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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