Blogging as a State of Mind: Reflections on 10 Years of Blogging

people in the information spaceTen years ago today, I wrote my first blog post, entitled “Blogging as a State of Mind”. I still vividly remember the moment — my palms were sweating as I pressed the “Publish” button on my Typepad blog for the first time. I was excited, but nervous about what was going to happen. What would people think? What if I made a mistake?

What happened was that I became completely transformed by the interactions and relationships of people I’ve met through my blogging and subsequently, social media activities. I’m eternally grateful to everyone who has encouraged, supported, and engaged with me — I have grown and learned so much.

In my first year, I had 120 posts on my blog. In comparison, this past year I wrote 10 blog posts, 10 LinkedIn Influencer posts, and approximately 800 tweets. My blog posts get decent traffic and no comments. In comparison, my latest LinkedIn post on the Apple Watch had over 10,000 views, 330 likes, and 69 comments. You just can’t beat the engagement that social media platforms provide, something that blogs on their own can’t do. It’s one of the reasons why long-time bloggers like Robert Scoble abandon their blogs for social media platforms.

But what I wrote ten years ago in that post still resonates today: “I believe that blogs as they are today are more a state of mind than a technology or a publishing tool.” The platforms that we use are less important than the state of mind we take on when posting and engaging.

For example, one of the biggest difference is that ten years ago, the idea of companies engaging customers in a two-way dialog was a completely foreign idea. This is what I wrote in that first post:

“What if we actually asked our customers what they wanted? What if we used mechanisms like blogs to give customers a voice — and then actually listened and acted on requests?”

We’ve come a very long way in just ten years — our research shows that the vast majority of enterprises have some sort of social media presence.

But have we really come that far? After all, a presence doesn’t really mean that companies are truly listening and making changes because of customer’s issues. Moreover, have companies really changed their tune when it comes to developing relationships with customers, in an authentic, open, and transparent way?

Here’s the example I often give to organizations and their executives. In 2006, a Dell notebook caught on fire in Kyoto, Japan and Dell found itself in a media firestorm (pun intended). Having just launched their shiny new corporate blog, the incident really put Dell to the test — how would they handle this situation? Ignore it, cross the fingers, and hope that it will all die down? Or address it head-on? The result: Dell made the gutsy call and wrote a blog post that not only discusses the incident but also links to an article and picture of the Dell notebook on fire. That took a lot of guts.

Fast forward eight years to present day. How many companies are prepared to do something similar in the face of a crisis? I have asked this question now of audiences for eight years and the number of hands that go up each time have stubbornly remained in the single digits. Not much has actually changed, despite all of the followers and activities on sites like Facebook, Twitter, and the rest.

Despite this, I remain ever optimistic because there are companies and leaders who have embraced the social mind set, one that focuses on the relationships being created and deepened, rather than the technology. Their ranks grow with each passing day.

And there’s one thing that hasn’t changed. My palms still sweat a little every time I hit that “Publish” button.

 

Addendum: Below is a list of my favorite posts over the past decade, and a little bit about why they are special to me.

Help with My New Report: Employee Engagement & Advocacy

Businessman holding paperI’m passionate about Open Leadership, and the imperative to be open, authentic and transparent in the way we lead. This is all the more important when looking at how to engage employees, and tapping them for the bright shiny object de jour “employee advocacy”.

To that end, my colleague Jon Cifuentes and I are working on a new Altimeter report on how companies create holistic strategies that increase internal employee engagement and external employee advocacy. The report looks at the fundamental disconnect between organizations wanting active and engaged employees and the actual execution of employee collaboration, engagement, and advocacy efforts.

Three recent studies exemplify the problem.

  • Gallup found that only 13% of employees worldwide are actively engaged while 24% are actively disengaged.
  • A more optimistic report from Weber Shandwick, released just last week, found that while 47% of employees are ProActivists or PreActivists who are inclined to take positive action on behalf of their employers, 31% are HyperActivists, ReActivists, or outright Detractors who can hurt their employers with negative actions.
  • IBM just published their CHRO study and found that only 42% of CHROs interviewed felt that they were effective at fostering employee engagement and commitment, and only 20% thought they were effective at addressing collaboration and information sharing challenges.

Technology is also having an impact. The vast majority of employees all have personal access to social media — and frequently use it to talk about work. Collaboration platforms and enterprise social networks like Chatter, Jive, and SharePoint/Yammer often connect employees at work. A rising plethora of employee advocacy platforms all aim to make it easier to engage and amplify the voices of employees. The biggest challenge that all of this technology creates is the expectation of openness and transparency that many organizations are still struggling with — at a theoretical level, they would love to see more employees speaking positively about the brand, but also worry about slips up like the most recent US Airway’s accidental porn tweet or HMV’s live tweeted firing dustup last year.

Three Types of Engagement for One Employee

To address these issues, we’ll be looking at employee engagement in three distinct areas, which typically involve three different activities, three different owners in the organization, and three different technology platforms. The problem: There’s ONE employee.

Three types of employee engagement

This evolving view of employee engagement boils down to the evolving relationship between the employer and employee – all aspects of work are changing in the face of this new dynamic. Digital engagement becomes not the end goal but the forcing function, providing a new context for the entire employee engagement strategy.

Our research will seek to answer questions for business leaders at the core of this conundrum:

  • How do I develop a coherent and effective employee engagement and advocacy strategy, rather than a series of initiatives? What are the elements of a holistic strategy?
  • How do I select, deploy, and integrate technology to create a foundation that also leads to and facilitates employee engagement and advocacy?
  • What new leadership skills and organizational structures will be needed to create better coordination of employee engagement across the organization?
  • How do I know that what I’m doing is working and making a difference? (The age-old measurement conundrum.)

How You Can Help Altimeter’s Research

Altimeter is committed to what we call “Open Research”. Rather than keep our research behind locked doors, we’re sharing this early peek with the hopes of getting external input. We’d love to hear about the following:

  • Strategic approaches to overall employee engagement. Does your organization take a strategic approach to employee engagement? What other functions in the business are you integrating?
  • Leadership and organization. What role does leadership have in the strategy? How are you breaking down silos across organizations to connect internal engagement with external advocacy?
  • Use of technologies. How did you decide which tools to use to support your strategy? How are you planning to connect internal and external employee engagement platforms — if at all? How are you integrating with existing enterprise systems?
  • Measurement and results. How do you connect your employee engagement strategy to business results? How do you think about measuring the overall strength and evolution of the employee relationship?

If you think you have a contribution that could be made, please fill out this very short form (also embedded below) so that we can collect your input in an orderly fashion. Please also note if you would be willing to be interviewed for best practices and case studies. All information collected will be used only for background purposes. We will seek specific and explicit permission for any information we intent to publish or use publicly. And of course, you are very welcome to email me or my colleague Jon Cifuentes if you have any questions or suggestions.

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Infographic: State of Social Business 2013 and Outlook for 2014

Living 2013This past year has been a busy one for me and Brian Solis on the research front. We’ve published the following:

 

 

Brian and I recently introduced an infographic that summarizes high level findings across all of our work in 2013 (scroll down to see it below). And the key finding is that while organizers are making significant headway in terms of building out their social efforts, they are far from realizing real business value.

My outook for 2014 is that many more organizations will overcome the stigma of “social” and seek ways to articulate connections with customers and employees into their business. In just the last half of the year, we’ve worked with several organizations that are doing the hard work of connecting their social efforts to business value — it sounds easy to connect the dots but actually building the organization, governance, and process to do this will be most of the focus in 2014.

It isn’t glamorous. It doesn’t have the appeal of new consumer bright shiny objects or excite of a tech IPO. But this is where the real value will be created, real benefits will be built. It’s going to take a lot of hard work, a bit of gut-wrenching leaps of faith as employees and customers are empowered, but hopefully in a year we’ll have seen key numbers like the percent of companies associating social with business value increase from today.

Highlights from the State of Social Business Infographic

Companies are organizing and formalizing social media strategies into social business strategies…

  • 78% of companies have a dedicated social media team. This is up from 67% two years ago.
  • Social media teams have grown from 11 people in 2010 to almost 16 in 2013.

Social business strategies are spreading across the enterprise…

  • Social media headcount across the enterprise has more than doubled at the largest companies from 20 in 2010 to 49 in 2012.
  • According to our research, there are 13 different departments across the enterprise with at least one person dedicated to social media.
  • The majority of resources are allocated to marketing at 73%, but as you can see, social media covers almost every major function. Now, whether or not social media is organized and integrated, well, we know that it’s not really.

Marketing = 73%
Corporate communications = 66%
Customer support = 40%
Digital = 37%
Social media = 35%
HR = 29%
Product/R&D = 16%
Advertising = 16%
Customer/User experience = 15%
IT = 14%
Legal = 9%

Companies are trying social business to positive business outcomes…

  • About 50% of companies say social business has improved marketing optimization, customer experience and brand health.
  • Nearly one in four have actually seen an increase in revenue.

Companies though have a long way to go…

  • Many social business programs lack a strong foundation.
  • Only 17% of companies identify their social strategy as mature.
  • 52% of companies say that executives are aligned with the overall social strategy.
  • Just 26% of companies approach social media holistically (operating against a cross-enterprise level strategy.)

To succeed, build a foundation for social business…

  1. Benchmark you program with Altimeter’s Social Business reports (see below…underneath the infographic).
  2. Document existing challenges and opportunities to address in 2014 and 2015 (we don’t move as fast as we’d like).
  3. Align all social business efforts with business objectives and priorities.

New Report: Social Media Education for Employees

Last year, we asked companies about their top social strategy priorities. The second top response was “Developing Internal Education and Training.” Yet, when we surveyed companies earlier this year, we saw that only 38% had any education program in place, beyond ad hoc efforts.

Over the past few quarters, we identified a number of large companies that have developed social media education for their employees, to learn why and how. We interviewed companies as diverse as ARAMARK, Kaiser Permanente, RadioShack, and more — and learned that social media education helps achieve two key business objectives:

  • Reduce the risk of social media violations to protect employees and the company, and
  • Increase employee advocacy and effectiveness, both on and off-domain.

In addition, one of our most important findings is that social media education can be deployed given limited resources. For example, at Adobe two social media team members spend approximately 10% of their time on this business program. One person told us: “You can do it with a very limited budget,” while another said “You don’t have to have all the bells and whistles, and you can roll this out to a limited set of employees first.”

We’re happy to share with you research today, particularly for those of you who may be including social media education in your 2014 plans. Our report, Social Media Education for Employees, includes a framework to structure your education program — based on four unique roles and learning objectives — and a 10-point checklist of requirements for success. It’s embedded below, along with the four data charts from the report.


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The State of Social Business 2013

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Altimeter hosts an annual Social Business survey to learn how social media is evolving within enterprise organizations. Data is then compared to previous reports providing a sense of movement to the numbers and also a developing benchmark for our analysts and clients. Our last survey was studied in Q3 2013 and also Q4 2012, the latter was used to provide context to a report published by me and Brian Solis in our report, “The Evolution of Social Business: Six Stages of Social Business Transformation.”

We are now making the data available to the public for free use under Creative Commons (cc) as part of our Open Research program. The figures included in this report are also compared to previous survey findings from 2011 and 2010. There are two publications available, which are embedded below as well — there’s a report with some analysis and we’ve also just published a PowerPoint deck so that you can easily incorporate the information in your presentations. All we ask is that you properly attribute the research back to Altimeter.

Overall, we found that investment in headcount and infrastructure have steadily grown, as companies reach “intermediate” stages of social business. Several are turning their sights from “social media” as an extension of marketing and communications, and seek to push a “social business” agenda throughout the organization. Top findings include:

  • Most organizations are “intermediate,” with only 17% self-described as “strategic” in the execution of their social strategies.
  • 78% of companies have a dedicated social media team, at the division, corporate or both levels — only 22% of companies do not have a dedicated team.
  • Companies are committing more headcount to social media across all sizes of organizations. The biggest jump is for companies with more than 100,000 employees, which now report an average of 49 full-time employees supporting social media, compared to 20 in 2010.
  • 85% of companies have an organizational social media policy, yet only 18% of companies report that their employees’ knowledge of social media usage and the organizational policy is either good or very good.