Predictions Social Business in 2012, Part III: Transforming Your Organization

This is the last of three posts I’m writing on predictions and priorities for Social Business in 2012. You can read the first and second prediction posts for more context.

Prediction #3: Connected leaders and employees will create sustained competitive advantages through a culture of sharing. This year will see some companies pull ahead of others because they are able to collaborate, innovate and execute better and faster thanks to an ingrained culture of sharing.

This is the year that companies get serious about investing in their internal social business capabilities, simply because it helps create and sustain a fast-moving, innovative and collaborative culture. It’s one thing to have a Facebook or Twitter presence run by a small social media team in your organization. It’s a totally different ball game that truly social businesses are playing when thousands of employees are connected externally as well as internally. [Read more...]

Predictions for Social Business in 2012, Part II: Knowing Your Customer

Rather than simply make prognostications, I wanted to give actionable advice based on these trends. This is the second of my three predictions and priorities for Social Business in 2012 (read the first prediction).Prediction #2: Your customers want to be known. Your customers don’t merely want you to understand their needs or pain points. They want you to know them as individuals anywhere and anytime they engage with you.

Companies sure know a lot about us, without knowing much. For example, I’m classified for marketing purposes as a Gen X, 35-45 years old, graduate degree holding, Real Simple and Wired magazine reading, working mom. I frequently “like”, “follow”, and engage with companies on sites like Facebook and Twitter. And yet when I walk into a store or visit the site to which I am loyal I get…the same 15% off, free shipping offer, and experience that everyone else gets. To most companies, I’m a faceless member of a target market. [Read more...]

Predictions and Priorities for Social Business in 2012 – Part I

My pet peeve about the annual predictions ritual is that they lack context for action. It’s nice to know that tablets and big data are important — but what should you do about it?

So here’s my attempt at not only forecasting but also to provide actions that companies should be prioritizing in 2012.

The Process: I went through my speaking and client engagements in 2011 and looked at which topics and themes I kept referring to over and over again, especially toward the end of the year. I also analyzed which of the tweets from these events were most retweeted to verify where the heat was. [Read more...]

Facebook Timeline reveals the future of sharing

Leading up to Facebook’s f8 conference today, my biggest concern about the rumored new “Read. Watched. Listened” buttons was that Facebook was becoming more and more superficial in its interactions. This was especially the case when compared to the deep interactions and engagements found on Google+ (which suffers from the problem of not having nearly enough people on it to sustain those deep conversations, but that’s another post).

But Timeline beautifully solves this problem in two ways. First, Facebook automates the sharing of everyday, miniscule activities that most of us would never bother to expose. But because ALL of it shared as a feed, the whole becomes available and accessible, and thus interesting.  You don’t care that I listened to Billy Joel just now, but you may find it interesting that I listen to him any chance that I get.

Second, the items in the feed are seen in two ways, in the Tickler blended in with all of the rest of debris of our lives, and in Timeline where it’s laid out against the context of time.

It’s this second aspect of the announcements that I find so fascinating, that we now have the context of time to add to our sharing. To understand this evolution and put it in perspective, let’s take a quick look at the history of sharing within social networks. I have long contended that there are three things that make social networks unique: your Profile, your Relationships, and your Activities (see figure below).

SharingFutureOver the past few years, each of these components have evolved. When we first began on our online social journeys, who could have thought that we would be sharing photos of what they were having for dinner online? Yet people frequently not only check into restaurants but also post photos what they are eating, as well as who they are having dinner with.  Our notions of privacy and what we will share change with the perceived value of that sharing. We benefit from the people who have shared before us (you ordered the dish because of a review). We like reading about our friends culinary adventures, and so we reciprocate. The cycle continues to evolve as we expand the things we are comfortable sharing.

And the driving force of this evolution has been Facebook. More than any other company, Facebook has pushed the boundaries of what we will share and how share it. News Feed was met with derision and boycotts but in the end, people found it too valuable. Beacon in 2007 was pulled because it pushed the envelop too far, but that was also instructive to Facebook as they learned how far and how quickly they could push the limits of sharing.

Now Timeline and auto-feeding of your activities is pushing the edge again. Understandably, people are uneasy about EVERYTHING in their lives being shared on Facebook. It feels like too much power being bestowed on one company. To ally concerns, Facebook is starting in safe territory. This first phase enables media content, which is rarely embarrassing, as long as you don’t stray into X-rated categories. The discovery benefits of seeing what my friends read, watch, and listen to are also evident – I want to find my fellow Billy Joel fans amongst my friends.

But how far will this go? Here are some future scenarios and applications that could take advantage of an activity auto-feed:

  • Location-based activities. I hate checking in, because it interrupts the flow of my activity at a location. Instead, I would give permission to be “auto-checked in” to a location. These are the places like my favorite restaurant that I patronize on a regular basis and would be proud to be associated with, especially if I can drive more business to them. So I’d willingly give permission to share that information. This goes beyond Like and moves into Love territory.
  • Interest-based purchases. There are specialty retailers that I frequent that are fairly “safe” where I would share detailed purchase information. Pottery Barn for housewares. Wine.come for new wines. Zappos for shoes. And I would benefit from discovering what else people with similar tastes also bought. But there are some retailers where it’s just doesn’t make sense, for example a drugstore or Victoria’s Secret.
  • Communication trends. As I previously discussed in a post about Google+, one of the key things Facebook is missing is who I email, text, call, and meet with on a regular basis. All of that information stored in my mobile phone is currently inaccessible and off limits to any application. But what if I could give permission to auto-stream that data so that I could make sense of it, to find the trends and highlights that make it relevant and useful to me?

How far are we willing to share our information and activities? Look no further than to our real lives because we do it all the time. Our credit card transactions are captured and resold to direct marketers. Our Caller IDs – which used to be private – are shared. Caller IDs in fact are a great example of how our notions of privacy get flipped upside down by utility. When Caller ID first came out, many people regarded it as a violation of privacy and were uneasy with the notion that people could see who was calling them. Today, what happens when you get the message, “Blocked ID” on your phone? You don’t answer it! That flip in privacy took about eight years to happen.

But Facebook doesn’t have the luxury of years to change our mindsets around privacy – it has weeks. It has put in place numerous controls to be able to manage the permissions around Timeline feeds, from what is included to who can see it. In the end though, what Facebook is investing in is Trust. Pew Internet recently released a report that showed that Facebook users are far more trusting that the rest of the Internet. “A Facebook user who uses the site multiple times per day is 43% more likely than other Internet users and more than three times as likely as non-Internet users to feel that most people can be trusted.”

Facebook is counting that this remains true, and that sharing will continue to expand at the rate it needs to in order to fulfill this vision.

Hot Or Not: Disruptive Technologies To Watch in 2011, Part 1: The Framework

Last month, I gave a presentation on the top disruptive technologies to watch at the SFAMA monthly meeting. One of the things I did to prepare was to read as many tech predictions for 2011 as I could find. You can see them all collected in one place.

The one thing that struck me was that many of these forecasts didn’t provide a reasoning for why these trends (and not others) were picked. Having done my own predictions and trends to watch forecasts in the past, it was very much a subjective list.

I decided to approach this task from a different perspective. Instead of thinking about the trends first, I wanted to create a framework that would help organizations figure out themselves which disruptive trends they should prioritize and focus on. That’s because companies have limited people, time, and budget to focus on these disruptive technologies that are far-off on the horizon. They can’t focus on everything, so how do you pick and choose?

As a business focused on companies helping companies thrive with disruptive technologies, the work we do at the strategic level focuses on creating a strategy that’s robust and resilient in the face of these new tech forces. What amazes me is that companies can often see these tech disruptions coming from a mile away — and do nothing about it. That’s because they don’t have a way to prioritize, think, and plan a strategy around the technologies that matter. Guiding my thinking in this area is the outstanding work of people like Clay Christiansen, who have been thinking about disruptive innovations for decades.

I believe there are three major drivers that make a disruptive technology important to a particular business. While I frame these at a high level, each organization should look at these drivers to prioritize their focus.

  • User Experience. Does this technology pass the “no manual needed” test? Does it allow people to connect in new ways? Twitter is powerful as a platform, but inscrutable if you’re not familiar or comfortable with @ and DMs — which thereby limits its disruptive power. In comparison, social networks like Facebook are intuitive and provide tremendous value with the new experiences they enable.
  • Business model. Simply put, can you make more money, or save costs because of these new technologies? And by using the technologies better and faster than your competitor, can you gain an advantage? An example of this is YouTube, which when deployed in a strategic way can lower acquisition and support costs for companies.
  • Ecosystem value. The most disruptive technologies though are when ecosystems get impacted. Streaming, on-demand video seemed to be the dominion of cable companies but then along comes Netflix who wasn’t even in the streaming business at all — but has the relationship with movie viewers who were sick of keeping track of red envelopes. Value shifts with the entrant of a new player who is able to tap into this new technology.

I’ll be doing a Webinar on this topic — and sharing the top trends I’m watching — on Thursday, Feb. 17th at 2pm PST (go to this link at that time). I’ll be using Slideshare.net’s new Zipcast service, so be one of the first to give it a try with me. I’ll likely be doing repeat presentations, and will update this post with that information.

I welcome your thoughts on the basic outlines of this framework. What am I missing? What else should I be considering? How can I refine my thinking further? And how does your organization go about prioritizing which disruptive technologies to focus on — and creating resilient strategies to thrive with them?

I’ll be going into greater detail the individual technologies over the next few weeks as my research digs deeper into this area, and I hope you’ll come along with me on this journey.