Social Media Monitoring – Silo or Enterprise Tool?

Over the past 18 months I’ve had the opportunity to work with a number of social media monitoring tools for a variety of clients and research purposes.

From day 1 I’ve been of the opinion that social media monitoring is not just for brand management or marketing – last year during social media tools week I argued this point. Unfortunately though this is where most vendors in this space remain focused. I will continue to believe that social media monitoring has enterprise wide application with the insights and social conversations being an opportunity to tap into the real thinking of customers, prospects, markets etc.

I have two general concerns though with respect to social media monitoring:

  1. How to make this scalable and sustainable
  2. How to ensure what you’re hearing represents a statistically relevant and balanced view.

Making this scalable and sustainable

As you start using social media monitoring strategically (i.e. watching more than just your brand) the volume of data you need to manage increases dramatically. For many of the monitoring products on the market, this means you simply create yet another silo of data that is disconnected from the core business goal of being able to take action.

social media monitoring funnel, ignite media

So even though you take a sales funnel like approach (like the diagram from Ignite) to monitoring, the volume and effort will make this an insurmountable task – made even worse when you consider how easy it is now to abuse the open nature of many of these social channels (i.e. Twitter spam).

The other risk here is one of coordination. As the volume increases and more and more employees are participating it becomes a major challenge to ensure consistency in terms of message, engagement, and results.

The only logical way I can see this problem being solved is to create a firewall or gatekeepers who undertake the capture and analysis and then feed the filtered information into the organisation for deeper analysis.

social media monitoring, social noise, web 2.0

How do we manage the social noise?

The gatekeepers mightn’t (read: shouldn’t) be from marketing or PR – the important attribute or skill to have is business acumen.
This gatekeeper role can then coordinate any response or engagement that might emerge. What I see coming out of this type of approach is both scalability and sustainability.

Relevance and Balance

Whilst some in the social media space might want to stone me for such heresy I am of the opinion that the conversations you observe in the social sphere may not represent a relevant or balanced view of the situation.

Let me give you an example. For some months now I’ve been monitoring the debate around an Australian issue – the Governments plan to mandate an internet filter. The subject has received some mainstream press coverage but not as much as I would have thought. Now, when I jump into the social sphere and start tracking this issue I see a significantly higher level of conversation – and by significantly I mean a factor of hundreds. But here’s my concern. As I look into the users generating this noise my gut feel is that they are very much in one camp and very negative on the issue – so I’m not seeing balance. So if I look at just this information I could conclude that the general public are massively against this Government move. But is it representative?

My feeling here is that if you are going to be making business decisions based on what you uncover in the social sphere, I’d want to be testing this against another source of information.

Summary

I’ve no doubt social media monitoring technology will continue to evolve – hopefully we’ll even be able to deal with the geographical limitations around monitoring specific regions.

Video – Why you must incorporate it into your business

One of the key changes I’ve seen over the past 12-18 months is the increasing relevance and power of video for companies looking to engage with their communities.

I know many who have been banging this drum for much longer than I have and I’ve now officially joined the crusade. When I talk to Chief Executives and business leaders, I can’t help but see so many opportunities to use video in innovative and interesting ways. Video is relevant across the business – from the CEO introducing the company and humanising the enterprise, to sales, marketing, and support. When you see the results that can be achieved in terms of increased engagement, search results etc, it’s very compelling.

Forrester Research produced one of the most succinct lists early last year around the effective use of video in business:

  • Insert keywords into your video file names.
  • Host your videos on YouTube, and embed those YouTube videos into your own site. Google says its algorithms consider how many times a video is viewed, and any views embedded videos receive on your own site get added to the ‘views’ tally on YouTube. (And yes, nearly every video we saw Google blend into its results came from YouTube.)
  • Optimise your YouTube videos by writing keywords into your videos’ titles, descriptions, and tags.
  • Embed videos into relevant text pages on your site. The context provided by the text on those pages (which is hopefully already optimised for search as well) will help the search engines figure out what your videos are about.
  • Also create a video library on your site, so Google knows where to find your video content. (Google Video Sitemaps can help with this too.)
  • Write keyword-rich annotations for each video in the library.

One of my key concerns has been around the cost to produce content that is at least reasonable. Earlier this year I met the team from Hunting with Pixels – they’ve built their business to solve this problem, making it not only cost effective, but also efficient in terms of the time involved to produce content suitable for YouTube and Vimeo.

Meet the team here:

Beware the Social Media Snake Oil

A bit has been written in the past about the number of clowns flooding into the social media space basically conning companies into spending money to build a social media profile. This article last year from BusinessWeek and a follow on post from Olivier Blanchard touch on some of these issues.

Here in Australia I’ve seen these types of people and organisations popping up around the web – in many cases offering low cost programs that involve nothing more than setting up a Twitter account and Facebook page. And unfortunately it’s not just limited to social media – I see the same happening in the digital marketing and online reputation management space.

I saw evidence of this first hand last week with a new client. They had engaged a Sydney company to build a ‘social brand’ for them. The end result was beyond ordinary – it was wrong on so many fronts. The biggest issue however wasn’t the shoddy work. They had made 3 or 4 grave mistakes that someone in their position, with their experience shouldn’t be making.

Mistake #1 – Strategy

There wasn’t any.

The vendor has sold the client a solution that is totally lacking in any form of strategy – and this from a company where the executives claim to be ex-IBM. This company also proudly states they are a leader in digital marketing and social media.

The problem with this is that the vendor has committed their client to a whole raft of services with nothing in place to guide or measure this effort. They’ve basically set them up to fail.

Mistake #2 – Brand Disintegration

This vendor talks long and hard about building a social brand, yet all the work they’ve done fails to incorporate the clients brand name in any of the services they’ve set up. I honestly don’t get this.

Here’s a client that is pure B2B, only Australia, and looking to establish themselves as an alternative to a group of competitors who are mega-sized and mega-hated in the business community. I look down the list of 23 services that they were signed up for and NOT once has their core brand been used.

Mistake #3 – Focus and Alignment

Nothing had been done to understand the clients business – this has led to the client being signed up to dozens of services – some of them quite bizarre. Why register them on MySpace or a community site for expat Indian’s? Again, this is a waste of client time and money.

The situation is made worse by the fact none of this is aligned to their overall business strategy, let alone their marketing strategy.

Lessons?

Firstly, I don’t know that this problem is going to disappear overnight. One of the reasons I think this is that many of Australia’s core business hubs (i.e. our major capital cities) have highly concentrated mainstream media. This same media has a fixation with the bird and the book – making it easier for clowns like this company to sell the snake oil.

For businesses who are thinking about social media? The lesson is to put the hype aside and focus on determining where you’ll achieve business value. Don’t be afraid to ask old-school business questions around relevance, sustainability, TCEP (Total Cost of Effective Participation), and strategy examples.

If someone’s selling you the dream, ask them to bring you examples of relevant peer companies.

For those of us who work in this space – we need to spend time debunking the hype and getting back to business basics. At the end of the day, we’ve got to demonstrate how social media will help a company make money, save money, or manage risk.

What is or isn’t Blue Ocean Strategy?

I recently got caught up in a vigorous debate on LinkedIn about Blue Ocean Strategy (BOS) and sports – specifically Twenty/20 Cricket.

BOS is something I believe in very strongly and I’ve been learning/following/practising it for a few years now. Following the BOS and sports discussion, Dick Lee posted a follow up topic where he posed 4 questions:

  1. What is the BOS process?
  2. What are the tools ones uses to support the process?
  3. What are the criteria used to define a Blue Ocean?
  4. What’s in scope and what’s out of scope?

I drafted my response to this and given the answer is quite long (and the LinkedIn response function is quite limited, I’ve taken the liberty of creating a  blog post.

I first read the book and was intrigued by the model that was vaguely outlined. I was fortunate enough to know David Tan of BigAnt in Malaysia who are heavily partnered with INSEAD and the authors. I’ve since paid for some additional training which greatly filled in the gaps for me.

At the time of the training I had already committed my company to starting a new business unit and I was lucky that at the time of doing the training we were struggling to understand how to make the new business work. So Blue Ocean Strategy came along at the perfect time and galvanised what we were doing – this SlideShare presentation sums up how we used BOS.

In this example my focus was on staying true to the core principles of BOS. This was hard, as we kept having Eureka moments and wanted to jump to the end.

So with that in mind, I’d like to answer the four questions that Dick Lee posed in his LinkedIn discussion:

1. What is the BOS process?

We all know the 3 macro processes – Visual Awakening, Visual Exploration, and Visual Strategy Creation. Underpinning these are a number of sub processes that work to create a BOS implementation. Some of these are quite easy to complete, some are really hard.

Surprisingly, I found the 6 paths analysis quite hard as it involves a combination of field work with general product/business know how.

2. What tools do you use?

The additional training I received provided me with an intro to the tools – I ended up back filling here with my own thoughts, particularly in relation to the field work as we started to capture and collate a lot of anecdotal customer feedback rather than hard core structured interviews.

The general consensus seems to be that a project would take 5-6 months. We did it in much less time but it’d be fair to say we cut a few corners.

3. Criteria used to define a Blue Ocean?

This is one point where I believe you have to stay true to the principles outlined by the authors – align utility, price, and cost. It wasn’t until we started implementing our ultimate Blue Ocean Strategy that I realised the importance of all three factors. Utility was an interesting factor for us as it is realised in very unexpected ways. In our experience where we were combining the use of social media to deliver the strategy – this manifested itself in unusual ways.

Given we weren’t the owners of the product, our Blue Ocean wasn’t a completely new market but more unlocking the second and third tier of non-customers and doing it in a way that our competitors couldn’t snatch the new market from us.

Nowadays I find myself using the first key phase of BOS along with the specific tools we developed here to test new BOS opportunities. A couple of times I’ve started down this process only to pull out – I could see opportunity, but not Blue Ocean opportunity.

4. What’s in scope vs. Out of Scope?

This wasn’t really an issue – though I can see why/how it could be. In our situation, we had a clear set of factors we could influence, and a clear set that we couldn’t. So the emphasis was on what we could influence/control/change.

I suspect in the future this will be harder as I can see how these types of projects could easily go off track – particularly if you don’t get the team dynamics right. Team dynamics doesn’t get a lot of attention, but it can make or break a BOS project.

Summary

Firstly I found the additional training highly beneficial. It really filled some of the key gaps between theory and execution.

Secondly, it wasn’t easy – but I think we found a balance between the academic purity as outlined by the authors and the realities of modern business. HBR has written a number of very good articles on BOS (one was written by the book’s authors recently) – I found these really useful as well as it gave a different slant on the strategy and it’s relevance and application to the enterprise.

We have captured some specific metrics around this and whilst this data is commercially very sensitive I can state that following BOS was defined this business and made it successful.

Finally, Chuck made an interesting reference to Nintendo in his response. Since we finished implementing the strategy, we’ve revisited it every 6 months, adapting it to take account of market growth and new competitive threats. I raise this point as I don’t believe BOS is something you do once, it needs to be an ongoing process within a business

Smart Selling Partnership with Huddle

I’m pleased to announce Smart Selling has signed on as Australian partner for the online collaboration leader Huddle.

Huddle is a UK company that is showing impressive growth both in the UK and the US. I first looked into Huddle around 4 months ago when the product was added to LinkedIn Applications library. I initially created a free account and as I played around with it, I was really impressed with the simplicity of the product and the potential.

Having worked with a number of Wiki products over the past few years I was ready to write off Wiki’s due to the lack of end user compatibility. The thing that struck me about Huddle was the ease of use.  What this reminded me of was the emergence of web-based CRM solutions some 10 years ago and how the focus then was end user ease of use. The Huddle team has quite rightly identified the need to get end-users loving the platform.

You can find more information on Huddle:

This YouTube interview with Founder and CEO Alastair Mitchell gives you a good insight into the product.

I’m pretty excited about this new partnership. We’ll load up local pricing information onto the site next week. I’ll also share some insights into how we’re using the product as a collaboration platform to share information for our social media presentations to business leaders through The Executive Connection