I’m about to present at LeWeb, Europe’s largest internet conference with this year’s focus on “Real Time”. With information moving even quicker, there’s a new strategy needed for companies to adopt. Since the accompanying slides are best used with narration, here’s the gist of my presentation:
Real time data is exploding at a rapid pace with the influx of status features and mobile devices. This brings new opportunities for people to get information when they need it and opportunities and the companies that want to provide contextual information. Yet, despite the opportunities, most companies are unable to keep up with the “Slow time” web as it is. In fact, those that can’t keep up risk missing opportunities, or worse –heading off detractors before they become mainstream. To best leverage real time data, companies must adopt three strategies: 1) Start listening now, and quickly offer social personalization features, 2) Develop an unpaid army of advocates who can respond when you’re not there, and 3) Start to invest in systems –like social CRM– that can support their overall strategy.
Looking forward to sharing more on this topic as it develops during 2010, I’ve written more about this topic and the intention web.
Also, thanks to Carmen of Rexi Media, who is a great coach on presenting, her resources for presenters, such as the iPhone app are helpful for any speaker. Update: Here’s a video of my presentation.
In the coming weeks, I’ll be publishing the much anticipated Future of the Social Web Report, based on research conducted with the leading social networking companies and organizations in the industry. This post is just a riff off one of the sub-bullets and is intended for those that are already well versed in the social web.
In one research interview, I spent time with the insightful Chris Messina who is an active member and on the board of the Open ID foundation. After speaking to him, he brought forth insight on how portable IDs will empower people (he uses the term citizen) to traverse the web and reduce their need to constantly register to sites, and login. He’s *finally* posted on the topic after my prodding, I wanted to wait on publishing this so he gets the proper attribution.
[Technology will shift the power from brands to people as they are able to control their own identity. As a result, the Social Contract between people and brands will evolve]
In a previous post, I highlighted how this simple technology will shift the power from marketers to customers, and as a result registrations pages will go extinct. How will this happen? Because people will be able to control their identity, and can choose to expose as much or as little information as they want to brands and websites, they are now in control.
The Social Contract: Today vs Tomorrow
In order to gain control back, marketers will need to reinvent the digital social contract as we know it. Here’s how it’s going to go down:
Today, the social contract puts brands in control
Prospects who want more information about a product, access to a white paper, attend an event, or get product support will often have to register on a website. As a result, they give information, and thus power to brands for them to bug them, and bug them more efficiently. While customers can choose to unsubscribe or choose not to be contacted, they’ve given the ‘required fields’ over to the brand…forever locked up in CRM systems.
Tomorrow, the social contract puts customers in charge.
As customers can elect how much information they want to share, they are now in charge. Prospects (not customers yet) can share very minimal amounts of information, giving the brand limited ability to bug them. As the prospect becomes more interested, sarah will choose to give more information to the brand in exchange for additional value.
Use Case: How the Social Contract Between Customer and Brand May Work
To illustrate my point, here’s how this new model could evolve with Sarah, our fictional customer, at the top is the start of her journey (someone not even remotely interested) to her becoming a vocal advocate(satisfied and willing to tell others):
Sarah’s not interested in the brand. As a result, she doesn’t have to give any information as she visits a brand site, she’s just browsing and she’ll choose not to expose any information.
Sarah sees a product that attracts her eye, and requires more information, but doesn’t want to expose her personal information or register to the site. She will allow the brand to send her information perhaps in her Facebook inbox, but she won’t have to give any information about her at all.
Sarah’ starting to compare this product to others, she’s in the consideration phase, as trust is instilled, she will choose to allow her demographic information exposed, and in return receives information related to what she is likely to want, reducing her need to navigate a large website. While her demographic information may be disclosed to the brand, they may never know her actual name or email address.
Sarah is getting ready to commit to purchase, as a result, the brand offers her greater incentives such as additional services or discounts if she shares her psychographic information to the brand. As a result, the brand will be able to offer her additional related products, or engage in an actual dialog.
Sarah has purchased the product, and the brand offers her a deeper discount to her friends, if she chooses to pass along information to her trusted peers that she’s purchased the product, or her review. This word of mouth is what customers trust the most, and brands will attempt to tap into this by offering group discounts if several buy.
Sarah, who is thoroughly satisfied with the product, chooses to be public about her purchase. Although you can’t expect every customer to self-express, she will knowingly stand behind the products and brands that represent her, and become a willing endorser of the brand. This isn’t that far fetched, we currently see this with many luxury or passion products, but now the brand will encourage this, by rewarding her with recognition or other forms of social currency.
Now some of you may say this contract already exists in some forms, and I’ll have to agree. However we haven’t seen formal systems and technology emerge pan-industry that can support this. It’s even possible people can experience this all within social networks without ever formally going to a corporate website.
Although fictional, this use case could very well come to life, and I’m sure some vendors will leave some comments on how they’re already experimenting with this. As this simple technology enables customers to control their own identities, brand will have to reshape how they’ll get customers attention and ability to register.
This topic of the social contract is only one small node in the upcoming report, we’re excited to share it with you in the coming weeks.
A few months ago, I highlighted HP Lab’s report on Twitter, and requested that the team contact me for lunch. They did, and a few weeks ago I met with Dr. Bernardo Huberman who is a Senior HP Fellow and Director of the Social Computing Lab in Palo Alto, see photo. While only one of about 20 labs at HP, this one focused on social computing is of particular interest to me. Their studies of social behaviors as it relates to technology, psychology, and sociology is interesting you can see a list of their public reports.
HP’s social computing team has over a dozen scientists to who conduct experiments to see how people will react to a variety of situations –many of these findings lead to product innovation. During lunch in Palo Alto, we talked about the impacts of their social research to HP’s products, Bernado expressed how HP understands how social computing is key to business, one of the first indicators was how they were hiring younger people how they were native to these technologies.
HP Social Computing Reports to Read:
You’ll find these reports to be scientific in nature, which are a different approach than industry analyst reports, I’ve read all of the following:
Report: Crowdsourcing, Attention and Productivity (PDF)
Bernardo uses the term ‘attention’ different than web professionals (that may think of that as time on site) and defines it as “Attention is sharp focusing of your mind on something while ignoring other things.” The report’s key findings indicate that people are more likely to share online when they receive attention from their community –something he pointed out is likely related to my own online behaviors and I’d have to agree. Key takeaway? We’re all social creatures and self-expression in a vacumm won’t provide that social gratification. What should business people do? Focus on giving attention to those that say good things about your brand online by reciprocating with attention.
Report: Predicting the popularity of online content (PDF)
This report highlights how it’s possible to predict how getting people views and votes within the first few hours of posting on YouTube and Digg can predict how popular items will be for 30 days –with considerable accuracy. What should business people do? Ensure that your online web properties are getting the proper attention in immediate launch, to ensure viral spread.
Report: Social networks that matter: Twitter under the microscope I’ve already covered the highlights for the business person for Bernardo’s Twitter report, or you can access the PDF directly.
I’m impressed with the work that the Social Computing Lab is producing over at HP, and am more interested to see how it will be implemented into HP products and services. If you’re a Forrester client, you may see my reference their work in my own future reports.
Left Image: This sample screenshot of the embedded community experience from the Quickbooks site.
Over the next few years, expect your friends and network of experts to be interacting with you as you use desktop software –community will be integrated within your products.
This weekend, I had a discussion with Scott Wilder at Intuit, who is one of the practice leaders when it comes to community and how it impacts business. He’s one of those leading the charge at Intuit, who has developed very large communities that thrive beyond the product itself and serve the lifestyle of the community.
Scott discussed his strategy of embedding the community features right in the software products –extending the discussion, network, and peer to peer strategy past awareness, consideration, purchase all the way to support and development. Although this is mainly a supporting objective, when brands embed community this close it’s naturally going to lead to ’embracing’. Watch this video to learn about all five objectives: listening, talking, energizing, supporting and embracing.
[Software products will integrate your contacts in the application experience –encouraging peer learn, self-support, and community improvements]
The software product embeds the community features right into the Quickbooks, not a link, not a popup, but as part of the product experience.
Of course, more challenges lay in wait for Intuit: 1) They need to have a plan to ensure the community will understand and adopt these changes 2) Need to make it clear what the scope of this community is and what it’s not 3) Be internally prepared for what changes this brings to future product development and how it impacts support –undoubtly, customers will make product suggestions, and others will chime in.
How can this cascade to other products? Microsoft, Dell, Oracle, SAP, IBM, HP, Symantec, Electronic Arts, Hitachi, Adobe, Autodesk (Bill Johnston leaves this comment), and Apple can start to embed community into their desktop operating system and software. TV shows can start to allow users to embed community actually on the TV set (we saw an early taste of this with Current TV during the elections), and the possibilities can continue on.
Now if you have a software product and a community, forward this post on to them, and initiate an internal discussion, to find out if customers are really core to your mission, and when this would make sense to trial or even put on the roadmap.
All of this points to the larger trend how people are connecting to each other, and forming their own power bases, some companies who embrace this stand to benefit –but only if they are prepared.
Computers exist everywhere
It took me a while to figure out that wherever I go, whenever I want, I’ve access to one of the world’s most powerful computers. It’s not an IBM Mainframe that spans my whole living room, nor Google’s search engine, and not the latest Alienware box. It’s Twitter.
Social Computing Defined
At Forrester, we define Social Computing as: “A social structure in which technology puts power in communities, not institutions.” and this is true for social networks –esp small and fast ones like Twitter.
What Google can’t do
While Google is great for finding information and websites, it’s NOT great for getting opinion, hearing nuance, or telling me relational information. With Twitter, I can ask information about opinions, and receive responses from real people (many I know, most I don’t) that often have first hand experience with the question at hand. Lastly, real people understand detailed and complicated questions and situations, and the more people answering, the more chance of you getting your answer.
How I’ve used Twitter as my Social Computer
Recently, I was at a swanky restaurant in SF, a CEO was picking up the tab so I could order whatever I wanted. I asked folks on Twitter “what should I order at Restaurant X” I received several responses, and immediately noticed a pattern and ordered the ribs with confidence, it was a success.
I frequently ask questions about what people think about in the news, I often receive popular opinion back from politics, tech issues, and other question. There’s a lot of gray answers here, but it’s a quick way to scan and obtain the variety of opinions about a particular topic. This method fuels the start of my initial research phase, I can get all the ideas on on a table, then hone in on the ideas that matter.
Lastly, referral content is shared, topics spread and people will offer up new suggestions, related content that isn’t necccearily going to be found in a web search.
Success requires lots of followers…a potential workaround
Now I realize that I’m fortunate in having so many followers (unlike other guys who ‘buy’ they friends by trying to offer a Mac Book Air) I’m grateful to all of the followers. Yet not everyone can gain from the network benefits, so I’ve thought of a way this can be shared with others, but I don’t have the tools to build it.
A Framework for Enhancing Twitter to be a Social Computer –For AnyoneIt’s possible that someone can build an engine that lets anyone participate in Twitter as a social computer, here’s how it could work:
Purely opt-in: Members could indicate they want to answer questions (and in return can ask them).
Members could then post a question “#question what are some romantic restaurants with a view in SF”
Anyone that is a member would then see the #question come in with a unique ID number attached to it
“question1853 @jowyang asks: question what are some romantic restaurants with a view in SF”
All members who received the question can choose to respond
“@question1583 Check out Starlight lounge or Waterfront restaurant”
All of the answers would then be aggregated on one page viewable by anyone, common answers by keyword would get weighted, and those who are ‘friends’ of the member would weight higher.
Of course, it needs to be very easy to use.
When I mentioned this idea last time, a lot of folks didn’t think it was ethical (as some of the terms included leverage) but I believe there’s an opportunity for an entrepreneur to build a answers or Q&A tool that is successful on LinkedIn and Yahoo. Let me know if you build it.
The first time we saw this implemented in public was the Dell’s Ideastorm website, where the customers were able to submit their feature and product requests. This ultimately resulted in a Linux box being produced, a pretty drastic change from their long term relationship with Microsoft.
[The future of corporate websites enable customers to submit, define, and vote for next-generation products in collaboration with product teams]
Starbucks has seen the benefits that Dell had, and appears to be using the same Sales Force feature that allows customers to submit, discuss and vote for features, see My Starbucks Ideas.
See the top rated ideas (punch cards, wifi, are among the top)
Or submit your own idea, I just suggested that ‘rent an office’ be available at select stores
See which ideas get taken up and become products on their blog (FYI: Turn on comments)
What should we expect? A few of these ideas to be put into action, with great fanfare. An increased dialog between company and marketplace, and expect white label social networking sites to start offering these same features. (email me when you see one)
This is just the start folks, where social computing (where individuals who participate socially to build something greater) work together to craft better products, services and experiences for companies. To me, this is one of the ultimate goals of web strategy, as we move away from the irrelevant corporate website.