Web 2 has always been about communication, not technology. About using all different methods of getting accurate information, collaboration, dissemination. What better time to put it to the test in an organic, non-rational, human situation: the california fires.
Mashups of maps, microblogging and user-generated video are some of the uses. Remember the London bombings 2 years ag, where mobile phone images where the first used? Virginia Tech bloggers? This is not mall-meetup technology.
Love it or hate it, Facebook and other social media are here and they’re changing the online habits of your employees and customers. It would be churlish to dismiss social media as a fad with no impact on your organisation other than being a tool for employees to squander their billable time; at the same time, Facebook is not going to propel your company into an early listing just because it has the undivided attention of tens of millions of users. Right about now, you have a IT policy in place regarding use of social media or are undecided about what action to take.
Time to take a step back and do a business case on this phenomenon. The purpose of this article is for you to realise what lessons and habits your employees and online customers have learned in the last few months while being introduced to social media. Consider these , and then discuss them within your own organisations. Don’t be stuck on Facebook, your employees are probably using other Web 2.0, or social media, applications on an hourly basis.
1 Web publishing is simple
Ten years ago the message was “anyone can publish a web page. Learn a little HTML, some Photoshop, some odds and ends about HTTP and web hosting and there you go!”. This spawned a cottage industry of web designers and web design courses, but lets face it: it required a steep learning curve in languages and standards that were changing every few months.
Blogs are far easier to set up, but people from non-creative industries or non-media types have to think long and hard about design, posting, commenting and plug-ins. Its no surprise that most blogs reference “web 2.0″ or “social media”. While blogging is a tsunami, it doesn’t get everyone publishing.
Enter Facebook. A simple setup process, no level design playing field, click-n-play plugins and publishing in a manner more similar to text or instant messaging than email or word processing.
The business case: employees will finally be able to take short cuts and ask questions like: wouldn’t it be simpler to put this online? Can’t we create a mash up of our sales figures and geographical areas like the travel apps in Facebook? (The answer to both is Yes).
2 Facebook is a start page
Enterprise applications like SAP and Microsoft Sharepoint allow one to set personalised home pages on their intranet start pages or as their default browser pages. Facebook is similar, except the information on it is mostly of a personal nature.
The business case: you may want to consider pulling Facebook’s notifications as an RSS feed into your existing employees’ start pages. In that way they can keep abreast of friend’s movements at a glance from within their business application. This may sound abhorrent to some policy makers, but ask your IT to do a test implementation for you and you’ll see how innocuous it is. Will it keep employees of the phone and emailing? I don’t know the answer to that question, but consider this option if you don’t want to ban Facebook outright.
3 Social networking online
When you send your sales, marketing and client service to a conference, do you exhort them to network their buns off? Probably not in as many words, but that’s what you want. Surely your enterprising employees will use online social networks to initiate joint partnerships or get valuable information, perhaps even to disseminate your company news in this channel (for free). If you manage IT staff you would be foolish to discourage them from joining sites like Experts Exchange, Slashdot or Tech Republic. When they hit a coding snag they can submit the question online or nose around the forums for the answer, rather than spend two days trying to reinvent the wheel.
Facebook has most likely informed your employees about how to leverage their social network (even though some will only use Facebook to organise parties and send chain mail!)
The business case: Social networking online is a way to make customers gather around product (Amazon), supply you with invaluable ideas (Dell Ideastorm) and engage with approved demographically-selected profiles (eons).
4 Naked communication
A person’s personality comes through on Facebook more so than in any other medium. Those who boast offline, boat on Facebook. Those who sent chain letters with Hello Kitty drawings at age 8 do the same on Facebook at a more advanced age. That is the power of the medium, people manage not only their relationships but their personas through it. This naked communication builds stronger online and offline relationships.
The business case: like Amazon’s recommendations, Digg’s articles and del.icio.us bookmarks, users trust content generated by their peers, known or unknown, more than what businesses tell them to believe. This is evidenced in Facebook and other social media, and your business ought to have a strategy in place to interact and monitor this channel.
Can a 22 year-old be friends with a multinational car manufacturing corporation? Can Barack Obama be friends with thousands of potential voters? In Facebook you can. You can even have stronger relationships with entities than with friends you see every weekend for dinner. It may be a perversion of the concept of friendship, but its the term we’re saddled with when we try and explain these relationships. Users and customers can be friends with your brand, usually around a competition, cause or campaign. This is free permission marketing, are you still complaining?
The business case: we learned that people trust the official line when published in a blog format more so than when it comes as a press release off the wires. In the same way, an intranet modified into more of a social network, a customer care section of your website or a graduate recruitment site will benefit from bringing your brand to the level of peer rather than patriarch.
6 Always-on culture
Generally speaking, the last two generations in the workplace don’t like the commitment of formal telephone calls. They weren’t taught telephone etiquette and the concept of “taking a message” is beyond them. Sometimes one uses a SMS or IM message as a status checker: are you in? can you make it? The pressure is taken off having to tell a white lie, which is not as easy when speaking to someone in real time over the telephone.
Facebook’s status updates allow you to mention in a brief, pithy manner about your whereabouts, mood and recent events in your life. Friends are notified immediately, and will act thereupon by contacting you directly, leaving you alone, or not bothering to schedule a meeting for you as you have stated that you’re ill or on leave.
The business case: Churches are increasingly blogging their sermons to their communities. Some people just don’t want to attend church but they want the information, much like workers who hate meetings but want to participate in the project nonetheless. What if your board gave brief updates to the other members or subordinates in a secure environment once a day? They could pass on critical leads or thoughts that others could action or research the merits thereof. Teams could get rapid updates rather than gathering in time-consuming meetings, analysts could offer rapid assessments of stock and send out to subscribers in all the various formats.
When getting approval from a client around some material or dealing with a supplier, you’ll find IM is faster than email. You can store the conversations for later reference. The stand out in this area is Rackspace, the hosting provider. After spending a few minutes on their site, a window pops up with a sales assistant asking if you need help. You can then ask questions and answers to them, with audio or simply through the IM interface.
7 The Internet is a raw document repository
Google taught us that you can find anything online. Wikipedia taught us that information about everything can be found online. Facebook taught us that anyone you would want to find is probably online. This is a simplification, as others have identified class differences between MySpace and Facebook, not to mention those who are not even online. If you are reading this, however, and can identify with the issues, then you know that your kindergarten playmates or high school sweethearts are a click away from discovery.
The business case: managers tried to block the internet and they tried to block IM. That was until they realised the benefits for productivity and communication inherent in both. Facebook and other social networks may have business applications that are not immediately apparent.
I believe microblogging will be the preferred communication method of the near future. The current providers allow one to text, IM, email, blog or phone updates to your personal blog. The updates are then disseminated by notifications like RSS, email, IM, text etc. Publishing and dissemination are therefore combined in one medium through many devices, something which standard websites and phones cannot replicate. This is where Enterprise 2.0 will be focussing its attention right now.
The status updates of Facebook and the wall posts as well as the notifications of your friends are just as in microblogging.
The business case: microblogging allows for sending and receiving key updates through all technical devices. Project updates or urgent information release (See the LA Fire Department’s microblog) are native to microblogs.
Sure, Facebook is also a fad. Remember at school you had fads like marbles, collecting cards, hairstyles and clothes styles? They were great, then the powers-that-were moved on them and banned them. The fad usually went underground and the fad mutated into a cult. Feelings against the school management were probably soured for a while. Things may or may have not been written on lavatory walls. Tongues in cheek aside, the same is happening in corporates world-wide.
The business case: everything in social media is, for the corporate, a threat and an opportunity. What usually tips the scale into the overall positive side is that everything is measurable. People can blog about you, but you can blog about yourself and respond to them too. And you can track when somebody mentions you in a blog post. The same principle applies to Facebook and other social media.
10 Knowledge gathering
Since employees have been given internet access to perform their tasks better, they have usually been updated with links and jokes and websites and now Facebook. They’ve been exposed to more disparate information and interest groups than they would probably have found in that evening’s newspapers. This is a part of the great tradition of the Enlightenment, and as mentioned above, they will place worth in content not only coming from the traditional news sources.
The business case: if you are in a creative field, I would suggest giving employees limited or unlimited internet access, underpinned with a performance contract. I would also set aside two hours for a meeting at the end of the week where everyone has to report on what they found online that could contribute to the business aims of the organisation. A reward of more access could be considered? Then your internet and bandwidth can be assessed as a valid business tool, and you and your employees will be reaping the benefits that social media is infusing into our traditional media channels.
Corporations have had to react to the phenomenon, ranging from banning use of Facebook outright, through to limiting use thereof to the marketing departments, to creating an official presence on Facebook and tying the company profile into graduate recruitment and news dissemination.
Don’t base your Facebook decision on appearing cool to your employees or external stakeholders. Rather look at the points made above, distribute to staff and convene an open discussion with their own points of view. You could see financial or productivity rewards, or perhaps you may only establish a better dialogue with staff and your customer base.
Remember, this is social media. A top-down approach to information distribution usually lands bottoms up.
Concepts are funny old things.
Then you get arcane and difficult concepts like Zeitgeist /ˈtsaɪtˌgaɪst/ Pronunciation Key – Show Spelled Pronunciation[tsahyt-gahyst], Stream of Consciousness, Knowledge Management and Schadenfreude /ˈʃɑdnˌfrɔɪdə/ Pronunciation Key – Show Spelled Pronunciation[shahd-n-froi-duh].
The last is best explained by how you felt when Australia and New Zealand exited the Rugby World Cup
Just like the first eight of engerland, Microsoft get to the loose ball slowly, but they drive on relentlessly, onward and on. Pardon the analogy, but that’s how MS is being interpreted by my RWC2007-addled brain. They are johnny-come-lately (not Wilkinson) along with other ERM giants to the benefits of enterprise 2.0, but once they’ve arrived their presence is felt. SharePoint had already adopted blogs and wikis for internal use in its product, today they cemented that vision.
Taken from McManus’ article:
Today Microsoft is announcing two strategic partnerships, with enterprise software company Atlassian and RSS solutions vendor NewsGator. The partnerships link togther Microsoft’s SharePoint product with Atlassian’s wiki collaboration product Confluence and a new offering from Newsgator called ‘NewsGator Social Sites’, a collection of site templates, profiles, Web parts and middleware for SharePoint. Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007 is a key product for Microsoft – it has collaboration, business intelligence, content management, search and “social computing” capabilities (Microsoft’s term for ‘web 2.0′, according to this page on Microsoft’s website).
The aim of the partnerships is to add more “social computing platform” capabilities to SharePoint, which up till now has mainly been promoted as an “enterprise productivity platform”. In other words, Microsoft is adding more web 2.0 functionality (e.g. collaboration, personal publishing) to SharePoint, using best of breed web products from Atlassian and Newsgator.
Update: definitive article from Susan Scrupski.
This article was first published in October 2007.
An Intranet start page is a valuable piece of real estate. You can decide who gets to see what based on roles and permissions, ensure that everyone is fed group-wide announcements and even get brand-buy in by exposing your employees to your products, messages or even corporate identity on that space. HR situations such as “I didn’t get the email” or “that A3-sized safety warning must have fallen off the wall while I plugged my fingers into the socket” may be averted to some degree.
Web start pages target the individual user and aim to provide them with their favourite links, feeds and widgets. They have really come a long way from the days of Windows Active Desktop. Google, Netvibes, Pageflakes, My Yahoo! are playing in this space and making their start pages almost indispensable, much like the portal strategies of a few years ago wanted.
Google personalised start page
Intranet start pages and web start pages are quite different: one facilitates work for the enterprise, the other provides a launching pad into the web mostly for general interest. Now I like a CMS for my documents and I like web pages for their “Daily Me” functionality. How can they be merged?
I don’t have access to an intranet full-time, I consult from my notebook. There is no point in setting up a start page in my browser saying “Me, do this!”, “Well done I!”, “Comment on this document and send to self for review”. However, I do use a content management system (Drupal) to categorise my research, past articles and files related to my own bookkeeping. It runs online as well as offline when I may be somewhere with fluctuating or no connectivity (read: beach). Microsoft desktop applications have never made it intuitive to manage your own server on your desktop, and even the lag time with waiting for the native document format, Word, to open or close has turned me off it.
Content management system
I would like to see an online service that will be the first thing I open (after my eyes and the kettle) which acts as the current web start pages do. My RSS feeds, my widgets, probably some more interactivity with my own blogs. However, when I take my notebook offline, I would love it if I had that service on my own machine so that I could use it as a CMS for my articles, blog posts, get to read those RSS items that I’d starred but never got around to. Then when my wife says “No internet today!” I can concur but still take my essential reading along.
When I go online, the service would ask me what I’d like to upload to live, re-sync and all would be well with the world again. Perhaps when I view a page online I could select it for offline viewing, where the service uses some smart screen-scraping to provide me with just the post or article, not the visual gumph that comes with it. Go online again, and the screen scraping info gets submitted towards the semantic web project.
It would store my local files online as a backup or for sharing. That way, the web and desktop are both used as a platform, both with the latest copies. The application probably most likely to effect this is Google Gears, an open source browser extension that lets you create web applications that can run offline.
Essentially I want the freedom of a web start page with the structure and support of a local CMS. The two should be the same service. I know with a bit of working around one could get this working, and that one can theoretically achieve these aims with products like Google Gears and Google Documents.
I would probably accept cached advertising if it was a free service, so that when I view offline I still get the advertisements that were meant for my online experience. Otherwise I would pay for such a service in my personal capacity. For an enterprise? Syncing already works well or logging into your intranet via VPN, although you may have marketers without constant access to the network and they would do well to be able to display from their notebooks without relying on connectivity. Salesforce.com have done something along these lines using Gears. Their graph for depicting the process is as follows:
Salesforce.com process using Gears
I would like to the start pages vendors or the embedded service players like Google and Yahoo! step into this market. Other technologies flying around at the moment like Yahoo! Pipes (mashups), XUL, Google Office applications, MS Sharepoint (enterprise 2.0 enabled) and plain Open Source projects are all brilliant solutions looking for a problem.
Perhaps they can begin with the marriage of the desktop to the web.
What better way than to get people to gather around Junk? Er, not talking about MySpace or FaceBook, but eBay who released eBay Neighborhoods the other day.
The design is great, coming hard on the heels of Amazon’s new redesign.
eBay was one of the companies that did really well really quickly in the 2000 – 2005 period, along with Amazon and Yahoo! I think some cumulative laurels were being sat on by Yahoo! and eBay while everyone else got an idea, an API and some numbers behind them.
Some pennies have dropped since then, and I think this is a network going places. eBay is addictive to many people, and thousands make their living from it. That’s an audience that you can’t buy. Now if you could integrate their other offerings Skype and StumbleUpon into this it would be worth joining, even if only to get rid of my 1970′s Bobby Locke set of woods.
The “Office of Interactive Disclosure” has been set up by the US SEC to facilitate the adoption of XBRL by US companies, with a view to making disclosure via XBRL mandatory by the end of next year.
SEC chairman Christopher Cox says “Helping improve our capital markets through lower-cost, faster, and more useful information is the heart of this mission”.
A good analysis of the ramifications for US disclosure appears by Dominic Jones. Many of this blog’s readers are aware of XBRL and are ready to unleash the wild beasts of the audit department when it nears mandatory adoption. Take this as a heads-up.
Google buys out Jaiku, the microblogging platform that is a bit more serious than Twitter and Pownce.
Why? Well, Twitter is the popular kid and has all the gadgets and messaging interfaces, but you cannot extend it beyond its mass appeal interface. Pownce was always aimed at the teen market with its buzz and image-video upload.
No sirree, Jaiku is the effort of some Finns, the most always-on culture on the planet (this is an abysmal sentence…). Threading and an element of moderating allow it to be used in serious apps.
My interest in microblogging is across various theatres (of war), but especially for the enterprise. Real time status updates, always-accessible team members (phone, email, site, IM) and a bit of sharing on the side.
You know which microblogging service is really underrated? Tumblr. Its more microblog than the others. The others should really be termed something like Gadget-Bridge or PresenceBlogs.
Microsoft is, like SAP, rapidly conceding that Web 2.0 and E2 is a worthy model to deploy into their conventional businesses. Took a look at MS Live yesterday, where users can create a www for free (and paid) and plan an advertising model around it. Good idea, now I see that MS is moving rapidly into advertising. I paraphrase from this article:
Steve Ballmer, the chief executive of Microsoft, vowing that the company’s $6 billion plunge into the ad business two months ago was not just an experiment, said today that advertising would become 25 percent of the company’s business within a few years.
That, he said, would be about the same amount of time it would take for all media and marketing to go digital.“Over time, all ad money will go through a digital ad platform,” Mr. Ballmer told a gathering of European ad agencies and clients. “All media goes digital; all advertising goes digital.”
Stephane De Sakutin/AFP/Getty Images
That is the lead-in to the main part of this post, which goes on to give telling stats (my emphases):
Mr. Ballmer’s remarks came the same day that the British online advertising trade group, the Internet Advertising Bureau, reported that Internet marketing had grown 41.3 percent in the first half of 2007 and now accounted for 14.7 percent of the British ad market.
The total British market grew 3.1 percent during the first half of the year, to £9.1 billion ($18.2 billion). Without Internet advertising, however, total media spending would have fallen by 1.9 percent. “Once again the Internet has propped up the U.K. advertising economy and remains the fastest-growing advertising medium,” the group said.