A ‘Guest Post’ for CPA Congress

A little while ago CPA Australia requested that I write a guest post for them for publication on the CPA Congress blog (cpacongress.wordpress.com), with the purpose of promoting my upcoming social networking workshop in Melbourne on social networking.  That post went live on Friday.  You can find the guest post at http://cpacongress.wordpress.com/2008/08/29/online-social-networking/, and I reproduce the post here for posterity, who I am sure will be so grateful they will come down to the retirement home to turn off Wheel of Fortune 2050AD

Looking forward to giving the workshop in Octobrer.


It’s all fun until someone loses an eye. Then – it’s a sport.

In the same way, online social networking started out all in good fun. Somehow, online social networking moved away from the thumbs of tech-savvy Gen Y and into mainstream media. When someone lost their job though because of something they did online that their boss didn’t like, social networking became business. Nowadays it feels like there are tabloid journalists searching Facebook, MySpace and YouTube looking for a new angle and a new career to destroy – but that may perhaps be paranoid. Still, if you’re into muck-raking it’s more effective than going through someone’s wheelie-bin dumpster-diving for dirt – it’s cleaner, there are fewer pizza cartons involved, and it can all be done from the desk with a few mouse-clicks.

People do some silly things on online social networking websites. People also carry out private conversations in public forums. These activities can sometimes affect a business. All too frequently people are afflicted by a lack of common sense when they use online social networking websites like MySpace, YouTube and FaceBook (and at least 126 other social networking websites according to Wikipedia). When common sense flies out the window, the business can pay the price.

Ask the teacher who posted ‘lewd’ photos on Facebook the price of tabloid infamy (what, 12 year-olds don’t Google?). Ask the new owner of a motor dealership who did not know that a previous customer had written an online post advising prospective customers to ‘avoid them like the plague’ – three years on, it’s still there and showing up when new customers Google the dealership. Ask the owner of the store how she feels about the time a customer ‘twittered’ about bad service – before the customer had even left the store, the message was received by 789 of her ‘followers’. Then you could ask the shareholders of a company whose support technician was videoed asleep on a customer’s couch – and then the video posted to YouTube. Of course, that’s just plain funny, but it can’t be helping the brand strategy, can it?

There may also be some regrets for the partner of a consulting firm whose photo was posted online by a member of his staff – complete with his Hitler moustache, swastika, and doing a Nazi salute. Not a good look – but it’s still there, so maybe he doesn’t know about it! Or the married couple, a photograph of whom was uploaded to Photobucket – they were passionately kissing at the office Christmas party. Their main concern was that they were married, yes, just not to each other. I’m sure I don’t need to discuss the ‘Vlog Naked’ campaign. You get the drift.

Some of these firms know that these things have appeared online. Many businesses though do not know. In fact, when it comes to social networking, some businesses are slower on the uptake than a turkey at Thanksgiving.

What can businesses do about their online reputation?

There is hope! Those attending CPA Congress this year have the opportunity to participate in a workshop I am running called ‘Facebook, MySpace, YouTube & Flickr – managing and leveraging the business impact of social networking sites’ on Thursday 16 October. It’s not a great title, but at least it’s descriptive. This is a companion workshop to a forthcoming CPA Australia Information Technology & Management Centre of Excellence publication – a Guide to managing the business challenges that arise from online social networking.

This workshop provides an overview of social networking, discusses practical steps people can take to ensure their personal privacy, and walks through a process that businesses can use to develop policies and procedures that mitigate the negative impact of online social networking. The workshop also provides an insight into some of the potential business applications of online social networking. As a result, attendees at this workshop will be able to respond to the business challenge of social networking according to their requirements, and receive some practical pointers in helping their staff understand what they should and shouldn’t do online.

This workshop also promises to be a bit of fun – honestly, you never knew how much fun you could have with AS/NZS 4360:2004, did you? At the end of the workshop, participants will definitely have a firmer insight into online social networking and how to ensure that this new technology works for the business, not against it. Attending this workshop will equip you with the basic tools to use online social networking safely and to develop a policy approach that will limit the impact of online social networking upon the business.

Micheal Axelsen FCPA is Director of Applied Insight Pty Ltd and provides business systems consulting advice to clients. Micheal will be presenting ‘Facebook, MySpace, YouTube & Flickr – managing and leveraging the business impact of social networking sites’ at CPA Victoria Congress on 16th October 2008.

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