Category Archives: Social Networks

Social Business Movements

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Image: Courtesy of Geek And Poke

There’s a lot of hot air out there about Enterprise Social Software or E2.0: It will change the way we work, connect, engage and live. Just buy some cool technology, get everybody plugged in and Voilà: your Enterprise 2.0 is ready to change the world.

Not so fast, my friend. Aren’t we forgetting something?

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Loic Le Meur called this screen ‘IM Overload’, many people have declared Email Bankruptcy and I’m constantly plagued with Twitter overload. Let’s not forget, we’re talking about fairly advanced users here. On other desktops I’ve seen Outlook’s with more than 20,000 unread messages, no folder, no filters, no hope. Hate to break the news to you: these are the majority of participants in the new world of Enterprise 2.0. And you better have a game plan ready for them.

In order for Enterprise 2.0 to work, you need to tackle the organization from various different angles:

1.) Assess the current communication structure within the organization starting with Interns going up to the C-Level suite.

Find the lowest common denominator and build upon it. Sure, it might be great to start implementing Social CRM from the get-go but I’ve seen too many extranets and enterprise communication platforms collecting dust in the corner that I rather focus on small steps than approaching this issue with too large of a technology jump.

2.) Utilize the native and second nature usage of technology by Millenials to communicate to the organization how future generations will interact with technology.

This living example can be one of the catalysts for change, give gatekeepers and energy-draining naysayers one less reason to stand in the way of organizational transformation.

3.) Org charts might be good as a snapshot of the organization but the real story is in the corporate culture.

I’ve worked in offices that prided themselves on change as a core value but once you changed the coffee brand, the whole office was in uproar. I had no idea changing the soap in a bathroom could lead to numerous comments on the Extranet. Maybe the only time people really used the Extranet. To truly change a business, you need to change the culture. And that might just be the toughest job of them all.

4.) Get everybody involved.

At least, let everybody know what you’re doing. It might just be the Customer Service department that wants to transform its business based on social principles. But nothing will change unless the legal department gives its blessing, the marketing department understands the benefits, the executive team hears about the ROI – well, you get the picture. Building goodwill amongst all constituents is key to a successful Enterprise 2.0 implementation. And a real transformation of the business.

5.) Make your ROI case.

Nothing gets executive management more excited and alert than a nice, fat ROI case study. Successful pilot projects and small wins will generate momentum within the organization and lead to bigger projects and even more momentum. Having a few successful projects under your belt will also serve as an insurance against roadblocks and failures down the road.

6.) Identify the change agents within the organization.

They might not be the gatekeepers or upper management but these change agents are your most valuable asset. The Wall didn’t come down because the Uber-Leader made a historic decision. The Wall came down because people couldn’t be stopped anymore. Major changes tend to happen through movements, not decrees.

7.) Evangelize executives and support their goals.

Unless the organization you’re dealing with is on its last leg, this business has been successful for years, maybe even decades. While there’s growing evidence of the value and benefits of Enterprise 2.0, businesses are understandably skeptical of the real costs and the real value of this new construct. Aligning the Social Business goals with the stated goals and value of the organization as well as explaining to business people in business terms the benefits and risks of this change will turn a possible storm into a pleasant breeze.

8.) Let them play.

We all know how hard it can be to adopt new technologies. It took me quite a while until I saw the value of Twitter. Asking a Boomer CEO to tweet will go nowhere because you’re asking an over-worked executive to add a few more tasks to his list. Asking the company to play with technologies will change perceptions dramatically. Create a Wiki with a group and let them play with it. And ask the advanced users to talk about their experience with various tools and how it enhanced their lives and made them more productive.

9.) Create a movement.

All of us imagine a better world, a world we can believe in. An inspiring workplace. A mentally challenging workplace. A workplace that gives everybody the feeling to contribute to a greater cause. These dreams and imaginations inspire passion in people. And spark new possibilities. All the small projects that were initiated, all the meetings with stakeholders, all the usage of new technology will give people the courage to initiate larger things. Bigger things. Life-changing things.

It will not happen overnight. But it might happen quicker than you think.

Two kinds of brands

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Many brands are contemplating jumping on the Social Marketing bandwagon. Many should. Some shouldn’t. But, how do you determine if you should or shouldn’t?

It’s fairly easy.

Some brands believe they are successful because they keep their cards close to the vest. They don’t let you in, they don’t make their intentions known. Apple comes to mind. Bill Parcells. W.

These are the brands that should stay away from Social Marketing.

Social Marketing is only for brands that believe they are successful because they have good ideas and desire to communicate these great ideas to people. By listening intently to understand what people really say, what people really think, what people really desire. Brands that are available. Intuit comes to mind. Trent Reznor. Barack Obama.

No matter what you think of politics, Reagan and Obama fit in the same category: Brilliant communicators that give you the feeling they would talk turkey if they only could. Catch them in a bar, buy them a drink and they would tell you what’s really happening in the White House. I never got this feeling from W or Clinton. One was too secretive, the other full of b.s.

Do you think you could ever have a real discussion with Bill Parcells? Or Steve Jobs? I highly doubt it because they operate under the genius principle. And that’s what made them successful. But they would fail in Social Marketing. It’s just not in their DNA.

Only brands that operate under the Communication Principle are a good fit for Social Marketing. Because it’s in their DNA.

We want less facts, more stories

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Image courtesy Aint Life Grand

The most important person in an upscale restaurant is not the chef or the waiter – it is the sommelier. Sure, the quality of food is important and an excellent service equally. But, frankly, that’s the price of entry. The real difference maker is the sommelier: A great sommelier will transform your great meal into a memorable experience. How?

As a sommelier, you have two choices: You can overwhelm me with facts about geography, grapes and climate. And bore me to death. Or, you can tell me a story about the wine. Something infotaining, details about the wine or winemaker, insider information. My local wine store does a great job coming up with little stories, facts and fiction that warm my heart and make me want to taste that wine immediately.

Brands need people more than people need brands. And, people don’t need facts from brands. They have Google. Your brand objective should be to tell a story. A story that’s memorable. That can be shared. And spread. Brands without stories mean nothing and without any engaging stories people have nothing to talk about.

It’s the end of the world as we know it

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And I feel fine.

Why? Shouldn’t we be scared? BofA and Citi completely insolvent (Don’t trust one word of their CEO’s: Both institutions are dead in the water. The only question is how their shells will be propped up for a while.), the government clueless how to deal with these ongoing massive, financial tsunamis, Detroit basically done and unemployment increasing to scary levels. And, even worse, the real pain is still to come. 

So, why am I fine? Because this is not a typical recession. Or even depression. It’s a global shift in everything the capitalistic world believed in for the last decades. This can only be compared to the Continental Drift: an event that will transform us and our world for generations to come. And it will take at least one generation to adjust to the changes and come to grips with the idea that this transformation is permanent:

  • Large, decentralized corporations will disappear. These organizations were built for overconsumption, price pressure and cheap production. Micro-production is the future. Goodbye Detroit. Welcome to thousands of small car companies.
  • Destruction will be replaced with collaboration.We won’t destroy competition, nature or other nations to achieve our goals. It’s too costly, not efficient and goes against everything humans are wired for. Goodbye Wall Street. Hello Main Street.
  • Strategy will be replaced by mini-experimentation. Wars needed strategy. The 21st century economy needs mini-initiatives, mini-tests that continually evolve businesses. Goodbye Accenture. Hello lab operation.
  • Faking value will be replaced by real value. What’s the difference between Crest and Total? Exactly. But there’s a huge difference between an Apple and Dell experience. Goodbye advertising. Hello value creation.
  • Productivity will be replaced by creativity. We’ve had dumb growth for too long. We need sustainable, resilient growth. Goodbye China. Hello new world.

The 20th century was about consuming stuff. The 21st century will be about consuming ideas. Consuming stuff is too hard on the planet, laborers in the 3rd world and our wallet. Consuming ideas will still create a value chain but a value chain that’s more adjusted to changing the business world. Slowly, we see these idea consumption models popping up: Think Nike Plus. Think Twitter. Think Wikis.

We’re at Ground Zero. Things will get worse in the next few years. Much worse. But out of this destruction will come a new world. And the world we now know will be gone and in a few decades we’ll shake our heads and think: How did we ever believe these were the good times?

Hang in there. And create new ideas.

Twitter and VRM

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I was always intrigued by the idea of VRM: Providing customers with tools for engaging with vendors in new ways. Or as Doc Searls describes it in the Project VRM blog:

“VRM is Vendor Relationship Management. It’s how customers manage relationships with vendors. (Or with other individuals, or with organizations of any kind — such as churches or governments.)”

Basically, VRM allows people to create their personal RFP: Going on a business trip to Austin tomorrow? Send out an RFP to airlines, hotels, rental car agencies, restaurants communicating your travel dates and budget. It saves all of us a lot of aggravation because it will cut down on research times, brands won’t need to waste their money on irrelevant campaigns and a new form of partnership between buyers and sellers will be formed.

While I was preparing for the Twitter panel at OMMA Social, discussing possible business models for Twitter, I was starting to have doubts about my initial proposal:

“Charge each company in the CPC model: Each visit to a corporate Twitter site and each corporate tweet should be charged just like a click.”

Sure, we know that CPM models or contextual ads won’t really work on Twitter. They will be ignored and spell doom for Twitter since the platform would have to rely on traditional advertising to support itself. And that’s the last thing you want to do in the economic environment and the rapidly declining value of display advertising. The CPC idea was intriguing since Twitter has become my personal Google, it’s a self-regulating ecosystem that will punish brands that don’t behave and it’s an amazing opportunity for small, local businesses to connect with people: Get your message out to followers and each click outside of the Twitter Universe to a commercial message goes right into Twitter’s pocket. Mildly intriguing but not a real game changer for Twitter. At the current valuation of $250M, Twitter would have to work with hundreds of thousands of small businesses to be able to sustain this price tag. Sure, a wine shop would pay Twitter $20 for 20 clicks to their special offer. But you need a lot of wine shops to get to $250M. And here comes VRM into play. Doc Searls wrote in the ProjectVRM Blog:

“VRM is about providing customers with tools that make them both independent actors in the marketplace and better equipped to engage with vendors. Those tools are in development. We need to get some of them out there before we can even begin to have arguments about whether or not they’ll work. Fact is, they will or they won’t. But they deserve a chance before we go salting the soils in which they need to grow.”

Do we really need to build new tools? Or is Twitter almost there to be the tool to issue personal RFP’s and become the VRM hub? When you use Tweetdeck, you have basically four streams: Main Stream, Replies, Direct Messages and Groups. You could easily add another column for your personal RFP’s. Brands would gladly pay a fee to receive leads and, whoever, wins the pitch, will pay a sales fee as well. It could go like (the % is my symbol indicating a personal RFP)

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People would to be able to engage brands on their own terms, could take the first offer or decide to negotiate, become a real partner and not just a target. Project VRM and Twitter should involve the early-adopter crowd that’s still dominating the Twitterverse and let them participate in the product development process, helping all parties to work out the kinks. I’m not sure building new tools is the answer. We have a great tool that aches to expands its capabilities. And the time is ripe for a new way to deal with markets. Why not strike while the iron is hot?

What do you think?

Microsoft missed an opportunity

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Last week, Microsoft posted a profit for Q4 2008 and to celebrate this occasion they laid off 5,000 employees. A post-industrial reaction to an information age problem. While other companies are proposing pay cuts to share the pain and save jobs, Microsoft chose the easy and lazy way out.

Instead, they should have used this unprecedented financial crisis to transform the company:

  • Engage every employee to improve financial performance, make everybody responsible to save money and, at the same time, jobs.
  • Use all available tools (Wikis, Social Networks, etc.) to encourage conversation and an open discussion how to transform Microsoft as a company and, possibly, change the overall mission.
  • Change the focus of Microsoft from sucking up to Wall Street and start delivering superior service by empowering each employee and allow them to transform the company one social interaction at a time.
  • Communicate this new focus to the world and change Microsoft’s image from a dark, gray monolith to a lively, personable, caring company.

These are tough times. Even for companies that hoard billions of cash on the sidelines. How you deal with the crisis and adjust your brand to the new reality is the game changer. Some get it. Microsoft clearly doesn’t.

There’s no Social Media

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Image courtesy of Swiss Miss

Dictionaries define media as a means of mass communication. Slapping a ‘Social’ in front of ‘Media’ doesn’t make it less of a means of mass communication. That’s why these boring debates about monetizing Facebook are pointless. And this mass communication mindset leads to dead brand pages on Social Networks with no engagement opportunities. Twitter profiles as RSS feeds. Or media departments being tasked to develop ‘social media campaigns’ because media belongs in media. 

Yeah, I know, it’s the Wild West out there: Everyone claims to be a Social Media expert – Strategists, Account Planners, Media Folks, Brand Managers. And so we end up with people being euphoric about 10,000 ‘friends’ of their brand. Or Twitteratis counting down to their 7,000th follower. In reality, this all makes no sense because they apply old metrics to a new reality. It’s questionable if marketers can move away from doing something to people and convert into a mediator role: Helping others with their social interaction. 

Who knows if Facebook and Twitter ever become profitable ventures. Frankly, I couldn’t care less. There’s a lot of data to be mined, new spread sheets to be created, data centers to be kept busy. All this data mining might be very insightful and help the balance sheet of these companies. Somebody will become rich.

But what these tools really do is make us visible to the world. The richness of this experience has nothing to do with numbers. It has to do with new forms of connections and interactions. With new ways to communicate with each other. A new form of humanity. 

Calling it Social Media makes it more vulnerable to the madness of targeting, relevancy and data centers. Let’s find new words for this experience. This is too important to let the vultures take over. Again.