I’ll keep this short, I’m neck deep in analysis for the upcoming Wave report –while trying to balance client needs and projects, I’m busy.
When I worked at web startup in the first web boom, all kinds of people came to power that didn’t have the credentials or experience. The demand for leadership in this fast growing company resulted in immature professionals quickly moving to middle management. I remember two distinct instances where the power went to their head and I now tell their stories for all to learn:
Mr M. and the Weekly Porn Emails
Although we were in IT/Software Engineering Mr M. wasn’t from tech, and in fact, had very few technical skills, so his talent became managing one very talented technical worker. He spent most of his time causing drama, going out to lunch, and surfing and sharing porn at the office. In fact, every week, he would gather his favorite porn screenshots from playboy (I think he and his college buddies had an email list) and he would forward it to his friends. Sadly, friends and colleagues aren’t always the same, and in his mis judgement he repeatedly sent it to those under him –including me. In his wisdom, he even sent it to his subordinate, the talented tech guy. It only took a few months for this to get back to HR, and he was soon in crying his eyes out to keep his job in the VPs office while the rest of the office laughed at him for months –and still do today.
Moral of the story? Friends and colleagues aren’t always the same –respect the boundaries.
The Ego of Mr W. comes full circle
Mr W, was actually often in conflict with Mr M, they’d both moved into middle management in IT, yet by far, I’d prefer to be friends with Mr M. Now, Mr W on the other hand, through his psuedo-power around constantly telling everyone “I”m a director” and expecting us to kowtow to him with our foreheads buried to his entry of his window facing cubicle. He abused his power, taking over people’s projects –taking credit for them. I always remembered when he wanted something, he would come by and act so nice, so sweet, then BAM, here comes the Friday afternoon work request. Eventually, he used his power to intimidate the young girls, he didn’t realize it, but I was in the cube next to him when he told two female colleagues how he’d “love to get between them” and chuckle. He even made unsavory comments about my girlfriend (I had her picture on my desk), which were quite stinging. Years later, Mr W ended up working for someone that’s related to me (the valley is a very, very, small place) and IMd me and apologized for his behavior, I accepted, but will never forget.
Moral of the story? You’ve moved into power, so now act like it, and do something to improve yourself and those around you. Part 2: Be nice to everyone, you never know who will be in power.
Wow, that felt good. Now’s your chance to let it fly, jump on to the Jeremiah couch, and feel free to rant and rave, but two rules: 1) don’t give away the name of the offender or company name. 2) Give a moral of the story, so we can all learn. If you feel like being anonymous, I’m ok with that too.
I first saw mockups of this product a few months ago from LiveWorld, and it seemed impressive, but unlike embedding chat, comments, forums, or blogs directly into the webpage, this is an ‘overlay’ that is quietly positioned at the bottom of any webpage.
What use cases could warrant this overlay experience versus an embed? Existing large websites with an inflexible CMS system that makes UI changes difficult. Companies that want to experiment with social on their websites but aren’t ready to dive in. Lastly, websites with heavy interactive marketing or content where community should take a back seat to what’s being shown. Expect to see competitors of Liveworld to develop their own versions of Livebar, allowing lightweight deployments of community features. Also, expect this to be a great ‘sampler product’ for LiveWorld to demonstrate community to hesitant brands –much like the easy to deploy OpinionLab tools.
Looking forward, whether companies like it or not, the future holds that websites will be social, and it means that customer opinions (good and bad) will circumvent their marketing content. The LiveWorld folks also have launched a community site, where you can interact with them further.
I’m conducting a Wave report on this community platform, and it’s become very clear to me that the technology is a commodity (that’s why there are around 100 vendors) and what really is going to count is strategy, service, support, and knowhow.
I use to work at Exodus (my story here), which became Cable and Wireless, which is now Savvis. Back in the first web boom Exodus was a high flying web host, for premiere brands. We had the top web brands, ya know: Yahoo, Weather Channel, eBay, Pets.com, and a ton of porn sites (little known secret).
We emphasized uptime, fat pipe, and hardened security, both digital and physical. As a result, we installed countless devices from bioreaders of palms, to ‘man traps’ that would trap someone in a tube if their exiting weight was greater than their entering weight.
I recently found out during one of my lab days (full day evaluation of a vendor –including scenario testing) with community platform vendors, that some brands are putting them to the test when it comes to security.
This one particular community platform vendor was being evaluated by a large Fortune 1000 company, who was very concerned about security. As a result, they tried to break into the building where the servers were, the Colocation center. The tried various tactics from manipulation, giving excuse to get in, or looking for unlocked doors.
On a related note, one of the vendor employees told me about his experience where he saw that an air conditioning unit was plugged into the outside of the colo, which he unplugged, and it stopped functioning. I guess the system was not redundant with backup fail safes.
Given that our personal data is all over the web in Facebook, LinkedIn, Google Docs, Peoplesoft, Siebel, SalesForce, your bank, what have you done to test the security and ensure the physical realm is secure? Not much I’ll bet, we just rely on blind faith as users in many cases to ensure we’re protected. I trust my bank (but cannot confirm) that my data is truly safe.
More accurate web analytics. Although not mentioned in the announcement nor cartoon, the opportunity for Google to develop better web tracking from actual users spanning multiple websites is at hand. Now that Google has it’s popular web analytics trackers are in many websites, they could potentially increase data gathering by using a browser –of course opt-in would be necessary, perhaps like the attention trust.
Any website can now be social Google’s browser could eventually make any website social –even if the website owner chooses not to participate. How? A plugin could be created that allows your gmail, gtalk, and other network to join you wherever you surf on the web, essentially your social graph could go with you as you travel the web. Coupled with Google Readers’ aggregation ability, this is a way to beat Facebook using a more ‘open model’.
A default browser on the Android mobile platform. If you’re not familiar, Google has announced it’s intention for it’s Android, a mobile platform suitable for software developers who want to incorporate their websites using Chrome. Expect to see a lightweight mobile version be available. Eventually coupled with geo-specific location gathering, (of course, opt-in) this could now empower Google with information about location based marketing.
Other methods to monetize. Other than the obvious ability to create more categorization of the web and offer ads, let’s think creatively on how Google could use this to enhance their bottom line. With more accurate data (combine analytics and location aware scraping) Google can now return more intelligent search results to users –in fact, each person could receive a customized search results page, advertisers would follow suit to quickly achieve higher rankings.
Peer into closed networks. This browser is a direct threat to closed social networks that do not allow Google to search or scrape like on the openweb. Social Networks that require a login to see data like Facebook potentially can be flanked if Google is the browser is the browser rendering the pages. Of course, this brings all kinds of privacy issues into play, but attention trackers with opt-in agreements could help Google to map these out.
No, this is not an IE killer, history has shown there’s plenty of room for multiple browsers, different users have different needs.
There are so many echos on Techmeme, so let’s try to have some original thoughts, I’d love to hear your long term insights on how this browser will impact the web space, leave a comment.
My new friend Avi Bhatnagar showed me this clever viral video that combines personalization, as well as a social marketing impact. You can add your friends in the ‘spread this’ page to spread it among your friends and family, you can create your own here. Quite honestly, the video effects (while are obvious upon a close inspection) are a pretty good, all things considered. I noticed in my recent research report on Social Network Marketing campaigns, that DiGiornio had a simliar type of personalized social campaign that let you prank calls on your friends with the “Ditcher” –expect to see personalized marketing, interactive marketing, to meld with social marketing.
In the late 1990s the CMS invaders deployed their systems at large corporations, as managing web pages using HTML editors wasn’t scalable and non-technical folks needed to publish. In many cases after the invader left, the company’s business teams and technical web teams were stuck cleaning, fixing, enhancing, for years to come.
Unplugging web publishing systems (and community platforms) ain’t easy.
Publishing from Word Docs, ouch.
I was a web manager at a very large corporations, as such, I was the business sponsor for the website, and therefore the tools that were used to publish the website. Often, in most cases, I inherited a legacy CMS system, one that I did not choose, the underpinning structure of the site revolved around it, documents, navigation, ability to edit pages, and look and feel.
This was one of the worst implementations of CMS systems I’d ever seen, the idea was for non-technical people to edit the webpages, so the system would have the ability to check out a ‘word doc template’ filled with macros, publishers could edit the word doc, check it back into the system and a new webpage would appear. fail.
The templates were so complicated as users had to be trained on how to use the word docs, understand the styles, and all the nuances associated with the code. The linking structure linked to a primary key for a document, which also caused confusion. That’s just the publishing process, it gets worse.
The Pains of Content and Structure Coupled
The site was unfortunately designed so the structure would for the most part, remain constant. The structure of the site, and the content were coupled together, and that’s a major problem. As the site would grow and more pages were added to the taxonomy, the system became more and more inflexible. The developers had a very complicated way of managing the pages, the changes took a few days to work as the underlying code had to be changed. The simplest of web changes that you would expected to see from a web CMS system required ongoing developer support –not content changes at the business level.
I’m not going to mention the name of the CMS vendor who provided this less than stellar tool, as I believe the deployment of the system was to blame from the in house technical group –all of which happened before I got there. Whew, I feel better, that’s been pent up inside of me for a few years now.
Thinking forward: Community Systems of today, to be legacy systems tomorrow
As we deploy community solutions that have social media features, are we thinking about in a few years how these legacy systems will be inflexible, don’t talk to our other systems, cobbled together application ware that we loosely couple with our other customer facing web systems?
I also know of many business groups that are deploying community software, often by ‘notifying’ IT that they are doing it, sometimes without thinking about the long term implications of these systems not being able to migrate, talk, or share data with other websites. In many cases, the business sponsor will move on to another role, job, or company, leaving the archaic community platform in the hands of the next web strategist.
Two questions for you:
1) I’d love to hear from you about your CMS horror stories, feel free to leave a comment below, go ahead, vent away.
2) Are you deploying a community platform for your web strategy at your company? What are you doing to plan for the long term 5+ years impacts of this system in regards to the rest of the enterprise web strategy?
Embrace your Customers
At Forrester, we use the term Embracing as a social strategy where customers and employees work together using social tools to build next-generation products. Quite a change for the strong headed product manager, who now has to set the roadmap, while in collaboration with customers.
Popular Examples: Dell and Starbucks
We’re all familiar with the popular Dell “Idea Storm” website that let customers vote for which features and products they wanted to be bore to the marketplace. In Dell’s case, the linux community asked for a UBUNTU box, which was created and launched and sold. I wish I was a fly on the wall when Dell’s strategic partners at Microsoft found out about this.
Recently, Starbucks has launched My Starbucks Ideas, where customers are voting for improved services or products in each of the stores. Looking at the site, the request for free wireless or ‘punchcards’ for frequent customers is under consideration or has been improved.
Both powered by SalesForce
Both of these sites are powered by Salesforce’s product, Ideas. Move on over, there’s a new player in town called UserVoice that offers the same features right on their site.
UserVoice, a new kid on the block
I’ve played around with UserVoice and even created a version for my own Web Strategy blog, the simple features made it easy to setup and let others submit ideas. I’ve not stress tested this service to see if it can withstand enterprise activity like SalesForce can, but it’s a nod to a common feature (voting) that we should start to expect to see in white label social networks. (in fact, I know of a few that are going to launch this)
Reporting, Query features, and easy to setup
Other UserVoice features to include Google Analytics, and the ability to collect demographic information and let owners know of suggestions. Owners of voting sites can also segment their customers by different purchasing sizes, in order to help prioritize. Also, polling features will help to put color around suggestions from users, and other conduits to improve the connectivity between employees and customers.
If you’re a small company or individual blogger, or run a niche product, I encourage you to try out UserVoice, test to see how it scales, and come back and leave comments on your experience on this post. If you’re from a large company that has thousands or millions of customers, start with SalesForce and also trial UserVoice. Anyone that wants a fully custom user experience should start with SalesForce.
Update: I’ve received some tweets and comments also suggesting IdeaScale (which I think is the same as this product of the same name), I’ve not looked at it, please leave a comment if you’ve a review. Also, passionate CEO Matt from BrightIdea left a comment about his enterprise class competitor to SalesForce, I look forward to a formal Forrester briefing from him, let’s take a closer look at this growing segment.
What to Expect
UserVoice would make for a good partner for any of those white label social networks, and could even be an acquisition target for a vendor that’s not up to speed in this emerging feature set.
Expect other White Label Social Networking vendors to offer this feature, soon it will be on the ‘checklist’, of features. Customer voting? “Yup we got that.”
They aren’t the only ones to watch, Get Satisfaction, a support site for any product, anywhere, (no reason to go to that irrelvant corporate website) has launched, and customers are self-supporting each other, and some savvy companies have their employees there participating. Without surprise, I’m there representing Forrester, although there’s been no activity. Satisfaction is still very startup focused, I hope to see some Fortune 1000 companies appear on their site.
Lastly, UserVoice itself is, “eating their own dog food” so to speak, using their own service to improve their product, there’s already a small flurry of votes happening.
We live in a hyper-connected world, yet part of the blowback is the excessive communication that occurs –I fear it will only get worse over time.
Today, I spoke to an Executive at medium sized corporation who confessed that she cannot keep up with her email inflow. She receives about 500 emails a day, and told me at the end of the day she sorts by sender. First from her CEO, then by the folks on her team directly reporting to her, and then whatever else she can get to.
Despite the many collaboration tools available to all of us, we use email for way too many tools (I’m guilty too) from: Status updates, document management, calendaring, collaboration, social networking, and even for ‘conversations’.
Part of the reason I blog is that I can get my message, thoughts and story out to thousands of people in just about twice the amount of time it takes to write an email. My colleagues follow me on twitter, and often know where I’m at, what I’m doing. Scoble publishes his calendar so those he needs to interview can help schedule. Yet despite these, I, my colleagues, and Scoble and you likely have more email than can be consumed.
Ironically, most of my social media peers and I still use email as one of the main ways to communicate back and forth to each other But even more, there are more inboxes to check, twitter, facebook, linkedin, I’m getting business messages from these tools and I’m sure you are too.
Questions for you
1) How is your email intake? Can you handle it all?
2) How do you make your communications more efficient?
3) We’re headed to a hyper-connected world with an increase in communication channels, how will you cope?
I’m seeing a lot of web strategists over focused on the tools. Secondly, I’ve even seen a few social media books written that focus in on the tools. While there’s a need for this type of focus, it should be at the end of your strategy, not the start.
In too many cases we focus on the next shiny objective, from this video player, to the new light mac book, to the newsfeed changes, or to the latest gizmadget. Only a few professionals out there can do this, like heat seeker Robert Scoble, and honestly, keeping up with him is just frantic, believe me, I should know.
Instead of honing in on the specific technology, you should approach developing your web strategy as you would building a house. Focus on who you’re inviting to come over to your property (websites) and what is it that they want (needs). Start there.
Next, think about the different rooms in your house, and how they all serve a different purpose, from the decor (branding), mailbox (blogs), front door (advertising), living room (chat rooms), and basement (document library), they all do something different. We use tools in a lot of different ways, some are great for attracting folks (advertising) some are great for making them stay (media and content), and some are great for encouraging them to interact (social tools). In any case, the value of each of these on their own is weak, and the real value is all of them together in context.
There’s a couple of ways to develop your strategy, one of which is to follow a methodology of framework, when I speak at events, I’ll often discuss the POST methodology, which focuses on people, objectives, strategy, then tools (and only in that order).
So stop fondling the hammers and nails, instead, focus on what’s really important, the guests you want to attract and what type of house they want.
Twitter is becoming a major communication tool for me lately. There are more intimate conversations being held on this next-generation chat room, and it’s filled with early adopters and those who are trying to reach them.
Here’s a few of the conversations I’ve been having in the last week
Just this morning we were debating the (lack of) user enterprise software debate
This past weekend I met over a dozen people who like the same type of music I do, and they recommended new artists to me.
News and information breaks on Twitter before it hits blogs
Last week I was on the phone with Francis Tapon, author and world traveler, he told me his secrets to getting paid to traveling the world, so I tweeted it to my 1900 followers.
I also share interesting links to content I’m reading, mainly around web and technology, as well as events I attend, much of this does NOT end up on my blog.
I’m starting to use Twitter like my link feed, why I find interesting I put on twitter, rather than on my google shared reader or my blog.
You won’t hear me talking about what I ate for lunch, but you will learn things about me that I’m passionate about –strategy, music, art, etc.
Who it’s for and who it’s not
If you’re in the tech industry, and in marketing, you should be paying attention to what’s happening on twitter. There’s even search tools that can help you find discussions and memes. Also, if you’re trying to reach early adopters, these are tools for you. This really reminds me of the the whole blogging industry in 2005, it’s the same type of pros and cons –it’s just much smaller now. If you don’t meet these criterion, then it may not be for you, always remember to find the audience you’re trying to reach first.
If you’re seeking more followers and want to connect with folks (once you get a few dozen active friends, a real ‘conversation’ starts) leave a comment below with your twitter name.
Update: I’ve tweeted to my network to add their name to this comment area if they want to connect with other folks (see my actual tweet) that are interested in social media+marketing+and are on twitter.
[The Fabric becomes stronger as the Threads connect]
In just a few minutes there are over 20 responses. This is testament to how rapidly things are evolving. Now the title of this post is needs to be modified: “Some conversations are moving to twitter..and back to blogs”
Update 2: Three hours since I’ve posed the first tweet pointing people here (Have about 50 new followers, and over 160 comments on this post, dozens of replies within twitter, became the top node on techmeme, as well as direct messages), and I’m getting messages that Twitter is slowing down as people are starting to add other, the fabric is growing. This is a good test of what could happen in an emergency, as folks were using Twitter to get messages out during the South CA fires a few months ago.
The viral activity in and around Twitter was amazing, people of like minded interests were leaving their twitter profile below, then connecting to each other at a rapid rate, it then spread the the blogosphere slowing both twitter.com and my blog.
My assumptions were right, there really is something happening in twitter, it’s clear it’s the desire to connect and communicate.
Update 3: The Day After
It’s very clear this was twitter storm resulted in meeting the objectives of getting folks to connect. I’m receiving messages and reading blog posts that many people now have added 20-100 followers or connections that they might have not been able to connect to previously, you can track the many incoming links from Technorati. Sadly, having a few hundred more contacts has flooded my mail inbox with notifications, but as promised, each person I’ve promised to follow and listen to in return. Lots of clicking to do this weekend.
Most importantly, the value of a network is determined by it’s size, yesterday (which some are calling ‘Twitter Tuesday’) resulted in a stronger fabric across the social network. All of the boats rose with the tide.