There’s a new class of company that has emerged, they offer insight, intelligence, and data about communities that can help improve products, service, and the interactions between customers and brands.
List of Companies that provide Community Insights, Intelligence, Research and Data
Listed in Alphabetical order
“Since 1999, we have created and managed more than 275 online customer communities to help our clients deeply engage with, and listen to, customers in ways that deliver extraordinary insights, generating phenomenal business results. We enable companies to operationalize what it really means to be close to the customer throughout their organization by offering full service community capabilities–from strategic planning and design to member recruitment to expert facilitation, insights and analysis reporting.”
“Impact Interactions is dedicated to aligning strategies with organizations’ business goals to produce significant, measurable results. Impact Interactions has helped numerous organizations such as AARP, Cisco, Intel, and SAP create highly successful relationships with their site visitors while providing industry leading reporting on the site’ success.”
MarketTools (of Zoomerang)
“MarketTools leads the way to understanding the opinions, desires and motivations of your customers. As the defining provider of market research for the on-demand era, MarketTools helps you connect with the universe of voices within your target market or gives you the tools to do it yourself—so that you can make the right decision.”
“At the intersection of social networking, collective intelligence and search, Networked Insights discovers customers’ needs as they happen. Armed with our insights, businesses can fundamentally improve their products, the way they market them and how they communicate with their customers…built to help companies discover customer insights as they happen. We have developed the first technology platform to both engage and stimulate interactions among passionate consumers while enabling businesses to tap into the insights gleaned from these interactions…provides Customer Interaction Networks that help businesses tap into the collective knowledge and sentiments of their customers to drive better business decisions.”
“Most companies gather customer feedback in one form or another, yet few are able to see financial results from that effort. We deliver the technology and expertise to: Get the right feedback from the right people at the right time, Distribute the actionable insights to employees so they can take action and change the results, Build an enterprise view of relationships and interactions that impact overall customer loyalty, Link loyalty data to financial and operational metrics to evaluate its impact on the business.”
“With Passenger® powered communities, brands gain contextual insight, drive innovation and build advocacy – through ongoing customer collaboration.”
Last night I was one of the panelists discussing Social Media in the enterprise (some may refer to this as Enterprise 2.0. but the savvy know it’s so much more). Shel Israel always does a great job of leading panels in an unorthodox manner by encouraging panelists to give about a 6 minute doctrine before getting into question and answer. Here’s loosely the points I made last night:
[The notion of Enterprise 2.0 entices us of open communications, collaboration, in a connected world. Before we adopt these cheap and free tools have we must stop to consider the dangers when IT and Business departments don’t adapt at the same speed]
Web Strategy in the Enterprise
Many people consider me a marketer, yet I have a long background in intranets and the enterprise. I’ve served in both IT and software engineering departments. I’ve worked on four enterprise intranets and was the business manager for the global enterprise intranet at Hitachi Data Systems, mainly focused on the marketing and sales side. I was on the Board of Advisors for two enterprise 2.0 companies, ConnectBeam and Worksona (which has morphed to a new company) and have written a white paper with Dennis McDonald on the topic (we started it in 2005, before the term ‘social media’ came about). For what it’s worth I prefer to be called a “web professional” not segmented to IT, Media, or Marketing, there’s many facets to the web.
The Shine of Enterprise 2.0
The promise of “Enterprise 2.O” to deliver open communications, collaboraiton, and social connections for a faster and more fluid business there are several concerns to consider. Even simply blogging tools like Six Apart’s Typepad is an example. We’re all excited about how disparate individuals and groups will be able to find each other, connect, and collaborate in new ways in the company, have we stopped to consider some of the pitfalls?
Then the dullness sets in Dangers of dispersion
Unfortunately for many IT departments, they focus on the programs they are budgeted to maintain. Sometimes they are not given the freedom or resources to innovate outside of the current enterprise architecture, “Must stay J2EE” or “This is a MS shop only”, or the worse one “Not built here? then we don’t want it”. This slowness gives business units with eyes wide open from business pains three options: 1) Ask IT for help, and hope their request for new communication and collaboration tools to be granted 2) Do nothing 3) Do something on their own.
Access to tools is simple, it’s called the “internet”
If business units adopt these tools without IT providing a technology and communications strategy the enterprise may suffer from a disjointed experience –regardless of individual successes. Out of necessity, the business unit turns to the web as they develop a program on their own. What exactly will they do? Access the variety of free tools, or cheap ones to meet their needs.
I’m guilty and you may be too I’m somewhat guilty of this problem, I’ve deployed tools without contacting my IT department. Why? because I was afraid they would slow and eventually stop any innovative programs I would lead on the business side. It’s so simple to download, or use web based collaboration tools (in fact I have a list of nearly 80 white label social networks, and dozen of collaboraiton tools) that can be used at any given time.
Thinking through the impacts
Fast forward a few months, if not weeks. What happens when individual business units develop and deploy these tools? The immediate business problems are met, although the longer, and larger information landscape is forever changed. Enterprises may see ill effects such as:
Disparate user experiences to customers and employees
Information spread off the firewall, some potentially sensitive
Risk of enterprise 2.0 vendors being acquired by a competitor
Real time information being spread at the “edges” of the company, where there was one before corporate communications
Multiple login systems
Multiple identity systems spread from system to systems
Systems that may not talk to each other, now or in the future.
Business program managers that leave the company or position, orphaning any technology deployment deployed at the business level
Business groups paying for web programs in different locations, different budgets
Lack of a cohesive web strategy
The fix? IT moving at the speed of business
Business units, IT groups, and Enterprise 2.0 vendors need to work closely together to deploy programs across the enterprise. I, we, you, would love to see IT to rise to the occassion and get ahead of the demand curve. Get aware of what’s happening, build connections internally. Get educated, attend enterprise 2.0 conferences and events. Initiate a dialogue with business units fast and early. Your business analysts can stay close to the groups, gather information and help drive a real strategy. Experiment with new technology (give time and resources to those wide eyed employees in IT you see who may adopt these tools) and deploy quickly. Be flexible as business and technology changes over time. Sure, there are going to be changes at the speed of business, but that’s far better than doing nothing.
Chime in with your suggestions and experiences in the comments below, please.
In a few days I’ll be speaking at Visible Path’s event in San Francisco, Ross Mayfield and others will be on my panel. What’s Visible Path? They offer solutions to map out the “Social Graph” of an enterprise by sifting and organizing unstructured data in Outlook and other repositories. Why is this important? The most important knowledge in many orginizations (HR, Sales, Support, Management) can be relationships, and often in other organizations. Corporations are not islands, but are connected with interstate freeways extending at all edges of the border. You may also want to check out the free white paper Dennis McDonald and I wrote “Business and I.T. Must Work Together to Manage New “Web 2.0” Tools”
Links from the Social Media Club event at Intel last night “Social Media in the Enterprise”
(Left Picture: Like fake social media, although initially attracting, some may be duped, confused, or mad to find out their new friends are gender illusionists, picture taken from a visit to AsiaSF)
It’s important to analyze our mistakes, in hopes we don’t repeat them.
I’ve been asked by more than one individual and clients about some examples of unsuccessful social media or blogging examples, and nothing comes to mind more than the un-authentic blog.
For the average person, being duped into believing someone was betraying your trust by pretending to be something else is a betraying experience.
List of Flogs, Astroturfing, and Fake Blogs
We should note and praise the blogs that started out unauthentic and changed their ways.
On the internet, almost everything is traceable, from IP addresses, to PR firms, to executive admins giving away the secrets. Also check out Rick’s multiple posts on the topic.
Know of other examples? Leave a comment
This is a community collection, feel free to add other examples that you know of. I’m not looking for examples of character blogs, or splogs.
On this list? Want to repent? Forgiveness is easy, by fixing the error of your ways, coming clean, asking the pardon of the community is easy. Sadly, many brands are inflicted with this stigma for some time. To repair the damage, come forward with an authentic blog, be real, and be human.
Wishing you the best of luck.
(Note: For those wanting to know, I visited AsiaSF with my wife on Halloween, a very entertaining time indeed. This restaurant is known to be frequented by SF’s elite, including George Lucas, who may get some inspiration for his creative movies. Those two gender illusionists (they’re really men) shown above are more transparent than many of the flogs listed above. Unlike flogs, at least I knew what they really were)
Sadly, my schedule has been too impacted for me to attend many of the Lunch 2.0 community events that are springing up just about everywhere. Yesterday, I was at familyoven’s kickoff lunch party, they hosted in gourmet style atop a rooftop in North Beach where they live/work. Dozens met for drinks, food, socialization and most impressively, the VIEW of all of SF on a clear, warm, slightly breezy day. It was easy to spot those used to the cold weather, they quickly sought shade.
What’s Family Oven about? It’s a website focused on recipes, cooking, with social networking and event hooks. I can think of a few people in my family that would be far more interested in a website like this than Facebook. What does it tell you that the largest tags on the tag cloud on the homepage are “Low sodium” and “Holiday”? Each of the recipe pages has recommended or similar types of menus, shows the profile of the submitter and various rating tools. If I were to make a suggestion, I would like to see instructional type of features be added, so step by step pictures and instructions could be added. Here’s my recipe for grilled apricots.
I learned that the two founders started this up on their own dime, and both were software engineers at Tagged, where Terry and Mark Jenn are.
One of the main reasons I came up was to meet Brian Keith in person, we had a brief chat, and I’ll be publishing a video of him in the near future.
I suspect one I start the new job, my time will be so impacted, I won’t be able to attend many of these community events, so I’ll enjoy them while I can.
I think we’re missing the heart of the matter, the real objective of blogging and other online communications is to share with others, and hopefully, you will gain a greater opportunity than by not sharing. One such goal of sharing is to add more value to the community than it previously did not have. As a blogger your goal is to link to sources that continue to add more value to your community and readers.
Therefore, if your content (on your own website) can add more value linking elsewhere, than it’s certainly ok to do this.
“Not all “double linking” is bad. There is a whole world of difference between linking to yourself instead of a better source, or linking to a previous post, simply because you already provided deeper review / analysis on a subject, and simply don’t want to repeat yourself.”
Let’s not be insular and even for a moment think that your community isn’t using other websites than your own, or that they’ve magically forgotten how to use the browser or Google since they’ve arrived to your site.
I frequently back link to myself, it’s not because I want the SEO benefits or want to ‘horde you on my site’ but it’s because I don’t want to repeat myself, and there are important theories you need to know before we can discuss more advanced topics.
In any case, the goal of linking is to provide more value to your readers and community, and if you’re confident linking to yourself will help them, so be it. It’s true, some of the web magazines mentioned in the posts are certainly guilty, they can’t possibly be the only sources of value for the particular subjects.
Methods to find out similar content
On a supplemental note, there’s a couple of techniques to find out what people think of your blog post or website, as well as find out where else they find value on the same subject:
1) Drop the URL in Technorati and see who else is linking to the site, if it’s just you, that’s pretty sad. 2) Go to Delicious, (or other bookmarking tool) and see if the page has been marked, and what else was ‘like’ it or ‘similar’ to it. 3) There’s a bunch of other advanced techniques such as using Analytics to find out how the user came to your site, or what keywords were searched, and lastly, what did they do on the page.
Many folks are embracing the term Social Computing, such as Forrester who defines it as “A social structure in which technology puts power in communities, not institutions”. We’re all quite familiar with the power computers that make up the killer app known as Google, but when we look closer we realize that the power is derived primarily from the linking and content structure that people create on webpages.
On a slightly different vein, this video, demonstrates the opportunities of Human Computation. Watch this lecture held at Google, which is part of their Tech Talk series, where Luis von Ahn (someone I would love to video interview) is an assistant professor in the Computer Science Department at Carnegie Mellon University. He gives practical examples where he’s created games that encourage the players to solve problems that computers can’t. From taxonomy of images to beating captcha, he derives power from the users themselves.
This is one of those videos you can turn on and listen to, while occasionally glancing back, all while doing other tasks.