Category Archives: Web 2.0

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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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)

%Los Angeles Hotel Rental Car Flight Leaving Austin 1/28 am Returning 1/31 pm 3 Star and up close to Beverly Hills

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?

Brain Overload

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Just listened to the the Radiolab Podcast – Choice and was intrigued by one experiment they were talking about: Participants had to either memorize two or seven numbers. Once they memorized them, they had to go to a different room to recite the numbers. On the way to the second room, they were offered two choices: Either a beautiful piece of chocolate cake or a fruit salad. Surprisingly, the participants that had to remember 7 numbers chose the chocolate cake by a wide margin. The people with two numbers to memorize chose by a wide margin the fruit salad.

Why?

Apparently, our rational brain can only handle a small amount of information until it’s so clogged that the emotional side wins: The people that had to memorize seven numbers weren’t able to make a rational decision. Instead, the emotional side took over and the chocolate cake with all it’s issues attached to it (Calories, Health, etc.) won handily. When people only had to memorize two numbers, the brain had enough bandwidth to compare two choices and go for the fruit salad. This study has fascinating implications for any kind of marketing: When you’re on a automotive site such as Edmunds or KBB, researching, filling your head with facts, it makes no sense for advertisers to fill up your brain with more info since your rational side is already on overload. Emotional messages would deliver much better results. Or you’re watching a news program, the last thing your brain needs is another fact-filled message. Since most Internet interaction is based on a lean-forward, rational premise, should all online messaging be focused on the emotional side?

This study makes a case for the advent of Social Marketing since it combines the benefits of rational thinking with forming emotional connections. It’s the best of both worlds.

Brands need to deliver value

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Coming from a cold country, I’ve experienced extended waiting periods in bus stops during harsh winters. Not something I would recommend to anyone. But many people will endure this situation throughout the upcoming winter and Kraft found an innovative way to combine a marketing campaign with a service that communicates the key benefits of their Stove Top brand stuffing

“In the latest example of a trend that is becoming increasingly popular on Madison Avenue, heated air will descend from the roofs of 10 bus shelters in Chicago, courtesy of the Stove Top brand of stuffing sold byKraft Foods.

From Tuesday through the end of this month, Kraft is arranging for the company that builds and maintains the bus shelters, JCDecaux North America, to heat them, trying to bring to life the warm feeling that consumers get when they eat stuffing, according to Kraft.”

That’s a great step in the right direction. But Kraft could go further: Why not extending this program to many more cities, not limiting it to a month, extending the program till the spring? As Drew pointed out in his post, Samsung didn’t offer the airport charge stations for a limited time or to only one terminal, they showed a real commitment. And, that’s the difference between an advertising stunt and a real social marketing strategy in order to deliver value: You have to be in it for the long run. The current, very limited campaign is more of a stunt, something that will be forgotten quickly. But, a real commitment to bringing warmth to people will put that warm spot for the brand in people’s heart. Kraft, it’s not too late.

Value doesn’t equal money

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Image: Courtesy of Found Magazine

Remember MySpace as a community platform before it became a marketing platform and ad network? Remember Second Life as a new way to interact with people before it became the marketing vehicle du jour and a user annoyance? Remember widgets when they were valuable and an innovative way to pull in information before marketers over-widgetized the world? Remember Facebook when it was a community platform with a few applications before marketers started to build almost 50,000 applications (at last count)? Remember the iPhone when it was a new way to interact with the mobile web before the application store launched and now it’s almost impossible to cut through the clutter and deliver a valuable application to the consumer?

Is there a trend?

It’s the tendency of marketers to jump on a bandwagon, fall into the trap of the GMOOT Syndrome (Give me one of those) and overwhelm platforms or new opportunities with marketing messages, not understanding how to add value. Marketers have problems making that switch from being professional disruptors to value-adders. Only if you add value to the user experience will you be able to stand out. Period.

People will leave a platform and move on when they feel exploited, when their user experience diminishes while the balance sheets of the platforms improve. Short-term.

Sure, it’s not only marketers fault. Platforms are often pushed into allowing marketers in as early as possible to facilitate growth and high valuations. Yesterday, Twitter’s CEO Evan Williams promised a revenue model by Q1 2009. Will Twitter fall into the old trap? Or will they found new ways to work with marketers to add new value to the platform by adding new features and functionality? Or allowing users to engage with a brand in new and exciting ways? One can only hope for.