Archive for the ‘Matrix’ Category

The Difference between Strategy and Tactics


Apple WorldThe purpose of this post is to clearly delineate the distinct differences between strategy and tactics, and show how they work in tandem for your organization.

Often, we use the terms strategy and tactics interchangeably and in a haphazard manner.  When probing at online definitions and dictionaries, they often share many of the same characteristics, making them difficult to differentiate.  Rather than debate Greek military etymology, Sun Tzu philosophy, or latest publications from the Harvard Business Press, here’s a simple way to look at strategy and tactics by their associated actions:

[The difference between strategy and tactics: strategy is done above the shoulders, tactics are done below the shoulders]

While a tweet-worthy catch phrase, this metaphor risks glib over-simplification. To explore deeper, let’s dissect strategy vs tactics in the following breakdown:

Breakdown: The Difference between Strategy and Tactics

Strategy Tactics
Purpose To identify clear broader goals that advance the overall organization and organize resources. To utilize specific resources to achieve sub-goals that support the defined mission.
Roles Individuals who influence resources in the organization. They understand how a set of tactics work together to achieve goals. Specific domain experts that maneuver limited resources into actions to achieve a set of goals.
Accountability Held accountable to overall health of organization. Held accountable to specific resources assigned.
Scope All the resources within the organizations, as well as broader market conditions including competitors, customers, and economy.  Yet don’t over think it, to paraphrase my business partner Charlene Li, “Strategy is often what you don’t do”. A subset of resources used in a plan or process. Tactics are often specific tactics with limited resources to achieve broader goals.
Duration Long Term, changes infrequently. Shorter Term, flexible to specific market conditions.
Methods Uses experience, research, analysis, thinking, then communication. Uses experiences, best practices, plans, processes, and teams.
 Outputs Produces clear organizational goals, plans, maps, guideposts, and key performance measurements. Produces clear deliverables and outputs using people, tools, time.

Strategy and Tactics Must Work in Tandem
These two must work in tandem, without it your organization cannot efficiently achieve goals.  If you have strategy without tactics you have big thinkers and no action. If you have tactics without strategy, you have disorder.  To quote my former business partner, Lora Cecere, she reminds me that organizations need big wings (strategic thinking) and feet (capability to achieve).

To illustrate, here’s some specific examples across different industries of how strategic goals can be communicated with clear tactical elements, in a linear and logical order:

  • Strategy: Be the market share leader in terms of sales in the mid-market in our industry. Tactics: Offer lower cost solutions than enterprise competitors without sacrificing white-glove service for first 3 years of customer contracts.
  • Strategy: Maneuver our brand into top two consideration set of household decision makers. Tactics: Deploy a marketing campaign that leverages existing customer reviews and spurs them to conduct word of mouth with their peers in online and real world events.
  • Strategy: Improve retention of top 10% of company performers. Tactics: Offer best in market compensation plan with benefits as well as sabbaticals to tenured top performers, source ideas from top talent.
  • Strategy: Connect with customers while in our store and increase sales. Tactics: Offer location based mobile apps on top three platforms, and provide top 5 needed use cases based on customer desire and usage patterns.
  • Strategy: Become a social utility that earth uses on an daily basis. Tactics: Offer a free global communication toolset that enables disparate personal interactions with your friends to monitor, share, and interact with.

Action: Using Strategy and Tactics to advance your Organization
First, educate your staff and colleagues on the differences of terms and how they vary.  Next, ensure that all tactics align to business strategy, and all strategies take into account tactics on how they will be achieved.  Finally, cascade in all communication how strategy and tactics work in tandem, advancing how your organization can see the larger goals, and better utilize resources to achieve.

That’s my take, but please expand the conversation with your perspective, in the comments below.

Image credit: “Telescope” by Kristin Marshall, used within creative commons licensing.

The Four Elements of Career Management in Business


Successful career professionals manage four strategic elements in their career, I invite your comments to add to the discussion.

Like managing your own money, business, or family, careers need a strategic approach.   Many business folk get over focused in their current job, unable to see the areas of defencieny in the other areas of their career, and some over-focus on education and are unable to convince employers they have the experience.  The savvy business person has balance across at least four elements.

While I’m not a career coach, these observations are just mine from interacting with a broad set of executives, leaders, and up and comers.  I’ve found that they manage four elements:  1) Education (which doesn’t just mean college degrees) 2) Capability (obtaining applicable current market skills), 3) Network (growing a community that opts in to help you) 4) Experience (proof that you’ve done it before, and can do it again).  Also, these elements are geared towards the market I serve: Business.  It may not be applicable to specific skilled positions, medicine, military careers, and areas I don’t have viewpoints on.

First, an assumption:  Anyone who’s strategically investing in the four elements has already demonstrated career tablestakes of: seeking a market of opportunity, desire and personal motivation, ability to effectively communicate in person and online, and understand social dynamics of working with others.  If one doesn’t have those baseline skills it’s hard to glean benefits from the following four elements:

The Four Elements of Career Management in Business

Element Description What No One Tells You
1) Education This includes both formal training (degree/certs/classes) as well as self-training (reading, ongoing classes, books, reading blogs). Successful careers often start here.  Getting education to understand the broad concepts and overview of your industry is crucial.  However, don’t over-invest here without having experience.  While education is crucial, it’s a form of potential energy, and what you do with your education is more important than the paper itself. While a bachelor seems baseline in business now-a-days, education is often listed at the bottom of most resumes.
2) Capability These are the raw skills to complete your career jobs. These can include data, developing strategies, project management, software management, programming, or a wide range of knowledge working. Although most agree having both strategic and tactical skills are needed, it’s key to know the difference. Strategy are tasks typically done above the shoulders and tactics are done below. Core strategy skills on research, analysis, planning, communicating, management and measuring will each consist of several tactical skills to complete, use both in tandem.
3) Network These are the people in your career that you can rely on that will help you when you ask, or will voluntarily help you without asking. Like all relationships, your business network requires constant attention and grooming. Don’t be that person who just comes around when you need something, (self-preservation opportunities are painfully obvious) but be there to help others, and maintain an ongoing relationship. If you have this skill and none-others, you will be seen as only a social butterfly and may not get hired outside of social events.
4) Experience Solid careers may have a series of job positions that align around a common career theme (marketing, management, software, verticals, etc) and having a solid track record is key. For those getting started in their career this is a conundrum, as most entry level positions are seeking the experienced. Focus on volunteering, interning, and attending local events to get networked. In the end, this row becomes crucial as it’s the majority of one’s resume.  Depending on your industry, getting a wide variety of experiences from buyer vs vendor vs agency vs consulting may grow your vantage point.

Approach your Career Strategically, Investing in Each Element
Before investing in bolstering each of these four elements, develop a strategy and actionable approach, start with these three:

  1. Savvy careers manage all four elements in balance.  The goal is to have balance and obtain effectiveness in all four of the elements, as being deficient in one will hinder one’s career.  Don’t over-invest in one area and neglect another, it will decrease your over all value to the market, and opportunity to monetize and grow.  I’ve met many a MBA grad who lacks experience, and becomes frustrated with obtaining an entry level job after spending thousands of dollars on a degree.  In the 2001 recession, I saw individuals remove their MBA from resume, as it over qualified them for positions.
  2. The strategic will leverage one element to grow another.  Use one element to grow another, increasing your market value.  For example, using workshops or accredited training gets you new knowledge, but also applicable skills.  The savvy will network with classmates and teacher to build their network, increasing overall value.   Or find networking opportunities where you can host events and glean knowledge from attendees, increasing your education.   Or a trick that I deploy, actively share your knowledge that you gain in social tools (like this blog) so your network grows without ever leaving your desk.
  3. Action: make a self-pact to invest X hours outside of your day job.  Make a promise to yourself, your current employer, your future employer, and your family:  Devote a certain amount of time to investing in these elements outside of your day job.  For example, I make it a point to read and maybe blog for up to two hours each morning before I check email.  I call this “paying yourself first“, as soon as you open email, you’re paying someone else.  Or, attend events on a monthly basis related to your career, and be involved as a volunteer.  Make a pact, and invest in your own career.

This is just my point of view, I’d like to kick off a discussion on what you see are critical career elements to manage.  What do you see as critical elements?  What could you add?

Breakdown: Corporate Social Media Team


The purpose of this post is to be a living document and industry reference on the topic of social media teams, as part as my ongoing coverage of corporate social media programs.  This perspective stems from industry research and deeper client engagements, see other ‘breakdown‘ posts.

Business Needs:
By definition, social business requires transformation within a company, resulting in leadership, program management, and a team to see this change through.  In most cases, we see this team as a centralized resource that’s often cross-functional working closely with a number of corporate functions as well as business units ranging from product teams, geographies, the field, and departments.  Without this team, the company will struggle to scale as different business units launch their own programs in a uncoordinated manner resulting in a fragmented customer experience, replication of duties, slow response in a coordinated manner, and a variety of tools, agencies, and vendors intersecting into the company.

Definition: The Corporate Social Media team is business program lead by a corporate social strategist that achieves business goals using social tools by coordinating with multiple business units across the enterprise.

Starting with Strategy
Before rolling out any team or putting job descriptions on the careers page, the leadership team and executive sponsors must ensure the right mindset and systematic rollout are in place.  We find that many companies who are successful follow the following traits:

  • Align with Corporate Goals –Not Social Media Goals. Don’t start with the aim of fans and followers instead first, have a business purpose that aligns with goals executives have already set, strategists should already know these, and then meld this new medium to these.  Next, evaluate current skillset and resources including obtaining resources from existing teams. I typically see companies developing a business case, with a request for resources and executive blessing from a charter.
  • Systematically Roll Out Program use Hierarchy of Needs.  Companies who run and deploy blogs/communities/FB pages are at risk by not first getting ready.  We found that advanced companies have deployed internal readiness such as governance, education, policies, process, and a roll-out program in a pragmatic method –not jumped to implementation.  Read the Social Readiness report to learn more.
  • To Scale, Let Go; Empower Business Units.  Companies who reach a level of maturity often allow trusted and trained business units to implement their own social programs after aligning to the program charter of the social media team.  This state allows business units to manage and deploy their program –encouraging scale and customization and speed at local levels.

Detailed Anatomy of Team
Altimeter found in a former survey of 144 global national corporations (read the full report) that the average composition of an enterprise class (over 1000 employees) company’s full time social media team is 11 professionals, often cross-functional. This research includes dozens of interviews and close interaction with Altimeter brand side clients who are leading these programs on a daily basis.

Screen shot 2011-12-22 at 8.11.57 AM

Matrix:  Breakdown of the Corporate Social Strategist Team

Note that in smaller teams, individuals may cover multiple roles, and in most cases these are cross-functional teams, as community managers may often come from product marketing, customer support, or corporate communications.

Role Primary Duty What No One Tells You
Social Strategist Leader and program manager,The program leader for social business, the strategist is responsible for overall vision and accountability towards investments.  We’ve done a detailed study on the career path of the social strategist including demographics, psychographics, business goals and challenges. Don’t hire an evangelist if they don’t have program manager chops. This individual must run a business program, and able to measure against real business results like: leads, sentiment, csat, customer support, and reduced costs.
Community Managers Primarily outbound and customer-facing, this role is a trusted member of the community, serving as a liaison between the community and the brand. These are often the most under-appreciated professionals in the team as they deal with customer woes time off hours and some even suffer personally as they deal with customer angst. Hire community managers that are balance brand enthusiasm with passion for customers –these are not PR pros that are on party message, but instead are trusted members of the community. Read the four tenants of the community manager to learn more. Celebrate these roles on Community Manager Appreciation Day.
Business Unit Liason These internal facing members have a primary duty of reaching out to business units to get them to collaborate, get on board and often join a center of excellence. They may also represent a particular business unit, department, product line, or region. These are key conduits to maintaining relationships with many business teams, and are key for achieving enterprise coordination in scale. As an interface inside of larger corporations, this role serves as an internal conduit to 1.5 coordinate efforts with other business units, in order to provide them with resources, as well as ensure consistency. Yet don’t let them talk to business units unarmed, they should have a checklist of requirements and slot in education manager to obtain consistency.
Education Manager This often part-time role is designed to serve multiple business units and rank-and- .5 file employees in planning and organizing social media education, including best Manager! practices, policies, and resources Seek an individual that knows both social technologies but is patient to teach executives, business program managers, the team and rank and file.  Encourage them to work closely with existing education programs.
Social Media Manager This professional will have several projects with fixed stop dates to manage and ongoing programs.  This may include launching programs, managing campaigns, dealing with agencies, and keeping teams on timelines.  They may work in corporate or with business units. This individual is the engine of the team that keeps time, resources, and expectations aligned.  Beyond finding social media expertise, look for project managers that have a background in operations or may be project managed certified.
Social Analyst Using brand monitoring, social analytics, web analytics, and traditional marketing 1 tools, the social analyst is responsible for measurement and reporting across the entire program and for individual business units This individual should be able to see the big picture of the forest and ascertain how social is impacting the customer experience and business beyond minute details.
Web Developer The web developer typically already exists at the company, yet provides dedicated assistance to help plan, brand, configure, and integrate social technologies as stand- alone efforts, or into existing systems Work with a developer that is capable of connecting disparate social technologies with existing enterprise systems.  As social software suites become dominant, the need for data integration will become a strategic asset for corporations.
Content Strategist (new role) This individual will coordinate content strategies across the enterprise, customers, and partners, spanning both advertising, corporate content and social media content. Ensure this person is well read on Altimeter colleague Rebecca Lieb’s book on Content Marketing, and research report on same topic.
Digital Strategist This role already existing in many corporations and will closely work with team to integrate social into all digital channels, both online, on TV, in real world and beyond. Ensure this role knows that social can be a different medium and may require longer term efforts, dealing with negative content, and a rapid response team.
Agency Partners Most companies rely on third party experts, both digital agencies and specialized social media agency of records.  These teams can provide services for education, strategy, creative, content management, community management, analytics and beyond. Over the coming period, expect that the social media agency of record (SMaoR) will start to vaporize as digital agencies offer similar offerings, acquire them, or social agencies offer ads.

Common Team Characteristics by Maturity

Not all teams are equal, and we’ve measured the sophistication of teams by maturation which is dependent upon culture, resources, duration, and team skills to navigate. While it’s difficult to put a team in a direct specific column, the following trends are common across the following maturation phases.

 Maturity Novice Intermediate Mature
Summary Description Evangelism, Education, Catalzying Change Program Formation, Coalescing, Coordination as a Central Resource Empowerment of business units to succeed within established guidelines
Primary Focus Areas Proving business case, wrangling business units, scrapping for resources Managing interest from business units that may be out of control, or getting the entire org coordinate and on board. Still proving business case to executives and business units that are threatended Company is on board, consistently, yet primary focus is integrating into existing business systems and optomization
Common Resources Often a small scrappy team (3) of just a few folks, this team has a small budget and humble set of resources that likely include brand monitoring, social media management tools and online communities. Typically, we see a larger increase of internal team size (8) there are more resources being applied to this program. At this phase, most companies launch centralized resources (often called a Center of Excellence) to serve the corporation. Often a larger team size that we’ve seen grow beyond 20 folks in an FTE capacity this dedicated team is cross-functional, yet has consolidated leadership from a core function across the enterprise.
How to Drive Business Case When pitching to executives, focus on three data points: 1) Social is a trend, not a fad 2) Our customers are using it (show data and anecdotes, 3) These are trusted conversations (show Edelman data) and we’re not actively involved. Focus on risk of social media proliferation and social crises from risk of lack of coordination. Show cost benefit analysis of not conjoining a single program Ensure programs are aligned with business objectives that executives are setting, if it’s market size increase, more leads, or better customer satisfcation, integrate into these existing programs.

Prior Research and Web Strategy Resources
This has been my core research coverage over last few years, here’s some of my prior reports and resources, that span career paths, team orgs, tools, industry hires, and list of team leaders.

Select Industry Resources
I read as much as I could that was already published online, here’s a few select resources for further insights.

Future of Social Media Teams
In closing, these teams are dedicated units that are serving the corporation in a cross-functional manner. In time, they will give up much of the deployment in exchange for allowing business units to scale. Expect that these teams evolve or become subsumed into content strategy teams, digital marketing, or customer experience teams that span multiple channels and mediums, as they are already not limited to social channels.

Breakdown: Social Media Workflow, Process, Triage


Rise of Social Commerce, an Altimeter ConferenceLeft: Altimeter Research found that most companies lack a formalized process –and even out of the advanced, only 76% had a process in place, read the full report on Social Readiness.

The purpose of these breakdown posts is to serve as an industry reference as the space advanced to optimization and performance.  The assumption is that a company is forming a Center of Excellence or ruling body, or has recently done so before deploying this key component.

Needs: Companies desire to be efficient –not having a workflow puts company at risk
Like our bodies, cities, and corporations, all complex organisms have a natural process and order that helps to reduce inefficiencies and increases the end goals.   So what if you don’t have a workflow?   This could put your company at risk from lack of coordination, as multiple individuals could be responding at the same time, your customers may not be properly served in social channels, resulting in lost opportunities and potential customer dis-satisfaction.  In the worst case, this poor experience in social could serve to fuel a social media crises, which we’ve documented.  Clearly, we want to avoid this scenario, and instead develop a workflow that cascades across the multiple business functions, product groups, and geographies to quickly and effectively serve the market in social channels.

Definition:  A Social Media Workflow, Process, or Triage is a sequence of connected steps that enables the entire organization to act efficiently with minimal overlapping tasks and resources in order to serve the market in social channels and beyond.

Business Goals: The 10 Attributes of Successful of Social Media Workflow
First, let’s align the goals of having a successful social media workflow in place, benchmark your goals against the following attributes:

  • 1) Alignment with corporate goals and customer goals.
  • 2) Buy-in and agreement to the process from all involved business units in the organization.
  • 3) Few or no overlapping tasks and resources.
  • 4) Clear articulation of who will do what, when, where, and how.
  • 5) Organizational alignment through training, testing, and refinement.
  • 6) Integration with existing business systems, processes, and software in existing channels.
  • 7) A clear, easy-to-reference document with clear labels and requires little explanation.
  • 8] Scope includes all possible scenarios are included when to respond –and when not to respond.
  • 9) Periodic improvements on the process as the business evolves.
  • 10) Measurable business impacts report to all stakeholders on a periodic basis.

Downsides: Identify the Six Roadblocks in Advance
No business initiative goes without risk, and developing a social media workflow could result in the following risks:  1) Scrutiny over the social media program at executive level, 2) Internal territories intensely guarded as a battle over who owns social and the customer experience is fought, 3) Chiefs step in to stop the program until the bigger picture is obtained, 4) A long arduous process is undertaken to get buy in from the entire corporation, which can be saddled if clear executive sponsorship is not setup.  5) Failure to align with existing customer experience channels such as phone, chat, online, and in person.  6) A large risk is the organization not adopting the workflow, falling back into old habits, if a proper rollout is not invested.

Starting with Strategy
Ensure all social media activities (and all else we do) align with the company mission and goals, let’s ensure we’re prepared in having a strategic direction with our peers, executives, and team.  Start by:

  • Ensure the Goals are Established and Aligned.  Obtain agreement from an executive sponsor, ideally one that spans the business groups in which you will engage.  Remember, something as pedantic as creating a workflow diagram will excite the organization, resulting in groups to balk, or give their buy-in.  Do this by reminding all teams that this is alignment with corporate goals like: customer satisfaction, generating new leads, reducing internal confusion.   Clearly label the business goals, and assign interim business KPIs that directly map to these goals.
  • Next, Map out Existing Processes and Interview Teams.  Expert Jason Falls shared that “Getting the right stakeholders on board from the onset that makes a triage process successful”.  Whether you’re in corp comm, customer care, or legal, you’ll need to get buyin from other groups.  Start by obtaining existing workflows of how customers are routed, and then interview each team for their needs.  Lead with business goals, but instead put on your listening cap to get their important point of view before you assert yours.  Then, bring all diagrams back to one document, then ascertain the best process and provide suggested workflows.  By allowing business units to vote, modify, and provide input will extend your influence from ‘over-reaching’ to instead getting the ideal ‘buy-in’.
  • Avoid the Mine Field by Including Overlooked Stakeholders.  Projects can quickly become disparaging if one group inserts and stops the process because their needs were not met.  Remember to obtain buy in from corporate functions that are often overlooked including:  PR, Corp Comm, Customer Care, IT, Call Center, Regional Field.  In particular, loop in Legal, Risk and Compliance in the early days.  Jason Falls shared that a leading airline carrier in United States involved legal early on, and had an ongoing role: “A member of senior management and legal are on-call 24/7 to approve and mitigate messages when needed. That’s pretty strong.”
  • Rollout Internally through Education, Testing, and Breaking.   Emailing a powerpoint triage to all teams that will be involved in the day to day is not sufficient.  Ensure a proper kickoff is initiated by conducting a training session, as well as conducting mock process drills in real time.  Start with having teams identify message and which routing path it should go into, then simulate how teams will tag, flag, and pass on messages.  Ensure proper followup and recording of incident is inputted to correct systems.  Be sure to take the process to the limit by simulating crises (see full post) and taking the organization to the level where the workflow is designed to not engage due to critical crises situation.
  • Continual Iterations and Coverage, Periodic Measurements.  Don’t expect this workflow to perfect in the future, plan on periodic assessments to improve in real time, or at key scheduled dates.  Ensure that fire response (corp comm, legal, execs) teams are actively updated on the impacts of the workflow as they may not be involved in daily affairs.  Provide all stakeholders periodic reports based on the business KPIs agreed upon, including potential items such as:  reduced time to respond to customers, increased customer satisfaction, number of successful incidents resolved, or leads passed to sales for followup.


Notable Examples of Social Media Workflow, Process, Triage
Community Management Scenario Map
Community Management Scenario Map from David Armano, Edelman 
Key decision is based on sentiment, then several if/then statements enable process.Screen shot 2012-08-29 at 8.49.41 PM
American Society of Civil Engineers’ Social Media Flowchart, via SocialFish
Notice that breach of policy has special actions, also note SLA is set at 1 hour.

Radian6’s client support protocol
Radian6, owned by Salesforce Provided an Engagement Playbook
Support issues are routed to existing customer support channels, with variation on non-customer use cases.

Air Force Blog Assessment
Air Force Blog Triage, older, but one of the first diagrams we saw emerging in 2008
This is a classic which many others are built on, the armed forces have a deep heritage in threat assessments and clear training for enlisted and officers.

Tactics: Anatomy of an Enterprise Social Media Workflow

Workflow Attribute Attribute Details What No One Tells You
Flow control All workflows (even outside of social) help to control where process will flow.  Ensure these workflows include how companies will handle overflow during product launches, events, and off hours and holidays.
Crises situations Often workflow diagrams in social are for the day-to-day situations, for crises, make sure it’s clear on who should be contacted and how Savvy companies will conduct social media crises fire drills in advance, see this post listing more details.
If then, scenarios (falls) Workflows will have multiple decision points which help to guide the teams on who does what.  Include “If then” statements that help individuals to self-guide.  Jason Falls recommends:  “When you’re building out triage and work flow it’s like building out the workflow for customer service call centers — you have to anticipate every scenario. What do we say for a product recall? What do we say if an executive is arrested?”
Ascertain Situation Most workflows have either the following triggers to determine the key decision: Sentiment, situation, or who is asking.  Each type of data has an advantage and disadvantage: Sentiment isn’t universally recognized, situations may not take into account tone and nuance, and identities can’t be confirmed.
Tag and Flag To allow for internal coordination, ensure that the process and workflow tools allow content to be tagged, flagged and conjoined to existing customer databases. Ensure systems work together by requesting social media management systems (SMMS) have on their roadmap the ability to connect with other contact center software, email marketing, or CRM.
Response Time Companies need to internally state how long service level agreement (SLA) will be for different workflow tracks. Be mindful about how you plan to share this externally, and if at all.  We’ve found some companies do not promise this, but instead recommend existing support channels.
First Responses Not all customers want their problems resolved, and may just want to vent.  Furthermore, some customers may feel the brand is too ‘big brother’ if they were not following or fans of the brand. Best practices I learned from Frank Eliason is to first show empathy, then ask if they want help: “I’m sorry to hear of your troubles, is there anything we can do to help?” rather than blurt out a fix that may be unwanted.
Engage in public or private channel Many of the regulated, sensitive account information such as airline and telecommunications will shift ‘off channel’ to other secured channels. Be up front in your online policies on how you plan to deal with information: be clear on what will be responded to –and will not be in public channels.
When not to respond Make it clear to all parties internally on what type of content will NOT be responded to –and suggest further activity that needs to happen internally. It’s important to balance proactive response, but also setting expectations on how far we will respond to customers and what appropriate channels are.
Integration with Software Tools In some cases, triage may all happen in social media management system tools (read the report for the full breakdown) but in today’s multi-channel world, they will extend. Whether it’s contact center software or social media management systems software they must align to the workflows that you build first –don’t allow tools to bend your process, instead focus on your goals first before selecting tools.
Followup Some brands fail to followup with customers after a break has been resolved, or after a customers has recently purchased a product.  Have a clear process to followup. It’s ok to ask customers who have had product woes fixed in social channels to update their posts, so others will see this person has had an issue resolved or not. Be savvy by first asking their satisfaction, then request them to followup.
Recording and Measuring Executives will be requesting clear ROI on your process and triage workflow, you’ll have to map frequency, intensity, and other KPIs. Map your interactions based on the business goals that were stated up front, whether they are for marketing, support, or coordination, ensure business level KPIs are included.

Key Industry Resources

The Future State of Workflows:
I interivewed two experts to find out their perspective on the future of workflows.

  • The Workflows Fade Into Background.   As employees adopt the workflow on a frequency basis, the organizational memory will guide the company.  Jason Falls indicated that “Hopefully they’ll (workflows) only look like reminders and guidelines. The worst possible use of a triage, workflow or process is one that is followed step-by-step, looking at the chart. These are guidelines that should be learned and baked into a community manager or marketing staff member’s job. After a while, you should just know what to do. Certainly, you can refer to the charts, graphs and references, but the strong triage processes in any businesses are those run by people who don’t read cue cards.”  Jason is right, the work process will soon take a life of it’s own, however the initial documentation and discipline to get the entire organizational on board will be key for corporate buy-in.
  • Traditional Contact Center Software will Battle/Integrate with SMMS Vendors.  Existing contact center software that already has roots with multi-channel experiences like Genesys, Rightnow, and Liveops already have social interactions and features.  On the flip side, Social Media Management System (SMMS) vendors are starting to evolve into paid advertising channels and may include automated chat bots beyond social, read the full report on the SMMS vendor landscape.  These two vendors types will have friction as they battle, and expect M&A over coming periods to occur as these vendors coalesce over the same customer types.  Watch Oracle, Salesforce, who are assembling their Social Software Suites.
  • Soon, Software Will Automate Responses.  I agree with the perspective of Jay Baer, who states that:  “I see the future of workflow and triage being predictive modeling, with routing based on artificial intelligence and enterprise knowledge mapping. If we know the specific areas of expertise of each employee and can store that in a relational database, and we can also know via presence detection who is online and/or what their historical response times have been, we can use Netbase-style NLP to proactively triage and assign social interactions to the best possible resource in the organization. Automated expertise mining.”.  I agree with this direction, and have published my thoughts on the future of social being Performance Social, both on Mashable and Techcrunch.Update, this automation topic triggered a discussion on Branch.

Summary: Don’t Under Estimate the Work Required to Create and Rolllout a Social Workflow.The end result of developing a simple Social Media Workflow doesn’t reflect the herculean effort of organizational navigating, buy-in, and change that may occur in developing the process.  Be sure to start with business goals, obtain a clear sponsor, and approach business units by asking –not telling– how they can get involved.  Ensure your existing processes, software, and customer experience is augmented, and not replaced by this process. While we’re going to lay the foundation out now in a manual manner, expect that future software systems to correctly anticipate these systems and automate based on data lead programs.

Thanks to time spent with Frank Eliason, David Armano, Jason Falls, and Jay Baer for their expertise, Jessica Groopman for pointing out examples, as well as multiple brand clients who have shared their workflow diagrams with me in client engagements. This breakdown is one small part of how I’m working with companies on their internal social readiness and social programs.

Breakdown of a Dedicated Social Media Engagement or Command Center


Rise of Social Commerce, an Altimeter ConferenceLeft: Dell’s Social Media Command and Listening Center, Austin Texas.

The purpose of this post is to be an industry reference for this social business use case, please leave comments with further additions.

Many a year ago, I worked at a web hosting company that had a Network Operations Center (NOC) that looked like NASA’s mission control.  Enclosed in a glass ‘fishbowl’ the 20-50 staff, systems, training, technology were all used in conjunction to support the network traffic of the customers websites, see Google images.  The “NOC” was externally packaged and marketed as a cutting edge feature of a top performance center, touted on customer tours at HQ, and had internal mystique and prestige of those who were there.

Today, we similar centers emerging at top brands, event managers, as well as offerings from a variety of marketing and customer service providers for social.  With India’s recent crises on social channels causing a shut down in websites, expect government bodies and agencies around the world to open these for daily interaction with citizens, and as well as dealing with high urgency situations.

Definition and Goals: A Dedicated Social Media Engagement Center or Command Center is a physical space where companies coordinate to listen and engage their market in social channels to achieve business use cases in marketing engagement, customer care, risk management, or operational efficiency of coordination and contact center deflection.
Starting with Strategy
First, understand that customer support and engagement has changed, we’ve found six changes to traditional customer care. Before we dive into tactics (There’s a matrix below to assist) let’s ensure we understand the greater context.  Companies must first realize this is a single tactic in a greater strategy of social business.  Often this program may stem from the Social Media Center of Excellence program, a cross-functional leadership team that oversees many programs.  David Armano also provides strategic guidance that this is more than fancy screens in a fishbowl, but people, process, and analytics are required for success.   Additionally, clear business goals need to be defined, with measurable KPIs laid out in front before initiating this program –shiny Twitter room won’t cut it.

Risks and Criticisms
Like all business programs, there are always tradeoffs, we’ve identified the following:

  1. Sexy deployment DuJour, could quickly go out of style.  Many companies have touted their centers, but if core business problems aren’t being solved, it will be viewed as sizzle and no steak.
  2. This public commitment to listening in social is a promise to customers you’re going to be there.  Set clear expectations on how goals and limitations, but know frustrated customers will expect you to respond
  3. It’s cheap, but is it really? Seemingly low cost, the long term resource needs must be offset by business benefits.
  4. These physical centers can be used to attract internal attention to the social media program, but will put additional scrutiny on business goals.  Questions on integration with other customer channels will be asked.
  5. Encourages customers to “yell at their friends to get your attention”.  Social is often a lower cost of communication than other channels, but encouraging customers to use social as first channel, basterdizes existing traditional channel investments, and may encourage customers to get best treatment from brand if they’re public.
  6. Companies deploy these one off tactics without a broader social business strategy across the enterprise.  This is just one toolset, and if all the processes aren’t fully deployed internally and the impact to customer experience, this could be ‘cart before horse’.

Breakdown: Dedicated Centers Have Many Variables
Variation Ranges What No One Tells You
Use Case Use cases can vary from marketing engagement, customer service, lead generation, internal coordination, compliance, risk mitigation, or product innovation. Be clear internally and externally on the goals of the program.Some social media vendors launch these centers to showcase their products.
Duration Companies vary their scope, some are only open periodically for critical events, while others are open 24/7/365 Be clear to the market on when response is available. Companies that desire full coverage but don’t need FTEs should outsource to qualified agency partners, or specialists like LiveWorld, emoderation, Cap Gemini and others
Sourcing Internal teams vs external teams. Internal teams range from marketing communicators, product managers, and contact center agents. Caution on charging junior staff with representing the brand online who don’t have full business acumen or PR agencies that don’t understand deep engagement nuances. Trained script based contact agents may have deep product knowledge, may struggle at the real time, personal interactions required on social channels.
Agent Scope We’re seeing agents at command centers that are focused on dedicated social channels only, that then hand off to other teams. Also, universal agents that understand nuances of all channels are also emerging.  This also spans product coverage as well as regions and languages. A multi-tier approach may be useful by pinning dedicated social agents first as first line interaction, then shifting to advanced agents in a triage process, one size does not fit all.
Locations Some companies are putting at HQ only, while at Dell, I was informed they have centers around the globe that ‘follow the sun’ for exposure Outsourcing these centers to third party agencies, service providers is increasing at a rapid pace, seek to outsource lower level functions but keep core brand engagement and storytelling near corporate.


Notable Brand Examples 

  1. Dell’s Social Media Command Center:  While first, and most discussed, there are many elements to this program that includes a centralized approach, while empowering business units to be autonomous, a form of advanced holistic form of social business.   I’ve visited this first hand and received information from Richard Binhammer before publishing this, others have published videos.
  2. Salesforce.  Jamie Kennedy toured me on the Radian6 and Salesforce Listening center which is strategically located near corporate marketing and PR, see video tour for details.  I visited.
  3. IBM has a physical social media listening center
  4. Nvidia has launched a center, including a welcoming messaging from team focused on how they’re listening.
  5. Pizzahut emailed me during a previous Superbowl to showcase how they’re listening to customers, providing customer care, and offering special deals to customers
  6. Clemson University has a social center, which has been documented.
  7. Sports Team Oregon live has a dedicated center in stadium center.
  8. Pepsi’s Gatorade has a dedicated center dedicated to listening and responding to all athletes in a form of brand marketing engagement, see video.
  9. Red Cross has a center powered by Dell, which can be used in crises and recurring engagement.
  10. Nissan is working with Definance on a centralized center, announcement here.
  11. The MLB All Star Game in Kansas City has a dedicated center, see Tumblr log.
  12. Superbowl had a dedicated command center.
  13. Tampa Bay and Company has established an initiative for political conventions.
  14. Intel has launched a “Social Cockpit” monitors the Consumer Electronics Show (CES), working with WCG.
  15. Delta Airlines has a Social Media Lab. (pic).
  16. KLM’s Corporate Communications and E-commerce departments joined forces to establish the Social Media Hub.
  17. Adobe has a center, which I’ve seen in the San Jose office.
  18. Samsung let me know they’ve a center setup  and seeing call deflection benefits.
  19. Cisco (Oct 24, 2012) has now launched a Social Media Listening Center using their own network, touch screens, SocialMiner software, and Radian6 technologies, and is offering to brands, as well as using themselves.
  20. Bottlenose created a live enterprise marketing dashboard with Fleishman Hillard.
  21. Symantec’s Social Media Command Center, case study
  22. Associated Wholesale Grocers Launches Customer Connect Center, a Social Media Listening and Engagement Hub
  23. MasterCard has launched their own center.
  24. MORE: I’ve kicked off a Quora thread where more examples are being surfaced by the community.


Matrix: Top Level Requirements Checklist

Requirements Example Resources
Goal Primary use cases include: Marketing engagement, customer care, misk identification and mitigation, listening and analysis, and in some cases proof of concept of a product Brands are already relying on service providers to help define goals, in particular Edelman’s David Armano provides a strategic perspective and WCG has aided Intel.
Leadership A clear champion internally has been identified to lead this effort. I’ve spent time with Richard Binhammer (follow him on Twitter) to learn his perspective, he serves as a model and forerunner with his Dell colleagues.
Process Daily workflow and triage as well as crises management plans A number of triage documents have already surfaced from early deployed Air Force blog triage to HR Block. Read report on Social Business Readiness and on Crises planning simulations.
Staffing Some companies, like Dell have dedicated teams that operate around the clock and globe Some companies are converting communication pros, community managers, contact center staff, or outsourcing to Liveworld, eModeration, Peoplebrowsr, and agencies like Weber Shandwick, Edelman, or BPO such as Cap Gemini partnered with Attensity
Integration Social cannot be a silo’d channel. Customer experience demands a multi-channel approach. Companies are integrating with call center and across other channels (chat, phone, email, sms, automated bots)
Software: Existing Some orgs are integrating these centers with existing databases, CRM systems, Compliance, and Contact Center Software. Salesforce, Genesys, Liveops, Actiance and others have briefed me on how traditional software now integrates with social channels.
Software: Listening Companies must actively use listening software to hear what customers are saying, both on social media channels they own (like Facebook pages) and outside on third party sites like forums, blogs and microblogs While Radian 6 came up as a frequently used tool, there are a variety of providers, most companies already have listening solutions in place.
Software: Engagement Unfortunatly, the social software suites have not fully formed and there is a third class of software required to manage permissions, process, reporting, and offer engagement tools. There are a number of Social Media Management System tools available, see report for vendor breakdown.  Liveworld, Awareness, Radian6, and Peoplebrowsr have marketed specific offerings for this use case.
Program Operations A large number of tasks need to occur including internal training, internal and external PR, logistics, dedicated commitment from executives, and funding. Like all programs, the devil is in the project plan details.  There are numerous legal, IT, HR, facilities and compliance considerations.
Logistical Resources The physical infrastrcture is often the least expensive, but includes dedicated internet bandwidth, work stations, computers, flat screen monitors, and often glass enclosed dedicated workspaces While not a requirement, we’ve found programs that put these centers in strategic locations benefittted from internal curisotiy of other departments, as well as positive PR from customer and influencer visits.
External Marketing Most command centers today have launched marketing efforts, blog posts, press releases, and other external pronouncements to inform the world the company is ready Rely on traditional marketing efforts, but also tap into customers who have been active in talking to the brand. In particular, Dell, Gatorade, and Pizzahut were early to market, gleaning press and media mentions.
Analysis and Reporting Savvy companies offer reporting and real time dashboards to glean insights Use existing marketing analytics tools, or business management tools to measure and report progress back to company.

Additional Resources, and Solution Providers. 

While this trend is starting to grow, it’s important to see the strategic point of view of this toolset, remember that:

  • Command Centers are tactics and should be part of a larger strategy.  Companies should not deploy these centers without first having a strategy on how social will be used in the context of their business strategy.  These centers can amplify, impact, and disrupt existing business functions and will impact cost, customer experience, and workflow.
  • Benefits of centralized resources are useful –but not every company will need one.  While having centralized resources to offload other teams, some advanced companies are already integrating listening and engagement to all areas of the company.  Having a physically dedicated center isn’t required for customer engagement on social.
  • Expect outside providers to offer solutions.  I expect that companies will have dedicated solutions around customer engagement in social, as well as nearly every government, sports team, and beyond.  But don’t expect every company to host themselves, outsourced options like call centers in emerging markets will emerge –with benefits and downsides.

I look forward to the continued discussion, please leave a comment below with additional thoughts, questions, or resources.  Thank you Todd Defren, Dana Oshiro, Aaron Strout, Laura Fitton, Richard Binhammer, Peter Friedman, Ekaterina Walter, for their insights, and Dell, Salesforce, Adobe, for letting me tour their facilities, and to all the agencies and software providers who have taken the time to brief me.




A Taxonomy of Tech Bloggers –Who Will Lead Beyond The Golden Age?


In order to understand the movement in the ever-changing tech blog space, let’s dissect the market to identify trends.

Whether folks agreed or disagreed, the assertion that Tech Blogs are evolving from the Golden Era to the next, continues to resonate as a healthy discussion. I saw responses from many of the blog management teams (Techcrunch, Mashable, RWW, VentureBeat, BoingBoing, and more) both agreeing and disagreeing, as well as traditional journalists at Wired chiming in.

Recap: Four Trends Why Blogs Are Evolving Out of Golden Age
In the previous post, it was identified there are four distinct trends why tech blogs are changing:

  1. Corporate acquisitions stymie innovation.
  2. Tech blogs are experiencing major talent turnover.
  3. The audience needs have changed, they want: faster, smaller, and social.
  4. As space matures, business models solidify –giving room for new disruptors.

The Next Generation Blogs Will Have The Following Traits
Then, it was identified four future trends on what the next-generation blog will look like, in summary: 1) An opportunity for new stars to emerge, 2) Yet, the rise of personal brands will be harder, 3) New models to emerge, long form content not the only way, and finally 4) that a new mix of media will emerge.  To further the discussion on what these trends will mean to this industry, let’s explore even deeper to identify where we should expect to see innovation from.

A Taxonomy of Tech Bloggers
This classification will help to shape who are the players are who should defend, those that are on the fast move, and those that could clinch a new seat as an established tech blog.  To understand, let’s segment the market by class, Ill give examples, and explore at a high level their strengths and challenges.

Classification Example Strengths Challenges
Big Media Blogs These blogs have transcended others and have been acquired by traditional media companies: Techcrunch (AOL), Huffington Post (AOL), RWW (Say Media), Engadget (AOL), ZDNet (CBS) Access to new resources, funding for larger staff, and ability to tap into new revenue opportunities through existing advertising and distribution network of parent company. Will be challenged to quickly innovate, redesign, and hire top talent who may be seeking the upward moving startup lifestyle.
Established Blogs These blogs are dominant players in the space, and are either self-owned, or part of a blog network, among them includes: Mashable, Gizmodo (Gawker blog network), GigaOmVenturebeat, The Next Web (European base), BoingBoing, All Things Digital, (created in house at Dow Jones), Enterprise Irregulars Have solid coverage, strong editorial teams and processes and have established their business model. Some may be content to forge their own destiny and not exit, yet some may seek to be acquired and exit, They will constantly be threatened by the tier above them scooping them, and challengers below trying to out-manuveur them.
Challenger Blogs These players could quickly move into the Established category: The Verge (Vox Media) who left AOL’s Engadget’s to start this visually rich new site with high production video. These players have tried a new approach, and are seeking to gun at the Established by trying a new format, editorial process, and may have connections to scoop stories. While many root for the underdog, they may not have the resources the Established blog networks have, and will be forced to find inventive ways to get what they need, and Established blogs may not link to them.
Emerging Blogs Silicon Angle (by my former boss John Furrier), Kernel (launched earlier this month), Uncrunched (Former Techcrunch writers), and the rumored blog Sarah Lacy may be planning. These up-and-comers are the ones to watch. These folks will innovate, try new editorial approaches, formats, and providing storytelling styles.  In some cases, these blogs may find a niche and own it. While all team blogs started here, this segment likely has the most challenges: Struggle to get scoops, lack of resources, and fight for advertising revenues, and Established blogs may not link to them.
Career Individual Bloggers These individuals have learned to make blogging a career, and may be funded, sponsored, or work for a tech company, notable examples include: Chris Pirillo (multiple sponsors), Robert Scoble (Rackspace employee), Louis Gray (Google+), and many others. Autonomous and masters of their own destiny, they’re able to do their passion at blogging, while earning a living. Difficulty scaling a personal brand into a network, beholden to those that fund them, and difficulty in scooping stories from team blogs who may not link back.
Individual Bloggers Millions of talented bloggers (like you!) worldwide that chime in on topics related to personal technology, careers in tech, and the industry overall. Passion baby, Passion! What a great outlet to get your voice heard.  Most in this space started off here, or still maintain a personal blog. Will be challenged to directly monetize through traditional advertising, but often this medium is used for career growth, promotion of books and speaking, or access to events.  This crew is challenged to maintain their blog, while holding a full time job.

Be a Savvy Blog Reader:  Know How Hierarchy Dictates Behavior.
The behaviors of each tier of blog depends on where you are in the taxonomy.  For example, those at the top of taxonomy are in dominant positions and will to sustain that.  As such, they will: have higher quality production in content, ability to scoop stories, may not link to original sources, all in order to maintain their lead.  On the flip side, those on the bottom of the taxonomy will also have different behaviors: they may give their own editorial spin, find long tail specific stories that mainstream doesn’t pickup, and can give deeper coverage in interviews the top players will not.

Watch the Challengers and Emerging Blogs as Post-Golden Tech Blogs.
Who will emerge as a victor in the post-Golden Age?  The established will seek to keep the up and comer challengers down, as well as the Emerging category.  In particular, the Verge is demonstrating a new approach by a fresh visual layout, high production video, and an experienced editorial team with insider connections.  Secondly, the Emerging blogs continue to grow organically, or have carved a niche that will keep from growing into a mainstream tech blog. As players towards the bottom move up, we’ll see a new “Platinum Age” (Sarah Lacy term) of Tech Bloggers emerge.

Above all Else, Look for Passion.
One of the attractive aspects of this medium is how the individual writer brings forward their point of view, their personality, their opinion.  As such, this has made blogging hold our attention as the rules of traditional journalism have been challenged  Despite the business aspects of running either an individual blog, or a big media blog, we should always look, interesting content, unique points of view, and of course, passion.

I look forward to your thoughtful comments as our industry continues to mature.