Social media – “everybody’s doing it – so let’s not do it at all!”

social media conference


I rode down to the Jumeirah Carlton Tower (no less) to speak at “Social Media for Marketing”, a sell-out conference which in headlines offered


At the risk of homogenising the other (excellent) speakers, this was about de-risking the threat of social media – represented by me.

There is a set way of delivering a speech on social media which starts with “shock and awe” with a number of slides showing how the world has gone mental to be on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter, doffs the hat to the disruptive power of individual expression and then moves to eliminate the threat of anyone saying what they think within the organisation.

Social Media Compliance is big business for the lawyers , but it’s a career for many of the young  people who attended this conference.


If it can’t be measured – it can’t be supressed

We had a presentation from a representative of Hootsuite, a machine that sets out to automate your social media campaigns so that you can be seen to tweet while delivering a lecture on tweeting. (I actually saw this happen at a mallowstreet event). Hootsuite is bad news for anyone who believes in social media as a conversation, pre-programmed tweets blare out an insistent message regardless of context like a man with a megaphone walking into a dinner party.

We had a presentation from a lawyer who explained how it might be imprudent to wait two weeks to get compliance approval for a social media post, but that a big-brother approach had a lot going for it.

We had a presentation from a chap who advertised his session

“the new BYOD-like “consumerisation of IT challenge”.

He brought to my attention new phrases such as

“the expanding compliance perimeter”

and introduced me to the

“great debate; implementing social media communications pre-approved vs monitoring and review”.

After all this heavyweight stuff, my session was a little squeezed and I found myself fighting for sound play with a Digital Strategist and a VP Communications EMEA, AB.

The compulsion for expulsion

I wondered just what had happened to make social media deserve this. The answer is of course nothing. People who express themselves on Youtube or snapchat, instagram or Facebook, do so because they think they have something worth hearing and because they want to be heard.

There are , I’m sure, some Emily Dickinsons writing great poetry in common place books to be found after their deaths, but for most of us, the urge to post is a normal human function like going to the toilet.

For some – the product of posting may be slightly more savoury.

The guilty smiles of those who knew

What saddened me, when I did my little rants , were the guilty smiles of some of the audience, who- after three hours of assiduous note taking, were finally able to sit back and hear someone explain why he used social media!

What had been absent from the conference (apart from wi-fi) was any of that inter-active back-chat between tweeters on the conference’s hash-tag. Everyone had their smart phones but nobody was using them!

Looking at my program for the event, every speaker is introduced by their biography but not one bio contains a means to continue the conversation- not a mail, twitter handle or telephone number in sight. I found myself giving people my cards out  at the end of the event!

Those guilty smiles were the smiles of people who I am quite sure know the delights of social media when they leave work, but who are paid to eliminate them – at work!

What of the great FinTech revolution that is sweeping our financial services community?

What of the entrepreneurial start-ups that are driving Britain’s economic recovery?

What of the listening banks who talk with customers?

The guilty smiles were the smiles of people who knew that I represented all of these things. I could never work for a Bank or an insurance company or a fund manager, so long as the compliance culture that was omnipresent in the room persisted.

People like me have been driven out of mainstream financial services into the perimeter so distant that it is beyond the “expanding compliance perimeter”.

Social media non-compliance – the final frontier.

The opportunity is passing by

And the guilty smile was an acceptance that this non-compliant frontier that disrupts compliance itself, is where the best work is being done. It is here that robo-advice is pushing out the perimeter of financial literacy, here that Pension PlayPen is operating, helping small employers understand how to choose pensions and it’s here that the FAMR is exploring the opportunities for policy reform.

The digital revolution will not be delivered by those in investment marketing – unless they are prepared to boldly go where compliance officers have never been before.

In those guilty smiles, I saw the glimmer of an answer. But until the people who I spoke with in that room in the posh Knightsbridge Hotel speak out, they will let the opportunity that social media presents, pass us by.

About henry tapper

Founder of the Pension PlayPen,, partner of Stella, father of Olly . I am the Pension Plowman
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3 Responses to Social media – “everybody’s doing it – so let’s not do it at all!”

  1. Carl Howard says:

    Who were the audience Henry?

    They sounded awfully stuffy. My experience of corporate social media at HSBC, first direct and now TD has been much better than you describe. Of course there are some considered checks and balances to protect brand reputations but overall Social (esp Twitter) is being used dynamically and in a conversational way.


  2. Thank you for this article. I laughed out loud at the observations that were all too familiar in my experience as a lawyer turned entrepreneur. Now a veteran of the inevitable hand wringing angst that comes while tweeting on the hoof to professionals who sit back in their seats waiting casually for me to say something stupid. This usually happens once or twice a day but if I’m not shouting out I’m silent. So let those fingers hover over the ‘unfollow’ button. Nobody ever got fired for choosing IBM but I bet nobody remembers their names either which is why our team have, earlier this week, been encouraged to start Tweeting unmonitored. #CouldBeInteresting!

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