We were pleased to read in the Guardian that the UK environment agency have launched a new service, enabling people to stay up to date with the status of their local river. Social media users will now be able to follow their local river on twitter, receiving daily updates on the status, any flood threats as well as general customer service information. This means that the UK Environment Agency will be managing over 2,400 twitter accounts with automated posts linked to real time river data.
It’s great to see yet another West Midlands based software business - Shoothill at the forefront of innovation. When they first came up with the idea, people must have thought they were mad – very reminiscent of early days of CrowdControlHQ, when people would tell us that social media wouldn’t take off!
We truly commend the UK Environment Agency on two counts. First for the foresight to challenge perceptions in social media, pushing people outside their comfort zones. And secondly for choosing the support of a West Midlands tech business for the data and mapping, proving that the UK’s technology belt really is in the middle of the country!
The river announcement reminded us of a presentation given by digital strategist Craig McGill in Birmingham at Beyond Social in October 2013. Craig warned that we needed to think beyond our organisation, our brands and our people when it comes to social media.
He gleefully predicted that more products, services (….and now rivers) would start to come to the forefront of the communication channel. One attendee scoughed, “you mean that my washing machine is going to tweet me? Why would I care?”
Craig being the straight talking fella that he is, listed many great examples of how products and services, particularly those we have personally chosen a relationship in the first place, taking pride of place in our homes, wardrobes, cupboard and fridges had the potential to achieve great things in social media. He predicted that the social environment was going to add significant value to a product or service with a stark warning to those who shunned it at their peril.
So the expectation for customer service of the future appears to have the full involvement of the ‘thing’ we have bought itself. Someone, will need to choose the tone of voice of the product and no doubt great fun will be had there with a new kind of ‘social voice overs’ offered by the copyrighters to support the data and information that is automated.
The products are going to remind us of important dates, like renewals of our home insurance and tell us when our car is due for a service, as well as connecting us with companies, products and services that could help us when our products have broke down or out of warranty.
So in the grand scheme of things, it should be no surprise that rivers are going to start tweeting us and telling us when they are feeling like they might flood. And perhaps it is the fact that we don’t expect something so wild and natural (as a river) to join the social party that makes the news so compelling?
It is really going to challenge the ‘purists’ who see social media as something beautifully organic, most definitely the reserve of living breathing humans. And, no doubt they will continue to lobby against any moves by products and service to communicate with us direct in social media in this way.
But the fact that our washing machine will be able to @mention us in the future to tell us to call an engineer because they've blown a fuse or the fridge reminds that we need to stock up on milk is a lesson for all boardrooms on thinking outside the current repertoire of content approaches?
Directors need to challenge their marketing teams to think beyond their comfort zone when it comes to social media. Analytics demonstrate the significant ROI to be made in terms of reach and if we can make the communication useful and relevant to things that people physically own, or directly impact on them, then it makes for compelling communication. Signs of reticence when it comes to social media are still evident and we commend the UK Environment Agency in taking this step as we believe it will have a radical impact on how people view social media in the future.
So today, we have started a new game in the office – its called the ‘what product would you like to tweet you?’ game. Then we realised the office printer was completely out of ink! Our first candidate was staring us in the face. We thought it would have been nice for our Dell printer (other brands are available) to tweet @CrowdControlHQ to warn us that we were close to the end of our cartridge, perhaps in advance of the point when it was completely exhausted to avoid any unnecessary panic (or name calling) in the office. Perhaps throwing in an offer on paper while we were at it? But no doubt that will be a blog topic of the future.
Enjoy your weekend and perhaps visit (or tweet) your local river!
CrowdControlHQ is the UK’s leading social media risk management and compliance platform. Used by UK water companies it monitors multiple social media accounts through one central dashboard and assists marketing teams in remaining UK compliant.
Watch the Speakers from Beyond Social 2013 here »