social media

Social Media is not a strategy

Last week I had the opportunity to speak at the Web 2.0 Conference. The conference, like the Enterprise 2.0 show in Boston this past summer,  is atypical in that most of the good stuff was happening in the talks and workshops. People were there to learn and see what the thought leaders were thinking. And there were some fabulous thinkers there. Jeff Dachis and David Armano gave a fantastic discussion of social business, Gentry Underwood artfully presented is very useful insights into adoption of Enterprise 2.0. Really, the list of luminaries and their beautiful and insightful presentations are well worth a look here.

In this context, my talk was very nervously executed (I was speaking on topics I don’t normally cover, I’m more of a culture and collab gal), but the quality of the audience was fantastic. The basic idea was this. You don’t start with a social media strategy. You start with a marketing strategy, a customer relationship strategy and a collaborative objectives strategy.

Insightful and important questions ranging from budgeting to competitive differentiators, and importantly, how to convince people of the worth of what you’re doing came up, and I believe the Q&A lasted longer than the talk itself.

More than 100 people came to my session, and I was grateful for the engaged audience, and have a lot of new twitter buds as a result. Hopefully I also created some interest in the excellent range of technologies, products and expertise that Open Text has to enable Enterprise social media.

My slides from the talk are here. If you attended the session, or if you didn’t, I’d appreciate your thoughts and a continuation of the Q&A.


10 Reasons to wiki

I’m speaking at the Potomac Forum at the Willard Hotel (Washington, D.C.) this Friday, October 16th. Its a how-to workshop focused on government – how to create a social media campaign, how to create effective policies, how to blog, how to engage with communities, and my subject – how to use a wiki.

It used to be that wikis were techie things where you needed to know a markup language or worse to use them. But times have changed.

The last time I spoke at the forum I asked how many people in the audience had never used a wiki – so – this workshop will focus on two things – 1) the mechanics of how to actually set up and use a wiki, and 2) why you might want to.

After defining what a wiki is, I’ll walk through some of the many uses of wikis:

1. Wiki as team roster.

2. Wiki as document organizer

3. Wiki as issues list

4. Wiki for FAQ

5. Wiki is the document

6. Wiki to get organized

7. Wiki to aggregate resources

8. Wiki to build a portfolio

9. Wiki to plan

10. Wiki as knowledge base.

Next, I’ll cover some rules of engagement:

1. Make sure you have a purpose, and that you’ve expressed it to your co-contributors. Focus is the key to success.

2. Capture your roughest thougts. If you do this, you’ll always be giving yourself something to build on.

2. Be appreciative when someone else contributes, and let them know.

3. Don’t forget to go in and prune.

4. The earlier you share, the more collaborative you can be. Once you or your colleague have formalized your thoughts, its much harder to change them, and much harder to accept well meaning critisicm. So – share while you’re still open to feedback, and comment while they are. Its very hard to put hours into creating something, and then have people point out its flaws. Its much easier to remain open to new ideas before you’ve invested too much in developing them.

Last, I’ll cover some of the features to look for in a wiki, depending on the purpose you’re after, and show some examples of great wikis.

If you’d like to learn more about how wikis can bring a new level of efficiency to a team, then register here for the two-day event, or leave me a note in the comments here.

If you’re new to wikis, or  just love a really good explanation,  this video is surely the best basic introduction to the wiki concept:

The radical enabler: Many to Many Communication

What’s different about today’s internet and technology – what we’re calling social media?

Many to many communication. For the first time in human history, people can converse en mass without being in the same room. The implications are many and highly varied, and this is why people have such trouble defining the terms.

We’ve moved from letters to Newspapers, Magazines and  telephone. Modern one way media like television and radio emerged. New social media tools are truly radical in that they enable multi-way communication that is so different from what precedes it, that we don’t really even have words to describe it.

“Conversation” is the best, really the only, word we have to describe this, because the only precedent for it is social events of relatively small groups of people meeting face to face. But the term is overtaxed. Appropriate in many circumstances, “conversation” does not quite get to the heart of issues like ambient awareness, group filtering, and the strange patterns of the spread of memes, ideas and information that feel like we can almost grasp them, but haven’t yet.

David Armano and the Dachis Group have started defining the terms, if not completely yet the dynamics of this in an exciting way that promises to be a useful framework for discussion. I’ve written on the various types of collaboration that people seem to struggle to articulate (though I lack Armano’s considerable skill at illustration).

We also lack words for multi-modal communication. If i want to invite someone to call/email/IM/Tweet/Social message me in the form that is most convenient, the only word I have is “ping” – an obscure term that I got from old unix guys, who got it from even older radar operators.

This strangely, but radically new form of mainstream many-to-many communication is the unique thing that social media enables, and its no surprise that we’re still grappling with its implications. We’re still figuring out what to call it.

Lawrence Lessig gives a breathtaking review of what “read-write web” means (if you haven’t watched this yet, you really should), but I think there are other basic issues that many-to-many unearths:

– We’re not completely sure how to listen. We use each other as filters, but we’re still working this out.

– We’re still working on how to engage. Best practices exist and are developing, but we’re in early stages. So what’s my point here. As always they are several.

1. We are just beginning to unpack the value of many to many, and will be doing so for the next decade or more.

2. We need more and better vocabulary to describe what we have and what we want. if we can’t discuss it, we can’t easily get it.

3. Along the way we will be articulating, demonstrating and leveraging what many of us already sense in our guts about the many ways information and insight travel from mind to mind. This hints at the astonishing power to truly connect minds, harness enthusiasm and make nearly all human endeavor more productive and efficient.

A repost: Enterprises aren’t human

When someone you respect suggests you repost something, its a good thing to do on a late friday afternoon. So for Oscar Berg, I offer you a classic post from last fall during the Obama/Hillary race for president. I’ve fixed some of the grammar, but left the rest in tact. Have a great weekend.

December 29, 2008 • 5:10 pm (Edit)

why social media is hard for government and corporate america

Since the dawn of commerce and government we’ve been programmed to believe that enterprises are not human – they are better: polished, powerful and perfect. They have a presence (rather than a personality) that does not include human characteristics, like warmth, empathy, vulnerability, hobbies or ears. The job of the people in the enterprise has always been to perpetuate and perfect this presence.

Now employees and leadership both are confused by their centuries old mandate not to act human, and their new one to do just that. They see the risks – revealing too much, legal liabilities, leaking information to competitors, and all – and are unsure of the rewards.

But they’ve heard about “viral” and “loyalty” and “word of mouth”, and “customer-evangelists”. they’ve seen Obama be cool and successful.”

And they’d like to too. But to do this they need to take a big risk. They need to be human – vulnerable, imperfect, and all that. The people in the enterprise need to be free to (and encouraged to) come out from behind the curtain, and to know what that means.

1. Most enterprises don’t share enough with their employees for the employees to feel confident as spokespeople.
– Beyond the mission statement, the leadership needs to discuss with people  the priorities and values of the company. Not just in an annual meeting, but constantly. It needs to be true and real – not white-washed. If you can’t convey your mission, aspirations and values to your employees, they can’t internalize them and carry them outward as people. Solution? Internal dialog. Perhaps facilitated by internal social media. Its NOT rehashing the phrases coming out of the PR team. Its not a ghost written memo. This means that YOU, the CEO, the VP of whatever, need to be in constant dialog with your team. It seems as though that would have more than this one benefit dosen’t it?

Here’s a simple example of corporate leadership being human in an inspirational way:

That’s not too hard. A nice step. A nice example. You could do that. You could go a step further and add an email address or a blog. You could go a step further, and do it a couple layers deeper in the organization, or for everyone in the organization. Think about how that would make the people on your team feel about being on the team.

2. Government and Commercial enterprises fear the loss of the power of the curtain.

It takes a tremendous amount of confidence to be human. It means that you are confident that on the whole, the value your organization brings to its customers is very high, and that you are operating with integrity. That you are generally proud of what goes on inside.

This is a kind of confidence that companies have not had to develop or test. But the people and organizations that we respect most are the ones with these qualities. Its the difference between Hillary and Obama, in many ways.

3. Unclear on the upside.
Well, here it is. Corporate credibility is on the decline – not because corporations are, but because people have now had enough experience to know that the facade is just that. Who believes advertising? Who trusts the literature? But they’ll trust a person – one they know, for a recommendation. They’ll trust someone they don’t know who makes the effort to gets to know them by listening, showing an interest, speaking clearly and honestly, sdoing what they say they’ll do – someone who builds a relationship with them.

If you want credibility now, you need to be communicating as an organization of people, not a corporate entity.

Can social Media Make Big Businesses Smaller?

I read a phrase recently on the Oracle Fusion blog – and I can’t find it again to cite, so apologies. But the essence tickled the question of why big business ocassionally gets knocked out by small business, and how social media might just possibly help big business compete against those agile, tight, “unencumbered” little guys. Personally, I’ve done the 5-guy startup right up through the 20,000 guy behemoth, so this idea resonated with me.

Small companies have advantages and disadvantages. Amongst their disadvantages are the need to get customers fast or die. The need for funding from outside firms, establish credibility, weak brand identity and recognition, and probably a score of others. Individual customers hold tremendous sway and can often derail things (not that this doesn’t happen at big companies).

Small company advantages run a gamut of issues, but I’m going to focus on the cultural and communications issues. They include people who know each other well, every member of the team is tightly connected to every other. Each member of the team is fully bought into and engaged in the vision. Each team member has a voice that is heard, has a personal investment in the outcome, and understands how his or her contribution matters.

In a (typical) big company, vision is diluted. Relatively few people have met the CEO, let alone heard him “unpack” the vision (outside the keynote speaches), the CEO knows few of the 10,000. There’s the appearence of “secrecy” at the top – the workforce believes that there’s a “strategy” and a “reason”, but that they aren’t valuable enough or trusted enough to know what it is. They hesitate to speak on behalf of the company, because they aren’t confident that they know the right thing to say.

At the Enterprise 2.0 conference last week, Marcia Conner of Pistachio Consulting asked “how many of us hire untrustworthy people?” It was a great line, but the fact of the matter is in a big company we often have no idea who we’re dealing with.

So – enter social media. Few companies will adopt social media in order to create a tighter team and culture where people know each other. A few companies will “get it” and invest, some will recognize the value of grassroots efforts and institutionalize them, but most Companies will adopt social media in order to solve a specific, urgent business issue: waste,  inefficiency, travel costs and distributed teams. Military and Intel will adopt because of the urgent need for rapid information diffusion and identification of expertise (that’s another post).

Social media tools will be adopted to solve problems, will do a pretty good job, and then there will be the secondary effects: transparency, faster innovation, a more cohesive corporate culture, employees who are more engaged, and feel they know the leaderships thinking intimately, and a host of other second order effects that we have some anecdotal evidence of, but have yet to really nail down.

If these secondary effects are half as common as we expect, then they may create the ultimate combination of big and small company advantages. Tight, focused, engaged teams who identify strongly with the mission and their contributions, while having the influence, stability an resources of a large company.

I’m not 100% sure if that’s a good or bad thing for the world as a whole, but I’m sure that the people running and working with those large companies, as well as their stockholders will be very happy, and small businesses will again be figuring out how to compete with the big guys.


We are “The Sims”

I like to think that sometimes my posts are pithy and clever, but I know that sometimes they are a bit abstract. This is usuallly cause I’m using this blog as a way to work through what i’m thinking about. This is one of those posts.

Back in the late 90’s, i spent a few years studying, designing and implementing “agent based simulations of complex systems “. I was studying emergent behavior. These were somewhere between “boids” and The Sims in their depth.

I was doing an incredible amount of online research, and realized that if I ever wanted to do related research it would be very difficult to re-trace my steps, bookmarks not withstanding. If I wanted OTHER people to be able to retrace my steps, it would be very difficult to share HOW I’d found what I’d found, in addition to the what.

These two issues put me on a tear to understand tacit knowledge.

So – I wrote a whitepaper that I titled the Self-Organizing Knowledge Manager. The idea was this. People are not very good at tracking things, but computers are. we could get a computer to track where we go and how we get there and what we do when we’re there, and amek it so we can retrace our own steps and share our pathways with others. You wouldn’t have to be explicit about what the relationships between the linked items were, just the fact that there were links at all. People are really good at divining meaning – unlike computers. So leverage what each does best to capture and share tacit knowledge. Simple, right?

Then I asked smart people how to build software that would track click paths, what files were open at the same time, cuts and pastes, etc. They told me I’d need a database as an operating system and it didn’t work that way. hmph.

So the punchline here of course is that Social Media tools are the perfect substrate for capturing this information. Micropublishing, in the form of wikis, blogs, tweets, etc, are capturing the little bits of insight and information, connecting them together – along with the people who contributed – to achieve a self-organizing knowledge system.

So – now people can

a) track the links between people, objects (content) and each other, capturing a ton of tacit knowledge in the process

b) enable people to participate, much like the “agents” in my old simulations, to create emergent behavior.

Unbelievable. I was reminded about all this stuff, and how (perhaps surprisingly) relevant it is in understanding social media. David Armano’s engaging and relevant talk about how his effort to help a homeless family connects the dots.

So – what do we know about tacit knowledge, and what do we know about emergent behavior.

1. We know that most people think those terms are inscrutable.

2. We know that neither are easily tangible or predictable

But – if we apply the study of complexity theory, emergent systems, and what Stephen Wolfram calls “A New Kind of Science” (the first couple hundred pages of which are fascinating, but while I love Stephen (i know him from way back) he could use an aggressive editor, the book weighs about 10 lbs (and thanks to Salinger for teaching me the art of the multiply embedded flourish of parens – there’s a quote somewhere)) and the study of communities and collaboration, then, I think we can help enterprise, government and society develop a language for expressing ideas in this area, and start to really pursue the possible.

I promise my next post will make more sense.

Oh – the title – “The Sims” is a very popular computer game which is, in essence a sophisticated agent based simulation. It is unpredictable in its behaviors and outcomes, and yet elucidates cause and effect very well. Try it and you’ll see. My obscure point here, is that the read-write web has turned its participants into real-live actor agents in a giant simulation game. We can’t predict its outcomes, but we can learn a great deal about cause, effect and the important drivers of various outcomes.

power shift from hording to sharing

At the Canada 3.0 conference, I met a headhunter.

He asked me how social media helps him

My first thought was “you’re in the networking business, how can you not get how social media helps”? But fortunately, i paused long enough to ask another question of him. “Do you use linkedIn?”, I asked.

“Yes, sort of ” he says, “but I’m afraid that people will see my contacts and steel them”.

Oh – fear. Now that’s something that I can understand and relate to.

So I asked him if he could see other people’s contacts. What if its sharing and not stealing? I asked him if that could make him the “go to” guy and if he’d see that as a good thing.

I started my spiel about information sharing replacing information hording as the new source of status and pride.

And then he asked the key question. The KEY.

He said – “Once I empty my little cup of knowledge for someone, what value do I have left?”

He nailed it. The source of Social Media fear.

I did my best on the spur of the moment to answer his question with sensitivity and wisdom (not sure how good my best was, but I tried), so here’s what I said, and perhaps a bit of what I should have.

Information has some value.

Insight has more value.

Capability even more.

The  ability to reliably  find any of the above is perhaps most valuable. So a headhunter should be near the top of the food chain. But he did not see it that way.

So – how can someone like my smart, but worried friend move forward in this world? He’s got 2 key things he needs to do.

1. Become more familiar with Social Media in a non-threatening way. Take little steps that don’t feel high risk. I recommended some a while ago.

2. Start to think of himself in new ways. If he was useful when he horded information, he can be more useful, more influential when he starts giving it away. Just ask google. When people know that you’re the one with the info, they go back, they listen, you get an audience.

My new friend is worth much more than his rolodex.

More critically the point here, if I failed to make it yet, is that information isn’t the treasure, its how you got it and what you’ll do with it, and Fear is the only thing keeping you from discovering your post information, insight-economy value.