Today’s social experience is disjointed because consumers have separate identities in each social network they visit. A simple set of technologies that enable a portable identity will soon empower consumers to bring their identities with them — transforming marketing, eCommerce, CRM, and advertising. IDs are just the beginning of this transformation, in which the Web will evolve step by step from separate social sites into a shared social experience. Consumers will rely on their peers as they make online decisions, whether or not brands choose to participate. Socially connected consumers will strengthen communities and shift power away from brands and CRM systems; eventually this will result in empowered communities defining the next generation of products.
We found that technologies trigger changes in consumer adoption, and brands will follow, resulting in five distinct waves, they consist of:
The Five Eras of the Social Web:
1) Era of Social Relationships: People connect to others and share
2) Era of Social Functionality: Social networks become like operating system
3) Era of Social Colonization: Every experience can now be social
4) Era of Social Context: Personalized and accurate content
5) Era of Social Commerce: Communities define future products and services
Timing of the Five Overlapping Eras:
It’s important to note that these eras aren’t sequential, but instead are overlapping. We’ve already entered and have seen maturity for the era of social relationships, have entered social functionality but haven’t seen true utility, and are starting to see threads of social colonization with early technologies like Facebook connect. Soon these federated identities will empower people to enter the era of social context with personalized and social content. The following diagram demonstrates how we should expect to see the eras play out in the future –with social commerce the furthest out.
Interviews with 24 of the top Social Companies:
Research isn’t done in a vacuum, that’s why we conducted qualitative research to find out what we should come to expect. We came to these conclusions based on interviews with executives, product managers, and strategists at the following 24 companies: Appirio, Cisco Eos, Dell, Facebook, Federated Media Publishing, Flock, Gigya, Google (Open Social/stack team), Graphing Social Patterns (Dave McClure), IBM (SOA Team), Intel (social media marketing team), KickApps, LinkedIn, Meebo, Microsoft (Live team), MySpace, OpenID Foundation (Chris Messina), Plaxo, Pluck, Razorfish, ReadWriteWeb, salesforce.com, Six Apart, and Twitter.
How Brands Should Prepare
What’s interesting isn’t this vision for the future, but what it holds in store for brands, as a result, companies should prepare by:
Don’t Hesitate: These changes are coming at a rapid pace, and we’re in three of these eras by end of year. Brands should prepare by factoring in these eras into their near term plans. Don’t be left behind and let competitors connect with your community before you do.
Prepare For Transparency: People will be able to surf the web with their friends, as a result you must have a plan. Prepare for every webpage and product to be reviewed by your customers and seen by prospects –even if you choose not to participate.
Connect with Advocates: Focus on customer advocates, they will sway over prospects, and could defend against detractors. Their opinion is trusted more than yours, and when the power shifts to community, and they start to define what products should be, they become more important than ever.
Evolve your Enterprise Systems: Your enterprise systems will need to connect to the social web. Social networks and their partners are quickly becoming a source of customer information and lead generation beyond your CRM system. CMS systems will need to inherit social features –pressure your vendors to offer this, or find a community platform.
Shatter your Corporate Website: In the most radical future, content will come to consumers –rather than them chasing it– prepare to fragment your corporate website and let it distribute to the social web. Let the most important information go and spread to communities where they exist; fish where the fish are.
If you translate this blog post, I’ll add your link here and credit you.
This project took a team effort, and I’d like to thank Josh Bernoff a guiding force in my career, Emily Bowen who kept the project going, Cynthia Pflaum for the quantitative data, Megan Chromik in our editing team for the polish, and Jon Symons in our PR team for the media outreach.
A few years ago, Julio Garcia suggested I redesigned my blog, I should have listened, he was right. Yesterday, I finally took his advice and launched a new blog design, in which I contracted Web Designer and Developer Mitch Canter to complete.
Although this blog redesign process has taken a few months (I’ve been very busy, as has he) I’ve come to learn there’s a few principles that have changed since I started my blog back in 2005. (BTW: Here’s the old version, if you want to jog your memory) Here’s what I think are appropriate for 2009, yet I expect this list to change in just a few years as new technologies and the media landscape shifts.
8 Principles for the Modern Blog …at least for 2009
1) Baseline: Have Valuable Content
This one isn’t anything new. You have to have relevant content that’s either helpful or interesting to your audience, or you can forget the rest of the principles. Content still rules the royal court, and without it, you can’t move forward. Ideas, insights, perspectives aligned with an appropriate publishing frequency to your market is baseline. Don’t read ahead ’till you do that.
2) Know your Audience
If you’re just writing for yourself, this principle doesn’t matter. A few years ago, blogging didn’t have a strong business objective, but now we see many companies involved in blogging, so it must impact company in a positive way. So, if you want your blog to grow and spread your ideas and knowledge, then you likely have an objective. In order to be successful for your ideas to be effective, you should first know what your readers want. I know through a formal survey that most of my readers are interactive marketers, so I’m attempting to give them what they want through content and website experience.
3) Distribute the Content…
In the end, I believe web destinations are irrelevant, as we should fish where the fish are. The goal of a thought leadership blog, is often to get your ideas to spread to other locations. In the most extreme example, take Jason Calcanis, who temporarily stopped blogging and shifted to a dedicated email newsletter, it worked, as people ended up blogging his content for him. I’ve highlighted email subscription, and a host of tools at the bottom of each post that enable you to share the content elsewhere.
4) ..Yet Aggregate the Conversation
If you’re successful because of the two principles above, your content will start to spread to other locations on the web. It’ll be discussed on Twitter, tagged in Delicious, rehashed in Friendfeed, talked about in Facebook, and maybe event submitted to Digg. As a response to content distributing (Principle 3) then as a response to help to re-centralize your thoughts, you’ll need to aggregate your social content. This builds a reef for the fish to centralize around. As a result this accomplishes three things: 1) Helps people to find opinions in a single place 2) Helps you to manage the conversation 3) Provides a social reward to those who spread the content.
5) Highlight Community Conversation
While I know that in Principle 1 it’s about the content, for some blogs, highlighting the community around you is key. For example, in this blog redesign, we’ve given nearly equal attention to the comments and conversation. We’ve aggregated Friendfeed conversation (and soon Facebook), as well as given each commenter the ability to show their icon. (sign up to Gravatar if you want your smiling picture to appear in the comments), you’ll even notice the prominent comment bubbles next to each blog title. If you’re a regular reader, you’ll know that the collective commenters say some really brilliant stuff –let’s focus on the collective voices.
6) Reflect a Personal Brand
Whether you like the concept or term, expect the desire and need for personal brands to increase during a global recession. As people become sensitive that they may be positioned against a dozen other candidates, demonstrating thought leadership to be found, a built in audience, or a living resume of their knowledge and how they interact with others is key. We’ve provided a variety of ways for people to connect with me via email, social networking sites, and even an embedded Twitter ticker tape below the header. This means that having a visually aligned personal brand with your goal is important, why? The way you represent yourself is an indicator of how you’ll represent your employer and clients.
7) Get Serious, Hire a Pro
This project was more ambitious than I could have taken on in my busy schedule or antiquated UI design background. Therefore it’s important to hire someone who knows what they’re doing, in fact read Mitch’s behind the scenes guest post, there’s only 7 images on the blog design, in an attempt to optimize the site. Mitch does this professionally, and it was worth the money to hire him to lead this project. I don’t have the time to learn it, nor do I want to risk messing up the blog.
8] Got an Principle to Share? Leave a Comment
I won’t profess to knowing all the principles, so I’m leaving this one open to the community. What principles for the modern web blog need to be factored in?
By the way, I’ll be working on the popular posts section, making it a quick reference guide to those that quickly need the most helpful content. Stay tuned.
This post is a bit dense, I’m not writing for my general business audience, but for those that really are advanced social technology thinkers. If you’re seeking starter info, read my FAQs.
I’m working on a report called the “Future of the Social Web” and I interviewed quite a few companies like Google, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Lotus, RWW, Federated Media, Plaxo, Dell, Cisco EOS, Flock, Meebo, Gigya, Intel, Razorfish, Six Apart, and a bunch more to find out the trends in this industry. There’s probably less than 10 people in the world that have access to all these teams, executives and thought leaders, and I’m taking advantage of it. I just met with Appirio, which is a San Mateo company that birthed out of the SalesForce incubation process and I think they’re one of the first generation vendors that’s connecting social networks to CRM systems. They’re not alone, see the other apps in SalesForce AppXchange that connect with Facebook. Update: Rapleaf is in this space, I need to meet with them soon.
[Marketers Use Registration Forms For Only Two Reasons: 1) To Be Able To Bug People 2) To Be Able Bug Them More Effectively]
Most marketers don’t know why they want prospects to fill out registration pages, they’ve been doing it for so long, they’ve forgotten why. I’ll remind you, there’s only two reasons: 1) To get their contact information so they can bug them. 2) To get demographic and other data so they can bug them more effectively (target marketing). That’s it.
One of the calls I’m making in my report is that registration pages go away. Why? CRM systems and Social Networks will start to connect, and share information in a two way manner. Of course, the trick is to make it all opt in so the user community can control what part of their information can be shared and with who. Appirio does just that, they have built a Facebook application that can be rebranded for a marketing campaign, it can then be used to share information, recommend information to peers, and used for other purposes such as recruiting, word of mouth, and other typical social network activities. As information gets shared, it can be passed to a landing page where users can submit information in a web form –then passed over to SalesForce.
[The Future Of The Social Web Makes Registration Pages Extinct]
While they haven’t built out a system that can remove registration pages all together, I know the second generation Social CRM systems will be able to do this. How? A technology will emerge that will allow users to pass only as much of their social networking profile information as they want over to a CRM system, how much? It’s up to the user. A new social contract will appear that will encourage users to give as much information as t hey want, and in return the brand will reciprocate. The more information the user gets gives, the more the brand will give back in return, I call this a “Social web contract”. Since the data will come from the profile information within a social network, there won’t be a need to have a collection web form, instead information will be passed through connective tissues.
Obviously this flips a marketers world upside down as they are ultimately measured in most cases on generating leads and conversions, there’s a pretty radical mental shift that will need to take place, I’ll have to talk about this later. Oh, and I’ll have to tell you what this means to email marketing –that’s going to change too.
That’s all I can explain right now, as I’m still putting together dozens of interviews and over 20 pages of notes, I gotta get a draft to Josh Bernoff, my rather tough editor. Just remember, the power has shifted to the community, so the tools, approach, and ideology has to meet the needs of the users.
If you’re involved with connecting social networks and CRM systems, I want to talk. Also, Appirio needs marketing agencies to be truly successful, you may want to contact them, or just email me and I’ll connect you.
The ISF has conducted a survey and has made data available about corporate web decision makers, this brief (I’ve read the full version, which is available for purchase) gives information on how web strategists are organized, their concerns, and even compensation. The highlights of this research will be presented at the Summit, along with other informative speeches and case studies.
Last week, I listed out 9 reasons Why Brands Are Unsuccessful In Twitter, and other microblogging technologies. Companies are caught between the minutia of the discussions and their willingness to be human or add value to the conversations. Although a one-sided view of what’s going wrong, now let’s focus on what’s going right.
I’m watching –and talking– to many brands that are choosing to engage with this seemingly endless stream of personal thoughts, updates, and conversations within Twitter.
Web Strategy: The Evolution of Brands on Twitter
First, identifying if this is the right marketplace
Brands need to first evaluate if the community members within Twitter are the audience they’re trying to reach. Although we’ve yet to see any formal survey produced from Obvious corporation, most could identify these members are technology early adopters, media fiends, social media practitioners, and those interested in future communications.
Next: Listening to glean insight
Some brands are using the somewhat accurate search tools formerly known as Summize, or even Twitscoop to track graphing of potential terms, or to find influencers. Companies like Visible Technologies are mapping out the discussion in Twitter for tech giants like Dell –they’re likely going to provide a list of influencers and detractors in order to determine who’s the best way to approach them. In the case of the New York Times, Twitter is yet another opportunity to source stories, and potentially find out about breaking news or emergencies. Not only is this key for determining what’s being said by customers, prospects, and competitors, but to ensure rogue employees aren’t speaking on your behalf and potentially causing brand damage.
Registering the namesake
Once a company has figured out the conversation in their marketplace (assuming this is one for them) they should next secure the key domains related to their brand. There has been some impromptu indexes that show that many companies don’t have ownership over their individual brand on Twitter. Since registration is limited to one account per real email address, and companies will never be able to register every potential variant, the process is still limiting.
Decide on persona: corporate and/or individual
Brands will next need to decide on their online personas, and how they want to be perceived to the world. There are only a few variations and among them include: 1) A branded approach, void of personal interactions. In many cases, brands are unsure how to approach this conversation and most speak on behalf of the company, void of a personal reference of the publisher. Companies like Popeye’s chicken don’t readily indicate who’s behind the account, although they are very engaging conversing with others. 2) Some brands indicate who the user is, and go so far as to encourage individuals to represent the brand, RichardatDell takes this on with ease, as he both engages in personal interests as well as evangelizes and defends the Dell brand. See the NYT’s Communication department as they list out the personal contacts right on their twitter page. It’s assumed that brands that have engaged in option 2, also have corporate accounts listed in type 1.
Decide on method of engagement
Next comes the interesting part, how brands will actually publish, interact and communicate with others. There are three major options that brands can use: 1) Publish content in a ‘push’ style. Marketers, corp comm, PR folks and media companies can choose to use Twitter as a publishing system, as those who opt-in to follow can now receive updates from the latest story, press release or update. 2) Dialog: Some employees engage in relationship building with community members by responding, answering, and asking questions of those around them, see this large list of Oracle employees who are using these tools. or the ‘classic’ case example of Comcast Cares and Zappos shoes interacting and supporting customers 3) As we’ve indicate above, some may use these tools to glean insight –mainly listening rather than talking.
Examine the digital communications policy
Often known as ethics policies, blogging policies, or communications policies, the world of online publications continues to grow and brands must be prepared for these changes. Brands that have employees using social media (that would be just about all) must ratify their communications policy to: 1) Define what’s an official representation or have acceptance in the gray area of online communications 2) Define what the difference is between someone who is a company spokesperson and someone who’s acting and represents the company. Last week, at a client meeting, some employees at a enterprise IT networking company expressed concerns of employees who were on Twitter would talk about their personal beliefs around politics, culture, or preferences. Potentially some of these expressions would negatively impact other partners or customers in other regions or cultures, and didn’t know where the definitive line was between work and personal was.
Integration with other tools
Seeminly rare, most brands don’t integrate these tools with their other social media or even traditional website. With the recent case of brands being brandjacked by twitter domain registrars a new need came up of brands wanting to validate their twitter accounts. In fact, some have sent me emails from their corporate account asking me to confirm they are ‘real’ accounts. Of course, the most effective way to overcome validation from third parties and to enhance other tools is to cross link from various web properties, which Tyson foods has recently done. Take for example Dell, which has listed out many of their twitter accounts on their corporate website, now segmented out by verticals, products and regions. Brands should cross link their twitter account from their corporate blogs, traditionally websites, and vice versa.
Aggregation and joining conversations
The next step in this evolution is to watch how the conversations will fragment, spread, and be aggregated on different websites. The conversation isn’t going to be limited to Twitter, it’s search clients, but will start to aggregate on other websites. Take for example Get Satisifaction a ‘universal’ support site that is aggregating twitter conversations on their page, in this instance, Comcast. The conversation about the brand has now spread off the site, and will sputter off new threads of discussions on other websites. Brands like Dell will aggregate those same conversations right on their mainstream site –bringing the engaged audience closer to their site.
Although we’re still far from seeing this implement, I expect to see a tie with location aware devices that will integrate twitter with marketing, communication, and support. For example, as one approaches a product, or store where that product is, alerts, the ability to ask questions or receive special offers could automatically trigger to a customers account (most will be opt in, savvy marketers will figure around it). Expect savvy companies to further monitor discussions and respond to support or help questions using these micromedia tools.
While there are many variations and some companies skip from step to step, these are the major evolutionary phases of how I see companies adopting micromedia tools like Twitter. I’d love to hear your feedback on what you’re seeing, and where it’s all headed.
Ongoing List of Social Media Strategies
A social media strategy is a long term plan utilizing all of the resources at hand using two way social tools. In the early days of 2005-2007, developing sophisticated strategies were limited to just a handful of tools such as blogs, forums, and online video. Now with so many resources being available from Twitter, Upcoming, Facebook, Widgets, and more, the opportunities –and level of coordination will vary. This post will be an ongoing list of enterprise size companies (over 1000 employees) that share their social media strategies, plans, online –hopefully in slideshare, as it’s easier to communicate.
I expect contention
What’s interesting is how the language of corporate folks describing these tools is often very different than the language purists use. I expect some contention from this, and this will make for healthy discussion below. I too understand the need to meet business needs, but at the same the needs of customers, do leave your opinions below, or on the blogs or slideshares.
Why would a brand publish their social media strategy?
Well, for a few reasons. These programs are designed to reach customers, partners, and colleagues in an open and transparent way, why not share with them in public? Secondly, by showing these companies are sophisticated in their approach, they demonstrate thought leadership. Lastly, by opening up for a public dialog, there’s so much to learn, gain, and grow from the larger community.
Requirements for this list
If you want to share (this could potentially be useful for Forrester reports) please leave a comment. Your blog post, slideshare, video or podcast should explain what your enterprise company is doing in the social media realm, thinking both long term, and considering the many resources and tools available to you.
While I enjoy the holsitic view of the multi-departmental opportunities, it’s important to note that social media is not for everyone, as if you look at our technographic data, you’ll find inactive in nearly every demographic cut. I’m pretty sure they are suggesting that it’s for each department, so if that’s the case, then the statement is correct.
IBM’s Adam Christensen shares this slide deck of IBM’s approach on social media. I’ll be meeting with him to discuss it in early Oct 2008.
Intel: Intel Forming “The Insiders” Social Media Advisory Team
Ken Kaplan, Broadcast and New Media Manager, Global Communications Group at Intel Corporation
In this blog post, Intel calls for a board of advisors to reach and assist to them for their social media efforts. If you’re not aware, Intel is already doing a lot in this space, much with success. I give them a tremendous amount of credit for taking risks, quickly learning, and then making iterative changes.
EMC: Applying Personal Social Media Techniques to Corporate EMC
Dan Schwabel, Social Media Specialist at EMC Corporation
June 2008 In this post, Dan Schwabel shares the many different tools that are used at EMC and how they related to the overall change in personal and corporate branding. He examines events, CEO activity, and the many different social technologies used in their approach.
SAS: Online communities for SAS users and SAS professionals
Alison Bolen, sascom magazine’s Editor-in-Chief
July 2008 In this post, Alison lists out the many ways that customers can communicate with each other.Your Company
Leave a comment below with URL and description.