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Lee Wilkins: Many Romanian Companies are Using Social Media in Completely the Wrong Way!

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Full of grit, sense of humor and passion for what he does. That's how I had the opportunity to meet Lee Wilkins, the entrepreneur who became Senior Manager of Online & Internet Services at Vodafone Romania. Find more about  his transition from Entrepreneur to Corporate, but also about how to use social media tools in an interview for PR Romania.

You've been an entrepreneur for many years. Beyond making money and starting up a business, what does Entrepreneurship mean to you?

For me, it is about being my own boss and deciding how much money I win and lose at the same time. I cannot speak from anybody else's point of view. And for me, being an entrepreneur was being able to create small, niche companies that either succeeded or failed. And that's what happened to my first one here, in Romania. But I  learnt from it...Being an entrepreneur is all about having fun and doing things when you want and how you want. Especially when you work in your pyjamas at 6 a.m. from home.

What are the pros and cons of being an entrepreneur, compared to the pros and cons of working within a corporation?

First of all,  you get to be your own boss, while in corporations you have many bosses. The cons for being an entrepreneur are that you don't have much guidance. Being your own boss, you think only the way you want to think. The benefit in being in a corporation is that you get to learn from many different resources. For me, being an entrepreneur there were many things I didn't know. So, I suppose it's a balance. A give and take in terms of knowledge.

Other than that, there are no differences for me right now.  I am new here, and I am still going through the processes. But that's exactly what motivates me: That there are many people talented around me, that can I learn from. That's what I like: to learn.

What are your responsibilities at Vodafone Romania?

My main responsibility is to take Vodafone to the next level, in terms of traffic, sales, users, interactivity. And to create an online experience for Vodafone Romania which they haven't had in the past. There have been many mistakes made in the past, and I am here to learn from them and to hopefully stir in the right direction, with the right people, and the right team.

What social media tools do you use at Vodafone and how do they improve communication with your company's stakeholders?

We use Twitter, Facebook, Youtube and Flickr. But our primary tools are Twitter, Facebook and Youtube. From a customer point of view, it means that we are becoming more open and more transparent in what we are doing. We are no longer that closed corporation that hides behind big cars and suits. We are more transparent and we communicate more to the customer. We are a communication company, so we need to be communicating more.


What are the biggest  social media challenges for Vodafone Romania?

I think the biggest challenge that we have is using the tools the right way. There are many Romanian companies that are using these social media platforms in completely the wrong way.


Can you give me some examples?

Most people see social media as a communication to sell nonsense.  That's all they do! They pump offers through the tools they use: buy this shirt, buy this car etc. But it is not the right way to do it! Social media and social networks are all about give and take, so you have to give to the community before you can take from it. For most brands in Romania, it's just take, before give.


Do you have any other challenges here, at Vodafone Romania?

Within any corporation, there are a lot of processes that people have to go through to get things done. Fortunately, right now Vodafone is at the stage when it's simplifying those processes. And by making things simple, I get to do things quicker than there were done in the past. For me, that means a lot when it comes to online, because we need to deploy it. Whatever it might mean, we need to be deploying things faster and faster online. There are many departments involved in what online means and the challenge is making sure that all departments are aligned when it comes to online and deploying things. That's the main challenge, but it's a challenge I relish.

What are the Vodafone Romania social media policy and strategy?

As our policy, we are complying with our basic elements provided by the group. It's about common sense: using it wisely, sharing the social media in a proper way and trying to play nice with everybody who is in that space.
It's also important to embrace social media as a new way! More and more customers online are using social media as a way to communicate, to share knowledge, to share their life experiences. And as a communication company, we need to embrace these new platforms and work with them, to make the consumer's life easier. At the end of the day, they enrich the users' consumption of the internet. The internet is one big noisy place right now, because you have like 100 000 different applications. Our role here is to simplify the process!

What are the companies you admire for their social media strategies and communication?

Vodafone, Vodafone and Vodafone! I've been a big fan of  the Vodafone brand ever since I can remember. From an online point of view, I admire a lot of companies: Flicker, Twitter, Facebook, Youtube. And the small niche as well; companies like Netvibes, that tried to make the customers' experience easy.

How do you think a CEO should build up a strong personal branding by using social media?

There are a lot of managers here, at Vodafone, that do embrace social media. But I think we can safely say that in many, many multinational or even local companies in Romania, they don't. Because they feel they are beyond social media. But you cannot praise something till you know what it is. So, we cannot preach we know how to use social media tools unless the people at the top actually use them .
And Vodafone is one of those companies where top management do use social media quite a lot.
As a company, Vodafone does embrace social media as a whole. For any company, it is the way forward. Everything is moving online, and social media, whether you like to or not, plays a big part in that, because that's how customers talk about your product. Be that in a good way or a bad way.

Lee Wilkins is an experienced online and marketing professional with over 10 years of experience. He enable brands to grow online through innovation and by enabling them to become leaders in their field.

Lee has worked as a marketing director and has created many companies, such as Podcast.com, MyKinda.com, CeeVee.com, Wilks. He is currently Senior Manager of Online & Internet Services at Vodafone Romania.

Interview by Rebeca Pop, Forum for International Communications
Copyright PR Romania
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