Next week, vendors from across the social computing landscape will converge on Boston for TechWeb’s Enterprise 2.0, a business Web 2.0 conference and trade show. In advance of this event – which I will be attending – I thought I’d discuss a topic that has started to emerge in my research of social software: the proliferation of social components in business applications. More specifically, I want to address a question a client recently raised: is having a social layer going to be necessary for businesses to adopt business applications going forward?
Over the last few years, we have seen software vendors position social tools as part of software suites such as collaboration platforms (e.g. SharePoint 2010, Lotus Connections), project management packages (e.g. ThoughtWorks Mingle), BPM tools (e.g. ARISalign) and CRM systems (e.g. Salesforce Chatter). This is the natural reaction to what seems to be heavy business interest in these technologies: 65% of firms deploy at least one Web 2.0 tool. However, the marketing and selling of these tools is predicated on two myths:
Myth #1: Information workers are clamoring for these social tools. I have sat in on many vendor briefings where a company representative tells me employees demand Facebook-like or Twitter-like tools to do their jobs. Not true. When we ask information workers about their use of social networks, wikis, discussion forums, blogs, and microblogs for work, only a small group actually uses them; social networking tools, the best-adopted technology, is used by only 12% of information workers. When we ask non-users their desire in using each of these tools, small portions express interest; the most sought-after technology, discussion forums, only piques the interest of 15% of information workers.
Five years ago I read a book that changed my life: Leadership and Self-Deception by the Arbinger Institute, an organization dedicated to helping people, organizations, and communities solve problems created by self-deception. It had such a powerful impact on the way I see myself and others that I have since purchased more than ten copies for employees and friends, and I recently gave it my third rereading.
Although the book is about personal and organizational improvement and not marketing, a recent experience with my mobile provider made me appreciate how the lessons in “Leadership and Self-Deception” apply to social media. One of the insights in this book is that behaviors are not as important as who we are. Organizations and people can do the same set of behaviors and get disparate outcomes; the difference isn’t how we do what we do, but who we are as we do it. Nowhere is this more true than in social media.
One way of being is to recognize people as people and the other is to see people as obstacles and objects. The first way of being encourages us to connect with people and do right by them, and the latter causes us to treat people as tasks that must be disposed of as efficiently as possible. Because people primarily respond not to what we do but to how we’re being, the difference in these two approaches is the difference between an antagonistic relationship seeded with distrust and a collaborative relationship of mutual benefit. Which type of relationship does your brand want with its customers?
This morning Microsoft launched SharePoint 2010, the follow-up to the very successful Microsoft Office SharePoint Server (MOSS) 2007. As the morning progresses, I receive more and more notifications from vendors that are announcing integration strategies for the new offering. Meanwhile, other vendors announce strategies to compete. The social computing vendors are no exception. No matter the strategy, it's clear that SharePoint is creating a market disruption that not only vendors but clients need to address in creating and updating broad collaboration strategies. Many Forrester clients have already begun this assessment process, as evidenced by my inquiry load over the past several months. One question has surfaced repeatedly:
Does SharePoint 2010 affect my plans for social in the enterprise?
Well, yes and no. Here's the 100,000 foot view. If you are committed to SharePoint you really need to take a look at what Microsoft delivers as part of 2010. For many, this release will reach the proverbial "good enough" bar. MySites, already a decent profiling service, continues to improve. Blogs and wikis, which were pretty dismal in MOSS 2007, are quite well done. Key missing elements like tags, tag clouds, community sites and activity streams are now part of the offering. Microblogs, a hot top of mind topic at the moment, are not quite there yet. Interesting. As Twitter explodes and Yammer continues to gain ground in the enterprise, SharePoint comes up short in microblogging. The reason? At least for the time being, SharePoint is dependent on a pretty traditional development cycle and microblogging exploded pretty late in the product development cycle. In other words, SharePoint is now clearly in the social game, but will play the role of fast follower for the time being.
In the mid- to late-90s, many business leaders observed the advent of the Web and asked the wrong question: “What will the Internet do for us?” Instead, they should have been asking, “What will the Internet do to us?”
The difference between these two questions is the difference between a false sense of security and a necessity for action. It’s the difference between Amazon organizing itself around the online channel in 1994 and Barnes & Noble opening an e-commerce site in 1997—today Amazon is worth $55.7B and Barnes & Noble has a $1.1B market cap. It’s also the difference between newspapers struggling with a 70% decline in classified advertising over the course of a decade and eBay seeing revenues increase over 1900% in the same period.
Today, many business leaders are again asking the wrong question: “What will social media do for us?” instead of “What will social media do to us?” The difference between those two questions will define the business winners and losers of the next decade. Let’s explore what social media already is doing to business and how organizations must adapt.
Even though there's plenty of evidence showing the positive impact many companies are getting from leveraging a social media strategy, there are still companies rigidly refusing to develop a social media strategy. This reminds me of the early days of the Internet: there were those companies looking to embrace the Internet and develop a new kind of "e-business," and the rest, steadfastly refusing to believe the Internet would transform their business. Even as Amazon defined a new online shopping channel in retail it was amazing to see how many large retailers were slow to establish an online presence.
Back in 2000 I wrote a report urging online retailers to embrace “community” as one of three core elements of their customer strategy. Companies such as REI, which already had an online community in 2000, have learned from their experience and are surging ahead into new social media.
Last week, Facebook announced changes that expanded the sharing of consumer data with a select set of third-party partners, and it only took a matter of days for lawmakers to press Facebook for changes and government agencies for more oversight. The fact Washington took note of Facebook’s changes isn’t at all surprising; in fact, it was inevitable. But what happens next—and what this means to marketers—is not inevitable and depends a great deal on how proactive Facebook becomes on education, transparency and cooperation with lawmakers and privacy watchdogs.
In a recent blog post called "Drop The Pilot," Andrew McAfee argues that most "Enterprise 2.0" pilots are unintentionally set up to fail. This is in part because such enterprise communities depend upon broad employee acceptance in order to be effective. This doesn't mean that collaboration platforms are only effective in organizations with tens of thousands of employees, but it certainly helps. And the challenge with pilots is that they are frequently focused on a subset of the organization -- these pilots never really have the chance to fully realize their potential. Perhaps the best pilots are those that are not limited in scale but limited in time -- they determine adoption rates over time and use the pilot to figure out how to make the final rollout more successful.
In his blog post McAfee goes on to suggest six steps toward effective deployment which gel nicely with the key lessons learned from the United Business Media (UBM) case study published recently. McAfee suggests you should:
I was included on a very interesting panel discussion a couple of weeks ago entitled, "Stories From The Frontline, Building A Social Media Business." The event was co-sponsored by TiE and the Social Media Club SFSV and included a terrific set of people who were experienced, smart and funny:
Rich Reader captured a quick clip of me sharing thoughts on the appropriateness of measuring ROI in Social Media. While the panel format doesn't furnish time for an appropriate deep dive into when and how ROI might be an appropriate metric, I believe in most cases ROI is the wrong question to ask (and if you start with the wrong question, you'll get the wrong answer.)
I will be working on a report about Social Media and Marketing ROI. Your thoughts and input are welcome and encouraged. Please check out the 76-second clip and then let me know what you think.
Going into Chirp, Twitter's first-ever developers conference, the natives were restless. A string of announcements--from the release of Twitter's own Blackberry app to the acquisition of development firm Atebits--had some developers wondering where Twitter was going and what it all meant to them. While Twitter's executive team didn't answer every question, they did outline a vision for future growth with a vigorous role for third-party developers. For me, the role Twitter sees for itself and for developers was most clearly outlined in its discussion of "place."
Twitter clearly recognizes that our location is extremely relevant data that can yield substantial value for others who use (either directly or indirectly) the Twitter information network. It's not just about where you are at every given moment, but what you're saying and doing while you're there.
Ryan Sarver offered a compelling example of the power of place in his discussion about the New York Times' coverage of the Fort Hood tragedy. A reporter turned to Twitter for real-time news and information but ran into a flood of retweets and expressions of sympathy and concern. Then he entered "near Killeen, TX" and was able to see relevant tweets from first responders, soldiers and citizen journalists in the immediate area. At Chirp, Twitter conveyed the importance of place and how geolocation will be a vital part of the Twitter experience.