Archive for the 'Social Media' Category

Getting them talking

25 June, 2009

Part four in my ‘Getting an online community off the ground’ series. Today I’ll chat about Content.

Over the last week or so, I have blogged about finding great people to join your community, then having a chat with them to encourage them to join the community. In many ways getting them into the community is the easy bit; often people, if encouraged will sign up to an online community, the trick is getting them to come back a few times a week.

The people we have targeted to form the core of the community know their stuff and are eager to participate so we’d best make use of them! The community is all about the members so we can get them to do some of the planning. Ask them to debate the core purpose of the community, ask them to agree on the community’s rules of engagement. This can be confronting, at this point we are releasing some control, we’re no longer producing a product for the market to simply consume, we are letting the consumers shape the direction. While it is scary it will be helpful for a couple of reasons, firstly it will give those core people that you want to hang around something to talk about which is critical to keeping their attention. Secondly it will help them to develop a sense of ownership over the community. Finally it will give us an important insight into the needs of the people we are trying to engage.

It is great to hand the keys over to the community but  it is really important to stay involved in the discussion, this is our community and while we are working to help the community members we are not going to be able to meet the needs of everybody. Get involved in the conversation, talk about the motivations for creating the community and listen to the responses of the community members. If a suggestion can not be implemented, explain why and try to work with the community members to come up with an alternative approach. This is important work, it is laying the foundations that the community will be built upon so we need to get it right.

Throughout this process the most important thing we can do is listen, this will help us to understand the needs of the community, which will help us to identify the content that will bring people back. Understanding the content the community members are interested in will influence, the links we post, which discussion topics or members are featured and what events we run.

Next up – Events!

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I want a free car!

24 February, 2009

I was reading one of my favourite motoring blogs, Car Advice yesterday, and stumbled upon this item. It seems I can find interesting Social Media stories even when I am trying to read about something completely different!

Anyway the story is that Ford is kicking off a new promotion for the US launch of the Fiesta. They are going to be selecting 100 people, giving them a new Fiesta for 6 months and asking them to blog and video their experiences with it. Here is a grab from the website:

as a driver, you’ll receive monthly secret assignments from Ford Mission Control that will take you to places you’ve never been, to meet people you’ve never met, and to experiences you’ll never forget. And you’ll bring your friends and followers along for the ride.

It’ll be interesting to watch how it goes…

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.

Teaching social media

28 October, 2008

In the last two weeks I attended two Social Media conference sessions at CPA Congress in Melbourne. The first was run by Micheal Axelsen and was called “Facebook, Myspace, YouTube & Flickr – managing and leaveraging the business impact of social networking sites”, the second was run by Keith De La Rue and was called “Effective organisational communication – blending traditional and Web2.0 techniques.”

Micheal’s session focused on managing the risks social media can pose to business and individual users when they are not paying attention. He provided a range of practical tips for keeping you and your brand safe online.  You can view the slide pack here.

Keith’s session was much broader, he looked at some ‘old skool’ communication techniques and strategies and contrasted them with their 2.0 equivalents. Interestingly I found myself writing loads of notes during the traditional tools section; it can often be very helpful to look back in order to look froward.

Both sessions in their own right were great but I looked around the room in both and saw a few blank faces, I don’t think this was the fault of either Micheal or Keith. I do reckon the conference producers could help by tweaking the program.  Micheal’s session was in the first week, Keith’s was that the end of the second, I don’t think there were any other delegates who attended both sessions. This meant that both Micheal and Keith had to spend time defining what many of the social media tools actually are. If your going to be organising training or a conference that will feature workshops on social media for newbies here is my proposed flow.

Workshop 1: What is Social Media and why should you care about it?

Spend this session focusing on why businesses should be interested in what Social Media can offer and provide an overview of the tools that they can utilise. (Keith covered a fair bit of this)

Workshop 2: Why are you going to get into Social Media?

Workshop to help participants identify the needs they are going to try to meet through social media

Workshop 3: How do you make it work?

This what Keith covered in his session this session would techniques for successful implementations, learning from ‘old skool’ projects and other social implementations.

Workshop 4: Being social and Safe

This is what Micheal covered, this is all about making sure that when you do engage with the interweb using social media, you don’t fall into some of hte traps many others have.

My point – tweak the program so that related sessions can flow from one to another and in the marketing, highlight the links between sessions.

…that said how many accountants are likely to go to four three hour sessions on social media?

Just be upfront!

15 October, 2008

I logged in this morning to find this gem in the comments on my post from yesterday.

Hi Michael,
congratulation for that makes some good points, particularly about single sign-on, preservation of data and synergy about tools.

Hmmm well thanks… First off my blog says Mick everywhere, where did he get Michael from? (I only get called that by my Mum when I am in trouble –  yes Mum still pulls that one out! 🙂 ), although he may have been talking to Michael Axelsen who also commented on the post.

Second, most of the time when people comment they write some thoughts on the issue which is great! Congratulating us on making some good points is a little odd but hey, the internet caters to all types.

Here is kicker, when I click on the name of the commenter it directs to me to their website, which lo and behold is a social media platform vendor!

Come on people! If you’re flogging social media surely you know you have to be more transparent than that! Just have a look at NAB’s efforts to see how it can go wrong! (Hat tip to Steve Collins for the link). Why not just say ‘Hey Mick, we have a platform we think is really great, do you want to talk to us?’. If your product is that good I’m not going to be able to say no am I?

Don’t be sneaky! Have a nice day all.

Generalists or Specialists?

14 October, 2008

Over the past twelve months we have kicked off quite a few initiatives to dip our toes in the murky waters of web2.0. As these have all been largely experiments we’ve gone with WordPress for blogs, Ning for our community and SocialText for our wiki. Each were selected as they had the best price, feature set and fit for our purpose. Now as we hurtle toward the end of the year we begin to think about what our suite of social products will look like in 2009.

One of the many questions we need to answer when figuring this out is what technology platform will out products sit on, and to get to the point of this post do we continue with individual products that are good at a particular task but not connected to other items or do we go with someone who can give us the whole box and dice.

Certainly a generalist platform is appealing when thinking about user management and data security, it also could enhance the usability of our offer if all applications function in kinda the same way. On the specialist product side you can argue that by selecting a product for a specific need you can find the right product for your project and avoid hitting square pegs into round holes.

If we’re thinking whole box and dice there are a couple of options that I can think of. SocialText recently launched version 3 of their wiki platform and on paper it’s a pretty nice set up. Their well established wiki/blog tools, combined with an iGoogle style dashboard and social networking capabilities, integrates the majority of your social software offer into one box. Throw in their recently announced signals module and SocialCalc and as far as enterprise social software goes it is a pretty compelling case. On the downside their wiki has a few quirks that sometimes make it a little difficult for new users to come to grips with, the blogging tools are not as good as WordPress or Typepad and I’m not sure if it has discussion forum capabilities.

The other box and dice platform I know of is Sharepoint. yes it is from the evil empire (not google, the other evil empire) and yes it can become ungainly and difficult to manage but from what I have been told it can do most of your social stuff if you make it. I must admit I really don’t know much about share point other than it seems to have started many ‘is Sharepoint social’ discussions on the interwebs.

So to you good folk who have been kind enough to stop by this tram, do you know of any other box and dice type platforms out there? Or is it better to stick with distributed specialist platforms?

A step into the unknown…

19 September, 2008

A little while a go I hit the publish button on the Conference social network we have been working on for the last 6 months. Exciting yet scary stuff!

To be honest I have no idea how this is going to pan out. We’ve got a pretty good promotional plan, we have  engagement with the conference program and we have several presenters lined up to participate in the network. Still I wonder if it will work. Our audience is pretty conservative mostly accounting and finance types, I get the feeling that will mean they will come in and have a look but probably won’t participate very much. Our corporate blogs are a classic example, while the traffic on this blog is approximately 10% of the average traffic of our two main corporate blogs, I average a comment about every second or third post, where our corporate blogs average a comment  about every 5 – 6 posts.

I would put that down to the fact that most of the comments here tend to come from people who I either know or have interacted with via their own blogs or twitter, but I think there may also be something in the demographic, most of the people who read this at least have an interest in social media. That would seem to make them more likely to fill the ‘critic’ role, than an accountant or finance manager that is in their mid 30’s to mid 50’s (the bulk of our customer base).

It will be very interesting indeed to see if they embrace the concept. I’ll keep posting regularly about how it is going and what we are learning.

Now that’s a strategy!

16 September, 2008

Hat tip to my Colleague Alex Dalidakis for this one:.

and this one from Patrick Lambe at the Green Chameleon:

Happy Tuesday All. 🙂

More on Twitter – Ambient Awareness

15 September, 2008

I came across this article in the New York Times (and International Herald Tribune) via Jay Cross and Edgar at The Green Chameleon. It provides a great overview of how Facebook status updates and Twitter have become so popular. It would be worth passing on to anyone who doesn’t get it, they may not be convinced after reading the article, but they may have a slightly greater understanding of what it’s all about.

The Article disuccses the concept of ambient awareness.

Each little update — each individual bit of social information — is insignificant on its own, even supremely mundane. But taken together, over time, the little snippets coalesce into a surprisingly sophisticated portrait of your friends’ and family members’ lives, like thousands of dots making a pointillist painting

An interesting thought, more interesting to me was Edgar’s point about the potential for ambient awareness in the Enterprise:

Imagine knowing what your colleagues in another part of the building/city/country/globe are thinking or working on, and being able to connect and collaborate far more easily because you kinda know each other even though you’ve never met.

This is where we come to Yammer, an enterprise friendly microblogging client, that last week took out the TechCrunch50 award. I have not tried it yet, but it is attracting plenty of buzz in the blogosphere and twitterverse. It is deffinately one to watch, but as Steven Lewis points out, there are a few questions that must be answered before it gets picked up in a big way.

A final link that is worth checking out, Sue Waters just posted this intro to twitter post, that contains some great tips for getting started.

On blogs, comments and twittering

10 September, 2008

If you’ve looked at my sidebar in the last couple of months you may have noticed that I am ‘trying Twitter’. I’ve not posted on it yet as it has taken me a while to figure out if I like it and I think its useful. I’ve been twittering away for just over two months now and I think I’ve got it sussed.

First off I do like twitter, but I don’t love it! Here are the things I like:

Watching many conversations unfold in front of me and joining in if I have something to say.

As I have added more people to my follow list (I think I follow around 80 people at the moment), I can see the value in observing what is going on. While there is a lot of rubbish, it is easy to filter that out as I tend to skim the list, it is ever changing so anything that doesn’t capture your interest immediately is quickly gone from the page and forgotten. In watching the conversations unfold I have found a few useful links and come across a few people doing the same things as me, which has created opportunities to share and collaborate.

Keeping in touch with loose ties in my network

My follow list is made up of current work colleagues, people I have met once or twice through work, former colleagues and people I find through through blogs or twitter that I think might be interesting.

I really like that I can use it to keep up with what former colleagues, and various people I have met through work (but don’t work with) are up to, I’ve got many of them on my linked in profile, but I tend to only use that for contact details, twitter allows me to have a more active connection, which otherwise probably would not exist.

Following news

Over the last few weeks I have followed the launch of #iphone, #dnc08, #gustav and #rnc08 (for the uninitiated the # symbol denotes a tag applied to the tweet. Users include a #tag in a tweet when the tweet relates to a particular topic. These can be searched on using Twitter Search (formerly Summize), a hot one at the moment is #LHC – I’m going to be really peeved if I write this then the world gets sucked into a big black hole!) Watching each of these items unfold has been very interesting, with the iPhone it was all about where there was stock, which carriers were offering the best deals and how people were going getting it up and running. DNC and RNC resulted in a continuous flow of discussion questioning what the various candidates were saying, how the crowds were responding and in the case of RNC how the protests outside were unfolding.

Gustav was the most fascinating, I watched the search update and saw people supporting each other, providing advice, providing the latest information regarding traffic conditions, storm strength and evacuation points. A few different publications talked about twitter coming of age during the lead up to Gustav (I’m being lazy in not including a link… there are plenty out there), I could really see this. News organisations were using information coming from twitter to provide updates and in some cases were displaying #gustav tweets on screen during bulletins. It was a great example of how helpful a tool like twitter can actually be.

So where does that leave me?

As I said, I like twitter, but I am cutting back on my use. It is easy to get distracted by it, I am the type of person who needs to hit the off button to avoid distraction.

The bigger problem I have with twitter is I’ve found it has taken time away from this blog and commenting on other people’s blogs. I’d be happy with that if I felt twitter provided the same thing, but I feel like I am missing thinking through an issue in a greater depth. While twitter can allow for a conversation to unfold in real time, when using it I tend to only scratch the surface of an issue. I find blogging and commenting encourages me think through an issue in more detail than I do if chatting about it on twitter.

This is a really long post so I should stop it. The bottom line for me is, a little bit of twitter for the reasons I talked about is good and more blogging and commenting is required!

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