The Forum Buzz: @UKCivilService’s extraordinary Twitter moment

David Cowan

Managing Director

The Financial Services Forum

Join us at 1500-1530pm, when we’ll be running our first ever Big Summer Marketing Quiz. As well as a chance to win £50 for a good cause, we hope it will be something a bit lighthearted and different, taking a break from our weekly CMO Surgery for half-term.


“Deleted but not forgotten: @UKCivilService’s extraordinary Twitter moment and the quiet power of the social media manager”
Forum team member Jasmine Butler discusses how the @UKCivilService faux pas serves to remind us all of the power of a social media manager.
“The bank holiday shift at the UK Civil Service social media desk was perhaps slightly more eventful than anticipated. As that news story broke last Friday, the Twitter community lit up with opinion from politicians, journalists and business leaders alike. Emphatically, the context and ambience of Dominic Cummings’s actions hit a divisive nerve with most people.

To lay the subject matter and context to rest for a moment, from a marketing lens, the normally utilitarian @UKCivilService’s extraordinary moment of Twitter activism was one that encapsulated the ongoing complexity and angst of being a prominent brand on social media.

Almost a decade on from the inception of social media in marketing strategy, we still sometimes grapple with the same demons. How can you be sure, when handing over the reins of a social channel, to an agency, colleague, or internal team, that they will not inadvertently (or purposefully) cause damage to the brand, well-meaning or otherwise?

In addition to the, hopefully unlikely, possibility of an employee hijacking the company Twitter account, misplaced tone of voice and unwarranted bias on social media can cause serious casualties. Particularly in the age of Social Media 3.0, whereby collaborating with influencers, taking careful stock of audience sentiment and demonstrating industry expertise are the new frontiers of success.

Far from becoming easier to navigate, the speed of progression in both technology and society, has meant that social media strategy must be near-constantly revised and reviewed. Whilst it is unlikely any financial services companies will find themselves in a similar predicament to the UK Civil Service, the tailwind of prominent company figureheads expressing a view on social media is still a risk to be managed. Even with the now hackneyed disclaimer ‘views my own, not those of my company’, opinion by association remains a difficult marriage to divorce.

As last weekend’s Twitter debacle demonstrated, your social media manager is still your ‘shopkeeper’, spokesperson and brand ambassador in one, opinion-forming, judgement-making human. Being trusted and depended upon to set tone, articulate the company view and make reactive and compliant decisions on replying to customers on social media is no mean feat.

So, to end on a positive note before the weekend, here’s to all the social media managers who have been getting it ‘right’ all these years. In the face of those who said social was ‘too difficult to navigate’ for financial services pre-adoption, the stalwarts of social have not only succeeded in proving otherwise, but continue to shield their brand from public scrutiny on a daily basis, protecting company values in a world of screen-shotting, retweet wielding ‘followers’.

Despite the myriad of technology and platforms now available to help you manage social channels, a good social media manager is still your most valuable asset.”

If you’d like to contribute a thought piece for our weekly newsletter, please drop me a line at [email protected]


Five Things We’ve Learnt This Week

1. Morgan Stanley’s chief executive has echoed the sentiment shared by Barclays’ Jes Staley, stating that he expects Morgan Stanley to have less ‘real estate’ in the future, following the adoption of remote working during the pandemic, BBC News reported earlier this week. Meanwhile, Twitter have said employees can work from home ‘forever’

2. Good news for retail banks this week, as a record high of 79% participants surveyed in the weekly MESH Experience consumer insight survey reported that they feel ‘banks are doing enough to help’ during the pandemic

3. The research also suggested that the improvement in sentiment could be attributed to the recent increase in paid and owned communications, reassuring consumers that banks are ‘looking out for them’.

4. The monthly JGFR Consumer Confidence Briefing for May found that saving confidence had improved in May 2020 in comparison to April. 59% of surveyed participants said that they are likely to save in the next 12 months, up from 56% in April

5.  However, sentiment regarding future employment prospects and unemployment remains low. The report states that a net balance of 56% of adults believe unemployment will rise in the next 12 months, versus 28% in May 2019


Our next CMO Surgery
Whilst we are taking a break for half-term this week with our Marketing Quiz, CMO Surgery will return next Friday, discussing the changing customer journey.

Also, don’t miss our webinar onHow Financial Brands Can Use Words To Stand Out, next week on Wednesday 3rd June from 0930-1030am, with Nathan Ashfield, Brand Experience and Sponsorship Manager at AXA and Pete Dewar, Director of Brand Language at The Clearing.

As ever, please don’t hesitate to drop me a line if there is anything you’d like to discuss, or if you have any ideas for a Forum discussion or webinar. I’d love to hear from you.

Have a great weekend.


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