I was delighted to have had the opportunity to attend O2’s Tweetup with their CEO this evening in London. The company’s top man in the UK, Ronan Dunne, hosted proceedings which took place at The Punchbowl Pub in Mayfair.
Ostensibly we were all there to discuss our expectations for how the operator uses the medium of Twitter — especially in the context of Ronan’s own activities. (You can follow his tweets via @RonanDunneO2).
Ronan led the discussion as those gathered threw out suggestions, ideas, questions and some rather direct challenges, all of which he handled admirably. Not for nothing is the chap in charge of one of the UK’s largest operators.
For example, one of the topics we discussed was the company’s policy for “CEO tweeting”. How should Ronan conduct himself? Should he “manage” his tweets deliberately, with a daily content grid of talking points? Or should he tweet “naturally” as he sees fit? And if he expresses a desire to see the Irish Rugby team crush England (fine by me, as a Scot) is that bad form, given O2’s sponsorship of English Rugby? Does it matter? Should it?
I was concerned about the issue of receiving floods of customer service tweets that might go unanswered simply because Ronan doesn’t have enough time in the day. Obviously his Social Media team help out, but if you’ve customers tweeting the CEO, should they get a guaranteed response? And should that come from the CEO? Or his “office”?
Should Ronan do his own tweets? I asked if he did. Emphatically yes, was his answer. Good news.
The other participants were a mix of experts, commentators and O2 customers, plus a small number of O2’s public relations team (who did an excellent job bringing everyone together and helping keep the conversation flowing). You can’t mess about when it’s the CEO, either. Get it wrong by inviting a group of jibbering idiots and the concept of a Tweetup rapidly descends into irrelevance. So kudos to the PR team for their attendee management.
What I did find fascinating was the opportunity to stand in front of the company’s top man and listen to his viewpoints. I challenged. Well, actually, I asked him about his reaction to the shenanigans taking place in the French marketplace between France Telecom and the billion dollar Free Mobile upstart. Ronan’s perspective was illuminating — I won’t go into detail as this wasn’t the point of the evening.
That did bring the conversation to the issues of capacity, specifically data capacity and management. Ronan’s analogy of the data network as a motorway was very well made.
Rarely does one get the opportunity to talk frankly and directly to the top man. I think it’s probably also fair to say that rarely does Ronan get the opportunity to do this sort of thing in a venue beyond the occasional (and reasonably stage-managed) public/conference panel sessions. As a chap writing often in the mobile industry, it’s always very useful to get your mind expanded with this sort of interaction, even if it’s not necessarily “on record”.
I very much appreciated listening to the perspectives of Ronan and his team. The more I did, the more I thought I should really be dusting off my O2 sims, one of which is languishing in a really old Windows Phone and hasn’t been on the network for months. The other doesn’t exist — it’s tied to a BlackBerry account I haven’t done anything with for about 2 years. I should sort that out. It’s the Richard Branson effect, though: It doesn’t matter how much advertising, messaging strategies and over-the-top spend you do, it’s fundamentally all about people. And seeing O2’s CEO on fire this evening has positively influenced my “feeling” toward the brand, the company and the offering. Extending this to Twitter can only be a good thing.
The event did get me wondering just how the other operator groups would have managed such an evening. I can just imagine some PR directors having nosebleeds at the very thought of it.
Anyway, thank you for the opportunity O2 and good work.
And you know what, I really must do something with my O2 accounts!