I’m very thankful that Altimeter’s research on social business was featured at Baaarvoice’s customer conference to 600 attendees focused in on the retail, cpg, hospitality, and consumer technology space in Austin Texas a few weeks ago.
Read the highlight notes from Tara DeMarco of Bazzarvoice, also, while I’ve published the slides a few weeks ago, I’ve also embedded them below. Just want to add one caveat to number one: many regulated industries must maintain the centralized formation.
The practice of Open Research is continuing to become a trend, but not just limited to the research reports that Altimeter is sharing, but with websites like Wikipedia, Focus.com, Quora, Linkedin Q&A, and communities like Social Media,org, Marketing Profs, and WOMMA and beyond. I see the trend that corporate buyers can talk directly to each other –without a middleman or expert in between. As a result, some thought leaders are giving away their best knowledge and not holding back in order to be top of mind.
Above is part 1, advance to the NBC site to see part 2. An interesting thing about this state-of-the-art studio is there are no camera persons on set, just robots that are controlled from the main controller room, a slick operation. Overall, it was a lot of fun, but to be honest, an interesting experience being in the hot seat with so many rapid fire questions.
Despite that 2011 is the year of integration, I strongly argue that companies that blindly link away to Facebook and Twitter from their corporate homepages are doing themselves a disfavor.
Companies that link away, are sending away their decade of hard earned investments getting customers to come to their website. Instead, companies must have a focused strategy on how you’ll integrate social features and content into your website, rather than padding Facebook and Twitter.
In the below image, you’ll see Altimeter’s latest maturity roadmap (here’s version 1.0 from about a year ago) on how to integrate social into a website based on dozens of interviews and evaluations of existing websites. We recommend that companies quickly get out of stage 0, but skip level 1, and move to level 2 and beyond. To learn more, listen to this webinar that was funded by Janrain and Badgeville for me to present our latest independent research on this topic. We’ll be publishing a formal Open Research report on this topic in the near future –stay tuned.
The one liner: Empire Avenue is Farmville for Social Media.
Gaming: A Native Behavior to the Social Web
Remember, gaming is nothing new to social media, from influencing the most popular Digg users, to Twitteratti, top contributors at Techmeme, or brands with the most Fans on Facebook –this is a native behavior. After signing up for Empire Avenue last night (here’s my account), I met with the CEO Duleepa Wijayawardhana, aka “Dups” to understand his vision, about the company and opportunities for brands. While I’m still experimenting with this platform, it’s worth noting initial reactions on how this tool will impact consumers and the opportunities for brands and threats for other vendors. The tool offers an open API where 3rd party developers have already created an app, that I purchase for 99cents for use on iPhone, it works decent.
How It Works: A Social Game Where Your Friends “Buy” You
Empire Avenue is a social game. Each user is valued at a set share price around $9 “Eaves” (their currency) and the value will increase as others purchase their shares, or as the user does social behaviors on other sites, and also participates in Empire Avenue such as actions, unlocking features, or dividends from virtual goods or ownership in other members. As users gain more net worth, they’re able to purchase virtual goods, on a quest to be the richest player in the game. The net result? This is a highly addictive experience that is similar to stock market gaming of your own social network.
[Virtual goods, like real world Jewelry are the same --they offer little utility, but social prestige]
This small team of about 5 is based in Alberta Canada and has a mere investment amount o $300k although they are already starting to generate revenues from users buying the “eaves” currency using real world dollars. Founded in Sept 2009, although they had a first version by Dec, then restarted in Jan 2010, and launched to friends and family last year. They launched this iteration about a month ago, and it’s starting to get activity in the social influencer community that I closely monitor for trends.
The team has developed some advanced algorhythems to understand the behaviors in the major social networks that users can connect their accounts to such as Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, Linkedin, Facebook Pages, and Empire Avenue Itself. Unlike my critique of Klout, they don’t look at just ‘interactions’ but seek a higher degree of interaction to fold into their analysis. In fact, because there’s a user behavior of buying and selling of stock of other players, the game won’t suffer from the Klout issue of Kenneth Cole’s Klout points rising during his debacle. Each user has up to 100 points for their Twitter, Facebook, Flickr and other accounts which is roughly equivalent to Klout scores.
Threats to Klout and Social Analytics Firms
Empire Avenue is a threat to Klout (and competitor Peer Index), as it aggregates data and evaluates from multiple social networks –Klout only uses Facebook and Twitter data. Social Analytics firms that try to understand the engagement of social media accounts are also at threat as Empire Avenue aggregates content from several locations and involves data from their game mechanics.
[Empire Ave has a built in Advocacy Loop. If you 'own' shares in a company, it's in your best interest to get others to buy it, and to tweet and FB about them to increase over value]
Opportunities for Brands
There are a handful of immediate opportunities for brands which I’ve listed in a maturity roadmap:
Getting Started: Create a company account. You can create a business account or a personal account, and your fans and advocates can interact with the account, buying and selling your content. There is no cost to build this account, so those that are seeking to innovate and stay ahead of the curve should do this now. They will verify business accounts (like Twitter did for a while) by looking at which accounts you’ve linked to your profile, you can request verification by our Empire Avenue team by e-mailing verification at empireavenue.com. For some examples see Sears, Oreo (login required)
Leverage your existing social media investments: the game is fueled on it This game rewards social media interactions from third party accounts like FB and Twitter, using their connections tools you can tap into your existing investments. As a unique behavior, the top members (influencers) will do the same, suggesting this is a refined group of highly engaged influencers.
Glean intelligence on who’s an influencer, see how they behave. This platform can help identify interests of users (by pulling in interests from Facebook profiles) that will help brands find those that are the most engaged by a particular topic. They look at each channel differently as each social media tool has a different type of behavior type.
Utilize Game Mechanics as a Reward Mechanism. Expect brands to ‘reward’ their fans by buying their shares in this game for doing certain achievements like interacting with the brand on other social networks.
Engage in Conversations with Influencers. This tool has a stream of content, and the ability to leave comments, shoutouts, notes, and other features. As a result, Community Managers can engage with influencers. Secondly there is a VERY active chat room that’s provided on the tool that enables rapid dialog.
Advanced will Deploy Virtual Branded Goods from Empire Avenue. Brands love to put their logo on just about everything, so expect branded virtual goods to quickly fill the inventory within the game and other branded experiences. Right now, they offer some virtual goods from rafts to luxury boats that users can earn by spending their hard earned virtual currency. Also see how there are cost per actions, where brands can have users opt in to watch commercials or get involved in marketing to earn Eaves points. Update: I’m told by founders that they are going to be doing branded items soon. They also have a system to convert Eaves to real world offerings (maybe coupons/discounts) etc.
Expand by Leveraging the Open API The platform offers an open API and 3rd party developers have already created a mobile application on iPhone which I bought for 99 cents (yes, real money) brands can quickly tie this data into CRM systems, loyalty programs, SMMS systems, and potentially even email marketing systems to integrate.
[Opportunities of Social Gaming Platforms: 1) Engagement with brands, 2) Loyalty program tie-ins, and 3) Advocacy through social media with engaged consumers]
Risks and Challenges for Brands
No platform comes without challenges, in fact, the more I probe around, the more challenges and hurdles I find, among them are:
Engagement may not have direct tie to purchase point. Same arguement against rest of social media, where’s the ROI? While engagement and advocacy are high, a tie back to the top line revenues or reduced costs isn’t clear. If eaves can convert to special deals, this will be negated
The User interface is very confusing. For first timers the overwhelming set of features is daunting. The team tells me they are removing features every day to streamline
Game will be flooded when mainstream pile in Expect the Social media elite will flood the tool, although they set some policies in place to reduce gaming, such as making sure people’s share value doesn’t get too high so it’s still affordable. Once celebrities get wind of this tool, expect more flooding, quickly followed by brands, the it will start to normalize after a dip in activity.
While the game fosters advocacy, consumers may not have affinity for the brand Concerns over why consumers will join and purchase from brands. Is it because they love the brand, or because they think the company will be more social and increase net worth? It’s not clear if this is true advocacy or just game mechanics (or a little of both)
Lack of features for brands to reward their consumer shareholders. Right now, other than the increasing value of a share, there’s little reason for consumers to want to keep value of share. In fact, if dividends start to slow down, consumers may sell the brand stock and purchase an up and comer.
Gaming of the system. This, like all other social sites becomes a system to beat, and loses value, and we move on to the next.
Interesting post here by industry veteran Tac Anderson (former HP social strategist) about how strategists are changing jobs so quickly –and how it could be a detriment to their career. Be sure to read, as I know how recruiters are seeking to contact you all, so really think about completing your mission before moving on.
Jennifer Wendt joins APC by Schneider Electric as Global Social Media Director Create the social media strategy for the IT Business, build platforms & networks, monitor and measure the company’s presence, and build the tools/networks needed to implement our strategy successfully.
Corporations must invest in at least five types of Social Media training for the corporation, they include: training for executives, for the core team “Center of Excellence”, for business units, for rank and file employees and often for partners.
Our research has indicated that 37% of companies have indicated that internal training is the second highest internal priority, budgets for training remain relatively small at about $23,000 for the average annual spend in 2011. In some cases agencies and vendors are providing training at low or no cost as a loss-leader in order to gain additional business –savvy corporations eat up this free training as they’re hungry for answers.
Savvy corporations should develop a refined social business education curriculum that’s integrated with new hire orientation, as well as existing employees. The curriculum must incorporate at least five types of training for success:
Matrix: Five Types of Training are often Required
What no one tells you
This group can make or break your program. You must educate them early to obtain resources. Get an executive sponsor first that will champion your program. Tip: They talk a lot about customers.
Use market data including customer adoption numbers, competitive benchmarking, and business cases with ROI formulas. Bring case studies and case examples, but keep the program focused on business objectives
Focus on business goals –not technologies.
The worst thing you can do is get into a tools discussion and focus on follower and fan count.
Read Groundswell and provide each executive with Open Leadership, written by our founder.
Core team “Center of Excellence” aka the Hub
This centralized group is a corporate functiona that enables business units to deploy social programs. Learn more about the Center of Excellence programs emerging at many companies.
They are primarily program managers but must be on the front line of emerging technology in order to educate BUs They require ongoing training on new technologies and should attend conferences, workshops, webinars. They should also learn from their peers in other companies by joining Marketing Profs, WOMMA, Forrester Councils, and SocialMedia.org
This group requires ongoing training as the tools are constantly changing. Ask tech vendors and agencies to provide free training at least twice a year in a show and tell.
Business Units “Stakeholders”
These groups are often located in the ‘Spokes’ of the corporation and can be HR, Support, Product, or Geos. They may not be experts at social media –but they know their business goals.
They must be educated on the common resources provided by the Center of Excellence which includes policy, process, measurement tools, KPI frameworks. They should be educated on new technologies and should learn case examples.
An easy entry to getting them involved is to start with them sharing what they’ve already done in a brown bag session. Tip: Don’t penalize them for failures or policy infringments, instead get them to teach each other.
Associates, Colleagues, Employees
The rank and file employee can consist of any employee that may be using social media in their work lives. This can include sales, support staff, professional services, or even retail level employees. In today’s modern world, assume that even if Facebook is banned from your corporate network employees are using Facebook from their mobile phones.
They must understand governance such as social media policies, legal policies, ethics policies, disclosure best practices. Furthermore they should know who to contact if they have immediate questions. Lastly, they should be aware of the social media triage process for customer complaints.
Regular employees that use social on a regular basis must know policies, basic triage, and primary contacts within the Center of Excellence. Don’t forget your new employees, this must be integrated in new hire orientation.
Partners, Resellers, Franchise Owners
This group of your suppliers, resellers, dealers, channel, franchise owners and beyond are responsible for your success in your ecosystem
They must understand the rules and policies of what’s preferred and what’s not. For example can Franchiese partners create their own social media accounts and represent the brands? If so, what are the requirements? What content will the corporate brand provide to partners? Will content be syndicated for reuse and repurpose
In most cases, education programs will start at basic 101 levels, provide them practical education on why social matters and teach them how to use SMMS tools and how to engage and dialog. Above all, provide scalable resources to them that help them roll this out in their already busy schedules.
Build a Long Term Learning Program –Not A One Off
Use the carrot –not the stick, provide certification programs. Start with simple brown bag lunches where various teams are invited to share and praised for being open and social. Don’t shut them down, instead reward them for participating. Sophisticated brands like Intel already offer a training program like Digital IQ that offer online training for employees, and a certification program. Edelman offers internal agency folks a multi-tiered training program called a “Social Media Black Belt” program read interview with Phil Gomes.
Provide employees with remote access education to watch replays. While in person training and learning is a valuable process ensure that training modules are available online on the intranet and available to employees on a regular basis. This provides employees with an ongoing internal content library. Encourage employees who attend conferences to share their conference and trip notes in this centralized location growing the annotated knowledge base.
Provide a recurring learning program. Social is causing a cultural shift inside of companies and as a result recurring training is going to be required. As a result, provide an ongoing learning program with regular internal and external trainers that can help move the corporation along quickly. Slate dedicated program budget towards this program, and if you’ve an internal education academy tap into their ongoing resources.
Love to hear your tips on how companies are learning, kindly leave a comment below, these are just based upon my observations helping companies roll these programs out.