Do We Need A More Social Government?

The new book Empowered highlights the benefits of empowering HEROes (highly empowered and resourceful operatives) within the workforce. As we approach our first-ever CIO Forum in October, I’m looking around for great examples of how governments are using social technologies to empower employees to serve empowered citizens.

When I think of government IT projects, I often think of multimillion-dollar projects lasting years before going live. But it doesn’t always have to be that way, as the following example illustrates. 

Peter Koht is a HERO working for the City of Santa Cruz Redevelopment Office. In 2009, the city was facing its worst budget crisis (a problem familiar to many city officials). Running out of options, the city had already shut down civic services such as the community pool, museums, and a family resource center when it faced up to the reality that the people of the city needed to be involved in the decisions about what services to cut. Unfortunately, the voices too often heard at civic meetings were representatives of the extreme viewpoints at either end of the political spectrum. In an effort to collect more ideas from the silent majority, Peter suggested the city could tap into social media to connect with its citizens. Lacking any kind of budget or resources, Peter had to rely on the help of three volunteers to get a community site up and running in a week. 

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Groundswell Awards Are, Well, Swell!

One of my favorite things to do here at Forrester is judge the Groundswell Awards. Started by Josh Bernoff as a way to drive increasingly practical discussion regarding the real benefits that derive from exploiting social media, judging these Awards is among the most collaborative things we do within Forrester's research community. Moreover, as we compare submissions across years, the Awards give us a chance to ask, "How is the state of the art changing in the world of social media?" Finally, each and every submission becomes a case that we can use over and over as we help clients navigate the turbulent waters of the social sphere. Very cool stuff.

Imagine the Forrester analysts that help role clients with social media -- Josh et al. -- sitting around a virtual table discussing the details of each individual submission. We consider all the POST attributes -- people, objective, strategy, and tools/tactics -- highlighting what's innovative, what's working, and what's generating returns. It reminds me a bit of being a kid and getting the Sears Catalog in the mail at the beginning of the holiday season. For those that weren't around before Lindsay Lohan was born, the Sears Catalog was the compendium of every toy, sporting good item, musical instrument, etc., that could possibly emerge from that big box from Grandma. Like me with my siblings, we analysts metaphorically sit on the sofa with the Groundswell Award submissions in our laps, pointing at the examples that we think are most cool and worthy. I say "like," of course, because I haven't yet found myself bouncing off the walls, screaming gibberish, like I did when I first saw the red bicycle I got when I was nine years old.

Yet.

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Do You Want To Succeed At Social Media Or Social Media Marketing?

Do you want to succeed at social media or social media marketing?  There is a difference—a huge difference.  It’s the difference between using social media tools and adopting social media philosophy; the difference between sparking posts about your marketing and posts about your product or service; and the difference between marketers who focus externally on how the brand is broadcast versus internally on how the brand is realized. 

So do you want to succeed at social media or social media marketing?  The answer is the former, but many marketers focus on the latter.  I’d like to make this difference more real by sharing two examples—the first in the entertainment industry and the second my own experiences in a mall this weekend. 

Snakes on a Plane (SoaP) is the entertainment industry’s greatest pre-release social media success story to date.  The Guardian called it, “Perhaps the most internet-hyped film of all time.”  Fans produced their own T-shirts, posters, trailers, novelty songs, and parodies.  Producers organized a contest to select a fan's music for use in the movie. The filmmakers added shooting days in order to implement changes suggested by fans on the Internet (including Samuel Jackson’s famous and unprintable-on-this-blog line about “m&f%*#f+!@ing snakes”).  

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Facebook Places: What It Is, What It Isn't, And Why It May Change The World

Today Facebook revealed its long-anticipated geolocation offering called “Places.” In many respects, Facebook’s offering doesn’t expand on the functionality you can find in current location-based services such as foursquare — you can check in at a place, share your location with friends, see who is nearby, and add a place.  In fact, the most important contribution Facebook is making to the geolocation social space is not in form but scale.  While foursquare counts around 2.5 million users in its base, Facebook has 500 million.  This means that Facebook is positioned to introduce the benefits of location sharing to a new and much wider audience.

Of course, providing users with a new feature is one thing, but getting them to adopt a new sort of social behavior is another.  Facebook has done much to ease the adoption process for users, starting with some smart decisions about privacy.  It is evident that Facebook has learned from past privacy missteps.  By default, when users check into a place, this information will only be shared with friends and not the whole world.  This reflects a different and more user-centric approach than Facebook has taken in the past. 

Of course, it's nearly impossible to launch any new social feature without some level of privacy concern, and it remains to be seen whether users will like or dislike the fact that they can be checked in by their friends.  Facebook says this is intended as an advantage — since not every person has an advanced smartphone, not every Facebook user can check himself or herself into a location for the time being;  by allowing people to check in their friends, more Facebook users can participate.  People can turn off the ability for friends to check them in, but by default this is permitted. 

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Watch Facebook's Announcement Here At 5 PM PDT Today

If you're interested in Facebook's announcement this evening, you can watch the proceedings live here on the Forrester blog at 5 pm PDT.

The social media world is abuzz.  Take one hot trend (geolocation) and add one blazing hot social network with a history of privacy missteps (Facebook), and you have the making for an interesting news story. 

That's not the only reason curiosity is high about tonight's event--there's also a lot of money involved.  While consumer adoption of geolocation check-in via services like foursquare and Gowalla is still nascent, there is little doubt that consumers will increasingly share their location via social networks.  They share their profiles (who), their activities (what) and their hopes and wishes (why), so why not the "where"?  And this data becomes yet another piece of the puzzle for advertisers wishing to build promotions, loyalty programs and more personalized and targeted advertising.

Then, of course, there's the foursquare vs. Facebook angle, which I expect will disappoint those looking for a battle royale between the heavyweight champ (Facebook with 500 million users) and the young upstart (foursquare with 2.5 million users).  Facebook seems less likely to launch a "foursquare killer" and more likely to create a geolocation platform upon which others might build.  Think of it this way:  Facebook doesn't create social games, but instead creates the platform on which third-party social games thrive.  Despite the Facebook vs. foursquare hype, the two are likely to end up more complementary than competitive.

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Forrester Groundswell Awards: Less Than Two Weeks Left To Submit Your Entry

The deadline to submit your entry into the Forrester Groundswell Awards is on August 27, just two weeks away. The submissions we received last year, which we wrote up in this Forrester report, provided invaluable assistance to Forrester clients seeking ways to optimize Groundswell-related investments.

We hope you’ll participate this year as well. Josh Bernoff, one of the authors of Groundswell, just posted his advice on how to create a great entry. I have reposted it below for our technology industry clients:

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If you haven't entered yet but plan to, this advice is for you. (If you just want to see other people's entries, click on the items at the left of the Awards site.)

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Consumers Are Willing Co-Creators: More On The Intersection Of Social Media And Consumer Product Strategy

In a prior post, I told you that 83% of companies use social media, but fewer than half of those have product teams that are currently using social media to influence product design, creation, or strategy. In that report, I also divulge that 72% of consumer product strategy (CPS) professionals claim that social media will enhance their existing capabilities of using customer input to shape product strategy. I've also posted about how social co-creation is an important opportunity for consumer product strategy (CPS) professionals -- and it's something that some, but not all, of those companies who are active with social media use. For those CPS pros who are not actively engaging in social co-creation, a common question is, "Do consumers want to co-create? And will they want to co-create with me?"

We asked US online adults those very questions, and in a word, the answer is YES. I outline the results of a recent survey of US online adults in a document entitled "US Consumers Are Willing Co-Creators: Activate Engaged Consumers With Social Technologies To Build Better Products." Some highlights of the survey include:

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The Social Media Data Arms Race

Today, Converseon announced an agreement with Twitter to feed the firehose of tweets – around 65 million per day – into Converseon’s listening platform. This deal improves upon Converseon’s data sourcing, a critical step to the listening process. Only a small handful of other vendors dare tread in the rushing rapids of the Twitter firehose – for now, just Jive and Crimson Hexagon – but the race for social media data is on.

Alternatively, during the past year I’ve seen a shift in vendors' pitches, moving away from touting superior data sourcing and instead focusing on better data processing or insight delivery. Data became a commodity. And while the movement toward improved insights continues – because what good is a plethora of data if you can’t find what you’re looking for – the recent focus on pulling in all of Twitter makes for two key assumptions:

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The Data Digest: A Deep Dive Into Asia Pacific Consumers' Online Behavior

Q3 is always a very exciting quarter for the market research team at Forrester. Not only do we analyze, write and publish our annual State Of Consumers And Technology  Benchmark report (which my colleague Jackie Anderson is very busy with at the moment), but we also start analyzing our annual reports looking specifically at consumers' online behavior. In Q3 we will first publish the US version of the document, followed by European, Asia Pacific, and LATAM versions later in the year. These reports are internally referenced as “the Deep Dive” reports, not only for the level of detail these reports contain but also because of the depth of analysis included. What really makes these reports unique is that they're similar in setup, making it possible to compare online consumer behavior across regions and within regions.

For example, our 2009 APAC Deep Dive report shows that Asia Pacific consumers are active Internet users compared with North American and European consumers but that their interests and activities varied greatly.  And within Asia Pacific it's definitely not one-size-fits-all: The following graphic shows for example how the different countries vary in their uptake of media and entertainment activities:

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AP's API Empowers New Media Through AWS And Azure

 

It’s no secret traditional news organizations are struggling to stay relevant today in an age where an always-connected generation has little use for newspaper subscriptions and nightly news programs. The Associated Press (AP), the world's oldest and largest news cooperative, is one such organization who has felt the threats which this paradigm shift carries and thus the need to intensify its innovation efforts. However, like many organizations today, its in-house IT Ops and business processes weren’t versatile enough for the kind of innovation needed.

"The business had identified a lot of new opportunities we just weren't able to pursue because our traditional syndication services couldn't support them," said Alan Wintroub, director of development, enterprise application services at the AP, "but the bottom line is that we can't afford not to try this."

To make AP easily accessible for emerging Internet services, social networks, and mobile applications, the nearly 164-year-old news syndicate needed to provide new means of integration that let these customers serve themselves and do more with the content — mash it up with other content, repackage it, reformat it, slice it up, and deliver it in ways AP never could think of —  or certainly never originally intended.

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