The Social Web

Archive for April, 2009|Monthly archive page

Social Media and the Business Case!!

In Uncategorized on April 27, 2009 at 11:31 pm

NewsGator Technologies  has a good post here  that highlights all the benefits of social media for businesses. Its a great resource for folks figuring out how to articulate the benefits of Social Media to their organizations.


Most often we’ve seen folks get stuck on talking about individual brands that are in the social space- most of them top of mind in the press- like twitter etc and they talk like the new converts about how “cool” this new tool is and sometime fail to make the bridge between the technology and the benefit. The above NewsGator link  gives a good breakdown. A good example for some of you may be this recent news  announcement from Nissan North America about connecting with their consumers in an online community. Another example is that of Verizon creating its own community.

Closer to home, I am beginning to build a community or our own service using – It allows me to create a community for support and feedback. So far the process has been smooth but going back to the original principle- I need to figure out the easiest and most seamless way to integrate this service with the existing business process inside our organization.

The key blocker to a successful social media rollout is the absence of any bridge between the tool and the business process its supposed to support. As such in the absence of such a bridge- the technology becomes a toy and as a result you will see that most , in fact all organizations are playing with social media on the fringes – like that marketing guy building a pilot community.

For Enterprises looking to get ahead and breakout , they need to bring the social media strategy right to to the core of their business planning process in order to serve their customers. I would like to refer to that old adage- the customer is the reason we exist he is not an annoyance or an afterthought , satisfying the customer is our primary objective.

I will put out an update on the process I used internally to make my case and how I integrated stuff into my business process. Let us know if you would be interested in it.


Social Web & Social Computing

In Uncategorized on April 27, 2009 at 9:01 pm

I have been using the terms Social Network, Social Computing, Social Media, Social Web, Social Software at random in the past. Over the weekend, I decided I want to really narrow down my usage of the terms. I feel that the term Social Web describes the mix of social Networks, collaborations, sharing content, crowdsourcing, social shopping, blogging, wikis, social tagging and more. Somehow, the Social Web, to me conveys the image of an ecosystem that enables all of the capabilities that we have come to love.

At the same time, the term Social Web seems to indicate the ecosystem on the internet and not necessarily the enterprise ecosystem. For me, social computing is all about enterprise applications leveraging the power of social to empower people with the social connections and capabilities to empower them further. So for now, I will be using the term Social Web to describe the ecosystem on the internet and Social Computing to describe it within the firewall. I would love to know your thoughts.

Why Social Networking ?

In Uncategorized on April 25, 2009 at 7:34 am

Till now all our posts here have focused on the “how” of social networking in the context of enabling business performance. I would like us to take a step back and as business leaders think about the – Why? Without having to divulge my age 🙂 I would like us to go back to our first reaction to – Twitter or even a blog. Why in the world would anyone want to tell the world that he is going out for a run?  Why in the world do I care about the latest soap opera in your life? Why, why, why?

The reason is that people are inherently social and we like to connect (yes you the introvert too) we want to be recognized and be counted!!  The internet with the help of all the associated social tools allows us to communicate. This ability to communicate across vast distances is critical.  One critical change is economic. Mobilizing a large group of people used to be expensive. Organizing them took huge amounts of work, which led to “the institutional dilemma,” the axiom that formal institutions are necessary for getting things done ( The theory of firms- why do firms exist?) , even though they absorb resources and get in the way. Now, because e-mail and instant messaging are fast and cheap, time costs are evaporating. Since you can send an electronic message to many people as easily as to one, everybody has access to groups that, once, only their leaders could reach. This fundamental change needs to be understood by each business leader and they should invest in social tools by answering this question- Am I lowering my transactional cost? When Transactional costs lower you can add more people to the organization.

Social networking tools lower the transactional cost to almost – zero – and that makes them so powerful in cases where organizations need to stay connected with their customers – which is most – I am yet to see any organization that says- customers are not important 🙂 . 

Once this simple message is understood we will see every organization at every level embrace these tools for all the scenarios that have been mentioned in the previous post.

Most people are part of a “Small World network,” which is connected to a medium-sized group of people, many of whom are connected to one another – often through several shared attributes. A few of the people in your small and medium worlds are highly connected to more outsiders, and they link your group with farther-flung communities. In a setting such as a professional association, these people wield considerable influence. People who associate primarily with others like themselves – no matter how many – generate fewer, safer ideas through a kind of diffused groupthink. By contrast, those who link up with many different kinds of people generate a greater number of better, more innovative ideas.

Social media tools provide professional advantages by lowering the cost of failure. For example, many proposed Meetup groups fail. Most older businesses would find this daunting: they try to manage the cost of failure by making it less likely. Those who associate with repeated failures might even be stigmatized. However, trial and error, a great way to learn, is far less expensive, daunting or damning online. Just consider the world of open source software. Most open source projects go nowhere and have no users. Yet, because open source people get involved in projects voluntarily and abandon them with no penalty, talent flows to interesting projects, letting communities sort projects cheaply and try them risk free. From a traditional business point of view, this is chaos and, indeed, early in the process, no one can predict which projects will fly. However, if a project reaches a critical mass of involvement, and if it sets community norms of reciprocity and high performance, and if those involved care about each other and act respectfully, community-based projects can be cheaper and even better than professional projects.

Social Media Monitoring

In Uncategorized on April 23, 2009 at 11:12 pm

The early 90s didn’t have as many options for going viral compared to today but in 1992 Snapple found out that not paying attention to customer conversations can be very damaging to business. Snapple initially tried to quell these rumors quietly, but eventually had to launch a media campaign to squash them, pointing out it would be bad for business to support controversial issues in such a way as the rumors implied.

Over the last few days, the internet and media was abuzz with the news about Dominos Pizza. Two Domino’s Pizza employees filmed a prank in the restaurant’s kitchen and decided to post it online. It didn’t take long for the viral power of social media to kick in and result in more than a million viewers view the videos. This is the kind of public relations nightmare that any retailer dreads.

Installing cameras seems like an obvious answer to thwarting a repeat of the incident. However, the real threat is in the snowballing of issues on the internet by not addressing it quickly enough before it goes out of hand. I think that social media monitoring should an important focus for any organization.

Social Media Monitoring can be as simple as using search engines to searching for keywords using complex social media monitoring tools. One of the simplest social media monitoring tools that I have implemented is to use a web part on our team portal site that shows a continuous feed of search results and twitter feeds with specific keywords. This information is available to anyone that visits the portal site and they can choose to respond to any of the tweets when they see something that requires attention. Here is a post that talks about the simple things that a company can do to monitor their social media presence in ten minutes a day:

There are also several tools that you can use for monitoring and protecting your reputation on the internet. One such tool is Trackur, an online reputation monitoring tool designed to assist you in tracking what is said about you on the internet. Trackur scans web pages–including news, blogs, video, images, and forums–and lets you know if it discovers anything that matches the keywords that interest you. Another example is Visible Technologies that provides brands, including Microsoft, Panasonic and Hormel, the ability to bolster brand reputation, build revenue and measure the success of social media engagement. The company’s TruCast®2.0 social media monitoring and engagement platform launched in May 2008. Radian6 seems to be a popular solution for engaging with social media.

Here is a list of some excellent tools for managing your online reputation:

· Social Mention is a social media search engine that searches user-generated content such as blogs, comments, bookmarks, events, news, videos, and microblogging services.

· BlogPulse from Nielsen Online. BlogPulse is an automated trend discovery system for blogs.

· Trendpedia finds the articles online that talk about your topics. Trendpedia organizes the articles in a trendline that shows the popularity of the topic over time — you can track a topic’s trendline from three months ago up to today

An attempt to map Web2.0 concepts and technologies to business challenges

In Uncategorized on April 23, 2009 at 9:14 pm

A few weeks ago, I had a meeting with a group of CIOs from the Food Services Industry and we had quite an interesting conversation around Enterprise Social Computing. During the conversation, we came to the conclusion (among many others) that organizations should not be looking at how to leverage Social Computing just because its the latest buzzword but rather look at the existing business challenges that they have and adopt Social Computing concepts and technologies to make the solution of those challenges easier. In this table, I have attempted to map some of the common business challenges against Web 2.0 technologies that these challenges could benefit from. 

scoial scenarios

Socializing Ideas

In Uncategorized on April 23, 2009 at 8:58 pm

Frontline employees are usually the people that have the most contact with the customer in any organization. As a result of observations and feedback from customers, they are usually in a position to make innovative suggestions on the business. However, in many organizations, the ideas and suggestions can get lost due to a lack of process in place for taking the idea through to reality. The problem is seldom about a shortage of ideas; rather, they lack the ability to determine their value in a systematic, timely, and cost-effective way.

Last year I was invited to NY to speak at the WWD Retail Leadership Forum on Innovation Process Management. Among Retailers, innovation traditionally has been a compartmentalized, top-down process run by a small team. In my discussions with retailers at the conference I also found that one of the biggest challenges in the way of Innovation was Legacy. Every company has a legacy. Its the belief that "That which made you great will continue to make you great". The legacy tends to consume a majority of the firms resources. The legacy creates a system that fights off any ideas which are tangential to the legacy. How much time and resource would your management provide you if you had a great idea? As a result of the legacy issues we are seeing more of our customers establish separate processes one for incremental innovation to support the legacy and one for radical innovation.

The rapid spread and high availability of collaborative technologies has changed that model. It is now widely recognized that the next great breakthrough in products, services and processes can come from people anywhere inside or outside an organization. Several organizations including Dell and Starbucks have realized this and created sites and tools to tap into ideas from their customers. The "weapons of mass collaboration" have enabled thousands of individuals to work together and ideate across organizational and geographic boundaries. The Goldcorp Challenge is a great example.

The challenges of innovation are not new.  As we look back over the last 90 years of business we see that a mere 2% of companies outperform the market over long periods of time.  Innovate or die is a reality.

The tools in itself will not help organizations become innovative. An organizational culture that is focused on innovation and encourages employees to share their ideas will benefit from tools that help streamline the process. The tool should enable:

  • Capturing Ideas at any time. An employee should have ready templates or tools (such as Infopath forms or OneNote Templates) to quickly capture an idea.
  • Submitting Ideas and Socializing them using tools such as Microsoft Office Sharepoint Server. The tool should also enable people to find information and potential collaborators to work together on refining the idea. Social Networking tools would enable the ideas to be rated and further refined before they make their way into a feasibility process as part of the workflow.
  • Take the idea through a workflow process from concept to reality. The Workflow capabilities in Microsoft Office Sharepoint Server support this requirement. The tools should easily enable the idea to flow through the process of evaluation and action.

See EPMConnect for more details on this initiative.

Innovation Process Management Whitepaper


Social Shopping

In Uncategorized on April 22, 2009 at 11:36 pm

Shopping is a social activity and more and more retailers are realizing that they need to embrace social computing (or the “groundswell” as explained in an excellent must-read book by the same name by Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff). Offline, people don’t change behaviors quickly, so companies can develop loyal customers. Online, people can switch behaviors as soon as they see something better. People are not just buying online; they are buying from each other. They are comparing prices all over the internet and telling each other where to get the best deals. Shelf space creates far less power when there’s nearly infinite selection online (Chris Anderson in The Long Tail)

The latest issue of Stores magazine has an interesting article on the impact of Facebook on Retail. See the article at CLICK HERE.

Denver-based bSocial Networks has developed Market Lodge, which enables social network users to build personalized online stores within their profiles in less than five minutes, turning social networks into online "bazaars" with members recommending, buying and selling products.

Wishlist, an application from U.K.-based Affiliate Window, allows retailers to add a Facebook link to each of the products offered on their websites. Wishlist is a fun way for friends to recommend things to one another and for individuals to create a list of things they want. The system is built on a ‘Social Rewards’ basis which means Facebook users can earn pocket money by using and promoting the Wishlist application amongst their friends. Wishlist turns Facebook users into affiliates. The application allows a merchant to break their products in to Facebook.

clip_image001I was fortunate to meet with two other companies that are heavily into social shopping: WetSeal and Bevy. I had the opportunity to hear Kevin Foreman, CEO of Bevy, speak at the Facebook Developers Garage in Seattle a few weeks ago. I think Bevy is onto something really exciting and enables women to discuss and discover fashion through their networks thus filling a void that search engines cannot fulfill. I love the fact that they cross retailer boundaries and work across their partner base that includes Macys, Nordstrom, Guess and more. This morning, I co-presented with John Kubo, CIO of Wetseal at a WWD webinar. The Wet Seal Fashion Community allows you to create, publish, rate, and buy outfits created by you and your peers.

Managing your Social Network Status Messages using Microsoft Outlook and Windows Live Messenger

In Uncategorized on April 22, 2009 at 11:33 pm

Personal Status Messages (PSM) are an excellent way to keep in touch with your network. Facebook, Windows Live, LinkedIn and other social networks have Personal Status Message features that let you keep your network informed about things you would like them to know. In addition Microblogging tools like Twitter enable you to subscribe to tweets from your network as well as create your own feed.

I spend a fair amount of my day working on email, scheduling meetings and generally working within Microsoft Outlook. As a result, I decided to channel all of my social network updates to Outlook as RSS Feeds. I update my status using Windows Live Messenger and the update is sent to Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Live. Here is how I keep up with my updates via Outlook and Windows Live Messenger. I would love to hear ideas of how any of you manage your updates as well.

  • I subscribe to RSS Feeds from Facebook, LinkedIn and any specific Twitter user that I would like to follow. I also on occasion subscribe to Twitter Search Results when something is going on.


  • To update all of my social networks at one go I use and find it extremely useful to update Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and several other networks. To easily update via, I have added as a buddy in my MSN Messenger List. So all I really need to do to send an update is to send an instant message to my Windows Live buddy. I also use a Windows Live Messenger Addin called Twessenger that automatically updates my Windows Live Status message using my Twitter message.

  • In addition to sending status message updates via Windows Live Messenger, I also update my status using email to from my mobile device.
  • Another tool that I use to keep track of my (and others) status messages is via the Outlook Calendar. The status messages enable to keep track of what I worked on at specific times using the calendar. To overlay my status messages over my Outlook Calendar, I use an excellent web application called Twistory.  Here is a view of my status messages as seen from my Outlook Calendar:

Feel free to ping me with any ideas or suggestions you may have on managing personal status messages and better ways of doing this.

Social Computing Solution Scenarios

In Uncategorized on April 22, 2009 at 11:31 pm

Most retailers that I meet with have already been exploring social media from the perspective of marketing, building customer communities and social shopping. In addition to this they are exploring ways that they can use the power of social computing within the organization. We have explored various areas in which the power of social computing can benefit organizations. This is a brief list of some of the areas that we have deployed solutions in, within organizations. Each of these areas has the traditional approach to it, and what I’ll call the Web 2.0 approach, that makes use of technologies and concepts such as Crowd Sourcing, Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts, PSM’s, RSS Feeds, Instant Messaging, Unified Communication, Microblogging, Virtual Meetings.

  • Employee Training
  • Crisis Management
  • Recruitment 
  • Employee Retention
  • Marketing
  • Customer Support
  • Collaboration and Communication
  • Knowledge Management
  • Ideation and Innovation

Have you seen any other areas within the organization that could benefit from social computing? Feel free to comment. I will dive into each one of these areas in future postings