Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Social Integration with Digital Assets Key for 2011

Before I go there, let me again point out that social by definition is not a marketing campaign or a digital tactic. It can and is supported by tactics such as videos, online ads, landing pages, web pages, email blasts, blogger outreach, traditional media. But at its core, social is not a marketing campaign.

Social is about building relationships. Sustainable relationships between internal and external parties. Social is an all encompassing business approach. A social business is an organization which integrates its business goals and functional areas, with its customers and social technologies to exchange value. Social is about this value exchange between these relationships. And social and digital technologies enable this exchange.

From macro strategies to micro tactics, integration is the holy grail for 2011.

Two of David Armano’s Six Social Predications for 2011 focus on integration. At a macro business level, he writes: It's The Integration Economy, Stupid.“ From Ford, to Dell, to Starbucks (client), to Jet Blue, and a host of other companies who have pioneered early uses of social media for business, 2011 will be the year these companies take a serious look at integrating social media, not only regionally but globally...integrating social media into all facets of business from global marketing to crisis management and beyond."

At a more micro level, he further predicts: "Social Functionality Makes Websites Fashionable Again. After several years of being told to "fish where the fish are," businesses realize that users expect social integration to existing Websites…Websites will increasingly serve as "digital hubs" that integrate social activity from many platforms. They must integrate to be relevant in a socially connected world."

Jeremiah Owyang also forecasts integration as well in his social report “Social Business Forecast: 2011 The Year of Integration” Within the report he shares that 47% of the strategists surveyed stated their social focus for 2011 will be web site integration.

Integrating Social into Digital Assets: website, email, blogs, online advertisements and beyond
With that said, I’d like to focus at the micro level for a moment and examine ways to enhance digital marketing initiatives in 2011. While both Armano and Owyang mentioned website integration, I'd like to take it a step further and add all digital integration - such as rich media advertisements, landing pages, emails, blogs as well as websites.

Here are four key areas to think about when brainstorming how to integrate social with digital initiatives:
1/ Create Social Proof. Social proof means social influence which is when a person's thoughts, feelings and actions are influenced by another. At a psychological level, when people are in ambiguous situations and are unable to determine the correct behavior, they will assume that the behaviors of those around them are the appropriate actions and of those who have more information about the situation or decision at hand. From a social/digital perspective, putting people, faces,or voices of the consumer's real world into your digital assets can create powerful social proof. On the website, this may be providing photos and access to friends and followers of a page (think of Facebook and Twitter), or by allowing comments by others on your content or product pages. It may also be attained by allowing people to rate and review your products on your website, (which by the way could also become a social object and a shareable feature). Or it may be using video from community members or customers within the experience. Using social proof on your website or in digital properties can powerfully influence visitors to stick around, read your content, take an action, or share and tell their friends about your business. Its about allowing humans to be involved directly in your digital properties right alongside your brand.

2/ Create Social Objects: Social objects are the things we create to provide opportunities for people to share with others and to socialize around the object. Objects can be links, content, video, images, widgets or tools they are easily able to share. It doesn't have to be a huge viral campaign to be successful social object. Its important for companies to give something to its customers in this value exchange that they need, find helpful or are entertained by. This sharing of information – videos, coupons, articles, links, recommendations -amplifies a company's ability to scale its messaging to others. There are lots of opportunities to create social objects in all digital properties. Make it easy by including Sharing buttons next to these objects.

3/ Create Social Aggregation: Social Aggregation involves creating a hub of all your communities into one place. This is most often the web site wherein you provide your customers one central URL where they can obtain access to all of your social communities and properties. Think about your mobile site as well.

4/ Create Social Sign On: Common technologies enabling social sign on are OpenID and Facebook Connect. With these technologies, it enables users to move from site to site carrying their credentials with them. This is especially helpful when a user needs to register or sign up for something on your website and is especially appealing for mobile users who don't want to be burdened with long forms. With a simple one click, they are automatically registered. A big win here is optimizing conversions and hopefully seeing increases in same.

Have a Happy and Socially Integrated New Year!

Friday, December 3, 2010

Servant Leadership

Do you Serve Others or Are you Self-Serving? The phrase “Servant Leadership” was coined by Robert K. Greenleaf in The Servant as Leader, an essay that he first published in 1970s. In that essay, he said:

"The servant-leader is servant first… It begins with the natural feeling that one wants to serve, to serve first."

The 1984 Nobel Peace Laureate Desmond Tutu shares his thoughts on the quality of the greatest world leaders - servant leaders who serve others.

Read more at my new blog: Positively Leadership

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Social & Search Continue Evolution-Google Lags Behind

Back in 2007, Website Magazine asked me for my opinion on the future of the internet. Here is what I said:

“Personalized Search technologies, social media and user-generated content are putting consumers in the driver’s seat even faster and with great impact. Long gone will be the standard algorithms and one behemoth listing of results. Businesses will need to create even more personalized, on-demand experiences and ensure they provide relevant, highly targeted content. Knowing your customer (behaviors, needs, demographics, and lifestyle) will be even more important and listening to your consumer base vital. They are in charge!"

Sherri Maxson,Internet Marketing Consultant

I revisited the article tonight as I prepared my posted. Back in 2007 personalized search technologies consisted of Google’s innovation with its algorithm to show relevant results based on a user’s past search behavior. Search technologies continue to evolve, however, as search and social converge.

Search & Social Converge
On November 3rd, Bing announced the promise of more meaningful search results as it seeks out information from a user's social graph on Facebook. Now, using Bing search, your Facebook friends who Like content you are seeking appear first in the results. It's word of mouth on steroids powered by technology as friends show up in search results with their vote and recommendations for products and services they have “liked” and shared on the web.

Google Needs Innovation
Google’s search results listing is largely based on how important web content is deemed based on the amount of links to the site, the ‘authority’ of the site from which the link comes and the popularity or sheer amount of content/links. Google is also giving local businesses priority. There is no human interaction or relationship building in this model.

Google search results are deemed neither positive or negative. Thus a site with a negative reputation can easily be ranked #1 or appear on the first page of results, which is “the money page”. This was the premise of a recent New York Times article that appeared earlier this week. The story centered on an online businessman who treats customers poorly to provoke negative chatter about his company online to increase the content and links to his site. The more this chatter increases, the more content and links are generated about his company, the better his results in Google. This strategy has provided top search engine rankings for a number of key terms and he claims has increased his bank account significantly. The sad fact is how he is mistreating and harassing customers. If consumers dig deeper into their social networks or other sites to investigate, they’d see that most of the online conversations warn others not to do business with this company. However, for many they are not taking this next step.

All the more reason why social search has more relevancy. Human interaction and trust factor into search results for far more personalized and trusted results. As mentioned, Bing currently offers social search – using Facebooks’s social graph (network of friends and connections) to enable word of mouth search results and by far has the most robust offering. It’s integration with Facebook is huge.Blekko’s been around for a while and it too relies on community and humans to power its relevance (similar to a Wikipedia model). Google’s working on building their own social search/social graph with Google Hotpot. Neither Blekko nor HotPot have the momentum or the social graph of Facebook.

Building Social Search
Facebook “Likes” will now take precedent in search vs the sheer link building that Google evaluates. Trust and human interactions are the root of social search. Social graphs rule. Consumers will continue to seek out and place value on information from their communities and those they trust. There are many many ways to enhance search efforts, but two primary ways I’d like to touch on are Social Objects and Social Authority.

Create Social Objects
Create content and applications that your community wants and finds valuable. By doing so they consume, “like”, and share with others. In the past, content used to be created for the benefit of search engines (robots would read the content and index it accordingly as another dimension of the linking algorithm). Now, in social search, content consumed and shared by humans takes precendent. It has to have meaning and value.

Keywords still have relevancy. In the past, those performing SEO put a lot of focus on the keywords they were hoping to get searched on and embedded them in the pages of the site and as content in their link building strategy. This holds true today. Social objects and content still need definition for the search engines to rank them. They should be used for titles and within content for your users to share.

Create Social Authority
Page rank used to be the holy grail. Getting a link on an authority web site (for example a .edu site or one of the top 50 web sites, was considered a knock out to get your site ranked higher.) Now the goal is to build relationships with social authorities, those who others trust and who have a high volume of followers. If the social authority likes your content and passes along content authentically and sincerely, more people take notice.

Be Human,

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Social & Digital Help Inspire the World

On October 13th, the eyes of the world were focused on Copiapo’ Chile, a small northern city and site of the trapped miners. The world witnessed an entire 23 hour live feed of the capsule “Fenix II” as it made 70 trips underground to retrieve the 33 miners who had been trapped under ground for 69 days. Every angle of the rescue effort was covered thanks to the utilization of digital technologies. Social media played an integral role building community around the event as well as in sharing live information about the rescue to the masses.

Here are a few of the highlights which caught my attention:

Live Streaming Video from the Mine to the Ground
Early on a web cam and fiber optic cables were sent down a small bore hole to the miners, 200,000 feet below. At earth level the cables connected to a standard PC which displayed and captured live video feeds of the miners trapped underground. The trapped miners created a video of themselves saying hello to their family and singing the Chilean national anthem on August 27, 2010 giving the world and their families hope.

From then on the camera was used for family members to connect with their miners. Psychiatrists and counselors also used the web cam to check in on the emotional and psychological health of the miners.

The evening of the rescue effort, the rescue team used the technology to watch the Fenix II enter the mine to determine how far the capsule went down in order to accurately position it on each descent. They also used it to communicate back up to crew on the ground so they were aware of when the miner was in the capsule in order to know when to begin the ascent. Back up at the top, the video footage was projected onto a large screen so those outside could watch as well.

One of the extraordinary things was watching as the first rescuer, Manuel Gonzalez, made his way to the miners and was greeted with hugs and cheers. It was quite a moving (and historic) moment.

A web cam.

Who would’ve thought it would play such a vital role in the sustained well being of the miners, an inspiration to the world, and such an integral part of the rescue operation.

Live Blogging, Photo Sharing & Video of the Rescue
A number of media sites, such as PBS, HuffingtonPost and WorldNews, used Ustream to stream video broadcast of the live rescue Ustream stated it served 5.3 million streams over the course of the rescue event, making this the most streamed event. (The memorial of Michael Jackson was the prior record holder of 4.6 million.)

Many news sites provided life blog updates of the event. The Chilean Government even set up an official Flickr photostream, the Rescate Mineros' Photostream. Photos started with the early preparations on October 11th, through all miners, to the last rescuer, Manuel Gonzalez and final photos of the press conference.

A quick Google for blogs under keyword Live Chile Miners Rescue yielded 333,293 results. One of my favorites was the Chilean blog, I Love Chile, the only Chilean blog translated to English. Many media and news site kept readers abreast of the updates of each miners rescue via their blogs as well.

Communities Formed to Provide Support & Share
Naturally Twitter fans and followers assembled around an infamous hash tag, the most vibrant one being #chileminers. On October 13th, the community counted down the number of miners brought back. The conversations were positive, encouraging and hopeful.
“@Notashopaholic. 19 miners out now. Just amazing. Humans, I am proud of you today. #ChileMiners

Of the tweets I analyzed using SearchTastic, the reach as incredible – 60 tweets reached 20M followers/impressions. CBS News was a big contributer.

There were also a few communities which rallied together on Facebook. One group, Chilean Miners Rescue Attempt. LIVE, tracked the progress of the rescue effort. The last post I read was from Ireland:
“Congratulations to all the miners on being rescued, God bless you all and I hope you all recover well from your terrible ordeal, and well done to the rescuers your country must be so proud of each and everyone of you. I spent the last 24 hours watching it live from Northern Ireland and am so pleased it's all over. GOD BLESS.”

Another group, entitled Rescue the Chilean Miners, had 480 fans. It’s community mission statement read “We want this page to show the brave miners, their families and their rescuers how much the whole world supports them.”

Hope. Unity. Strength.
The sprit, unity and determination of the Chilean miners, government and rescuers inspired the whole world. Thanks to digital and social technologies, we could participate in and watch this historic human event in real time.


Sunday, October 10, 2010

The Jetsons, Trading Posts & Social Business

Robots are creeping me out this weekend.

That’s an odd thing to say from someone whose career has been in technology and who adored George, Jane, Judy and Elroy Jetson. The cartoon, The Jetson’s, was my favorite, slightly nudging out Scooby Doo. I loved its futuristic graphics and theme. Rosie the Robot seemed almost human to me as she cleaned and helped the family with daily life. At times she would malfunction but always with humorous results. The family had a snazzy vehicle too - the flying saucer car which drove itself. The Jetson’s had a very leisurely lifestyle enabled by robots and labor saving devices. One press of the computer button a day was all it took to set their day and life in motion.

The Jetson's Are Here.
Yesterday, The New York Times published its story on Google’s experiment with a car that drives itself. The advantages, it claims, are to save lives. The car uses GPS and motion detection to help it navigate and drive. Google claims that this artificial intelligence is safer and more reliant than humans. The intelligence won’t get sleepy at the wheel, be intoxicated or make bad judgments. And this will ensure fewer accidents whereby more lives are saved. Really? Cars driving themselves - the technology is here.

In the same day as the NYTimes article, my brother and I were talking about artificial intelligence running our financial markets. We talked about computers programmed to make trades at the Board of Trade which could be programmed to make financial trades at a much faster rate than humans could keep pace. I don’t know much more than that but isn’t that a bit scary (and illegal)? One press of a button to run a financial market – the technology is here.

Yesterday as well was the first time I experienced, not once but twice, the Twitter robots unleashed and spamming me and my peers with RTs after various words were detected in our tweets. Annoying . Robots reading and sending out messages on their own – the technology is here.

Robots Can be Creepy.
Before I went to bed I tweeted, “… feel like I'm in a bad sci-fi where the bots start overtaking humans!”

I’ve always been forward thinking, futuristic, opportunistic by nature. “Yes, let’s create it!” “Wow, look at this new technology!” “Just think if we designed …x, y, z…” But last night was the first time I started to get a bit creeped out by it all.

What’s the impactof robots/artificial intelligence on human intelligence? Will humans start to become less intelligent as we create technology which does our thinking? Evolution has proven that which is not used over time disappears. Will our language change? Will we lose basic skills? Are we moving too fast? Will we revert back to cave man drawings to communicate as we continue to create symbols like :) to depict emotion or figure out how to make our language fit 140 characters or less? I don’t get psychics but at some point don’t we run into ourselves in the here and now and the virtual? And could we tip the scale to the artificial and virtual too far?

Do we have technology and innovation ethics? Where do we draw the line?

Social Business and Trading Posts?
Over the course of the past month I’ve more than once stated I’d like to get back to the time of the trading post. I say it in jest, but deep down I really mean it. Sometimes, the speed at which technology is innovating is overwhelming. My draw to the trading post is that humans interacted person to person. They interacted and exchanged on a very basic human level. Is social business our way to ensure we continue to humanize our technological experience and create human interaction and value with one another?

Deep thoughts for a late Sunday night. Lots of questions and few answers at the moment.

What do you think?

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Moses Leading Social Business

I was recently reading the story of Moses leading the Israelites out of Egypt into the wilderness and had a profound “Ah Ha - that’s like leading social business transformation.” Now that may be a stretch and I certainly don’t profess that those of us doing this are godly, will be able to turn our Sharpies into serpents, or part and cross large bodies of water. But the part of leading change, confronting opposition, and staying committed for 40 years–that was the part that resonated with me.

To refresh your memory, Moses was the guy who was born in Israel, sent down river as a baby, was found and raised by the Egyptians. He lived with the aristocrats for years while the Israelites were slaves in the same country. One day Moses gets enraged with the way an Egyptian guard treats one of the Israelite slaves and kills the guard. Moses then flees leaving his lavish life to become a humble shepherd in the country. He gets a “call” one day from “his boss” that he should go back and free the slaves and lead them back to their promised land of Israel. He thinks it’s a prank call and doesn’t feel up to it or worthy. But eventually there is no denying that this is a real gig. All the appropriate tools, communications and visions are bestowed upon him. He graciously accepts the job offer. And so begins the journey.

Moses heads back to Egypt and confronts the Pharaoh. When he arrives he respectfully asks “Let my people go”. To which Pharaoh scoffs at this humble mans request, mocks him and tightens the reins on the slaves. A plague hits the land (actually Moses’ boss calls this in as punishment). After the ordeal, Moses revisits Pharaoh and again respectfully asks, “Let my people go” and he is again met with opposition. This circle goes on for ten plagues and the screws get tighter on both sides - more serious plagues for the Egyptians met with stronger opposition, contempt and rebellion by Pharaoh. Finally though Pharaoh can no longer bear anymore and agrees to let the 600,000 Israelites free. As they depart,Pharaoh renigs and sends the army after Moses and the people. This is the part where Moses opens up the water and gets the people across to the wilderness safely while Pharaoh’s army is unable to get across and they lose.

They made it! They are free and have arrived. Well, not quite. They just got approval for the project and now the work begins. This is the part of the story where the real transformation is at work. This is the 40 years in the wilderness as the Israelites journey to the Promised Land. It was no cake walk. This is the part of the story where Moses really has to step up his game and keep reminding half a million people of the vision while he attends to their needs for 40 years! It is during this time when the people began to lose hope and patience. It is during this time when they complain about the change, complain about the journey and complain about Moses’ leadership. It is here in the story when Moses wants to quit. He wants to give his two week notice and call it a day. And it is here for me that the strongest nuggets of leadership wisdom reside which can be applied to social business transformation.

A Sense of Humility: First off, Moses didn’t chose the vision, the vision chose him. He was in a place and time and all systems pointed to him to lead this effort. He was most passionate and was given the right tools. But he was equally modest, respectful and patient. Pharaoh on the other hand had a “My Way or the Highway Attitude”. He led by complete and absolute power. He was arrogant, boastful, vain and defiant. He thought of himself as God and wanted others to see him the same way. I think the lesson is clear for me. It is important to evangelize the social business vision and instill inspiration in others but it is just as important to be respectful of where others are at in their acceptance or understanding of social business. Charlene Li defines open leadership as “having the confidence and humility to give up the need to be in control…” (p.14). Social business will eventually become something those opposed or ignorant off will not be able to ignore – it will be too pervasive. Be humble and patient.

Leading through Opposition: While in the wilderness, the people start complaining and bemoaning about the hardships of the journey and its inconveniences. Moses continues to provide and be there at every turn. He uses those opportunities to show concern and care for others through this transformation and addresses the needs of others. For me, this means interacting with those with may show signs of struggle or resist the change. While change is inevitable, as Peter Drucker states in his book Management Challenges for the 21st Century, people despise change much like death and taxes – it is an unwelcome necessity that should be postponed as long as possible.

Delegate and Empower: At one point in the story, when the going gets tough in the desert, Moses wants to throw in the towel on the whole vision. He says “I can’t carry all these people by myself because the burden is too much for me.” But rather than throw in the towel, he’s instructed to find a group of Elders whom he can train and off load the work. For me, finding other leaders and evangelizers in the organization is vital. Not only does it take a load off the leader, it also starts to build pockets of acceptance and momentum deeper into the organization. Leadership is not a solitary position – leadership needs to be a shared responsibility. Empowering the masses increases operational efficiencies, fosters collaboration, maintains momentum and builds acceptance.

Resist the Temptation to Rush Ahead: Oh this one is tough for me. At the first sign of perceived resistance, I want to quickly close the wound with a short cut or keep to the status quo. In Moses’ wilderness, it didn’t seem like there was a lot of productivity happening towards the vision. But we know great transformations do happen in the wilderness. For social business transformation, the “wilderness” is that place of anxiety, confusion, conflict, complaining, bemoaning. Moving too fast jeapordizes the very pain that is needed to give birth to the transformation. Let the work takes its course and stay true to the goal.

Constant Sacrifice: A leader must continue to make sacrifices. Giving up one’s own rights to help lead the people means making sacrifices. Moses could of opted for the easy way out, been focused on his own advancement or title, or rewarded himself with self indulgence or self promotion. He did none of that. Leaders dedicate themselves to what is best and what is right for all and continue to make sacrifices to get there.

A lot of wisdom from the antiquities still apply today. If I get stuck, perhaps I can ask “What would Moses do?” Though I must fess up. If any locust show up during this transformation, I’m outta here.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Open Leadership

I just finished reading my advance copy of Open Leadership by Charlene Li (co author of Groundswell and Principal of Altimeter) - two thumbs up! It’s a must read for leaders navigating emerging technologies across organizational waters. The book is packed solid of one case study after another of insightful examples of social business innovation focused on fostering an open culture. It’s rich with checklists, thoughtful questionnaires and action plans to help leaders evaluate their readiness and develop plans to embrace a culture of openness.

In her book, scheduled to come out next week, Charlene defines open leadership as “having the confidence and humility to give up the need to be in control while inspiring commitment from people to accomplish goals.”

I’ve been fascinated with the cultural shift required by organizations to fully embrace social business and how leading companies are transforming on the inside to embrace the outside. I’ve been equally fascinated with how business leaders still think social is just a marketing or public relations function. “So you are saying that in order to develop a social strategy, we have to change our culture? Are you crazy? I just want a Facebook and Twitter page. “ “Yes Yes! Let’s do social and let’s be open! Hmmm…. that means we have to change the way we lead? Forget it, let’s just put our ads up on YouTube.”

Five Rules of Open LeadershipThe degree of openness and cultural shift required by companies is determined by organizational and strategic goals. At the foundation though Li provides five rules for open leadership to help foster these new relationships.
1. Respect that your customers and employees have power
2. Share constantly to build trust
3. Nurture curiosity and humility
4. Hold openness accountable
5. Forgive failure

Charlene gives solid evidence and affirmation that “doing social” requires internal business transformation. As rule one asserts, power (or illusion thereof) is no longer an exclusivity of the boardroom. True power is in the hands of the customers and those closest to and engaging with the customer. It always has been. Social technologies though are shining a flood light on and calling attention to this dynamic like never before. Savvy digital customers who call a spade a spade will accept nothing but the truth. The speed of communication online is demanding internal efficiencies and quick access to information. Polished corporate messaging is not trusted online. All of which is challenging the old school hierarchical command and control style of leadership.

Being open, transparent and authentic doesn’t mean that companies mindlessly open up and share all knowledge and data irresponsibly – that would be foolish. Charlene encourages leaders to develop “sandbox covenants” – guidelines to structure process, policy and behavior. I often hear people talking about the risks of allowing employees to engage online and fears of openness. What if employees start chatting about our confidential information? What if they divulge our recipe for our secret sauce? What if, what if, what if? Charlene hit the nail on that head when she asks the reader, have you heard of any damaging business secrets being divulged by employees of those most engaging and open brands we all want to model?

Open Leadership. I can’t wait to see where companies are at a year from now. In my opinion, the front runners will be those who continue to innovate and embrace Charlene’s direction and the direction of business leaders and consultants who champion openness and cultural transformation. Stay tuned.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Social Media Gold Rush Reminiscent of Dot Com Era

This past week I had a flash back. I was transported back to the 90s.

Way back to the time when companies were trying to figure out how to build a web site for their company for the first time. If they did, they’d make more money for the business. They’d be more efficient selling with less overhead. They’d sell more products and services to more people all over the world. The new ebusiness start up ventures would do the same. Only they'd be working from a lap top from the beaches of Florida.

This was the time when new internet companies were coming out of the wood work. Development companies. eCommerce software companies. Hosting companies. Any eBusiness you could imagine. This was the time when venture capitalists were in love with anything internet. This was before Google and way before YouTube. This was before banner advertisements, SEO, PPC and even Flash. This was around 1994. Amazon just gave birth.

I was there. I am that old. I was one of those web developers. And I was one of those entrepreneurs. In the 90s I was with an established enterprise software company when friends of mine journeyed to New York to work for one of the first eCommerce shopping cart providers. I left the firm too. But I stayed behind preferring to make millions with my new venture. I was building my own eCommerce site.

As I created my business plan, I quickly learned HTML. I got connected to the web experts online. I connected to other developers. We shared code openly and freely. We collaborated. I was working towards early retirement via a fine art photography eCommerce web site. The plan was perfect. No overhead. Just a low cost web site with photography for sale produced by myself and my artist friends. No sweat. went up in 1995. went down in 1997. No sales. The market wasn’t ready. (Remember the part about no advertising costs?) Big lesson – it wasn’t that easy.

Remember any of these startup sites? Boo sold branded fashion apparel over the internet in 1998. The company spent $135 million in venture capital dollars in 18 months. The site, promoted by Whoopi Goldberg and started by iVillage founder Levitan, tried to create ‘internet currency” – similar to frequent flier miles. Flooz spent between $35 to $50 million in venture capital to get going before it fell. It's currency was worthless in the end. Sounded like selling dog food online was a great idea. But if you’re out of dog food, you need it right away, not days later. They raised $82 million in their IPO before they closed shop.

By March,2000 things had changed. The Dot Com bubble burst. The Federal Reserve had increased interest rates six times. The economy was losing speed. Only the fittest survived.

So where am I headed with this all? What’s the connection?
Social media to me is a lot like the early 90s. There’s a lot of noise right now. There are a lot of companies trying to figure out what to do and feeling behind in the process. There are a lot of start ups. There are a lot of experts. There are a lot of shiny new objects to play with. There's a lot of hype, a lot of speculation. And there are a lot of folks freely giving advice, sharing information, providing expertise and guidance. To me this is a lot like the 90s.

Social business is here to stay. There’s no turning back. If history repeats itself like the Dot Com era, not everyone will survive the gold digging though. Only the fittest survive.

This time around, I’m connecting with and banking on the experts and pioneers who’ve been down this road before. The ones who survived the Dot Com era. The seasoned ones. The ones approaching this disruptive technology from a solid business perspective.

I’m a huge fan of the team at the Dachis Group (@dachisgroup) – Jeff Dachis (@jeffdachis), Peter Kim (@peterkim), Kate Niederhoffer (@katenieder) and team. They are making smart moves. They are big thinkers with business savvy. Transparent. Collaborative. Humble. Fun. They are pushing through the noise and making headway. I’m also a fan of David Armano (@armano ) with Edelman Digital (ironically he was formerly with Dachis) - he gets and lives it. He shares. And I love the thinking of Jeremiah Owyang (@jowyang) and Charelen Li (@charleneli). Smart business.

Where are you placing your gold?

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Changing corporate culture is like getting kids to eat peas

Last week I had the humble pleasure of participating in the Dachis Group ‘s Social Media Business Summit ( I was blown away at the high level thinking of all of the participants and speakers who presented various aspects of social business design – or as I like to call it, holistic social. I’ve spent the past week letting the session wash over me to clarify my take on this journey. The one thing that I keep coming back to is corporate culture – changing corporate culture to embrace social business design.

Leading the social business efforts for an organization is exhilarating, but equally terrifying. Being on the edge/fringe of the organization and trying to move a business and its executive leadership to a whole new way of behaving and operating without tried and true business theories ? Sounds crazy and arrogant. And yet, I know its not. My passion and 'blind faith' (or bat faith as @katenieder shared) were validated in last week's summit. But changing a corporate culture? Yes, even changing a corporate culture.

Corporate culture is messy.
Corporate culture is defined as the sum of values, customs, traditions and meanings of an organization. The stories we tell and the way we speak and behave in a company amplify its existence. Performance evaluations and training define its behavioral expectations and financial rewards and benefits validate its continuation. People conform to those around them, making this all the more complex. So how does one even begin to think about changing an organizational culture?

Charlene Li, Altimeter Group – @charleneli spoke about Open Leadership. (Her new book is coming out this spring). She challenged leaders with letting go of control but staying in command to create a more open environment. An open environment, in her view, is one that shares information (vs. hoarding for power), sees opportunities and optimism (vs paranoia and threats) and is about building relationships, .

Changing corporate culture is like getting kids to eat peas.
In doing some investigation of my own, I found a University of Illinois experiment. The experiment was to find the best way to get a child to eat peas. A number of tactics were researched, such as telling the child that eating peas was good for him, punishing the child if he didn’t eat his peas and rewarding the child with ice cream if he did eat his peas . What the researchers found ultimately worked the best was sitting the child at a table with other children who liked and ate their peas on their own. The child modeled his behavior to confirm to the others – peer pressure works!

Kate Niederhoffer, Dachis Group – @katenieder - gave a similar example in her presentation at the summit. She shared research showing how others confirm to the group, even if they know the answer is incorrect. She also shared how difficult it is to just tell people to stop doing things - like stop emailing and use social, stop hoarding information, stop controlling. Isn’t that like trying to force people to eat peas?

So how do we get our organization to eat peas?
I certainly don’t have all the answers yet. But a few things I’m going to try:

1/ Find people who like to eat peas. Locate the open leaders of the organization (those who share information and decision making) . Get them in key roles and have them share new organizational stories about what’s working with the way they do things. Help them facilitate the peer pressure.

2/ Build relationships – work to create bridges between teammates and others in the organization.. Build relationship based on trust, respect, inclusion. Most of all build human relationships.

3/ Share Decision Making - involve people in decisions. Give up the need to be in control and empower others.

4/ Value Feedback –feedback of our teams and employees is just as important as our customers feedback on social media sites. The good the bad the ugly – need to value it all

5/ Open up information – share metrics/reports/information with others and be honest. If the project isn’t going well, fess up. Share conversations and information along the way to create a culture of sharing with one another.

6/ Create Guidelines – create guidelines for social computing so boundaries are clear.

7/ Experiment – this is a new playground. I heard this in a number of presentation. Expect to fail at some things but keep trying.

So this is a long way of saying, what I learned from the Dachis Group social media business summit (#sbs2010) relative to culture change is this: “You must be the change you wish to see in the world.” (Mahatma Gandhi). Or as that classic rock song goes, “All I am saying, is give peas a chance”

Monday, February 8, 2010

Holistic Social

Holistic social, enterprise social… it’s the buzz of the future. Industry leaders and analysts watching the social media space continue to point organizations in this direction. This disruptive technology is forever changing the way businesses do business. But organizations are grappling with how to get on board. What does enterprise social really mean? And how does an entire organization begin to get socially calibrated?

Holistic by definition means the practice of addressing or healing the “whole". There are a million ways to skin a cat and in social media that statement is no different. There are marketing and brand tactics awaiting execution, salespersons eager to sell, customer service and CRM issues to address, PR and crisis response plans to put in place, and operational and legal challenges lurking in the wings all with an eye towards doing it in the social sphere. Each of these areas converse with a variety of audiences - customers, prospects, employees, bloggers and media who are then categorized into buckets as influencers, advocates and detractors. Layer on all the channels, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and blogs and holistic social sounds evermore confusing and complicated. And the race to the finish line is going 900mph.

In order to become a whole and healthy organization in the social space, its important to develop a social media strategy anchored to its key business goals. The worst thing an organization can do is let every team or department go out into the social space as a silo - putting real focus to social strategy enables a company to get holistically calibrated.

But getting started is not an easy task. How do you organize around social? How can you get your organization to live socially? Where does social live in organization? Which tactics should your organization embrace? Which audience should you address first? How do you measure results? The first step to getting socially calibrated is to recognize that there are no easy answers or text book solutions. Each organization needs to define and chart its own course which aligns with its unique business goals and culture. While each organization is different and each ecosystem unique, I do believe there are some initial steps an organization can take to begin the journey:

1/ Build an Integrated Team
Develop a core team comprised of cross functional leaders to define social strategy. It’s a great idea to engage leaders from the marketing, communications, customer service, sales, operations and legal departments. Even better if you can have executive sponsorship. Do, though, make sure there are folks on the team who are socially savvy. Social media integration for many functional business leaders require they get socially educated and receive guidance from the folks in the field.

2/ Determine a Beacon

While the integrated team can help steer the strategy and ensure all leaders are engaged in policy and how the organization will move together, determine a beacon to help execute the plans. Many organizations are building social media teams and departments to help the organization manage through the programs. Where this team resides and how its structured is up to the organizational structure. At the end of the day everyone owns social in a holistic organization but initially you'll need the drive and support of a few key folks who get it and can move it.

3/ Embrace a Social Culture

Change for most is difficult, particularly if it means becoming more vulnerable. Yet that is exactly where companies need to stand today with the advent of social. Consumers expect and demand brands to be in the social space and to listen to their wants and needs. In order to survive and succeed in social, companies need more than ever to build an internal culture of transparency, engagement, responsiveness, and nimbleness. Some companies like IBM, Dell, Best Buy and Coca Cola have developed amazing strategies and policies to include the vast majority of their employees in the social media space. Company leaders now need to ask themselves tough questions, "How comfortable am I in giving employees access to information and engaging on line?" "If our consumers are asking us to change our product, will we able to execute on their requests?" "How comfortable am I in giving up some control of my brand?"

4/ Develop Strategy Based on Business Goals
In order to create a holistically social enterprise, it’s important that the tactics implemented all ladder up to the mission and strategy of the organization. Only in this way will the entire organization be able to successfully calibrate to embrace the new world order of holistic social media. Aligning with business goals also makes it easier to attribute and report out the effectiveness of social media.

To truly become a holistically social enterprise, I’m reminded of this mantra, “personal progress for the greatest number depends on unity”.