Category: Design

Evolving to Social Business (and beyond)

Most organizations are well into the process of incorporating social media into their day to day business – and many are starting to wrestle with the challenges and opportunities of being “social” over the long haul: the resource commitment, the necessary changes in leadership and culture, and the responsibility to engage in  conversation, collaboration and community with customers, prospects, partners, employees and other stakeholders.

Many rubrics have emerged over the last few years to try and provide a context for the transformational phenomenon that is partially expressed by social media: Enterprise 2.0, Open Leadership, Social CRM, Social Business… the list goes on. By listing these terms, I don’t mean to dismiss any of them. I like and find value in all of the concepts I’ve listed – I love Charlene Li’s book “Open Leadership“, and find a lof of value in the recent discussions about Social Business, especially Stowe Boyd’s writing on the subject, and particulalrly, his defintion:

“A social business is an organization designed consciously around sociality and social tools, as a response to a changed world and the emergence of the social web, including social media, social networks, and a long list of other advances.”

With all of the good thinking and conversation happening around the topic of business transformation via “social”, I do feel like we are all describing different parts of the same elephant. I would propose the larger context – and the north star – for social initiatives is really about Sustainable Business. Think more Senge’sThe Necessary Revolution” than Open Leadership (which is still important, but a component).

A Sustainable Business (or organization) is a business that creates generative (net-positive) value in the form of:

  • Social Capital – Stakeholders are engaged and help shape the business, products and policies.
  • Financial Capital – The business is profitable.
  • Ecological Capital – The business has a net-positive impact on the ecological resources it uses.

How does “social” fit in to the concept of Sustainable Business? At least 3 key ways (and there are many more, this is a big topic).

  1. Stakeholder Engagement: Connecting to customers, prospects partners and employees has never been easier or more impactful than today, via social technology. Social media, online community and collaboration tools offer a high bandwidth and near-real time opportunity to communicate, discuss and share. Further, managed properly, social tools allow organizations to communicate and manage relationships at scale.
  2. Leadership and Culture Change: The process of adopting social tools, like hosting an online community or offering support via Twitter, is a forcing function for culture change in an organization. Business culture has to evolve to have an honest dialog with customers and prospects, and leadership has to support this honest dialog, or the investment in social tools won’t pay off.
  3. “Social” is Generative Asset: This is the key point – social sites, online communities and collaboration spaces, when done correctly, produce net-positive value in the form social and financial capital. Claiming ecological capital is a bit of a stretch here, but one could argue that the impact of conversations and  collaboration online vs. in-person favors online from a positive impact perspective.

In short, I’m proposing that we collectively acknowledge that there is a larger and more important context for the activities we generally refer to as social media, that the call to action around leadership and culture change is rooted in creating sustainable businesses, and that the term “Sustainable Business” may be a more helpful way to describe the macro trend we are collectively involved in.

I would love to hear what you think, and discuss via comments.

How to Develop a Community Strategy

This post is targeted at folks just getting started with online community activities at their respective organizations. It is written with the brand or product-specific corporate communities in mind, but is somewhat applicable to independent communities and non profit organizations.A few key points to begin with:

First, the working assumption here is that most of you reading are engaged in some sort of initial community building activity, but do not have a comprehensive community strategy guiding your efforts.

Second, keep in mind one of the key decisions you will need to make is the mix of attention, energy and dollars you spend hosting a community, vs participating in external community sites like Facebook and MySpace.

Third, (particularly for marketers) engaging and building relationships with your community is a bit of a mind-shift from thinking “quarterly-driven campaigns”. We have heard this as a recurring theme in our research and the conference we host on Marketing & Online communities. You won’t have the same criteria for success with community building efforts as you do with a print campaign. You won’t retain control of messaging. You have to be willing to invest the time to build relationships with members (yes, even one on one). This isn’t a quick in and out.

So, how does one start to evaluate the opportunity with online communities? Research! The following 4 step framework describes my typical community strategy development exercise we use for our clients:

Step 1. Define Business Goals and Objectives

This first step establishes a baseline definition of the organization’s goals and potential objectives for engaging in community building activities. These goals and objectives will serve as guidance throughout the project to ensure that the final strategy reflects a direction that creates value back to the organization. This process varies by organization type, the number and role of stakeholders, and the maturity (or existence) of the community team. The research in this step includes identification of the stakeholders for community within an organization, interviews with the stakeholders, and an initial brainstorm with members of the stakeholder’s team to discuss objectives for community. Themes and business goals for a community strategy will emerge.

Step 2. Community Ecosystem Review
During this second phase the goal is to do an audit of the current community ecosystem, including customer, prospect, partner and competitor touch points. This information will help establish a baseline of market-oriented sites and activity, which will be important to understand the opportunities for new community activity by your (or your client’s) brand.

Using tools like BlogPulse, Technorati, Delicious, and Google Blog search, conduct searches for brand mentions in the blogosphere and on smaller niche communities. You will quickly come up a list of the communities hosting conversations about your organization, products or brand, and the members (often time bloggers) engaging in those conversations.

It’s also important to research activity on the “walled garden” communities, and larger social media sites that some times don’t surface in search results. Sites like Facebook, MySpace, YouTube, Ning, Flickr, Satisfaction, etc. In particular, look for ad-hoc groups that have sprung up around your brand, or content tagged with your brand and/or products.

Step 3. Member Needs Analysis
This phase will establish a baseline for potential community member’s needs, as well as their expectations of your organization. This critical phase will also guide decision-making on the types of activities to engage in, and the approach (offline / online, hosted / independent).

This research is ideally done in person, or on the phone, but in a pinch you can also use a web-based survey tool like surveymonkey. Recruit research candidates from the list that you made during the Ecosystem Review. Develop an interview script that really probes their needs and expectations of your brand. Ask what types of marketing and advertising the members would find acceptable, and which types they won’t. Ask if they would be willing to help shape programs and advertisements (if you choose to go that route), Themes of member need, expectation of conduct from your organization, and tolerance of advertising / marketing messages should emerge from this research.

Step 4. Community Strategy Development
This final phase will combine the inputs of business goals, user needs and the existing community audit to form a community strategy. Evaluating member need and business goals side by side should provide you with direction on the types of community opportunities to engage in. The ecosystem audit will provide direction on where to participate, and if there is an opportunity for your organization to host part of that conversation by building a destination site, hosting discussion groups, etc. Based on the content of the previous phases, the team should be able to pull together the following key areas of strategy:

  • Business goals: 3-5 points of value or reasons the organization is engaging in community-building activities
  • Member needs summary: 3-5 key needs community members have of your organization that can be fulfilled or supported via online community
  • Community ecosystem map: A list (or diagram) of the key communities and community members that are currently discussing your organization and/ or brand
  • Recommended community tactics: A list of key tactics that meet the business goals as well as member needs
  • Metrics / ROI strategy: Specific metrics to evaluate community-building efforts by, and an ROI model that articulates dimensions of value (loyalty, affinity, time engaged, etc)
  • Engagement plan / calendar: Key tactics mapped to specific dates

As with anything, your mileage may vary -)

I’ve also seen the “Gnome” model used by companies, with much less success.

Miphone: love it, love it, love it

I have had my iphone since around lunch today, when FedEx dropped it off.

I have to say, I LOVE IT. I really haven’t even used it as a phone yet… I think I’ve made 2 calls all day. I seriously can’t stop picking it up. Ok, ok, I know I’m totally geeking out.

What do I love about it, out of the box?

  • email setup: I have my work and personal account humming along, and it took less than 5 minutes. It took me an hour to set up just my work account on my bberry
  • UX: this has been beaten to death, but the UX is just superb. It’s really a pleasure to use. The gesture control, like flicking and squeezing are totally natural
  • ID: it’s a beautiful object. It just looks so hot.
  • Media: photos, music and video… to me, these will likely be “nice to have’s”. Although, as I think about it, I watched about 30 minutes of you tube today. Haven’t done that in a while.
  • Online: Apple really nailed this. IT’s not as great as sitting at my desk with my 27″ monitor and 8 gbps downstream, but it is light years away from any WAP-based web experience.

That’s all for now. I’m going to continue to play.

Blogging & Design: Jesse breaks it down

Jesse Thomas from Ogilvy breaks down his POV blogs in general, and blog design specifically.

My takeaway after viewing: Why do we have SO many ugly babies out there? I think the availability of reaymade tools and hosted solutions has led to many of us who should know better (me included) accepting the “common” in ux design as opposed to designing the extraordinary.

I also liked his allusion to blogging as “wunderkammers” or curiousity shops.

Check it: