Posts Tagged ‘social media’

Do You Follow?

Tuesday, August 24th, 2010

(Classic film note: When considering the title of this post, please try to hear it in your head as, “D’ye folla?”, in the voice of the late Robert Shaw as his character from The Sting, Doyle Lonnegan, would say it. It has nothing much to do with this post, but I love that movie, and there’s something about using a simple phrase like that to mean, “Agree with me or I will have you killed” that resonates with me.)

The latest blog from ZDNet’s David Gewirtz informs us of yet another failure of Twitter recordkeeping. It seems that Gewirtz’s following list vanished, as has happened to most of us at one time or another. Sometimes it’s because of a direct hack against an individual account or group of accounts, a Twitter-wide attack, or just a database error. Sometimes the service collapses altogether. Every other month or so, something bad wrong happens with our precious Twitter, and the Internets go crazy.

Chaos! Horror! It’s the end of social media as we know it! Those were my initial snarky thoughts when I read the article. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized how true those thoughts were. I would absolutely freak out if all the people and organizations I followed became lost to me. If it happened to somebody who followed me, I’d be concerned as well—especially if it happened to several of them at once.

Twitter, for good or ill, has become our lifeline to what’s happening in the world beyond our immediate perception. It’s instant insight into Now, faster than the news and cheaper than a long-distance phone call. (No, I don’t use Skype.) It’s also a combination of soapbox and open-mic night for those of us who think our opinions matter. Businesses (at least the smart ones that know good advice when I offer it to them) use it as a free listening post for trends, brand crises, and potential new customers. Twitter is officially a Big Deal™.

We can live without Twitter quite easily. Someday we will live without it, because the technology or the format will be supplanted by something newer and probably better. But to have it suddenly cut off or limited it like losing one of the five senses.

I’m glad Gewirtz wrote about losing the list of people he follows. I probably would have gone in a much different direction if I’d just read an article about somebody’s followers all disappearing. Number of followers is a useful thing to know, but there are still people using the number in a “mine is bigger,” locker room braggart way, and that irks me. Having their follower number lopped off is something that should happen to a lot more people, to make them realize what’s important—communication, not collection.

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Still Evolving

Monday, August 9th, 2010

Last week a lot of very smart people gathered in New York for CRM Evolution 2010, and it was fantastic. Let’s start with kudos to conference chair Paul Greenberg and CRM magazine’s David Myron for putting together a great three days. As reported by Paul, the show’s attendance was nearly double the previous year’s for the second time in a row.

It’s not just numerical growth that encourages me, though of course greater attention to the disciplines and technologies of CRM is always a Good Thing. Who attends these things is at least as important as how many. The link to Paul’s ZDNet blog I gave you in the last paragraph should give you an idea of the brainpower in attendance, and these folks weren’t there to sniff around—they came to teach and to learn, to make alliances and discuss plans. The link, and those found when you follow it, probably do a better job of summarizing the event than I can hope to, but I have a few thoughts anyway.

There was a different buzz in the air than there has been in previous years, a feeling that our efforts are coming together into something greater than the sum of their parts. Social CRM is a movement now, not a fad or a trend.

The structure of the conference changed this year as well. CRM shows are typically arranged along three tracks: Sales, Marketing, Customer Service. Sometimes there’s a Strategy piece thrown in, or a nod to Social CRM/Enterprise 2.0, but it’s usually all about the three main silos CRM has struggled to break down. This time, the tracks were Traditional CRM, Social CRM, and Implementation. Each track had a fair amount of conceptual overlap with the other two. It acknowledged that these are not areas that can truly be separate, that there will be interplay and it will be beneficial. I’m not always comfortable with separating social CRM from the traditional brand, since they are interdependent and it perpetuates the belief that CRM is a failure, but this year’s structure worked for me.

The down side to the three tracks and the relatively small size of Evolution 2010 was—honestly—too much goodness in too small a space. There were several times when no matter which session I chose to attend, I was guaranteed to miss something excellent in the other rooms. Fortunately all the track sessions were recorded, so I can spend the rest of the month catching up.

I’ll need that month, because I missed a lot of good content; not just because of crossed schedules, but because of all the meetings I took. No matter where you went, people were busy getting the word out about new applications and services. I heard enough to make me very optimistic about the future. I also did a lot of socializing, but never at the expense of learning. My colleagues and my friends are increasingly the same people, so how can I complain?

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How Many Networks?

Tuesday, May 4th, 2010

This is something I’ve had on my mind for a while, but haven’t found a convenient time to bring up. Of course, somebody else was able to do it first. Jason Perlow’s ZDNet blog, Tech Broiler, has his thoughts on the diminishing returns of an ever-expanding social network. I won’t summarize the post—it’s worth your time to read it yourself—but I will say that there’s more than enough frustration with Facebook’s security, permission structure, and communications model to inspire people to give up on it altogether. This doesn’t mean I intend to do so, but I understand.

Also, as a note to Mr. Perlow, one gaijin to another: Seppuku is traditionally performed with a knife (tanto) or short sword (wakizashi), not the katana.

That’s not really what I wanted to discuss, but it’s as good a segue as any. Perlow’s post made me think again about how the social media boom has affected the way we spend our time online. There are enough different social network services now that they don’t even really compete anymore—except in the sense that they all want you to spend more time with them than any other. Each has its own specific use profile, and most individuals would never consider using one for something other than its core value.

Let’s take me as an example. In addition to this blog, I actively use Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn to varying degrees, as well as some old-school forums that match my interests; there’s some passive participation in other social media (gotta have YouTube access and various wikis), but that’s about it.

  • Twitter is my other broadcast and communication channel, the one I use when writing a proper blog post isn’t the way to go.
  • LinkedIn is my professional lifeline, the go-to option for exchanging ideas with subject matter experts, making sure I stay connected to people I don’t have regular contact with, and making myself available for hire.
  • Facebook is for fun and time-killing. I use it to keep in touch with high school friends, to catch the occasional interesting article somebody posts in their feed, and to play games.

There isn’t a whole lot of overlap between these big three, integrations notwithstanding. I couldn’t imagine trying to maintain a professional presence solely on Twitter, and the entertainment options of LinkedIn pretty much end with the Answers page. This means that each social network requires separate attention, and their sheer number means networking can be a full-time job. My reaction to Google Buzz was basically “Oh crap, one more thing to add to the list.” It took more of my time, and didn’t have a clear niche of its own, so I eventually opted out.

Facebook might be next for me, assuming I can break the addictive hold of Mafia Wars and Viking Clan. This is not solely because of anything inherently wrong with Facebook (though there’s plenty)—I’ve fallen into the trap of bigger = better. I have over 600 “friends” on Facebook, and I honestly don’t know who most of them are. The games I play there require a large network to get maximum value, so I made and accepted lots of friend requests. They are not my friends (except the ones I already knew outside of Facebook). I couldn’t pick them out of a police lineup. Some of them have social and political views that I can’t stand. But I keep them around anyway because they serve a function and because it’s too much trouble to weed them out.

Still, the more FB friends you have, the more messages you get. I hate leaving messages unviewed; I regularly check my email spam so I don’t have the feeling there’s something waiting for me, and it’s this feeling that made Buzz such a burden.

Connections on Twitter or LinkedIn don’t require the same level of supervision. I follow the people I want to follow, and it’s easy enough to unfollow them—and there’s only good in having lots of followers myself. LinkedIn doesn’t get in my way unless it’s an opportunity of some sort for me. Facebook just keeps poking at me, asking me to get back in touch with Friend X whom I’ve never met, or buy Godfather Points for my mob, or install a toolbar, or expand my permissions, etc. etc.

Honestly, I don’t think I’d mind any of it if there was an easier way to manage it. What I really want is a central control panel for all my networks that lets me choose what information is available to each, with bulletproof security so I don’t have to worry about getting all my networks jacked at once. After that, all I have to do is work on my self-control so I don’t play Bejeweled all weekend.

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Brand Warfare Goes Social

Tuesday, April 20th, 2010

I suppose we shouldn’t be surprised—if anything, the surprise is in how long we waited—that organizations are using social media to put pressure on other organizations. Recently, environmental activism group Greenpeace used a YouTube video to drive customer outrage against snack food producer Nestlé for its use of palm oil sourced from dwindling orangutan habitats.

The result was a ton of news coverage (from CNN, CNET, Forbes, BusinessWeek, The Guardian, and many others—thanks, Google), a practical shutdown of Nestlé’s Facebook page due to angry traffic, and what Greenpeace wanted: severance of the Nestlé relationship with Sinar Mas, the oil supplier accused of illegal deforestation.

Now, I loves me some KitKats. I am aware of the horrible toll they inflict on my health and I eat them anyway, though not so often that you have to worry about my imminent demise. I will continue to eat them in the future. But I’m glad that Greenpeace brought the palm oil problem to my attention, so I can watch for it in other foods. And you can be sure I’ll take a hiatus from my KitKat consumption. I would rather do without a yummy snack than condemn a piece of our world to death.

Side note: Jeremiah Owyang of Altimeter Group was on the most recent Brian Lehrer Live to comment on this situation. (The social media aspect, not my fat butt and KitKat addiction.) I can’t find the video, so I’d appreciate it if somebody would link it in the comments.

Is this a good thing? Should the power that has finally come into the hands of the customer be co-opted by large and powerful groups to further their own ends? My opinion is a guarded yes. Greenpeace is the example at hand, and it is not trying to make a profit—it’s trying to increase awareness of the harm we do to the ecology in the name of profit. While the group has had its excesses (the term ecoterrorism has been applied to some of Greenpeace’s activities), it generally acts to expose a situation it finds worrisome, and lets public opinion do the rest.

As with everything else, there’s the potential for abuse. If there’s something we can learn from social media, it’s that stories spread fast and far, much more so than the truth behind the story can catch up. A brand can be destroyed by one person’s efforts—typically a customer with an axe to grind over shoddy merchandise or poor service. Imagine the damage that can be done by a large, well-funded, coordinated group with a much larger axe to grind. If the cause is just and no lies are told, then I’m okay with it. But what if it had been Hershey’s spreading the Nestlé story? Would we be as sanguine about chocolate maker A inflaming consumer outrage against chocolate maker B, gaining market share by levying accusations against its competitor in the guise of social justice? What if the allegations were untrue?

I don’t really care what happens to individual corporations. I care about customers losing their voice as they’re drowned out by louder ones. All I ask is that you evaluate a story before you spread it. That’s just part of the social contract, and it applies to social media just as much as it does to traditional talk.

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SAS Is Analyzin’ My Cheese

Monday, April 12th, 2010

As you might have seen from my recent tweetfest, I’m in Seattle at the SAS Global Forum. The reason, other than my need for frequent-flyer miles, is to learn about the analytics company’s new Social Media Analytics product.

The Disclosure:

“SAS invited me to their SAS Global Forum user event as their guest to attend the launch of SAS Social Media Analytics. They paid my airfare, hotel and conference registration fees and gave me access to the product for evaluation.” [Their words, but I accept and endorse them.] In other words, this.

The Assessment:

I have said previously that a company that develops a truly effective social media analytics package that includes sentiment and modeling in depth, and can tie it into CRM, has essentially created a license to print money in today’s social CRM-focused world. I haven’t seen enough of SAS Social Media Analytics (SMA) to say if it achieves this, but the demos put me in a favorable frame of mind. Analytics (has? have?) come to my social media world, and this is a Good Thing.

SMA is more than a dashboard or reporting engine. It gives the user live interactive access to conversations about the brand. The view is not static, but can be tracked over time, against multiple sentiment components. The data models are subject to updates and new instructions, so what you capture can be sliced and re-sliced as needed. This human angle—user input refining the model—is a big deal to me. It prevents SMA from being a black box.

SMA is a slightly misleading name, in my opinion. It’s media analytics, which includes social media. I’m not faulting them on the name, mind you; social media are harder to track because each piece evolves with use. One could argue, though, that all media today are social media, since everything that’s published seems to end up on the Web with comments and links.

SMA doesn’t come cheap. While SAS is describing SMA as an “on-demand” application, there is an initial investment in data gathering and modeling, and a fee of $5,000 to $15,000 per month. I’ve overheard SMA described as “an enterprise-class Radian6,” and that’s probably a fair estimate. Radian6 appears to be more focused on engagement (which is VERY important) while SAS is playing to its strength in analysis, but both companies have capabilities that mirror the other. The way I see it, if you can afford to spend SAS money and get value from that expenditure, you probably should migrate from Radian6. It’s not just a question of money, though; I’m sure there are some massive businesses that need exactly what Radian6 provides, no more and no less. SAS has a reputation for brute-force analytics power (emphasized with last night’s demo of a multiple-terabyte process run in two minutes), and that’s got to be worth the price tag for a lot of businesses as well.

The Questions:

There are some things that still need to be answered for me, hopefully with an in-depth demonstration. For one, I don’t know how quickly SMA responds to new rules and model parameters. Would I need to back away from the workspace to change keywords and sources, then start over? Or can I play fast and loose, tweaking the factors as I go?

For another, almost everything we’ve seen today is about internal analysis of what happening in the socialverse. There hasn’t been much emphasis on the engagement portion, or on closing the loop and reiterating the feedback process. It looks like the customer is still “out there,” rather than at the core of the business process. To be fair, this is an analytics product, so I shouldn’t expect something else. Still, some more examples of how SMA can have an effect over time on the customer sentiment it monitors would not go amiss. My interest is social CRM, not merely social media—the customer and the opinion-maker need to be right up front. Capturing the voice of the customer is good, but listening to it and then capturing the ear of the customer with your response is better.

Overall, though, my first impression is that SASSMA is a promising product that arrives at the right time. I’ll be keeping my eye on this and providing you with updates as needed.

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Mixed Media, Mixed Message

Thursday, April 8th, 2010

Many of you know that I come from a print media background—mostly magazines, with a few books shuffled in. While I’ve moved on in my career to a place where most of my work seems to be electronic in nature—blogging, ebooks, social networking—I still have a soft spot for words on dead trees. So whenever somebody says that books, magazines, or newspapers are dying forms of media, I have to speak up.

Of course, nobody’s actually said that to me recently, so I need to stretch a bit. Just the other week, this brilliant video posted all over the Interwebs. While it turns out that it was prepared by a unit of Penguin Publishing, the message is no less valid. Make sure you watch and listen to the whole thing before you make up your mind.

Yes, it’s on YouTube. Yes, social networking has been a big deal long enough to go from fad to trend to established communication form. But there still has to be something to talk about. One can only get so deep into philosophy, current events, science, and art with Facebook or Buzz status updates. There will always be a place for physical media. These are major sources for big ideas.

New media can be the start of great print too. Social networking is a thousand different sociology experiments writ large, all happening at once. Good information on human behavior is there for the observing. Journalists get leads from Web sources all the time. And who’s to say that a hot exchange of tweets won’t inspire the next great novel—or that a blog won’t help us find out about it?

Sure, circulation and ad revenue are down, but that’s just good news for the trees. Executives must learn that the socialverse isn’t going away, and adjust print’s business practices to reflect this fact. I don’t have the answer yet, nor do they, but we’re working on it.

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Social Media Happenings for February

Thursday, February 11th, 2010

There’s been a slight change of plans, readers: I was all set to give you a rundown of the great stuff that happened at Paul Greenberg’s recent SCRM Summit in Herndon, VA, but a funny thing happened on the way to the Capitol Region. Somebody mentioned snow, and all the DC-area airports rolled up their runways. I didn’t get to go, and neither did a lot of people. Sad.

However, while I was sulking over my misfortune, a couple of new developments in the world of social networking caught my attention. (Yeah, there were probably more than two, but these are the ones I feel like mentioning.)

First, Facebook just changed its home page, and not for the better in my opinion. Many things aren’t where I expect them to be, and my bookmarked apps (mostly games, I admit) seem to have been randomized—I never quite know what I’ll have available. Everything requires more clicks. I am not as vehement a Facebook-basher as some people I know, but a little warning about this change would have been nice. As it stands, Facebook has traveled through time to an era before UI design was considered important on the Interwebs.

Second, and equally jarring, Google surprised us (or at least me) with the launch of Google Buzz, a built-in social networking function for users of Gmail and presumably any other piece of the Google empire. Mashable has this to say about it, if you want full coverage. I say that it’s a good thing there’s a way to turn Buzz off, because I wasn’t looking for yet another social media environment to integrate with my daily explorations. It’s already far too easy to get lost in the things we do; Buzz might have legs—it’s a network for people you actually know and correspond with, as opposed to weak-tie pseudofriends—but right now it feels like a “me-too” offering.

The lesson from these two news items is that I’m an extremely grumpy person when somebody moves my cheese. But the more applicable lesson is this: Don’t be content with your current approach to social media, because it can become obsolete in a day. New apps will replace old ones, and the conversation moves whether you like it or not.

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That’s Not What Twitter’s For

Monday, February 1st, 2010

I ran across an amusing little incident (via MetaFilter) that happened recently in San Francisco, and I felt I needed to share. Members of the Fred Phelps-led Westboro Baptist Church gathered recently for a protest outside the offices of Twitter. I’m going to be smart and stay well clear of discussing the ministry, its protest signs, or the counter-protest to their small rally—you can read and see more of that at either of these not-safe-for-work links—but I have to address what one of the protesters was reported to have said. To quote the Asylum article by Harmon Leon:

As the verbal assault continued, I raised my hand and asked the obvious: “Why Twitter? Does God hate Twitter?”

“We have not quarrels with Twitter. Twitter is a great platform,” stated a gray-haired WBC woman juggling several signs that could be interpreted as funny and ironic if they were actually funny and ironic. Gesturing to one of the younger WBC women, she added, “Meagan, she’s Twittering right now.”

But she explained the reason behind the protest: “Twitter should be used to tell the punks of doomed America that God hates you!”

As a staunch advocate of the use of social media, I have to say this shows a complete misunderstanding of how Twitter works, and reveals the difference between the old and new schools of mass communication. Protesting at the Twitter offices to get the platform to be used in one way or another presupposes that Twitter is a one-way channel that controls all the messages sent through it. It’s like seeing a soda can on the ground next to a recycling bin and complaining that the bin doesn’t reach out and pick up the can.

The new model of social engagement starts with interested parties reaching out to other interested parties. The correct action to take if you want Twitter to “tell the punks of doomed America that God hates you” is to start telling them yourself via Twitter.

Of course, that’s going to be somewhat problematic, since Twitter doesn’t work by telepathy. You can spout all the hate you want (subject to Twitter’s terms of service) but if nobody’s following you, you won’t be heard. The punks of doomed America aren’t going to follow these people to receive daily reminders of how a fringe group thinks they’re damned—well, the masochistic ones might—so the message dies. That’s how it is with social: If you want to reach people, you must have something worthwhile to say.

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Does Anybody Still Think Social’s a Fad?

Friday, January 22nd, 2010

The other day, I retweeted a short Social Media Today entry by Maggie McGary about some of the major effects social media are having on our lives. In it, she cited an accurate prediction and a side-by-side strategy comparison of Massachusetts’ senatorial election result; a report on how social networking is helping to save lives in Haiti; and news articles about how major brands are altering or outright abandoning the infamous 30-second spot during the Super Bowl broadcast in favor of social marketing. Now I’m going to add some opinion (about the first two things, at least; I love Super Bowl commercials and will miss them if they fade away).

The effect of social media on politics is nothing we haven’t heard before. Bloggers were important in swaying opinions during the 2004 U.S. presidential election, and Brent Leary and David Bullock’s excellent Barack 2.0 reveals how our current President made effective use of the immediacy and intimacy of social media to win a hotly contested race. The idea that the incumbent party could lose its Senate seat—despite a long history of success combined with sympathy for a fallen statesman—smacks not only of overconfidence but of ignorance.

Social technology has made it easier than ever before to spread word when disaster strikes, and to coordinate immediate relief efforts. Where it once might have taken weeks to arrange donations of money and essentials, motivated people and groups got it done in a matter of days—sometimes hours. Time saved equals lives saved when something as devastating as the Haiti quake hits.

In both cases, the technology is an important indicator and enabler rather than a deciding factor of its own. In both cases, technology is waving a great big flag that says, “This is where the people are!” Paying attention to that flag can have tremendous positive effects, whether in terms of electorate swayed, lives saved, or just business generated. Ignoring it means being ignored in turn. Social media is changing the world, my friends. It may evolve, but it’s not dying out any time soon.

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It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Icky

Tuesday, December 22nd, 2009

Here in the Northeast (New York to be precise) we’ve just had our first big winter storm. It wasn’t as bad as predictions threatened, but it’s still made a mess of things. Ice and snow are now part of our daily lives, along with puddles of slush and people who seem to forget (or to never have learned) how to drive, walk, or operate a thermostat when the weather turns ugly.

As with most big cities, we rely heavily on public services, and even more so when it’s time to dig out from under a snow storm. Unfortunately, those services are among the last strongholds of people who don’t know how to listen to or care about customers. Make no mistake: Citizens are customers of their municipalities, and we’re not always served appropriately.

To be fair, bad weather makes life harder for everybody, including plow drivers and the transit workers who keep the subway stations free of ice. We’re also short on funds to pay for emergency crews. Still, I’ve been noticing an attitude of “I don’t care” this year, and because of the situation it’s hard to provide feedback in a timely and effective manner.

Some of our subways stops are above ground (crazy, isn’t it?) so they receive a heavier load of snow and ice. The steps leading up to the platforms are metal clad, which makes them incredibly slippery when wet. In my travels these past few days I’ve seen a number of stairwells at busy and not-so-busy stops that haven’t been shoveled, swept, salted, or even sanded. Slippery stairs plus impatient people plus city property equals hundreds of potential personal injury claims against a town that can’t really afford to pay. But nobody’s saying a thing, because if we’re using those stairs then we’re on the way to or from someplace, and it’s too cold and miserable to stop.

Yesterday afternoon I watched a snow plow try to make a right turn while a woman pushing a stroller was trying to cross the street. The plow (which had to start from a dead stop) essentially chased the woman out into the middle of the intersection in order to make the turn. But nobody said anything, because it’s cold, and everybody’s on the way to someplace else, and there isn’t a good way to chase down a snow plow on foot.

In both cases, and many more, the incidents get pushed to the back of one’s mind after a while because there’s something else to think about, and no lasting proof, and ultimately nothing gets done. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

If you’ve been keeping up on this whole social CRM thing, you’ll have seen the powerful effect that a photo or a short video can have in motivating corrective behavior when a company screws up. We need to remember that city services are a business, and we’re its customers, and we should hold the city to the same standards of responsibility with the same threat of ridicule. We’ve all got cameras on our mobile phones nowadays (at least many of us do, and the rest are expecting one this Hanukkah-Christmas-Kwanzaa-Solstice-Festivus). So just do what you’d do if your local big box merchant drops the ball on safety and service: Take picture, shoot a video, get it online ASAP. Tweet the incident to your friends and family. Blog about it. Be responsible customers, so that the city can be a responsible entity—or be held responsible.

I’m not advocating playing gotcha with city governments. We’re already far too prone to try and squeeze money out of government in this overly litigious society of ours. This is not about blackmail. This is about making those who watch out for us do what’s right.

Other than that, things are pretty good, and I hope all of you can say the same. Have a happy, healthy, safe holiday (whichever one it is for you), and try not to get too stressed out.

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