Archive for the ‘social media’ Category


I was doing some research in the Time Magazine archives (the best ones I have seen, by the way) the other day and came across this nugget from 1962:

“Despite the discouraging results so far, many scientists argue that military-space research will ultimately produce an overflowing cornucopia of marketable consumer products, from supersonic planes to small nuclear reactors for home power.”

State of Business: Where Are the Tinkerers? September 21, 1962

Take note of the date.  Supersonic planes for commercial travel became a reality with the Concord, an Anglo-French construction that operated between New York or Washington and Paris or London for many years until airframes started to fatigue and the small fleet was retired.  Supersonic travel never really caught on.  Airlines have gone in the other direction since then electing to buy big cattle cars for the masses rather than supersonic hotrods for the elite.

It makes perfect sense too given the rise of civilian aviation and private planes over the years and people’s refusal to hear sonic booms whenever a plane flew over.  But in ’62, who knew?  And that’s the point about prognostication, especially when you don’t rely on research to provide an inkling of what’s even possible or what other factors might have an impact.  That’s best seen in “small nuclear reactors for home power.”  In a society where people can’t be depended on to do the right thing when disposing of an old TV or refrigerator, small nukes simply offer the real possibility of a million Chernobyls.

What the Time article didn’t even hint at was the possibility of having small computers for home and personal use or what that might mean.  They couldn’t even imagine that but they are not to be blamed.  It’s human nature to think that tomorrow will be just like today in all its particulars and that’s one reason why we are so bad at making predictions.

With that in mind we turn to the new year and prognostications about what might happen in our tiny corner of reality, CRM.  Here are my thoughts.

  1. Gamification will continue to gain interest as some people figure out how to avoid the crash that Gartner predicted when it said that 80 percent of gamification projects would fail by 2014.  The key will be understanding the difference between gamified tasks at work and work as a game.  See?
  2. Cloud computing will continue being adopted by enterprises.  The version of cloud that will be popular will involve moving the data center off site, not in fundamentally reorienting enterprise apps to face modern customers and users.  We are still in the early phases of adoption of this kind of cloud, which is best thought of as Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS).  Disenchantment is still a year or two off but it will happen.
  3. Back office applications will accelerate their migration to the front office.  We’ve seen billing and payments move much closer to the front office with products like Zuora making them part and parcel of the subscription economy.  But also, human resources applications like Work.com from Salesforce are also moving historically back office HR functions to the front office.  This will continue as other companies get into the act.  Eventually I expect to see many more customers interacting with raw material suppliers through vendor sites.
  4. Robotics invade the front office.  Companies like VirtuOz produce Intelligent Virtual Agents (IVA’s) that replace people in many routine customer service functions like triage or even whole transactions.  IVA’s aren’t perfect but they can speed up the customer service process and they can be deployed 24/7 for consistent service.  Sometimes all you need is a robot to get something done and IVA’s will help segment the market and preserve human agents for more complex situations.
  5. Analytics will continue its land-and-expand mission.  It started with sentiment analysis, which has proven to be useful but there is so much more to be done.  Applying analytics to segmentation, influence and other more fine grained listening is not that hard.  Once you have an analytics engine the next piece is scoring and submitting the scores for analysis.  Scoring algorithms will therefore proliferate and the roll out of additional analytics ought to accelerate, bringing more refined ways of filtering big data.
  6. There is a hardware revolution going on that almost no one is attending to, partly because gear has become so commoditized at the personal end that we think of it as another appliance but also, so geeky at the main server end that few of us comprehend it.  But make no mistake about it gear is where innovation is at a fever pitch.  No gear, no social, no analytics, no cloud.  No kidding.  Devices that speed up data handling through in-memory (SAP and Oracle come to mind) databases, massive storage arrays with solid state drives, and sophisticated analytics to take advantage of all this, are in market.  This is another land and expand situation where landing has been ongoing so look for the expansion to get into high gear next year.
  7. CRM continues to melt like a jellybean on a summer sidewalk.  Everything continues to come together and the appeal of silo-ed sales and marketing applications continues to wane along with interest in desktop PC’s.  What replaces them is the holistic CRM database shot through with social and analytics for anytime decision-making and continuous buying.  CRM is not going away and neither is the jellybean, we’re just making soup.
  8. The cost of energy is beginning to affect front office business and we can see it in several ways.  Transportation is becoming costly for manufacturers who are beginning to move production closer to customers (think HP and Apple for starters).  Transport costs and travel in general will affect the front office too so look for credible alternatives such as video calling embedded in front office apps.  This is another technology already in market and ramp up will not be difficult.

That’s enough.  Hopefully none of this rises to the level of a small nuke for the home but if it does I will be back here next year to walk it all back.


You might be tempted to consider social marketing just another idea in an endless stream of things dreamed up by the software industry (and pundits like me!) to generate more business.  Well, you’d be right about some of that but I’d like to argue that the idea is more than hype and is, in fact, in synch with the times.

Conceptually, marketing and sales have not changed for a very long time.  It’s all about finding someone with a problem to solve and budget for the purpose.  It doesn’t matter if the situation is business to business or business to an end consumer, it’s all about finding a need and filling it.  I can agree with that but at the same time I know that if this is as far as you take it you’ll starve.

Look at what’s going on in the marketplace.

Things are getting incrementally better nearly four years after the bottom fell out of the economy but CFOs still watch budgets like hawks.  Demand is still squishy everywhere and the gross domestic product of the U.S. — and the whole planet for that matter — hasn’t grown in five years.

Moreover, new product category introduction is low, and this is very important.  When a category is new everyone, at least in theory, needs it and sales people do great business.  Marketers’ jobs are streamlined too.  They need to focus on building brands and communicating the basic features and benefits of what they have.  Products are also relatively simple.  They typically come in one flavor and function as general purpose cousins of what they will eventually become as the market grows and differentiation sets in.

If you take an objective look at most of the marketplace today that’s about where we are.  Established markets are already crammed with products that may not be the latest and greatest but they work and customers need compelling reasons for buying what’s newest.

You might say, what about products like the iPhone or the iPad?  Every time Apple comes out with a new version the market goes wild and buys the new product even though the old ones still do their jobs.  That’s all true but the phone industry has a different cadence run by the planned obsolescence embedded in the service contract.

After two years, you get a new phone and a new contract.  If you don’t you stay on your old plan paying the same rate.  Effectively, you pay the same rate to use a new phone or to stay with the old one, so it’s no surprise that iPhones sell briskly and no surprise that the company sells an increasing record number of new phones with each introduction.  Every two years there are more “old” iPhones than ever and more people ready to change.  But this is a digression.

In today’s markets, where there is no forced obsolescence, we need other reasons to buy new and there are smaller numbers of new buyers entering the markets for the first time.  Smart vendors have realized that this means taking a different approach to sales and marketing.  Rather than the selling-to-anyone strategy of early markets, smart vendors today recognize that they have to model who their customers are as well as model the sales cycle.  For many this means using social tools but it also requires a different set of techniques with the tools themselves.

In one approach, marketers simply substitute outbound social media for things like email and direct mail.  This gets them into social but not very effectively since their technique is still decidedly old school but with new technology.  In my research, more vendors find themselves right here at a transition point somewhere between conventional marketing and social marketing.

The other approach, which I think is closer to “real” social marketing, marketers make great efforts to capture customer data so that they can filter it for telltale signs of interest.  The same approach also works for service organizations seeking signs of customer dissatisfaction.  That’s all good but it is also limited.  If a vendor relies on keyword filtering or hashtags it will miss many instances that need a little nuance in the filtering.

The nuance takes a lot of forms.  I once did a small project in which I searched for sentiment.  My criteria were simple.  In repeated Google searches I looked for two word combinations, a company name and the word ‘sucks’.  Now, I will admit this was crude but it was also extremely effective.  Suck may be the generic summation and judgment in our society for all that is wrong in any situation.  My searches always came up with hits — hundreds of thousands of them.

So, the experiment proved a point but it also proved to be a rather blunt instrument.  The search approach did nothing for a legitimate cry for help like Company + Product + Problem unless I made an explicit search.  But you can see where this is going.  If you had a way to do all kinds of searches at once you could turn up signs of people interested in a solution or a product category, people looking for help and people upset with something related to your business and much more.

To get there you need analytics and not just one kind but several.  Humans can determine the difference between someone with a real problem and somebody just being sarcastic.  Computers need to do multiple scans of the data using different software tuned to each to arrive at the same conclusion more or less.

In social marketing today there is a proliferation of software packages that help marketers to get close to understanding customers and markets in multiple dimensions.  There are tools for emotion analysis, natural language processing (NLP), predictive and trending analytics, affinity and segmentation and influence.

Last week at Cloudforce, New York, salesforce.com announced the Social Insights Partner Ecosystem, a partnership between third party analytics suppliers and its Radian6 division.  The announcement’s significance is that Radian6 users can now process their social data through as many filters as make sense for their situations.  This was an important introduction because it addresses the way we market (and sell) today and it’s different from the way it was several years ago.

Now let’s go back to our original discussion.  In a marketplace as constrained as today’s it’s critical for vendors to understand at a very fine grained level what customers are thinking.  Are the installed customers generally happy?  What are their simmering issues?  Might we want to proactively address those issues before we introduce the new version of the product that won’t be successful unless we have significant buy-in from the base?

What about the possibility of gaining net new customers from the competition?  How satisfied are our competitors’ customers?  What openings might there be?  How can we exploit them?

Don’t for get brand new customers.  What ideas are trending in the market that relate to our business?  Finally, are there new product ideas lurking in the data stream?

To me answering these questions is the key to successful social marketing because they are crucial to success in business today.  Salesforce’s announcement suggests to me that they continue searching out Blue Ocean opportunities — markets and niches that have either not been penetrated at all or that have only been lightly touched.  I expect that our dependence on social marketing will increase and that the approaches now being proposed through announcements like this will be critical to future success.


So, just about a month after Dreamforce, Salesforce.com is coming to New York for one of its regional Cloudforce conferences.  The event will be at the Javitz Center in Manhattan on October 19.  Salesforce is expecting six thousand attendees.

The focus of the event is supposed to be on the newly re-announced Marketing Cloud — the amalgamation, so far, of Buddy Media and Radian6.  I will be briefed under NDA about the news to be announced at the event but that hasn’t happened yet so, hey, let’s speculate.

As many of my colleagues have suggested, the Marketing Cloud is a good and important down payment on a full-featured marketing component but it is heavily weighted toward social marketing.  They expect more acquisitions primarily to beef up the Marketing Cloud’s lack of a conventional marketing campaigns element — the kind that runs traditional marketing programs.  I am not so sure.

Salesforce already has a bevy of more or less conventional marketing partners in the AppExchange like Eloqua, Marketo and others.  It’s true that these vendors are not monogamous but so what?  They have good connectors and integration and are doing everything they can to carpet bomb, er, I mean cover, the Salesforce installed base so why buy what’s free?

My instincts (which are right about half the time — and less when I’m driving according to my wife) tell me that Salesforce is going in another direction.  The company has always exhibited a Blue Ocean Strategy approach to its business seeking out niches that haven’t been named and I expect it to do the same in marketing.

That means they’ll concentrate on the myriad ways to market in the social world.  If they make an acquisition — and I bet there’s nothing on the radar right now — it will be to beef up social marketing not conventional stuff.  That would mean companies like HubSpot or Awareness or Nearstream or others (some in the CRM Idol contest) that use a healthy dose of new age thinking and social media to access and communicate with customers.

So, what to look for in New York?  In addition to October baseball, I think you’ll see elaboration of the basic message doled out at Dreamforce.  The San Francisco session was packed with information and image-making and there really wasn’t time to unpack all of what the Marketing Cloud means for customers.  I think Cloudforce is the place where the unpacking will happen.

Salesforce has been great at three-pronged marketing for a long time.  That’s where they tell you what they’re going to tell you, then they tell you and finally the circle back to tell you what they told you.  I think they’re at part two and Cloudforce New York will be more of a deep dive.

I could be very wrong but that’s what it means to speculate.  Right?


I went to Oracle OpenWorld as a guest of Oracle and came away with a variety of observations that I can share.  Some of what I saw was under NDA and that will remain undisclosed though I have to tell you that I did not see any labs or next generation products beyond what my colleagues saw at the show.  My secret experiences revolved around customer stories.  I also went to an America’s Cup qualifying race as a guest and had a great time on San Francisco Bay.  The only reason that matters is in case you think I’m cutting Oracle some slack.  I won’t do that but I will say that I was treated well all week, thanks to the efforts of Susie Penner, who runs the influencers program and does a bang-up job, and others.

Some of my colleagues were grumbling, and perhaps have done so in print, that they didn’t get enough time with executives — or any at all in many cases (me included) — and that their experience was diminished by the lack of a good séance.  I can only observe that with 50,000 or so customers and press in town your executives can only be spread so thin.  More importantly, I have always found that when I call up I can speak with the person I need to find plus or minus some obeisance to the gods of Wall Street and the public company’s quiet period.  My take on meeting with executives is to make a call when I need information and not to expect so much from a conference like this.  To that point we had a good meeting with executives and product managers in May when Oracle held an analyst day.

I must also say though that the company makes an unnecessary distinction (my humble belief) between an analyst and an influencer.  Analysts seem to get greater access and are sequestered from the influencers in part because they work for brick and mortar analyst firms while people like me who are analysts, bloggers and occasionally journalists, get lumped into a separate but equal program.  But, as I say, I can always pick up the phone.

As a CRM guy, the show was a bit light on information and the impression I have is that Oracle is only two or three years into a transformation that starts at hardware and moves steadily up its stack to applications.  The hardware announcements at OpenWorld were superb and I can see a bright future for all of computingdom (a new technical term to be sure and evidence of continuing innovation in Silicon Valley) with Oracle’s devices.  But I have been saying this for three years.

Each year the Exa-hardware line (Exadata, Exalogic, Exalytics) gets more robust. This year the company finally aimed Exa-hardware squarely at cloud computing to claim a spot as a serious infrastructure supplier.  It also announced a new version of the database (Oracle 12c) for its public/private/hybrid cloud strategy to complete the picture.  I am not much of a fan of private clouds because they seem oxymoronic, like jumbo shrimp as Steve Martin used to say.  But for many, the idea of a private cloud is what will finally get them to cloud computing and sooner or later true cloud computing will break out as hybrids die a natural death.  But also, I see great gains for sustainable computing with these announcements and with them lower operating costs for users.

The private cloud, seen for what it is, is a transition state.  Neither fish nor reptile, it is an amphibian capable of adjusting to multiple surroundings and it will be the parent of something better adapted to an energetically more stringent environment.  This is the greatest differentiator between Oracle and all of its much further progressed competitors in the cloud in my opinion.

Oracle has hundreds of thousands of customers and most of the biggest companies in the world use its products.  It will not turn on a dime and it will need to support its customers and their older products for many years as they transition to cloud computing.  So, Oracle’s strategy cannot be the same as a pure SaaS player and I believe the two should not be directly compared without caveat.  In fact, I think Oracle’s next big innovation will not be hardware or software related.  It will focus on the high-wire act of changing its business model to subscriptions while encouraging its customers to do the same all while running full tilt into the future — just what you’d expect from a company headed by a yachtsman captivated by speed.

I was not impressed by the front office applications and they fell into three buckets – new product acquisitions, existing products i.e. those bought in 2005 and Fusion.  The products that Oracle bought last year are all up and running as they were when they were purchased but they are only lightly integrated, I think.  The glue that is supposed to hold them together was hardly in evidence.  I am talking about Fusion.  Whatever Fusion is going to be is still in the future as far as I can see and I can’t say much more than that because I didn’t get to see much.  The older applications are quite literally getting older and the race is on between them and the new acquisitions to see if the new apps can spin up quickly enough.  Fusion is a very important of that dance.

On the other hand the company has adopted RightNow’s customer experience or CX mantra completely and did a reasonably good job of introducing its customers to those social ideas.  Unfortunately for me — and many of my colleagues who have been swimming in the social soup for many years now — Oracle’s CX Summit was aimed at its legion of neophyte customers.  There’s nothing wrong with that.  It accurately shows where everything and everyone is relative to social. But the net effect of it all is that we didn’t see behind the curtain and didn’t get a glimpse of what’s ahead in social for Oracle.

We did hear about the importance of social networking and collaborating and how Oracle Social Network (OSN) fills a void etc., etc.  But I have profound doubts.  I consider social as a recently blank canvass, which has been filled by things like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and, yes, Chatter.  In each case, creative types tried to paint it with transcendence and visions of what can be.  Then consider OSN, a plow horse of a name that says “we checked off another box,” and you get an inkling of where Oracle is in its social rollout.

On applications, my net impression is that Oracle has not yet generated a lot of thought leadership.  There are times when thought leadership is not as valuable but we are at a crossroads and the signs point to cloud, social, mobile and all of the above.  The Oracle messaging was long on “here are the facts about our new products” but relatively short on the part that says “and here’s why that’s important to you in today’s economy/market place/world” pick one.  Oracle wants to be the go-to technology business partner but to achieve that goal in a new generation they need to throw some fastballs down the middle of the plate.  Every year I see progress and maybe next year they’ll get the thought leadership.  It will be vitally important as the company moves not just into the cloud but more and more into the subscription economy and expects its huge customer base to follow suit.


It’s over, Dreamforce that is, and I have gotten some needed sleep on the flight back to Boston.  As I contemplate Dreamforce 2012 and its meaning I have three observations.

First, it was what I expected it to be.  If you refer back to my post just before the show opened my expectations were more than met.  You might wonder about the timing of that post but I was under NDA and unable to say much till then.

The company introduced a slew of products and services but aside from the formal introduction of the Marketing Cloud and things like Chatterbox, they were mostly evolutionary additions to the core products.  Instead, Marc Benioff’s keynote was long on customer stories and interviews with CEO and CIO types.  All of this was good and in line with my contention that Salesforce needed to present a case to Fortune 500 executives that the social enterprise is real and that Salesforce is the company to help them march in that direction.

If there is one big difference between Salesforce and all other enterprise and SMB companies it is that Salesforce has the vision and the others have, so far, only come forward with product.  So I think the company was effective at showing how big companies like GE, Burberry’s, Rossignol and Virgin Group are becoming social enterprises with the help of Salesforce and that was a good thing.

It’s worth mentioning that the GE story was more about socializing the man machine interface to give the vendor a better real time understanding of its jet engines’ performance, for instance, and thus to provide better maintenance services.  It was a nice demonstration of what’s possible in the Internet of Things, which has not yet grabbed many headlines.  At another end of the spectrum, Coke showed how it’s nifty new machines can custom blend beverages and enable a customer to develop a recipe and link it to a QR code for later use anywhere.

Also, Virgin will be integrating Salesforce’s social customer service solutions into its customer facing systems including the onboard systems displayed on seatbacks.  That was very impressive.  And finally, Burberry’s CEO Angela Ahrendts was there for an encore to describe how the company’s new store has socialized the customer buying experience.  All very cool and very exciting if you are a C-level person wondering where new growth will come from.

Ok, second, perhaps the company’s greatest asset hiding in plain sight is its ISV partners.  I attended the partner keynote on Day 0 and was blown away.  The meeting took place in a rather large ballroom that was full of partners who wanted to know the latest in the partner program.  What impressed me most, was how many applications (1,706 proven apps, 1.4+ million installs) and certified partners there are and what it means going forward.  But also, Salesforce has basically doubled its commitment to the partners and is driving big business with them.

The partners are incentivized (at least some are) to sell the base product along with their wares.  Naturally, this results in great leverage for Salesforce and that will help to further accelerate growth.  You can’t underestimate this.  The partners have built many, many good applications that all demand the Force.com platform, where they go, Salesforce follows and that should be a good feeling for anyone at Salesforce.

It looked to me like the partners are about to hockey stick their way to prominence and that will be good for Salesforce.

Finally, I don’t know how many people actually attended.  There were 85,000 registrations as of game time on Wednesday and I don’t really care if they all came on the same day or if some percentage stayed home or others did the virtual thing.  The event was very well managed so that its size never felt like a problem.

That said though, I think the company needs to do some planning that will break the single show into two or more big fragments.  An obvious solution might be to have a separate event for partners and technical people while offering another event for business people.  Obviously there would be overlap and that’s ok.  But I can tell you there was simply not enough time for serious meetings, just meet and greet and agree to follow up.

I did some checking and found out that there are 3526 hotels in California and 202 in San Francisco http://bit.ly/SM3cs0 .  At some point you just run out of housing and while I suspect the powers that be are tracking this, it’s worth an out loud wonder.

Finally (again), there’s the inside baseball. There were no picketers that I saw this year other than a man with a bullhorn trying to convert the known universe to some idea or another.  But there was still a silent battle between Benioff and Larry Ellison, Oracle’s CEO.  Oracle will take over the space next week for OpenWorld and there are already dueling registration counts.  It seems Howard Street has become a battleground of sorts.  The street separates Moscone North from Moscone South and people are forever crossing it.  In past years for OpenWorld, Oracle has rented the street from the city, closed it and erected a long tent where it serves lunch and holds parties.

A tent is a good idea, in case the notoriously fickle San Francisco weather decides to do its thing.  In recent years, Salesforce has adopted the practice.  But instead of covering it with a tent, Salesforce has built an open-air park complete with jumbotrons, seating, picnic and live music.  You can still get lunch there but the Salesforce vibe is all open and green and bucolic even if the grass is synthetic.  So even in the street you have a metaphor of the new way to compute which is green and open vs. the old, which is housed in what is reminiscent of an army tent.

There were a few other subtleties like that including billboard sized photos of Burberry’s CEO, Angela Ahrendts posed like the Mona Lisa smiling out on pedestrians below.  To me it all goes back to the idea of showing CEOs that Salesforce is ready to take them into the land of all things social.  What could be a better endorsement than a happily smiling CEO?


Now is the golden age of marketing.  I was tempted to write the second golden age since history sometimes seems to repeat but I am more of the Mark Twain school of history and he believed that history did not repeat itself but that it rhymed.  I that vein, what could be seen as the first golden age of marketing was really more the golden age of broadcasting and it’s instructive to consider the similarities and differences.

During the broadcast era, which lasted roughly from the introduction of TV after World War II until the Internet age, almost anything you could imagine was sold over the airwaves to a public eager to consume.  The public was so eager in fact that by this year an interdisciplinary team of social scientists from UCLA was able to document that consumption was just about kaput as an indoor sport simply because we’ve filled all the nooks and crannies in our homes.  There’s no more room to put things and with credit a hard thing to get, buying things has slowed significantly.

Just look at the table below.  It shows U.S. GDP over the last four and a half years and it has barely budged.  No growth means no (or very few) new jobs and certainly not enough demand growth to drive the economy forward.  So you get what we have.  In this economy, broadcasting a marketing message is like pushing on a string and selling means really knowing and understanding (they are different) what customers want and are willing to spend money on.  Enter inbound marketing.

 Date US Real GDP(in Trillions USD)
March 31, 2012 $13.50
December 31, 2011 $13.43
December 31, 2010 $13.22
December 31, 2009 $12.81
December 31, 2008 $12.88
December 31, 2007 $13.33

I spent part of last week at Inbound, the HubSpot user conference held in Boston, my hometown.  What a joy it was to not visit any airports in the travel process and the old town even managed to shrug off its sub-tropical humidity so typical throughout the summer.

HubSpot is an up and coming content marketing company with all the right ideas about social media, marketing and the road ahead.  I learned a few things, got reinforced on some others and the proceedings made me curious about a few more.

Content marketing isn’t exactly new but for a long time it has lacked an organizing principal.  People like David Meerman Scott, who gave a keynote, have written books about it or its cousin, the “new” marketing but there is nothing like a vendor endorsement to show an idea has taken root.  After all, guys like me can write all we want for very little investment beyond our time but vendors have to really believe and see the potential for making money from their investments in a new idea.

If you are new to inbound or content marketing the big switch involves providing content people want instead of brochures and other sales materials they don’t.  This requires a level of personalization that uses social media to divine needs too.

What got all this started is simple.  After several decades of marketing into emerging markets caused by technology implementations, markets are full.  It’s hard to introduce something into a green field, heck it’s hard to find a green field.  So rather than broadcasting product offers, everyone needs to get better at pinpoint offers.  That’s where inbound marketing comes in.  Inbound marketing invites people in when they are ready and when they are they don’t need a lot of convincing.  It’s more precise and less costly to do too.

Inbound also takes some time to get going because you are casting a message and waiting for an echo.  It takes a certain amount of confidence and support from the boss to get started.  But if you plan a strategy that moves incrementally into this new world you can be very effective.  But given the alternative that is working poorly, the change looks enticing.

My big critique of inbound marketing generally is that it has not yet begun to focus on future need.  There is a lot of information not being collected about unmet need that could take the whole concept to a new level.  I believe it will come and I need to be patient with a very new idea.

HubSpot ran a good show and did a better job than many similar companies have at ensuring that all the messaging was in synch.  They also introduced so many improvements that you could say they reinvented their product.  To make the point the latest line has a new name, HubSpot3 and it’s made to be a single marketing cockpit where people can develop and monitor marketing campaigns across most social media types and email.

HubSpot3 will do great things for inbound marketing especially when the economy thaws out.

The Social Stack

Posted: August 27, 2012 in CRM, social media
Tags: , ,

Is it time to start talking about a social stack?  If so, let me be among the first.  This week in Boston HubSpot, a social marketing company, is holding a user meeting called “Inbound,” which I will attend, and this has prompted me to write out some ideas that I’ve been stewing on for a while.

The stack is something we’ve all become accustomed to thinking about, especially as it relates to IT where we routinely discuss operating system, middleware, database and programming languages as a tuned stack.  This mother of all stacks has already been commoditized and memorialized with its own acronym as the LAMP stack (Linux, Apache, MySQL, PHP and other languages).

But that’s rapidly becoming old school.  When I think of the computing stack I think about the global computing platform, which I see as mobile devices (iOS, Android, Windows Mobile), social (almost everything but especially Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, blogs, and all those special social things that only you and your buddies (Hi, Mr. Mayor!) use like some dating/meet-up and photo sharing sites).  There is also an array of analytics and GPS driven cloud based apps too so add Cloud to the stack — social, mobile, cloud.

Maybe that’s not revolutionary to you, maybe you’ve heard this before or thought of it the same way more or less.  So the social stack is perhaps a stack within a stack of stacks but it’s also not very well defined yet.  Maybe that makes it the Russian Doll Stack.  Or speaking of Russians it could be called the Churchill Stack (a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma).  Someone bring me back!

For me the social stack consists of all the things we already know about — Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn etc. — plus a lot that we don’t.  But they are really just the beginning, the last mile of communication between a vendor and a customer.  True (and confusingly) enough those social tools fill a bigger portion of a personal social stack.  But that’s because your brain provides much of the social processing that business needs to buy software to adequately supplement.

Say what?

Your brain.  A message comes in from the social channel and your brain says I understand this because it comes from someone I know, a person I have context with and I process it without much conscious thought.  Business is not so fortunate.  A business sees the stream or feed as pure data from the marketplace and needs an array of analytics to digest it and do something useful with it.

That’s the social stack, or rather, the beginning of it.  The social stack needs some kind of hub (no pun, or maybe a little one) to centralize the data and some other tools to decide what to do with it.  The tools have to be fluent in multiple hubs and business situations.

The actual social stack might differ from one organization to another simply because they have different social objectives.  A business to consumer company will look, to the trained eye, different from the business to business vendor down the street who also uses a social stack.

The result of all this is to give the company, the marketer, the ability to do with socially derived data what our brains do while we’re drinking a latte.  I see some of this in HubSpot and some of it in other tools on the market or in the CRM Idol competition like Awareness and Nearstream.  More on all of them this fall.

What’s fascinating to me though is that where adoption is concerned we’re still trying to figure out the last mile communication through Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn, at least according to the research I just did with Esteban Kolsky.  But they’ll soon prove to be limited in what they can help us accomplish so we’ll begin looking for another piece of the puzzle.  That’s how stacks develop, not all at once but incrementally.