RonAmok!

The adventures of an analog engineer and digital storyteller who studies emerging networks and their impact on the great game of business.

Yesterday I was notified by email that The Southern California chapter of the Automobile Association of America was following me on Twitter (@AAASoCalNews). Always interested to learn how organizations are using New Media channels (I’m also a long-time AAA member), I decided to check ’em out. That’s when I was greeted with the following message:

AAA protects its tweets

“That’s odd,” I thought. Why would an organization want to restrict the number of people that they can communicate with? And that’s when I saw the bio.

aaa_excuse

It’s funny how history always repeats itself. Remember how the Telecom Acts forbade Telcos from publishing online phone directories simply because the Internet dared to reach beyond the Baby Bell territories of NYNEX, Bell Atlantic, Bell South, Ameritech, Southwestern Bell, US West, Pacific Telesis, and AT&T?

The nature of technology is to obsolete things and corporate rules are not immune from its wrath. Therefore, it’s important for your company to review its corporate policies and compare them with the technologies of the day. Does the corporate handbook contain antiquated rules that prohibit the free flow of information with customers? Does it preclude your organization from sharing information with the widest possible audience? Most importantly, does the policy seek to serve the company before the customer? If so, you might wanna sharpen the ol’ pencil because…

…the Web hath no boundaries.

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Filed under: Mini Case Studies

Comments

Good post, Ron.

Another thing I find peculiar about AAA is that they quietly try to determine which AAA site is in your region by keying off the location of your IP address. Since I'm often connected to work in CA via VPN (and I live in MA) it routes me to their CA/Nevada page. I didn't realize this at first and tried to log in with my AAA username and password, which were rejected of course and then I went wandering around trying to remember my username and password. Found it, confirmed that I was entering it correctly and then gave up and attempted to reset my password and it said I didn't have an account- which I didn't on their CA/Nevada site.

Kind of a long and ridiculous waste of time when I only wanted to log in to renew my card! My point is that their regional fragmentation isn't serving its customer base very well. Not sure if there's some reason AAA has to be this way, but I agree that it seems kind of bizarre to see these boundaries on the web.

Robert Dwyer
October 8, 2009

These are great examples, Bob. Thanks for sharing! Perhaps AAA will either weigh-in to the discussion, or even better, rethink their web strategy:-)

ronploof
October 8, 2009

You make some good points, Ron. Sometimes, though, it’s not as simple as ripping up an old policy. I work for AAA and would like to provide some information that might make it easier to understand the thought process behind the current situation.

AAA is a not-for-profit federation of 50 individually owned and operated clubs throughout North America. There are rules governing what the 50 local clubs can and can’t do. One of the things they can’t do is compete with each other for business outside of their own geographic territories. That becomes a challenge when communicating on the Internet: even if a club isn’t seeking business outside its own geographic area, it does happen even when people have good intentions and are trying to be vigilant.

Fortunately, some social media sites allow the clubs the ability to distinguish between their members (or potential members) and those in another club territory. For Twitter, it is the privacy setting which gives the club the opportunity to find out which geographic area someone is in. It also gives a club the chance to suggest the Twitter account of the correct club.

Although AAA is a 107-year-old company, it is not out of touch with new communications tools. The AAA national office (my employer) has started several social media sites that clubs can choose to be involved in: http://bit.ly/AAAFacebook, http://www.MySpace.com/AAAEveryDay, http://www.YouTube.com/user/AAA. It also has five Twitter accounts: @AAAnews, @AAAauto, @AAA_Travel, @AAAdiscounts, @AAAsafety.

While the Internet makes it challenging for the AAA federation to communicate online as easily as some other companies do, we believe that the current structure of the organization continues to work well. And AAA continues to review corporate policies as necessary to enhance the member’s online experience with AAA. Of course, we’re always open to constructive criticism and welcome feedback.

jgraziani
October 29, 2009

Thank you for the very thoughtful response, Janie. It is appreciated.

I never said that it would be easy. Change is something that we humans tend to resist:-)

I just find it odd that a a business would use a private setting on a public platform because of a rule that was created before the platform existed. I can understand that individually owned and operated clubs can't “…compete with each other for business outside of their own geographic territories,” but such a statement begs another question: “Is an open Twitter account considered competition?” Really? I guess if it is filled with marketing drivel, but that's not what a Social Media channel is for…

I am a long-time AAA member. I love the club. Over the years it has helped me plan vacations and saved me when my wife or I are stuck on the side of the road. I've moved across the country, and when I did, I changed my membership to the local club. It makes sense. I understand that all clubs have rules and if I live in SoCal, I'm eligible to join the SoCal group.

But why hide all the great work that is being done in other chapters? Why create an artificial scarcity of great automotive/vacation/points-of-interest content? Is my access to that information really considered a threat?

So what if my favorite Twitter user is from the New England chapter, or the Texas Chapter, or the Florida chapter–I'm still a member of the SoCal chapter and will continue to be a member because they have an office right down the street. But can't I still benefit from the great tips, tricks, and ideas generated by the sister clubs? Doesn't it make sense that an active and vibrant collection of organizations increases the value of the local chapter, as opposed to detracts from it?

I maintain that all companies need to look at their policies and ask a single question:

“Who benefits the most from a corporate rule: the company or its customers?”

If the answer is anything other than “customers,” prudent business practices dictate that rule must be rethought.

Thanks again, Janie!

ronploof
October 30, 2009

Thank you for the very thoughtful response, Janie. It is appreciated.

I never said that it would be easy. Change is something that we humans tend to resist:-)

I just find it odd that a a business would use a private setting on a public platform because of a rule that was created before the platform existed. I can understand that individually owned and operated clubs can't “…compete with each other for business outside of their own geographic territories,” but such a statement begs another question: “Is an open Twitter account considered competition?” Really? I guess if it is filled with marketing drivel, but that's not what a Social Media channel is for…

I am a long-time AAA member. I love the club. Over the years it has helped me plan vacations and saved me when my wife or I are stuck on the side of the road. I've moved across the country, and when I did, I changed my membership to the local club. It makes sense. I understand that all clubs have rules and if I live in SoCal, I'm eligible to join the SoCal group.

But why hide all the great work that is being done in other chapters? Why create an artificial scarcity of great automotive/vacation/points-of-interest content? Is my access to that information really considered a threat?

So what if my favorite Twitter user is from the New England chapter, or the Texas Chapter, or the Florida chapter–I'm still a member of the SoCal chapter and will continue to be a member because they have an office right down the street. But can't I still benefit from the great tips, tricks, and ideas generated by the sister clubs? Doesn't it make sense that an active and vibrant collection of organizations increases the value of the local chapter, as opposed to detracts from it?

I maintain that all companies need to look at their policies and ask a single question:

“Who benefits the most from a corporate rule: the company or its customers?”

If the answer is anything other than “customers,” prudent business practices dictate that rule must be rethought.

Thanks again, Janie!

ronploof
October 30, 2009

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