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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.

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The age of Corporate Enlightenment

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The Age of Enlightenment is often seen as a historical anomaly, a brief moment in time when numerous intellectuals believed in a society based on common sense and tolerance. The Enlightenment was not really a holistic philosophy, it was more a set of values shared by thinkers all around the world: At the core, Enlightenment was about freedom, democracy and reason.  The Enlightenment brought a rise of the public sphere in Europe. This includes academies, the book industry, journals, coffeehouses, debating societies , salons and freemasonic lodges. See any parallels to our current information revolution and new forms of public spheres we’re experiencing each and every day?

While the human experience has been radically changed by the Enlightenment , businesses overall have been stuck in the Middle Ages. Or, at least, in a system where Wall Street resembles Versailles and figures like Merrill Lynch’s CEO John Thain (redecorating his office for over $1 million during the height of the Great Recession) make Marie Antoinette look like a street worker. It’s very apparent that big businesses have reverted to principles of oligarchy, aristocracy, the divine right of kings and theocracy. Yes, I said it: theocracy. In the corporate world the deity is interchangeable – Shareholder Value one day, data the other. Nothing against a good belief system but it has no place in the boardroom. And these varying belief systems are mostly to blame for the current Great Recession: CEO’s that sacrificed the long-term future of a company for short-term benefits and quick bonuses. Outrageous executive compensation packages combined with a middle class squeeze. Mindless belief in data and algorithm that almost brought Wall Street down and ended life as we know it.

The advent of social technologies has unleashed a consumer force never seen and experienced before. People expect things to happen immediately, any delays or excuses are not acceptable anymore. We used to believe yesterday’s news were boring, now we find today’s news boring and expect real-time experiences. This applies not only to news outlets; this applies to all businesses. If you’re not real-time very quickly, you’ll vanish. Focusing on real-time makes strategists and product developer cringe: What will happen to all these neat and thick road maps, the inspiring goals and objectives? What will happen to day-long workshops hashing out the strategy of the future? They’ll disappear. And will be replaced with discussions and collaborations how to deal with the ‘here and now’.

That’s where the concept of a business based on social marketing principles comes in.

At their core, real-time businesses have to be social. Only if you burn down the silos, open the communication flow to all participants in the value chain (not only consumers – vendors, suppliers, employees, etc.) will you be successful in the evolving real-time world. Good companies will use consumer feedback to improve their products and services. (And some are already living this model.) Great companies will anticipate consumer needs before they are even aware of their own desire. The goal will be to be redesign your car while you’re driving it. (Talking about Big, Hairy, Audacious Goals!)

It requires more from businesses than just writing a check to consultants and agencies. It requires for them to become enlightened. To understand that the clowns on CNBC are screaming louder and louder because they are beginning to grasp that things will never be as good as they were for them.

And so much better for the rest of us.

Businesses and institutions were developed to reign in chaos, silo people and make the world manageable to them. In the future, life will be more chaotic and each of us has to find ways to manage this new-found freedom. The last enlightenment lasted around 100 years. One reason why it ended was the top-down construct of  this philosophy, lead by a few. The new age of corporate enlightenment has chances to last much longer because it will be designed from the bottom-up.  And change life, work, organizations – basically everything – for the better.

Mass Media Planning vs Community Planning

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Many bright people are discussing the idea of Transmedia Planning, an ever-evolving, non-linear brand narrative. Think ‘Lost’: For some (including me) it’s just an entertaining TV show, for others it’s a puzzle they want to solve, just to discover there are more puzzles to be found. And, for the ‘Lost’ fanatics fans it’s an obsession, constantly fed by new theories, facts and factoids fed to them through official and unofficial channels.

Currently, most media is planned around a single idea: Get me this amazing idea and I’ll execute it as a commercial, banner, sticker, print ad – you name it. My first Creative Director always asked the lowly copywriter (me) when he presented his ideas for a commercial: “Does this work as a radio spot? Print ad? Key chain?” (Most of the time it didn’t and I crawled back to my office for another all-nighter.) Our work had to deliver for any educational, age and IQ level. Just like the pyramids. Ask a 5-year old to draw the pyramids and the result won’t be that much different from your own drawings (Be honest!) Sure, there might be more texture, details and finesse. But one glance and everybody gets it. And just a few words come to mind when thinking about pyramids: Slaves, Construction, Sphinx, Pharaohs.

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Do you know who this is? No?

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Getting closer?

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Easier? The overall scene composition might give it away.

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These 4 images illustrate that everybody has a different concept of Jesus: Ask 100 people how they would describe Jesus in 5 words and you’ll get an interesting tag cloud. Some overall concepts and ideas (‘Compassion’ anyone?) will be repeated over and over again but each and every person developed their own, personal concept of Jesus. And you will quickly realize that people can handle more than a single core idea. Jesus is more to people than the symbol for ‘Compassion’. For some people he might stand for love. For courage. He might symbolize an oppressive childhood. Indoctrination. World Peace. The Truth. The holy spirit. You take from his story whatever you like. Whatever fits your belief system and values. You create your own Jesus story. Either based on the bible, on historic documents, on interpretations of your priest, on movies. All these channels feed you different story lines. They can never tell the whole story because you tell the story yourself. Since we’re social animals, we are looking for communities that share our values. Without these communities, the idea of Jesus could have never been that successful and all-pervasive. Interacting with people, discussing their understanding of the Bible, experiencing the complexity of the Jesus concept is just so much more powerful than reading the Bible in your living-room. No comparison.

‘Lost’ became a phenomenon because communities adopted the concept. These groups will develop naturally when you offer rich story lines. Well, not always.

People are ready to process much greater complexity, spread info through various platforms and become hypersocial. They are hungry for it. Problem: The kitchen is still cold, remodeling plans being discussed. It’s hard to shift from a one-item menu to a complex 20-course tasting menu. We need to find the right chefs, sommeliers, Maitre D’s and service personnel. And, to make things more complex, we might intend to serve up a 20-course tasting meal but everybody will have a different experience: Some will just have appetizers, some only deserts, some will take your best ingredients and cook something completely new out of it, some will only drink the wine, etc. We basically hope to cook for people that are cooking at the same time. (Mhm, that might be an interesting concept for a restaurant.) It’s complex and messy. But, it’s magic when it all comes together.

Can Marketers Buy Social Buzz?

Tomorrow, March 23, 2009, I’ll be speaking on a panel at OMMA Global: Hollwyood, discussing “the merit over paying to post. To be sure, many companies have done it wrong and gotten burned, resulting in consumer backlash and tarnished brands. However, others claim there’s a right way to commercially engage bloggers and build brands. Payoffs might include online buzz, traffic, product feedback, search-engine optimization, content syndication and much more. What’s the right way to buy buzz. Is there a right way? What is paid buzz, anyway?”

Panelists are Ted Murphy (IZEA/Pay Per Post) @tedmurphy, Brennan Beyer, VP Sales Social Vibe and the panel is moderated by Bill Stephenson, Vice President, Advertiser Solutions, Nielsen Online. Come by at 12.15pm. It should be a lively discussion.

Location, Location, Location: The future of mobile advertising

I’ll be moderating a panel at SXSW about mobile advertising. Good group of people on the panel, see the description below:

Most people groan at the thought of advertising on their mobile phone and rail against the idea as 24/7 marketing. But is it possible that mobile advertising could be something that consumers enjoy? the panel will explore this dichotomy, what it takes to ‘get it right’ in this burgeoning industry.

Room C

Tuesday, March 17th

3:30 pm 4:30 pm

Sam Altman CEO,   Loopt Inc

Bud Caddell Strategist,   Undercurrent

Denny Reinert Dir IA Ad Sales,   Navteq

Tina Unterlaender AKQA

If you’re interested, mark it on the SXSW calendar

Denny’s – The bridge from traditional to new media

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Today’s clear Superbowl Ad winner was Denny’s. Not because their commercial made me laugh. Not because their commercial was so commercial. Not because I admire Denny’s and love everything they do. No, they won because they will make the country talk. Talk about their free breakfast on Tuesday. Tapping into the mood of the country and understanding that brands have to add value. Lend a helping hand. 

Last year this wouldn’t have worked. Too many people walked by Denny’s just thinking they’ve outgrown this rather unhealthy food. But today? A free meal goes a long way. For everybody. But, they better execute this well. The staff better be prepared for major lines and they need to execute flawlessly. Looking at Denny’s SEM strategy (none), their IT strategy (Site crashed, as we speak, Denny’s is looking for a new IT vendor), their Facebook strategy (none, they market the AllNighter) and their Twitter strategy (Still promoting that AllNighter) I’m concerned that a good advertising campaign leads to ultimate disappointment. 

Everybody can have a great idea. Only a few can turn great ideas into great executions.

Fear Economy – the world’s oldest profession

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Image by Kenn Munk

Traditionally, we leave the part of the apocalyptic prophet wandering through the landscapes of urban post-modernism to homeless bible-thumpers. But since the credit crisis has taken hold of our attention, intellectuals, politicians, columnists and even friends have turned into doom prophets. Thomas Friedman wrote in an NY Times piece:

“I go into restaurants these days, look around at the tables often still crowded with young people, and I have this urge to go from table to table and say: “You don’t know me, but I have to tell you that you shouldn’t be here. You should be saving your money. You should be home eating tuna fish. This financial crisis is so far from over. We are just at the end of the beginning. Please, wrap up that steak in a doggy bag and go home.”

Noel Roubini supplies you with a daily dose of gloom on his RGE Monitor:

“The global financial pandemic that I and others had warned about is now upon us. But we are still only in the early stages of this crisis. My predictions for the coming year, unfortunately, are even more dire: The bubbles, and there were many, have only begun to burst.”

And even Dr. Hope Obama uses the doom metaphor to get Congress approval for the stimulus package. 

These stories of doom and impending catastrophe are not new. Seven chapters into the Bible we read about Noah’s flood, people in the Middle Ages believed comets would destroy the earth. And if that didn’t pan out, we always had a ghastly virus to kill us all: Bird Flu, Black Death, Flu Virus. Over the years, we’ve become more sophisticated and came up with new threats that surely will take care of the apocalypse: Third-hand smoke, over-population, global warming, global cooling, Anthrax – the list is endless.

The world’s oldest profession is not what you think; it’s the business of fear. The Attention Economy has forced us to change those doom scenarios quickly, otherwise we’ll get bored quickly and instead of moving on to the next threat, we might move forward with our lives. We’re attracted by doom scenarios: Daily life can be fairly boring and pedestrian. Regular politics are mind-numbing, just like the business world. But doom scenarios are interesting, raise your blood pressure and get us all excited. All the doom sayers have the same mindset: We have sinned, we made huge mistakes. Now is the time to pay for it. Or, if there’s a chance left, we need to change everything. The way we live. The way we do business. The way we make decisions. There’s no gray. Just black and white.

Behind these scenarios is a longing: Humans should change radically. A crisis is a normal part of the human life cycle. We can work through a crisis by making rational decisions. Catastrophes are events we can’t control. A crisis asks us to work harder. To evaluate all options, to be diligent, to deploy small changes to avoid a repeat. Catastrophes need big gestures. Saviors. And it makes the individual feel small. And helpless. That’s why people love Al Gore: He’ll save us from a catastrophe none of us can fix. Or the Dalai Lame: He’ll save my battered soul. Or Hank Paulson: He was supposed to be the savior. What happened?

The economy of fear was always used to keep people down, to remind us that there are forces out there bigger than us. But, it seems, the doomsayers try to be bigger than us, try to tell us to change our way of living, our thinking, our whole existence. Or! They only focus on poverty, consumerism, our cheap plastic culture. Walmart! China! McDonalds! And they forget responsible entrepreneurs, improved living conditions, national parks, improved air quality/life expectancy and all these other improvements our rotten society has developed throughout times. 

We’ve been expelled from paradise a long time ago. And we won’t find our way back by proclaiming new doom scenarios every 2 minutes. We won’t be able to create a better society by believing in utopian ideals of no conflicts and a world without the possibility of a crisis. So, let’s work through this. Everything will change and nothing will change. Advertising is not dead. Advertising is changing. Media is not dead. Media is changing. It’s going to take a lot of work, dedication and passion to adjust brands, businesses and agencies to the new reality. It’s going to be ugly, glorious, amazing and disappointing. It is what it is. All it takes from all of us is smart thinking. And a lot of work.

Humans are a weird bunch. We’re not perfect. We’re not meant to be perfect. Every time we try to create a perfect world we create one thing: Hell on Earth.