Saturday, 1 May 2010

2 sides to every story

Very soon a new LinkedIn App. Is launching – it is called DueDil – short for ‘due diligence’. It comes hot off the heels of a service called Unvarnished that launched in March, with a large amount of US PR noise.

The aim of the APP. is to bring more transparency to social networks.

"We all expect the web to be transparent and objective, yet in closed communities like LinkedIn and Facebook, there is no objectivity," the company explains on its web site.
"As a result it is almost impossible to get a true understanding of a person or a company before going into business with them."
"We invite you to participate and become a part of this community by submitting your own contributions, and thus building your own reputation as a trusted reviewer."
"As difficult as it might be sometimes, honesty is the best policy. We ask you to be sincere, constructive and fair, and to speak without fear of repercussion."

As a director of service providing companies, it raises really interesting sociological issues, that are leaving me feeling very uncomfortable, so I have spent some time thinking through three points of concerns.

Firstly, ‘there are two sides to every story’. Anyone who helps friends through a divorce, arbitrates in their children’s arguments, or runs a service company knows that there are two sides to every story. People see the world very differently. It is a core value at both ABA-design and The Flexible Marketing Co. that we go the extra mile to please our clients. In fact when an independent consultant, Kitty O’Hagan, came to assess our own brand values and proposition, she came up with the expression ‘ you like to delight and surprise your clients’ – and we try to live by this. But in the twenty (or so) years that I have been doing this job there are a handful of times, where I have had to walk away from a client knowing that the client is not happy. I hate it. It really upsets me. But I have to shrug my shoulders and move on, because in the main, it is usually about an expectation gap between us (agency) and the client. With the most rigorous of engagement processes, contract negotiations etc, human nature is that this still sometimes happens. No processes stop human beings misunderstanding each other – from time to time. So in summary I am worried that good people will get bad press.

The theory is that if you are good you will have many good reviews, and the odd bad review will just be ‘noise’ amongst the truth. This leads me to the second concern. Another aspect of human nature, we take the energy to complain, but we will not take time out to praise. I am concerned that only the disgruntled will engage with these sites, and those that are quite content will not even think to enter the debate.

My third point is less of a concern and more of a comment from the company, “As a result it is almost impossible to get a true understanding of a person or a company before going into business with them." That is true if you just choose to use LinkedIn to engage a client, but surely this is were the online and the real world collide? As much as I believe in social networking, once you find a product / service / consultant, you then do your own due diligence in the real world, and get on and get good old fashioned references. The real world and online world have to co-exist, and to try and do everything online in a complex business environment, I just don’t believe in. In our industry we often refer to our first client meeting as a ‘chemistry meeting’ – ie. Did we get on? Could we imagine working together? That will never be achieved from a social network.

So, unless I am proved very wrong, and there is an energy in human beings to take time out to positively comment as well as negatively comment, and I am proved that the voice of the many will overpower the voice of the odd individual, then I probably won’t be taking the application any further.

Sandra Bullen
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