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Social Media Portal interview with James Walton at Deloitte

Tim Gibbon (Social Media Portal (SMP)) - 27 January 2012

Profiled - Deloitte Singapore and Deloitte Southeast Asia - The professional services organisation

An interview with James Walton, clients & markets director for Deloitte Singapore and Deloitte Southeast Asia

Deloitte logoSocial Media Portal (SMP): What do you do there at Deloitte?

James Walton (JW): I’m the clients & markets director for Deloitte Singapore and Deloitte Southeast Asia. I oversee all marketing, communications (internal and external) and business development activities for Deloitte across all our business lines throughout a seven country region.

SMP: Briefly, tell us about Deloitte (for those that don’t know), what is it and what does the organisation do?

JW: Deloitte is one of the leading professional services organisations in the world, providing audit, tax, consulting, financial advisory and risk management services to the private and public sector through 182,000 people in over 150 countries. In Southeast Asia we have over 5,300 people in 22 offices providing a full range of services to many of the region’s largest companies as well as the mid-market and public sector organisations.

SMP: Can you tell us what event you’re guest speaking at (please provide details of date, day, time and location if possible – what is your presentation entitled)?

JW: I’m speaking at the Integrated Social Media Marketing event on Tuesday 7th February in Singapore and Friday 10th February in Hong Kong on the subject of Strategic Promotion of Internal Social Media for Employee Engagement, using Deloitte’s experience.Photograph of James Walton, clients and markets director for Deloitte Singapore and Deloitte Southeast Asia

SMP: Who are your target audience and what can they hope to take away from your presentation?

JW: Anybody in the room! From speaking at previous events with Pacific Conferences I know that there will be experienced communications managers from a wide variety of industries and backgrounds. I will try to share with them practical advice on how to use social media for internal communications as well as explaining some of Deloitte’s best practices and some of the opportunities and challenges we have seen.

SMP: How and why is Asia developing as a region for social media and what may the future hold?

JW: It’s difficult to talk about Asia as a region for social media as the experience has been very different in different geographies in the external social media space. However, in the internal space – once you get inside a company – social media becomes more consistent as the goal is to use these tools to break down the barriers and to get everyone talking on the same channel. Hopefully, in the years to come we will see a significant reduction in email traffic and more usage of real-time communications through social media – making business even faster and helping companies become even more integrated.

SMP: What impact is social media having upon crisis management and vice versa (are there any differences for Central Europe, Africa and Asia)?

JW: Having worked as a marketing director in Central Europe, Africa and Asia there are clear cultural differences around social media and internal communications in general. However, it’s difficult to compare directly as I left Central Europe late in 2007 and social media has gone through a revolution in just the 4 years since then! What I would say is that I don’t think any of us had any idea about using social media in crisis management 5 years ago. Now, seeing how it was used around the Brisbane floods, the tsunami in Japan and the Haiti earthquake has started the ball rolling; and as mobile penetration, 3G coverage and free Wi-Fi networks expand it will only become more important.

SMP: What are the low moments of what you have been doing so far?

JW: I find two things most frustrating. Firstly, when you invest time and effort in planning an approach to a platform and that platform itself does not take off as expected – gambling on the wrong horse, effectively. Secondly, and more annoyingly, when you put everything in place, do it all right, but people just don’t get engaged. And not because you don’t make it engaging – but because they are too busy to pay attention or jaded from so much messaging in the world around them. There will always be a group of employees who will resist for no other reason other than for the sake of it.

SMP: What are the high moments of what you have been doing so far?

JW: Seeing how our Facebook platforms continue to grow and build engagement. Our Malaysia Facebook page in particular continues to attract internal and external users, building engagement and eminence. Our recent launch of Yammer across Deloitte globally made us the single largest user of Yammer worldwide and culminated in the largest ever ‘YamJam’ in the history of the platform.

SMP: What do you see as your biggest challenges and opportunities around digital and especially social media?

JW: The biggest challenge is keeping pace with developments and deciding which platforms to leverage and for what. I remember one of my staff presenting to me about the need for us to have a ‘corporate boutique’ in the Second Life virtual world as this would be ‘the next big thing’ 6 or 7 years ago and that petered out. Similarly MySpace reached a level and seems to have plateaued. Now everyone is focusing on Facebook, LinkedIn, Yammer (for internal comms) and YouTube. Google Plus still seems to be trying to develop a following.

The biggest opportunity is simply to make the most of the untapped potential. Whatever your organisation is doing on these platforms, there is always more that you can do. There are always more users coming online – new people to reach out to. In Southeast Asia, countries like Indonesia and Vietnam will see huge surges in usage of social media in the years to come and we aim to make the most of that.

SMP: What are the next moves for Deloitte in terms of social media (and in relation to what you do)?

JW: The global rollout of Yammer, which started just a few months ago, is consuming a lot of our time. Rolling out was one thing – but increasing usage and getting our leaders communicating on there is the next big step. We’re also launching a dedicated YouTube channel.

SMP: What’s the next big step for social media and networks?

JW: If I knew that, I’d be creating my own start-up rather than doing this! It has been the case for a while now at different times and different situations, but the next big step has to be the ever-increasing convergence that just never ceases… Interactive digital media will go from strength-to-strength.

SMP: What’s going to be the most interesting aspect regarding social media or technology throughout 2012?

JW: If Google can get people deeply engaged with Google Plus that could have huge implications in the years to come because of the huge array of things that connect through Google. It will be interesting to see how that plays out.

SMP:  What are your top five predictions for social media throughout 2012 (please use one to two sentences for each prediction, or write more if you wish)?

JW's top five:
  1. More and more users!
  2. Increased focus on data privacy issues and possibly more regulation.
  3. More and more lawsuits and civil cases coming out of use of social media, whether it be abuse cases on Twitter or divorces on Facebook (a recent survey stated that 20% of UK divorce petitions cite Facebook as a factor).
  4. Social media television combining with traditional television.
  5. A shift in focus towards B2B social media marketing, instead of the saturated B2C marketing space.

SMP: What are your top five social media tips (please use one to two sentences for each tip, or write more if you wish)?

JW's top five:

  1. You’ve got to be on it to understand it: lots of marketing managers overseeing their social media strategy don’t even have accounts on some of these platforms.
  2. Think about your channel strategy: we use LinkedIn to keep in touch with alumni, Twitter for regulatory updates and eminence, Facebook for engagement.
  3. You don’t just need a presence, you need a content strategy.
  4. Have a reputation risk management plan in place. What if someone criticises your company on your Facebook wall – how will you respond?
  5. Look at how social media can play a role in your business continuity planning and crisis management.

SMP: Best way to contact you and Deloitte?

JW: You can find Deloitte on all the major platforms but the best way to stay in touch at the moment is through Facebook ( or at our dedicated YouTube channel (search ‘Deloitte’) or you can reach me through LinkedIn.  

Now some questions for fun

SMP: What did you have for breakfast / lunch?

JW: I’m back on the diet after the Christmas binge, so breakfast was Special K and lunch was salad.

SMP: What’s the last good thing that you did for someone?

JW: I was raised to believe in good old-fashioned chivalry so I’m always holding doors, letting people have my seat on the metro etc. Most recent thing that springs to mind: I bought lunch for one of my staff today when they joined me for salad!

SMP: How many hours to you work a week?

JW: At my desk – around 50. At home – around 10. In my head – sometimes never-ending!

SMP: If you weren’t working in Deloitte what would you be doing?

JW: As a kid I wanted to be a professional athlete or a zoo vet. I’d probably be working in an NGO, possibly in Africa.

SMP: When and where did you go on your last holiday?

JW: I just spent two weeks visiting my family in the UK over Christmas, but that doesn’t count as holiday as I came back more tired than when I went. Last proper holiday was going back to Kenya for safari in August last year.  

SMP: What’s the first thing you do when you get into the office of a morning?

JW: Grab a cup of coffee, put my tie on and clear my emails.

SMP: If you had a superpower what would it be and why?

JW: I’d like to be able to travel through time… and go back and place some bets and buy some lottery tickets!

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