1 program right. In addition to surveying all affected school populations to assess their learning and technology needs and concerns, your school must figure out hardware, software, IT support, data storage and other key elements. Another crucial factor not to overlook in the rush to put technology into the hands of students and teachers is a carefully detailed user policy and a means to ensure it is followed.

Such a policy should guide how staff and students can use devices like laptops and iPads both inside and outside of school. Monitoring discussions of your school online is one way to ensure that students and staff are acting in accordance with your policy. A social media monitoring service can help you address sensitive issues around social media use, cyber bullying and inappropriate web content before they’ve escalated.

Gaining visibility over social media

Even if your school doesn’t have a Facebook page, your students and staff likely do. And, more importantly, anyone can create a page that is associated with your school. Unless it’s extremely obscene, chances are slim that Facebook will shut it down for you.

Knowing what’s being communicated on pages created by students can help you identify who exactly might be breaching your user policy and allow you to take appropriate action. As Australian schools have a duty of care to protect students from bullying both in person and online, it’s crucial your school oversees all the places in which students are interacting to prevent potential issues. Not only can this ensure the safety of your students, it can also protect your brand. One bullying case in Australia led to a $1.5 million lawsuit that was paid to the affected student after his school was found in neglect of its duty of care. Cases like this can lead to immeasurable brand damage for a school.

Datacom worked with one secondary school where students created an unofficial page that included unsavoury comments about students and staff. Facebook stated that the page wasn’t inappropriate enough to take down. The school decided to use our social media monitoring service to track posts and comments on the page and address any that were particularly harmful. The school was able to gain visibility over discussions to make sure none intensified, informing their actions offline to address and educate their students and communicate with the wider school community, including ex-students.

Discovering discussions outside of mainstream social media forums

There are a plethora of social media channels, and even more forums and micro-blogging sites. On any of these sites, students and staff could potentially be talking openly about your school. While this doesn’t necessarily mean all discussions are negative, it pays to monitor conversations to ensure nothing demeaning or endangering to the welfare of students is present.

The good news is you can monitor these conversations even if your school is not actively engaging online. By simply listening online, your school can get a real-time snapshot of the types of discussions occurring and where they are happening. Using reporting tools, a social media monitoring service allows your school to search keywords connected to issues such as cyber bullying and potential school violence, regardless of the sites on which these discussions are taking place. Having this type of regular insight allows you to react immediately to a potentially serious comment or post on one of these sites.

You can handle overall technology planning, 1:1 program rollout and social media monitoring with one provider through Datacom. Our education team is led by experienced educators and IT experts schooled in how to implement successful technology programs that drive educational outcomes. Our social media team has worked with a number of schools to track their and other schools’ presence online. To learn if your organisation could benefit from our social media or education services, take our online assessments:

Social media survey

Education assessment

Using the BITIL Framework to Successfully Implement Social Media in Your Organisation

By Stacey Tomasoni

Most projects organisations implement are delivered according to a framework or set of best practices. These guidelines help ensure the project aligns with business needs and follows a deployment process that will provide the best chances of ongoing success post-implementation. The same should apply when beginning a social media program in your organisation.

With social media, businesses often jump into the water without a life jacket, forgetting they don’t know how to swim. Profiles are set up. A few statuses or tweets are posted. And then it all ends — either because there’s a lack of consistency in who’s driving the strategy and execution, a crisis emerges online that the business is unequipped to deal with or the ROI of social media efforts can’t be tracked. The result is a wasted investment —especially when you consider the potential reach, revenue-generation and retention of customers social media can help facilitate.

A more valuable outcome can be achieved through social media by following a set path for strategising, executing and then optimising results. This framework is called BITIL, which stands for Brokerage, Integration, Trust, Incentives and Leadership. Identifying the strengths and weaknesses of a social strategy provides organisations the intelligence to assess the relevance of previous community activity, requirements for future strategy, rationale of future spend and the allocation of resources. Below, Scott Ward, director of Datacom partner organisation Digital Infusions and the creator of the BITIL framework, explains how BITIL can help organisations succeed in social media.

Q: How would you start an organisation on this framework? Is there any one place you start?

A: “When building a social media strategy, the natural starting point is leadership. Everything else trickles down from there. Leadership fills in a lot of the gaps. You’re trying to figure out what you’re trying to get out of social media and the value you’re trying to give to your customers. How are you doing that and enabling it and how are others progressing toward that goal in the community? That’s the secret to figuring out ROI as well.”

Q: A lot of organisations think they need to create content from scratch before they start sharing on social media. Is this true or false?

A: “It can be existing content that you can infuse in different conversations. If you’re listening online, that should give you the topics of discussion for posting content because you learn what people are talking about and interested in. You respond with content from there.”

Q: Where does sentiment fall in all this?

A: “Sentiment is important, but if it’s negative, that doesn’t necessarily mean there is a problem. It’s an opportunity to reclaim customer loyalty. If you resolve an issue, the customer can be more loyal than they would have been without an issue. Negative sentiment is the biggest opportunity to build trust.

Remember that on social media, 90% listen, 9% respond and 1% posts original content. You want to illustrate to the silent 90% per cent that it is safe to contribute should they choose to. The 90% can learn from the interaction and carry those conversations offline. While they may be passive in their online activities, they are still on the engagement ladder.”

Q: How can businesses integrate the customer lifecycle with their social media efforts?

A: “This is the end user experience — wherever the customer comes into contact with your product, you want to be there. When they might call, walk into the store, have a transaction, then leave the store — that’s the customer experience. So if they come into your store and buy a shirt, you include your social media profiles on the receipt or a card or flyer. Encourage them to follow you online and upload a picture of themselves with their new purchase. You want to figure out how you can insert your social media activities into all of those interactions. This works for B2C as well as B2B.”

Q: What kinds of incentives work best in your experience?

A: “It’s up to leadership to provide the right environment and incentives. You should always thank people for tweeting, following, commenting. The incentive model for social media is called SAPS: status, access, power and stuff. That order is from the most effective incentive to the least effective. When you do things like thank someone for following, it falls into ‘status’ and is more likely to move them toward becoming a committed follower.”

Datacom GM Stacey Tomasoni and Scott Ward will be speaking at “Moving Beyond the Social Media Hype”, an ATA event that will focus on using BITIL to create an effective social media strategy, in Sydney on Sept. 26. Learn more information and register here.

Stacey Tomasoni has worked with Datacom for four years in a number of critical executive roles across the business. Her current role as General Manager, Australia has seen her lead large-scale operations across multiple sites, driving a number of positive business outcomes for both Datacom and its clients.

Stacey specialises in a number of areas, including rapid deployment of resources to respond to unexpected events, adoption of multi-channel resources, with a focus on self-help and call elimination, and using social media to listen, react and engage.

Public Sector Guidelines for Social Media– How to Empower Employees to Use Online Channels to Improve Public Sentiment

By Stacey Tomasoni

Given the growth of social media, particularly amongst Australian citizens, no time is better than now for public sector to integrate guidelines for social media at local and national levels. Consumers and businesses are taking to these channels to voice political beliefs, handle customer service requests and job hunt on the platforms of their choosing — from Twitter and Facebook to LinkedIn, Tumblr and Instagram. As evidenced through Adelaide’s 2010 local Lord Mayoral election, social media even has the power to influence voters and win a candidacy — something now-Lord Mayor Stephen Yarwood successfully proved with his Twitter and Facebook-heavy campaign.

Before engaging online, each council and department should be prepared with guidelines for social media use. By following the guidelines for social media below, public sector agencies will be better prepared to take advantage of these online tools and spark widespread improvement in public sentiment.

Remember the primary goals of social media

  • Share: Although each government agency has unique responsibilities and goals, the public sector’s main obligation is to best serve its constituents. Therefore, it should be in the interest of any given department to publicise and notify its audience of new proposals, issues and policies in ways that are relevant and timely to their audience. A few years ago, the South Australia government, through its “YourSAy” initiative, sparked mass citizen engagement when it asked the public to offer feedback on the state’s 2010 Strategic Plan — collecting most of these opinions online via social media.
  • ListenWithout listening to your constituents, it’s impossible to know what relevant info to share or how to appropriately engage the right people. Take the time to monitor other blogs, Facebook pages, Twitter feeds and trending topics to see what issues matter the most and where they are being discussed. Keep in mind that, typically, around half of the conversations that might relate to your brand or issues on which you want to remain informed of the public pulse will actually occur outside of your managed pages, so stepping outside of this space can give you a broader, more complete perspective.
  • Engage: After monitoring relevant sites, determine which notable topics are critical to your audience and who your key spokespeople are. Take the time to drive conversation both on and offline. This will allow you to create an active and informed community through which you can collaborate and improve public service.

Strategy is key with guidelines for social media

When considering whether or not to initiate a social media campaign, it’s vital to first consider the behind-the-scenes planning and resources required. A poorly executed campaign will only work against you and weaken your cause.

  • Maintain a social media calendar with content that’s of interest to your audience. Before kick-starting your social efforts, you should have up to three months of material to choose from. Building a reserve of this “evergreen content” in advance will make it easier to stay active on social media during slower news periods. This content should focus more on human-interest campaigns and advice for navigating a given government program or branch. For example, the Australian Taxation Office posts regular “tax tips” to help constituents better manage their refunds and deductions.
  • Although you want your policies and professional persona to shine through the social media channel, direct interaction on Twitter, Facebook and forums offers the opportunity to engage your constituents in a more casual manner than they may expect — so make the most of these venues. Develop an individual tone and use it to be transparent about issues and causes that are on your agenda.

  • The biggest social media benefit is the ability to communicate with constituents in real time. In your guidelines for social media, you must explicitly define if and how to react to users when they post a negative or potentially harmful comment. This should include do’s and don’ts for language, tone and when to take a conversation offline.

Social behaviour sticks

Any interaction that you or your department has on social media should be handled with the same ethics as it would have been in real-life. Your responsibilities as a public servant still apply on social media channels. Although the level of formality varies, your actions within social channels (in the form of comments, blog posts, “likes” or tweets) become much more visible and subject to scrutiny. Codes of conduct and guidelines for social media like those mentioned above should dictate how and when to use social media to promote your cause, address issues and interact with constituents.

Social media offers the public sector a huge opportunity to connect with the public and form relationships that are not otherwise possible. By investing in the right resources and educating yourself about the best guidelines for social media, the public sector can both better engage audiences and directly encourage social change.

Stacey Tomasoni has worked with Datacom for four years in a number of critical executive roles across the business. Her current role as General Manager, Australia has seen her lead large-scale operations across multiple sites, driving a number of positive business outcomes for both Datacom and its clients.

Stacey specialises in a number of areas, including rapid deployment of resources to respond to unexpected events, adoption of multi-channel resources, with a focus on self-help and call elimination, and using social media to listen, react and engage.

Going Social: How Government Can Boost Program Outcomes Through Online Customer Service

Government departments are under ever-increasing demand to deliver more cost-effective programs and attain higher levels of customer engagement. These requests have emerged in part because traditional methods of communication between government and the public have lost their thunder. Reaching customers by mail or phone is no longer as effective, as more and more Australians turn to the mobile internet or social media channels as their engagement mediums of choice.

At Datacom, we‘ve helped the government engage better with the public online by implementing solutions that give customers more choice and convenience in how they interact. One approach has involved equipping government contact centres with a range of ways to communicate with the public, including instant message, email and SMS paired with more traditional methods like phone. We also help government organisations design and implement web sites, contact forms, checklists and interactive tools that allow customers to solve their own issues and requests more quickly.

Enabling the public to communicate the way they want, when they want to

Public sector agencies in Australia that still rely upon the phone as the only way to communicate with citizens risk poor customer satisfaction. Australians are the most prolific users of social media in the world. They want to be able to use social media channels, in addition to web site forms and email, to get in touch with government departments easily and on their own time.

A 2011 Australian Government Information Management Office report showed the biggest increases in types of communication used to get in touch with government are social networking, accessing the Internet on a mobile device, making phone calls online and SMS. Eighty-two per cent of people said they use the Internet to contact government because it is convenient, with the number of individuals using social networking sites for communications having grown to 47 per cent in 2011 from 36 per cent in 2009. Of those who contact the government online, 83 per cent reported high satisfaction with their experience in terms of the speed of responsiveness to their enquiries and usability of associated web tools.

Not only does giving the public a wider breadth of tools for engaging with government help increase customer satisfaction, it also helps the public sector receive a wider range of responses related to their programs. Inviting individuals to engage on social media solicits a larger sample size of the population, including additional users in rural areas and youth who might not otherwise engage through more traditional communication methods, giving government a truer picture of how their programs are performing.

Fostering self-service

2011 Australian Government Information Management Office report also shows that public sector organisations that offer self-help tools — web site pages, assessments and checklists, for instance — tend to produce higher customer satisfaction ratings. Self-help tools can provide better access to information, faster resolutions to questions or issues and greater transparency across government services.

Datacom has seen this trend first-hand with our launch of the KANA Lagan CRM platform to the City of South Perth in August 2012. Delivered in partnership with KANA Software, Inc., the solution gives tens of thousands of residents more customer service options such as self-service online tools to increase resolution time and streamline customer service requests. Through backend integration, this self-help function also gives City of South Perth customer representatives all the information on the customers they need to respond to their requests and allows customers to track the progression of their enquiries.

Datacom is sponsoring the Measuring Service Delivery conference for the public sector in Canberra today and tomorrow. To read a case study of our work with KANA Lagan and City of South Perth, request a download link at this page

Social Media in Government: Informing and Engaging the Public During Disasters and Other Events

Earlier this month, Prime Minister Julia Gillard took to Twitter to warn the public about bushfire alerts.

Shane Fitzsimmons, Rural Fire Service Commissioner for New South Wales, said in an article covering the bushfires that citizens should regularly check social media to stay updated on fire conditions in their area.

Around the country, fire and rescue services were tweeting up to a dozen times a day to keep their citizens informed about dangerous areas and bushfire conditions.

This rampant use of social media in government during the bushfires shows how crucial the online space has become to delivering a holistic approach to keeping the public informed and engaged during natural disasters and other events. With the right strategy and tools in place, social media in government can be used to ensure trusted sources spread accurate, useful news during a crisis.

Respond rapidly

Social media in government is so useful during natural disasters and other events because it allows you to get the word out about the situation more quickly than through traditional mediums such as print newspaper articles and TV or radio news reports. Use of social media in government allows real-time updates to the public and messages to the most affected areas using Facebook’s geo-targeting tools. The online messages can also be repeated at times throughout the day most likely to catch individuals’ attention.

If you enlist the help of a monitoring service when using social media in government, this team can also help find members of the public who are talking about the event and seeking potentially life-threatening information who are not on your radar. For instance, some individuals might write posts relevant to your government organisation without actually tweeting to your Twitter profile or commenting on your Facebook page. Without a social media listening service, you might never know these posts exist, which would lessen the impact of using social media in government.

Control the message

Rather than having the message massaged by media, using social media in government means you can directly control what is being said online. This point is extremely important during emergencies, when a lot of incorrect or embellished information is likely circulating both online and off (a recent example during the bushfires occurred in Tasmania whenincorrect information about deaths was spread on Facebook). Even if use of social media in government only involves listening and not engaging online, it can set the record straight offline and dispel rumours swiftly so that the issue doesn’t snowball.

Reaching a wider — and sometimes remote — audience

A recent Herald Sun article notes how use of social media in government agencies such as the fire services has increased since the 2009 Black Saturday fires in Victoria. Use of social media in government is allowing more reach into rural areas or disadvantaged populations, which may not be able to afford mobile phones or cable, but might have some access to free internet to read alerts on social media. As both rural and disadvantaged populations are some of the most at risk in a weather event, the ability to alert them through use of social media in government has become a major asset. A social media monitoring team can help find these individuals if they are talking on sites that are beyond your current scope of knowledge.

Show the public what you’re doing

When Hurricane Sandy struck the east coast of the United States, use of social media in government was demonstrated through agencies such as New York’s Metropolitan Transit Authority uploading pictures to Flickr of workers cleaning up the flood-damaged subway system. Whether it’s a flood or bushfire, use of social media in government in this manner lets you keep the public abreast not only of the impact of the event, but how you are handling it. This approach to using social media in government can extend beyond disasters to more ordinary events such as neighbourhood clean-ups and homeless outreach.

During times of crises, use of social media in government can serve to quickly spread the right information to the right people. Not only does social media in government serve as another communication tool — it can help save lives the next time a major event strikes the populations you serve.

3 Ways the Public Sector Can Use Social Media Monitoring to Improve Policy Outcomes

By Stacey Tomasoni

A 2011 social media report by the Australian Centre of Excellence for Local Government revealed that half of the local government councils in Australia using social media are in the very early stages of incorporating online channels into their communication activities. And we’re OK with that. Because the beginning stages of social media can introduce a variety of benefits to local councils all the way up to federal agencies. Simply listening online through social media monitoring can give government a wealth of valuable information that can help them improve their service delivery to citizens. In fact, listening may be where many government organisations elect to focus most of their efforts, with little to no online presence established.

1. Understand the citizen experience you’re delivering

You think your programs are doing well amongst your constituents. But what’s your sample size based on to draw this conclusion? You could be missing out on opinions being broadcast across social media that paint a more neutral or negative view of your programs or hints from customers as to how the experience could be improved. This is where social media monitoring comes in.

Listening to constituent conversations through social media monitoring gives government a larger, more diverse pool of data to analyse. Datacom has found that listening online can net as much as five times the intelligence of more traditional communication methods like telephone. Listening via social media monitoring can also provide more unsolicited, often unfiltered feedback to give government bodies a more realistic scope of how their programs are affecting their communities.

Additionally, listening can arm you with critical information as to where to focus your efforts to improve the overall customer experience.

2. Provide more education

In Datacom’s experience, nearly half of the enquiries directed at government agencies online are related to how to apply for a certain service or program. This is basic information that your organisation can easily provide both on and offline by listening through social media monitoring. This early stage of social media monitoring can also help government agencies aggregate information to track whether awareness of a program is poor or positive.

Based on this information gleaned from social media monitoring, government agencies can then decide how to better educate constituents. The next step might be to arm your online influencers — which a social media monitoring report can help you identify — with information so they can spread the word. Or, you can decide to take the next step in social media monitoring, which involves reacting to your online audience.

Government can also use this valuable information from social media monitoring to improve online self-help abilities for the public. Organisations that offer self-help tools in the form of web pages, assessments and checklists tend to have higher customer satisfaction ratings. Amongst Australians who contact the government online, 83 per cent report high satisfaction, according to a 2011 report by the Australian Government Information Management Office.

3. Learn what citizens are really concerned about

It’s possible your government agency has gone full-force with programs it believes are catering to the most important needs of the majority of constituents only to find out that you are missing the mark in some area. If you’re not listening through social media monitoring, you won’t know that three quarters of the community you serve are complaining about potholes. Listening through social media monitoring takes you beyond what meets the eye online.

There are multiple applications of this intelligence found online. For instance, local councils can use information gleaned online to increase collaboration with their communities on programs — the No. 3 opportunity offered by social media use according to councils polled in the ACELG survey. The report also noted that a quarter of local Australian councils think social media helps them connect with more removed segments of the population such as youth and seniors.

Even if you have basic social media channels like Twitter and Facebook covered, you could be missing discussions on community forums and lesser-used channels. Social media monitoring scans a vast online landscape that will turn up a wider range of posts about your programs and policies and the issues that matter, enabling you to hone in on what your constituents are really concerned about.

Exploring the online world through social media monitoring listening is a low-risk way for government to begin learning what’s being said about them and the programs they provide. Social media monitoring listening can help public agencies better tap into the communities they serve, reaching more constituents and using the intelligence gathered from these activities to create more effective policies.

Learn more information on how social media monitoring can help your government agency or sign up for our free social media assessment.

Stacey Tomasoni has worked with Datacom for four years in a number of critical executive roles across the business. Her current role as General Manager, Australia has seen her lead large-scale operations across multiple sites, driving a number of positive business outcomes for both Datacom and its clients.

Stacey specialises in a number of areas, including rapid deployment of resources to respond to unexpected events, adoption of multi-channel resources, with a focus on self-help and call elimination, and using social media to listen, react and engage.

5 Ways to Use Social Media When You’re Not Online

Think just because you’re not online that no one’s Tweeting or Facebooking things about your company, your industry or other areas of influence? They are — and they’re doing it on far more channels than you think. The only way to effectively canvas the majority of these channels is through “listening” online, which typically is available via a social media monitoring service.

The key thing to remember about listening in your social media strategy is that it doesn’t require you to have any online presence at all. In fact, armed with the information from a robust listening platform, a perfectly valid approach may be to use this data to better shape your products and services or to engage with individual customers or audiences, all in an offline environment. Here are the top five reasons it pays to listen online.

1. Gauging sentiment on social media

Did one of your products or services tank with consumers and you don’t even know it? Listening gives you unobstructed access to the full gamut of reviews and comments consumers are posting online about your brand. This type of information is crucial even if you have no dedicated online presence to speak of because it lets you adjust your products or services based on customer feedback.

Traditionally, you had to reach out to customers to solicit feedback. Social media has transformed this approach and, with the right tools and process, you have a mass of intelligence at your fingertips about not only your products, but your competitors’ as well. Listening on social media also lets you look beyond just your product and service sentiment to what people think of what you’re doing in the community in which you operate. Through real-time escalation, you should also be getting feeds of any high-risk posts as they occur, including the reach and potential impact of such posts.

2. Identifying opportunities for engagement

Even without a solid social media presence, listening can identify additional opportunities that you can then pursue offline. These can range from sales queries to responding to customer feedback or requests for support, to reaching out to industry spokespeople offline to arm key influencers with accurate information and the message you want to deliver. Anadvanced social media monitoring service will even tell you the number of opportunities for engagement in monthly reports. Armed with this information, you can then decide if you want to engage online or off.

3. Conducting market research

Listening on social media lets you discover what consumers are saying about industry trends, new products and competitors and gives your organisation early insight into topics that matter most to customers and prospects and the communities in which you operate. You increase your sample size for research on social media, and can use listening as a hub for intelligence that unveils unmet needs in the market, product issues and customer suggestions. This information can guide your own product and service strategy and development.

4. Tracking the competition

Not only can social media listening give you a peek into what’s being said about your competitors, which might allow you to fill gaps in their service through your own offering —  it also lets you see what percentage of the industry volume you share amongst the competition. What this means is that you can detect if a major competitor is being mentioned more often online than your brand. If they are, you can then craft a plan to increase your share of the conversation so you stay front of mind when customers or prospects are looking into products or services in your industry.

5. Correcting misinformation

If you don’t know what people are saying about your brand online, you run the risk of having false information written about you without a chance to respond or correct it. Finding where these comments exist takes more than a Google search of your organisation’s name. There are hoards of forums, blogs and less mainstream social media channels on which people might be discussing you.  Our experience shows us that over half of conversations about a brand that occur online happen in social media channels over which the organisation has no direct control.

Organisations looking to get into social media listening don’t have to target all five of these areas at first. Focus on what makes sense for your organisation and use the listening approach to establish a baseline. Perhaps, for instance, you just want to know what the hot topics are in your industry. Take small steps and retool your approach as you gather more insight to maximise the benefits of listening on social media.

3 Steps to Take Before Leaping into Listening

1. Identify what you want to gain from listening on social media

Do you want to learn what customers are saying, monitor the market or stay on top of competition?

2. Choose where and what to monitor

Listening typically involves tracking a set of keywords across social media sites. Think carefully about not only which of these social media channels to monitor, but also which keyphrases to include. You may even want to do some preliminary SEO research to determine the phrases most being searched by your customers or prospects.

3. Determine what you will do with the data you get from listening

Will you keep a running inventory of the feedback you glean from social media? How will you apply it to your business?

Interested in learning more about how to get started with social media listening? Get in touch with us by filling out the contact form on our social media monitoring page.

Stacey Tomasoni has worked with Datacom for four years in a number of critical executive roles across the business. Her current role as General Manager, Australia has seen her lead large-scale operations across multiple sites, driving a number of positive business outcomes for both Datacom and its clients.

Stacey specialises in a number of areas, including rapid deployment of resources to respond to unexpected events, adoption of multi-channel resources, with a focus on self-help and call elimination, and using social media to listen, react and engage.