Ralf Haller March 29, 2010
Maria Azura’s new book The Social Factor writes about IBM’s very own experiences using social networking and describes the tremendous success that Wikis, Blogs, and other social tools have. The numbers are mind-boggling and were also for IBM beyond their highest expectations. This lead Maria to ask in her book:
Is there a correlation between the success of IBM and the social tools now used extensively by IBMers?
- within a year more than 150,000 IBMers were creating, accessing, or updating wikis, this represents about 40% of the total workforce
- after six months the active blogs topped out at approximately 5,000; the traffic continued to grow, however
Ralf Haller March 13, 2010
Being in high-tech business for nearly two decades I have seen many new ideas come and many more never become mainstream or disappear after only a short amount of time. Also the time it takes – while it seems this is getting shorter and shorter these days – can be relatively long before a new technology becomes used and adopted by the masses.
One reason in high-tech b2b markets why it takes so long to adopt new things is that there is an existing working infrastructure that is good enough and does mostly the job. New things need to be substantially better (10x in price and features) to make a quick impact. Problem here is of course that what is better cannot easily measured and quantified often so it is not even obvious even if companies sales and marketing will find all kinds of use cases showing ROI in a short amount of time.
One other reason are the human beings themselves. Used to do it one way or the other for a long time make them feel comfortable, they enjoy a certain amount of security and the feeling that they can deal with it well. New things are for most people – in particular conservative ones and the older generations – seen more as a threat than an opportunity. Also there is not so much desire to really try out something new, “why change anything?” they ask themselves, “we are doing very well”, so there is no reason really to change anything. We have just seen such thinking with the old boy group at the world soccer organization FIFA (its president Sepp Blattner is 73 and enjoys half the voting rights, whow, how is that possible?) where they ruled out any technical aids such as goal cameras or sensors in soccer balls. This despite the public, practically all coaches and players in favor of using new technologies to reduce the amount of mistakes when it comes to goals and also it is used in other sports (ice hockey, tennis) already. The arguments that the FIFA published are some that could be easily applied to the nay sayers in technology, here an extraction:
Fussball muss, erstens, weltweit nach den gleichen Regeln gespielt werden. Für Teenager in einem kleinen Ort etwa sollen die gleichen Regeln gelten wie für die Profis. Zweitens bringt es nichts, die Verantwortung für einen Entscheid vom Schiedsrichter der Technologie zu übertragen. Selbst Zeitlupen würden keine Klarheit bringen, und zehn Experten hätten zehn Meinungen, wie eine Situation zu beurteilen sei. Drittens kann die Anwendung von Technologie wie zum Beispiel zur Überwachung der Torlinie (mit Kamera oder Chip im Ball) sehr teuer sein. Viertens schliesslich ist Fussball ein dynamisches Spiel und kann zur Überprüfung eines Entscheides nicht einfach unterbrochen werden.
Quite funny some of these arguments. They basically have only one goal: don’t touch our nice world and confront us possibly with challenges that we don’t understand.
Despite this NO, I am convinced that in only a few years, when some of these people are retired (finally) technology will come where it makes sense and where it clearly helps to make better decisions. Grassroot movements and opinions cannot be stopped, only delayed. New ways in discussing opinions in blogs, communities, news portals will help to keep the pressure up. Below an online survey done in the Swiss newspaper Tagesanzeiger. 72% say about the FIFA decision “total nonsense”.
Ralf Haller November 7, 2009
Ooops – you might wonder how this headline goes together with our very own services for social communities? In fact it goes very well, as the point I want to make here more or less concurs with this article in Business Week back in May 2009. Gene Marks, who is a bestselling author for small business topics, makes this point there:
We’ve been misled as to the benefits of social networking sites. Many of us are finding that these tools do not live up to the hype, especially for small business. Once we start digging deeper, we’re finding a lot of challenges. Are you thinking of using Facebook, Twitter, or the like in your business? Before you go any further, consider the following myths:…
Most of the marketing departments who start using social media marketing think that they need to get onto Facebook and Twitter first. Actually, there is a much better way, which also makes use of the social community advantages for your market ecosystem: private social communities. Of course many might also mistake social media marketing with Facebook, StudiVZ or Twitter only and see – rightly – no point for their target audiences engaging. Marks also makes this point here (which I also agree with except that I don’t like the examples he has chosen):
Where, then, should a small business owner go online? Often the best social networking sites are specific to business owners. For example, Intuit’s (INTU) social media people are on their own small business community. Another good one is Bank of America’s (BAC) small business community.
The reason I think these are not such good examples is that they start out with the idea to create “small business communities” when in fact there is no such thing as people looking for small business advice but they are looking for accounting, investment, IT, etc. advice. Both do that in effect, of course, but should change their headings I think.
To make the same point less controversial sounding he could have asked “when to use public social media services and when to build your own?”.
Ralf Haller October 24, 2009
This week we have seen two major announcements that are clearly relevant for social media communications: first Microsoft said they would integrate both Facebook and Twitter into Bing and then Google announced an integration into search with Twitter and others. “Financial terms” were exchanged between Google and Twitter is what Marissa Mayer disclosed at the Web 2.0 Summit in San Francisco so it is at least clear that there are business interests behind it.
I think this will be the start of much more social media relevance and for sure also the use of private social communities (disclosure note: that we also offer as a service to deploy and manage) where companies built their own communities that are relevant to them and the stakeholders that they see as relevant.
At the same event Web 2.0, the most commented on presentation was btw exactly about this topic where Sean Parker, an entrepreneur who was founding President of Facebook and founder of infamous Napster and others and at the age of 27 was already a VC at Founders Fund, talks about a paradigm shift away from information services towards network services: “Why companies like Twitter, Facebook, Ebay and Apple (but not Google) will determine the future of the Internet” or “Collecting data is less valuable than connecting people”. His slides can be seen here.
Ralf Haller October 14, 2009
LinkedIn, the professional contact social network, is somewhat in the shadow of its much more visible rivals Facebook, Myspace or – recently – Twitter. For business users LinkedIn is in my opinion the strongest public social network tool I can think of. I also tried out XING, its German rival, but dropped it after finding little other than job seekers in it. LinkedIn on the other hand becomes a very very strong tool once you have 100+ or so contacts as you can then get in contact via InMail with many people that you might want to do business with. And with every new contact you sign on the network grows exponentially. What most people don’t know is that LinkedIn was started also by a German: Konstantin Guericke. Recently LinkedIn has been trying to also include more social communication features such as e.g. a status line on what you are working on.
I think they could easily also include more of what Facebook and Twitter have to offer and with that get the network growing some more. One key difference is that LinkedIn are far less willing to share their API with developers; this may be a benefit in some ways but it does limit the ways that LinkedIn can be tied into the user’s life. Another way they might expand is that they could start a LinkedIn Junior or something like that to attract younger folks as well. But whichever way you look at it, LinkedIn is a big success story and all the folks who have been involved deserve a lot of respect.
Ralf Haller October 6, 2009
While there are some signs of recovery, it seems a slow moving process and many companies are still having a hard time planning their budgets for longer than just a few months ahead. Also the question comes up what to do in marketing. Will people even be open to what you do? Or should you save that money entirely?
Tools that I feel will still work are:
- video casts of products, your company; insightful interviews of your customers (needs someone doing the interviews who understands your business otherwise will be worthless small talk or high-level surface scratching); and something that you can try out as well are animated presentations with spoken text. This is easier to do as you don’t need video interview skills.
- virtual events: as VMWare and others have shown, you can increase the audience by 3-5x with a virtual event site that gives every participating company their own space. When travel costs are being cut, that seems the way to still have people engaged even if they might not physically attend the event
- interactive sites, if you are able to hook your target group with interesting discussions on hot subjects in your product market this should draw attention; and if you manage to get many to even leave comments, you have achieved the best one can expect from a product marketing tool. These social community sites require very careful and skilled planning, though. Also cultural aspects inside and outside your company need to be taken into account. You cannot just buy a community software tool and set it all up in a week. While technically possible, it will definitely not fly. Still, many software vendors try to make you believe a community is just another simple collaboration tool like chatting or project collaboration. But it is simply not so!
- fun sells: it requires a bit of courage to use fun elements such as cartoons but, if you do, it will draw attention. It’s important that the fun is linked with what you do and not simply a general cartoon or joke
- webinars save people the time and expense of attending a seminar but, as with e-newsletters, I feel though there are many webinars offered, maybe too many? The beauty is nevertheless that you need only one participant and it is still worth doing as also on your side the cost is minimal. So I would try them still. Maybe you get some initial prospects. Be aware though that you need to do a personal invitation as well, which means more than sending out a general e-mail to your e-mail list!
- banner ads: if you want to make them effective then you need to spend a good amount of money making them very big and displaying them on highly trafficked sites where you expect your target group to go. A small banner ad next to half a dozen others will not be worth the money you have spent.
Tools that seem to have lost its magic:
- e-newsletters, I get much less than a few years ago when everyone sent out a newsletter and really expected that people would read them. I think they don’t unless you have something super interesting to say. Also if you do it it needs to be done very well incl. the design. The standard e-newsletters are not good enough. There are better ways now too such as RSS or community sites to do the same or even better.
- e-mailings, I think with RSS e-mailing campaigns have lost their raison d’aitre. Still there are many out who still spam the inboxes of their target groups. More annoying than effective I would think unless, again, it is a personal email but that is hard to do.
Update: and a more generic slide on Marketing 3.0 from Phil Kotler.
Ralf Haller September 29, 2009
Who would have forecast only a few years ago that Dell would drive the innovation of laptop technology forward? Dell was well known for me-too, high-powered professional laptops for a relatively good price. Up until they ran into support problems and the “Dell is hell” story made its round, hurting the company quite a bit. Now that Michael Dell is back he seems to be doing a lot of great things. Firstly they started using social communities for innovation as well as for tech support, which also appears to have had a great effect on the culture of the company. And now they have announced the Latitude Z, which is full of great innovation. It is pricey still, but in a short amount of time I am sure this will all become more affordable as always.
Ralf Haller August 29, 2009
I attended this week a presentation hosted at Deloitte in Zurich. While Deloitte presented some high-level social communications and collaboration PPT slides from a former internal workshop only, the communication expert and project manager at SwissRe (a large global reinsurer company) had much more concrete to say about his project. SwissRe will launch end of September now to all their 10k employees after a successful trial with 1300 employees since April this year an internal collaboration software based on an off-the-shelf Web 2.0 community tool. What makes this news interesting is not the rollout of this tool which is IT-wise a piece of cake, but the fact that such a conservative company now suddenly opens up to full collaboration between all its employees allowing them to use any kind of web based tools such as forums, wikis, IM, blogs etc. being able to form groups and share knowledge across any departments globally.
They justified the investment with a range of organizational and cultural benefits that they expect but one thing worked out by chance very nicely, they could show that they can replace two very expensive (only used by small groups) existing collaboration tools that they inherited from some former acquisitions. The project was run by the communications department and was not an IT project which makes total sense since it is not about the tool or technology but about the business benefits in communications that are at the center here.
During the following apero I raised the idea that any progressive bank that would allow its analysts to work with such tools would have a significant advantage over the currently closed-minded and self-centric approach that all the banks have right now. People agreed with me. Will it happen? We will see, there is certainly a chance for a paradigm shift which is not only the case in the banking and insurance markets. And if there are some expensive not much used software tools in your organization as well, how about taking a look at replacing them with something that could actually work and provide big benefits to your organization? Now is the right time to do this.