Connecting and mobility simplifies dealmaking , are you #GivingTuesday


midia impact on social friday 2014

As reported this afternoon by the WSJ, Black Friday is in full swing. Holiday shoppers and retailers actively engage in dealmaking. The decisions elaborated supported by a web of connectivity, funneling information to promote and identify where to find the best buy on what.  The sights and sounds of the season all tweaked to arouse an emotional frenzy. Its a season preoccupied with comparing, connecting and strategic advantage worked by both buyers and sellers.

This commercial frenzy reaches another peak the Monday after Thanksgiving when Cyber Monday redirects consumers to connect online. Last year, emarketer reported that the single day figures represented 5.8% of total US retail sales for the year. (See http://www.emarketer.com/Article/Total-US-Retail-Sales-Top-3645-Trillion-2013-Outpace-GDP-Growth/1010756 )

Givingtuesday.org

#givingTuesday Campaign

The latest addition #GivingTuesday, with its twitter hashtag of the same name , launched by the 92nd St Y and the United Nations Foundation wanted to kick off the giving season with a different message. With less than one month notice, the 2012 campaign offered a charitable answer to the intensity of focus on retail shopping. By its own acclaim, the campaign quickly launched “a global movement engaging over 10,000 organizations worldwide.”

According to The NonProfit Times, donations on #GivingTuesday in 2013 amounted to $32.33 million processed on five online platforms: Blackbaud, PayPal, Razoo, Network for Good and DonorPerfect. Blackbaud, which handles contributions for large nonprofits, reported that it processed $19.2 million in online donations on the day, a 90% increase over the prior year. Blackbaud also reported the average donation it processed rose by 40% in 2013 to $142 from $102 in 2012.

As USA today further reported, “The dollar amounts and the digital evidence are impressive, but the real story is about how people are giving back,” said Kathy Calvin, CEO and president of UN Foundation, a #GivingTuesday founding partner.

Has #GivingTuesday started the important international conversation about caring that Henry Timms, the originator and executive director of the 92n Stree Y hoped?

You bet it has. A quick look at the numbers indicates significant coalescing attention and energy that goes into #Giving Tuesday literally pays off. Figures from Emarketing news and the Department of commerce showed total usRetail sales for 2013 reached $4.53 Trillion of which Mobile commerce represented only $42.13Billion, an order of magnitude less. Just zeroing in on Black Friday and Cyber Monday Adam Marchick writing last week for internetretailer.com showed that smartphones and tablets combined drove a new record of $259 million and $419 million in online sales respectively.

Since many of the contributions for #Giving Tuesday were mobile, there’s significance in collecting $32.33 million, or 12.5% of the commercial online sales activity achieved on Cyber Monday.

Current e-commerce statistics from Statista state that “40 percent of worldwide internet users have bought products or goods online via desktop, mobile, tablet or other online devices. This amounts to more than 1 billion online buyers and is projected to continuously grow. “ The clear influence and  power of connection made simpler with mobility continues to surprise and challenge the best of plans for resource allocations.

The  ability to make changes in the world will continue to reside in the power of greater connections. How they get put to work and for what collective end, remains at the moment within our reach. Don’t just cross your fingers but use your own connective power to shout out to your friends #Giving Tuesday opportunities and help move the needle on donations every upward. .

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Successful businesses both Create and Capture value, Can you?


A year ago,  Casey Winters then data analytics guru at Grub Hub, shared the data analytic tools that Grub Hub found contributed value to improving long buy-cycle results.  His list of dominant vendors who then weren’t cutting it made me wonder what tools he found most useful now.  Casey  has since moved on to Pinterest, to further the message its CEO recently sent about its power to create beauty and creativity not merely provide social bookmarking. Double congratulations seemed to be the right tone for my note for landing the job and completing his Chicago Booth MBA.  I wondered whether Casey credits his experience at Grub Hub or his analytic experience coupled with his concurrent studies at Chicago Booth to his greater understanding and usage of predictive analytics?  Before asking, I found myself distracted by content in Casey’s tweet stream, especially a story he found akin to GrubHub’s experience–a start-up that had launched in 30 cities in 6 months.

Casey reminded me what value exactly analysis delivers.  Sure, telling stories grabs headlines and has a way of rippling to the very combination of people responsible for business growth.  I’m not just talking investors, but sexy company stories draw employees and on the web, links make it easy for customers to find you too.  Increasingly the value created in the data streams seemed to be secondary to the primary business operations.  Google in sharing the under the hood analytics understands the mutual value creation venture and so do a great many others in the tool creation business.  But that’s just the beginning. Value may be created but unless you capture it then your business won’t last very long.  At least that’s what a number of successful investors track.

Patterns

Sure, start-up fever seems to infect everyone today.  We love stories about founders who go from nothing to something based on their own grit and determination.  Sound familiar?  This quintessential bootstrapping myth  fuels American’s reverence for business. The reincarnation of Horatio Alger stories as rags to riches tales, applaud individuals who by their own hand pull themselves up. In fact, the origins of the term boot-strapping comes from the idea that regardless of one’s background, you too can create a livelihood and viable business from scratch. Adora Cheung’s startup  recently named San Francisco startup of the year story follows this pattern.

Of personal interest, are the patterns that emerge from both Adora’s story and that of Casey Winter.  Both of them developed an expertise acquiring online users and retaining them, a key growth driver for any business. I suggest that they not only understand how to create value, but their skills bring critical value.  What advantage does a web-based business at least for now, have over on premise businesses? The ability to focus on the behavior of the end users, find patterns and then build profiles that allow them to tweak the site to improve not the data analysis capture but convert the information into tangible financial benefits.

“They’re focused on optimizing everything,” said [Michael] Hirschland, adding that its systems allow it to be far more data-driven than its peers. It’s already using data to predict where best to expand beyond city centers, into the suburbs.

 

Admittedly, simple businesses make it easier to focus on the few moving parts at once and understand what works.  Long buy-cycles tend to show more complex business decisions, where the co-dependencies may lie beyond the control of the user your connections allow you to observe.  Both Casey and Adora honed their experience analyzing  businesses appealing to  simple users direct needs. This no doubt helped them increase the contribution value of their analysis, make insights easier to uncover and use them to move their businesses to greater advantage by exploiting opportunities beyond simplifying their users’ on site journey.As they accumulated additional perspectives of happy online users and recommended tweaks to improve the ease of their site’s use they took a slight turn.

human advantageNaturally we compare and contrast personal and experiences, and no doubt Casey and Adora compare and contrasted their personal site experiences to wider systems of experience.  They exercised these skills to leverage the value created by their analysis and tools and explore using them to optimize offline services.  These associative connections remain outside the realm of predictive algorithms and require human know-how.  This level of strategic thinking allows a business to scale and in their case replicate  in multiple locations quickly.

The analytics know-how does more than create value, it offers the advantage that comes from capturing the value too.

The value chain break down

Let’s face it,our brains are wired to find short cuts.  Anything that saves us from thinking about a routine action allows us time and energy for other things.  A mobile app spares us from having to remember the URL, or type it accurately into our smart phones and access the information we want quickly.  Why should we have to think about basic things when there’s an app that captures the necessary information and simplifies if not eliminate s the guesswork for a host of activities.  That’s what GrubHub did and that’s what Homejoy does online, though it might want to merge with  HouseCall.

Simply put, the reason businesses must be online, happens to be why everyone realized the value Facebook or Twitter offered–a connected, concentrated user community.  Decades ago, businesses opened in the mall for the same reason, be where your customers will find you.  Search engines remain important but increasingly they take second place to an established phone app.  Each tool creates value but they capture value very differently. Snaring customers may be the first step, but mobile apps done well allow you to keep them–one of the fundamental drivers of growth.

Websites when linked to effective traffic directing vehicles has been the principles fueling and giving new life to direct marketing analytic firms for a long time.  Today, successful analysis of logistics matters.  What steps a business takes to simplify real world experiences certainly creates value, but the trick again is to capture it.  A host of online tools exist to make it a snap for users to find, pay for and track the delivery of  what they need.

There’s evidence that Jeff Bezos understood this from the beginning and increasingly stock analysts ascribe greater value to Amazon’s combined capabilities over its narrow profit margins.

Today, Amazon  offers its users one stop search, payment and delivery platforms. The early versions of online e-commerce focused on one aspect of business, displacing if not eliminating the middle man by competing on price that squeezed  the markup between wholesale and retail. Amazon’s  logistics expertise and value capture to date make it a significant threat but will this advantage sufficiently keep them winning over other retailers?

The array of sensors residing in smartphones no longer tip the advantage to online service providers.  These changes impact how everyone in the ecosystem accesses the data, and gets meaningful information from the various readings, like Geo-location, gyroscope, accelerometer, or even the magnetic flux. In the near term,  smaller service business like Grubhub, Pinterest and HomeJoy are deriving benefit from mastering logistics.

For each business the advantages go beyond match making and into literal service management for both consumers and suppliers/providers.  That’s the beauty behind HomeJoy.com.  Consumers  find qualified, cheaper house-cleaning services, and the cleaners benefit from vastly improved wages, simplified scheduling help and timely payments.  If that’s not logistics than I don’t know what else to call it.

None of these were businesses that followed the simple pattern representation of “If you build it they will come.”  The article details can fill you in and tell the story better. so, do take a look:

Summary

What’s the key to creating and capturing value? Here are three suggestions.
1. Mine the Gaps
It’s not about whether your business plan happens to online or on premises.  Can you find gaps between value created and its full capture, aka system level inefficiencies?  I urge clients to look for areas where one or more parties in a transaction leave money on the table.  In the case of HomeJoy, Adora and her brother didn’t seek to create a cleaning service, they merely reflected on their own experiences and applied their knowledge of logistics to realize that the home cleaning service business suffered from inefficiencies they could exploit.
The Gap:  Established cleaning companies were prohibitively expensive.  At the other end of the home cleaning market classified or posted ads for cleaners  were unknown entities.  Users face a choice between paying prices that prohibit frequent purchase of “qualified cleaners, ”  or hiring unknown, self-qualified cleaners at more affordable prices, with little or no recourse if the service proves unsatisfying.
The system level inefficiencies suggested that if they could resolve these issues, they could easily scale the business to become an established cleaning company.  No HomeJoy was doing nothing to disrupt the market, they merely used their ability to mine and funnel the knowledge within the system for greater efficiency.
2. Chicken or egg
What you don’t know makes it harder to understand where to start.  Both Casey and Adora and even Jeff Bezos leveraged what others know, but couldn’t put to work for their own benefit. The know-how necessary for success generally exceeds what’s available in a book or published article.  Few successes come to us from merely reading it, we need to try it out and integrate it with what our experiences have already informed us.  Instead find ways to learn directly from your competition, study from the inside as much as possible. (Of course this can be very challenging to do, as Adora can attest).
Surprise, this same chicken and egg problem often makes it hard for  other players in the system.  For example, consumers often need help finding what they want, and suppliers need help finding customers.  That’s why  focus groups often falls short.  The insights may be sufficient to get you past your current obstacle but won’t necessarily offer you competitive advantages that come when you challenge and improve opportunities at the higher systemic level.  You will learn more about the issue, but the difference between success and failure comes from really finding where the untapped value lies.  In these cases the business benefited from focusing on logistics and using analytic tools that weren’t only monitoring and tracking observable patterns. .
3.  Give to Get
  Many start-ups start by thinking they will give something away for free, but you can’t give away your service and then turn around and ask for payment later.  In the case of HomeJoy they used simple old-school growth hacking tricks–printed flyers and compelling copy wasn’t hard but unless people read them they would have no customers.  So they used the advantage of satisfying an immediate need within a concentrated geography to get their message out. They passed out free water with their flyers and sure enough they built their initial customer base and then their site analytics and the web tools to help these customers share with their friends their satisfaction and grow their business.
4. Research, research, research
Matching software may be the basic kernel of value for which many real services or products depend on the web to help coördinate or connect them to their users located anywhere.  Throw in a rating system  for the service/product and now the site itself creates value, right?  But a host of very established sites such as yelp address these needs and yet both Homejoy and Grubhub are growing and co-exist with the search engines and rating sites.
The razor-thin operating margins underly the basic business models for all of these online businesses, whether you are talking about Amazon, Grubhub or Homejoy.  Created value alone won’t keep them afloat.  Each and every one of these businesses must capture that value and they did it by replicating the model. For Grubhub and Homejoy they quickly expanded to multiple markets.  Amazon used their integrated book sales systems to sell other long shelf-life products, then their excess server capacity to offer retailers online commerce  and increasingly are moving into perishables.
If you are incorporating analytics in your business, at what level of the system are you applying the insights you learn? Investing in strategic thinking can go a long way to sustain your business and insure you capture the value you create. 

Are you ready for the honesty in the mirror?


It appears that Social Media shows signs of maturity and its appetite can be fierce if not fearsome.  A year ago, the Arab Spring signaled the power of social media to rapidly help like minded individuals with shared frustrations meetup and act in solidarity against institutions. The speed of the social sharing had been seen before but not on this scale and not for this serious a level.

I happened to come across two examples in which social media has begun to provide real levers of change,and illustrate what Scott E. Page, at the University of Michigan and other behavior modelers, recognize as the power, not just the wisdom of the crowd to change outcomes. 

When I say levers, I’m talking crow bars, not mere  shoe horns.

Estimates by the Pew Reseach Center Internet American Life project show that  “two online activities that are nearly universal among adult internet users, as 92% of online adults use search engines to find information on the Web, and a similar number (92%) use email.” Shoehorn persuasion tactics. Email being the easiest and direct persuasion tactic. Its free and so the more they write the more they hope I’ll respond.  Crowbar tactics are when the audience flips the lever back on the sender.  This isn’t the same as the Arab Spring, or if I’m wrong I hope you’ll tell me.

Case #1 Candidate Accountability

Without the benefits of stats, I’d estimate the savvy of the presidential campaigns’ use of social media –getting out their messages to voters, and pulling in donations and volunteers–even with the public and niche user communities’ scrutiny of the candidates claims.

Its human nature  and certainly consistent with the American capitalist tradition to expect something in return, the exchange of effort and value.

Candidates have always been aware of the double-edged exchange of access to voters. More importantly, they also need influence to get favorable results.   I live in Chicago whose rich history of machine style politics used patronage as reward to its soldiers who helped register and then turn out the votes. Social media in 2008 was young,the candidates who took it by the reigns and broke in the users learned how the new media drove influence and when relationships mattered.  Pelting your audience with emails needed a little finesse, to prompt sharing.  Give them something worth sharing and your audience will provide the influence. The voters would be the muscle standing behind the message.  Remember Sarah Silverman’s hit video, that encouraged grandchildren to go visit their grandparents in Florida and get out the vote for Obama?

Again, I’ve no stats, but Jon Stewart’s team as well as Stephen Colbert among others at Comedy Central, provided ample video clips worth sharing.  They also did something else. They reminded their viewers that, like Dorothy they too had the power all along to take on a candidate’s claim and hold them accountable.

Fast forward to 2012.  I receive a ridiculous amount of email pleas for donations and offers to win a chance for dinner with the president.  It’s a little like publisher’s clearing house, and I don’t care about their fundraising deadlines.

Here’s the case that John Souza writing for Fast Company yesterday mentioned.  VP candidate Paul Ryan appealing to potential voters shared, maybe even boasted that he had run a marathon in 3 hours. The effort intended to build solidarity, open up  and reveal a little about him.  But remember this is 2012, and social media’s two-way lever, makes the public more powerful.  Sure, a candidate needs to appeal to the voting population, and leverage common affinities to his favor. How did he fail to realize that this audience had pride in their efforts and might take offense? The savvy campaign staff didn’t anticipate the indignation his boast would draw, nor that it would prompt greater scrutiny.  Rather than drawing them close he found himself suddenly at a huge distance.  [Read the fuller story here, Obama and Romney’s Biggest Social Media Fails courtesy of Fast Company.]

Souza identifies three signs of social media’s crowbar power all made possible by people’s ability to find and then share content that they ultimately can’t control.  No surprise when Facebook has 1 billion users, or  92%, and growing, of american adult internet users use search and email.  Souza points  out how  social media “by shining a continual light, from every possible direction, on every move a high-profile candidate makes,”  has made it impossible for candidates to control their campaign and message.

Elected officials don’t get any more of a break than candidates.  Arguably, few institutions are beyond the reach of social media.  Anyone rewrite the updated version of the Emperor with no clothes yet?   Which brings us to case #2.

Case #2, the messiness of governing.

In early September, the Chicago Tribune launched a useful interaction with the crime data that the City of Chicago has made public. I dropped by the local Datapotluck meetup and met the staff responsible for its launch and learned more about the data challenges.   Six weeks of 3 programmers full-time and the results are very impressive.  I especially appreciate the context they went out of their way to include.  Judge for yourself Crime in your community.

Great that they are more eyeballs analyzing the data, that’s one value to the city.  But more eyeballs analyzing the data is also what a) prevents the mayor’s office from providing all of its available data in real-time; and b) sharing the parallel data of police responses.

What happens when we make people more aware?  Joe Germuska who designs the news applications for the Tribune,  shared some of the insights gained in designing the crime site by sitting with people in various communities to understand what data was useful and why. Parents who want to insure the kids got to school safely use the interactive maps to plan the safest routes. Or the context alters the image of a community area when you the crime stats appear in proportion to the population.

Getting more people to think and act is one of the oldest games on the planet.

There’s no place to hide anymore, and whether you share the data or not, people will hold others accountable.  That  return lever has always been there, but rarely exercised by lesser known individuals raising their voice, surprised to find it carried by strangers. We all benefit from learn how to use these tools more effectively, to motivate, incent or  engage people constructively not merely destructively.

Democracies are messy, but the shot of more people benefitting increases the more transparent and visible the decision-making process.  So Rahm, good job on learning and sharing but you’ve got more to do!

Social Media great for insights not prediction


An example of the share buttons common to many...

An example of the share buttons common to many social web pages. Thanks to http://www.nouveller.com for the free icon pack image. The author (Benjamin Reid) releases the image into the public domain, with the following text available at the source page: “You can use them anywhere you like, absolutely anywhere, anything. No attribution, 100% free.”. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Is it really surprising that on social media, generally speaking, people share more emotionally linked thoughts?

What People Really Want vs. What They Share on Social Media.

For my money this is not much of an insight.  After all, humans, like many other animals, are social creatures. From birth, our lives depend on others. In time, those who bring us along and introduce us to the ways of the world nurture specific beliefs and frame our understanding of the world.  Our connections to others are vital to our survival, happiness and success.

Social media simplifies our ability to share and connect. The social impulse that compels us to take part naturally mirrors underlying, maybe even unconscious emotions. The result is a natural  association between content and intention rooted in sentiment. Following the tradition of anthropology, or design research, self-reported assertions such as our tweets or Facebook updates can prove revealing. Tracking and tallying these qualitative data crumbs outline a wider system of association linkages and are wonderful additions to descriptive analysis. Whether linked specifically to more traditional demographic variables or not, they show characteristics,  detect relationships about something or someone; but are no proportional in their representation.

Infographic on how Social Media are being used...

Infographic on how Social Media are being used, and how everything is changed by them. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So what’s the problem? Insights don’t scale. The accompanying graphics suggests that there’s added value, and maybe there is for the casual observer, but at the moment I’m not convinced.

Problem Re-framed

Last week, I shared lunch with a group of people familiar with both quantitative and qualitative research methods to talk about big data.  Design, or anthropology, research methods focus on observing very small groups of subjects in natural conditions.  Watching people as they shop, work, make dinner, go to work etc. The data and analysis skews to the qualitative. Watching what people do has always proved to be more reliable a predictor than asking what they think. Researchers long ago discovered the knowing vs. doing gap.

For the less statistically inclined, probability sampling is necessary but not itself sufficient to make claims about a larger population group.  Exercising diligence in selecting a random sample to ask a series of questions, or observe them can still produce bias or large errors in the results if input from those who respond or were readily available are included.  All surveys include a margin of error due to sampling. National voter exit polls, for example, carefully sample to keep their  margin of error for a 95% confidence interval low, e.g. about +/- 3% . ( For further information check out: Edison research on exit polls)  The margin of error on public opinion polls asking what people believe and for whom they plan to vote is wider than the post voting survey results taken at the polls.

Diary studies illustrate the value in subjective research. Sure, the results are challenging to extend and difficult to scale as the richness of this data does not easily lend to classic systems analysis.  Often in the hands of the experienced researcher, the subtle presence or absence of contextual cues lead to new insights, or deeper understanding of the situation, or present circumstances responsible for a behavior.  Researchers isolating the specific cues come closer to understanding our inner nature and then developing insights into cause and effect.

Build it and….

The inspiration implied in the phrase if you build it they will come, suggests knowledge of what and how to build, this intuition may come from subjective research.  Note, the phrase is neither strategic or predictive of the number or timing of visitors.  Contrast anecdotal indicators to an algorithm churning through significant quantities of transactions to find common elements, the co-related information.  Observational data offer context, while the algorithm provides the measure of total significance.

Cover of

Cover via Amazon

If we’ve learned anything from the work of the behavioral economists, humans are predictably irrational.  Why?  The relative strength of an emotion can but doesn’t necessarily overcome reason.  The contextual elements trigger both specific behaviors, as well as unexpected associations and very different behaviors.

We are far from understanding how to successfully integrate expressed wants social media provides with analysis of objective, aggregate data.

As Steve Smith, of Pegasus Capital Advisors suggests, there is great power in pushing the economics analysis up the value chain.  Social media doesn’t create the transaction, the risks focus on reputation which has implications but has yet to disrupt the flow or more accurately allocation of capital.

I’m looking forward to seeing the continuing evolution of social media and the teams of marketing analysts familiar with statistical sampling to help chart a new course. It would be

great if they can help lead the charge toward a more robust metric of success.  One that favors the quadruple bottom line and thus captures Environmental, Social, Cultural (including governance) and. Economic factors.

Value in Being Memorable


This morning, thanks to RSS, the following headline in Forbes came in through an email :

The Most Memorable Product Launches Of 2010

I breezed past the summary of findings, and then read the following ending slapper:

“When it comes to determining which brands jump to the forefront [people’s recall], it’s usually the
companies that “people look for, the ones that they are familiar with,” says Patrick Richardson “

The conclusion is pretty obvious right? I’m more likely to remember something that I already know.  So, if I read the article correctly, this is what I learned.

  • New product launches have an  85-90% failure rate.
  • 75% of survey participants were unable to recall any of those products listed in the top 10
  • 45% couldn’t name a single one at all.

“The results were per unaided recall studies, meaning experiments conducted with very little or no prompting from researchers.”

OK, so what is going on here?  If you haven’t seen the list of most memorable launches, you might guess that Apple and Microsoft were in the #1 and 2 spot.  I’m betting in a survey of the most recognized brand names Apple and Microsoft would top that list too.  Steve Jobs is legendary especially when it comes to new product launches.  Microsoft, however has a completely different mojo about it, but its mere size impacts the market.  The actual products that made the list, surprised me a bit.

Apple’s iPAD, as I recall had a few hiccups on its launch; but that weak start out of the gate  didn’t last. Instead,  the product generated  that much more news coverage.  It seems that there wasn’t a corner in the world that hadn’t heard or reported on this launch, and the reports just kept coming.

By comparison, in spite of the automatic announcements to every windows PC ,  2010’s #2 from Microsoft,  the release of Windows 7 , surprised me.  Yup, I don’t know how many pings from Microsoft I got encouraging me to upgrade, but the news certainly didn’t have the same excitement that surrounded Apple’s iPad.

So,  no surprise to read that most new products that hit the shelves go unnoticed; and that even more new products never even hit the shelves.  In a survey where brands that dominate their market stack up against every other consumer product being launched, there’s no secret to dominion. Of course holding  a  market position is another matter.

Value ContributioN of BuZZ

Can you separate out the value of being memorable?  Elaine Wong, writing for  Forbes takes this view:

“sales aside, a product launch that’s effortlessly recalled by the public proves that marketers–and their brands–have staying power. “

The power of Brand is an old story, and certainly when there are more than 250,000 products launched in a given year, one can see why being top of mind does readily correlate with sales. This is the ongoing case for advertising, creating buzz still matters.  It’s Buzz that increasingly makes social media matter too.  Proof is in the success of  companies that made the memorable list this year and waged significant integrated social media strategies.

Take Kimberly Clark,  Kleenex, has been a household name for a long time.  The brand is so synonymous with the product that it’s hard to believe that anyone calls a tissue by any other name.  Why would more buzz matter?

At the point of purchase , the Brand can command a higher price on the shelf  than the surrounding competition.  Kleenex to seal the sale needs to imprint more than its brand name.  That’s where social media can help.

Not long ago, I copied the following comment from a social media analyst , but sadly failed to keep the source link. ( If you know or are the author please let me know and I’ll credit you).

The companies that try to understand the return on investment to their social engagement don’t get the picture. I mean, of course you have to do that, but if you have the best intentions of the brand and the
company, you understand that social media is the biggest marathon we’ve  ever run. This is a marathon, not a sprint. If you want to build a  brand, it’s a marathon. It’s not trackable.

Are you trying to track, or correlate your social media efforts?

I’d love to know whether the decision-makers in your firm, or your clients, understand the changing nature of the game.  Do they buy into the idea of the marathon? Or,  are they still stuck in the old “campaign” cause and effect paradigm?  Not sure my a solution  guarantees your budget;  but, word of mouth is still the king-maker in my world.  If your buyers are talking, help them talk positively about your brand and the bottom line–receipts will speak for testify to its value .

FYI, here is the full survey from Sentient
http://www.sentientinsight.com/most-memorable-products-2010/

Notes on Influence, or Making Social Media Matter


Try as I might to focus, I admit, my email and the ongoing pings from others manage to draw my attention to articles or topics they want me to read.  Obviously not all  sources of email have the same effect, some warrant an immediate click, others are often passed over initially and others altogether ignored and/or deleted.  On days, when I have a deadline, email gets less of my attention.

Similarly, it explains why I don’t launch Tweetdeck daily;  and conversely why, when I do launch the application, I end up with over a dozen windows open.  My attention divides between my own best laid plans and the topics now unfolded on my desktop.  Inevitably I can’t ignore the onslaught. I’m always needing to catch up, especially for a reality check on what others are thinking.  In spite of doing my best to read the NY Times daily, or listen to a full cycle of the news on public radio, I don’t have time to check all the blogs I know and like.  I am either selective, or  end up as I did today, devoting a significant block of time to just “catch up.”

Today, I followed a Tweet referring to Gary Vaynerchuk’s passion and containing a link to Fast Company video excerpts of a  feature panel.  Cheeky Geeky’s tweet premise?

Metrics? “I care more” is the @garyvee game plan for businesses. Great video – http://is.gd/ggrkZ

Did I buy the premise that by caring more, Gary is far more effective in the social media space than others? Upon viewing the video I had to add my two cents, excerpted here:

Customers have always been choosing, limited choice meant they either sat out or  settled for less than they wanted. With the increased number of competitors and the overwhelming array of choices now instantly available, social media has become a vital force. Consumers are always looking for signals, signs that reassure them they are making the right choice and so it is no longer the medium per se, but the voice of influence utilizing the medium that matters. The array of vehicles that enable customers to share their enthusiasm or disappointments, provide authentic signals that differentiate what’s out there and worthwhile.

But a later email  that referenced Turning Customers into Creators. This New York Times piece upped my desire to ante up and blog already. Particularly, this excerpt:

PlumWillow doesn’t want to wait until it hears — positively or negatively — from its customer. It wants customers in-house so it can always be ahead of the curve.

For PlumWillow, however, the trick is to find a balance between its own strategic direction and fickle consumer feedback.

For every brand,  less certain about how to use social media, why would they willingly turn over their strategic direction to an ongoing focus group of savvy teens? My eyes were rolling as I read in one sentence this brand’s wish to place itself at the front of the curve; and in the next,  that the ticket was having customers in-house opinions lead them. Not sure they have it straight. Merely building something, or even building it “right” will not make customers follow, let alone find you.  If leading opinion and closing sales were that simple  fewer firms would keep creating  purchase opportunities and consumers choices that much more limited.   Consumers are not just fickle, they honestly don’t know what works or what they want anymore than the producers do.  They only know whether what they have ,or seen, suits them or not.  What Social media has done is allow them the means to share this news more widely and effortlessly.  Sending direct signals to producers has managed to alter their footing from sheep to equal partners.   Re-reading Albert Hirshman’s Exit, Voice and Loyalty helped me to revisit the connection between true economic choice and  consumer actions. The elasticity of demand makes a large difference as to the willingness of suppliers to enter the market and compete.

Everyone who does participate  in using social media tools aid everyone else to figure it out.  If I’m sharing my reaction or preferences with one friend, why not let the world know too…maybe I can interest other people too. Did Facebook have a business model when they launched?  NO, but they seem to have captured if not kindled  people of all ages and geographies imaginings as well as  much revenue along the way too.  Strategic direction in the social media space is about leveraging influence to positive returns for both parties, buyers and sellers.  It’s not about what if?  but what Is or isn’t working and then responding in kind.

Engagement is Always Evident


Recently, I co-presented a short series on collaboration–what is it, where and how it is happening–case studies and finally how to make it happen. One of the challenges in maintaining a successful collaboration is participant engagement, getting them to speak up.

Give employees an easy platform to broadcast news

Engagement is challenging to create, sustain and measure.  Yes, measuring is important because you want to have some idea of the benefits being derived from the time and effort employers have put into their investment in employees.  Both collaboration and engagement has long been ignored in favor of offering incentives to individual employees by measuring their direct and tangible contributions  to the bottom line.  In the past few years, engagement offers both a competitive advantage and is central to customer retention.  Clear evidence now qualifies the relationship between employee engagement and overall organizations’ performance.  Engagement contributes to your your competitive position, can retain your customers; and improves efficiency along with other performance related measures.  

Social media is of course all about engagement, right? Not exactly.  I have found social media vehicles move an organization, or individual users, into some combination of  four divergent directions:   opportunity seeking or problem solving; relationship building or personal expression.  Of course this is why engagement, absent goals, is difficult to measure

Take this wonderful post by Kris Dunn, who suggests that  employee engagement is obvious and there’s no need to take a poll.

The HR Capitalist: You Don’t Need No Stinking Surveys to Measure Engagement…

Well I don’t want to twist his message, but the IT fellow’s goal appears multifold.  Not only does he want the distribution list to note the completion of software updates; but his creative personal expression  encourages readership.  He communicates a wider message about other changes in the organization, and manages to suggest  IT’s great competence and value as inside information source and generator of key news about other ongoing organizational changes.

This post illustrates the benefits that can accrue when  folks look beyond email  to cross-communicate  news or changes in their organization are many.  Email is easy, but the message is often easily buried and goes unread.  Today organizations that incorporate more of these  simple and widely available alternatives, are finding communication fun and painless. If, an intranet is available in your organization, why not create a news-feature corner on the home page?  Direct the community’s eyeballs not to your email message in their in-box, but to a designated sharing spot on the intranet IT and simultaneously avoid adding load to the email servers.  Would the creative engagement still have emerged?  Difficult to say, but this is why I believe in collaboration.  The power of multiple people’s ideas working toward a shared goal offers opportunity for  innovation, efficiency and a little fun.

Lesson learned by this writer? Give people opportunity to shine and innovate and you will be pleasantly surprised by the obvious engagement in what they do and reap additional benefits  when creative expression and collaboration are nurtured.   Any of you trying to start some cross organization news sharing? Odds are good that beyond the walls of your communications department, lies added  creativity left untapped.  Is anyone mining and monitoring your email traffic to uncover these gems, or given the freedom to create and promote new locations for sharing?  I’d love to hear about them.

Business Myopia and socialnetworking


Yesterday, my monthly strategy discussion group met to discuss social media and its applications in the B2B space.  One of the challenges that carry over from B2C into B2B is no surprise, relationships matter.  Sales people have known this and so do marketers but IT people? Similarly, it is more than likely that this insight is actively being pursued or nurtured in the strategy department or by the folks in product development, training, or those in the C suite who are more likely focused on the productivity and performance of the organization.  No wonder social media remains largely at the periphery of most operating firms–excepting some of those who are front and center in the information technology space. Continue reading