Thursday, December 18, 2008
I spent a delightful hour today talking to their Japan representative. She showed me a new product - a "donation" gift card that allows the receiver to go online (instructions are on the back of the card), and choose a non-profit to receive the donation. The brilliant upside is that two-way engagement (giver + receiver) becomes three-way (giver + Non-Profit + receiver) or four-way if the giver also participates.
Remember, in network theory the efficiency of the network increases in proportion to the square of the number of nodes [actually, a function of the triangular number n(n − 1)/2) which is proportional to n-squared as the number of nodes increases to infinity].
This is an excellent idea - the donation that keeps on giving, yet also allows for social networking around the most important community: those in need. I can see it working as either an employee engagement or customer engagement tool, or as a splendid way to enable socially-aware rewards schemes. Think and ACT green, for example.
You've got to hand it Ammado - this Irish company has actually proved that there is a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow!
Thought for the Day: Joining with customers (employees are internal customers for your brand) to do good will help brands leverage their social credentials - and just might create real engagement! Bravo Ammado!
Monday, December 15, 2008
I don't give much truck to conspiracy theories, and I'm an enthusiastic fan of Google. Good luck to them, and more power to those who make it easier for us all to connect. So take all of this positively.
But I never imagined there was this much strategic intent behind the various Google "avatars". Or even if it wasn't all Sergey and Larry, the idea that comprehensive analysis like Fabernovel's could divine the strategic elements. It's amazing - so refreshingly simple, so vicariously thrilling, yet overwhelmingly compelling.
For those who can't be bothered to read the presentation or the White Paper, here's the 30 second synopsis:
- Google's success is a result of the successful application of Metcalfe's Law on the utility of networks;
- Their reach (or utility) is not the sum of the people in the networks - it's proportional to the square (!) of the people in the networks.
- Inital value is created through two-sided markets, which morph to polygonic markets through addition of complementary networks;
- That creates geometric growth in value (which coincidentally attracts new networks).
This all creates a space where Google can look at new points of leverage - like browser-based apps, offline advertising. So Google can be Google, and the rest of us can be scared.
Google has posted some pretty big user numbers in Search and other apps. And once you do that, the power comes more from the number of networks rather than the number of participants in each network.
Thought for the Day: Maybe it's time to figure out how to link networks rather than just create new ones.
Tuesday, December 9, 2008
That's a fairly radical concept. Not since the Thing of the Norse cultures has there been such an idea (discounting small egalitarian communities and communes). If you think I'm kidding, check out Fix this, Barack or White House 2. Amazing! All with a sense of collegiality and a remarkable goodness-of-fit with Obama's own priorities.
Of course, the challenge for the BO White House is to figure out how to keep the magnificent constituency developed by the campaign connected and committed, in the raw light of day on Capitol Hill. The crushing immediacy of the issues faced by the incoming President will no doubt play havoc with his iPhone and Twitter teams. Analysing 5 days of public feedback received through the White House website is going to take some real heft. But what an opportunity to take back government!
Things (pun intended) are never going to be the same. Oh..., and some-one tell K. Rudd to get a look at this phenomenon - and change that crappy feedback page into something useful!
Thought for the Day: Social media offer the opportunity for people to seize back a say in government policies and priorities. Maybe it's time for politicians to listen.
Monday, December 8, 2008
Actually, the point is pretty simple and it took a slow lunch with a friend on Sunday to bring it to my attention. Humans are social animals - we delight in the company of others and fret when we're alone. Those are evolutionary traits designed to promote the survival of the species. I hadn't seen this friend for some time, and he's a little down-in the-dumps because of the global financial crisis. Generationally, he's not a social media user so I wasn't aware.
The functions I've been going to are a good example of physical social networks - that's where I caught up with my friend, and then made some time to talk to him about his problems. Digital social networks are a metaphor for "network-ing" events, just not time- or location-limited.
Social networks - and I mean digital social networks - simply replicate existing behaviors. Sure, it's greatly enhanced by technology and we now reach many more people than ever before possible. But the underlying behaviour is identical. Uh-huh, but so what?
Well, if we want to be successful in building social media tools that engage and delight people we must build them around behaviors - not around technologies. More than ever before, successful marketing will depend on our ability to understand what makes people tick rather than what makes them click. For me, understanding the 3 components of an audience (demographics, psychographics, and technographics) and then building a set of personas is as important as ever ... maybe more important.
Thought for the Day: When some-one comes to you with a brilliant idea to utilize a technology, maybe you should ask what social behaviour it models. Otherwise, you'll just be playing with the latest shiny toy.
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
Most social media people get deeply disappointed when their brilliant proposals don't get funded in the budget process. They're convinced that SM represents the chance to reach out to customers, give them a voice, and let loose the dogs of advocacy. But the CFO and other top team members rarely buy it. Why?
Find other ways to explain yourself - and make maximum effort to do a Dr Dolittle by speaking in languages CEOs, COOs, and CFOs understand. Blogs are a "set of discussions and opinions" that allow customers to respond and present their point of view. A wiki lets "experts contribute information" that is available to all.
A little bit of effort goes a long way - I once explained to a CFO who was an enthusiastic DIY man that "information architecture is a bit like the peg board above your work bench with stencilled places for all your tools". He got it immediately.
- Extending existing functions:
- Recognize you're changing the culture:
- Point to Success:
Thursday, November 20, 2008
The most recent post talks about the way they approach their wine. They recognize that a global, informed conversation has grown up around wine - in a world where lots of people are making good wine, they believe that the worldview about wine has changed. For them, "handcrafted-ness" and terroir are of course important. But with the paradigm shift they described, they believed there was something "far deeper, human and visceral". Sound a little like what I was talking about in this post?
So they decided that they wanted to let people know what making wine meant for them in their view of the world ... and printed it on the back label. For them, wine means:
CHANGING THE WORLD
Guess what? People loved it.
Stormhoek provides something beyond another marketing channel with their blog. They provide a human, aspirational face. Something that wine lovers all over the world can identify with, and share. Six simple realities about wine that start a million conversations, and inspire customers to engage with the brand. Stormhoek gets it, and gets it big!
I have never bought any of their wine - but you can bet that I am now going to make the effort to track some down. And tell other people about it.
p.s. They also provided some tips on blogging for a friendly rival which I recommend you read.
Monday, November 17, 2008
CFO's are more dubious, and middle management are not as sure. No surprises there either! CFO's are part of the show-me-the-money crowd - and there is little doubt that the metrics side of the social media revolution has been a little slower out of the gate than the enthusiasts. Provided the bean counters focus on the bottom line, I have no problem at all with their approach. That can only provide rigour, meaning better job security for the SM guys and girls.
Middle management - of course they're doubters. Most of us forget that middle managers are hired to ... wait for it ... manage! Manage means maintain the status quo. If these people started to innovate on a serial basis, business would get out of control in a minute.
The surprise for me is the very low knowledge base from where C-suiters are starting. The recent US election showed us one thing very clearly - brands (and Obama is as much a brand as he was a candidate) need to empower people to get involved. It's not only about having customers come up with new product ideas, or about reducing the cost of advertising. It's about thinking about two-way conversations, and about mutual benefits. The executives in the survey are acting as if they are still in sole control of their brands.
I only have bad news for these people - it ain't so, and you better figure out a way to let go. Otherwise, you'll find you're on the express ride to oblivion.
On the positive side, most companies expect SM and UGC to be the biggest factors changing the ways they interacts with customers or employees. They see it "as an opportunity, not a threat". Phew! Now, if we all could only see them as an opportunity rather than a threat.
Thought for the Day: Forget about the CFOs and middle management. Concentrate on the customer experience, let your advocates speak for you, and never forget where you came from.
Friday, November 14, 2008
It doesn't work because the rules have changed! If you've read Thomas Kuhn's The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (1962) you'll understand that a paradigm shift is a fundamental change in the basic assumptions underpinning a particular scientific set of knowledge. For Kuhn, the paradigm is not just the current theory, but the world view in which it exists along with essential implications which arise from it.
Communications theorists have been saying for more than a decade that the Internet represents a paradigm shift in communications. Fair enough - arguing otherwise seems pointless, even if we're not quite done with the revolution just yet. And given that it's a technology thing, then it's not too far gone to say it deserves a scientific treatment.
If you use political theory to describe the behavior of large groups of people, then it's fair to suggest that we're still travelling through an anarchical way-point on our way to the final destination. In fact, the Internet allows a more complex form of interaction than any other media channel we've ever experienced.
The rough tools of print, radio, and television allow communication in only one direction. It's easy enough to model message transmission (even if it sometimes ends up garbled like a bizarre form of the pass-the-message game). It's like a sequence of nodes (users) in series. Or translated, it's like talking in some one's ear in the middle of Shibuya Crossing. The most effective and efficient way to transmit a message in this environment is to send it often and and with maximum signal power (loudly).
But social media powered by the Internet is a different game - suddenly you empower each node (user) to communicate with any other node. Everything is connected to everything else, and the number of connections quickly becomes an intractable calculation (meaning you can't find a computer big enough to solve it that fits inside the Universe!). Translation: A million octopuses shaking hands, with a million others. Efficiency and effectiveness come from having a message repeated as often as possible with low signal power (softly). A CSR in a big company connects everyone to each other, and make the whole thing operate smoothly.
The Internet is not a channel - it's a switchboard. Until social media turned the shouting match into a conversation, marketers needed to have a loud voice (lots of media exposure), good lungs (big budgets), and run the 100m in 10 seconds (focus on short-term results). But a good CSR needs empathy (listening to people), angles (interesting ways to interact), and a stack of marathons under the belt (focus on the long-term).
I'd rather be a shaker than a shouter. What about you?
Thought for the Day: Talking loudly with a big stick doesn't work anymore. Maybe you need a new job spec for your marketers that looks more like your Customer Service Representatives'.
Thursday, November 13, 2008
What has Nike (NKE) done different in that time? Two years ago, it launched Nike+. Essentially, this is a sensor-based technology that stores data via a 2G+ iPod on your exercise, reports back a variety of facts and figures, and can upload the data to a social network website. Millions of people have joined this network - and Nike has created an army of loyal advocates. As an example of the power of that army, more than 800,000 people joined the Human Race on 31 August in 25 places around the world.
The members of the Nike+ community are on track (at more than 1 mile/sec, or faster than any F1 racer) to record 100,000,000 collective miles. Net Advocacy Scores are skyrocketing. Sales of accessories are growing faster than many ever imagined.
While the direct correlation is hard to prove, Nike has grown US market share of running shoes from 48% in 2006 to more than 60% today. Are you prepared to say there's no connection? Not me!
Many consumer goods companies (and others like General Motors!) have tried to use social media to build brand advocacy. The results have been tragic, or so faintly positive that the ROI didn't prove out.
So what's different about Nike's approach? For a start, the community is not built around a brand or product - it's built specifically for a bunch of people with a passion for running. You can put the Nike+ sensor in another company's shoes and still share the buzz. Translation: It's not a marketing campaign. It's shared experiences that inspire people. Nike+ provides the engine for a social activity.
Thought for the Day: If you focus on the people rather than the brand, chances are you may get the chance to ride the tiger of passion!
Wednesday, November 12, 2008
Name: Takuya Kuroda
Marital status: Single (living on his own)
Occupation: Sales and marketing
Income: 3,700,000 yen
Housing: Rented apartment
Car: Nissan TIIDA
Social Circle: Many friends related to his university and mixi community
Characteristics: Cheerful and active
Hobby: Car and baseball
PC: DELL Notebook
Internet Experience: 10 years
Frequency of Use: Almost every day
Duration of Use: 3 hours per day
SNS: Mixi (mainly from PC)
PC hours: from 10:00p.m.
6:50 AM: Wake up and shower
7:30 AM: Check news on PC while having breakfast
8:00 AM: Go to work by train. On the way to work, play games on mobile phone and listen to music on iPod
9:00 AM: Start work
12:00 Lunch. Check e-mail on mobile phone
6:00 PM: Leave office
7:00 PM: Dinner (bento box dinner). Watch baseball game on TV
10:00 PM: Check e-mail, search information on internet about cars and car accessories. Add commentsin mixi community.
1:00 AM: Go to bed
Word Picture: It is 6 years since he joined the company as a sales representative. He is settled in his job but recently he's been considering changing due to his poor relationship with his boss. His friend from university invited him to join a mixi community one and a half years ago. He met many virtual friends in mixi and enjoys his virtual life. But he is not an internet geek. He loves chatting with girls in bars. Ichiro Suzuki is his hero. Whenever he sees him on TV, he feels proud to be Japanese.
Most times, the data you need for building personas is available from secondary or tertiary sources (tertiary data source means you take somebody else's personas holus-bolus). If team members or vendors are telling you that specific research is necessary, then they're ahead of themselves - they're getting focused on "how" rather than "who".
Here's a link to an example persona we built for a social media play: example persona. Notice it has three components:
- the profile, where we apply some demographics and technographics so we build a picture of the person;
- the schedule, where we try to provide a context for the profile;
- the word picture; where we add some comments to "round" out the character and give life to the psychographics.
And please, before any comments, recognize that this is a very stripped down version designed to give you an idea of what might be included. For our Flex build in 2005, we developed eleven of these personas - all from secondary data - which we later informed with UX research. Each was about 1mB.
Why personas? Go back to the methodology - the most important component is understanding who you're building this for. Getting a picture of them that everyone can share is vital.
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
Still, it was depressing in a way - unfortunately there are very few people like Cullen who have thought through the potential impact of social media on privacy and security. And I believe there are many serious issues to surface.
For example, does posting some personal information to a social media site constitute a public act? If I want to share my details with my friends, that's one thing. But the world - that's a completely different issue. Or another thought: should there be a "statute of limitations" around personal data released on social media? After all, there is no moral justification for using something a person said as a teenager when they're 30, 40, or 50. It's hearsay.
But my head goes straight to the Cloud, as enterprise computing moves into the SaaS era and data becomes increasingly stratospheric. How does any one country provide its citizens with safeguards over both security and privacy when the app and the data maybe physically located elsewhere, and virtually located everywhere?
One answer may be the social graph. Giving people the right to maintain one version of their personal data, and "permissioning" various companies and agencies to use it (permanently or one-time-only) makes a lot of sense. In this light, people would maintain their personal data as another asset type, like their finances, their legal documents, etc. For people who opted not to have active asset management, set the defaults to super-secure, super-private.
Thought for the Day: Why should people need to keep track of hundreds of profiles and squillions of passwords? Maybe we should all have a unique digital ID that we maintain ourselves.
Monday, November 10, 2008
There are plenty of advocates for a sweet blend of anarchy in the new social media world, like the Cluetrain guys who started it all or Seth Godin. But it seems to me that there is room for a little discipline and lots of method. I agree with the Cluetrain guys when they say that a connected market place has more in common with the souk than the post-war mass advertising maelstrom. I agree with Seth when he says that no-one "owns" a community, and right of participation has to be earned.
But I also believe that you can build a disciplined digital community marketing model for brands and people. I suggest that the principles are:
- real two-way (multi-way?) interaction around the brand premise and promise;
- no less than 100% transparency;
- measurable intrinsic and extrinsic benefit for both consumers and brand-owners;
- ongoing incentive for participation; and
- commitment by brands to act on the voice of the community.
That sounds really esoteric - but I think that we could build a simple model for this. That model would allow brands to understand what their role should be, yet provide clear imperatives for investment with solid measurement criteria. It could also provide a "bill of rights" for consumers via a code of behavior with which to hold brands accountable. Something beyond WOMMA, something that focused on mutual obligation and benefit.
One key failure of current marketing practise is that it relies on companies selling brands instead of people buying brands. Way too much focus on one party, with a consequent loss of individuality and informality... which gives rise to "over-sell" by one side of the conversation, and cynicism by the other. What if we set that to rights via a new paradigm? What if we restored the value of trust?
I'd be really interested in feedback around this idea. Feels like the start of something...
Thought for the Day: What if brands behaved like people? Maybe there's a way to build a new model for community marketing that depends on trust rather than pitch.
Sunday, November 9, 2008
The group already uses Ning to power its communication out to its members, so my first observation was that it has a core group of permissioned users around which to build its online community. There is already a blog page, although it should be promoted more and needs a celebrity or authority blogger. There is a video links section, and a forum. It's probably a bit much for one person to handle, and the group should consider devolving responsibility for various sections to individuals - after all, the goal is to create social media which means "people".
My other observation was that the group tended to focus on CSR and corporate-level initiatives. Which is probably fine, but for me the creation of community requires a collection of galvanizing reasons-to-believe (RTB) so that people interact with a human voice.
The major "a-ha" moment for me was the potential power that a micro-blogging tool like Twitter could provide this group. See, Twitter is constructed around one very simple question - "what are you doing now?". One of the outcomes it generates is "buzz" - there are lots of small, easily digestible nuggets flying around the Twittersphere, and each tweet (a single post on Twitter) can act as the spur for a different direction for the community.
Imagine a bunch of people all providing each other with seemingly insignificant ideas to do something personal about the environmental crisis. You could end up with something as powerful as Earth Hour, where 50 million people turned off their lights for one hour all around the planet. What a powerful symbol!
Tokyo is apparently one of the most active Twitter spots in the planet, and given the growing convergence between computers and mobile platforms in this market one can imagine it could become very powerful. In this case, driving connections between members of the group could be one way to strengthen the ties that bind them.
Issues like the environment and sustainability require individuals to commit to both personal and group action. The events are providing the genesis of some group activities - but Twitter could provide a way for members to signal personal activities as well, or reach out for support.
Thought for the Day: Many people set up communities that end up being one-person soapboxes. Maybe Twitter is one way to open up the way for tens, hundreds, or thousands of people to participate in a true conversation.
Thursday, November 6, 2008
If Howard Dean proved that the Internet reached younger people and "main street" voters when he raised so much money online, then the election of Barack Obama showed the power of social networks, and therefore social media, once and for all.
From the moment the Hilary 1984 video aired on YouTube, with tens of millions of viewers, campaigns should have been on notice that something was different. More content followed, and while some candidates "sorta" posted standard TV clips others realized that this was the year when the power of connectivity was going to help shape opinion.
Blogs proliferated, and suddenly communities began to spring up around Facebook, MySpace, Mixi and other social networking platforms. Obama even took to Twitter like a fish, recognizing that social media provided him with the chance to personalize the campaign in a way never possible before. People wanted to participate, and the social media universe gave them the opportunity to do something, anything. By the way, did you see the Obama-08 iPhone app? Amazing!
Think about this in the context of your brands - in a funny way, they are like candidates in an always-on election with consumers. If you're not actively thinking about enabling conversations, personalizing relationships, and letting people participate - likely you'll finish up as the "other candidate".
Thought for the Day: Maybe it's time to realize that your brands are out there on the hustings in Consumer Land, and that they're likely to need some help reaching out to people.
Reminder: Our bank, WSG, believes there's a group of potential profitable customers among a group we're calling "Builders". But they're very cynical towards banks, tend to churn, and things are tough on the home financial front.
Where do we go next? The methodology I recommend is POST, eloquently explained by Jeremiah Owyang and his colleagues at Forrester. The "P"stands for people.
"Huh? There must be stacks of data on these people" says the CMO.
Well, maybe ... but I'm prepared to bet that no-one's synthesized the 3 elements of demography, psychography, and technography. This is not a cake mix, so there's no set formula on how to do it. But the goal is to come up with between 5 and 10 personas - the number will depend on how you slice and dice the data. Your personas should be broad enough to allow most people to identify with at least one of them, and granular enough for your marketers to immediately start suggesting hooks.
Hint: demographics give you segments, psychographics point at clusters, and technographics suggest network nodes.
I also suggest that once you've developed the personas, you plan to get your executives out on the street on "safari" to identify these people and talk to them. I've seen this done this very successfully here in Tokyo, and it really works. Of course, make sure you do a couple of trial runs yourself!
In the next post in this occasional series, we'll start talking about laying out your objectives.
Wednesday, November 5, 2008
You should understand the Wikipedia contribution policy: "Visitors do not need specialized qualifications to contribute, since their primary role is to write articles that cover existing knowledge [...] Most of the articles can be edited by anyone with access to the Internet [...]Anyone is welcome to add information, cross-references or citations, as long as they do so within Wikipedia's editing policies and to an appropriate standard. Substandard or disputed information is subject to removal." [Emphasis added]
Huh!? This means anyone can contribute content, and that Wikipedia does not check for veracity. That's up to the users. Wikipedia's editors will sometimes act to remove disputed facts or errors-in-fact when they are notified.
So my first recommendation is to have some-one go into Wikipedia and correct any inaccurate information via the editing tool. It is important to only correct factual errors - otherwise you will attract attention and negative comment.
Second - you should consider creating an alternative entry if there is a reasonable case for doing so. Again, be careful to report facts ("only the facts, Ma'am..."). When people search Wikipedia, they will then see both entries.
Next, invite your advocates to contribute to your wiki entry. The point of social information resources like Wikipedia - after the obvious information resource use - is to have fact-driven conversations where a variety of users can explore a variety of avenues about the topic at hand. If you have a reasonably complex offering, consider posting your FAQs as part of the content. On the other hand, you might want to use the collaborative nature of this tool to have customers help one another get best use from the item.
Finally, consider setting up another wiki of your own: for employees and your downstream sales force. This wiki should focus on capturing the "unwritten" knowledge all throughout your company - and listening to this conversation may just provide a few tips on where to take your products or services next!
That's all you get for free! Contact me if you have similar questions to Carlos, and I'll try to help you get maximum leverage from the social media jungle.
Tuesday, November 4, 2008
Let's set up the context. We are working for a bank (let's call it WSG) that has been doing reasonably well, but its engagement and customer satisfaction numbers have been flat for some time. Sheesh - in Australia, banks have been bas**rds since Hanrahan's time. The CRM work has been well executed, and profitable, but the financial crisis has tarnished its "human" face.
The CMO has identified a potential opportunity among young couples ("Builders") where the main income earner is 25-34 years-old. If WSG can reach out to these customers, there is a reasonable likelihood that some serious LTV is available provided WSG can deliver a unique value proposition and focuses hard on customer retention.
Trouble is, this group is cynical about banks in general and rarely if ever visits a branch. For them, banking is a transaction-based commodity service that is more often than not a stress-giver than a solution. They are most prone to switching, particularly when credit card debt consolidation is offered. Worse still, this group is more likely than most others to feel financial pressure - and the last couple of years haven't been great.
The first step is to create a problem statement. 25 words or less, this should wrap up the cogent details so even the most time-poor executive can understand the issue. I also like to highlight 5 key parts of the Problem Statement.
Problem Statement: WSG needs a place where it can "meet" Builders on their terms, create an conversation around relevant issues, and offer value-added solutions to their needs.
* Yes, I cheated by hyphenating "value" and "added". Why not - it works for Ben Bernanke!
Up Next Time: Defining the Audience
Monday, November 3, 2008
I have to admit to spending this (Japanese) Labor Day weekend devouring a great new report from Demos (see the Creative Commons license small print at the end of this post). My strong advice is for all you socialites to get hold of this, read it, and incorporate its wisdom into your own thinking. Authors Peter Bradwell and Richard Reeves have created an excellent report that dives deep into the way that social networks can actually be a force-multiplier for organizations when they have a sensible use policy for employees.
Demos' paper provides some excellent case studies about how leveraging social networks added staggering value at a number of British companies. This is real stuff, and the companies involved represent "main street" rather than a bunch of digital start-ups.
The rise of social networks has meant that organizations - which are normally hierarchical - face significant challenges in empowering employees to both represent the brand and use social networks to add value to their work. Let's be realistic - your knowledge workers are almost certainly using social media to energize their social networks. My error margin is about 0.1%.
They use those networks regardless of company policy - if a short-sighted HR group has "banned" the use of popular tools at work because it "wastes time", then theywill use them at home or somewhere else. Time to remember the hoary old "better to have them in the tent p*ssing out" chestnut ...
Instead, consider having your people "out and about" whizzing around social media and reporting back to the team on what they see and what it might mean. You can "limit" the time, but remember that even Google gives selected employees the opportunity to spend 20% of their time on approved projects.
It's safe to say that banning "normal" activity in a misguided effort to drive productivity is not an employee loyalty-building approach. More likely, your younger talent will figure out you don't "get it" and begin to look for another employer that offers more degrees of freedom.
And let's face it - the key issue for companies today isn't the next brilliant idea or tweaks to the business model. It's the battle for talent. And unless you use every tool at your disposal, you'll end up watching your most valuable assets walk out the door.
Thought for the Day: Maybe it's time to remember that one excellent way of generating customer insights is to watch what your people are doing when no-one's watching. If you're actively forbidding them to do things, chances are you are blindfolding yourself. So, loosen up!
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Wednesday, October 29, 2008
"... we’re seeing a stampede by traditional marketers into ... social media. They ... have no clue at all about the role of corporations in social media. Here’s a hint: You don’t get to ask, “How can we use this to grow?” It's not yours to use. It belongs to the people who are in it, not to greedy marketers who believe they have a right to ride along. The opportunity is to have a tribe, a group of followers, loyal people who are connected to each other ..." [Emphasis mine]
I think Seth is pretty much right, although there's a little too much of the polemic in the actual quote. It's important to be very user-focused, and social media are certainly not something to be owned. But neither were magazines or newspapers when they first emerged in London hundreds of years ago, and PBS proves that you can have independence at the same time as sympathetic marketing.
My personal opinion is that if you set up the environment in the right way, what you're doing is creating a conversation. And enabling that conversation gives you the right to listen, talk, energize, support, and embrace the tribe [if you have a Forrester account, download this document]. Those are all action verbs. Provided that you're seeking to be a part of the conversation - and not to dominate it - you are "in it".
Avoid gimmicks, and make sure your initial set-up includes figuring out how you're going to let people know you appreciate their point of view. Human relationships are not about arguing, and nor should your social media execution be "all feed and no feedback". Sounds simple, I know, and it is.
Thought for the Day: Relationships are all about commitment and genuine sharing. Maybe your social media should start from the same perspective - who knows, you could just end up meeting your perfect customer "partners".
P.S. I've had some e-mails asking me just how to execute on some of the high-level ideas I've been rattling on about! Good point - look for an occasional series starting soon about setting up for your own social media adventure.
Interesting to hear a range of perspectives on what might constitute a positive online business environment - but little discussion about what might be best for Japanese users. Sure, letting the market decide is one approach ... but that's what the investment gurus on Wall Street said before it all fell down around their knees. Shades of Alan Greenspan being partially wrong!
If you read this post by Jeremiah Owyang, you'll notice some good observations about the state of play here in Tokyo. But the big takeaway is something else - while the entrepreneur and developer community may not be joined at the hip yet, the social media user community is clearly focused on what they expect. Think convergence around devices so that the transition between mobile and PC is seamless. Think communicating with peers rather than commerce. And think "always-on" as a minimum requirement.
While identity in the West is principally individual and can been seen as the sum of the brands we consume, in Japan identity is much more the sum of the relationships we have ( this metaphor thanks to Dave McCaughan, EVP McCann Worldgroup). Japanese expect a bigger bang-for-relationship-buck that most Western companies are familiar (and comfortable) with. That's why trust is such a big issue here, and why companies go out of their way to apologize when things get pear-shaped. Because it's personal.
So the key to success in the Japanese social media space is to enable relationships in a way that directly parallels the offline world, yet reinforces identity inside the relationship construct. That's why Mixi is so powerful - it's based on invitation-only communities where relationships are easily mapped yet vast volumes of information can be parsed in a single session.
Mixi resists search engines with a passion, and is very reluctant to share anonymized data. Why? Because it's the guardian of millions upon millions of relationships with gazillions of personal linkages that define contemporary Japan in a way that researchers and marketers can only begin dream about. Let alone replicate!
Tuesday, October 28, 2008
Trouble is, there are people who have a negative view about your company or organization. They may be misinformed or - worse still - they may be right, but they are out there. That is an undeniable fact. They will express those views somewhere, even if you're paranoid enough to moderate all negativity out of your content. And their postings will surface in search engines regardless; my (instinctive) feel is that these will rank higher than your own given the passion associated with negative emotions.
If we think about Jeremiah Owyang and rest of the Groundswell team's very clever structure of objectives (in this post), we learn that the first step in the action hierarchy for social media is listening. As mature people, we all know that the first step towards a real relationship is the willingness to hear other opinions and acknowledge the other person as having a valid perspective. Same goes for social media. After all, it's all about people.
In my experience, companies that acknowledge negative comment and take sincere steps to deal with it almost always experience a fall in negative advocacy and a rise in trust across the community. One blog zone in my company got an almost 200% fall in negative "noise" and considerable gains in positive advocacy just by responding in an open and transparent way to people with concerns.
Of course, you need rules - no offensive comment, equal air time, etc - but my experience is that the community will police itself once you establish a fair playing field. And that gives you the chance to listen in and join the conversation ... a conversation that is likely happening already.
Of course, you could ignore negative comment like Sony did with its exploding laptop batteries. Or pay for comment like Wal-Mart was accused of. But for me, these are not positive brand-building strategies.
Thought for the Day: Maybe listening to people is a good way to understand how your customers perceive your brand, as opposed to how you perceive your brand.
Monday, October 27, 2008
Sharing: Social media is all about sharing contributions and getting feedback, while also being available for consumption by anyone who is interested. Most importantly, it transforms the relationship between media and audience by removing distinctions. Trad media is typically one-way.
Openness: Provided people follow the community rules, anyone can both create and consume content. And pass judgment on other content. The keys to acceptance are transparency and fairness. Trad media has strict rules about who can and can't participate, and what constitutes authority.
Conversation: Just like offline communities of interest, social media involve real conversations between real people. Think “audience” instead of “target”. Trad media is more one-way where a brand “broadcasts” to a target group- think "soap box".
Interest-Driven: Instead of a single brand message, social media encourages communities to aggregate quickly around common areas of interest. Think about “what's in it for you” rather than “what's in it for me”. Trad media assumes aggregation around the media itself.
Advocacy: Social media provide the opportunity for people to get passionate about ideas and brands. This advocacy provides a genuine human voice that stands in contrast to one-way corporate advertising. People prefer opinion to propaganda. Trad media only permits "canned" advocacy, and never negative advocacy.
Linked: While the Internet is focused on hyperlinks between content, social media concentrates on links between people. The value of a contribution is based on how many people can share and co-create - how broad it becomes. In trad media, the value of a contribution is its impact on a target audience - how narrow it can be.
Hopefully this little acronym can help you respond to people who maybe don't recognize the power of conversations. Or maybe, help them understand what's important outside in the real world 5:00 pm to 9:00 am.
Thought for the Day: Human relationships imply social interactions. Real relationships require give and take. Maybe you're better off engaging people in a conversation, than forcing things down their necks.
While it sounds simple, this approach is actually counter-intuitive for most marketers who've become aware of social media because it enforces a very productive discipline. Too many people get hyped on the technology piece, which is a sure sign of an OK-decoder-ring approach. If you hear a discussion start from technology, search frantically for the garlic and holy water.
P = People, who after all are what makes the thing "social". The key message here is to understand who you're talking to (rather than "at") - and while most of the discussion in the 'sphere is around technographics, it is vital that you also add the traditional weapons of demographics and psychographics to make sure you really capture the essence of your customer.
O = Objective, or what you are trying to achieve in the social media. I posted before on the powerful metaphors that Groundswell suggests. Marketing 101 - determine what you are trying to do before you start doing it! But unless your objective is fundamentally 2-way and involves a human relationship, then this would be a good place to stop.
S = Strategy, or figuring out what will be different once you're finished. If that sounds like putting the cart before the horse, think again. It's about imaging about what success might look like - say, people are talking positively about Company X - and then figuring out how to get there.
T = Technology, or deciding which social media tool best suits the people, objectives, and strategy you've decided to pursue. Putting this step last makes sure you don't get all screwed up with the latest shiny toy before you commit all that money. I'll post again soon about which tools suit which executions.
I'm not going to say it's easy to follow this discipline - Heaven knows I'm the first person to be swayed by cool! But if you imagine you're spending your own money rather than someone else's, a structured and logical approach will probably mean you're not going to stumble.
Thought for the Day: If you find yourself rushing head-over-heels pursuing the latest technology, try the POST methodology to bring some method back to your madness.
Friday, October 24, 2008
While the Cluetrain Manifesto reads like ... well, a manifesto, it makes a very clear point - the Internet essentially enables one ground-shaking thing. Conversations. Between people. People like you and me.
Traditional marketing media enable essentially one mind-numbing thing. Unilateral statements. From "somebody-san". Who can't possibly know me, let alone be like me.
So take off your marketing beanie, and think about it. How do you relate to people? Do you stand on opposite corners of a football field from your significant other and shout out intimate intimations of passion and desire? Probably not. There's a place for it, like some people propose marriage via the scoreboard in the South Stand at the HK Sevens. But it's pretty impersonal and you could easily be misunderstood.
So when traditional company-consumer relationships are shape-shifting before your eyes, it's probably not smart to only use traditional media. I don't advocate just using social media, but I am a champion of only using smart media - where I'm informed by deep demographic, psychographic, and "media-graphic" data about the person I'm trying to talk to.
Regardless of which particular social media technology you're thinking about, the plain reality is that your customers are out there somewhere in the pond. And to quote Jeremiah Owyang, you've got to fish where the fish are.
Thought for the Day: Having conversations with people when, where, and how they want seems to be a good way to start a relationship.
P.S.: If you look at this post from Michael Brito, you'll find some really interesting data from Cone. Michael's post goes on to make some sensible suggestions about the ways social media users (a majority of the population) want companies to interact with them. That data is North American, but you can bet that the responses are portable across borders. Particularly when Japan shows higher levels of Creators, Critics, Collectors, and Joiners.
Wednesday, October 22, 2008
Point is, I don't agree with some of them. Apart from dumping the “hey we need an SM thing” no-brain-cells-damaged-in-this-decision orders from the C-Suite, they’re mostly dumb decisions. Jeremiah Owyang said in a presentation here in Tokyo recently that (1) he expects social media consumption numbers to go up during the downturn, and (2) that community and networks become more important when people are under stress.
If anything, this is the time for smart companies to be out there engaging with their customers. I appreciate people being there during the tough times, and I'm sure most of you do too. Provided they're not in my face. Provided they're being honest. And provided they're prepared to listen. I don’t need the cavalry, but I’d love to see my bank looking human.
I also think that pricing on social media builds and campaigns is going to get pretty compelling. Sure, there’s still some latest-brightest-trinket mentality but the initial fever is over. When the big guys are warning us that online advertising may suffer a temporary hit, my bet is the people who sell that real estate will get moving on filling it. Less money is better than no money, after all.
And more compelling – I see talent coming onto the market. Talent that otherwise would strain at a Fortune 50 client brief, or work themselves to death at a start-up. Bright people, with great ideas that let companies with a little courage get the jump on their more timorous competitors.
Thought for Today: This may be a good time to tell your customers you care via a social media play. ‘Cause when the good times return, they’ll remember.
Another thing people seem to get hung up on is devices, especially here in Japan. "Should this be a web thing, or a mobile site?" seems to be the first question people ask. And there is a stack of different opinions around - most of which don't matter a lot unless your have some fairly tight age demographics requirements ... say teenagers 14 - 19. The real answer is that you have to do both: maybe not exactly at the same time, but sooner or later you're going to realize that device usage is increasing a TPO (Time, Place, Opportunity) phenomonen rather than a mutually exclusive choice by users.
Here's the deal - devices are converging from a capability perspective. And if you listen to Ted Matsumoto from Softbank, you'll understand that the mobile telephone provides ubiquitious access for a commuting population. Of course, given the long commute times here that means a lot of use - but at the same time, people increasingly switch on PCs when they get home and most households have broadband connections. OK, rant over!
The right way to approach social media is to understand your audience. Sound familiar? Marketers have been trying to do this for years - starting with demographics which help us understand who people are (and sometimes what they do). Psychographics give us insight into why people do things, and technographics (see Forrester for more information) are the mechanism that lets us see how they do things in the online environment. I find the creator, critic, collector, joiner, spectator, and inactive profiling strangely intuitive and familar. Which role do I adopt in which environments? How does my behavior morph across devices? Interesting questions which we'll talk about another day.
Sufficient for now is to say that all three types of data are vital to building a picture of who your audience is and what they're likely to want. If you understand that piece, then we're well on the way to building you a social media strategy. Next time, we'll figure out what you want to achieve.
Thought for the Day: Don't start thinking about your Social Media strategies from the technology perspective. Start by thinking about who you want to talk to.
People are now more likely to trust the opinions of their friends and colleagues - people "like me" - than the corporate sales pitches that have characterized the post-war mass-media modalities of marketers. One key to success in social media executions is to stand back and let opinion leaders - even brand icons - emerge naturally from the conversations we foster.
Sure it's hard to let go, and the urge to intervene is sometimes more than most CMOs can bear. But my personal experience is that when companies take a deep breath and wait for that urge to pass, the results are almost nearly always positive. And it's way better than ignoring problems ... think Sony batteries, and you'll understand where I'm coming from.
I really like the way that Jeremiah and the Forrester team have defined objectives for social media in terms of existing functional roles at most companies. You should probably buy the Groundswell book to learn more about this, but the metaphors are very powerful and the resulting objectives:
Research = Listening,
Marketing = Talking,
Sales = Energizing,
Support = Supporting, and
Development = Embracing
provide a lightning rod for decision-makers against which to test ideas that come forward from staff. As an executive in a pretty big consumer goods company, I can tell you that unless people can define their goals in one or more of the words in italics above (instead of one of the departments) I will not be supporting their idea. A function-based approach almost always brings with it competing interests, and the company in Japan that can get true synthesis rather than one-size-fits-all is rare indeed.
So the thought for today is this: can you describe your social media objectives (it's OK to have more than one, but the degree of difficulty goes up exponentially!) in one action word from the list above? If not, maybe it's time to change your perspective away from the title on the office door, and more focused on the people that count - customers!
Tuesday, October 21, 2008
And what a way to start - today I had the chance to spend some time listening to Jeremiah Owyang courtesy of the American Chamber of Commerce in Japan and Forrester Research. He impressed me early during the "stand-around-and-mingle" phase when he responded to a question about getting the time to blog - "it's sort of time management. I blog first (for 2 hours a day), and then I get around to the other stuff". You know, that's a pretty good world view (and a fine sense of personal branding).
Jeremiah's presentation focused pretty much on the Groundswell phenomenon, although the Q&A started to get more interactive and - go figure - penetrating. With many self-proclaimed experts in the room, Jeremiah was able to make complex issues clear and to provide nuggets of actionable insight. Let's face it - the advent of social media marks the greatest dislocation to marketing since the invention of the printing press. And he basically told them to get over it, move on, adapt.
I agree - the needle has moved and it's no good trying to figure out how to turn this back into something the CMO can control. I like to think about this transformation in terms of operating systems - sure, MS-DOS was a great little number but you won't find it supporting many global enterprises. The operating system for engaging with customers has changed. You either upgrade, or perish.
In tomorrow's post I'll focus a little more on Jeremiah's presentation. So why don't you join in?