Posts Tagged ‘social media’

OWM–with a Nod and a Wink

Posted: October 19, 2011 in CRM, Current Affairs
Tags: ,

I am developing an appreciation of the Occupy Wall Street movement that surprises me.  You know the news about it and how, over the weekend the movement went global.  You probably also know that the authorities are not dealing effectively with it.  They’ve been content to watch and wait hoping that the movement will exhaust itself.  That’s a good strategy for the last millennium and the movement may wear out if only because as winter approaches it gets harder to remain committed to living on the street.  But I wouldn’t bet on it.

That end game is not assured and my interest is in the day-to-day workings of the movement.  There is no leader and as yet no demands which is part of the brilliance of everything that has transpired.  Let me tell you why I think so.

Demands would require a leader, someone to give a face and a name to the demands.  Without formal demands we are left to presume from the actions of the loose group that it is protesting the situation that drove the economic crisis in 2008 which has not been resolved to anyone’s satisfaction and which is responsible for the dismal economic outlook — especially for people in their 20’s looking for their first real jobs.

So there’s neither message nor demands but with a nod and a wink we all know what’s unspoken.  But look at the effect this has.  No spokesman means no individual for the media to fixate on and that means the message can’t be diverted very easily.

Compare this to the WikiLeaks situation.  Julian Assange quickly became the focus of the controversy.  His organization made the leaks but Assange’s personality was quickly the story and it was instantly trashed up to and including arrest on specious charges related to sexual misconduct.  In short order the controversy became the man and the issues he’d over which he’d hoped to spark a discussion evaporated when a more salacious story became available — one that required much less effort on the part of the fifth estate to bring to us.  This well-worn script suddenly isn’t wearing well.

Occupy Wall Street (and similar protests) has none of this and, to borrow a metaphor, it seems to be cloud based and very social.  It resembles the protests of the Arab Spring.  We never heard about leaders and messages or anything else from Tunisia, Egypt and Libya and we didn’t need them.  We knew what was going on.  All of these movements have social media as a rallying point that loosely coordinates activities and spreads the protest from city to city.

This is a big new lesson about mass movements in a democracy and the growing power of social media and those gadgets we carry in our pockets.  For instance, not long ago (March 2011), Tom Glocer, Thomson Reuters CEO, told media executives in the Middle East, “Systematic denial of freedom of accessing information will lead to a revolution.” The headline from the site Emirates247 said he called the internet a basic human right.

At least in the Occupy Wall Street situation, there’s no shortage of information and it’s readily available as is the basic story (just as in North Africa, no one had to tell people they were oppressed by corrupt regimes).  What’s fascinating is the way people have chosen to use the internet and what they know.  They’re curiously united but they keep their distance from the center of it all, which could easily bring the movement down.

In the days before all of our new social and mobile technology it may have been necessary to operate close to the center with leaders and manifestos.  How else could people rally others to their causes?  Social media does that work now and it is work done friend to friend.  New technology has caused some people to think differently about how best to unite and get a message out.  They are ahead of the curve, operating out of the reach of conventional media and political jujitsu.  This is both instructive and beautiful.  Like watching a no hitter in progress.

Marketing has become the new hot spot in CRM.  During the recession and even before, there was a great flurry of interest in customer service and related things.  Consequently, we have seen a lot of attention being paid to customer experience and much of the social media oriented growth in that period was centered on the existing customer.

As the economy has begun to improve the orientation has been more toward sales but with a decided twist.  By their actions, vendors have made it clear that they understand that the rule of the day is cross selling and up selling the customer base.  That’s a big difference from rushing out to sell net new brands, products and categories.  With that shift it becomes more important than ever to market well and at a macro level that spells the rising importance of marketing automation.  This might seem redundant but it is not.

When we sell net new categories marketing is rather bare bones.  Uber-marketer Thor Johnson describes marketing in explosive new markets as PR and brochure marketing and he has a point.  When the world is a green field you need little more than a list of names to cold call.  But the tenor of these times requires more incisive understanding of customer motivations and needs, hence the emphasis on data gathering through social and other channels, analytics and even revenue performance management.

I have written about all of these ideas before but the difference between then and now is that I was early then and today the change is upon us.  You don’t need to look far for proof.  The Salesforce-Radian6 nuptials are proof enough but if that was the only proof point you could be skeptical.  However, numerous indicators suggest that this is real.  Revenue performance management (RPM) with its emphasis on embedding analytics into sales and marketing business processes is a case in point.

RPM is all about building greater certainty into the sales process and if you dig a little it makes perfect sense.  When selling into an established customer base the demand is relatively lower than it is when selling into a new market but the costs don’t change much.  Consequently, a smart vendor will not simply chase every suspect but gather evidence of need, demand and ability to pay before committing expensive sales resources.  Depending on the market, the vendor might forget all about direct sales and opt for channel representation or retail selling, each of which off-loads significant expense.

The reasons are manifold.  Margins are smaller the second or third time around and subsequent products have to pack more value.  Look at your latest wireless phone, how does it compare in features and functions with the device you had at the beginning of the century?  Now, how does your monthly wireless bill compare with the bill you paid ten or more years ago?  I rest my case.

All of that speaks to an era when marketing is ascendant.  The last time something like this happened, in the US at least, manufacturing was king and we were able to stamp out any number of products for pennies.  To keep the engine of commerce running we marketed the heck out of products and ushered in the golden age of advertising abetted by the rise of new technologies ideally suited to mass marketing — broadcast medial.

The situation is not identical today.  Manufacturing went to ultra low wage countries and we became an economy dominated by the service industry.  Smart vendors have tried to raise the idea of service to an art form calling it an experience and, of course, the experience starts with marketing, and our own new messaging technology, social media.

This entire preamble has a CRM point.  If you look at the major CRM suites marketing is, in many cases, under-represented.  It is a sub-division of accounting in many places and that might be a good thing.  Before marketers could take an equal place in a company’s revenue discussion, they had to learn to talk the corporate talk.  In addition to the usual lingo of clicks, responses, placements and square footage, marketing has had to learn the language of ROI and it has done that or at least the process is underway.

Today, in addition to the understanding of the art of marketing, advanced marketers are speaking the language of cost per lead, campaign ROI and revenue.  This change comes along at precisely the right time as vendors in both B2B and B2C worlds grapple with a dynamic marketplace where success requires more than brute strength cold calling or uninspired retailing.

In this environment I expect to see more of the established CRM companies taking a second or third look at marketing and to strengthen their offerings beyond the basics.  This makes for an interesting time if you happen to be an independent software company specializing in marketing, social media marketing or analytics.  The IPO market is beginning to build but as the Salesforce-Radian6 deal shows, a good company doesn’t necessarily need to IPO in order to have a big payday.

Have you heard about  I bet you have because the Twittersphere did what it does best when friend Esteban Kolsky brought our attention to an article in the Boston Globe about social scoring upstarts and in Friday morning’s edition (“Ascent of the social-media climbers”).

Kudos to Kolsky who lives in the Rockies and was up early and reading the feeds from eastern papers, I guess.

According to the article these and other social scoring sites do for your personality what Faire-Isaac did for your mortgage.  The secret sauce is a set of algorithms that develop a score based on a 100 scale to determine what a big swinging er, twitterer, you are.  Number of followers, people you follow, your networks, lists re-tweets etc. go into a grinder an out pops your score.

The upshot?  Hard to say, Kolsky calls it a caste system, I say it’s anti-democratic.  It has to be a cast system because it imposes a hierarchy on a random population.  Any population will provide you with a Bell Curve of any attribute.

People will try to game a system when they don’t like being in the fat middle of the curve.  Everyone would rather be out on the long tail but that is, by definition, not possible.  Some people will be out there but most will still be in the middle because the harder we all try the more the curve simply shifts to the right.  The only significant casualty might be the left long tail, which we will see to scrunch up like it is being pushed into an imaginary wall.

The article suggests that vendors might offer preferential services or promotions to people with, and I hate writing this, Klout as in high Klout scores, almost as a defensive measure.  You might be happy to risk upsetting someone with a Klout score of, say 45, but you would go way out of your way to avoid ruffling the feathers of a person who scores an 80 or 90.  I can see a discussion between a boss and an employee: “I know he has a 90 but the 45 was here first!”  L – O – L!  Sheesh!

Imagine providing your Twitter handle as a regular part of filling out an online form or registering at a hotel and you have all the makings of a caste system.  A whole industry may be dawning or perhaps publicists will need to develop one more skill — finding ways to up a client’s Klout score.  Heck, I bet they already do it.  Reminds me of high school.

In business, much the same would hold.  A company’s Klout score could be a powerful marketing edge but this isn’t new.  If you’re a regular reader of this space you know that on a “busman’s holiday” I once tried to gauge the negative rankings of a variety of companies and non-profits.  The idea was to perform a Google search on “company name-sucks”.  The simple searches turned up a lot of interesting data and while not really scientific enough to rely on, let me just say I wouldn’t ever want to be an oil company or even be compared to one.  But at least that methodology gets some data into play — people have to provide reasons for their negative analysis which they do through blogs or other postings that are usually specific.  And, no surprise, every company has its detractors.  What to do?

At the end of the day, a Klout score measures a certain kind of behavior.  Like a credit score, which measures promptness at bill paying and personal debt — valuable things to know in evaluating credit worthiness — a Klout score measures a very different kind of behavior and it might not be relevant.

To me, a Klout score simply measurs a person’s extrovertedness.  About a quarter of the population can be classified as introverts.  Introverts are not necessarily shy, they simply keep their own counsel and need camaraderie less.  I bet they rely on social networking less, too.  That’s about the same portion of the population that is left-handed.  But we don’t score left-handedness unless we have a radar gun and go to spring training, but I digress.

This reminds me of an excellent article by Malcolm Gladwell in his book, “What the Dog Saw”.  The article, “Late Bloomers”, compares the careers of Picasso, a boy genius, and Cezanne, an artist who didn’t hit his stride until much later in life.  Each produced great art.  The subtitle tells the whole story — “Why do we equate genius with precocity?”

Why indeed?

There are three relatively new technologies converging to make Cloud 2.  All three technologies have been available for many years, though in less robust forms and with less powerful integration.  The convergence is driven by their ubiquity, low cost and ease of use.  They are social media, mobility and analytics.  Together these technologies offer a future that is vastly different from conventional enterprise information processing served from a traditional data center or from a data center somewhere else on the Internet that made up the backbone of Cloud 1.  Read the full story here.


Not long ago, well actually a couple of years ago, I began writing about the need for increased use of video in our communications.  I was mostly thinking vendor to customer communications.

My logic was three fold, first the technology needed to create video is now available on the desk top.  On the Apple platform, which I am more familiar with, Garage Band for creating music loops, iMovie and iPhoto for movies and stills form the basis of a creative suite that enables a talented but not necessarily expert user to create engaging videos.  The Adobe Creative Suite is also powerful and runs on Windows and the Mac, but for my money is unnecessarily complex, but you need Adobe or something like it to do some of the more advanced graphics.  The challenge for the developer is to keep the video in a duration range of three to five minutes, and of course, to be engaging.

The second reason is slideshow burnout.  There are now many books on the market about that attempt to upgrade average people’s slide presentation skills because those skills are deficient today.  PresentationZen by Garr Reynolds comes to mind and there are many more.  Sending someone a slide deck as if it was a fully articulated document or mock video, exposes the deficiencies of pictures only or pictures with too many bullet points on a single slide.  Information was getting into, but not out of, slides and something had to be done.

The third reason that video creation is important involves transportation.  Slides were created as speaking aids in a live setting and while we make great efforts to use them via web conferences, something is inevitably lost.  But transportation is becoming difficult to justify, but fuel prices continue to rise and, in a recession, most organizations are in some ways restricting the frequency or type of employee travel.

It’s important to note that the above discussion includes an important caveat—most of the video coming to market today, thankfully, does not involve untrained people in front of a camera.  Instead today’s video is largely animation and stills activated a la Ken Burns.  It works well.

I have been impressed by a small crop of videos available on the Dreamforce website put there by Salesforce and some of its partners in anticipation of next month’s conference and I want to share them with you in case you haven’t been following.

The first video is posted at The Var  It’s a straight up recording of an interview in June with Red Hat CEO, Jim Whitehurst titled Red Hat CEO: Cloud Can’t Exist Without Open Source.  It’s a good example of old style video that puts a person in front of the camera for three and a half minutes to make a few points.  Watching is faster than reading the attached Q&A but it lacks the engagement factor that I mentioned and it makes three and a half minutes seem like a long time.

Next on the list is The State of Cloud Computing from  It’s all animation and looks like it was developed completely on a desktop; it is the type of video we should all aim at.  There are no people on screen but a narrator tells the story over a musical sound track that ducks whenever he speaks.  The piece gets its work done in only 3:09, an important criterion in an attention starved world.  Given Salesforce’s marketing budget, you can bet this was not inexpensive though I wonder how it compares to other things like white papers and webinars.  The video makes the case for cloud computing in all its forms and only brings in Salesforce and SaaS towards the end, placing it squarely in the larger context.  A good job.

Eloqua offers a very good video, The Future of Revenue, which discusses the importance of new ideas in business.  Most of the 3:41 is table setting, intertwining the stories of several advancements in business over the last century before attempting to place Eloqua in the historical context as the next big thing.  The video is effective and I didn’t have trouble with attending to it because it draws you in as any good video should.

The last in this list is by Jess3 titled The State of the Internet .  Like the previous two, it’s a desktop effort and it has a musical sound track but no narrator and none is needed.  It is a compilation of data about Internet use attractively presented.  And while the numbers are impressive, the video is nearing its first birthday so the data represents, if anything, lower values than today.  At five minutes, it’s on the outside edge of tolerability for this kind of thing but the information is so compelling and the video so fast paced that you forget about time.  My favorite statistics are 81% of email is spam and 84% of social networking sites have more women than men.  Reminds me of a book.  Hello, ladies!

So this is a small smattering of videos but I think they point out a direction for the future.  As vendors continue to find ways to differentiate themselves in the minds of their customers, video that can entertainingly tell a story or provide step-by-step instructions for fixing a common problem, will become vital to most organizations.  The cost of production tools has dropped to the point of mass affordability, and distribution is layered on the Internet so it is free.

There are easy ways to make video viral and the need for a sophisticated approach to content distribution in an information-overloaded world is abundantly clear.  Video plus social networking may be the thing we’ve lacked with simple text delivery in a social medium—regardless of how elegantly it has been presented.  And strange as it sounds, video just might be the killer app for social media and vice versa.


SAS Media Day

Posted: October 26, 2010 in CRM, Technology
Tags: ,

I am at the SAS Media Day in Cary, NC today and then on to Las Vegas for a SAS user conference.  The company is poised to announce several new products in the social media analytics space and I will report later along with my analysis.

Bob Warfield does a great job of summarizing “The Eight Flavors of Social” in his post from October 19 .

While I don’t disagree with Bob on these eight popular forms of social media, I might wish to offer an alternative to it or perhaps something that builds on this foundation.

To me social media comes in only two fundamental forms, inbound and outbound and like the blood supply to your brain you need both.  If you prefer a different metaphor, recall the mantra from the original “Karate Kid” movie — “wax on, wax off.”  Either way, you’ve gotta have both.

We’ve done a fabulous job of adopting the outbound side of the social equation and a passable job on the inbound, at least in personal use.  But I think the big thing we aren’t getting fully yet is the power of the inbound for business.

In your personal life there is an implied quid pro quo with friends — I’ll look at yours because you look at mine.  However, this approach is unreliable because we look when we can or want to or when we are bored.  For business use we need greater assurance that our outbound messages are received, understood and acted on.  In our personal lives the candy at our social sites — the thing that friends come back for — is the intimate detail of our lives.  In business, the candy usually has a string attached because vendors want us to buy things.

For social to fully transition and make it in business there has to be a way to attract people, which means that if we’re using social as a glorified email marketing tool, and if we’re not getting the results we want, we may wish to reconsider how we do things.  That’s where communities come in.  You can ask any sort of open-ended question in a community and if you follow the threads and apply analytics you might discover the reasons that people are attracted to your business in the first place.  With that you can significantly improve your outbound stream and complete the loop.


VRM, CRM and social media

Posted: September 3, 2010 in CRM, Technology
Tags: , ,

More on VRM CRM

Doc Searls started a great conversation about VRM and CRM last week at the Berkman Center’s conference on the subject.  Berkman is part of Harvard Law School and for those who follow VRM (vendor relationship management) the conversation is not new.

I love this quote that Doc posted in his blog ( from Dan Miller who hosted a panel that I was on:

“…current solutions that are based in CRM and social CRM capture and conduct analysis on a broad set of customer generated data and metadata. Companies think they are doing a better job of paying attention but, whether they admit it to themselves or not, they continue to use their resources to analyze activity, target messages and promotions and influence future activity.  That’s not listening or engaging in a meaningful conversation.

Sooo true.  He goes on,

“VRM involves a totally different engagement model. “Users” (be they shoppers, searchers, mobile subscribers or “other”) initiate conversations with their selected vendors through a trusted resource or advocate. They can compare notes with other shoppers/customers and, while they may be loyal to a brand, they are more loyal to themselves and their peers. In the ideal, the power shifts to the shopper in ways that will disintermediate traditional channels (like the contact center) and influencers (meaning commercials and advertisements).

The train wreck is not the result of there being too many names for the social CRM phenomenon, it is that CRM and VRM are on a collision course whereby one side seeks to grant more power to buyers while the other seeks to retain nearly all the power by pretending to do a better job of listening.

I am not sure about the train wreck part of it, but I am in violent agreement that vendors have been doing a not-so-wonderful job of really listening to customers.  In a capitalist system I am not sure that a vendor can listen and generate continuous growth.  The current crush of interest in all things social is a telltale sign given that most of what we value in social media is its ability to deliver outbound messages rather than gathering customer input.

On the other hand though, companies like Communispace have made it their business to listen and Communispace in particular seems to have a winning formula because they are growing like a proverbial weed even in the recession.  But this brings up another issue for me.  Vendors might now be listening or they might not be listening as much as they ought to but in the free market I see a great deal of creativity expressed by regular people that forces vendors to listen albeit imperfectly.

If you’ve followed my postings on some crude research (  involving searching on terms that include a company name and the word “sucks” you see that even if vendors are not listening, customers certainly are speaking.  And the way they speak is having an effect.  If I was a vendor I would be loath to find out that my negatives were so high that they elicited hundreds of thousands of hits for a search on my company name and “sucks” but that’s indeed what happens for most companies that I have studied.

What concerns me, and the key to understanding all this is who pays.  CRM grew up organically because vendors saw an opportunity to build products that helped to automate front office business practices.  In fact CRM exists because of the profit motive, i.e. vendors figured out how to make money selling it.

I can’t say the same for VRM and that’s one of the big hang-ups for it.  Who makes VRM and who pays for it?  The customers don’t seem interested in paying for anything so don’t look there.  And savvy vendors tend to look at VRM as slitting their own throats.  Pretty quickly you realize that while there is a need for what VRM does, there doesn’t seem to be a constituency ready to pay for it.

But you do see a movement of individuals calling corporations to account with blogs, wikis, web sites and other self-generated tools aimed at the soft underbelly of corporate indifference.  That’s why my conclusion about much but certainly not all of VRM is that it could use an infusion of social media.  Note though, I do not advocate social CRM merging with VRM because that would not be helpful.

VRM also deals with things that CRM doesn’t even attempt such as the myriad legal issues governing the burgeoning vendor-customer relationship.  But in all of this social media, and especially community development as practiced by Communispace and championed by Eric von Hippel of MIT, could be a major boon to VRM.  Right now VRM seems to be doing customer outreach in ways that are more difficult that they have to be.

Much as I like the association of CRM with VRM I think the real association ought to be between VRM and social media.  Increasingly, social media looks like the once and future root of both disciplines.

Chatter,’s social collaboration tool goes GA today — that’s general availability for the acronym challenged among us.  I think it’s a good thing for many reasons.

Chatter is new, perhaps a new category of business software and that’s something we haven’t seen in a while.  It took the company only eight months to go from concept to today, a great performance for any software vendor but even more so for not only building but inventing something like this.  It’s a tribute to the people involved but also the platform, which underpins the new application.  I’ll let you read some other writers to learn more about Chatter’s functionality and, instead, skip to the thing that I think is most important.

Chatter is arguably the first bit of social business software that was built for the unique demands of the business environment.  Prior to Chatter we have a raft of software that was built, in some cases in a dorm room, to enhance the personal social outreach of its users.  While those tools are good and worthy and most of you reading this already use them, you have to admit that in a business context they leave a lot to be desired.

Applying personal social software to business reminds me of early attempts at building a flying machine — like those grainy black and white movies with syncopated piano music backgrounds of early test flights.  They could have been scripted — an inventor straps wings to his back and jumps off a bridge.  You know what happens.  To me, that’s what personal social media in business has been, great hopes, an adrenalin rush and cold water in the face.

The lesson here is that you can’t invent simply by emulating an old paradigm you have to think anew.  Salesforce saw this clearly, analyzed the need and built a product for the need it saw rather than simply copying something that worked in another context.  In other words, Chatter has no feathers.  Now, it must be said that the comparisons with the Facebook user interface are many and Salesforce leads the comparison parade.  That’s fine because the result is more than a UI.

The business process that Salesforce saw and sees has been in our faces for a long time though we were stumped over how to address it.  How do you foster a contextually rich and running dialog between relevant parties over company business in a dynamic and evolving setting.  email didn’t work, portals had limited appeal and voice mail?

The number of point to point connections in a company of even ten people can be big and in a company with five hundred or five thousand it’s just not possible.  Chatter supports an always on human network that ensures that the necessary people stay in touch over relevant issues.  That’s what is important about Chatter and what’s a bit different about it from personal social media.

We might be witnessing the beginning of an important new era in business software and in a future that I think will require business to build more sustainable business processes — defined as processes that are more efficient and that incorporate customers as a renewable resource — I think products like Chatter will play an important role.

In addition to knowing about the demographic make up of your community members and making sure they participate in your community not just hang around reading other people’s contributions you need to know something about the demographics of the social sites you want to work with.

I just read an article by Tom Stein about how small companies are giving up on Facebook as a marketing tool because they haven’t seen any returns on their efforts and some of the companies cited had been at it for a year or two.  So is Facebook’s time in the sun ending?  Maybe, but it will take more than a few anecdotes to make that call.

Consider this.  According to a resent survey by Pingdom ( concluded that 16 out of 19 (84%) of the most popular social sites have more women populating them than men.  The super geek sites Digg, Reddit and Slashdot have more men on them but the more popular sites including Facebook, Linked-in and Twitter all have more women visiting them.  The average ratio of all sites surveyed according to Pingdom was 47% male, 53% female.

That’s fine as far as I am concerned because women spend the bulk of family budgets.  But this neatly illustrates the flaw in the assumption that social media is a universal good.  One of the companies that Stein references as being dissatisfied with Facebook happens to be Blank Label, a company specializing in custom shirts designed and bought over the web.

So, the question that leaps to mind now that we know all this is how many custom shirts does the average woman buy annually?  Go ahead, think about it, I can wait.  Bingo!

So at least in the case of the shirt maker, the over reliance on Facebook is an example of not understanding the delivery medium.  It used to be so easy with print.  Magazines publish detailed statistics on readership, subscriptions, demographics and more so that potential advertisers can make educated decisions on their marketing spend.  The same kind of information is available from other sources on the web but you’ll need to do some work to find it and maybe collate it.

The point is that social media is just a tool.  There are many kinds of social media some tools are great at blasting out messages to friends but other tools focus on collecting information from your community.  The focus on inbound data often gets lost with the result that we continue to “spray and pray” using social media as if it were direct mail or email marketing.  Social media is powerful and easy to use but we still need to pay attention to how we use it.

The shirt maker might have a friend list of only men but and here’s the difficult part men might not go to Facebook looking for information specific to shirts.  The fact that so many women use it suggests to me that men who go there have other things on their minds.  So we see that just as in print advertising, lead generation is a fine art partly made up of the offer but much consideration should also go to placement.