Thanks to Facebook and the social web, we are all aware that friendship has become a very elastic term. Especially as Facebook sets a limit at 5,000 friends. Now there’s something to aim for.
But despite our healthy cynicism over online ‘friendship’, we all understand that something unique is going on, and that the social web is without doubt one of the top ten innovations of our times.
We’re familiar with Facebook, YouTube and Twitter, but the social web also exists in many forms on all kinds of websites: as comment, chat, recommendations, and of course the ‘likes’ that are clicked on to show appreciation for content or a brand.
Such user-generated activity is creating granular levels of feedback that have changed communications and the nature of relationships with customers forever. It’s as if provider and customer were in the same room – albeit virtually – 24/7.
It’s exhausting and exhilarating all at the same time, and there’s no going back.
Today’s new product launches are measured by the number of ‘friends’ they have on Facebook, the amount of Twitter ‘tweets’ and ‘followers’ they generate, the number of views on their promotional videos put up on YouTube, and so on.
Not being linked to the social web is surely commercial death by a thousand clicks.
It may seem a far cry from the old days of above- and below-the-line marketing, but the theme running through it is that consumers enjoy voting with their keyboards and being able to be part of the conversation about what’s good, what’s not.
Done the right way, it’s a highly effective and very cheap way of reaching all kinds of communities that are involved with your brand.
But aren’t we sleepwalking into a privacy and hacker nightmare?
Yes and no.
Yes, because so much more information and so many more threats are out there – many of which can damage the brand or alienate customers – but ‘no’ because the benefits vastly outweigh the negatives. And with the right precautions, risks can be massively reduced.
The problem is that even the most innocent activity online is an opportunity for a hacker. Take for example the new craze of ‘Like-Jacking’, a technique whereby hackers hijack the ‘like’ button on a webpage to send malware back down the line. It’s relatively rare, but it’s a threat that like many others needs attention.
But these types of threats are not new, what is new is the need to have a clear plan for protecting data and protecting the brand when social networks are becoming such an important communications tool.
BT works at reducing these risks on a number of levels. At the network level by providing managed networks that are secure and able to monitor and filter traffic effectively. Such networks are also regularly tested by BT’s ethical hackers so that deficiencies are revealed and fixed by the ‘good guys’.
Then, at the strategic level, by assisting customers in developing clear policies and strategies for operating and using social networks as communications tools. This trickles down to appropriate training and policy documents that guide and warn against inappropriate use.
Common sense and vigilance are essential but if you want customers to ‘like’ you, it’s clearly time to demonstrate internally and externally that you know how to operate in a socially-networked world.
And despite this shift into a socially-networked world, the old adage is surely still true: If you look after your friends, they will look after you.
To read other articles in the series of what we consider to be the ‘Top 10 Greatest Changes of all time’ click here.