Empowering Human Movements: 7 Observations about the State of Social Business

This week, I’ve had the privilege to participate in the Sales 2.0 and Enterprise 2.0 conferences in Boston, MA.

It’s been good to see old friends, meet new ones, and/or insert a handshake or hug into a previously only virtual relationship. The conference(s) also provided a great chance to check on the pulse of the industry, hear new stories, and generally get a broader and better sense for what’s going on the in the marketplace. 

Like a room full of toddlers, the industry is learning to walk. There have been starts, stops, over compensations, disparity amongst players in general understanding and development, and in some cases, the harsh realization that we’re just not quite ready to do what we want to do.

1. Society, and therefore, the workplace is (still) evolving
This statement could have been (and was) written 5 years ago, but we’re early enough in the evolution that it’s still worth noting. The growth of a new wave of human communication, empowerment, and progress continues to move on. The pervasiveness of mobile and social technologies continues to expand geographically, and also more deeply penetrate individuals work lives in a continually blurred kaleidoscope of contexts.

2. Visions are still being cast, and re-cast

From my vantage point, the key tenets of social business benefits have been flushed out. While collectively most of us understand that a more efficient, more collaborative, more distributed way of living is coming, organizations and vendors alike continue to wrestle with what exactly that vision looks like in a tangible way. Tactical plans, and even organizational vision seems to be in a stage of frequent recalibration as more information emerges from the marketplace.

This, in and of itself, is one of the benefits of the realized benefits of a more collaborative culture. The shorter the feedback loop, the more opportunity for recalibration and alignment with stakeholder needs.

A major challenge facing operators on both the vendor and practitioner sides, respectively, is what feedback to take into consideration, and how to weight it appropriately. A similar dilemma faces stock traders; what is a meaningful movement versus what are short term fluctuations and what meanings and importance should be applied to myriad of elements flowing through the industry and customer firehose.

3. What’s the value?

Like any change initiative, WIIFMs are required. This is not different than any other technology powered advancement. While the broad based benefits of sentiment analysis, knowledge sharing, real time collaboration, and big data analytics are understood, the tangible benefit of social technologies will vary significanly for each organization, and quite frankly, each individual that interacts within its ecosystem.

Identifying the organizational goals, and coupling that with the perceived benefits of a wide audience of stakeholders is key to setting strategy, and establishing the corresponding tactical approach.

Questions like:

What’s the problem?
Who’s the customer (can be internal or external)?
What are they trying to accomplish, collectively and individually?
How do they do it now?
How can we make it better?
…and a host of other questions associated with the value creation process

…all still carry the same weight. I see the same high risk potential with the implementation and/or deployment of social technologies that we’ve seen with the introduction of ERP, CRM, Knowledge Management, E-Commerce, etc.

Business cases and value propositions are still necessary. ROI analysis may or may not be.

4. The customer is rising in importance and focus

One key thing that is encouraging is that conversations about the customer are gaining more prominence. Enterprise 2.0 had an entire track dedicated to sales and marketing that had good attendance. Kudos to Sameer Patel for putting the track together.

5. Enough thought leadership. It’s time to get to work.

Very few new ideas have emerged. New spins, new takes, new anecdotes are being spun, but very few epiphany inspiring ideas are being spread. As noted earlier, the key tenets of the next half decade have already been flushed out.Pioneers in the space are now beginning to have lessons learned stories to tell. Case studies warn of pitfalls and show how and where success has been realized.

In general, there is a growing sentiment of “there’s nothing left to say”.

6. Sales as a litmus test.

Sales has been the laggard in the adoption of social tools. In the front office, the two other musketeers, marketing and customer service, have more often capitalized on the use of social media, social networking, social crm, and social blah, blah, blah.  While some may point to the sales guys and being technically less competent than some of the other workers in the organization, I point to another possible reason why the uptake has been slower to catch on.

No one else in the organization is as tightly tied to “pay for performance” than the sales team. Their butt is on the line daily. No one will be more resistant to employ useless strategies, tactics, and technologies than the ones whose compensation is as tightly aligned to their quarterly performance. If something is not helping them sell more, they are not using it. Their time is too valuable to work on non value-added toys. The end of the month is always just a few days away.

That said, more and more stories are emerging about global sales teams collaborating through Enterprise 2.0 tools, and/or individuals and teams from companies of all sizes using products like InsideView or OneSource to quickly access sales intelligence, partially leveraging data from the social web for this.

7. Empowering Human Movements
Whether we’re talking about political revolution, crowds self-aggregating for discounts, community members helping each other solve problems, or crowd sourced innovation, the common thread is that social technologies help to empower human movements. Social provides a platform where information and people can be searched for, identified, and harnessed for a specific purpose faster than any other time in history.

I expressed my views of social in “Circles”, and a more simplified version in “Social Business: May I try and simplify this?”

Social technologies help to empower human movements to achieve jobs of varying degrees; as small as responding to a question asked on LinkedIn, or as large as creating a hyper growth startup or overthrowing a government.  

Summary
The mesh of Social CRM and Enterprise 2.0 philosophies, process and technology innovations continue to gain momentum, and are becoming more tightly entwined as the journey towards the pervasive emergence of the “social business”.  At varying points of the journey, however, organizations with a strong established trajectory are realizing that success is elusive for those that do not have the fundamentals in place (collaborative culture, functional systems of record, solid change management practices). 

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The frog who noticed the boiling water…

There were once a bunch of frogs. They all jumped into a pot of water. You know how the story goes.

frog in water

Except… in this case, it ends differently.

As the heat is slowly turned up, something happens. One of the frogs looks around, and actually notices the heat. He begins analyzing and forecasting what this rising temperature means for his future. He jumps out of the pot and encourages others to do the same. While the others are afraid of the risk of leaving, he is afraid of the risk of becoming extinct due to inaction.

As the last remains of an industrial era begin to warm towards a boiled extinction, Seth Godin repeatedly displays the uncanny ability to see the trends and encourage others to join him in the “revolution of our lifetime“. The greatest question remains how many will jump, unaware of what’s happening around us.

Frogs in pot
* The original image has been modified above

Seth Godin comes to Orange County

Last night, at the Renee and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall in Orange County, CA, in an event organized by Linked OC and its founder Bryan Elliott, amidst an engaging and inspiring mix of stories, analogies, quips and quotes Seth Godin essentially made the following point:

(My paraphrase) In a world where the speed of business cycles are exponentially increasing, there is no longer time to copy what others are doing. There is not enough time to imitate. Assemble the required inputs, create something remarkable with it, and distribute your art and ideas far and wide. The barriers to distribution are gone. CEOs, marketers, and well, everybody can take a lesson from this. But, the one catch is that you have to take initiative. Which, for many of us, is counter to everything we’ve been taught in school and in our jobs.

If you want to be challenged by one of the few guys who consistently thinks outside the box, check out his latest “Poke the Box” (which by the way has no title on the book cover for a couple of very interesting reasons, and is the first release from “The Domino Project”). Want to interact with Seth directly? Check out his rare Q&A session on Twitter, Friday, March 4 at 10 am PST

Poke the Box, Seth Godin

“Once you get your ducks in a row, what are you going to do with the ducks?” – Seth Godin

Good question. Do something. Let’s Go.

The Future of Customer Relationships: Where is all this heading?

Shifts in technology and human behavior are rapidly changing customer’s expectations of companies. Things are moving so fast, that most executives are not only trying to catch up with the changes, but identify what some of the changes are. Understanding what those changes mean to each business is a more complicated matter altogether.

Ross Dawson brilliantly lays out his observations of the mega trends happening around us in the charts below.

Ross Dawson Map of the Decade

Ross Dawson Zeitgeist 2011

Two growing and intertwining concepts (influence and reputation) are rapidly gaining ground and creating controversy as to their accuracy, adaptability, and use. There is a growing gap between those who believe that these scores and algorithms are the key to priority and leverage, opening up the door for profitable arbitrage, and others that believe that this is the emergence of a new caste system based on false measurements.

Just today, Klout just released a plugin for Twitter that displays an “influence” score (see the screenshot below), but this type of technology and scoring is currently in its infancy, and still marginally beneficial in the context of real life. However, some large and well known organizations are already giving perks and preference to customers with a high klout score.

Twitter Klout Plugin

Dr. Michael Wu, Chief Scientist, of Lithium Technologies, has been doggedly trying to uncover the meaning of influence, its impact on relationships, and ultimately corporate profit structures. Target the influencers, and you can move the crowd. There are seemingly vast opportunities in understanding and leveraging influencers within networked communities.

Influencer Network Graph

But, in reality, the influence/reputation conundrum is just one small movement in a massive tectonic shift happening that is disrupting geopolitical structures (Egypt, Bahrain, etc.), macro-economic theories and assumptions (the financial meltdown and the current response(s), human behavior, and corporate sustainability.

In late 2009, in one the most popular posts ever on customer focused portal, CustomerThink, Graham Hill outlined 15 tenets in his “Manifesto for Social Business


No1. From Individual Customers… to Networks of Customers

No2. From Customer Needs, Wants & Expectations… to Customer Jobs-to-be-Done

No3. From Company Value-in-Exchange… to Customer Value-in-Use

No4. From Delivering Value to Customers… to Co-Creating Value with Customers

No5. From Marketing, Sales & Service Touchpoints… to the End-to-End Customer Experience

No6. From One-Size-Fits-All Products… to a Long-Tail of Mass-Customised Solutions

No7. From Competing on Products, Price or Service… to Competing over Multi-sided Platforms

No8. From Company Push… to Sensing and Responding in Real-Time to Customers

No9. From Technology, Processes & Culture… to Complementary Capabilities and Micro-Foundations

No10. From Made by Companies for Customers… to Made By Customers for Each Other

No11. From On-premise Applications… to On-demand Solutions from the Cloud

No12. From Stand-alone Companies… to an Ecosystem of Networked Partners

No13. From Hierarchical Command & Control… to Collaborative Hybrid Organisations

No14. From Customer Strategy… to a Portfolio of Emergent Customer Options

No15. From Customer Lifetime Value… to Customer Network Value

Add to these, the fast growing mobile, always connected individuals, and you have the making of a perfect storm, for those who understand where things are headed.

Join the Conversation

On Wednesday, February 23, 2011 at 1 pm PST / 4 pm EST, please listen in to a conversation as some of the world’s brightest minds will evaluate and debate where we’re heading, project how multiple trajectories might collide, and what your organization should be preparing for now.

I’ll be participating in a roundtable, hosted by Focus.com featuring experts Ross Dawson, Dr. Graham Hill, Dr. Michael Wu, and analyst and futurist Denis Pombriant as we explore topics such as:

1) Influence and Reputation: How forward thinking companies will leverage these new measurements to attract and keep customers
2) Co-Creation: What it is and why it’s next in the evolution of customer centricity
3) The Impact of rapidly maturing mobile and collaborative technologies on organizations, their customers, and society as a whole

Here’s the call-in information – I hope you have the chance to join us:

Toll-free Dial-In Number: (866) 951-1151
International Dial-In Number: (201) 590-2255
Conference # : 4999006

International Toll Free Numbers
United States +1 (866) 951-1151
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Who and what the world trusts

This week, Edelman published their 2011 version of the Edelman Trust Barometer. Over the past 4 years, I’ve begun to watch this report as it comes out annually with great interest. Below is the slide presentation.

Here are some of my observations.

Trust in Institutions in the US and UK are pretty close to levels of trust in Russia.
Wow. Enough said.

CEO’s aren’t all liars and trust in experts or credible sources is growing.
As more and more people have begun to share their voice in the digital realms, the deluge of information has once again created demand for filtering.

Edelman Trust Barometer 2011

People overwhelmingly trust people in the technology industry most
I find this a bit surprising and wonder if this is because in general people feel that Google, Apple, and (gasp!) Facebook have actually made their life better and easier?

Edelman Industry Trust 2011

Quality, transparency, trust is what leads to corporate reputation
Interesting that there is such a high correlation between trust and quality

Quality Transparency Trust Edelman 2011

Corporations should be good be good members of society
More than 80% of people in Germany, the UK, Ireland, China, US, Mexico, Indonesia, Canada, The Netherlands, Sweden and Russia believe that corporations should create shareholder value that aligns with societal interests as a whole.

Edelman 2011 Corporations Society

So what does this mean for organizations?

– Create great quality products and services
– Treat employees well
– Promote and share internal talent and expertise with the world to establish credibility and trust
– Aim to create systems of interdependent value distribution; Focus on shareholder returns, AND be mindful of local communities, and society at large.
– In the US, UK and some other countries, there is a trust leadership void. This means opportunity for the organizations who can excel in the items listed above.