Why oh why?!

12 November, 2008

I’ve been on a bit of a blogging holiday of late, it has not been planned I’ve just not been able to think of anything interesting to say. That changed this morning when I read Sean O’Driscoll’s post Why is “Why?” still the most under appreciated question? This was one of those wonderful serendipitous moments when the internet was thinking exactly what I’ve been thinking lately.

Sean’s post talks about asking Who, What When, Where, Why and How when planning for social media projects. He makes the point that of all of those questions often the why is forgotten.

Throughout 2008 our team has managed to build a fair bit of excitement throughout our business around the potential for social type technologies.  We spent the first half of this year trying to convincince stakeholders of the value of letting go of some of the control we hold over our cotent and getting our customers involved. It seems we have done a pretty good job of that as ideas have been flowing thick and fast.

The strange thing is now I find myself putting the breaks on many ideas that are put forward. In meetings I’m saying things, like ‘just because we can doesn’t mean we should’, ‘why will people take time to contribute to this project?’ and ‘what tangible benifits will users take away from the interaction?’

Perhaps I have become a bit of a pessimist over the last few months but I get the feeling that if a social project is going to be successful it must tap into a group’s passion and if it can’t do that it must address a very real and pressing need.

In his post Sean recommends asking the following questions in the project planning planning phase:

  • Why:  Define your purpose
  • What:  What are the business objectives
  • Who:  Define your audience and/or segmentation
  • How:  How do our users do it today (whatever you define it is in the why question)
  • Where:  Inventory where users are going today
  • What:  What are the interactions we need to enable to improve the experience
  • What:  What systems and processes do we need to integrate with
  • What:  What technology and tools are necessary to support this effort
  • How:  How will we know it’s succeeding
  • What:  What are the success measures
  • Who:  Who are the internal stakeholders
  • Who:  Who are the key people and organizations we need to get engaged / participating?
  • What:  What are our policies and/or guidelines to govern internal participation?
  • When:  Define the project timeline
  • How:  How much is it going to cost (to execute AND sustain)

I reckon this is a great list, if you can have a solid answer to each of these you’re well on the right track for success. My only addition would be to split the ‘Why; into two parts.

  • Why: Define the purpose for implementing the project from the organisation’s perspective
  • Why: Define the purpose for interacting with the project from a users perspective.

5 Responses to “Why oh why?!”

  1. Well done Mick! I like your ‘why’ from an internal AND external perspective, after all the new web is a two way street.

    Also, I think there may be a bit of the ‘because we can’ mentality going around at the moment, which doesn’t really satisfy sound business logic…

  2. Mick Leyden Says:

    Cheers Alex,

    Now that you mention it, the other big issue besides ‘because we can’ is ‘because they are’.


  3. Thanks for the props and I like your addition. It gets at what I call the “fair exchange of value.” What you (brand) get vs what the community/users get. If not in balance…failure will not be far behind.


  4. Hi Mick, couldn’t agree more. I think that’s a really great set of questions to go through when scoping and developing the plan. Often we know there is the idea, the need or passion to connect in the audience, yet we need to be really clear on what we are doing and why, and for whom. That framework would go a very long way in making the fuzzy things clear.

  5. Mick Leyden Says:

    Helen, I agree. Not knowing the answers to questions makes it difficult to succeed, but not knowing the questions to ask makes it almost impossible!

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