Case Study: Using Social Media to Drive Business Results in a Large Enterprise

newcomm09-016At the NewComm Forum this week, Zena Weist  and Kevin Cobb, from the Brand Management team at Embarq walked the audience  through a candid and detailed case study on how a large company successfully leveraged social media to solve a critical business problem – negative customer sentiment.

Moderated by Charlotte Ziems, Vice President at Tendo Communications and SNCR fellow, this was a highly interactive session with many questions from an engaged audience. The duo along with their customer service team manager, Linda O’Neill and team member, Joey Harper (on the phone) offered valuable insights for implementing a customer-oriented social media strategy in a large enterprise.

Headquartered in Kansas, Embarq is on the Fortune 500 list of America’s largest corporations company and  offers local and long distance home phone service and high-speed Internet services to both residential and business customers in far-flung rural areas.

Problem: When the company spun off from Sprint in 2006, it had inherited a culture that was extremely conservative. Employees were under a “gag order” and weren’t permitted to interact with customers outside of the traditional communications/customer service channels. Symptomatic  of these underlying cultural and legal issues was a high level of negative customer sentiment towards the company.

Their goal was to do a proactive outreach to customers and prospects on social media networks, typically within 24hrs, to resolve their issues, answer their questions, and change their perception of Embarq. They used pilots to test their theories before rolling out full-fledged programs, this helped in minimizing the risks, getting buy in, and ensured that their programs had higher likelihood of success.

Challenges:The Embarq team faced multiple challenges that they had to overcome in order to break away from their legacy of minimal engagement and reinvent their internal culture as they tried to meet their customer service and (re)branding objectives. Here are the 4 key challenges that social media marketing practitioners in large enterprises across industries are familiar with:

  • Lack of Social Media Awareness
  • Conservative Culture
  • Technology Hurdle

Lack of Social Media Awareness:As in any other large enterprise, the lack of awareness and knowledge about the new media fuels fear of the unknown and Embarq was no different. In order to build awareness and reduce the fear of engagement as well as build internal support for their social media strategy, the tteam started by listening to customer conversations for over 6months. Going through this intensive listening process helped them to surface the issues and questions that their customers were asking. It also helped demonstrate the value of direct engagement as well as get buy in from the internal stakeholders including the executive management.

The team didn’t use any fancy tools or complex technologies for their listening process. They started off with some free tools and started using those to monitor social media conversations, some examples: – Google and Yahoo! Alerts – Google Blog Searches – BlogPulse – DSLReports.com – Complaint boards – Technorati Later on, they added more sophisticated monitoring tools, one of them being Radian6. Once the information started trickling in, the internal stakeholders started pushing for a response to the issues they were hearing.

Conservative Culture:The Embarq team started their social media cultural revolution with people within the company who were already participating in social media. They identified the champions across the organization and leveraged their knowledge to set the plan in motion. They identified about 10-15 people out there and invited them in to join their initiative. They made the individual the focus of the activities, which helped break down the traditional silos in the organization. They empowered the customer service team to reach out to the customers directly.

When asked about any friction between the traditional CS channel and the social media outreach efforts, the team explained how they made a clear differentiation between the #800 customer support  team vs. what their team was tasked with. The outreach team was reaching out to customers who chose to vent on a public/social media forum such as Twitter or Face book where the traditional channel didn’t have a presence.

Technology Hurdles: The team started their listening and research by using very manual search and react processes. As they got going, the team started leveraging the existing communication and software tools without requiring many resources. Scaling their process while staying flexible was critical because they were regionally based and were engaging in fairly long-tail conversations. They tested several different pilots to see which ones would work before they rolled it out so that also minimized the investment and increase likelihood of success for the programs that were rolled out. The presenters said it was easier to implement social media outreach because it doesn’t cost that much and mainly required human resources. That’s primarily how they managed to eliminate and avoid any additional IT investment or involvement.

Results:

The ROI question invariably comes up in every enterprise social media/web 2.0 discussion and it is a fair question. The team used a two-pronged strategy where they combined short-term wins with long-term strategic initiatives.

embarq-2The team kicked off  their rebranding and education strategy with a with highly viral video contest “48 seconds” designed to create buzz around their high-speed internet service. The team invited video submissions from contestants, which was a hugely successful campaign that also got picked up by the news media.

The presenters emphasized how relevancy in messaging was the key to their success so the campaign wasn\’t just clever but also highlighted the benefits of using their offering.

They followed up on their short-term campaign by rolling out series of short but highly effective “how-to” videosthat addressed their top 10 customer service issues. This is where the team superbly demonstrates the value of listening to the customers by basing topics on information gathered from their online outreach and call center data. Not surprising, these videos became highly popular with their customer base and also demonstrated that the company was being responsive to their customer\’s needs.

They not only managed to meet their education objectives but also their branding objective of creating a presence in an online community where customer and prospects are already engaged. Over an  one-year period, the team saw a 81% success rate (Dec 07 to Mar 09) on their social media outreach initiatives. They also found significant increase in the number of customers self-correcting their negative posts and subsequent increase in the number of customers likely to recommend their service.

Most importantly, they were able to connect their social media outreach efforts directly to orders placed. Overall, this was an excellent case study in how social media can be effectively used to drive business results and chockfull of insights for social media practitioners in other larger enterprises.

This was an outstanding example of innovation by breaking down organization silos and leveraging social media to drive business outcomes. Couple of things that stood out for me in this case study were: Listening played an important role in formulating the strategy, trials and pilots were used extensively, and clear definition of objectives, and tied it all back to the bottom line.

I want to close this post with an insightful quote from the presenters that highlights their practical, yet thoughtful approach to social media:

 “It (social media outreach) doesn’t stop the telephones but it gives you an opportunity to resolve the situation and change their experience.”

You can look at the detailed slides from the Embarq presentation on the NewComm Forum site.

Great Tips for Managing the Social Media Tsunami from Louis Gray

lgraycom_100Popular blogger and publisher, Louis Gray gave a highly engaging presentation at the Inbound Marketing Summit on filtering out the noise and finding the signal in this age of  information overload.

Mark Evans  describes Louis Gray as,

“..one of the hottest one-man shows on the tech blogging scene, who has literally come out of nowhere in the past few month. Now, Gray is literally everywhere – breaking stories, providing in-depth coverage of new startups such as FriendFeed, and cementing himself within the Techmeme 100.”

Information overload is a crippling problem for many marketers in this social media age and those of us who follow Gray have wondered for a long time how he manages to do it with relative ease. It was a rare treat to listen to this guru of tech blogging and get tips & tools for finding the signal in all the noise.

  • How to get emails when your keywords come up on Twitter
  • Get emails when your keywords are mentioned in blog comments around the web
  • Search aggregators that find all mentions across multiple services at once

He started by asking the audience,

“What will you remember when you get home?”

He went on to say, “…let tools do the work for you and cut through the noise to find the signal.” Louis shared his recommended tools for search, aggregation &  blog search.

BackType and TweetBeep are the two tools he recommends for search and find. Backtype is a comment keyword search across blogs, including trends, while TweetBeep can search tweets for keywords 24×7 and send it to your mailbox.

For blog search and aggregation, Gray recommends using Google blog search and FriendFeed. Google blog search scours blogs for keywords and delivers it as feed through your favorite reader. FriendFeed on the other hand lets you search blogs and about 50 other social sites.

Managing the noise:

Gray was blunt in his assessment that, “You created this mess.You were the one who signed up for the emails and RSS feeds.” Here’s some sage advice he gave the audience:

  • Stop signing up so many RSS feeds
  • Skim like mad and unsubscribe from lists that are not relevant or interesting
  • Reduce inbound by reducing outbound emails
  • Use search instead of using RSS feeds for everything
  • Use recommendations or aggregation sites to filter out the noise

It’s not about shutting everything down completely:

  • Use RSS feeds efficiently
  • Find people you trust and use them as filters
  • Participate where it makes sense

You don’t need to read every word:

  • Review the author information
  • Speed read, skim and if the content isn’t relevant, move on

Prioritize the data “Not all data is equal”

Just like you wouldn’t treat email from your boss the same way as you would an email from a friend, same holds true for blogs and tweets. Impact is a direct result of influence.

  • Focus on the ones that are most relevant
  • Don’t be afraid to unsubscribe if it’s not relevant any more

Gray says,

“Prioritize, filter and leverage trusted discovery tools”

How to determine influence for Blogs, Twitter, and FriendFeed?

It’s not perfect but Gray suggested few ways you can assess  influence:

  • Frequency of updates and level of active participation is a key component of how to measure influence
  • Length/tenure and quality of participation in the form of followers, subscribers is a measure of influence

Simply put,

“Do people see the activity and respond?”

According to Gray, “information overload” is a result of trying not to miss anything, which is not realistic and will fail. “Don’t add just for the heck of adding.” but also not leveraging tools available to manage information efficiently. He ended this fascinating talk by reiterating that “there is no information overload and you can cut through to find the signal”.

Measuring Success in Online Communities

Today, SNCR Fellow Connie Bensen & Kellie Parker walked the NewComm Forum audience through a joint presentation on ”Measurement & Metrics for a Successful Community“. Connie is the Community Strategist for Techrigy SM2, a social media monitoring tool while, Kellie Parker is Community Manager at Sega of America.

Benson and Parker covered two critical measurement topics for any company:

  • How are you measuring the interaction & growth of your community?
  • What metrics are important?

They outlined 5 easy steps used to measure the progress and health of a community:

  • Identify business objectives
  • Decide on priorities
  • Chose what to measure and measurement tools
    • Quantitative
    • Qualitative
  • Define benchmark
  • Identify trends & report it

Here are some examples of business objectives:

  • Generate more word of mouth
  • Increase customer loyalty
  • Bring outside ideas into organization
  • Increase product/brand awareness
  • Improve new product success rations
  • Improve PR effectiveness
  • Reduce Customer acquistion costs
  • Reduce customer support
  • Reduce market research costs
  • Reduce product development costs

Here’s a sentiment that was echoed by other speakers as well – “Identify your goals and work your way to metrics from your goals”.

Start with:

  • Target percentage of desired increase
    • Start with an estimate, if you don’t have available benchmarks
  • Use benchmarks to set goals
  • Translate that information to business needs

The presenters suggest prioritization of business objectives in order of importance. For Benson, increasing the product awareness & WOM (ROI as # of additional sales) was the key objective.

Here’s how to determine what’s important to measure:

- What keeps your boss up at night?
- What are competitive threats?

The presenters suggested choosing one measurement per business objective and here are some suggested metrics:  

Activity/Engagement:
- number of visitors & repeat visitors
- number of registered users vs. active
- frequency of posting & number of comments
- type of searches

External:
- Increase in SEO ranking

Marketing:
- Number of subscriptions via email & RSS
- Usage of Features

Some suggested measurement tools:

Web analytics tools:
- Google analytics, stat counter, getclicky
- Proprietary to community

SM monitoring tools:
- google alers, search twitter.com
Techrigy, radian6, trucast
Social search tools – deliver, who’s talking?, same point, social mention, seprh, one riot

NPS:
- Survey tool used to measure sentiment about the brand
- http://www.netpromoter.com/calculate

Qualitative results:

- Testimonials
- Marketing use
- Product development & use cases
- Identify brand advocates
- Appreciation for customer service

Quantitative results:
- Use to calculate progress (% increase)

Last but not the least, reporting your results:

Benson provided a sample template that she uses for monthly reporting:

- Ongoing definition of objectives
- Interaction
- Qualitative quotes
- Recommendations
-  Benchmarks based on previous report
- Web analytics (unless someone else is tracking them)
- Social web analytics

Here’s what included in the reports:

Ongoing:
- Note & report customer requests needing immediate assistance
- Identify topics requiring FAQs or blog posts

Monthly:
- Marketing/pr
- Feedback on connection of messaging
- Identify sites for potential partnerships
- Report on time periods of high traffic
- Feedback on brand sentiment

Executive/management:
- Overview of brand sentiment & competitive analysis
- Offer insight/ suggestions on future trends & key industry topics

The presenter mentioned overlap with other functions and to leverage what are other departments are already measuring. Collaboration with other departments will ensure that there’s no reinventing of the wheel.

Is Web 2.0 Over?

This morning, I saw what seems like a scam contest on “RIP Web 2.0″ that’s driving traffic to my blog for no apparent reason, while I am still baffled by it, the notion of “Web 2.0 is over” got me thinking.  

It reminded me of a conversation I had with a blogger from the SF Bay Area at the Web 2.0 Expo recently. He proclaimed that “Web 2.0 is over and it’s time to move on.” and went on to say “It was an era and I doubt they’ll have this conference next year.”

Later that day, as I was noodling on what he said, I ran into Robert Scoble. So I asked him – Do you think Web 2.0 is over? What he said was very illuminating, ”Until Best Buy puts people on its website, we’ve barely scratched the surface of Web 2.0.” You can read more of Scoble’s thoughts on his blog.

He brought up a great point, while innovators and early adopters who are focused on the technology and are clamoring to move on, one has to question if the true potential of this era has been realized.

Later on at the same conference, Jeremiah Owyang from Forrester, shared an interesting insight that he has seen companies turning off the commenting feature on their blogs. Which means that even companies who claim to be all over Web 2.0 and related social technologies aren’t ready to embrace the participation or openness that Web 2.0 purportedly is all about.

Web 2.0 is a phrase that seemed to have caught on in early 2000s O’Reilly Web 2.0 conference . According to Wikipedia,

“Tim O’Reilly states Web 2.0 is a set of economic, social, and technology trends that collectively form the basis for the next generation of the Internet-a more mature, distinctive medium characterized by user participation, openness, and network effects. (O’Reilly Radar,Principles and Best Practices, 2007)”

 Web 2.0 has manifested itself in the form of blogs, social networks, social sharing tools, etc. but now even O’Reilly has moved on to the next Web ie. Web 3.0 or the Semantic Web. At a blogger roundtable, O’Reilly was asked by a blogger, “What is the Semantic Web?” O’Reilly got up and said “This is Tim O’Reilly” and he took off his badge, “This is Tim O’Reilly”, highlighting a more intelligent web that will be able to provide context no matter where we are on the web.

The Semantic Web isn’t a new concept, it’s about intelligence built into the web (or rather the machines underlying the web) and Tim Berners-Lee already gave us a sneak peak into the future way back in the 1990s.  But it seems that the technologies and momentum to make Semantic Web part of our everyday web experience are finally available now.  

So what does that mean for Web 2.0? No matter what you want to call it, one thing is for sure, we are moving towards a more intelligent web experience and that’s a good thing.

That being said, I’ll believe that Web 2.0 is over, when I see social-sharing features become as ubiquitous as the websites themselves. I’ll believe it, when companies are able to use these social technologies to harness the knowledge embedded across their global employee base and seamlessly share the data across their organizations. In other words, when the “human” element becomes more important than the underlying technologies and tools. We’re getting there, but we are not there yet. Until then, it’s just hype - Web 2.o hype replaced by Web 3.0 hype.

Btw, I confirmed with show organizers that the Web 2.0 Conference is still on for next year. Janetti Chon from the Web 2.0 said that,

“We’re definitely having a Web 2.0 Expo again, our dates for NY and SF 2010 are already confirmed.”

And no, I didn’t ask if they’re planning to change the name to Web 3.0 :)

Vignette brings Social Media to Enterprise Content

vignette2At the Web 2.0 Expo recently, I was pleasantly surprised to see the increased focus on social media offerings for the enterprise space.

So when I heard about Vignette’s introduction of Community Applications 7.1, as part of its Social Media Solution, I sat down with Gerardo Dada and Lee Shepstone from Vignette to learn more about their Social Media Suite for the Enterprise. 

 

My first question to them was How can Vignette’s new solution help large enterprises?

Gerardo Dada referred back to the beginning of the web, when companies wanted to capitalize the web content and Vignette started by helping folks manage their work flow and make the experience be more personal. He sees the same trend today in media and video. Vignette is leveraging its expertise in content management systems to help companies better manage social interactions in an efficient and user-friendly manner.

The advantage Vignette enjoys is its existing relationship with key brands and expertise in content management for large enterprises. In addition to enabling the creation and support of Web 2.0 capabilities such as blogs, wikis, forums, ratings and reviews, the solution allows companies to quickly and easily create unique social micro sites.

It also allows aggregation of content on global sites which allows global companies to leverage information across countries. However, the ability to translate and search multiple language sites is still limited but their in-country offering is quite robust.

 So my next question to them was, What makes Vignette’s solution better than thousands of other enterprise social media offerings out there? 

 

vignette_ss11

According to Dada, the Vignette offering is much more comprehensive and eliminates the need to cobble together offerings by different vendors.  The company has incorporated advanced search and analytics feature into its social media offering that makes the solution very robust when it comes to finding relevant content.

Shepstone described how the Vignette solution allows companies to create an unified social microsite for their web audience that includes social features and tools like wikis, blogs, forums, and video-sharing capabilities. 

He went on to say that these flexible sites combines microsite features with social-centric benefits such as idea management, calendars and events and the sharing of multimedia-rich assets including videos and podcasts.

What impressed me about Vignette is that it’s still a fairly small and nimble company with about 700 employees it operates with the efficiency of a small company, yet it has the depth and breadth of experience working with larger enterprise companies.

What are the key challenges that an enterprise faces today in this social media age?

Dada was blunt in his assessment that many companies still lack a cohesive social media strategy, which is a great challenge and he went on to say, “..social media can not be done in isolation and you can not have community on the side. Community and social media content has to be a central part of an integrated strategy.”

At the end of the 90s, businesses needed enterprise grade vendors who understood web as a space. Today’s there’s a similar need for experienced vendors who can manage, govern, and publish end-to-end solution for enterprise social media. Here is Dada’s presentation – 20 Social Media Trilogy Vital Components for an Enterprise Strategy  on creating a social media strategy and building a community.

For anyone working for a large enterprise, one question always comes to mind, so How about those legacy systems?

Shepstone said that the advantage of the Vignette solution is that it can work with any legacy system. Even companies without a content management system can use it because it can be deployed as a standalone sytem. Existing website integration very flexible, modular. The goal is to bring the customers back to the site. There is content out there, where all commuity can host content, doesn’t need to be one place. Widgets and gadgets are used to share content in a single place for connecting around product. Integration of  content happens around community, be it external or internal community.

What does deployment , cost, & support look like?

The solution includes Portal license so it’s included at no additional cost for that. The solution costs approximately $50K (perpetual license)  and support is available at 20% annual cost. The solution comes with web API and advanced API, making it easier to integrate with other vendors. Vignette, says Dada, “..Drinks its own Champagne” and uses social media tools that it advocates for training and support.” They use wikis for training documentation on the product, making it easier to update and provide training to their customers.

Purpose-Driven Social Media is Key to Elusive ROI

One question that consistently comes up in social media discussions is the one about ROI on social media activities or lack thereof. Social media practitioners across companies seem to be struggling  to  justify their company’s investment in social media and many even question the value of doing social media.

Donald Bulmer, VP of Industry and Influencer Relations at SAP  hit the nail right on the head at a panel discussion recently where he evangelized ”purpose-driven” social media as the key to successful social engagement.

When planning a new marketing or customer engagement activity, the critical first step is to define the objective for that activity and tie to a desired business outcome. However, this critical step is missing in many social media activities and is often an after-thought. 

Social media enthusiasts find it challenging to determine social media ROI is because there’s no clear purpose to their social media activity or the purpose is very fuzzy. Without a clear purpose, it’s challenging to gauge what resources will be needed for that social media activity and worst of all, it’s nearly impossible to measure if that activity generated any value.

On the other hand, social media activities that are touted as successful are tied to some specific business need. Two great examples are Ford with its Social Media PR strategy or Dell with the exclusive discounts  (lead generation) via Twitter. Both these companies identified a specific need and used social media to solve that need and drive results.

Many social media enthusiasts justify the lack of purpose or goal by saying that they don’t know what to expect since it’s a new media and they don’t want to be associated with failure. Unfortunately, failure comes with the territory when testing any new media or channel, and without a clear purpose, it’s tough to build support for social media within any organization especially to get executive buy in.

Moreover, it’s challenging to justify resources for social media within any company, if you can’t articulate the business need that will be solved by doing the said activity, which takes us back to the point that Bulmer made about “purpose-driven’ social media. The era of doing social media because it’s cool is coming to an end, it’s no longer acceptable to engage in social media just because “everyone else is doing it”.

Like any other media, social media practitioners will have to build a solid business case for their social media activity and demonstrate how it can be used to drive real business outcomes. Starting on the social media quest without any clear direction is a primary reason why social media practitioners find their projects floundering. As Yogi Berra once famously said, “You got to be careful if you don’t know where you’re going, because you might not get there.”

Ford Case Study: Control is an illusion in the social media age

freeI recently attended a brilliant presentation on “Setting Content Free at Ford” by Scott Monty, Digital Communications Manager at Ford and Maggie Fox, CEO of Social Media Group. The presenters led a packed house at the Web 2.0 Expo through an insightful case study on how Ford and Social Media Group partnered to turn traditional PR on its head to create a highly impactful social media content strategy.

Like many other large global firms in traditional industries, Ford retained tight control on its digital and other marketing/ communication assets including images and videos, by allowing access to only a select few accredited automotive journalists and typically distributed those assets by request only, both out of habit or fear of unflattering mashups. Monty said, “Ford recognized that “control” of digital assets was an illusion. So they stopped pretending.”

In 2007, Ford Motor company recognized and accepted the changing dynamics of an environment where everyone was a publisher  and this model no longer made sense because the bloggers were not interested in traversing the walled garden to get to the restricted content and on the flip side, there were dozens of organic digital content projects were popping up within Ford – from “semi official”  YouTube channels to small-scale, one-off sharing of images and other content with enthusiast groups. Monty described it as, ”A thousand points of light, not focused enough to truly illuminate or accomplish anything.”

Ford adopted an open and pragmatic approach to their content strategy where they started by helping online content producers to start conversations and tell richer, better informed stories by providing them with great content that even the “Citizen Journalists” could access easily and use to tell their own stories.

Here are the key learnings from Ford’s experience:

#1 Create rich content that’s ready to share: Ford established its first Social Media Press Release (SMPR) filled with rich content ready for sharing. Ford also aggregated its digital content and made Creative-Commons licensed assets available for use by anyone who was interested in talking about the company or their brands – good or bad. Moreover, all Ford content is hosted with third-party plaforms, like Flickr and YouTube, to leverage their native sharing properties and popularity.

#2 Eliminate the need to pitch: Ford provides individual and global RSS feeds for their SMPRs, meaning subscribers are automatically notified of updates – and only get what they’re interested in. They found many anticipated and unanticipated benefits, including an unsolicited placement in Wired magazine shortly after Chris Anderson’s infamous “Blacklist” post. Giving traditional media and bloggers access to what they’re most interested in, made pitching content irrelevant. Wired and other news media are subscribed to Ford’s SMPR feeds and they regularly pick up stories without having to be pitched.

#3 Reduce fear of the unknown: Monty rightly pointed out that social media is scary mostly because people don’t understand it. So  they helped people understand it, epecially legal people. By sitting down with the legal folks and demonstrating value to the folks who are most interested in controlling the content, they were able to change the way content was treated at Ford. Another big issue, they ran into was digital rights management (DRM). For images it was simple – in most cases digital rights were already being obtained for the online editions of print publications.

Video is another issue, and Monty pointed out, “We’re not the only ones wrestling with that challenge… if we put them online, it’s usually only for a set period of time until the rights expire.” Like many companies, however, Ford is working with its agencies are working together to get digital rights in place to manage their digital content.”

#4 Take a long-term approach to social media:  Ford’s approach was so successful because they didn’t use this as a trendy one-time campaign but rather as a  revolution in the way Ford, traditionally treated its digital assets and controlled access to them. Starting with Focus, Ford began making all of their content digitally available to everyone under a license that would permit publication under almost any circumstances.  All of the images, video and text on Ford’s first and subsequent SMPRs are licensed under Creative Commons non-commercial.

When asked what’s next for Ford, Monty said, “We are weaving digital influencers into every program we run for mainstream media. We’re also establishing digital-only events and programs for online influencers. Integrating with MSM programs – digital should not exist in a vacuum, it goes farther when amplified and paired with traditional efforts, which it can assist and compliment.”

So, how successful has this new strategy been for Ford?

When asked about the ROI on social media, Monty quipped, “What’s the ROI for putting on your pants every morning? But it’s still important to your business.” That was was probably the most profound quote of the event and highlights how doing social media is no longer optional for large companies, but rather a necessity for every business.

Overall, Ford has seen its content come back to them in thousands of unsolicited posts and stories. Here are the concrete  success metrics that Monty and Fox shared on their content:
 - Their content has been used in over 5,000 posts since Sept 2007.
- SMPRs are regularly used as a source of news and assets by Autoblog.com (Technorati Top 50), Wired, NYTimes, ABC News & many others, both traditional & “new” media.
- Approximately 1.2 million video views on YouTube, 499 channel subscribers, 120,000 views on Flickr images.

Photo Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/lights_out_222/2996484787/

You can access the presentation on the Web 2.0 Expo website.

Transparency is the Keynote Theme at Web 2.0 Expo

webexsf2009_logo1The second round of keynotes yesterday at the Web 2.0 Expo focused mainly on transparency, both in business and in government.

The first to take the stage was Douglas Rushkoff, the author of “Get Back in the Box”. His perspective was both radical and refreshing. He said, “It’s not distraction from core competency to be transparent, transparency forces you to be competent.” According to him, companies with core activity and competency in their industries find it easier to be transparent.

He gave the example of the outgoing Gap CEO who said when he joined the company that “I’ve never worked a day in the garment company.” He asked a thought provoking question, which was – How did management and business become generic? He also narrated how creation of corporations prevented free market competition and hindered creation of value. He supported his assertion with related instances in history where the first companies were chartered monopolies by the government, like the East India Company.

He said that Web 2.0 has ushered in a new era that allows people to create value from the peripheries again where central bank and VC lending were not needed unless you’re setting up a ponzi scheme. Laughter and applause broke out, when Rushkoff said the banks fell for their own ponzi scheme.

He ended by saying that using the traditional currency model in the digital world with abundance of value is not sustainable. It’s up to the net industry to create value with the purpose of making a living rather than to cash out.

Anssi Vanjoki from Nokia followed this fiesty presentation with some bold predictions of his own. According to Vanjoki, by 2015, we will have wireless network connecting us 24×7 globally. His second prediction was that everything will be based on context because it’s awareness that separates us from other creatures.

He repeated multiple times during his talk that there was an emerging trend of marrying reality with virtual world and added that this new behavior required a new device.  According to him, this a “mobile computer” that would replace all current phones. This device will have hundreds of gigabytes of memory and allow users to store and leave your own traces on coordinates.

Nokia has invested a lot in the location services and recently bought a digital map maker, Navteq because it’s their belief that everything on this planet can be described with coordinates. He ended his speech by giving a glimpse at phone of the future, which looked like a watch and ended by saying -  “We (Nokia) will bring the net to everyone, everywhere.

“Tim O’Reilly sat down to talk to Ellen Miller from the Sunlight Foundation who is working on getting more transparency in the government. She said that the foundation is not interested in digitizing the information just for academic use but put it into hands of the citizens – feedback loop aka accountability. Here are the Open Government Data Principles that that they have put together: Data should be Complete, Primary, Timely accessible, machine processable, non-discriminatory, nonproprietary and license-free. Miller said, “For data to be useful, it must be consumable.” She also mentioned that databases are already created, which show who’s lobbying for whom and where the campaigns are coming from.

She alluded to an ongoing contest between Republicans and Democrats on who is more transparent. Ellen said that the house and executive branch are not open to being transparent, but they don‘t have a choice, as she so eloquently put it, “Transparency will be done to them (government).” She went on to say that government needs to be held accountable and that it’s not non-profits like Sunlight who should be responsible but rather it’s the government’s responsibility to provide transparency.

Kevin Lynch, Adobe Systems Incorporated followed up with a short but effective demo on the Adobe Flash Catalyst, which is still in beta. This is a professional design tool that automatically generates the Flex code for any static composition created using Adobe’s other design tools like Photoshop or Illustrator. This allows the designer to deliver a finished application to the developer for additional functionality without losing any of its original fidelity.

Last but not the least, John Battelle, Federated Media sat down with Will Wright, from Electronic Arts for a discussion on the online gaming business. Will mentioned that EA is focusing on getting more transparency in the gaming business especially when it comes to data that‘s being shared online. When asked about the Wii, he said he liked it and that it highlighted a trend in non-immersive gaming. Immersive is when the gamer is so absorbed in the game and tunes out everything going on around him/her. However, games like Wii make the environment part of the game and he sees the trend continuing with virtual worlds meeting reality.

Experts Discuss 4 Key Reasons Why Social Media Fails

webexsf2009_logo1Today at the Web 2.0 Expo, a panel of industry thought leaders – Peter Kim (Dachis Corporation), Charlene Li (Altimeter Group), and Jeremiah Owyang (Forrester Research) discussed “Why Social Media Marketing Fails  - and how to fix it.”

Keeping true to the spirit of social media, Peter Kim invited input for this session before the show, on his blog where folks responded with what they wanted to see at this session. Not surprising, it was standing room only for this brilliant panel of former and current Forrester analysts.

Here are the key highlights from this insightful discussion where panelists also provided concrete suggestions on overcoming major hurdles to social media success in companies.

#1 How do I get my culture to adopt? (Lack of buy-in from C-level executives)
This was quoted as the No.1 reason by the panelists for the failure of social media adoption and success in companies. Charlene Li bluntly stated that, most companies are not ready for change. “Big guns” need to get involved and for those executives to get onboard is show the connection to bottom-line/revenue. Li highly recommends “Go for the sweet spot”, which are corporate (financial) goals that the management is focused on and to demonstrate how social media can help drive those results.

Jeremiah’s experience was different in that executives are usually the last to adopt. Smaller groups at lower level management were more likely to drive social media adoption. However all three agreed on the need for a champion at the executive level to make social media successful in the long-term.

Peter Kim asked whether companies needed a ”Chief Social Officer” to help social media adoption in companies?  Li disagreed and said that it was a fallacy. Social media shouldn’t be just one person and that it would be “dangerous” to have just one person responsible for social media. She believed that it’s everybody’s responsibility. She gave the example of Charles Schwab, which is focused on a customer engagement strategy and for them social media is just one of the many ways to achieve that strategy.  

Kim pointed out another dangerous fallacy and that was the perception  that social media ia young person’s game and many companies hire interns to do their social media strategy. Li thought a good practice she has seen is that many companies are pairing up marketing folks with younger people. Owyang suggested using the Hub and Spoke model, where various cross-functional groups drive the initiatives but coordination is done centrally. The other two models he discussed were: Tire – social media is initiated from the edges and grows organically without any coordination. Tower – social media is initiated from upper management levels and can be inauthentic.

#2 How do I make my campaigns work? (Using the “Campaign” model)
All three panelists pointed out that it was wrong and misguided for marketers to treat social media as just another “campaign”. Li said that attitude is the biggest problem, because social media is not a campaign. She went on to add that it’s about relationships and conversations,  not about technologies and she also said that very few brands do this right. 

Kim interjected with a question (and reality check) - How do we align the need for conversations in public companies with quarterly pressures, which necessitates focus on campaigns? To which, Owyang responded there should be a balance between business objectives and community objectives with equal counts of both. He cautions marketers against using campaigns, which are short-term and instead focus on long-term objectives of the company.

Kim pointed out there is need to change how public companies work and the way they think of their external and internal stakeholders including detractors. He also acknowledged that it’s a difficult road ahead. Li agreed and found that there’s much more collaboration going on. There are conversations already happening, folks are asking recommendations, and it’s all occuring very naturally for local brands and business.

He also acknowledged, the real fear for many traditional marketers, with this question – Should we get rid of the marketing dept? He was alluding to how social media is changing the role of marketers in the organization. To which Li responded that marketing is all about promotion and advertising. Social media helps get those other parts get elevated however, she also pointed out that advertising on social network advertising is a bad idea and it doesn’t work.

One interesting idea that came up was around some type of educational courses, credentials or ”certification” for social media practitioners. Li was in favor of having some type of certification however, Owyang was against it, saying that he himself was a practitioner and believed that experience was more important.

#3 What should I measure? (Lack of measurement)
Kim pointed out that the biggest fail in social media and marketing in general is measurement.  Owyang said the traditional marketers measure using on dashboards that show them the page views, visits, and other metrics. However, he said that’s not very meaningful way to measure social media ROI. He advocates the use of a directional system, similar to GPS system rather than a dashboard. In order to measure social media success, he suggests using business metrics around what you trying to accomplish such as customer retention and satisfaction measures rather than web metrics.

Li brought a great point - start by asking yourself why are you measuring? Are you trying to decide the allocation of budget or do a comparison with other channels? She said that social media shouldn’t be measured in isolation but rather as part of the overall measurement of other efforts. She said, “How can you measure social media if you don’t measure in other areas?” She did an informal poll of the audience at the discussion and many hands went up when she asked how many were working on social media initiatives. It was very telling that very few raised their hand, when Li asked how many were able to measure their results.

#4 Does social media matter? (Real impact of social media)
This was yet another very interesting point that was brought up in the discussion. Owyang mentioned a recent informal poll by Adage, who asked mainstream folks about Motrin Twitter Moms controversy. Most hadn’t heard about the incident or didn’t know much about it, so that begged the question whether social media was even relevant to mainstream. One thing Owyang mentioned was that when social media buzz such as the Motrin Moms, starts getting picked up by the mainstream media, that’s when it starts becoming relevant. 

Li followed up with a fascinating perspective, that it’s failure in social media that really matters. She went on to say that it’s more important to understand whether your culture can adopt it. It’s also all about extending yourself and learning.  According to Li,  if you’re not failing, that means you are not doing anything and not learning anything in the process.

Throughout the discussion, the panelists took questions from the audience on a variety of related topics. Some had questions around liability issues arising from social media activities especially, in sensitive industries like finance.  Li gave the example of Wells Fargo, who had recently launched a Twitter account. The panel agreed that it was all about experimenting and learning. Li cautioned against companies starting in social media with Twitter. Companies need to have some experience under their belt in social media, before they start on Twitter so they already have processes built to effectively engage their audience.  

Another question was around multi-national implementation. Owyang suggested using the hub and spoke where hub is corporate, while spoke represent the regions. Both Li and Kim suggested learning and aggregating learnings from other countries. Li also pointed out something interesting, which was that social networks might be global but folks limit their social media activity to specific geographic regions. Some exceptions might be industries like movies and media. Kim reiterated this by saying that rather than using global presence as a barrier, company should use it as learning opportunity.

Addressing the question around use of social media in gathering intelligence, Kim said that all the information in the world won’t help, if the companies are not willing to do anything with it.

Lastly, when someone asked about companies that gotten it right, the panelist mentioned Dell as an example of a huge social media failure but also as a success story as a company that also learned from those failures to get it right? Another example, Li gave was WalMart, who has been blogging since 2006. She commended how they keep trying and don’t give up. Overall, the panel was unanimous in that companies need to let go and that continues to be a challenge. 

You can follow the conversation around this panel discussion on Twitter #smfail.