I happen to be one of the 14 people quoted in this Dell e-book, Social Media Predictions for 2013, but that’s not why I’m pointing out to you. I have great respect for every one quoted in this book, but what’s interesting is the common themes that emerge. For example:
Several of these experts see a strong year for Google+, while most believe Facebook is in for slow growth or even decline. I agree completely. The more I use G+, the more I like it. In contrast, I think Facebook is increasingly a place for backslapping and trash talking without the means to sustain meaningful conversations. In other words, I think the novelty of Facebook is wearing off. BTW, Pinterest and Tumblr also draw a lot of praise.
There’s a strong subtext of the need to make interactions more meaningful and personal and for brands to unleash their people to speak as themselves. Stop using social media as another kind of fire hose and start using it for listening, which is its most basic value.
There are some good quotes on context and sourcing. Basically, stop throwing content against the wall and start making it more meaningful. Geoff Livingston’s comments on creating trusted content are particularly good.
A couple of the interviewees call for more civility online, which is something I think we can all support. I like the way Shel Israel phrased it: “It seems to me that that people on social networks were adversely inﬂuenced by the…recent presidential campaign. They feel the best way to be right is to demean people who disagree with them.”
Lee Odden’s passage on hash tags is a riot: “#lets #just #stop #with #the #hashtagging #of #every #word #in #a #tweet #OK? #You #keyword #spammer #you.” Completely agree.
Here’s the embed, which links to the document on SlideShare.
Anyone who follows my blog knows that I’m not a big fan of Klout, or any service that oversimplifies the complex process of assessing online influence by boiling it down to a single number. However, I do think it’s important that organizations be able to understand the online influence of people they want to build relationships with.
Awareness Networks just announced a tool that takes an intelligent and customized approach to influence assessment. The Social Marketing Automation suite enables customers to identify patterns in public online conversations, extract profile information and create what amounts to custom Klout scores.
Here’s how it might work: A user could search Twitter for people who have engaged directly with a brand more than twice over the last month, have mentioned the brand more than five times and have more than a specified number of followers. The suite can also dig into publicly available profile information to add filters by location, profession or any other data that is publicly available on Facebook or Twitter. So if you’re looking for health care professionals in the Milwaukee area who frequently recommend Motrin over Advil, you can find them for prospecting or a targeted marketing campaign.
Awareness goes a step further by combining public profile data with conversation topics to create prospect databases. This information can be imported into CRM and marketing automation packages, easing what is usually a laborious manual process. Integration with Salesforce.com is built into the first product and most of the leading platforms will be added over time, according to Mike Lewis, VP of marketing at Awareness. This addresses the problem of lead quality, which is the biggest cause of sales waste.
Awareness doesn’t extract data from social networks directly but rather works with Gnip, a company that has license agreements with most of the top social networks to distribute their content. About the only major source Gnip doesn’t have is LinkedIn, which keeps its profile information close to the vest. But YouTube, Tumblr, WordPress and many other sources are pumped through its firehose.
Competitive advantage is fleeting in this business, and I expect that others will quickly add this kind of functionality. Awareness’ strategy is smart: It will focus on providing the core data mining and filtering technology and work with partners to deliver results to whatever marketing or sales automation tool they prefer. Victory will go to the swiftest.
I’ve probably spent at least a couple of thousand hours with PowerPoint over the last 15 years and believe me, familiarity breeds contempt. I find conference organizers’ obsession with “getting the slides in advance” to be a bit annoying at times, as if the slides are more important than the message, but I suppose that’s the world in which we live.
Tomorrow I’m keynoting a local conference of educators, and my message is that they need to make some pretty fundamental changes in the way they do their work in order to meet the needs of today’s young people and tomorrow’s markets. So I thought the least I could do is to change the way I create my message. I tried Prezi, the online presentation service that comes at presentations from a completely different angle. Instead of a slide deck, Prezi uses a “canvas” onto which you can drop elements. The presentation zooms and pans around in an order you specify. It’s amazingly easy to use once you get the hang of it, and there are some very cool things you can do that you’d never consider with PowerPoint.
On the other hand, motion sickness is a real risk with Prezi. My wife, Dana, who is prone to migraines, took a look at the first version of this presentation and said it gave her a headache. I toned it down, but the experience still takes some getting used do.
Prezi isn’t right for every scenario, but it’s a nice new addition to my presentation toolkit. And it’s so NOT PowerPoint!
When we moved into an old urban home nearly six years ago, we knew one of the disadvantages was a postage-stamp-sized front yard. The previous owners had done some very basic landscaping – and for some reason had installed a full irrigation system – but what can you do with less than 600 ft.² of space?
It turns out a lot. We engaged Nancy Warren and Janice Welenc of Green Velvet Gardens of Holliston, MA to apply their imagination and experience to the problem. We’ve seen what Janice did to landscape her own home and we had no doubt they would come through with something exceptional.
Which they did. We don’t have a good “before” photo, but you can get a sense from the picture below what they had to work with.
Janice and Nancy re-imagined the space built around a stone patio that’s just large enough to accommodate a table and a couple of chairs. The centerpiece is lawn space big enough for the twins to play in (at least for the next couple of years). The center oval is surrounded by evergreens and whatever plants they could reuse from what was already there. A rhododendron that has never bloomed in five years was moved into the sun and flowered for the first time. We’re just delighted with the transformation.
I picked up Erik Qualman’s Digital Leader expecting a very different experience from the one I got. Qualman is a thought leader on the transformative potential of social media whose 2010 bestseller, Socialnomics, is considered a textbook in its field. I expected Digital Leader would instruct me on how to further immerse myself in these tools of change.
But quite the opposite is true. While Digital Leader is unabashedly enthusiastic about technology, it is more about about restoring balance to your life, getting your priorities straight, learning to relax and even disconnecting from the grid on occasion. I’ve already made three or four changes to my daily routine as a result of insights I gained from this book, and that’s good enough to merit an enthusiastic endorsement.
Qualman (left) lays out his thesis in the book’s very first words: “Life is complex; those that simplify it win.” What follows is an engagingly uplifting read that focuses on making the most of your productive time so that you can maximize the value of your downtime.
The phenomenon Digital Leader addresses is familiar to many of us. Our world increasingly demands that we be constantly connected and always available. Our greatest challenge is no longer how to connect with others but to keep our digital lifelines from entangling us.
Qualman cites numerous examples of people who have found this balance. They range from Monster.com founder Jeff Taylor, who refuses to check e-mail after he leaves the office every day, to football star Rosie Grier, who found relief from a pressurized career in needlepoint. Chapter 5, entitled “Simple = Success,” has many practical examples of how we can simplify daily tasks, and I’ve already put some of them into practice. For example:
Don’t be a prisoner to your inbox. The fact that someone sends you an unsolicited e-mail does not mean you are obliged to respond. Most e-mail messages that demand a reply can be dispatched with a delete key or a one-sentence response. Someone else’s needs are not necessarily your problem. This advice is already saving me time.
Focus on completing the tasks that matter. Multitasking actually makes us less productive. Set out two goals to accomplish each day and make them your first priority. Everything else can wait.
Follow your passion. Qualman is particularly taken with the examples of legendary innovators like Thomas Edison and Henry Ford, who refused to accept the conventional wisdom that what they were doing was futile and who treated failure as a necessary step on the path to success. Innovators have big dreams.
Unplug occasionally. Qualman recommends completely shutting off e-mail, Twitter and the like once a week. I’m not there yet, but it’s a laudable goal.
Rest. Sleep deprivation and 17-hour workdays ultimately impair judgment and lead to bad decisions. Let your body, not your alarm clock, determine how much sleep you need. I heeded that advice and got an extra hour of sleep just this morning.
Failure is a persistent theme in Digital Leader, but always in a positive sense. “I failed my way to success,” says Edison in a quotation leading a chapter that highlights the virtues of what Qualman calls “failing forward.” Veterans of the tech world will recognize this willingness to learn from one’s mistakes as a core ingredient in the success of Silicon Valley. Other parts of the world have tried to attract technology entrepreneurs with tax breaks and subsidies, but none has duplicated this essential trait.
Don’t interpret these examples to mean that Digital Leader is some kind of self-help tutorial. Substantial sections of the book are devoted to the stories of successful leaders, although not all of them are digital. The overarching message of this book, however, is that balance, passion and a willingness not to take oneself too seriously are qualities that many leaders share. Digital tools are a means to an end, but they shouldn’t be a lifestyle.
The global IT industry is in the middle of an epic platform shift and the rules for survival in a market built on mobility, big data analytics, social business and cloud computing will be very different than those that applied to the previous client/server generation.
That was the message from IDC Senior Vice President & Chief Analyst Frank Gens as he kicked off the research firm’s Directions 2012 conference in Boston this morning. Gens, who has tracked the computer industry since the days when mainframes ruled the earth, outlined a dramatically new economic structure that will emerge as economies of scale take hold.
Frank Gens (photo by Jeff Ballard via Twitter @jballard)
“Volume is going way, way up and price is going way, way down,” he said of the new software market. “If [technology companies are] going to drive large-enough volumes to support the revenue levels they’re used to, they’re going to have to drive the number of customers way up. You’ll need millions of customers in order to compete.”
Gens outlined some striking changes in the platforms and architectures that underlie what he called the “third platform” of computing after mainframe and client/server. Among them:
Spending on mobile data services will surpass spending on fixed data services this year for the first time. “That’s a crossover that will never cross back,” he said.
The 700 million mobile devices shipped in 2012 will roughly double the number of fixed devices shipped during the same period. Spending on mobility will exceed spending on PCs and servers for the first time.
The volume of unstructured data in corporate data centers will exceed the volume of structured data for the first time.
China will surpass Japan to become the world’s second largest IT market at about $170 billion.
But the most startling changes Gens outlined concerned the software applications market, where downloadable free and low-cost apps are redefining the economics of the business. IDC forecasts a five-fold increase in annual apps downloads to 137 billion by 2016. Only about 18% of those apps will be paid for, and average prices will fall from $1.59 today to 82 cents. “That’s spooky stuff when you consider that PC apps average about $25” and that that market isn’t growing, Gens said.
Technology companies will need to overhaul their business models to accommodate these shifts. In order to attract the thousands of new customers they’dd need to recruit each day, vendors will have to become experts at cultivating communities and working with partners and even competitors. In other words, word of mouth marketing is the only viable promotional model.
Will Microsoft be a player in mobile platforms? It may be, but Redmond has a lot of work today, Gens said. A recent IDC survey asked developers which platforms they were “very interested” in targeting. Apple IOS for the iPhone came in first at 90%, followed closely by Google’s Android for smart phones. HTML 5 was a strong third. Microsoft’s Windows Phone 7 was a weak fourth at under 40%. Can Microsoft compete? “We should know in the next 12 to 18 months,” Gens said.
Tech firms will also need to serve a wider variety of vertical markets because price deflation won’t permit the luxury of focusing. Fortunately, IDC has identified more than 40 new specialty industries made possible by platform shift, including medical supply chain management, social mobile commerce and smart buildings.
And if these pressures weren’t intense enough, don’t forget overseas competition. Gens said the business models that support high-volume, small-transaction markets are being honed right now by Indian, Chinese and Russian companies that have worked in that environment for years. US firms, with their high costs and margins, are going to struggle to adapt to a leaner and more competitive way of doing business.
This is one in a series of posts sponsored by IBM Midsize Businessthat explore people and technologies that enable midsize companies to innovate. In some cases, the topics are requested by IBM; however, the words and opinions are entirely my own.
When Stan Joosten first contacted me about joining Procter & Gamble’s Digital Advisory Board, I initially hesitated. The volunteer position would demand a few days of my time every year just as I was beginning to transition my focus to B2B and away from P&G’s consumer markets. But this was P&G, after all, and Stan, who is Innovation Manager for Holistic Consumer Communications, is a persuasive guy who had already signed up several people I respect. I said what the heck.
It was the best decision I’ve made in the last five years.
This week I sat in an auditorium at P&G headquarters in Cincinnati and heard CEO Bob McDonald talk about the centrality of one-to-one relationships to the company’s future and declare “We want to be the most digitized company in the world.”
Mark Pritchard, who heads global marketing, echoed the one-to-one theme, noting “Digital marketing is past. Brand building in the digital world is the future.” That’s an impressive statement coming from one of the world’s largest TV and print advertisers.
The fact that this week’s event was even going on was notable in itself. Organized in just seven weeks and spearheaded by John Battelle’s Federated Media Group, Signal P&G brought top executives from Google, Facebook, Yahoo, AOL, Microsoft, Coca-Cola and many other digital and consumer brands to talk about the future of marketing. About 300 P&Gers crowded the John G. Smale Tower Auditorium in Cincinnati and another 1,300 watched online. Most people in the room stayed till the very end.
From my conversations with employees and the discussions I overheard in the hallway, I came away convinced that this is a company that is successfully transforming both its culture and its approach to market. When you consider that P&G has nearly 130,000 employees spread across the world and marketing practices that have made it an icon of excellence for a century, that’s no small achievement.
New Measures of Success
P&G has been called the world greatest marketing company. Success can be a curse, though, and the maker of Crest, Tide and about 25 other billion-dollar brands has struggled to wean itself from a traditional focus on coupons and samples in favor of a culture of engagement.
It’s not that P&G doesn’t understand its markets. The company’s almost obsessive approach to research has marketers and engineers routinely visiting customers’ homes to spend hours watch people doing laundry, diapering their babies and brushing their teeth. P&Gers understand that the reason moms buy Tide goes far beyond clean clothes and gets to issues like self-esteem and peer acceptance. Its brand marketers are some of the savviest marketing pros I’ve ever met.
This deep understanding of customers was evident even in the Advisory Board’s earliest meetings with brand managers. What was missing was a sense of how to engage. P&G marketers create brilliant campaigns, but their success milestones have been defined by traditional metrics like impressions, coupons and trials.
Assumptions are breaking down, however, thanks to a willingness to change and the success of campaigns like last year’s Old Spice “The Man Your Man Could Smell Like,” which combined traditional TV advertising with a brilliant series of companion videos on YouTube. This week Federated Media showed off StyleUnited, a new P&G community for “want it all women” that logged one million page views in its first three months and is already driving new sales.
Support From the Top
More important, though, is the support shown by top executives like McDonald and Pritchard. They’re obviously keenly aware of the Innovator’s Dilemma, Clayton Christensen’s theory of how successful businesses destroy themselves by being unable to discard the tactics that made them successful. P&G’s revenues continue to be strong, but its traditional retail channels are under intense pressure, warehouse clubs are squeezing margins and Amazon wants to trump its brands. Consumer packaged goods companies today face the risk of being marginalized as commodities. Digital channels are the lifeline that can establish long-term connections with their customers. It appears to me that the key people at P&G understand that, and once a company of this caliber gets on board, entire industries change.
I’m not sure there’s much I can tell P&G marketers that they don’t already know at this point. While P&G has never paid me a fee, they have enabled me to connect with people I would never otherwise meet and to get the briefest of glances into how a great company stays on top of its game. It is been an amazing experience and I’m grateful to Stan, Tonia Elrod, Daniel Epstein and the others who have permitted me to be a part of it. If I can ever be of service, don’t hesitate to call.
Wichita State University CIO Dr. Ravi Pendse last month issued a provocative challenge to educators to rethink their tools and tactics if they are to remain relevant a decade from now.
Addressing a regional edition of the popular TED conference in Wichita, KS, Dr. Pendse, who is both the CIO of Wichita State University and an award-winning professor, said he chose the term “relevant” deliberately. In his view, educators who continue to rely upon lectures and chalkboards as the tools of their profession are becoming dangerously out of step with the ways in which young people learn. Educators must not only adopt the tools the students use but also adapt their curricula to the topics that interest those students.
“If the goal is to get people excited about history, shouldn’t we study the history of Google?” he asked. “Our young people are looking for complete convergence. If you can’t provide it to them, you have a problem of relevance.”
To illustrate how out-of-step some educational institutions have become with even everyday technology, Dr. Pendse asked audience members to exchange cell phones with each other. He noted the nervous rumbling the exercise created among the crowd. “It’s uncomfortable not to have those devices with you,” he said. “So why do we tell people in the schools to turn them off? We should be using them as educational tools instead.”
Facebook is ubiquitous among college students, but many higher education administrators don’t use any social networks at all. With the social network expected to surpass 1 billion members sometime this summer, “Wouldn’t a class be popular that studied the sociology of Facebook?” he asked.
Dr. Pendse acknowledged that his views aren’t universally shared, but he expressed little sympathy for educators who refuse to change. “I call them CAVE people,” he quipped. “That stands for Colleagues Against Virtually Everything.”
The analogy of the caveman may not be lost on an older generation that is falling further behind. By the age of 21, many young people today have played 10,000 hours of online games, Dr. Pendse noted. Educators may not approve of that fact, but they need to accept it and discover some of the virtues of video games.
For example, “They require creativity. They even have built-in assessment tools; you can’t go to level 15 without completing level 14. And young people are collaborating across the world to figure out how to get to that next level.”
If educators are to get to the next level themselves, they need to put down the chalk and pick up the mouse. “Technology will never replace teachers,”’ he said, “but we can use technology to help a much greater number of students learn from each other.”
You can see Dr. Pendse’s 23-minute presentation below.
Palmisano is disarmingly modest and candid in an interview with Wharton management professor Michael Useem as he discusses his “temporary stewardship” of the IBM legacy. Like many successful CEOs, he is guided by a few simple and logical principles: Always put the organization first, think long-term and leave the company better than you found it.
Palmisano speaks honestly about the mistakes IBM made that nearly capsized the company 20 years ago and how those lessons changed him as a leader. Among the topics he covers:
The controversial decision to sell the PC division to a Chinese manufacturer and why the sale intuitively made sense;
Why IBM has continued to invest $6 billion annually in research and development, even during tough economic times;
The toughest decision he made a CEO: restructuring IBM’s pension plan.
What he learned from his college football career and why he’s glad he turned down the opportunity to try out with the Oakland Raiders in 1973.
Palmisano has kept a low public profile during his tenure as CEO, so the opportunity to see him let down his guard a bit and talk about his personal style is a rare treat. I came away from it with greater respect for the man and even the impression that he’d be a good guy to have a couple of beers with.
When it comes to innovation, everyone wants to know what the leaders are doing, and you won’t find many firms with a better innovation track record than Minnesota Mining & Manufacturing (3M). At Lotusphere today, two representatives to 3M outlined some ways the company is using collaboration platforms to improve access to expertise and information across the far-flung company, which has people in more than 60 countries.
3M’s track record of innovation is legendary, but globalization has presented new challenges. “We’re a century-old company founded on the principles of collaboration, but now we’re worldwide, said Jeff Berg (left), IT eBusiness Architecture and Development Manager.
Internet-based tools have been embraced across the company to compensate for the loss of physical proximity. 3M engineers have adopted a microblogging platform called Socialcast behind the firewall to tie together 800 members across 30 channels. The tool is enabling point questions to be answered quickly.
“I need information on 3M Japan products (name withheld) and what are the Eurpean substitutes?”
“Does somebody know whether (unnamed competitor’s product) is approved at (unnamed customer)?”
“Anybody have a good print anchorage test for films or a test apparatus that performs a wiping motion repeatedly?”
These questions were all answered in minutes, said Michael Lynch (right), Manager of IT Advanced Personal & Workgroup Solutions. People have gravitated to Socialcast “because of the speed and light touch.”
Not all problems lend themselves to brief answers, though. 3M has also experimented with more ambitious projects involving live seminars, group brainstorms and even contests.
One division launched a contest seeking 50 unique prototypes that contained 3M technology. The deadline was six weeks. The group held live live webcasts and chats to explain the event and succeeded in getting 45 prototypes from across the U.S. 3M filed seven patents on the work that resulted.
The research & development organization has used IBM Connections to take a long-standing technical conference online. The Virtual Technical Information Exchange (VTIE) renders in cyberspace what used to be done with speeches, posters and conference calls.
Last year the event went virtual with IBM Connections, drawing 10,000 participants from around the world who contributed to 140 presentation threads with nearly 1,000 posts and comments. “This was supposed to be a two-week event when it started last summer,” Lynch said. “It’s still running.” The time-shifted conversation has drawn significantly more participation from overseas employees, he added. Presentations are recorded and posted as audio files, which participants can follow up in forums.
Time to Market
Online collaboration is also being used in non-technical functions. A private community of about 200 consumer-focused field sales reps and service engineers now post monthly blog-like summaries of field activity reports, customer wins and innovative marketing ideas. “Not only does this helps us understand what problems need solving in the field, but it helps the headquarters team feel more connected with customers,” Berg said.
For 3M’s largest customers, account managers can now connect with each other to seek innovative solutions. Berg cited one customer in the hospitality industry that needed a noise-mitigation solution that couldn’t be addressed by 3M’s Thinsulate or Bumpon products. A Connections search found just the thing in a completely unrelated industry.
From the Top
Collaboration tools aren’t just for peer connections. Executive managers recently found them useful when communicating with employees about disruptions that would stem from a major renovation of the company’s Minneapolis headquarters.
“Temperatures in Minneapolis can drop to 20 below in winter, so the need to force people outside during renovations was a concern,” Lynch said. “The decision to use social media to communicate the renovation plans to employees was controversial at first because news has always been top-down.” A wiki devoted to the project proved to be just the ticket, however. “It’s become the most popular internal social site in the company” with 340,000 page views and more than 200 comments, Lynch said. “We’ve been able to listen to discussions, manage objections and actually get great ideas.”
And when it’s 20 below, the creative juices really get flowing.
This is one in a series of posts sponsored by IBM Midsize Businessthat explore people and technologies that enable midsize companies to innovate. In some cases, the topics are requested by IBM; however, the words and opinions are entirely my own.