A month without social media. Well, sort of…

Ben Seymour (@bseymour) made a very pertinent point in a recent Milton Keynes Geek Night talk when he said:

“At no point did I find myself wishing I’d spent more time on Twitter”

So, when one of my friends said he would give up social media for January, I thought it would be worth a try too. After all, if a brand and marketing communications Consultant can do without #socmed, then so can I!

Actually, I made some exceptions:

  • Twitter is work. It’s how I keep up to date – and how I build my personal brand (if that doesn’t sound too pretentious). Having said that I’ve been too busy for most of January to tweet much.
  • Ditto for my blog.

I turned off notifications for LinkedIn, Facebook, Facebook Messenger and some more. And then I realised how many channels I have – for example WhatsApp is one of the methods my son uses to contact me. That’ll be another exception then. Then there’s Strava. Hmm… well, I guess it’s not so much social media as where I track my activity…

The main one to drop was Facebook. So, how did that go? Really, I haven’t missed it at all. Sure, I was probably the last person in our town to know that a McDonalds is being proposed for the BP garage 2 miles up the road (which apparently has divided opinion…) but is that really so important in the great scheme of things? I did miss some contact on Messenger – but anyone who knows me well also has my mobile number…

And the biggest observation from my month of social media abstinence? Well, I watched a few series on Amazon Video (two seasons of The Man in the High Castle and Mr Robot). As my wife noted, it seems my digital addiction just switched channels…

Encouraging adoption in enterprise social networks

In my job, consulting with many organisations who are adopting Microsoft products and services, including Office 365, I have a lot of discussions about Yammer and other modern communication methods (e.g. Sway).

Many have already had pilots with Yammer and found it didn’t work for them. Some are smart enough to realise that it wasn’t Yammer at fault but a lack of executive sponsorship. Adapting a new medium for communication takes time; it needs a cultural shift. If your boss uses it, you might consider giving it a try (although when I had a team, my experience at getting them to use Yammer was best described as mixed). But if your boss’ boss uses it, or the CEO, and the internal communications team are are using it instead of email, then you might stand some chance of success – because, as well as executive sponsorship, it needs critical mass (which means people need a reason to visit).

Of course, the platform itself has to be usable. In my last place the corporate social platform was Newsgator (which was awful), coupled with an old version of SharePoint and, aside from the teams whose job it was to evangelise its use, it was pretty much ignored. In fact, so much so that other social networks popped up in their own bubbles: the sales community were using Salesforce Chatter; although Yammer actually seemed to gain more traction in some areas (via an external network hosted by Microsoft for partner engagement) because there was something of value there for people.

So, we need executive sponsorship, critical mass, and a usable platform, with content that people value. But there’s something else too – people have to stop using the old methods in parallel.

Recently, I witnessed one organisation where someone posted some infomration on Yammer and it got a flurry of activity/commentary on the original post (so far so good). Then someone else sent an email to a distribution group to highlight the same information. That sender might not have seen the original post but email isn’t a good way to share links about new products. Some (myself included) may consider it as just unsolicited bulk email (spam) but spam that’s sent from inside the organisation. To make matters worse, because Office 365 Clutter doesn’t filter out email from people in your management chain, that email will never be filtered.

No, no, no, no! Post once, on the right medium*. Yammer for information sharing/comments on a topic that might run and run; instant messaging for messages that require a response… instantly (the clue’s in the name) and stop abusing email (which, incidentally is an asynchronous communications mechanism to which you should not require, or even expect, a response). As for voice mail, SMS, etc. Well, who knows… anyway, I’m supposed to be writing about getting people using enterprise social networks here – not a lecture on communication methods (and I know one size doesn’t fit all).

So, that’s my view – which you might agree with, or you may not. But it’s been cathartic to have a little online rant and at least it means I’ll get at least one blog post up this month! For another view, take a look at what the Yammer team at Microsoft shared with me – a 2012 Office blog post on Deploying a Successful Enterprise Social Network: Best Practices From the Field.

 

Mark Wilson is an increasingly busy, grumpy and ranty man, who wants to reduce the volume of email arriving in his Inbox…

* I do have to admit that, on occasion, I have been known to email a group of people and say “please reply to my thread on Yammer”, because I knew a lot of them didn’t use it but I wanted everyone to see the replies withough creating a Reply All email storm. This is not good.

Redirecting users from a PC browser to a mobile app: one of the few good uses for a QR code?

A couple of years ago, QR codes were all the rage. The groovy little black and white hieroglyphs were on every bus-shelter advert, leaflet and even business cards.  Some were in colour, and some either relied on the built in error correction to become a piece of art! I wasn’t convinced that they always made sense though – and it seemed I wasn’t alone…

Some studies showed that consumers didn’t know what they were. Others warned of malware hidden in QR links. Some were cynical. And some analysts warned of their impending demise:

QR codes are ugly. Give me ubiquitous, directional RFID instead. We won’t be plagued with QR codes in 2012

@mgualtieri

Mike Gualtieri

Earlier today I was asked to join a business partner’s Yammer network.  This particular (Redmond-based) partner has a “special” interest in Yammer (ahem), so I dusted off my old, not-used-for-a-couple-of-years Yammer credentials, signed in and accepted the request. Yammer encouraged me to update my profile (fair enough… it was 2 years out of date), and then to download the mobile app (sure, why not?)…

[imagine sound effect of record needle scratching and music coming to abrupt end…]

Some mobile app developers are smart enough to realise that, when you navigate to a page on your PC that advertises their mobile app, you don’t actually want to go to the app store from the PC browser… so, what’s the perfect way to send you there? Exactly! Provide a QR code, which can be scanned with a mobile device’s camera to jump instantly to the appropriate Apple App Store/Google Play/Windows Marketplace location.

Yammer doesn’t do this.

Sure, it’s easy enough to search the App Store and download the app but, meh, why make it harder? Make the user experience simple. Maximise the number of conversions (or whatever the marketing speak is for “make people download your app”).

Here endeth the lesson.

What do Aston Martin, design, learning styles and digital storytelling have in common? (#MSRN)

Every now and again, I get invited to a fantastic event and, earlier this week, I found myself at a former school (now a “creativity and innovation space”), on one of Britain’s first council estates, in Shoreditch, East London, home of our very own “silicon roundabout”, to discuss research, disruption, invention and innovation.

If time permitted, I could write a dozen blog posts based on the discussions at Microsoft’s Research Now event. Unfortunately, the highlights are all I can deliver right now, but there were many of them…

The art of design

Aston Martin Parking OnlyFirst up, Head of Design at Aston Martin, Marek Reichman (@Design_Dr) gave a fantastic presentation on the iconic brand’s approach to design. Living, as I do, just a few miles from Aston Martin’s spiritual home in Newport Pagnell, I may be a little biased but there are few brands that stir the imagination as much as seven-times bankrupted Aston Martin – which is partly why they have been the coolest brand in the UK for five out of six years (the anomoly being the year that Apple temporarily took the top spot, since reclaimed for 2012/13 with YouTube in second place and Aston Martin in third).

The company’s new headquarters is a modern version of a castle in the middle of England, built from local stone, in a circular shape, with a moat, a drawbridge and narrow windows and signifies how design is integral to the culture of Aston Martin. Even so, Aston’s design studio (the company’s first in house studio, created in 2007) is a separate building with 6m tall windows, joined to the main complex with a glass corridor – an ivory tower in which to design, with transparency so others can see in.

I won’t continue to reproduce Marek’s presentation – I just can’t do it justice – so here are just a few choice words: power; beauty; soul; cool; exclusivity; luxury; creativity; and craftsmanship.

“Coolness” is something that one cannot claim – it has to be bestowed – but Marek Reichman describes it as stylish, innovative, original, authentic, desirable, unique. That’s a great set of adjectives that, for me, perfectly describe Aston Martin.

Design from the boardroom to the shop floor

With the unenviable job of following Marek Reichman’s keynote, Chief Design Officer at the Design Council, Mat Hunter (@mat_hunter) started out by commenting on the relationship between job titles and confidence, mocking has own grand title in comparison to Marek’s understated “Head of Design”. Mat’s presentation was no less engaging as he took us on a journey with:

  • A logistics company that’s seen improved revenues since they started to better communicate what they do through branding and graphic communications.
  • A discussion of form and function with the kettle evolving from a stove-top model to an electric kettle, one with an automatic off switch, to a cordless model, to a stylish model.
  • Disruption through changing meanings – why do we need a kettle? Why not simply have a tap that dispenses hot water for a cup of tea? Or how about the wrist watch, with Swiss craftsmanship commoditised by cheap Japanese digital timepieces, only to be usurped once more by Swatch, who took analogue technology and made it a fashion item? In another example, Streetcar (which became Zipcar and is now owned by Avis) proved that, in some markets, people want access to a car, not necessarily to own one. Then there are concepts like The Amazings – for people to try something old and learn something new.
  • Looking at innovation, Mat described the “double diamond” design process where we use the left side to redefine the brief before finding new solutions to a problem. Examples include: the Mailbox app which is aiming for a a clean mailbox and using a queuing system to manage demand [only time will tell how successful that is – I’ve lost interest already]; Casserole Club which uses the social web to connect people and provide peer to peer “meals on wheels”; The Matter which gives young people work experience and drives a better quality of output by involving them in local planning and decision-making; and even the Government Digital Service, aiming to transform the way in which the UK government provides online services with a set of human-centred design principles, integration, board-level leadership (and recruiting the best people).

Design-led transformation and innovation

In the next slot, Microsoft Consultants Fred Warren and Phillip Joe spoke about why and how to innovate using design. I really need to take another look at the slide deck to properly understand what was presented as we jumped from anecdotes such as Virgin Atlantic’s redefinition of transatlantic flight by “reframing the experience” in Upper Class, getting travellers from A to B (not Heathrow to JFK) and removing friction points to Pine and Gilmore’s Experience Economy and on to customer experience evolution but I got the impression Fred’s part of the presentation (the “why?”) could be summed up as “step back and look at the problem from a different angle” – and “don’t die hesitating”.

Phillip spoke about the “how?” with four themes of orchestration (guide the vision), envisioning (explore scenarios and define visual and textual narratives), empathy (understand what users want), and execution (take the vision and make it real – which parts of the narrative will be built out).

To be perfectly honest, this was the session that I didn’t really get. Maybe I was tired. Or maybe the previous presenters had given me so much food for thought my brain needed time to adjust… but the basic premise is sound: finding out what the problems are, rather than offering solutions right away (although isn’t that just what consultants do?).

Organisational DNA

This slot was the surprise for me. A real gem. Strategic People and Organisation Development Consultant, Elizabeth Greetham gave a talk on getting an organisation culture aligned for innovation. The concepts that Elizabeth visited are not new, but it’s good to re-visit them.

Honey and Mumford’s learning styles are a cycle of learning by doing (activists, jumping in at the deep end), reflecting (think and observe), theorising (through models) and trying out (pragmatists, starting in a safe environment). Often we skip the reflection, eradicating the time to think creatively, which in turn stifles innovation.  Meanwhile activist-pragmatists skip the theory, which can be valuable to re-engage with from time to time.

Moving on to perception and memory processing, Elizabeth spoke of four learning strategies:

  • Visual (pictures, written word).
  • Auditory (spoken word).
  • Kinaesthetic (actions and movement).
  • Tactile (touch).

Whilst visual and auditory learning are well understood (e.g. leading to success of PowerPoint) kinaesthetic learning is about doing, reaching, feeling. Restricting people to one screen limits this – the movement is important (mind maps can help). So does hot-desking – some people need their own space. The implications of touch are still being explored and, whilst it’s discouraged in the workplace there are some benefits that have been discovered through work with autistic children.

On cognitive styles, Elizabeth described two types:

  • Verbal-imagery: words vs. pictures (not everyone’s brain creates images – sometimes they need to be provided)
  • Wholist-analytic: global vs. components (some people need the big picture and to know what comes before and after their part vs. individual widgets in detail); another way to look at this is breadth first vs. depth first.

The psychological contract is about the perceptions between an employer and an employee about their obligations to one another – more than just a written contract of employment. Promises are often made or implied, e.g. during recruitment, in appraisals, at a social event, when travelling together – and we shouldn’t make promises that are not in our gift to deliver.

Elizabeth then spoke of the sixteen Myers-Briggs personality types, before highlighting that intimacy is key to success – for every person in an organisation, someone else needs to know what makes them tick. Organisations need a structure that supports this; small working groups enable people to get to know one another much better.

In summary, “well it’s how we do things around here” is made up of people, how they learn, the psychological contract status, and personality factors. And that, is the organisational DNA.

Design in the digital physical world

In his presentation, Principal Interaction Designer at Microsoft Research, Richard Banks (@rbanks) explained some of the ideas he’s been working on for digital storytelling. His team’s ethnographic work is a combination of social science, computer science and interaction design; they look at people, see how they work, spot anecdotes about life – and spark ideas for things that can be designed. Specifically, Richard talked about the theme of the future of looking back: creating new value from reflecting on the past.

For example, on inheriting his late grandfather’s box of photos, Richard discovered they had been recorded with “metadata” (names written on the back). But with most of  us creating thousands of digital images each year, that’s a lot to pass on when our time comes.

Technology has moved past the point where it’s a play thing, it’s now an integral part of our lives and we need to deal with death on social media too. We all have boxes of sentimental objects that we don’t keep on display. The question is whether digital artefacts be sentimental too? To take another example, old diaries provide an insight into others’ lives – even if the points recorded seem mundane at the time. May be our tweets will be the same some day?

Richard showed pictures of physical items created to store digital artifacts, such as:

  • A box to backup your tweets.
  • A digital slide viewer which backs up Flickr images into a box that looks like an old Boots slide viewer.
  • A digital photo display focused on one individual containing events throughout their life structured on a timeline [à la Facebook] providing the context for where things fit.

Another interesting angle is the motivation behind digital storytelling, perhaps just creating a record for a sense of permanence – not necessarily interesting now but it may be later. And then there are the new possibilities afforded by digital media – such as putting two people into a picture that could have been together, but were not (e.g. a grandfather and grandson when one had passed away before the other was born). I’m currently taking something in the region of 10-12,000 pictures a year and I have hundreds of slides in the loft inherited from my late Father. It’s high time I took a good look at my own digital curation and storytelling…

Envisioning the future

Microsoft Chief Envisioning Officer, Dave Coplin (@dcoplin) gave the final talk before the inevitable panel session to wrap-up the day. I’ve blogged about Dave’s talks before – fast paced and highly entertaining. The twist this time around was to ask the question “What can you change in your business that you do because you’ve always done it?”. See the big picture. Avoid the arrogance of the present. Look for outcomes, not process. Set your people and your data free. Fundamentally, think human, be human. And empower others.

Conclusion

It’s been a while since I attended a Microsoft event that was as thought-provoking as this one. Most of the company’s output is pure marketing but this was a refreshing change; enabling others to lead the conversation, facilitating discussion, and leading thoughts without the distraction of a product pitch.  For this reason alone, congratulations are due to the Microsoft UK Enterprise Insights team (@MicrosoftEntUK), who hosted the day. Add in the first-class speaker line-up and it was well worth it.

As for takeaways, well, I’ve written many of them in this post but, whilst design is not at the core of my work, it can help me to think about things differently and the organisational DNA talk has given me plenty to consider as I plan for building my own team inside the organisation where I work.

Searching for the right Windows Twitter client

Last week, my company-owned PC was rebuilt after a hard disk failure. Whilst my IT department got me back to a point where I had all of the standard apps installed, there are many others that I use that are not part of the standard build. Some of these are company sanctioned (e.g. I use Office 2010 rather than the company standard of 2007, as well as Cisco WebEx productivity tools and CUCILync softphone); others are not “official” but are an important part of my workflow (e.g. Google Chrome browser). One of the apps in this second category is a Twitter client.

In the past, I’ve tended to use TweetDeck. Unfortunately, after Twitter bought TweetDeck, they wrecked it. In common with many other people, I’ve been running the old, unsupported, Adobe AIR version of the app but I really didn’t want to have to install more Adobe middleware on my PC (it’s bad enough having Adobe Reader and various browser plugins for Flash, etc.).

I started to look around for alternatives but it seems that Windows client apps for Twitter are a bit thin on the ground (unlike for mobile operating systems, where they are two-a-penny).

  • There’s MetroTwit but it only has single account support, unless I pay for the professional version, and I’m not sure how long it will be before Twitter kills off client apps (paid or otherwise) as part of it’s apparent desire to self-destruct (I’ve since been told that it’s possible to run multiple instances of MetroTwit).
  • Some people recommend Seesmic, but they have been swallowed up by Hootsuite.
  • Hootsuite is another option, but I’m not paying a tenner a month. The free version would probably serve my needs but it only seems to have apps for mobile platforms – and I really do want a desktop app, not another tab to be lost in the melee in Chrome.

So, TweetDeck it is, Adobe Air or not.  It’s still a decent app, if a little resource hungry, and it integrates with my Bitly.Pro account for custom URL shortening. If you are looking to track down “old” (yellow) TweetDeck because hate the new (blue) version, then there are a couple of posts that might help from David Amador and Jon Choo.

Business as usual? @euan at #DigitalSurrey

Last week, I made my regular(ish) trip to Surrey’s digital networking evening, Digital Surrey.  This month’s speaker was Euan Semple (@euan), former BBC Director of Knowledge Management, author, consultant – and, it seems, entertaining public speaker.  This blog post covers some of what Euan had to say about business and the social web…

Back to reality

Euan started out by saying that he used to dread talking to people working with social media but then he realised that even people in “social” don’t have the time to stop and look at what it is, and where we’re going. In fact, he takes issue with some of the basic premises of what’s going on right now [and he has a point]:

  • Labelling something as “digital” draws a line between it and the alternative – it makes the rest “other”.
  • Social media has been turned into a “thing” – the industrialisation of something that should be personal…
  • “Social” is not a collection of channels, it’s a singular phenomenon, that’s been hijacked by marketing…

Wow. Controversial. Perhaps? But what Euan suggests is that what we’re doing with “social media” is really about getting back to real connections with real people doing real stuff, albeit in a digital format.

At this point, Euan moved on to knowledge management [something which has been causing me pain over the last couple of weeks, as a result of some dubious decisions made…]. In his time as the BBC’s Director of Knowledge Management he found that people wanted him to create knowledge repositories. But a repository sounds like a medical term, leading to knowledge extraction, which is just a short step from knowledge harvesting (some sort of cerebral milking machine)?! And then we wonder why people don’t engage with knowledge management, he says.

At the BBC, Euan’s team started of by putting in a basic bulletin board, which has only recently fallen by the wayside in favour of Yammer. They also created wikis and blogs. And yes, that was all some time ago but even today, Euan’s clients are being forced to spend money on Jive, Tibbr and Yammer, etc. but he says it’s all still just little text boxes. Over engineering what is required so that the IT guys feel comfortable.

What I found most interesting is that the BBC created its blogging guidelines with collaboration via wiki – in effect they created a social media policy without any meetings and people lined up behind the policy because they had been part of creating it.

By comparison, many organisations are stuck in a mindset of managers telling staff to do things, then measuring and monitoring. We can but hope that this will move to the side as people self-organise.

The Cluetrain Manifesto [a book which is often quoted but which I have yet to read] talks of “globally distributed, near instant, person to person conversations” and Euan has examples to demonstrate this in reality: journalists catching up on Twitter after an event happens; educationalists trying to get their head around informal learning (a process that is sometimes disparaged). But, reassuringly, it’s all about people, building relationships and trust in relationship.

Euan describes how his blog has the power to form relationships – he has online friends that he knows better than people he’s worked with – just connected differently [I can echo this].

“The knack of blogging is a willingness to open up and share – it can foster some really powerful relationships.

[Euan Semple, Digital Surrey, October 2012]”

Three different mediums, three different uses

Euan went on to describe three different social mediums and how there are subtle differences in their use.

Looking first at blogs. He’s written posts that he thinks will change the world and nothing happens [me too!]. Conversely, he’s written “rubbish” after a drink and the world thinks is interesting! Either way, we still create networks. Your blog with your own domain name is your space on the web.

Euan believes that organisations should allow their “nerds” to blog, first internally, then externally. In this way, they can be seen to be trustworthy and reliable. And, if everyone blogs, we get a sense of the organisation that’s not possible yet. Taking that a step further, if we make the content available externally, it can have a huge impact on the brand.

The second medium is Facebook, where we seem to have a willingness to open up compared with internal social networks where we tend to think “what will we share?”. There’s also the point about oversharing and drunken student photos to which Euan’s response is that “I wouldn’t employ someone who hadn’t got drunk as a student” [A view that I also share]. And then there’s his view on dress sense for business:

“Suits used to make you look respectful and trustworthy – they just make you look like a banker now!

[Euan Semple, Digital Surrey, October 2012]”

Next up is Twitter, which Euan used to see as yet more “inane twoddle”. Now he confesses that he can’t do without it (although he may have to soon if Twitter continues to make the changes that are hacking off users). He says that Twitter filters the web and cuts out a lot of noise but the numbers can get ridiculous – so he has some advice in order to make better use of the medium.

Euan has over 7000 followers [I have around 2000 and recognise the issue]. He follows many so that they can send direct messages but he only actively follows a list of 100. The resulting effect is better information, faster. And Twitter is also a resource – people will give answers to questions, because of reciprocity: if enough enough people get value from his tweets, they will decide to follow and then converse.

The de-industrialisation of knowledge

The old phrase that knowledge is power used to mean that holding on to knowledge made you powerful. Now the power is in giving it out…

Once you have a blog, you find that you start to write more. You see things and think “oh that’s interesting, I might blog about that”. [I have many unwritten posts inside my head]. This creates a chain of thought, and hopefully others will find it interesting, point to it, comment or react to it…

Euan suggests that this has potential as another way to run businesses – noticing people, setting things off, creating ripples…

We used to recognise the power of the hyperlink but this has been corrupted by Facebook likes and Google pluses. Even so, there are other means to harvest information sources and make them work for us.

RSS  is a mechanism that allows people to subscribe to content. By choose sources carefully (blogs, etc.) we can add value without causing stress or noise, making choices about information, assembling our channels rather than relying on others to pump information to us.

Many Twitter constructs, such as hashtags, or even even the @ sign to direct a message were user-created. Now they appear on hoardings, TV captions, almost everywhere and they represent a user-driven method of assigning meaning and importance.

What we’re doing is really about de-industrialisation. Pre-industrialisation, more people used to work in what we would now recognise as freelance roles, as artisans, travelling in small groups. Maybe this is where business is heading today?

Finding our voice

As businesses, Euan suggests that we’ve outsourced communications to professional communicators; we’ve outsourced caring to Human Resources; and we’ve outsourced storytelling to the media.

We need to find our voices. More than that, we need to find a way to communicate that we’re comfortable with, that’s authentic, and that gives the confidence to express ourselves. Euan has seen senior people getting worked up about writing a blog post [I’ve experienced this too], finding it difficult to get their heads around non-vetted conversation.

Euan cited an example of an organisation that captioned themselves as thought leaders. But how can you be a thought lead when no-one knows what you think? We need to take the time to think (blogging has the advantage of giving someone the time to stop and think “why am I doing this”) and to start “writing ourselves into existence”. There’s something therapeutic about the network way of thinking, and leaving a trace on the world.

Retaining knowledge

About a month before Euan’s role was made redundant at the BBC, he was asked to take part in a meeting to discuss preventing knowledge leaving the organisation! Ironic, maybe, but it illustrates a certain way of thinking inside many organisations.

Euan says that PwC call their document repositories “knowledge coffins” and that they are “where documents go to die” but internal social networks are different. One piece of advice that he offers is to try to resist people trying to “tidy it up” and make things more sanitised.

To use an analogy, villages grow other centuries, they are haphazard but work, based around a focal point. Euan compares this to the modern town of Milton Keynes, built around a grid system that seems makes sense but which people struggle to relate to [I live near Milton Keynes and can’t see the problem with the grid, but I do have to work with internal social networks that I don’t relate to…].

Effectively, we’ve become too good at tidying up and, in cutting out the noise, we cut out the signal.

We can’t achieve everything in one go and Euan suggests taking a “strategically tactical” approach. Set up projects that will go off and find their own way but eventually come together – a concept described as “Trojan mice”! Or, to put in another way, create a “start-up”/entrepreneurial attitude and fund some small things to see where they go.

Making it real, with enthusiasm

Whilst many organisations grapple with becoming “web 2.0” businesses outside the firewall, Euan suggests that they struggle to be even 1.0 inside. That may be harsh but there are are organisations where sign-off is required on blog posts, tweets, etc. and, if you’re lucky, you might get to release a 140 character press release! It makes no sense and, Euan suggests, is the organisational equivalent of your dad dancing at the disco. You’re proud of him for having a go but you’d really rather he stopped!

The reality is that the inside is the outside – all of your staff are on social networks. But are they allowed to talk about work, or even to admit where they work. In the modern, connected, world we expect 24×7 communications but what’s the impact of this?

Brands need to allow staff to be advocates, to be enthusiastic about working for them. After all, if your staff are not enthusiastic, you have a problem anyway.

Euan tells a story about his Crumpler bag and how the company helped him to understand how to re-thread the strap but then the zip failed, and he tried to make contact again, only to find that his contact was no longer there. He had a sense of relationship with an individual inside the organisation but then he felt let down because it was no longer there. That’s disappointing [and a reason that organisations need to plan for long-term social media engagement].

At the other extreme, Euan talks of organisations where they think no-one wants to know about their product (for example, a brick manufacturer). But they do… sometimes! There is latent interest in even the most superficially dull topics, we just need to find out how to unlock it.

Euan suggests that we’re really at the start of something and, just as when the  printing press was invented, we don’t know where we’re going. That might take another 50 years, but we have to be in there and making the space habitable in order to gain the benefits.

Euan Semple’s book, Organizations Don’t Tweet, People Do: A Manager’s Guide to the Social Web, is available from Amazon.

Why brands need social media monitoring and analytics

Last week, I was asked to give a short (10 minute) talk about social media monitoring and analytics. I’m not exactly what you might call an expert in this field, but I have been around the loop with this as part of some work I did a couple of years ago, when the company I work for started to make better use of social media, although I’ve since moved on to other activities.

In researching for my talk, I decided to reach out via my own social network(s) and have to say that I was pretty amazed by the response. Within a few minutes of tweeting, I had responses that gave me some fantastic angles to cover.

Looking for inspiration for 10min. presentation on social media monitoring... any insight appreciated - no vendor pitches please
@markwilsonit
Mark Wilson

Even though I can’t share the presentation (I used some slides that were “loaned” to me by others), I can write about what I presented, so here goes – with special thanks to David Gentle (@DaveGentle), Graeme Goulden and Jim Millen at Fujitsu; Brent Ozar (@BrentO), Consultant and Author at Brent Ozar PLF, LLC; Louise Parker (@LouParker), Sales Director at Sentiment Metrics; and Eileen Brown (@EileenB), Author and Social Media Consultant at Amastra – as well as to the many other people who offered assistance but whose work I haven’t “borrowed” here!

“Social working”

Many organisations are experimenting with (or even gaining real value from) social media and are rapidly trying to discover ways to exploit these new channels before their competitors do. The challenge here is that the steps required to gain value from social media go against conventional wisdom: In business, we want things to be routine and predictable. Social media, however, is organic in nature and is driven by people’s passions and interests.

Integrating the virtual and physical worlds

One way to consider social networks is that we need to look after customers in the virtual world, just as we would in a physical context.

For example, in a restaurant, management touch tables and customer check-backs are an integral part of the service in the UK and elsewhere. They are used to see that customers are happy with their meal, ideally before any simmering concerns become full-on dissatisfaction. In the past, restaurant customers didn’t talk to each other. But with social media, they do, and bad experiences snowball fast.  In real life, you can hear your customers complaining and shuffling toward the door. The same happens in social media too.

Smart organisations can use this to their advantage and build brand advocacy. For example, one upset Mum sent a tweet after she had taken her four-year-old child to McDonald’s to complete his Marvel Set figurines only to receive a Littlest Pet Shop character (another type of toy) instead.  Instead of sending a tweet to apologise, McDonald’s took the initiative to send a real mail and titled it “you tweeted, we listened”, including the missing Marvel figure with a handwritten note. Cool right?  Especially for McDonalds as that mum had a popular blog and she wrote about it leading to 50,000 page views a month and, even better, the story was included in the updated version of Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff (Forrester Research)’s book Groundswell.

Some organisations are particularly smart and they integrate customer feedback into their loyalty programmes and CRM systems. In an example, which Eileen Brown wrote about on her ZDnet blog, a customer tweeted to say how much she loved cornbread when staying at Gaylord hotels (a US hotel chain).  The company offered her some, but by then she’d already left. A few weeks later and she stayed at another one of their hotels and, a short while after checkin, some cornbread was delivered to her room – without even requesting it.  She then blogged about the great customer service, closing the communication loop and making it clear that she was a satisfied customer.

What’s the alternative to this? Well, sadly, things don’t always work out so well. These pictures have been around for a few years now but became Internet memes. Thankfully the names of the restaurant chains involved are not so easy to find…

 

Losing sight of the individual

The next part of my talk was borrowed from Chris Brown and Louise Parker’s SoConBuzz talk where Chris highlights a hotel on Trip Advisor which ranked really highly (9 out of 1068 hotels in London) but for which some very negative reviews really stand out – this is the social media challenge – we need to be able to identify these individual responses, this individual dissatisfaction and react at the tactical level to address specific concerns.

 

Four phases to actionable insight

Louise continues her SoConBuzz presentation by talking about four phases to actionable insight. Watch the video for the full details but, in short:

  1. Listen – monitor content and actively respond to it.
  2. Categorise – filter out the noise and focus on what’s important.
  3. Analyse – analyse conversation threads and identify leading topics.
  4. Act – drive actionable insight and add real value.

The value of social media

The real value of social media is not so much as another channel to market but as a method to understand what customers are saying about you – and to engage. But, more than that, by integrating with other data it’s possible to provide a holistic view of the organisation, enabling both tactical and strategic change to take place.

My take on social media monitoring and analytics

It’s all very well quoting chunks of other people’s work but I did mention at the head of this post I’ve had some experience in this area as, two years ago, I began an experiment with corporate blogging, backed up with other social media channels. Before launch, we wanted to measure a baseline so that we could measure the impact of our efforts but we found that enterprise tools (e.g. Radian 6) were expensive and free alternatives lack functionality, granularity, or just don’t really join up. Most importantly, any social media programme needs commitment of resources – agencies can only go so far.

I’ve found that the majority of social media case studies are from business to consumer (B2C) organisations. In the business to business (B2B) space, customer conversations tend to be fewer, and are less likely to be online – and even for B2C organisations there will be differences between sectors.

Critically, for marketing teams it’s important to understand that social media is different to other marketing communications channels – it shouldn’t be led by campaigns with time and budget limitations – social media endures after these have ended – and it’s a conversation, not a monologue.

tl;dr

Social networks are an important element of customer interaction and integrating virtual and physical worlds is crucial. In summary, organisations need to:

  1. Understand what it is they want to measure – and there will be a human element to this too as humour, irony and sarcasm are still challenges for many tool sets.
  2. Make sure that they can take action with what they find or else the exercise becomes just an expensive way to collect a lot of information, and possibly to leave customers feeling ignored (in my experience @VirginTrains is selective in the tweets that it responds to, in stark contrast to the other rail operator on my journey, which is @LondonMidland).

In addition, beware that social media has a global reach – we found it practically impossible to monitor social media for a single geographic region – and make sure you know how you will cope in the event of a crisis (there are some well-known examples in the form of Eurostar and the Ford Motor Company).

And finally…

If you’re a manager who is struggling to “get” what social media is about (you’re probably not reading this blog), but consider this tweet:

RT @ Blogging about the real challenge with enterprise social http://t.co/geYQMJSr < agree - social business is human business!
@Annemcx
Anne McCrossan

Euan Semple (@Euan)’s post is short and to the point but it makes an important point: to understand social networks you have to experience them – “feel the fear”.

Consumerisation think tank panel at Dell Technology Camp 2012 (#DellTechCamp)

Yesterday afternoon, I took part in a panel discussion on the evolution of consumerisation as part of a Dell Technology Camp and in advance of the publication of the third part of Dell/TNS Global’s Evolving Workforce research.  It was the first time I’ve taken part in an event like this and I have to admit I was pretty nervous but it was also an enjoyable experience – particularly given the wonderful surroundings of the Saatchi Gallery in south-west London.  I only wish I’d been able to tweet during the event (I did scribble some notes but was focusing so much on the conversation that tweeting would have been a step to far for this Gen-Xer who isn’t so great at “partial attention”!)

Evolving Workforce Think Tank @ #DellTechCampChaired by Stephen O’Donnell (@stephenodonnell), the discussion examined a number of topics related to consumerisation, including: the generational divide myth; recruiting and retaining talent; new working practices; technology choices; security;controlling costs and driving profit; and the impacts of geography and market sector on progress.

Dell have produced a Storify story about the whole day (not just the panel discussion) – and you can catch the recording of the live stream – but, for those who don’t have a couple of hours to spare, I thought I’d blog the highlights… I guess you could think of them as the tweets that never were:

  • Stephen Yap, TNS UK: It’s a myth that only generation Y gets “social” and consumerisation; TNS’ research finds that older generations are more accepting of IT as a transformation agent (and younger people are more sceptical).  [Something that one of my Baby Boomer colleagues, Vin Hughes, suggested over a year ago in a blog post about the digital world and generational labels.]
  • Alexis Lane, The Head Partnership: Organisations need a element of control to stay within the law, including open communication of policies.
  • Stephen Yap: IT is not just a utility – get it right and it can be a motivator for employees.
  • Mark Wilson (@MarkWilsonIT): The IT department is just a provider of “stuff” in our personal clouds – just like our bank, supermarket, email provider, etc. [Credit is due to Joe Baguley (@JoeBaguley) for that one… also see my post on the rise of the personal cloud, inspired by David Gentle (@DaveGentle).]
  • Helen Calthrop-Owen, Axicom: Consumerisation is part of a bigger change regarding how people work together.
  • Tim Weber (@Tim_Weber), BBC: Policies alone are not enough – citing Joshua Klein (@JoshuaKlein) he says that we need to “hack our work“, noting that it could get you fired, or you could be a big winner.
  • Bryan Jones (@BryanAtDell), Dell: It’s not “lazy IT” that holds us back so much as cultural challenges – the key is to create “competitive differentiation”.
  • Mathias Knöfel (@MathiasContext): Consider the cost factors and end user benefit – given a choice users will pay for flexibility.
  • Mark Wilson: Get under the surface of BYO and you’ll find it’s more about choice – giving users the ability to trade up to a “sexier” device [credit due to Garry Martin (@GarryMartin).]
  • Stephen Yap: Emerging markets see employer-provided devices as attractive (they tend not to have PCs at home); meanwhile in the US/Canada it’s about Bring Your Own Cloud [what I called the personal cloud] – questioning the need for corporate IT. Not so much about the choice of device but working in the way in which we have become accustomed to.
  • Alexis Lane: Increasingly difficult to draw lines of ownership (intellectual property and corporate data vs. life) – often old questions arise in a new context (e.g. the ownership of a contact database cf. LinkedIn profile).
  • Stuart Collingwood, Nivio: Enterprise-grade social media does exist; devices are more emotional and entitlement can create friction (i.e. who is entitled to what); light touch integration is required for end users to access corporate IT.
  • Bryan Jones: There is no silver bullet (in terms of technology); what’s required is a “portfolio discussion” about on premise IT; extrenal service provision (e.g. cloud) and how to bridge the gap.
  • Stuart Collingwood: Employee expectations for IT performance are “brutal”; tolerance of “corporate lethargy” and inflexible applications has dropped.
  • Tim Weber: Users tend to blame devices or applications but may be other issues; legacy holds us back (e.g. network performance).
  • Mark Wilson: Returning to issues of cost – tax implications with benefits in kind – need clearer advice from government.
  • Bryan Jones: The consumer knows what is possible – consumerisation is not solely an IT issue but raises business functional questions. The trick is to simplify IT, to become more responsive – and innovation is occurring whether we like it or not – there’s an opportunity to embrace it and to listen across the organisation, not just to IT.
  • Stephen Yap: There’s a shift towards outcome-based working with an unspoken contract between freedom and blurred boundaries [i.e. no more 9-5] and digital natives find this easier to understand.
  • PJ Dwyer, Dell: Flexible working is popular, but some employees dislike the remoteness/don’t feel part of the team.
  • Tim Weber: In addition to recognition issues, some roles require collaborative working and presence; interesting to see that Twitter (distributed by nature) has triggered Tweet-Ups – the Human Being is a social animal and companies are social organisations; consider team dynamics (e.g. in a large team, others suspicious that they are carrying the load) – management becomes a task of ensuring everyone knows what their colleagues are doing.
  • Marie-Christine Pygott, Context: Communications occur in many ways – if employees are not present, they are not on the mind of others (you can’t walk over to their desk for a chat).
Evolving #Workforce: Does a flexible working policy turn you into a flexible but virtual.. hermit?
@TNS_UK
TNS UK
  • Stephen O’Donnell: We need a virtual watercooler, do we need to use social media to highlight work milestones [or even, “I’m taking the kids to school, I’ll be back in 20 mins”]?
  • Stuart Collingwood: Expect to see that scenario become more common as future generations enter the workplace (and we’re already seeing changing literacy styles, such as use of “text speak” in written English).
  • Carly Tatum, Dell: Communications work in different ways; bringing people into a group situation from social media context can induce a different dynamic [one that doesn’t always work].
  • Mathias Knöfel: Often, meeting people face to face changes the relationship from that point onwards.
  • PJ Dwyer: Emerging markets have different perspectives, due to different stages of development.
Emerging countries leapfrogging with tech as no legacy technology. Getting best tech, big incentive #DellTechCamp
@GStudentAgain
Margo Smale
  • Stephen Yap: In BRIC, for example, skipping PCs and moving straight to smartphones; also leapfrogging legacy in the workplace – not as encumbered.  It will be interesting to see the change as security, etc. become bigger issues in developing nations. Also cultural differences as in some geographies work and technology may act as motivators.
  • Alexis Lane: When talking about the security of information, we need to understand what it is we are protecting. It’s not realistic to say “everything” – what can we be more relaxed about?
  • Tim Weber: The “castle/moat model” makes less sense as we become more mobile and blast more holes in the walls – need to look at data level and see what can be done to protect it; requires clever thinking, supported by technology, to understand how to protect the things that are critical to your company.
  • Stuart Collingwood: We have to think differently about how we build systems – it’s hard (and expensive) to retrofit so we need to re-architect from the ground up.

Graphic Recording from Evolving Workforce Think Tank at #DellTechCamp

Key takeaways

For those who find even that list too much to work through – here are the key takeaways from around the table:

  • Stephen O’Donnell: Consumerisation is happening, it won’t stop – indeed it will accelerate; employees like it, it frees them up from coming to the office as well as from Victorian-style employment contracts; work is becoming more outcome-based; difficult to draw line between work and home; requires serious management – need to think, plan and come up with new ways of thinking.
  • Tim Weber: There is no single solution; every company needs to look at legacy – not just productivity and happy employees but the underlying stategic business model – suss that out and have clarity of thinking to drive company forward; remain flexible as things will constantly change on the roadmap.
  • Mathias Knöfel: BYOD gives opportunities for flexibiity with the right incentives but also risks that need to be thought through more carefully (e.g. legal/risk).
  • Mark Wilson: From an end-user perspective, don’t just think about the “Digital Natives”, also consider “Digital Pioneers” who have seen previous waves of IT transformation and those with no time/inclination too (Digital Luddites); from a management standpoint we need to develop new attitudes to work – become more trusting and results oriented; and the IT department needs to address issues around legacy, removing barriers through innovation and avoiding stagnation; finally, we can’t close lid on this box!
  • PJ Dwyer: It’s happening now; organisations need to be proactive and it affects not just IT but also HR, legal – indeed the whole business. Flexibility and choice are key to success and aspirations vary by market and geography.
  • Marie-Christine Pygott: There are pros and cons to consumerisation – it changes the dynamic of an organisation – the way people work, their flexibility, work/life balance but also who teaches whom – employees suggest more about the technology used; there is no single solution and we need need integrated strategies; communication is vital; also differentiation in different parts of the world.
  • Stuart Collingwood: Consider company culture – not just policy and structural issues – need to instil communications protocols, sensitivities and context within company culture – requires a top down approach.  Culture is safety net and policy handbooks are not enough. People will use technology more responsibly than you might give them credit for.
  • Alexis Lane: Embedding culture of the organisation and taking a decision as to what the company needs to be is important. It’s exciting to consider technology as a motivation – and from a legal perspective we need to get to heart of data issues.
  • Bryan Jones: Not just a technology discussion – people and process too; competitive advantage downstream is enormous; culture is critical to changing the dynamic in a company; it permeates, into how we communicate internally and how we interact with customers.
  • Stephen Yap: Enterprise IT has ever been more exciting than now; we’re at a tipping point, elevating the significance of IT within the organisation and to our lives; not just about IT professionals but it makes a difference to all – in how we work and how we live; not just happy and motivated workers but new business models, new ways of doing things. And the conversations that we’re having are more strategic than 10 years ago; IT is making a bigger difference than ever before.

tl;dr view

Stephen O’Donnell’s summary: there is an enormous opportunity for businesses to adopt and drive the socialisation and consumerisation of IT; to really make a difference in driving down costs, improving agility and improving employee/customer communication. On the other side, there is a risk that we “throw the baby out with the bathwater”, that we don’t follow the processes because it’s all new, that we under manage employees, don’t deal with security appropriately, don’t invest in the underlying infrastructure and so don’t achieve the benefits.

Image credits – Dell’s Official Flickr Page, licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0). Visual communication/storytelling by Creative Connection.

Why I’m leaving Foursquare

For the last year or so, I’ve been religiously “checking in” to all venues on my business travels (not personal ones though) to try and get a handle on Foursquare. This and Farmville (long since forgotten) were part of a quest to understand two of the examples of gamification that were often quoted (back when gamification was the current buzzword).

Well, I have to admit, I don’t really see the advantage. Not to me at least.

  • I’ve been the mayor of a few places (I was even the mayor of Fujitsu’s UK HQ for a while, although I suspect the CEO may have a different view) but no-one has ever offered me a discount.
  • Not once have I been alerted to the fact that one of my friends was also at the same venue as me.
  • I frequently forget to check in at the station on the way home – Foursquare doesn’t let you edit your timeline.
  • Even as the mayor of a location I was unable to do anything about the “tip spam” – and Foursquare didn’t respond to my requests to remove the offending items either.

Meanwhile I have given Foursquare plenty of information about my travel patterns and the offices I visit. That information might be useful in a broader context but, as with every other “free” social platform, I am the product – not the customer – and I’m simply providing data for potential analysis and even sale. Foursquare, along with Google Latitude and Facebook Places, holds no interest for me any more (especially since Foursquare awarded me the “trainspotter” badge!)

So, in the words of the famous BBC “dragons”, I’m sorry, but “I’m out“.

[Updated 21:42 – added point about “tip spam”]

Deleting large quantities of Facebook notes

A few years ago, I followed the example of a “social media guru” and set Facebook up to consume my blog’s RSS feed and republish each post as a note.

This was A Bad Thing for a number of reasons, not least:

  1. Copyright – I’m sure that when I upload anything to Facebook, I give them some rights over it (which is why my images are still on Flickr).
  2. Traffic – reproducing content on Facebook might get eyeballs, but it takes that traffic away from your own website and only Facebook gains any revenue. This may be OK if you are selling goods/services that can be monetised via Facebook links but my revenue is from ads: ads on my site = revenue for me; ads on a Facebook copy = revenue for Facebook.
  3. Layout – invariably, despite my best efforts to write good XHTML, the blog posts look better on my site than when scraped into Facebook as notes.

I turned off the feed but deleting the notes was far from trivial. There is no bulk delete option that I can find, and that meant opening each note, scrolling down, clicking delete, etc. In a word, tedious.

I forgot about the notes until last week, when I switched over to timeline view. Arghh. Yes. Must delete those…

…and then I found another method – much quicker – using the iOS Facebook app.

By opening the Notes section of the Facebook app on my iPad, a quick swipe and press was all it took to delete each note. Still tedious, but a lot quicker to get through…