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To Innovate with Social Networks and Media, Bring it Closer to Home

19 Mar

I was recently introduced by a long-time friend to a CEO of a local company, a man at the helm of the family corporation established by his father. One thing that struck me during our  conversation–and as an observation during my stay at the corporate premises–was that this man recognizes family strength and deeply believes in the benefits of innovation derived from learning and in adopting advancing technologies in the industry they vie in.

Family Working at Home, November 1912 (New York City)

Jewish family working on garters in kitchen in tenement home, November 1912 (New York City). TRiver | Flickr | U.S. Library of Congress

From Offline to Online

I can sense that the business is something the CEO would defend at all cost from competitors’ slaying tactics and strategies. The business is his life. It would likely be so for his children and his family’s next generations. The corporation’s C-suite is composed of siblings or close family relatives. And the rest of the company–its employees–are treated as family members.

The company inculcates in its employees the values of the family–the company’s aspirations to continuously grow and progressively succeed.

The company is home-grown and regarded as among the leaders in its industry. It competes toe-to-toe with a multinational corporation, which is the acknowledged leader in the local market. And it is about to launch a wave of new offerings with an upgrade of equipment that are cutting-edge in the industry. For the CEO, that also means adopting the soft component of technologies to extend reach and engage with its b2b market–bringing the business through its bricks-and-mortar network online through social media.

The pathways to the decision to adopt social media wasn’t easy. In an initial round of conversations among company staff members, the dilemma was in identifying who should run the company’s online presence.

As most companies would do in starting to conduct business and engage customers online, the obvious choice is to tap function units in the organization with key employees who speak  the language of the trade at marketing and technical levels and are themselves, in their personal capacities, already online with their social or professional networks.

There are but two key staff members who they think are eligible.

I asked what the universe of the company’s networks are. At least 4,000 individuals and entities. Even with an ideal engagement ratio of 1:50–or 1:400 ratio in their case, with two key company staff members–that is going to be trying. But perhaps not for long if the company frames the fit for it to go social online.

The Prerequisites

One thing going for this company is that it listens. Listening is among the first steps toward adopting and innovating use of social media. The next and greater aspect to listening is being open and willing to experiment. And the third and greatest is an incessant drive to set standards no one else has–not even customers. This is a standard it sets onto itself.

In the course of the conversation, the CEO raised his concern about a 2% quality failure at their labs. He wanted to get the figure down. As an experiment, he “challenged” the production line staff to take on a wager that for a below 2% rejection rate sustained daily, he would put a part of his monthly salary to a pool of incentives that the staff can partake. This brings to fore the second point about listening: opening up opportunities and motivating people to innovate at shop-floor level.

But the 2% figure has remained to be so even after the challenge. So our CEO is moving on to a next experiment with a question:  What if we can go below 1%? This is now finding innovations in the company that would approximate zero-defect in his production labs. Compared to the closest multinational competitor’s quality failure of 10%, this is setting a gold quality standard in the industry.

Having listened well, having been open to learning and willing to experiment and seeking to establish a gold quality standard, our CEO and his company then deliver the incomparable advantage the competition will not and cannot ever provide the market, i.e., offering customers a replacement of damaged merchandise from its production lab errors. Competition, on the other hand, asks customers to sign a waiver of claims from damages.

Online to One’s Roots

Just how long would it be trying for this company to take on being social with its networks online? The answer lies in its ability to find the natural fit of its corporate values to use social media in any of its business processes–inside the company and outward toward its customers, whether in marketing or in the entire value chain of the business.

The foundation to succeed, to sustain success, and to be able to simultaneously innovate with adoption of social media is to practice it along deep company values and teach others in the company to do it in contexts that fit the corporate culture. A culture that then ripples out to its business networks–on- or offline.

In dealing with the social markets, a shared positive culture that reflects the company and one that goes beyond the walls of its offices have great potential for rewards.


Related readings:
Empowered: Unleash Your Employees, Energize Your Customers, and Transform Your Business | Josh Bernoof & Ted Schadler
Control in an Age of Empowerment | Robert Simons
Sharing Leadership to Maximize Talent | Marshall Goldsmith
Why You Should Have a Hyperlocal Facebook Strategy | Jan Rezab
The Obvious But Uncomfortable Way Your Company Culture is Judged | Amber Naslund

A Golden Rule Going Social with Social Media

6 Mar

When asked what the business rules about Social Media are, I am stupefied. I tried high and low to search what there is about such “rules” and even attempted to define what such rules are by labeling them “always-never” business rules.

I realized I cannot know what the Social Media business rules are.

There are numerous guides, experiences, recommendations, and great stories about successful ventures using Social Media. But it seems to me, after searching, there are no rules. What there is are practices that have worked in particular fields of industries that have advanced faster in the use of it.

One such field is media marketing, akin to advertising which is in essence marketing communication.

However, Social Media do not comprise all of the Social Web and its technologies alone.  It denotes three general areas of the social sphere of the Web: relevancy (by strict definition, usefulness); networks (people); and last, the media as the communication vehicle of people to exchange or share objects that are meaningful among people–at a certain space of time at a certain location.

Digital strategist Mark Smiciklas of Intersection Consulting depicts the social media as the tactic and mere tip of the Social Media Iceberg. He has combined the aspects of business, people, and efficacy of social media into a strategy framework–a balanced scorecard that stacks up a range of activities in the entire social media value chain.

Social Media Iceberg presented by Mark Smiciklas | Intersection Consulting

Social media tactics are merely the tip of the iceberg | Mark Smiciklas | Intersection Consulting

What lies underneath the use of  social media are strategic components to make the media work: how it really can work with people and how people must work it up.

Organizations that adopt social media may employ the best and brightest people. A lot has done it. And many businesses have deployed good social media marketing efforts.  But in many other organizations, people and strategy may be hamstrung by their own organizational inertia, multilayered hierarchies, cumbersome decision processes, lack of focus, setting off-tangent or mis-aligned goals, or simply having little perspective to tackle the complexities to take on a culture that promotes successful use of Social Media: being open or cutting across function silos.

Social media marketing efforts succeed because they are driven by marketers. That has always been the way advertising works. At a future state of maturity of Social Media in business,  however, gatekeepers of product or brand management may become at a certain point the bottleneck in catapulting the true potential of Social Media.

Book author David Vinjamuri, president of  ThirdWay Brandtrainers, states in his article “Want to Open a Dialogue with Consumers? Start from Within” that the challenge for many organizations is that in the last decade, digital and interactive media [social media in today’s guise], was often “greenhoused”–assigned to a small group with an independent budget.

Acting like media networks, with marketing akin to it, groups within companies who “own the media networks” come flat without real great block-timer shows to put up. There are always the social media actuators but with few social media actors.

Following the traditional media network mind set: while there might be producers of  ” shows” on social media, the shows must have a good concept, a compelling script, a campaign-able story line, and the most important component of all to have great actors who will portray the heart and soul of the story.

An audience to such great shows attach themselves to the actors–seldom with the backstage or production people–even with the show’s directors or producers.

The big difference though between media network shows and a social media “show” is in social media story, producer, writer, director and actor can be one and the same–whether they be people within an organization, or corporations, or individuals like you and me.

In his book Accidental Branding: How Ordinary People Build Extraordinary Brands, David Vinjamuri underscores the singularity of  brands’ stories as told by its creators. Such moving stories create new meanings as stories are passed from one audience to another. Audience becomes storyteller themselves. And on and on can stories ripple out to people who will build upon these brands’ new contexts and relevance.

In all so far that I have observed, nameless people are the true actors, our storytellers and audience at the same time, on Social Media–in their own contexts of space, time, and with their own things or stories to share.

There is not one shoe that fits. People are the Golden Rule of Social Media.

My appreciation to Mark Smiciklas for allowing me to use his Social Media Iceberg. And to David Vinjamuri who has inspired  me via his book and insights about Social Media in marketing.

Organizations, the Social Web Begs. Break the Silos.

4 Mar

In an ActionLab® on Web content modelling, I asked the participants to form themselves into groups following their organizational chart. It was easy for the participants to come together structured as function units in the organization.

Once each participant was settled into his/her respective group, I posed a question: If we are to engage our Web users or customers in one topic that the organization holds dear and that which captivates our users’ or customers’ minds, who among you then are in for the engagement?

A third of the participants stood up and I asked them to step forward.

After being asked what they would bring into the engagement, in this case relevant information they can share that builds on the topic, five scenarios had emerged from this group:

  • 70% claimed they have information to share;
  • 10% pointed to those who remained seated as the source of the information they need to have to engage customers and users,
  • 2% cannot promptly say what they could share or where the source of information they need to share would have to come from,
  • 18% gave no reply, and;
  • 100% said nothing about any person in the group being a source of relevant information to bring into the topic.

Such is the framing in organizations, the way most of them are, now. Structured into compartments according to function, people’s interactions are silo-bound. And they ascribe their sources of  information as emanating from within their function silos. The interactions are vertical, up-down, not at all times horizontal across functions.

Org-chart2-mikecolibraro-thinkbrownstonesinc
Lost in Organization*: no truer can be seen in how organizations are graplling with the Social Web.

The function of a unit reflected in a chart becomes the  framework for the way people engage people–in and out of the organization.In adopting the Social Web, have dialogs within the organization first. Breaking down  silos would be the first step toward the rewards of social-led innovations in the organization.

* Much thanks to Mike Colibraro of Think Brownstone Inc. for the image in Phil Charron’s think blog post “Why Don’t You Publish Your Org Charts?”

“Always-Never” Business Rules of Social Media [Marketing]

19 Feb

taxi-drivers-wanted-morten-gade-flickr (19Feb2011)

We need more taxi drivers for social media | Flickr | Morten Gade

Using social media is like running a taxi company. Far an analogy it may seem, understanding how bus companies operate will define why businesses and organizations today may not be getting the desired return on the investments they made or about to make with social media marketing.

Stephan H. Haeckel’s book, Adaptive Enterprise, outlines how bus companies are make-and-sell businesses. Based on commuter volume, buses run day after day along the same thoroughfares and pick up passengers on the same stops. Company dispatchers decide what routes the buses will take, instruct drivers where to stop, how long a stop will take, and schedule the bus runs for the day.

Bus drivers do not even need to know where their passengers are going. In fact, they do not need passengers at all to do their jobs well. They merely have to drive the bus on time safely along the same route every day.

An efficient taxi company shares the characteristics of a business that uses social media. Taxi drivers go where they can pick up passengers, bring them to their destinations, and likely take the fastest route skirting traffic to get to where he is instructed by the passenger to go.

A taxi company dispatches its drivers to customer-moving capabilities. The drivers then respond to customer requests thus they are empowered to fulfill those requests.

Unlike bus drivers, taxi drivers need to know information about what the passenger need—the “I need to be at the central business district in half an hour for a meeting”—then only will the driver put his knowledge about the fastest route to take and practice his driving skills to be able to meet the customer’s need.

Possibly during the 30-minute ride, passenger and driver may even strike a conversation about what matters to both of them. The taxi driver and his taxi company then operate as a sense-and-respond entity—not only meeting the particular customer need but also starting a relationship with the passenger.

Day after tomorrow the same passenger might likely call on the same taxi company, even request for the same taxi driver.

Where do the bus and taxi companies and their drivers point us to?

Business paradigms and processes need to shift with use of social media.

In the early days of the Web, it was—as it still is now with some organizations—seen as a medium where once printed materials such as books were digitized, they were good to deliver online to an audience who would read the materials in a browser. It was literally transposing leafing through book pages with a hyperlink. Or uploading a digital copy of a book to an online  retail bookstore, placed on a shelf where the book will wait to be viewed and checked out by a customer.

Publishers, writers, editors, book designers, art and print production people, and all the way to the entire value chain of distribution and marketing still practice the same analog workflow and do not adopt business processes that will offer them improvements and desired outcomes going digital and online and social.

The same is true with television as a broadcast medium. When the first regularly scheduled television service in the U.S. began in 1928, there was but one channel. Several TV broadcast experiments were simultaneously being done toward the end of that decade. Most of these programs were voice-oriented radio broadcasts or showing of motion picture films that mimicked theater plays.

No more can be gleaned from how we are using social media in its infantile stages today. In a previous post RVBello postulated that media marketing dominates the channels of communication and forgets about all that matters about using social technologies.

The Social Media Business Rules

What then should we always and never repeat from our history of using communication and information technologies?

“Always-Never” Business Rule #1: Social media is a marketer’s activity. Findings from the 2011 Digital Marketing Outlook Survey conducted in late 2010 by the Society of Digital Agencies (SoDA) and AnswerLab show that we are at first instance enamored with tools, outlets, and platforms to use. None, if not few of the respondents, placed a premium on any other aspect of business but marketing communication and technology.

Digital Media Marketing Outlook Survey Responses about use of social media tools

In this one survey question about use of social media tools, the most important aspect of going social–investments in people, our taxi drivers, and business processes with aid of technologies, our taxi units–were not on the radar screens of brand marketers, agencies, and technologists.

People within business companies or organizations are the key driving force in employing social media.

What gives? Are we to see a pathway for social media where while we talk social, we factor less our taxi drivers?

The next “always-never” business rules in succeeding posts.

Eavesdropping on Social Media and Following Conversations

12 Feb

Angelo Reyes Twitter Tweets Travel - socialcollider.netThe trail of news around Angelo Reyes’ story on the Social Media between Feb 8 and Feb 12. People’s attention span to the topic is shown in red trail.

While the world’s attention has been on Egypt since weeks ago, in the Philippines the attention has been on Angelo Reyes for a few days.

Angelo Reyes was a long-serving government official. In the last decade he was chief of staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and subsequently held four cabinet posts. On 8 February 2011, he apparently committed suicide in a memorial park in front of his mother’s grave.

Whatever Angelo Reyes’ standing was in Philippine society was partly created by media. What brought him to where he was on 8 February, with a tombstone as witness, was probably driven by what he thought he was in the minds of people.

For a decade now, I have never read nor watched Philippine news. Not that our nation’s affairs do not matter but because I have grown tired of reading and hearing news as filtered by news networks. Almost indifferent, there’s no news that would promptly grab my attention. Those that matter to me–in a particular space, time, in a context that I hold dearly–are what I value and stand for, do, and dream about.

Angelo Reyes grabbed my attention at the break of the suicide story. But I didn’t rely much on any print and broadcast media to gather what I need to better understand the event–I also looked into what the crowd had been saying on the Social Media.

Without the obtrusions of media middlemen, we can form our own view of events or decide to go deeper into every facet of news. I sampled an online news source from Al Tech News and it yielded a phrase net visualization of circumstances around Angelo Reyes.

Phrase net of a news article about Angelo Reyes' death

The true spirit of the Social Media is not just transposing print and broadcast media into being social. Neither is it, as what is happening in Egypt and what has happened to Angelo Reyes, a rumor mill to form a cast of opinion or hasty judgment. Marshall McLuhan, a communication theorist, argued the idea that technology per se [in this case Social Media and the Internet at large] has no moral bent—it is a tool that profoundly shapes an individual’s and, by extension, a society’s self-conception and realization.

Social Media starts with an individual and how one uses this tool to make a difference in one’s life and eventually in society. We have less need for middlemen now for we have the tools to directly interact with other people. We must use it well for good.

I have mixed emotions regarding Egypt’s state now as well as with the story of Angelo Reyes. And I am not thinking nor acting based on a public’s attention span that lasts that of a hummingbird’s. People power pushed these two events–the latter with the aid of the Social Media, the former with what is formed from it in people’s minds.

Social Media is Us

6 Feb

Turn Us[ers] On

Us users are the Social Media

In his 1998 book, The Inmates Are Running the Asylum: Why High-Tech Products Drive Us Crazy and How to Restore the SanityAlan Cooper outlined his methodology, called Goal-Directed® design, based on the concept that software should help users move towards their ultimate goal, rather than ensnaring them in computer minutiae.

 

Cooper’s design methodology “humanized technology” with use of personas as practical interaction design tools to create high-tech products that address user’s needs.

Today, the concepts of interaction design strategy, usability, and the use of personas have been broadly adopted across the software industry and in technology product design education.

One of the offshoots of this methodology is a field called User eXperience Design (UXD) which have been, for years since Cooper’s book, a topic in conversations, discussions, and workshops across continents and assimilated in any and almost all the successful high technology products and platforms of service that run in a Web browser.

The Social Media needs a goal-directed design–not the visual and human-computer interaction aspects of it alone but a “contextual functionality” to the design of its use. In doing so, we can begin to see more of the use of Social Media as a Web platform for society with us as participants not lurkers and creators of content not mere users of it.

Most, if not all, of recent developments in Social Media are open. When it was launched in 2006, one of Twitter’s functionalities is an improvement in use of SMS (short message service/text messaging) that before were only used with mobile phones. Users who signed up eventually found different uses for short-messaging on a large scale with tweets. And Twitter as it is used now as a topic-based, community-grown media has found greater purpose.

The Social Media is not much about technology, it is about us.

A post about why there are stragglers from Social Media from my friend RVBello is an advocacy and a call to mainstream the “other half” into starting to use Social Media as a digital tool for the better. And Open Forum with a post from Yvonne DiVita aptly puts that Social Networks recreate the offline notions of neighborhood online.

While many mavens have adopted ways to manage and cope with the dizzying array of online social platforms, average users–non-users more so–may find themselves at the beginning of the curve in need of a 12-step social identity program. This may lead to increased demand from typical participants to have a more integrated and simplified social tool and an opportunity for platforms and companies alike to meet this demand.

Jeremiah Owyang of Altimeter Group recently twitted betting that a growing requirement in Social Media is the ability to better manage online communities’ conversations. And vendors are fast sprouting to offer the integration, simplicity, and efficiency to manage distributed conversations in every part of our world.

The Web, with Websites as its manifest, will exponentially grow to serve as “digital hubs” or “online anchors” that integrate our social activity from many platforms. While further  integration may come soon fast, it can also be as quick for our mass of stragglers from Social Media.

Brian Solis encapsulates the task at hand in order to bring into the fold our digital “other half” in one of his latest posts An Audience with an Audience of Audiences:

“Our job now is to speak to and through the people in our audiences simultaneously. The goal of course is to spread information across social graphs and interest graphs. The cultural impact of new media is profound as it weaves a new fabric for how we connect and communicate with one another.

“As a digital society, we are ushering in an era where everyday people form a global network of self-empowered social intermediaries that accelerate and proliferate the reach and effect of information and experiences.

“We are no longer just part of the information consumption production process; we are evolving the system for learning and sharing through real-time signal repeaters that boost the reach of digitally transmitted messages – from your status update to the world in seconds.”

 

Social Media [Must] Leave No One Behind

4 Feb

In my daily amassing, digesting, making sense, and finding practical everyday uses of  information and communication technologies, I stumbled upon a graph called “Technology Adoption Life Cycle”.

The graph merely shows how many of us acquire the habit of using a new tool. Any new tool is not all the time useful and there will always be groups of people who will entirely miss–as a choice–using it until the next wave of tools arrive.

But what if the tool is useful and pervasive? What if the tool fulfills us and helps us do things better and subsequently help us to help others?

The Web with Social Media is one such tool. Its use is as basic as everyday human interaction. But the dizzying array of platforms makes the decision-making paths to just start using the tool sound like preparing for a thesis. When a tool has a barrier to adoption, most would say, “Don’t bother!”

But what is communication?  Communicating is an intrinsic right. It is expression. It is as human as human we can be.

The Social Media [remember, the use of it as tool to communicate] has been phenomenally growing in importance and steadily breaking down barriers to communication, allowing people to connect, engage and share in a more informal way. Individuals can now leverage the power and popularity of social media to be their own [Me]dia.

For the “early majority”, “late majority”, and “laggards” (not flattering labels!) to adopt technologies, communication technologies especially, the only question to ask to find out why adoption is slow with the “other half”  is to know what could motivate or make such groups embrace use of social media as staple as food.

Gutenberg’s press, which started the literacy revolution, wasn’t picked up by the mass of citizens of the world during the renaissance centuries. It took still another hundred years that books were available even for those who cannot afford to have one.

What took hundreds of years to mature adoption of books and be pervasive was a mere decade and a half for the next stages of today’s revolution–information and communication.

It is not too late.

Why you should (and not) consider Social Media, in a next post. Stay tuned!


Data Is The New Scent: How The Internet Sees You

1 Feb

On the Internet, we leave a trail of scent faster than we can ever imagine: data. With ~ 600 million users today, activity on Facebook alone is staggering.

  • There are over 900 million objects that people interact with (pages, groups, events and community pages)
  • Average user is connected to 80 community pages, groups and events
  • Average user creates 90 pieces of content each month
  • More than 30 billion pieces of content (web links, news stories, blog posts, notes, photo albums, etc.) shared each month.

The vast amounts of data we create and transfer across the world’s networks in a day is more than we are able to count humanity.

We leave our data droppings–our Internet footprints–in social network and media sites, cloud services, and yes even when we use our location-aware mobile devices.

This tapestry of droppings is aggregated into information objects.  And information objects stitched together becomes content. Presented with the same information, people derive different meanings, their own meaning .  Here lies the crux: data turned into information isn’t valuable content for everyone.

For content to be useful and meaningful, it has to have context. Our context. A context for our community. A context for our society. A context about what we care about.

Who else would care?

Try and find out about your online scent. Here is how the Internet sees you.

Commensality: a social bond

1 Feb

Sauce in food is like candy wrappers. Food is what brings people together–off- or on-line.

Food is culture. Food is social. Food makes us human. And food is our social bond.

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