Enterprise 2.0 – Safely sheathing the double edged sword

Last week I wrote about the double edged sword that is enterprise 2.0. This week I will look at how our major telecommunications provider manages to safely sheath this sword and harness its power.

Telstra is the largest telecommunications provider in Australia with more than 13.8 million mobile subscribers and 2.6 million fixed broadband subscriptions.  Telstra offers a range of services from the aforementioned to being among the first to offer 4G internet, home media solutions such as the T-box, website creation to just about every other conceivable internet / telecommunications service available.

Telstra has a large twitter presence as well as about 150,000 likes on Facebook through which they actually respond to customer questions, complaints and enquiries.  A live chat service was recently launched through a partnership with Facebook  where support is available 24/7 for “customers querying billing or looking to setup new accounts” clearly recognizing that customers often need questions answered outside of business hours.

By utilising a proprietary social networking tool in house Telstra are able to gather mass knowledge and provide employees with an opportunity to communicate in a less formal manner wherever they are in the country.

With great power comes great responsibility… 

Ok so in summary, Telstra is huge. They are switched on about social networking and actively utilse it both internally and externally. They have a responsibility to themselves, their customers, and their investors to utilise social media carefully.

So what legal risks could they face?  For Starters:

Loss and Disclosure of Confidential Information

The sheer number of Telstra customers means that a whole lot of people have displayed licenses for identification, banks statements for proof of residency and an array of medicare cards and other official documentation to make up the points required to prove identification. This information is stored internally on a Telstra database.

Clearly none of this information should ever be disclosed on any social media platform for any reason. It is better to outlaw it all together than to be selective and make a mistake that could be extremely costly.

Organisation’s liability for employee acts of defamation

Telstra actually assigns people to utilize social media tools as part of their jobs and because of this may be held liable for the behavior of those employees on said platforms. This is an area that Telstra takes extremely seriously basing much of its social media usage policy around the three R’s – Representing, Responsibility and Respect.

Telstra should leave absolutely no room for any employees to be anything bar professional, friendly and courteous in their demeanour. Information provided to the public must be accurate and current.

Repuatation Risk

Telstra is one of the most recognisable brands in Australia with one of the highest numbers of customers. It is therefore subject to much public scrutiny because lets face it, when you have 11,000,000 unique customers chances of one of them experiencing poor service at some stage is quite high, people are human and people make mistakes. Web 2.0 means that negativity spreads as fast, if not faster than positivity (people may not necessarily post about a positive experience…). Telstra need to have extremely strict guidelines for what can be done on social media platforms, how it is to be done, when it is to be done, and most importantly, what employees absolutely must not do. Only when employees are operating within pre-defined boundaries is Telstra able to have, and maintain confidence that their reputation will not be damaged.


I am pleased to report that Telstras Social Media Usage Policy actually does approach the above situations in much the same way as I have recommended throughout this blog and has been subject to very good reviews.  By following the guidelines outlined in the policy employees are able to minimise other risks such as wrongful dismissal, discrimination, misleading and deceptive conduct, and infringing upon continuous disclosure agreements. This is truly a case where what is good for the company is also good for the employee.
Telstra take pride in their policy and were among the first Australian companies to make it publicly available.


Do you agree with the 3R’s Social Media Usage Policy implimented by Telstra? Watch these videos here to find out.

17 thoughts on “Enterprise 2.0 – Safely sheathing the double edged sword

  1. Hi Adam,

    Can’t really argue with those three R’s and at least that makes it easy for the helpdesk to remember. Honestly I have always found telstras helpdesk to exhibit those three quality now that I think about it (even if communication is sometimes an issue). Its good to see a social media policy with a bit of a theme we can all relate to as well!

    • Absolutely Adam, I think now, unlike the Telstra of old, they are actually making an effort to speak in a language that their customers understand and can relate to. They have dispensed with ‘we are telstra we are the biggest, we are the best, we can do whatever we like’ attitude because the realise it was just driving customers away. i don’t think Telstra have ever been as affordable as they are right now.

  2. Great post Adam. I have read Telstra’s SMP and found it simple and easy to understand. I quoted an example on my post this week from Mark Pearson’s 6-point scale of social media legal risk. From what I can tell, Telstra is at level 5/6. In addition to having a great SMP, they need to make sure the employees are regularly reminded and trained on the policy.

    • Hi Karen, yes totally agreed – it is nice that Telstra is finally incorporating policies that their customers understand and can relate to. Training without a doubt will be the most important aspect of their Social Media Usage Policy being effective, regardless of how good it is. The videos in my blog are actually part of the online training component for Telstras employees and I think they are pushing training quite hard throughout which should definitely positively impact customer service.

  3. Telstra’s internal wiki known as ‘Knowhow’ is another example of Telstra utilizing the power of the web to allow their staff quick and easy access to information on all Telstra products(including pricing) and a live feed detailing any upcoming changes or known outages that maybe affecting customers.

    Telstra’s internal social media site is also used on a daily basis across all arms of the Telstra business, including Enterprise & Government and functions as an amazing tool to talk to fellow employee’s or for a Network Engineer to troubleshoot issues with the Next G network internally.

    As much crap as Telstra get regarding the standard of their customer service, All companies could learn a lot from CEO David Thodey and Telstra alike.

    • Hi Andrew,

      Excellent comment. I think the transparency that David Thodey promotes throughout Telstra is definitely inline with the way organisations should be moving to fully integrate web 2.0 in their environments. I think the fact that the social media usage policy was made publicly available only further cements Telstra wanting to be accessible and available and no longer wanting to hide behind politics and procedure like the Telstra of old. Accessibility and honesty seem definitely to be the new rules of the game.

  4. Hi Adam,
    I can see from your post that Telstra worked hardly to secure their reputation, and the 3R’s is an example, with the powerful of Web.2, Companies specially with big number of customers should care from legal risks that can face and provide training programs or guideline about social media law to their employees, otherwise may they face serious problems, even if that did not happen, it’s enough customers know that the company care about the legal issues include protecting the confidential information, which will improve the company reputation


  5. Hi Adam,

    Though I’ve never used Telstra’s services, it’s nice to know that they’ve taken steps to reduce damage to their reputation in relation to customer service; if the flak about the quality of their connections is also reduced I might consider using said services.

    The 3R’s appear to be a sound control, as I have seen their representatives now and again over at whirlpool (http://whirlpool.net.au/) answering some questions; at least in more recent years. They also appear to have some active reps on their facebook page too (http://www.facebook.com/Telstra).

    • I too read the whirl pool forums and have found the telstra representatives to handles themselves quite well and be fairly knowledgeable. I would agree that is a nice change from the telstra of old.

  6. Hi Adam,
    I would assume Telstra is well-versed with the legal implications and have learnt alot over the years since its existence. I would also draw the hypothesis that given example of Telstra’s social policy it would require some managerial and leadership skills to see this policies achieve their purpose of going viral. Although this may be a trival matter to some, I would like to think that employers need to also review their responsibilities too as to why they have adopted social platforms and whether their policies need to be evaluated to accommodate their expansion or service delivery. Would you not agree?

    • Absolutely. Employers acknowledging that web 2.0 is here to stay, whether directly introduced into their businesses intentionally or note, and need to have procedures in place to handle it. If they are going to attempt to keep it away from their businesses they need policy explicitly stating this. If they are going to attempt to harness it’s power they need policies outlining appropriate usage at their organisations.

  7. Hi Adam, great post.

    It is nice to see such a large Australian company moving forward with a push into web 2.0. Having an entire department for the use of web 2.0 in the name of Telstra certainly gives them a reasonably reliable way of ensuring that all web 2.0 interactions follow their 3R method of social media engagement. It will be interesting to see how services such as online chat work for Telstra as a large number of their customers are not use to such technologies.

    • I have had a few dealings with Telstra in a web 2.0 capacity being one of their clients. I have found their representatives were very cautious about courtesy and providing accurate information. I think that web 2.0 has forced telstra to want to be liked by the public, instead of the flip side of that coin which was for so many years just demand to be respected because they were the best. The others are catching up and they realise that respect must be earned.

  8. Hi Adam,
    Learnt a lot from this post – Telstra is a particularly good example as they have been going through a sort of reinvention phase over the last few years and social media has obviously been a large part of that. I think it’s really good that they have been public about their social media training and policies – a lot of organisations try to keep their policies hidden from consumers, but it is nice to see that they have taken an open approach. What are your thoughts on this?


    • Absolutely, I am all for full disclosure. Telstra in the past have had a reputation that would indicate that they are pretentious and not really wanting to share with the lowly general public (as long as they are still able to take their money). I think, largely through web 2.0 that they have realised they have no choice and that they have plenty of real competition nowadays that is successfully utilizing web 2.0. They had to get on top of it and quick and I think they have made a good start.

  9. Hi Adam,
    really enjoying your blogs, thanks a lot
    it can be clearly seen the noticeable marketing work for Telestra but as a customer I wouldn’t choose them because of the high prices they offering compare to other providers and in Telecommunication world prices and quality could be the most effective factors but from your blog I recognise that Web 2.0 can increase any company popularity

  10. Great look into how Telstra uses and governs their social media. Other companies like IBM have a very open approach to Social media this is a great example of a company though strict in how they operate still maintain a very strong Social Media presence. Having used their internet and phone services for many years, I have had to deal with the call centre which though polite and helpful took about 20mins to get through the automated messaging before being connect to the call centre. Their increased digital presence is a welcome change to their old level of service.

    Great post, I look forward to reading more of your work.

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