Friday, January 6, 2012

2011 Social Business in Review – The Power of Community
In 2011, we saw the impact social media had in toppling authoritarian regimes - removing dictators in Egypt, Tunisia and Libya. My friend Clara Shih, author of The Facebook Era, and CEO of Hearsay Labs writes: “ Transparency, connectedness and decentralized power resulting from social media played a critical role in every revolution. What can corporations learn from the Arab Spring?”
Last week, the question was answered. Verizon Wireless bowed to the torrent of criticism over its plan to impose a $2 bill paying fee. Immediately following news of the proposed plans Verizon customers went into action and used their social voice and community power to share their strong dissatisfaction of the new policy all across the web. Within 24 hours, Verizon listened and responded. They conceded to their customers.

John Hagle, Chairman of Deloitte's Center of the Edge has been researching U.S. corporate performance and emerging business trends. In The Big Shift, Hagel/Deloitte reported that U.S. companies’ return-on-assets have dropped steadily every quarter returning to their 1965 levels.  On The Big Shift's web site they tout: “Consumers are gaining more power than firms because they are quicker to adapt to disruptive technologies. The digital infrastructure will likely increase the scope and frequency of social volatility."  Hagel has been an early thought leader on social business and sees social technology innovation as the means to reversing this downward spiral. He too agrees that transparency, collaboration and decentralization are critical. In his book, Power of Pull he describes the shift in information Pulls vs Pushes. Hagel shares that with more focus on "Pull" (and leveraging Pull platforms like Facebook, Twitter, internal social networks, and other digital infrastructure), a company can improve its performance.

And one more thought. A recent study by inSites Consulting claims that only 16% of businesses using Social platforms have fully integrated them into their business operations (ie. Social Business). Even despite many business leaders believing that better social integration of their business operations will not only improve and streamline their operations but also increase the productivity of their business.

We're making progress on Social Business but still much work to be done for us all.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Google+ The Innovation which Integrates in a Social Way

Of all the Google Innovations over the past 13 years, I think I’m the most excited about Google+ While Google’s vision has always been to index everything on the World Wide Web, I’ve often found the many Google projects clumsy, difficult to navigate and hard to understand how to integrate all the touchpoints. Even with a technical background, the user experience has been less than ideal to maximize the value of their robust offerings.

However, Google+ is clearly the solution. It’s biggest win - Aggregation! Google+ finally puts the presentation layer on top of its offerings with a social interface. It is what has been missing from Google over the past many years of innovation. Google+ is now a one stop shop now to view gMail, Picasa, Blogger, Reader, Calendar and GoogleDocs with sharing, collaborating and social networking vehicles.

Prior to its launch, there was much media and social speculation that Google+ plus might be the Facebook killer. However upon testing it is clearly evident that Google+ is a much richer platform and will likely attract a different user base than Facebook. It’s positioned more closely with enterprise collaboration tools like SocialText, Jive, Yammer than it is with a social network, social sharing site like Facebook. While Facebook has announced its parternship with Skype, I don’t think that’s enough to compete with the infrastructure and years of innovative offerings which Google has to boot to compete at the same level

And the icing on the cake? The social layer and integration with Mobile Android devices. Brillant move, Google!
Social Graph:
The Google+ network connects friends, family and other contacts similar to Facebook. I will admit that it was less intuitive to find others when I first got on the platform as I am so accustomed now to Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn who continue to send potential contacts my way. But I suspect over time this will become easier. Regardless the organization and ease of building a community (called “Circles”) was an easy Drag and Drop experience. And now I can very easily share my content or information with the appropriate groups.

Social Sharing/ Communication Options:
With Google+ we now have the option of video, email, tweeting, posting, chatting and mobile in an all in one. The Stream works similar to Facebook with posting, sharing, commenting. Hangouts, an ad hoc collaboration space, makes it easy to interact with others. The video app is easy to download and use, making it a rival to Skype. Sharing and watching YouTube videos with friends and family is easy.

Android Integration
The Google+ app is easy to download from the Android Market. Once I downloaded the app, it was easy to upload photos, share and interact. With over 100 million Android users worldwide, I suspect we'll see much more innovation here in the future.

I certainly don't see the 750 Million Facebook followers leaving that platform any time soon either. However, for those with many Google applicaitons running and the Android marketing growing, I definitely see Google+ as a sustainable and growing community once its released to the public.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Social Integration with Digital Assets Key for 2011

Before I go there, let me again point out that social by definition is not a marketing campaign or a digital tactic. It can and is supported by tactics such as videos, online ads, landing pages, web pages, email blasts, blogger outreach, traditional media. But at its core, social is not a marketing campaign.

Social is about building relationships. Sustainable relationships between internal and external parties. Social is an all encompassing business approach. A social business is an organization which integrates its business goals and functional areas, with its customers and social technologies to exchange value. Social is about this value exchange between these relationships. And social and digital technologies enable this exchange.

From macro strategies to micro tactics, integration is the holy grail for 2011.

Two of David Armano’s Six Social Predications for 2011 focus on integration. At a macro business level, he writes: It's The Integration Economy, Stupid.“ From Ford, to Dell, to Starbucks (client), to Jet Blue, and a host of other companies who have pioneered early uses of social media for business, 2011 will be the year these companies take a serious look at integrating social media, not only regionally but globally...integrating social media into all facets of business from global marketing to crisis management and beyond."


At a more micro level, he further predicts: "Social Functionality Makes Websites Fashionable Again. After several years of being told to "fish where the fish are," businesses realize that users expect social integration to existing Websites…Websites will increasingly serve as "digital hubs" that integrate social activity from many platforms. They must integrate to be relevant in a socially connected world."

Jeremiah Owyang also forecasts integration as well in his social report “Social Business Forecast: 2011 The Year of Integration” Within the report he shares that 47% of the strategists surveyed stated their social focus for 2011 will be web site integration.

Integrating Social into Digital Assets: website, email, blogs, online advertisements and beyond
With that said, I’d like to focus at the micro level for a moment and examine ways to enhance digital marketing initiatives in 2011. While both Armano and Owyang mentioned website integration, I'd like to take it a step further and add all digital integration - such as rich media advertisements, landing pages, emails, blogs as well as websites.

Here are four key areas to think about when brainstorming how to integrate social with digital initiatives:
1/ Create Social Proof. Social proof means social influence which is when a person's thoughts, feelings and actions are influenced by another. At a psychological level, when people are in ambiguous situations and are unable to determine the correct behavior, they will assume that the behaviors of those around them are the appropriate actions and of those who have more information about the situation or decision at hand. From a social/digital perspective, putting people, faces,or voices of the consumer's real world into your digital assets can create powerful social proof. On the website, this may be providing photos and access to friends and followers of a page (think of Facebook and Twitter), or by allowing comments by others on your content or product pages. It may also be attained by allowing people to rate and review your products on your website, (which by the way could also become a social object and a shareable feature). Or it may be using video from community members or customers within the experience. Using social proof on your website or in digital properties can powerfully influence visitors to stick around, read your content, take an action, or share and tell their friends about your business. Its about allowing humans to be involved directly in your digital properties right alongside your brand.

2/ Create Social Objects: Social objects are the things we create to provide opportunities for people to share with others and to socialize around the object. Objects can be links, content, video, images, widgets or tools they are easily able to share. It doesn't have to be a huge viral campaign to be successful social object. Its important for companies to give something to its customers in this value exchange that they need, find helpful or are entertained by. This sharing of information – videos, coupons, articles, links, recommendations -amplifies a company's ability to scale its messaging to others. There are lots of opportunities to create social objects in all digital properties. Make it easy by including Sharing buttons next to these objects.

3/ Create Social Aggregation: Social Aggregation involves creating a hub of all your communities into one place. This is most often the web site wherein you provide your customers one central URL where they can obtain access to all of your social communities and properties. Think about your mobile site as well.

4/ Create Social Sign On: Common technologies enabling social sign on are OpenID and Facebook Connect. With these technologies, it enables users to move from site to site carrying their credentials with them. This is especially helpful when a user needs to register or sign up for something on your website and is especially appealing for mobile users who don't want to be burdened with long forms. With a simple one click, they are automatically registered. A big win here is optimizing conversions and hopefully seeing increases in same.

Have a Happy and Socially Integrated New Year!

Friday, December 3, 2010

Servant Leadership

Do you Serve Others or Are you Self-Serving? The phrase “Servant Leadership” was coined by Robert K. Greenleaf in The Servant as Leader, an essay that he first published in 1970s. In that essay, he said:

"The servant-leader is servant first… It begins with the natural feeling that one wants to serve, to serve first."

The 1984 Nobel Peace Laureate Desmond Tutu shares his thoughts on the quality of the greatest world leaders - servant leaders who serve others.

Read more at my new blog: Positively Leadership

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Social & Search Continue Evolution-Google Lags Behind

Back in 2007, Website Magazine asked me for my opinion on the future of the internet. Here is what I said:

“Personalized Search technologies, social media and user-generated content are putting consumers in the driver’s seat even faster and with great impact. Long gone will be the standard algorithms and one behemoth listing of results. Businesses will need to create even more personalized, on-demand experiences and ensure they provide relevant, highly targeted content. Knowing your customer (behaviors, needs, demographics, and lifestyle) will be even more important and listening to your consumer base vital. They are in charge!"

Sherri Maxson,Internet Marketing Consultant

I revisited the article tonight as I prepared my posted. Back in 2007 personalized search technologies consisted of Google’s innovation with its algorithm to show relevant results based on a user’s past search behavior. Search technologies continue to evolve, however, as search and social converge.

Search & Social Converge
On November 3rd, Bing announced the promise of more meaningful search results as it seeks out information from a user's social graph on Facebook. Now, using Bing search, your Facebook friends who Like content you are seeking appear first in the results. It's word of mouth on steroids powered by technology as friends show up in search results with their vote and recommendations for products and services they have “liked” and shared on the web.

Google Needs Innovation
Google’s search results listing is largely based on how important web content is deemed based on the amount of links to the site, the ‘authority’ of the site from which the link comes and the popularity or sheer amount of content/links. Google is also giving local businesses priority. There is no human interaction or relationship building in this model.

Google search results are deemed neither positive or negative. Thus a site with a negative reputation can easily be ranked #1 or appear on the first page of results, which is “the money page”. This was the premise of a recent New York Times article that appeared earlier this week. The story centered on an online businessman who treats customers poorly to provoke negative chatter about his company online to increase the content and links to his site. The more this chatter increases, the more content and links are generated about his company, the better his results in Google. This strategy has provided top search engine rankings for a number of key terms and he claims has increased his bank account significantly. The sad fact is how he is mistreating and harassing customers. If consumers dig deeper into their social networks or other sites to investigate, they’d see that most of the online conversations warn others not to do business with this company. However, for many they are not taking this next step.


All the more reason why social search has more relevancy. Human interaction and trust factor into search results for far more personalized and trusted results. As mentioned, Bing currently offers social search – using Facebooks’s social graph (network of friends and connections) to enable word of mouth search results and by far has the most robust offering. It’s integration with Facebook is huge.Blekko’s been around for a while and it too relies on community and humans to power its relevance (similar to a Wikipedia model). Google’s working on building their own social search/social graph with Google Hotpot. Neither Blekko nor HotPot have the momentum or the social graph of Facebook.

Building Social Search
Facebook “Likes” will now take precedent in search vs the sheer link building that Google evaluates. Trust and human interactions are the root of social search. Social graphs rule. Consumers will continue to seek out and place value on information from their communities and those they trust. There are many many ways to enhance search efforts, but two primary ways I’d like to touch on are Social Objects and Social Authority.

Create Social Objects
Create content and applications that your community wants and finds valuable. By doing so they consume, “like”, and share with others. In the past, content used to be created for the benefit of search engines (robots would read the content and index it accordingly as another dimension of the linking algorithm). Now, in social search, content consumed and shared by humans takes precendent. It has to have meaning and value.

Keywords still have relevancy. In the past, those performing SEO put a lot of focus on the keywords they were hoping to get searched on and embedded them in the pages of the site and as content in their link building strategy. This holds true today. Social objects and content still need definition for the search engines to rank them. They should be used for titles and within content for your users to share.

Create Social Authority
Page rank used to be the holy grail. Getting a link on an authority web site (for example a .edu site or one of the top 50 web sites, was considered a knock out to get your site ranked higher.) Now the goal is to build relationships with social authorities, those who others trust and who have a high volume of followers. If the social authority likes your content and passes along content authentically and sincerely, more people take notice.

Be Human,
Sherri

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Social & Digital Help Inspire the World

On October 13th, the eyes of the world were focused on Copiapo’ Chile, a small northern city and site of the trapped miners. The world witnessed an entire 23 hour live feed of the capsule “Fenix II” as it made 70 trips underground to retrieve the 33 miners who had been trapped under ground for 69 days. Every angle of the rescue effort was covered thanks to the utilization of digital technologies. Social media played an integral role building community around the event as well as in sharing live information about the rescue to the masses.

Here are a few of the highlights which caught my attention:

Live Streaming Video from the Mine to the Ground
Early on a web cam and fiber optic cables were sent down a small bore hole to the miners, 200,000 feet below. At earth level the cables connected to a standard PC which displayed and captured live video feeds of the miners trapped underground. The trapped miners created a video of themselves saying hello to their family and singing the Chilean national anthem on August 27, 2010 giving the world and their families hope.

From then on the camera was used for family members to connect with their miners. Psychiatrists and counselors also used the web cam to check in on the emotional and psychological health of the miners.

The evening of the rescue effort, the rescue team used the technology to watch the Fenix II enter the mine to determine how far the capsule went down in order to accurately position it on each descent. They also used it to communicate back up to crew on the ground so they were aware of when the miner was in the capsule in order to know when to begin the ascent. Back up at the top, the video footage was projected onto a large screen so those outside could watch as well.

One of the extraordinary things was watching as the first rescuer, Manuel Gonzalez, made his way to the miners and was greeted with hugs and cheers. It was quite a moving (and historic) moment.

A web cam.

Who would’ve thought it would play such a vital role in the sustained well being of the miners, an inspiration to the world, and such an integral part of the rescue operation.

Live Blogging, Photo Sharing & Video of the Rescue
A number of media sites, such as PBS, HuffingtonPost and WorldNews, used Ustream to stream video broadcast of the live rescue Ustream stated it served 5.3 million streams over the course of the rescue event, making this the most streamed event. (The memorial of Michael Jackson was the prior record holder of 4.6 million.)

Many news sites provided life blog updates of the event. The Chilean Government even set up an official Flickr photostream, the Rescate Mineros' Photostream. Photos started with the early preparations on October 11th, through all miners, to the last rescuer, Manuel Gonzalez and final photos of the press conference.

A quick Google for blogs under keyword Live Chile Miners Rescue yielded 333,293 results. One of my favorites was the Chilean blog, I Love Chile, the only Chilean blog translated to English. Many media and news site kept readers abreast of the updates of each miners rescue via their blogs as well.

Communities Formed to Provide Support & Share
Naturally Twitter fans and followers assembled around an infamous hash tag, the most vibrant one being #chileminers. On October 13th, the community counted down the number of miners brought back. The conversations were positive, encouraging and hopeful.
“@Notashopaholic. 19 miners out now. Just amazing. Humans, I am proud of you today. #ChileMiners

Of the tweets I analyzed using SearchTastic, the reach as incredible – 60 tweets reached 20M followers/impressions. CBS News was a big contributer.

There were also a few communities which rallied together on Facebook. One group, Chilean Miners Rescue Attempt. LIVE, tracked the progress of the rescue effort. The last post I read was from Ireland:
“Congratulations to all the miners on being rescued, God bless you all and I hope you all recover well from your terrible ordeal, and well done to the rescuers your country must be so proud of each and everyone of you. I spent the last 24 hours watching it live from Northern Ireland and am so pleased it's all over. GOD BLESS.”

Another group, entitled Rescue the Chilean Miners, had 480 fans. It’s community mission statement read “We want this page to show the brave miners, their families and their rescuers how much the whole world supports them.”


Hope. Unity. Strength.
The sprit, unity and determination of the Chilean miners, government and rescuers inspired the whole world. Thanks to digital and social technologies, we could participate in and watch this historic human event in real time.

Moving.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

The Jetsons, Trading Posts & Social Business

Robots are creeping me out this weekend.

That’s an odd thing to say from someone whose career has been in technology and who adored George, Jane, Judy and Elroy Jetson. The cartoon, The Jetson’s, was my favorite, slightly nudging out Scooby Doo. I loved its futuristic graphics and theme. Rosie the Robot seemed almost human to me as she cleaned and helped the family with daily life. At times she would malfunction but always with humorous results. The family had a snazzy vehicle too - the flying saucer car which drove itself. The Jetson’s had a very leisurely lifestyle enabled by robots and labor saving devices. One press of the computer button a day was all it took to set their day and life in motion.

The Jetson's Are Here.
Yesterday, The New York Times published its story on Google’s experiment with a car that drives itself. The advantages, it claims, are to save lives. The car uses GPS and motion detection to help it navigate and drive. Google claims that this artificial intelligence is safer and more reliant than humans. The intelligence won’t get sleepy at the wheel, be intoxicated or make bad judgments. And this will ensure fewer accidents whereby more lives are saved. Really? Cars driving themselves - the technology is here.

In the same day as the NYTimes article, my brother and I were talking about artificial intelligence running our financial markets. We talked about computers programmed to make trades at the Board of Trade which could be programmed to make financial trades at a much faster rate than humans could keep pace. I don’t know much more than that but isn’t that a bit scary (and illegal)? One press of a button to run a financial market – the technology is here.

Yesterday as well was the first time I experienced, not once but twice, the Twitter robots unleashed and spamming me and my peers with RTs after various words were detected in our tweets. Annoying . Robots reading and sending out messages on their own – the technology is here.

Robots Can be Creepy.
Before I went to bed I tweeted, “… feel like I'm in a bad sci-fi where the bots start overtaking humans!”

I’ve always been forward thinking, futuristic, opportunistic by nature. “Yes, let’s create it!” “Wow, look at this new technology!” “Just think if we designed …x, y, z…” But last night was the first time I started to get a bit creeped out by it all.

What’s the impactof robots/artificial intelligence on human intelligence? Will humans start to become less intelligent as we create technology which does our thinking? Evolution has proven that which is not used over time disappears. Will our language change? Will we lose basic skills? Are we moving too fast? Will we revert back to cave man drawings to communicate as we continue to create symbols like :) to depict emotion or figure out how to make our language fit 140 characters or less? I don’t get psychics but at some point don’t we run into ourselves in the here and now and the virtual? And could we tip the scale to the artificial and virtual too far?

Do we have technology and innovation ethics? Where do we draw the line?

Social Business and Trading Posts?
Over the course of the past month I’ve more than once stated I’d like to get back to the time of the trading post. I say it in jest, but deep down I really mean it. Sometimes, the speed at which technology is innovating is overwhelming. My draw to the trading post is that humans interacted person to person. They interacted and exchanged on a very basic human level. Is social business our way to ensure we continue to humanize our technological experience and create human interaction and value with one another?

Deep thoughts for a late Sunday night. Lots of questions and few answers at the moment.

What do you think?