Archive for September, 2009

Google’s SideWiki Shifts Power To Consumers –Away From Corporate Websites


Yesterday, Google announced “SideWiki” a new feature of the Firefox and IE browsers (Chrome to come soon) that allows anyone to contribute comments about any webpage –including this one. The impacts are far reaching, now every web page on the internet is social and can have consumer opinion –both positive and negative.

Control Over the Corporate Website Is Shifting To The Customers:

  • Customers trust each other more than you –now they can assert their voices “on” your webpage. Every webpage on your corporate website, intranet, and extranet are now social. Anyone who accesses these features can now rely on their friends or those who contribute to get additional information. Competitors can link to their competing product, consumers can rate or discuss the positive and negative experiences with your company or product.
  • Yet, don’t expect everyone to participate –or contribute valuable content. While social technology adoption is on the rise, not everyone writes, rates, and contributes content in every location, likely those who have experienced the product, influential, or competitors will be involved. Secondly, content created in this sidebar may be generally useless. To be successful, Google will need it to look more like Wikipedia than YouTube comments
  • Expect Google to integrate this feature with existing systems. Google recently launched profiles, a feature that is the foundation for extending their social reach. With large social networks like Gmail already in place (That’s right, email is a social network) they can eventually sort content on SideWiki by context of friends, experts, or other sources.  Google’s strategy is to ‘envelope’ the web this is typical of their approach.
  • Although early, expect other social networks to launch competing features. Facebook has already created an ‘inlay’ so you can view links shared in the Facebook newspage in the context of your friends –expect them to grow this feature out shortly.

Recommendations for the Web Strategist:  Develop a Social Strategy Now

  1. Shift your thinking: recognize that you don’t own your corporate website –your customers do. Accept the mindshift that your job is to not only serve up product and corporate content but to also be a platform and enabler for customers to discuss, share, and make suggestions to how you should improve what you offer.
  2. Develop a social strategy with dedicated resources. With every webpage now potentially social, you’ll need to develop a process, roles, and policy to ensure you’re monitoring the conversation, participating as you would in blog discussions, and influencing the discussion.  80% of success is developing an internal strategy, providing education before a free-for-all happens with customers and employees.
  3. Don’t be reactive to negative content –embrace social content now. Give users the ability to leave social feedback directly on your corporate webpages, or aggregate existing social content.  CMS vendors are developing features to enable this, as well as community platform vendors like Kickapps, Pluck, Liveworld’s Livebar offer rapid deployment options.

I predicted Google would be one of the first to do this, however I expected them to start with Chrome, not FF and IE. Expect this to be a default feature of Chrome –not just a plugin in future efforts.

Update: Just saw an interesting tweet from @prem_k about impacts to CRM. He’s Right. CRM systems (Salesforce, SAP, Oracle, Rightnow and others) will need to aggregate content in Google’s Sidewiki. It’s not just CRM, Brand Monitoring companies (Radian6, Buzzmetrics, Cymfony, Visible Technologies) will also need to “suck in” that data.

Update 2, a few hours later: We should stop to think about how competitors could display ads “on” your corporate site and you couldn’t stop it, why? Take a look at Google’s business model, they envelop and categorize the web, then display ads on it. There’s nothing stopping them from allowing advertisers to put ads on SideWiki as “sponsored” information. For example, Coke could run their latest ads on the SikeWiki area. HP could run ads on the site. This *already* happens in the search engine result pages on why not in sidewiki?

Update 3, the next day: I just tried out SideWiki to see how it works. I came to this very post and found out that there are already three comments. I left a comment welcoming folks, and it gave me the option to Tweet it, which I did. Here’s what sidewiki looks like, you don’t never have to have the plugin for this to work. Which means that this certainly has lower barriers to adoption. A few other field notes? I no longer have to fuss with captacha on blogs or name/email/url once I’m logged in to SideWiki, I can comment around the web. Secondly, it centralizes all my comments on my Google profile tool. You do see what Google is doing right? They are turning the whole web into a social network.

Social Support: Companies Are Teaching Customers To Yell At Their Friends


Update: I polled my microblogging network on which brands have supported them on Twitter, see which brands have ‘taught’ their customers to yell at their friends.

Recently, I started teaching puppy Rumba tricks beyond the basic sit and stay, I even made a video. How do I do it? I show him the move, then praise and reward him once it’s done. Repeat, over and over. Although customers aren’t dogs, (save for Purina and Dogster), we’re slowly training our customers that if they want better customer support, that they should say it loudly and in public –thereby influencing their friends.

[As companies accelerate their social support efforts, responding to customers in public reinforces the behavior of complaining to everyone they know]

An Increase In Companies Providing Social Support
The most notable example is ComcastCares who is more responsive to customers using Twitter than on the phone. Secondly, the recent customer service flareup reported by popular blogger Dooce forced the Whirlpool to respond to her when she wasn’t satisfied with support from the call center. BestBuy launched Twelpforce, a way for its thousands of employees to answer questions from anyone that has a problem. Want more examples? See these recent examples for B2C and B2B.

Three Opportunities For Companies To Evolve Customer Support
This isn’t just about rise of social tools, in fact, customers have had bad experiences before. The difference? Their voices were just limited to those they could tell in physical proximity. Rather than think of this as a threat, companies should see this as three distinct opportunities:

  1. Fix the root issues, beyond the customer vocalizations. Looking deeper, this isn’t about social technologies, it’s really an indicator that the support systems within these companies are deficient. In many cases, customers try the standard support effort, hit a wall, then seek other avenues for self-venting, help, or just sheer observations of their frustrations.
  2. Transform your support processes and go where customers are.Companies should continue to support customers on the mediums that they’re using (like social sites and soon mobile), as they are unlikely to change their existing behavior of being social and telling friends about their life and work experiences. Expect companies to grapple with outsourced crowdsupport in GetSatisfaction, UserVoice, Facebook Groups, Yahoo Answers, and community bulletin boards.
  3. Evolve your support systems to connect with the modern marketplace. Expect a rash of social CRM features, companies and solutions to appear that connect existing call systems, knowledge boards, and customer databases with the public web –closing the gap that was once the firewall.

In the end, there will be hundreds of companies that won’t care what customers think, or have their margins squeezed to tightly they can’t afford to innovate and may suffer the fate of any organism that doesn’t evolve in a changing environment. This is an easy fix: their competitors will listen in, and poach their unsatisfied customers.

Update: Jennifer Leggio extends the conversation, and sees the same trend

Checklist: Develop a Successful Advocacy Program


Recently, I attended a corporate event that showcased products related to an industry. Press, media, bloggers, and influencers were invited to attend, and meet a variety of vendors and see products. Featured were members of the company’s advocacy program, (a group of preferred clients), and were given products to demo. Some members of the this advocacy program are bloggers, in particular one with a journalistic background, who’s credibility came into question. While the event continued on, a not-impressed attendee (who claimed to be a journalist) started to make comments that some of the members of the advocacy program were not authentic and went so far as to say quite loudly during the presentation they were “shills” from the back of the room.

[Brands, which are often untrusted, must develop advocacy programs to influence their market. Despite good intentions, several risks could result in mistrust and even backlash from those they seek to impress]

Let’s break it down, as these same events are likely going to happen to your advocacy program at events and echo online.

Opportunities: Advocacy Programs Foster A Low-Cost Trusted Voice
Companies aren’t trusted, brands aren’t trusted, and nor are your executives. People trust each other, and now they have the tools to communicate with each other using social technologies and mobile with or without brands involved. As a result, trust has shifted to the participants. Many brands, knowing their credibility has diminished, rely on advocacy programs where trusted members of the community are given a platform and encouraged to speak.

Take for example the B2B Microsoft MVP program (I was formerly briefed) selects the most helpful professionals in their space, and anoint their most knowledgeable customers in public, and use the program as a way to get product and program feedback. They MVPs aren’t directly paid, but may have travel and expenses covered to speak at a variety of industry events. Another example is  consumer facing WalMart’s Mom and Dad blogger program (also briefed) where influencers that fit their ideal market are given a place to blog on the corporate website. They have very few limitations and often talk about the competition.

These programs provide brands with a: trusted set of market influencers, a lower-cost program compared to traditional marketing efforts, and a platform to engage in dialog with their most knowledgeable market.

Risks: Incorrectly Implemented, Advocacy Programs Will Cause Brand Backlash
Innovation always requires risk, and many corporate cultures aren’t yet ready to yield control to the market. As a result, they apply command and control tactics to a group that could ultimately shoot them in the foot. Example? The “Target Rounders” program (I’ve not been briefed) encouraged customers to advocate the brand on public social networks, but unfortunately encouraged them to do so without transparency. The email sent from corporate to the members suggesting they advocate without disclosing their ties was quickly put on blogs –detracting from the whole movement. Also, companies not ready to take the bad with the good may not know what to do with the negative feedback, and may push back resulting in the program to crumble. Lastly, the members of the advocacy program themselves may be subjected to scrutiny from the community, they need to ensure they are inline with their own editorial guidelines.

Checklist: Develop a Successful Advocacy Program
Don’t build your relationships on a whim, have a plan, and build off the learnings of others.  This checklist is the start of your program plan, share it with your internal teams before getting started.

  1. Get Internal Teams Prepared First.  You can’t love your customers ’till you first love yourself.  Companies that aren’t ready for the new world should tread lightly.  Marketing, executives, legal, and the rest of the company need to be prepared for a new site of spokespersons to step forward in an unconventional way.  Getting ready for the raw discussions that are already happening in your marketplace closer to your doors requires virtue, patience, and an open mind.
  2. Find Credible Advocates.  This is not a shill program.  Getting individuals that are already experts in your market to learn more about your company and talk about it in an open way requires a filter.  Likely they have respected blogs, or thousands of followers on Twitter, or frequently attend and speak at industry events.
  3. Ensure The Advocacy Program Is Above Board.  Make sure disclosure is loud and clear.  Find advocates that are already vocal, maybe have sung your praises in public, and may already be a raving fan.  Recognize them in public (online and off) give them a badge (maybe for blog, or even at events) that signify their distinction.  Develop a policy, and enforce that any public mentions should require disclosure, involve your legal team.
  4. Ensure It Matches Up With Their Agenda. Advocates need to feel comfortable this is a topic or association they like.  If they are not comfortable with this program they risk ruining their own credibility which will damage your own associations.  Make sure they can say whatever they want to –but always give them the right to discuss it with the brand first as a right of first refusal.  Never limit their access or privileges based upon what they do or don’t say.
  5. Incentivize Them With Special Access –But Don’t Pay Them.  I’m a firm believer that your most passionate customers want to be recognized as experts, so thanking them, saluting them, and giving them access to information or events is key.  Letting them demo products before others and providing an honest review is commonly done.
  6. Hand Over The Microphone –Give Them The Platform.  This isn’t about you, it’s about them.  The market doesn’t trust your brand, so let them have the platform to speak.  Recognize them on your public website, develop a way to indicate that they’re the most trusted members in your online communities, and allow them to tell others.
  7. Intake Negative Feedback –But Be Actionable. You’ve now asked for open dialog for them to discuss with their community, but be prepared to intake their experience and thoughts with your marketing and more importantly: product and development teams.  This can’t be just lip-service by corporate communications, but their input must be acknowledged, and then reported back to them it was taken into account.  Use this as a way to reduce innovation costs –but ensure product teams correctly know how to develop these relationships.
  8. Provide Them With Communication Tools. Give them the opportunity to talk with each other. Develop an online community or email distribution list, just for them to participate in and talk with each other.  Additionally, give them a platform on your corporate website or within your communities to vocalize.  For those with advanced communities, give them higher level abilities than other members such as ability to moderate, add unique media, or personalize their experience.
  9. Define Success Based On Influence And Reduced Cost. This is an influence program, much like media, press, or analyst relations.  Measure based on influence by looking at KPIs around number of touch points, impact (anecdotal and through surveys).  Also, measure how much and how useful the feedback to product and development teams was taken used –divide by traditional ways of getting similar feedback.  Measure cost savings: offset the measurement with the denominator of lower costs of a WOM program to develop a measurement based on value.
  10. Got An Idea? Leave a Comment. Whew, that’s my list, however the real knowledge is with the community.  Love to hear your thoughts.  What are key steps companies must take to have a successful advocacy program?  Here’s a chance for agencies, brand managers, and anyone who’s got first hand knowledge to share what they’ve learned.

Advocacy programs are a mainstay of today and future marketing programs –yet to be successful companies must have the mindset of being enablers –not controllers.

Three Future-Looking Videos Of Augmented Reality For Business


Augmented Reality is certainly in it’s infancy, and we know that at best, is experimental. I’m new to this space but am watching, and learning from Robert Rice and Dave Elchoness to see  how it develops. While a few years out, see the proposed Hype Cycle, let’s spend time thinking about what the future could hold.

I’m in intake mode. Over the last few weeks, I’ve watched as many augmented reality youtube clips as possible, reading blog posts (as there are no real articles yet from mainstream) and talking to smart folks. What I’ve noticed? Many videos are folks excited about the toys –yet with little reference to how it impacts business. I’ve also been experimenting with Yelp’s monocle, which is sub-par at best, it’s really early days. My biggest challenge? I’m in the wrong country. The innovation and adoption with these tools will come in Europe and Asia –not the tethered American market.

I found a few videos that are void of the “Shiny object” syndrome and focus on how this could improve people’s lives –or fulfill a meaningful business need, here’s three:

Above Video: Supplemental Information Added On Location.
Dutch company Layar appears to be one of the emerging platforms that enables data to be added to physical locations. It’s location specific and allows content to be shown through the display of a phone related to real estate, shopping, and healthcare. Add on a social layer (where are my friend, or should I know them?) and things could become more useful.

Realtà Aumentata – Augmented Reality from soryn on Vimeo.

Above Video: Contextual Information While Reading Book, and On Location
This Italian video shows how virtual reality glasses (glasses are more fantasy than reality… yet) could be used to provide auxiliary content while reading books –or in real world as the character goes to those physical location and is able to get more information. Imagine if every book you read could provide supplemental information from the web or other digital devices. What if every example you read in Groundswell showed a YouTube video of each story –each executive who is mentioned shows their profile information powered by wikipedia, and pictures and speeches from flickr and YouTube. I’ll chalk this video up as certainly futuristic, but showing potential increase knowledge opportunities.

Above Video: Social Data and Contact Info Overlayed in Business Setting.
This future video created by Tat, doesn’t get into the business setting until half way the video, but shows how additional information can be seen in real life. An audience member can ‘scan’ the speaker, and get additional information about their presentations, contact info, and even rate them. Scanning around the table, I had a chuckle when you could see people’s “Mickey Mouse ears” of social site icons appear above their faces.

Early days –but interesting to watch.
It’s early days for the Augmented Reality space, yet that shouldn’t keep us aware of what’s going to emerge in the coming years. Expect innovation and adoption in Europe and Asia, with the US trailing behind. Early bridges will display data from existing web-data bases like Yelp, Facebook, Wikipedia, and review sites. Remember when some websites were not compatible with certain browsers, the AR space is also in it’s infancy as many applications don’t run on all mobile platforms and the data sources are limited.

Lastly, I’m considering hosting an event at our “Hangar” in San Mateo, CA to focus on the business potentials of mobile social networks and augmented reality. Perhaps in Q1, 2010. Let me know if you’d be interested in participating, leave a comment below.

Want A Corporate Social Media Job? Demonstrate These Three Essential Qualities


Hiring managers, recruiters, and management staff are often confused on where they can find qualified social media professionals for corporate positions. They get a lot of resumes, but few are qualified and the rest are “wannabes”. In many cases, they have to employ the services of a recruiter to poach an experienced individual working at an agency or corporation, or post a paid listing on my job board (see right column).

I’ve reviewed quite a few job descriptions and talked to a few folks in the field, and can boil down the job reqs to three major skills, they are:

The Three Essential Qualities of Corporate Social Media Positions
There’s often a list of skills, backgrounds, education, and sometimes Twitter follower requirements listed but It boils down to three qualities:

1) Fulfill Meaningful Business Objectives
Here’s where companies are having problems finding qualified folks. The social media early adopter types tend not to be able to see beyond the shiny technologies and understand the business objectives. I can quickly find out who these folks are as they focus on the greatest latest tool. What’s a trick for landing a corporate job in social? Be able to have a 5 minute conversation with an executive about connecting with customers without ever mentioning twitter, facebook, or a blog. Secondly, these individuals will be able to use brand monitoring tools, have analytical abilities, and be able to benchmark their efforts that tie back to business metrics –not social media metrics.

2) Bridge Both Internal Stakeholders and Customers
This quality requires the professional to be able to relate to internal teams that may not understand the social culture, be empathetic, be able to communicate and train them, and be able to put it into action. Secondly, they often need to understand the culture of the community which they serve, communicate with them in a trusted manner, and engage in meaningful dialog.

3) Show Credibility With The Technology
The biggest struggle with hiring teams is that the demand and excitement for social and the recession has spurred a great number of social media experts and consultants. We already know that usage and experience don’t equate to social media expertise, yet hiring teams continue to look for credibility by the individuals current use with the tools. What they don’t tell you is this: are you capable of learning new technologies, evaluating, and then applying for business needs. Don’t misread this, it’s not in your favor if you were a late adopter, or don’t know the nuances of the technology, but it’s secondary to being able impact the company.

My hope is that boiling down these three essential qualities it’ll help both hiring managers and applicants be able to sort themselves out. But let’s open it up to you, are you a hiring manager or a candidate? What’s missing?

Update: David Armano shows what not to look for.

Microsoft’s Office Web Apps Is “Me Too” To Google Docs –Yet Gives Enterprise Options for Collaboration and Security


This post was collaboratively written on a wiki by Jeremiah Owyang, who maintains a focus on Customer Strategy and Ray Wang, who maintains a focus on Enterprise Strategy. Together, we’re covering the convergence of emerging technology, Ray has cross-posted on his blog.

Microsoft gets serious about collaboration using the web and it’s office products by offering Microsoft Office Web Apps. On the consumer side, it’s just catching up to Google Docs, Zoho, and whatever collaboration start-up emerges. On the enterprise side, this could give internal teams real-time collaboration tools –and close security gaps through an on-premise solution. Regardless, IT must develop a collaboration strategy or run the risk of being blind-sided by business units developing it without them.

Microsoft Office Now Web-Based
Enterprises seek unified solutions for web-based applications that complement their desktop productivity tools. Today’s tools often do not work seamlessly across on-premise, on-demand, mobile, and disconnected scenarios. The delivery of Microsoft Desktop Apps just under a year after the October 28th, 2008 PDC announcement in LA puts Microsoft back in contention among corporate user who have been actively piloting alternative solutions from Google, Zoho, and others. Microsoft Office Web apps includes web-based versions of Word, Excel, Powerpoint and OneNote. In addition, Microsoft delivers an online document management system with permissions called SkyDrive, which is advertising supported. These set of features are available to both consumers who have Windows Live accounts as well as to enterprises who have purchased the Office Volume License, who can install an on-premise version on internal serves for intranet usage.

Jeremiah’s Take: For the CMO
CMOs should be aware of the broad ranging changes of consumer behavior, but should recognize this is just catch up to Google docs which has beginnings as far back as 2006. Despite this “me too” there’s a few distinguishing points that make this announcement stand out:

  • Gives consumers the option over Google Docs. Consumers and certainly stakeholders in B2B prefer the no-nonsence experience of corporate issued Microsoft office. The upside for Microsoft is the spreadsheets appear to have more features than Google sheets, although some of the advanced functionality of web-based excel is not available. As a result, users will have to use the desktop client to perform advanced features like pivot tables.
  • May have better performance –attracting consumers. Microsoft makes claims its service will be faster than the somewhat slow Google docs products, which we believe as we’ve noticed latency in real-time collaboration in Google Docs. (which we’re using for this blog post)
  • Microsoft’s big footprint will accelerate adoption. A research survey conducted over a year ago suggests that Google Docs was used by just a 1% of the US consumer base, and Microsoft Word had over 51% adoption. Expect Microsoft’s large footprint in enterprise combined with over 375 million users of Hotmail and Live to push these web based apps to the mainstream –expect integration into other MS web products.

Ray’s Take: For the CIO
Enterprises will benefit from a familiar solution that delivers enterprise security and collaboration. For intranet deployments and mobile, there are three key use cases that standout:

  • Secured experience behind the firewall. Microsoft delivers an on-premise install that does not expose corporate data to consumer products such as Google docs.
  • Improved real-time collaboration. Consumer teams can now use these light weight web-based tools for near-real time collaboration. Apparently, this is Microsoft’s first real time collaboration tool, as we know Sharepoint often acts more like an asynchronous DMS and CMS.
  • Lighter mobile footprint. Browser based docs give the mobile warrior less resource limitations on laptops or other mobile devices.

IT Must Develop A Collaboration Strategy –Or Business Units Will Do It Without You
Enterprise IT must develop a collaboration program, as the advent of consumer collaboration tools will quickly outpace ITs ability to play catch up. As employees continue to create collaborative workspace in the public web, data can become mishandled, not accounted for, or orphaned. To avoid these risks, we recommend that:

  1. Enterprises should take inventory of the vast teams using consumer based collaboration tools, evaluate their usage and decide if an enterprise solution should be available for internal collaboration features.
  2. IT leadership shouldn’t shut down the firewall and block third-party collaboration tools, as work is often being done at the edges of the company with business units working with partners, customers, and prospects. Instead, focus on providing secure tools within the enterprise for collaboration, then roll-out proper awareness campaigns, training, and ongoing support for company supported technologies.
  3. IT departments should be proactive resources to business units and provide them with the right tools, training, and resources. IT departments that are reactive or clamp down on business units needs for collaboration will find employees finding work-arounds on consumer collaboration tools.
  4. Enterprises will want to reevaluate how Microsoft Web Apps work within existing volume licensing agreements and enterprise agreements, especially as many have considered alternatives during contract negotiations.

Below are screenshots provided by Microsoft to us of the web-based applications: Word, Powerpoint, OneNote and Excel. It’s not clear if the infamous “Clippy 2.0” will re-emerge –we hope not.

Microsoft Word Web App Microsoft PowerPoint Web App Microsoft OneNote Web App Microsoft Excel Web App

Silicon valley based Altimeter Group is a strategy consulting firm focused on providing companies with a pragmatic approach to emerging technologies..