Archive for March, 2010

Are Your Social Network Groups Democracies or Dictatorships?

March 20th, 2010

We recently started a group on Linkedin called Social Executive Council, SEC. The stated purpose:

Social Executive Council (SEC) is a Invitation-only, Executive Officer (CXO) or senior executives with social strategy or social media responsibility (Director and Above). The purpose of the group is to explore the definition of social market leadership; the social transformation of the various enterprise lifecycles; customer, operational, product, information, and employee that drive the market success and corporate valuation of an organization. This group will be focused on social enablement of the organization from a strategy perspective. We propose the exchange of ideas around development of social strategy, social execution, and social measurement with associated ROI. By opening the discussion to social strategy executives and their respective internal customers, we hope to empower a more substantive dialogue about how to leverage social media, web 2.0, online community, and collaboration technologies.

Our thinking was that we wanted to create a forum for executive level thought leadership to get away from the social media monitoring tools discussions that we found prevalent out on the web and almost every social media event that we go… Not that I don’t think that tools are important, but I have people on our team that work with them on a daily basis. My focus is working through the business strategy to enable organizations to take advantage of the social technologies to create competitive advantage.

When we launched the group, we knew that there were a lot of social media “groups” out there, but very few targeted to Social Strategists and the Executive Teams they service. We thought by keeping it to a VP level that we would keep it strategic. We knew that many of the Enterprise Social Strategy thought leaders were still at the Director level.

The good news is that it has exploded. The bad news is that it kicked off an interesting dilemna that I thought I would share. See, my partner, Judy Mod, is running the online group, soon to launch the non-profit organization and begin recruiting chapter presidents. I am staying “home” to run Social Gastronomy and make sure that we deliver on our promise of socially enabing the organization. We are consultants who run a business of consulting.

I have been helping out with the membership and requests for invitation to the group until the board can be formed. The toughest thing that I have found is to say “no” to potential members who don’t qualify. It is real simple… if you are a CXO/EVP/SVP/VP of a major company, many of the Fortune 500, you want to engage with your peers and rockstar social thought leaders. If I am going to invest my time in a group, I want a return on that investment. I also want to engage with people who look like me or who can process at my level.

So, I made the mistake of letting in some social thought leaders who were not Director level. Best of intentions as they did have some really good backgrounds, but we got called on it from a couple of organizations that complained that their teams were not allowed in. They were right. You make a rule, you have to uniformly enforce it. One manager was extremely upset when I had to revoke membership. I can’t blame them. I personally apologized. I felt horrible and it still bothers me. I openend a discussion thread in the group to discuss whether the level defined was the right one.

We set up the group with an expressed position that for it to work, we needed to open it up to Senior Execs or Social Strategists to have a forum to engage with peers and rock-star strategists. To get that caliber of player, we needed a combination of exclusivity in role in organization, but inclusivity in terms of competitors. It wouldn’t be appropriate for me to bring in my blogging or my business in that forum because it would be seen as self-serving.

It brings an interesting point; which now I am getting to… where is that line of opening the community up to the market and maintaining the stated focus for your business. On our end, we started the group because we wanted the credibility and a forum for our thought leadership. We are not completely altruistic as we need to eventually translate our IP and thought leadership into paid consulting services.

On the other hand, we know the audience would not tolerate ANY sales messages. They want education. If they need you, they now know about you, AND they will let you know if they are interested in talking with you. In essence, we created a democracy within the group to foster an open communications platform. We get to participate and influence as founders and members at large.

We made a delineation from the activities in running the group from our business as a compromise and recognition of the need for demonstrated integrity. This blog is my company’s to write more extensively and to share my thoughts on trends and situations that come up in our business. Interesting to the group, maybe, but they will need to come visit our website to read our blog. We wouldn’t do anything that smacked of inequality versus the other consulting firms in the group as we would lose credibility towards the stated purpose.

Additionally, the feedback from the senior execs in the larger companies is that they want a balance of peer discussions, but welcome consultants as long as it doesn’t turn into a sales pitch or they get hounded. They recognize they need consultants, but want to be able to choose when to engage with them and how.

This is pretty consistent with what we are seeing in the market. Almost any market that you go into, you can see a wide spectrum of communities, forums, groups, blogs, lists, etc. hosted by vendors, publications, associations, or enthusiasts. I think that the best of the lot understand that they can’t be extreme on either end of the spectrum… too wide open where the core target is disenfranchised with the noise or selling, but also where it is open enough to promote free and engaging discussion.

The problem with static websites is exactly that… someone said “where on your website do you post which projects that you screwed up?” No one does… The value of social media is that peer validation and credentialling that comes from broader, free discussion.

The other side, is that companies don’t create these forums or groups for completely altrustic reasons. At some point, thought leadership and engagement needs to convert to leads and pipelines. Even non-profits need transactions.

My recommendation in setting up communities is really take a look at the competitive landscape, your real objectives, and the key players in the market to determine what is the appropriate level of “openeness” that makes sense. A public group is more open by nature than a private, branded community.

If I invite you into my home, make sure to take your shoes off…. house rules. Well, actually my wife’s… but you get the point…

Social Media Policies Are Not So Simple

March 17th, 2010

Hot topic of late is the need for social media policies. I have heard it from CMOs, CIOs, and even CEOs. VPs of HR are definitely there along with Legal. I think that there are really four camps in terms of approach…

Camp 1 -Just give me someone else’s that I can find/replace their company name with mine. For you who want to use this approach, I recommend going to which currently as of this posting has 119 different organizations to choose from. Kinda like taking someone else’s marketing and inserting your own name, but expediency does have its virtue, I get it…

Camp 2 - We need to wordsmith this document as it is part of our policies. Bureaucracy has its place. from my perspective, this is kinda like the “Mission Statements” of the 90′s. Everyone had to have one. You would lock your whole team in a room for 6 hours debating the nuances of the words; and or maybe…. then they would have you memorize it like the greek alphabet during pledging.

I had a guy at my last company suggest that we needed a retreat to discuss our mission statement. The rest of us almost chucked him out the 28th floor office. My suggestion is focus on the intent and let legal wordsmith it. You pay your corporate attorney a lot of money to protect you, let them. There are actually now whole legal practices springing up to focus on social media law. If you are that worried about it, then I suggest you engage an expert once you have a direction.

Camp 3- Those of us who realize that is opens a whole new can of worms for our organizations. We need a strategic approach to developing our social media engagement programs because of the very “squishy” nature of social engagement lends itself to potential judgement calls on behalf of our organizations. Not saying that 20 something’s are not responsible, but how many beer drinking and partial nudity facebook pages do you have to go through before you start thinking that maybe this isn’t the corporate image of trust and responsibility that we want to project to our customers to reassure them that their money is well spent. Could just be me…

I have framed 10 questions to open the dialogue for your organization:

1. What level of Corporate Transparency do we want to have? It is a spectrum and you need to figure how open do you really want to be. It ain’t a democracy, but the world is changing so worth thinking about.

2. What is our definition of Intellectual Property? Your corporate IP is a corporate asset; think copyrights, patents, trademarks; but also corporate proprietary information, customer information, etc. How do you define what is yours, your employees, your partners, your customers, and what do you share with the market?

3. What is the customer’s level of expectations around the customer experience? Do they expect to be engaged? Do they expect real time feedback and response? Do they expect your people to be empowered to participate in social engagement? Knowing how much will also drive the organization’s view of how you should participate.

4. What is our employee’s level of expectation around employee engagement? Do they expect a wide open policy for everyone? Is there industry regulations regarding participation? How is management participating?

5. Is there internal vehicles to vent for employees? Are you giving them an outlet for voicing feedback? How is morale? Most I hate… sites are actually from ex-employees. Did you just go through a round of lay-offs? You may want to think about how your employee base will react.

6. How do you describe our corporate culture? Do you have a clear idea of your culture? Do your employees? It will come out so be prepared. If your management team is more paranoid than North Korea, well, don’t expect to see a rosy picture put forth to potential customers. Corporate culture is one area that definitely shows up on social media. Good cultures show through, bad cultures also…

7. What is the line between personal and professional? If an employee posts information on our company on their page, who owns the content? Can we influence what someone posts in their spare time about themselves? Short answer is that if they put out to the world that they are an employee of the company, then they are responsible to the company to protect the brand image.

8. What do we want the world to know about us as a company? Our employees are ambassadors for our company, for good or bad. For many prospective buyers, there first point of introduction may be through the social interactions of an employee; whether professional or personal. If we don’t have a clear message, what do you think will happen in the market?

9. What are our expectations around professionalism for our employees? If you have a dress code, code of conduct, etc. then it would be logical to have a more restrictive code of social media conduct. If you have a more loose expectation around how employees are expected to engage, then you probably don’t expect to have a corporate image projected from your employees.

10. Who owns the relationship /account?If your junior account team person connects to one of your customer employees, what happens when that employee leaves your employ? Who owns the customer when a sales rep leaves who is directly connected to the customer on linkedin? How about when they have build their pipeline over social media? What happens when your customer service people build a following on twitter over a personal/ named account? What if your employee starts an account on behalf of the company?

Tough questions, but also leads to..

Camp 4- The Ostrich effect is alive and well within corporate America. How many IT groups really think they have really locked down the network from social media? I have heard bandwidth, viruses, time wasting, etc. As Dan Webber, who is a CIO, put it as he whips out his smart phone…. “Do you think I can’t use this?” Also, just because they can’t use it on your network, doesn’t mean that they can’t use it at coffee shops around the corner, at home, or even at the airport.

If you are locking it down because you don’t want your employees to participate because you are worried about the effect on your brand marketing; you are right. It is working…. but probably not like you intended when your biggest competitor is allowing their employees to engage with the market and is using social media to lower their cost of customer acquisition.

Socially Enabling the Product Lifecycle

March 16th, 2010

Last week, I participated on the Technology Association of Georgia (TAG) Product Management group’s panel discussion on social media “Building Better Products through Social Media”.

Per our discussion with the group that attended (approx. 40+ product management professionals) on slideshare The presentation starts with the Pragmatic Marketing Framework as the standard product lifecycle and then we mapped “social” to the product lifecycle to show how social engagement can impact different parts of the product development lifecycle; from requirements, planning, ideation, prioritization,collaboration, release management, launch planning, launch execution, etc.

A couple of interesting thoughts came out of the session; notably about the need to treat product information as a product in itself and to create a “Social” Product Roadmap to manage the social interactions as a product and build standardized processes to build social initiatives in the organization.

This is the first of many planned conversations around socially enabling the enterprise; customer, product, information, employee, operational lifecycles.

Jones Soda Social Audit for PR+MKTG Camp in Seattle

March 12th, 2010

I went to the PR& MKTG Camp in Seattle last week. We were asked to do a public case on Jones Soda, a local Seattle darling, that provides a speciality line of premium sodas. Instead of doing the standard, here is a consumer facing social audit, we put a twist and focused on how to leverage social for building distribution relationships and establishing retail points of sale. In the beverage distribution business, retail still drives more impulse purchases than consumer branding. If you are a niche player, having a strong channel presence is critical. I have posted the case as an example of identifying influencers over social media. In this case, the influencer is the channel. In this case, we presented with Mike Spear, Jone’s Interactive Brand Manager. Here is the slideshare link as I cannot upload to this post, so here is the link:

Not So Simple Definition of Social Market Leadership

March 1st, 2010

As we have gone around the country speaking on Enterprise Social Strategy, we have struck upon a simple concept that seems to resonate with senior executives; social market leadership.

On the surface, it seems simple:

  • Thought Leadership – Stepping into the vacancy in the market
  • Market Offense – demonstrating market leadership via social media
  • Brand Defense - protecting brand reputation on social media
  • Associations – creating the forum for market best practices
  • Social Influence – building relationships with key market influencers
  • Social Marketing – influencing the market’s requirements for competitive products

However, ask we dig deeper, we realize that how you measure or even how you define what you measure is critical. We have been asking industry leaders “Who is the Social Market Leader in Your Industry?”. We get a lot of “We are…” then after we ask them “how do you know?”, we get “What do you mean?”. Then when we explain what social market leadership means to us, we get “We’re not sure…”

Our definition of Social Market Leadership… defining the thought leader in the social market with influence over public social networks like Linkedin, Twitter, Facebook, etc, as well as, industry communities, groups, forums, blogs hosted by vendors, associations, publications, enthusiasts, etc. In some industries, we do an audit and find over 100 unique platforms excluding the blogs.

How do you define thought leadership? Are you sharing your information with others? It isn’t what you say, it is what other say about you. How frequently do they interact with your information? Do they react positively? Do they tell everyone about what you say?

How do you define influence? Do you have credibility and reach? it isn’t about reaching everyone n the market. It would be nice, but for most businesses, that isn’t realistic. The brand icons already have a well established brand reach and they are considered a market “brand name” that define a standard. For the rest of the companies, there is a trade off between reaching everyone and reaching the right market cost effectively. Influencers are really about prioritization. Do the influencers have the “mojo”? Do they have the reach AND credibility? Can we hit the top 10% of the market and get them to evangelize on our behalf.

Market Leadership is not just Branding – There are algorithmic formulas out there that try to measure brand strength over social media. But, I think true long term social market leadership is really about creating a better customer experience through better engagement and interaction. With the transparancy that social media provides, companies are more and more realizing that architecting a better, holistic experience is critical to leveraging and maintaining brand equity and market share. If your social market share doesn’t represent your market share, might that be an indication of a problem in the market. If they don’t feel the same way about your company as you advertise, does that negate your market investment? Does your cost of customer acquisition go up because you don’t have brand evangelists and satisfied customers?

How do you measure Social Market Leadership? I think that this is the reason most organizations are struggling. There are simple measures from: simple Facebook fans, twitter followers, retweets, etc. To a little more sophisticated; social mention frequency benchmarking, sentiment scoring, number of influencer relationships, online community membership. To more complicated; taxonomy ownership, multi-criteria customer satisfaction, reputation management dashboarding, social lead scoring, share of customer voice, sentiment analysis benchmarking.

For those really pushing the limits of unstructured data analytics – the tools are rapidly moving towards ability to build a comparable, multi-dimensional dashboard to measure market perception differences between public social networks, online community members, and customer satisfaction surveying. Social media give such a dimensionality into buyer behavior, we think that we are only seeing the tip of the iceberg in terms of behavior analysis leveraging structured data analysis to build deeper analysis of unstructured social interactions.

No so simple an answer, but potentially worth a market.