2007 Social Media & CRM 2.0 Professional Certification Seminar

Drumroll, please…announcing:

What: 2007 Social Media & CRM 2.0 Professional Certification Seminar
Where: San Francisco, CA
When: March 27-28, 2007
Learn more: http://www.bptpartners.com/socialmedia_agenda.aspx

On March 27th and March 28th, I’ll be co-hosting a two-day professional seminar, “Social Media & CRM 2.0″ along with Paul Greenberg (Author, “CRM at the Speed of Light” and principal at BPT Partners). This event will be held at the offices of our friends Fleishman-Hillard here in San Francisco. (Thanks, Fleishman!)

The 2007 Social Media & CRM 2.0 Professional Certification Seminar is endorsed by Rutgers University Center for CRM Research, CRMGuru.com, the National CRM Association, Greater China CRM and CRMA Japan.


Topics include:

Why the new social media: Communications and the era of the social customer — Traditional means of doing this through messaging marketing campaigns are no longer adequate. The new social media, blogging, user communities, podcasting and social networking are increasingly become tools of choice for businesses. Learn the why’s, where’s, and what’s in the segment on the strategic framework.

The Business Blog Field Guide — Every publication from Business Week, Forbes, The Wall Street Journal to online white papers warn businesses the blogging is not an optional endeavour. Those that don’t will not survive, so we are going to give you what you need to not just survive the on rush but prosper. This module will explain how to produce a blog, what the benefits are, and what conditions you need to make it a success.

Components of Blogging — You have the framework with the first 2 modules, now we’re going to get down. You’ve created the environment, time for you to get what you need to know to actually write the business blog in a consistent and timely way.

Customer Communities and Social Network Analysis — In this session, you will learn about the value of social networks, customer communities and the tools and practices to facilitate their creation and maintenance. If you do it right, your customers will be the advocates you desire and the business lifeblood you need for sustaining the kind of growth you’ve dreamed about – in collaboration with those customers you know to be important to your present and future.

The Theory and Practice of Podcasting – This module will not only explain what a podcast is, why it’s important to you as a business person, but how to actually produce a podcast. It will also bust some of the myths of podcasting that have already grown up around its young, explosive life. There is no form of social media that promises to meet the needs of the new generations of customers as well as this one – especially for those on the move. Imagine, having a good time creating something that can benefit your business – anytime, anywhere, any way you like? This module will give you the tools to do that.

Defining Your High Value Opportunities Using Social Media — Now, we get down and well, sorta dirty. How does this directly apply to your business? What industry you’re in, who your target markets are, will make a genuine difference in the approaches and applications of the social media tools. If you’re a B2B business v. a B2C business, there will be differences in approach. If you want to use the tools for co-creation of value with your customers or for feedback retrieval and customer conversations it will make a difference. The final module will examine what those specific applications can be for specific business situations and models.

Learn more: http://www.bptpartners.com/socialmedia_agenda.aspx

Enterprise Web 2.0 Efforts: How To Get To Critical Mass

In an earlier post, I put forth a checklist of things to think about before launching a business-oriented Web 2.0 effort (thanks, everyone).  Going to continue that discussion here and get down to some tactics.  In particular, going to look at a number of the things that one can do to help get a community on the path to critical mass and, more importantly, ongoing sustainability.

Readysetgo

Like offline communities, online business-oriented communities grow over time based on the interactions of their members. As such, growing an online community takes time and dedication; there’s no “just add water” silver bullet. (We’re people, not sea-monkeys.) That said, there are a few things that can be done to get things off on the right foot. These are host graciously, act as a catalyst, and help community participants to achieve their goals.

Host Graciously: This means exactly what it sounds like. The job of hosting any interactive effort does not end when the site goes “live.” Quite the contrary, actually. Some things that can be done:

  • Welcome newcomers

  • Make “virtual” introductions between members of the community
  • Start conversations
  • Keep things (relatively) on track (a little drift is actually good, however)
  • Highlight commonalities between members
  • Keep the dialog going
  • Thank others

Act as a catalyst: A host’s job is not to “be” the show. Instead, the host should start snowballs rolling and enable others to engage with each other. Particular things that can be done include:

  • Promoting others in the group

  • Posing questions to the group (can be open-ended, or polls)
  • Starting conversations by asking others “Why did you join?” — This is key to ensuring the group meets the needs of its members
  • Commenting on contributions that others have made

As anyone who has ever started any online group can tell you, getting things rolling can take a fair amount of effort. Some groups by their nature seems to have a sort of shyness with respect to individual contributions. While it’s easy to attribute this reticence to personality, it’s equally likely that it’s due to other factors. That’s why “ease of contribution” needs to be considered — the less friction there is in the participation process, the easier it is to engage. Augmenting online efforts with regular face-to-face interactions also makes it easier for folks to contribute online, since there is a certain je ne sais quoi to that first face-to-face meeting that seems to catalyze later online interactions. Regular, outbound reminders such as newsletters and mailers also aid in bringing participants into the fold.

Help community participants to achieve their goals: Kathy calls this “helping users to kick ass.” What this means is it’s all about the customer.

  • Enabling participants to connect with others working on similar problems

  • Connecting with others who do business in similar ways, and are going down similar roads
  • Facilitiating person-to-person information exchange

Especially in the business-oriented world, it’s critical to note that, while an online connection may initiate the interaction between individuals, the final exchanges of information are not always electronically mediated by the system. While forums and bulletin boards and comment threads make be the common means of interaction on Slashdot and Digg, many exchanges of business information already have well established paths, including email, phone and in-person conversation.

Prerequisites For Setting Up A Business-Driven Web 2.0 Effort

Since the beginning of the year, have been asked the following question (in various forms) time and time again: If we want to use this social media "stuff" to connect with customers, how do we get started?

At
this point, it seems that the natural inclination is to jump right in
and start prescribing technology (e.g. "well, let’s set up a WordPress
or TypePad blog and we’re done!" or "Let’s get the Haystack network up
this week!").  While the technology is an enabler, there are still the
basic questions that need to be answered in order to get things off on
the right path, and help to stack the deck in favor of success.  Today,
let’s concentrate on the fundamentals of what an organization needs to
think about before embarking on a social media activity.

Communityprereqscolor

#1) Why

Why do
this?  Why start a blog or a social network or other Web 2.0-oriented
effort?  Sometimes, the answer is simply "In order to connect."  And,
in the case of many, many blogs (and IM, and Plazes, and Twitter,
etc.), that answer is sufficient.  However, as is more often the case,
there are additional reasons to jump in:  better and more timely
feedback from customers, the ability to connect with others working on
similar problems, putting a human face on what had been historically a
sterile organization, creating a framework for communications, or, most
importantly, creating a platform for enabling better/broader/more
timely information exchange. 

The "why" is critical.  (And, as a point of note, "because we
want to explore this and get to understand it" may be the right
answer.  When that’s the case, make sure that expectations are set
accordingly.)


#2) Who

Web
2.0 is about people.  Period.  Who are the people involved?  Who will
be the primary contributors to the effort?  What are their
backgrounds?  Who are they as people?  In addition, who are the other
people who will be interacting with the environment, even if they don’t
initially contribute?  In a blog, the ratio of commenters-to-posters is
large; the ratio of readers-to-commenters is astronomical.  What’s in
it for each of those constituencies?  Does the environment support them
and provide what they need?  What value does each group derive from it?

Similarly, in a social network, there are typically a handful
of "power" users, a slightly larger group of sometimes-contributors,
and a huge group of people who may only be observing.  (Members of this
last group are commonly referred to as "lurkers.)  What’s in it for
them?

#3) Where

Online gathering places are examples of the "third place" as
defined by Oldenberg:  a "place" other than home or work, for
democracy, civil society, and social engagement.  Is what you are
putting together a destination, or a directory that sends people forth
on their journeys?  (Both are relevant.)  What does the place feel
like?  Is it open, or exclusive?  Is it part of a larger site, or a
stand-alone entity?  How will people find it?


#4) When

Is the activity that you are proposing using social media an
ongoing concern, or tied to a particular event?  Note that unless there
is a large, existing group of participants, it will oftentimes take a
few months, perhaps even a year, to achieve "critical mass."

It’s like planting a garden.

#5) How

"How"
is all about the norms of the place.  What’s the tenor of the
interaction?  Is it "strictly business," or relaxed?  Is it moderated,
or free-wheeling?  What will participants do if their contributions are
edited or deleted?  If there is a "topic," will off-topic discussions
be immediately squelched, or will the interactions be free-form, like a
lively dinner party?

Additionally, a key "how" item is thinking about how the
site’s members deal with "trolls" and spammers.  Will the be ignored?
Banned?  Given a warning?  Deleted without comment?  Sent to "time out"
for a period of time?

Much of the "how" derives from the "who."  The types of
individuals who collectively make up the constituency of the place are
the ones who will drive the "how."  Heavy-handed moderation will make
the place constricting, yet too lax a policy will rapidly devolve the
interactions into noise.

Want to see a guide that you can use to start conversations in your organization?  A template you can use, after the jump.

Continue reading

More Human Than Human


the human touch
Originally uploaded by max_thinks_sees.

“I am the jigsaw.” – R.Z.

I have to disagree, relatively strongly, with a number of items in Dave Taylor’s post “When Is A Blog Too Personal?” Dave writes:

“One of the great ongoing debates in the murky world of blogging is whether your weblog should be personal or professional, whether you should be revealing or private. There are, of course, many different answers and at some level the real answer is “whatever you’re comfortable with”, but I think it’s a topic worth exploration nonetheless.

Business blogging is a different story because your goal is to convey a certain level of expertise, credibility and, yes, professionalism, and that can be counter to the idea of being too personal.

One solution is to use the “water cooler rule”. If a topic isn’t something you’d talk about with your supervisor hanging around the water cooler or coffee station at your office, it’s probably not appropriate for your professional blog either.

That might work pretty well for you, but I don’t think it goes far enough, because I can easily imagine chatting about the latest TV show or sporting event with colleagues and supervisors, but that doesn’t mean it’s a good fit for my business blog.”

I actually think the “water cooler rule” is a pretty good one. However, Dave continues:

“I have a friend who is a professional editor and writer who is also in what she calls an “alternative relationship” where she and her husband both date other people. It works for her, but when she blogged about her relationship on her professional blog, I was shocked.

She said that “I’d rather just ‘out’ myself and if it turns off potential clients, I probably wouldn’t have wanted to work with them anyway.” I just don’t see it that way. When you buy a burger from the local eatery, do you want to know the politics of the owner? When you get your car tuned up at the local garage, do you even care about the religious background of the mechanic?”

Here is where we disagree, strongly. When choosing a service provider, I absolutely want to know his or her context and worldview, biases and motivations, whenever possible.

Exhibit A: I will never get a Domino’s pizza, because I disagree strongly with founder Tom Monaghan’s politics.

Exhibit B: I really like the Magnolia pub, in the Haight in San Francisco. Not only do they have terrific beer, but their menu tells me this about the philosophy of the owners:

“Magnolia is proud to support sustainable agriculture as well as local farms and businesses in order to serve food that tastes better. We buy as much of our produce as possible from independent, local, organic farms based on seasonal availability. Our meat and poultry is all natural, free range, and raised without the use of hormones or antibiotics. We make sure that our seafood choices are abundant and fished or farmed in sustainable ways. In general, we buy as locally and sustainably as possible and encourage you to do the same.”

So I suppose, yes, I do want to know the politics of the owner of the burger joint. (n.b. That said, there are a whole bunch of waypoints from transactions to community.)

We’re all jigsaw puzzles of varying interests, history, background and, yes, skills. For some, the Joe Friday, “just the facts” approach may be what they desire from their vendors. On the other hand, many of us spend at least a third (ha, right…more like two-thirds) of our days in our “professional” skins. Do we really want to be denying all of those aspects of “who we are” a majority of our lives? I think not, so Dave, I need to respectfully disagree with your post.

Some other viewpoints on humanity and business blogging:

From the archives:
The Business Blogging Field Guide (HTML, or PDF)

A Look Back At 2006 – The Customer Really Is In Charge

This is my look back at 2006 from the current issue of CRMGuru.



Companies Are Actually Engaging in Conversations With Customers

By Christopher Carfi, Cerado Inc.

In 2004, there were a few odd shakes. Some organizations noticed them, but most ignored them, perhaps attributing them to the distant passing of large truck.

In 2005, a few small, but noticeable, cracks appeared in the fortifications that separated The Corporation from its customers.

In 2006, the cracks widened. For some organizations, portions of the fortifications began to crumble and crash to the ground, casting away long-held beliefs and practices as they fell. It was the year the reliance on one-way “control” of the customer began to give way to “conversations” in earnest.

While viewing the world through the three-sided prism of “sales,” marketing” and “service” still holds as a reasonable way to characterize the breadth of CRM, these changes in customer relations affected all three areas very differently.

Sales

For some in sales, “CRM” is synonymous with Sales Force Automation (SFA). The problem is, very few customers want to be “managed” by their sales representatives. In 2006, those customers who “weren’t going to take it anymore” started taking up arms.

We’ve entered an era rich with cheap, easy, accessible of online tools to publish in nearly any format. Consequently, 2006 saw an explosion of words, photos and videos of customers documenting their experiences with products of nearly every stripe. Did you see the photos of the exploding Dell laptop in Osaka? If you didn’t, search on “dell laptop fire.” Those pictures sparked Dell to recall more than 4 million laptop batteries, and the incident ultimately may cost Sony, which manufactured the batteries, hundreds of millions of dollars. Millions of customers shared their experiences with companies with the world via their personal blogs, as well as through online communities such as TripAdvisor. Consequently, salespeople have been put in the unenviable position of competing in a world where the customer is, in many cases, better-informed than they are.

Another trend that affects sales is the rise of a new type of corporate customer: the “bizsumer.” These are individuals within large organizations who are making buying decisions at an individual level, oftentimes as a means to “get things done” in their groups without having to deal with the bureaucracy of their own organization.

The bizsumer is purchasing tools for project management, collaboration, business social networking and other systems at a price point that is often below the radar of centralized organizational planning—and usually delivered as an online service. (Joe Kraus, CEO of collaboration provider Jot, calls this purchasing things that are “expensable,” rather than “approvable.”) As such, sales has needed to embrace tactics that are much more common in the mass-market realm, such as online ordering and payment by credit card, which is a marked shift in the customer engagement process.

Marketing and PR

Of the three primary CRM areas, the areas of marketing and public relations made the most strides with respect to customer engagement. Not only startups but also behemoths such as General Motors, Microsoft, IBM and Sun Microsystems have embraced social technologies such as blogs and podcasts in a big way, as a method of getting their message out and engaging customers in the conversation about their products. These processes of engagement with customers through social media, however, need to be done correctly, and with unassailable ethics and transparency. As an example, Wal-Mart and Edelman, a PR firm, found themselves in significant hot water in October 2006, when it came to light that a blog framed as a “grassroots” effort of regular, everyday folk (“Jim and Laura,” who were driving their RV across the country, from Wal-Mart to Wal-Mart and documenting it) was actually a planned marketing campaign, paid for by Wal-Mart and supported by Edelman.

It turned out that “Jim” and “Laura” were professional journalists on assignment. (“Jim” was Jim Thresher, a photojournalist for The Washington Post, and “Laura” was Laura St. Claire, a professional freelancer.) With incredible research tools at their fingertips, customers now can ferret out the truth about products and companies in only a few clicks. Despite such missteps, through social networking, other companies began to put a more human face on their organizations. An increasing number of companies are engaging with their customers directly online; answering their questions in the public square; and moving away from “marketingspeak” and toward developing deeper relationships with their customers based on actual interpersonal trust.

Beacons

And then came “support tagging.” Stowe Boyd and Greg Narain, of the social application firm Blue Whale Labs, call these tags “beacons.” A beacon is a post in a public place, such as a personal blog, meant to draw the attention of a service provider to an issue the customer is having with the company’s products. In essence, beacons turn the service model upside down, drawing companies to the customer’s site to help them, rather than forcing the customers to go through the often onerous support process prescribed by the vendor organization. (The vendor organizations respond to such beacons through diligent, often automated, monitoring of search engine results for new items containing their company name, their products or relevant phrases.)

When it works, a representative from the vendor organization, or even an individual who may be part of a larger enthusiast community, will connect with the customer in the customer’s space and resolve the issue.

So I would call 2006 a sea-change year for CRM. Sales faced an ever-more-vigilant buyer. Marketing engaged with customers—and was called to task when it went overboard. Support is actually—surprise—supporting the customer, as opposed to purely being a cost center. The customer really is in charge.

(link)

TypePad Hacks

John T. Unger gets a snowball rolling here. He’s started a website, “TypePad Hacks,” that is dedicated to user advocacy for folks using the TypePad platform. John says:

“I want to start with advocacy because I think it’s the most important part of what I hope to accomplish here. At least, it’s the one that means the most to me. Here’s the scoop: I freakin’ love TypePad. But I also get deeply frustrated when I run up against limitations to the service, or flaws, or bugs that make it hard to accomplish what I want to as a blogger.”

So, he went and did it. He launched the site 28 hours ago. Check out the response.

  • there’ve been 1200+ pageviews

  • 56 people have subscribed to the feed
  • lots of people bookmarked it at del.icio.us
  • Several people wrote to offer help writing and testing Hacks for the blog.
  • One person wrote to offer work designing blogs.
  • Two people have said they are willing to participate in the fundraising effort

I love this whole collaborative, customer-driven thing. When it works, it utterly rocks.

[Update: Hugh and Neville weigh in as well.]

Gratuitous Metablogging

I usually try to avoid the whole “blogging about blogging” path, but there are a couple of good items that have popped through in the last couple of days that may be worth a look, if you’re into that sort of thing:

Mike Sansone: “Some web (under)developers think blogging is a fad. Frankly, I think they’re worried about their jobs.”

Jeremiah Owyang, #49 & #50: “Don’t hire any firms to help you with a blog strategy that are not blogging themselves” and “Don’t hire any firms to help you that suggest the reason to blog is ‘because blogging is hot right now’.”

Hugh Macleod: “If you think this is just a game of bubbles, bandwagons, favoritism and knowing the right people, as opposed to having good ideas and plain old hard work- Fine, go ahead and believe it. Nobody cares.”

Robert Scoble: “I’ve been blogging for more than five years now and the “blogging is a fad” meme is one that consistently is reborn every five months.”

The Social Customer Manifesto Podcast 15FEB2006

click here to subscribe

Summary: Christopher Carfi and Leif Chastaine review the American Marketing Association Hot Topic series, give an update on the state of the blogosphere via Jupiter Research, Pew, and Technorati, and shine a light on “Charter Street,” the new blog from Paul McNamara and Greg Olsen. (37:42)

Show notes for February 15, 2006

The audio file is available here (MP3, 34MB), or subscribe to our RSS feed to automatically have future shows downloaded to your MP3 player.

00:00 – Intro

01:00American Marketing Association Hot Topic overview : podcasting, video blogging, word of mouth marketing, RSS, interactive social networking, Bill Flitter (Pheedo), Dave Evans (Digital Voodoo), Willow Baum Lundgren (Umbria), Randy Moss (ACS), Napoleon Dynamite, Vote for Pedro

06:00Jupiter Research, online demographic study, teen influencers, patterns of online/offline usage

11:15Pew Internet and American Life, online usage (men and women), difference in online usage by boomers (note: PDF doc)

18:00 – State of the Blogosphere (Dave Sifry, Technorati, Part 1, Part 2), 27.2 million blogs online. 75,000 new blogs per day, Comparison of blogs and mainstream media reach (e.g. NYTimes), Huffington Post, Instapundit

31:30 Importance of tagging as a component of search

32:00 Charter Street blog launched, Versai Technology; SGI; Red Hat; El Dorado Ventures; Paul McNamara & Greg Olsen, startups, virtual companies, and “going bedouin

37:05 – Wrapup

Blogging Power Law Dynamics

Great article on blogs and power law dynamics that showed up on my desk this morning, from New York magazine.

“When [Clay] Shirky compiled his analysis of links, he saw that the smaller bloggers’ fears were perfectly correct: There is enormous inequity in the system. A very small number of blogs enjoy hundreds and hundreds of inbound links—the A-list, as it were. But almost all others have very few sites pointing to them. When Shirky sorted the 433 blogs from most linked to least linked and lined them up on a chart, the curve began up high, with the lucky few. But then it quickly fell into a steep dive, flattening off into the distance, where the vast majority of ignored blogs reside. The A-list is teensy, the B-list is bigger, and the C-list is simply massive. In the blogosphere, the biggest audiences—and the advertising revenue they bring—go to a small, elite few. Most bloggers toil in total obscurity.

Economists and network scientists have a name for Shirky’s curve: a “power-law distribution.” Power laws are not limited to the Web; in fact, they’re common to many social systems. If you chart the world’s wealth, it forms a power-law curve: A tiny number of rich people possess most of the world’s capital, while almost everyone else has little or none. The employment of movie actors follows the curve, too, because a small group appears in dozens of films while the rest are chronically underemployed. The pattern even emerges in studies of sexual activity in urban areas: A small minority bed-hop, while the rest of us are mostly monogamous.

The power law is dominant because of a quirk of human behavior: When we are asked to decide among a dizzying array of options, we do not act like dispassionate decision-makers, weighing each option on its own merits. Movie producers pick stars who have already been employed by other producers. Investors give money to entrepreneurs who are already loaded with cash. Popularity breeds popularity.”

That being said, there are a couple of implications.

If being an A-lister matters to you, you need to write quality, and write it often. And then, make sure that others can find it. As inequitable as it is, the best way to do that is get the notice of the A-listers by linking. It’s an artifact of the way PageRank, etc. works. As I’ve said before, a link is a blunt instrument and the crudest of social gestures. But it’s what we have for right now.

If writing for and serving a particular focused market is the thing that matters, just write, write often, and write on-topic. The search engines will find you.

On the other hand, notice from the above that while the “short head” gets the big traffic, the real numbers are in the long tail. Providing a way to connect those individuals en masse opens up another route to success. More on this soon.

Update: Hugh weighs in as well.