Re-imagination and business: Antony Mayfield at #SMWB2B

This content is 12 years old. I don't routinely update old blog posts as they are only intended to represent a view at a particular point in time. Please be warned that the information here may be out of date.

Last week, I wrote about the first keynote speech at the fifth B2B Huddle, from Microsoft’s Dave Coplin. It’s taken me a few days to get this post up but the next “act” was Antony Mayfield (@AMayfield), who spoke about advanced persistent opportunities: re-imagination and business (in other words, looking for new ways of working that are not from past business models).

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One of the early points that Antony made in his presentation is that there are no real case studies for this topic (everyone is at the start of a journey – there is nothing definitive) which is an interesting observation. He did suggest though, that there are some useful resources out there in the form of Mary Meeker’s [and Liang Wu’s] State of the Internet report and Kevin Kelly (former editor of Wired)’s What Technology Wants.  Another interesting quote that Antony used was attributed to Marc Andreessen (web browser pioneer turned venture capitalist) who was cited as saying that “the future is six months away” or, in other words, the limit for any sure-fire bets in the world of the Internet and social media is much shorter than the business and marketing plans that we use, so we need to find a new way of working…

One area where people constantly have to re-imagine models is that of security – with constant threats and risks. One particular form is that of the advanced persistent threat (APT). These are not one-off attacks but are very serious and often related to organised crime although hacktivists and governments also represent APTs.

Applying the same thoughts to social business, there is no such thing as the definitive social business strategy – strategy is seen as something distant. Strategy should be thought of as an advanced persistent opportunity. Strategy is fluid and social media is the context. Social media is a proxy for change but it is an approach, not a technology.

Antony then went on to talk about social marketing and its relationship with social brands and social businesses, building up to “six brilliant things” for successful brands to follow [in their social media marketing].

  1. Leadership: Mandate and licence for change is clear. Antony cited Burberry as a case study where the CEO ambition was one of a digital brand. Following successful pilots, Burberry built an in-house content team and a social media approach based around a community that, once built, drives the brand.
  2. Vision and values: They know what and who they are for. In place of the recognised purchase funnel (awareness, consideration, decision, buy [, loyalty]), today’s decision journey is one of a “loyalty loop”  (as described by McKinsey and Company as far back as 2009). Brands like Nokia are embracing this cycle of consideration, evaluation, purchase but then building enjoyment, advocacy and bonding with the brand and a Harvard Business Review article looks at branding in the digital age and how many organisations are spending their money in the wrong places.
  3. Principles: How they will operate with social/digital. Again, Nokia was the case study cited by Mayfield (Brilliant Noise has a paper on Nokia’s global social media strategy), with six principles for digital engagement – effectively “the right ways to behave”: 1. Consider the social opportunity in everything we do; engage in better conversations with more consumers; deliver personal experiences, be authentic, and earn trust; sharing is more important than control; define clear objectives from the outset; invest and commit to social presences.  These are a great starting point for developing a set of principles for an organisation but, to give another example, the UK Government Digital Service sets out its own seven  digital principles to follow:
    The 7 GDS digital principles
  4. Pilot and scale: [Have the] Will to try things, [and the] will to scale things that work. Nike was the quoted case study here, building relationships and viewing campaigns as an investment, rather than straight spending.
  5. Frameworks and governance: Systems to guide pioneers and connect key stakeholders. IBM’s investment model has moved from a traditional campaign model of spend, followed by attention to one of consistent spending targetted on building a community (creating an “S curve” of attention, rather than peaks) – but this is hard work and requires a continued focus.
  6. Digital literacy: investing in skills across the organisation. Examples here are the Nokia Socializer and the Dell Social Media University.

Antony Mayfield believes that social business is a journey and, just as we embark on personal journeys to move from reading, to marking favourites, sharing, commenting, posting, creation, and [perhaps] starting a group in an ever-more-steep curve there are Business models such as Red Ant’s 5 stages of: traditional  experimental, operational  measurable and  fully engaged social business.  Some organisations might want more detail

Some organisations want detailed ideas but ultimately, says Antony, we need to re-imagine everything (or someone will do it for you…).


For those who would like to watch Antony Mayfield’s B2B Huddle presentation, a copy is embedded below:

Some thoughts on social media, the importance of IT literacy, and “humanising the web” (channelling Dave Coplin at #SMWB2B)

This content is 12 years old. I don't routinely update old blog posts as they are only intended to represent a view at a particular point in time. Please be warned that the information here may be out of date.

Yesterday, I spent the morning at the fifth B2B Social Media Huddle, organised by Kerry Bridge (@KerryBridge) and Neville Hobson (@jangles). I’ve written about these events before – and I find them fantastic because they are focus on using social media for business to business communications, whilst many events are focused on consumer audiences. Some would say that doesn’t matter – the channels are the same (i.e. the same social networks) and you are still communicating with people (and, fundamentally, people buy from people, so it’s about building relationships) but I do believe that the two markets have very different needs (B2B is not just B2C scaled down, as someone once suggested…).

Unfortunately I had to leave before the unconference started – so I’m sure I missed some great content later in the day but I wanted to call out some of the fantastic points that Microsoft’s Dave Coplin (@DCoplin) made in his fantastic opening presentation.

Restricting access to social media at work

Firstly, taking a look at the view that employees shouldn’t be allowed access to social media at work.  Thankfully, IT departments are becoming more enlightened and the number of organisations blocking access at the firewall is dropping but there are still issues in management. The concerns generally boil down to:

  1. I don’t want my team wasting time.
  2. I don’t understand the value (of conversation flow, etc.).

As Dave eloquently pointed out, if you are concerned about people wasting time on Facebook, Twitter or YouTube, you should probably also frisk them for newspapers with crossword and sudoku puzzles.  And, as Helen Reynolds (@HelReynolds) added on Twitter, whilst you’re at it, ban small talk and daydreaming!

Understanding the value is harder – like Dave, I thought Twitter was a waste of time, until I saw a moderated stream used alongside a keynote video. These days I’m hooked (although Twitter’s apparent desire to self-destruct might change that one day soon…). Another way to look at this is that we might once have struggled to see value in email, or the world-wide web – and now there are large groups of employees for whom we would not envisage a world without those tools (or something similar). Social media is the next iteration of modern communications and, whether its on internal or external networks, there is immense value in many of the conversations to be had.

One important point that Dave made for those who think social media is just “for the kids” is to take a look at the #bbcqt hashtag on a Thursday night and you’ll see a lively debate from across a wide spectrum of Twitter users. Social media is certainly not just for “Generation Y” – and even those middle managers who frown upon its use at work probably use at least one social medium, even if it’s just to follow their favourite sports team, or to pick up deals from a brand with whom they like to transact.

IT literacy

Dave Coplin suggested that there are two common threads when talking to people (real people, not IT or technology marketing people!) about IT. The first is the “I know nothing about computers – I need my son/daughter to control the insert piece of technology here” response, suggested as if it were a badge of honour (i.e. “I’m not a geek”). Dave continues to comment that “I know nothing about computers” should not be acceptable; people need to realise that they are part of society and digital literacy is as important a skill as reading and writing in a traditional sense. I’m not suggesting (and I don’t think Dave Coplin was either) that everyone should be able to write computer programmes, but the idea that some people are proud not to understand how to use common technology like smartphones, video equipment, an Internet browser is a social problem that needs to be addressed.

Secondly, companies that say “don’t worry about IT… we’ll deal with that for you” are not helping – they need to empower users to take control of technology and use them to good effect (writes the man using a corporate PC with so much “security” software piled on it that it takes 5 minutes before it is usable after turning it on…).

Many of the issues are about educating people for a digital future [I’d say a digital present] – not just children but every member of society – and Dave suggests that we need to change our approach, to start teaching skills not tools.

He went on to illustrate the point, something like this (although it might need to be adjusted depending on the audience, this worked for the Generation Xers in the room yesterday!):

  • Our grandfathers went to school where there was no electricity.
  • Our parents went to school when there were no PCs.
  • We went to school when there was no world-wide web.
  • And our kids will go to school in a world without hover-cars.

In other words, technology develops at pace and it’s no good teaching people about technology – we need to equip them with the skills to apply as new technologies come on stream.

In another example, there are signs in various parts of the world advising drivers not to follow satellite navigation (e.g. lorry drivers under low bridges, motor vehicles along footpaths).  I’m sure that the creators of the sat-nav technology didn’t intend to take away the responsibility of the driver to apply some common sense – technology should augmenting human reactions, not replacing them.

In other words, Dave Coplin suggests that the world we should strive for is one of human plus machine, not human versus machine and critical thinking is a more important skill than word processing.

“Humanising” the web

Humanising the web is Microsoft marketing-speak. The company I work for talks about a “human centric intelligent society” and I’m sure there are others in a similar vein but the point is  a similar one – tapping into a network of people to change the way in which services are delivered.  Somewhat cynically, I tweeted that this just sounds like crowdsourcing but there is more to it than that.

Our smartphones are permanently authenticated to us as individuals – they are truly personal devices and that gives companies the opportunity to deliver personalised services.  For example, Dave suggested that mobile can make accessible mean something to a wheelchair user – “what’s the best route into a station – and which of the eight entrances has a ramp?”.  There are other opportunities to augment reality too – like translation, or overlaying information onto pictures. But why stop there, asks Dave? Why not stitch things together and deliver new experiences – applications that know our preferences and suggest activities accordingly?

Much of this depends on “big data” and machine learning – and, the more we use data, the more we can provide new insights. Data scientists will become increasingly important as we find a way to navigate information, without over-reliance on algorithms – which are really powerful but can have unintended consequences when combined.  Dave gave an example whereby, if enough people perform a search, then the engine will decide that it’s important and adjust the results accordingly – that can have unintended consequences (a bit like the example in this old blog post of mine).

Of course, when looking at humanising the web, we need to consider social implications too and there are, undoubtedly, some people whose online behaviour leaves a lot to be desired.  We’ve seen that before though – fifteen years ago, people would interrupt conversations to take a mobile phone call but these days it’s normal to use silent rings, or to divert to voicemail. As a society we have learned how to integrate mobile telephony into our conversations but we are less mature in other areas. Dave Coplin suggests that Facebook is not a problem – the way the (some) people behave on Facebook is the issue – we’re still learning how to behave online – we troll, bully, etc. And that leads to a society that gets really challenged…

Which leads on to privacy – we all have a line above or below which we are comfortable. For example, my Facebook is just for friends and family (although I have extended it to aquantainces from my “real” life too); whilst LinkedIn is only for people I have worked with professionally (and whom I would like to work with again some day); meanwhile I’m pretty open on Twitter, sharing a mixture of the less-personal personal stuff, with technology, things I find out and topics related to my hobbies.

But, as a society, our definitions and expectations of privacy change over time. In one of Dave Coplin’s anecdotes he spoke of how the landlord in your local pub knowing your name and drink of choice is an accolade of social acceptance. But what if you walked into a pub in a different town and the barman said “Hello Dave, pint of the usual is it?” – that might be a little strange (how do they know your name and how do they know what you drink?).  Ultimately though, it’s just personalisation of service – and we will increasingly see this on the web as our expectations of privacy and information sharing evolve.

We’ve seen this before – in another example Dave reminded us how Caller ID used to be something to avoid (“what, give out my number to someone when I call – no way!”) but these days we use it extensively and screen calls that don’t show a number that we recognise. Technology evolves, as does our use of that technology, and our acceptance of the implications of its use.

Empower others, be human, and don’t just engage – enchant!

Dave closed his presentation with three points about their use of IT, in particular in their use of social media:

  1. Empower others – to make decisions, to interact, to learn.
  2. Be human – companies need to have humour and personally in their online interactions and too many just want to sell (or be dull).
  3. Don’t just engage, enchant. John Lewis’ ads don’t tell us where the stores are and what they sell – instead, they reach out to us emotionally and drag us in.

Dave was speaking of last year’s Christmas ad but the same can be said for the latest “Never knowingly undersold” ad, which continues in that vein (and is far more sophisticated and, dare I say, enchanting, than earlier ads featuring a selection of products on sale):



For those who would like to watch Dave Coplin’s B2B Huddle presentation, a copy is embedded below:

[Update 2 October 2012: Added video of Dave Coplin’s presentation]