“Why are you giving your location and details of your feelings on a per minute basis,” I asked Soapy, confused.
He glared at me, and moved on.
I looked at Phil, the balding veteran of the HR department, for enlightenment. “What’s up David?” he asked.
“This fellow is on the net, and keeps updating his status all the time. Why this craze – I don’t get it,” I explained.
Phil shook his head, “This needs careful thought,” he said, “Soapy doesn’t do anything without a purpose. How do you know he does this?”
“Actually I am linked to him on the net and keep getting his messages. See..” I said and showed Phil the mystifying statements that Soapy had been broadcasting to the world for the last few days.
“’Deep into files,’ says one message,” read Phil, “’Holidays cancelled, Wife attacks with blunt object,’ says another. Lots of alphabets that do not mean anything…..Sad faces…”
“Those are smilies,” I said.
“But they look unhappy.”
“This one is a sad smiley,” I explained.
“Whatever,” said Phil and silently read on. “He seems to have an opinion about everything in the world…and seems to be a good poet too.”
“Those poems are copied from the net. If you look carefully, they are mostly from Shakespeare, twisted and modernized slightly,” I said.
“You seem to have done some research into this,” Phil commented.
“I have been observing him, yes, for I doubted his poetic capabilities,” I explained defensively.
What remained unsaid was that I have started feeling threatened by this youngster, who, I have no doubt, will go to any extent to grab the next promotion opportunity, leaving me in an awkward situation where I would have to do a lot of explaining to ‘she-who-must-not-be-disobeyed’.
Later that week, Superboss called a meeting on the ‘targets’, and was in a foul mood. “How many repeat customers are you getting,” he asked Mr A, my immediate boss, who was handling the agents for some time now.
“Lots,” he said, “They keep on repeating the same thing.”
“What do they repeat?” Mr A had managed to confuse Superboss again.
“Hmm,” said Mr A, “That’s not worth repeating, but it is mostly whining.”
“You mean they are not satisfied?”
“It seems so,” said Mr A. “They don’t seem to like the product. They say it is a mishmash of old ideas.”
“What rot,” said Superboss, raising his voice. “The product is being well received in all the other zones.”
There was of course no need to respond to a statement of fact, and so Mr A kept quiet. Superboss waited for some time, expecting Mr A to clarify, but finally had to ask, “So what do you suggest we should do?”
Mr A shrugged and mumbled something to the effect that we should make something that is actually sellable.
“What can be done is to use the social media to our advantage,” said Soapy, with a smirk, “And keep in touch with our customers and agents on a more regular basis. What is more, it would not cost us anything.”
Superboss’ face lit up. Whether it was because it was a new idea, or because the promised solution was to be free, he took an immediate liking to it. On his prodding, what followed was a detailed account of the powers of new media by our resident expert, Soapy.
Mr X, the arch rival of my boss, was the first to jump up to the idea – and it was with great difficulty that he restrained himself from walking up to Soapy, and shaking him by the hand. With what I perceived to be tears of happiness in his eyes, he seconded the idea of adopting the social media in all our activities, and especially for maintaining a close relation with our agents.
The upshot of the meeting was that Mr A was given the job of starting our accounts on all social media platforms – ‘immediately and without fail by this weekend’ – and report the results in a meeting to all the colleagues in a week’s time. And thus, on that bright morning, we began our journey into the new world.
The start turned out to be easier than expected. Except for Soapy, who had expected the task of implementing the idea to be given to him, everyone was happy. Most believed that since the matter was in the hands of Mr A, nothing would come out of it in the end – they had full confident in him, and rightly so, if I may add.
Mr A has a number of aces up his sleeve when confronted with work. Sometimes he expands the work to such a colossal amount, that it has to be outsourced. Sometimes he buys time till the work becomes redundant and everyone forgets about it. Sometimes he messes it to the extent that it has to be dropped altogether.
In this case, however, he did not have to do much. He just launched the idea, and it took care of itself. That is, the idea proved itself to be a disaster, without Mr A having to do anything to ruin it.
Mr A was in his elements when he made his presentation on his experiences with the social media the following week.
“As directed, our office started a Twitter and a Facebook account, and we got huge support from our agents. Almost all logged on with us on the first day itself. In fact agents and managers of our rival companies also logged on…” began Mr A, and Superboss gave him a pleasant smile.
“From the first day itself, we started getting questions on our products, our pricing policy, our agent selection policy, our future plans regarding the products, the actual cost of our products and the mechanism by which we decide on the commission to different agents…”
Superboss cut Mr A short mid sentence- “How are all these things relevant to the agents?” he asked.
Mr A shrugged, and said “Don’t know. They seemed very keen to know, and persisted with these questions. In fact they started a discussion on these subjects on our sites, and started sharing their experiences. I have a printout of the discussions here – we have made a few copies for all of us to go through. David please distribute the copies..”
The senior managers went through the transcripts with increasing sense of alarm. Mr A continued – “There are some positive references about David, and even about me if I may add, for starting this site. We immediately clarified that it was the idea of Superboss – yours sir. But some disgruntled elements diverted the discussions into some very irrelevant channels, questioning your appointment and caliber, and even that of some of our other managers. Some stooges of our rival company, I am sure they were planted, even tried to spread canards about our products. On page three, you would notice, the discussion suddenly turns to the wasteful expenditure on our golf course project. We ruthlessly snubbed these stupid comments, even deleted many, but they kept cropping up….”
Mr A took the members through the various discussions that had come up on our sites. Mr A was very frank about it all. He did not hide the bitter details, just for the sake of making a favorable impression.
At the end of the presentation, Mr A asked for the opinion of members on how to take the project forward. Soapy, I noticed, looked aloof and disinterested. In fact, apart from Superboss, everyone looked disinterested in the goings on in the brave new world.
Finally, Superboss gave his verdict. “I don’t think the social network in this form suits our business. I am a believer in inter-personal relationships. We must focus on the people, rather than technology. It would be better to study the matter further, and in greater detail. ‘A’ you may close down the pilot project – it has served its purpose. You may like to name your team for studying the matter further. But we must not linger on in this matter for ages – I would like to have a report of your committee within three months….”