Tag Archives: Communities

How Enterprise Applications Will Change in 2010

Back when I lived in Los Angeles I used to take one week at the end of the year to recover from the past and prepare for the new one.

I would drive into the dessert (Las Vegas) embracing all it had to offer (mostly CHP officers pulling me over).  I would stay in a clean and modest hotel (hotels in the strip where cheap and decent then), and spend a few days pondering (playing blackjack and craps) on the fate (I almost always lost) of the year to come. It allowed me to plan better (how long to eat mac & cheese and ramen dinners) and to set my goals (ask for a raise at work).

As I got older, more serious (married and with kids) the process changed slightly.  Alas, since I live in the dessert now (for lack of better publishable words to describe Reno), the process is similar but I spend more time thinking about next year (married, two kids = no money, small town = nothing to do — might as well think).

This past week was my think week for 2009, and I am using the takeaways to frame my research the next 12-18 months.

Four strategies are going to be critical for businesses to address starting in 2010; use this list to plan where to spend your hard-earned strategic budget dollars:

Business Functions. How much has the customer changed in the last two years and how much will it change in the next two? We are not talking about customers any more (at least not as before).  Then, why would you continue to use same business functions as two, five – even ten years ago?  You have to embrace a new model, and you need new business functions for that.

Communities. The most critical element in dealing with “customers” (yes, in quotation marks) in 2010.  As the roles of business functions shift, they are finding communities to be the precipitant (I refuse to say catalyst) for those changes.  You will have to re-learn what you are thinking about communities, and how to interact with them.  You will no longer build communities to control, you will participate in ad-hoc and impromptu communities.

Experience.  If you solely focus on delivering the best experiences during customer interactions (as you have done until now), you will miss out on the best savings and innovation.  Disney plans and executes flawless experiences from the moment you plan your vacation through the post-vacation memories.  Are you approaching experiences the same way? Or are you trying to do the “online experience” or the “brick-and-mortar experience”?  The disconnect is what’s causing you to fail.

Convergence. You will need to converge your Enterprise 2.0 (internal) and Social CRM (external) strategies (first), initiatives (second), and implementations (third).  This is THE sine-qua-non condition for your organization to succeed and become a Social Business.  If you cannot get your organization to collaborate internally and externally at the same time, you will be left behind by the competition — and that means in the next 6-12 months, not years.

The biggest problem organizations are going to face is not going to be strategy.  That is easy (well, not so complicated) to tackle.  The biggest problem is the technical architecture underlying these changes.  There is really only one technology focus area for organizations going forward:

The Cloud. I promise not to say private cloud anymore.  In reality the cloud is not even started yet (although clues are beginning to pop up here and there).  I am planning a series of posts through the year to explore the issues and items you must consider from the business side as you dive deeper into this vaporware (not metaphorically speaking anymore – yeah, bad joke).  If you have any doubts that the cloud will change your business in the next five to ten years, you won’t by the time we are done dissecting it.

I did say before that analytics was a critical component of 2010 – and I still believe it.  I am trying to fit it within the bigger picture and will bring it out as needed (my wild card for 2010).

This wraps up 2009 blogging.  I want to write a short sentence to say thanks for your support and commentary.


What I Learned from Your Twitter Discoveries

Last Friday @VenessaMiemis and I had the following exchange in Twitter:


We exchanged a few DMs offline to discuss a potential way to do it, and then she twitted out to the world.


I then created the #MonTwit hashtag, advertised it a few times, “counseled” (coerced would probably be a better term) a few people to write about it — and the result was, well almost overwhelming for what I was expecting and for only a day or two advertise the experiment and get the word out.

First, some stats — as the writing of this blog there were 86 contributors (people using the hashtag) 164 times.  Twenty blog posts, and 14 opinions expressed via Twitter.  Check out the rest of the stats at WhatTheHashtag, or get a transcript if you prefer from there.

Some people (14 – list below) just tweeted their discoveries (yes, Twitter is a microblog – so perfectly acceptable).  Some others (10 – list also below) wrote posts or posterous or similar entries on their lessons learned and discoveries.

I read them all, as long as they were properly hashed and I could find them, commented on a few of them, and learned a lot of very interesting things in the process.  Here is my summary of lessons learned on the fist iteration of the MonTwit (Monday Twitter).

Will there be more?  Conversations are underway to try to produce it better, spread the word farther, and looking for better focused and more concrete topics.  Short answer? more than likely.  Stay tuned.

Lesson #1 – Tribal Knowledge Rocks — On Demand.  Asking people to talk about something they know, at a certain time and with proper structure brings you a lot of different views.  This is good.  One of the largest problems with crowdsourcing or wisdom of the crowds is that the largest voices influence the smaller voices (or more powerful or more influential – pick your word to use).  Setting a specific timeframe for the answers takes away the “bully” effect inherent to wisdom of the crowds.  You will notice if you read through the entries the influence that early ones begin to have on latter ones.  Setting a specific time takes away a lot of this and provides very interesting, different perspectives.

Lesson #2 – Twitter is About People, not Technology or Content.  Yep, virtually everyone wrote about the contact with people they did not know before, or met via Twitter, as the most critical part of what they discovered about it.  Twitter is a community, as I always said, and the knowledge sharing is inherent to the model of community. People want to connect to people, and what is what Twitter offers — the largest “brain phone book” in the world to find the people you want, to tap into brains and knowledge that you think must exist but are not sure how or where to find.  See @WimRampen’s entry for more on this, as his was the most RT one during this experiment (barely edging Venessa in reach and reads).

Lesson #3 – Know Your Purpose.  Twitter can suck the life out of you… yes, it is that addictive.  Close to 100 million people talking about — well, just about anything can really cause you to lose track of time even worse that spending time on YouTube.  Why are you on Twitter is the first and last question you should always ask yourself.  Sure, it works great as a time-killer, but even better as a community – and communities are about sharing knowledge.  What are you trying to learn today?

Lesson #4 – I Still Know Little.  I realized what I know and what I am still to learn.  I like to say that I am constantly evolving and learning and did confirm some of my suspicions and best practices by reading the blogs today, but I also realized that there are so many aspects of any issue I am not considering, or discarding too quickly.  Twitter is a great mind-expansion tool and you should always, always look at if for that: an unfiltered window into the tribal knowledge of the world.

Tweeted Entries (chronological order)
Blogged Entries
@ekolsky (me)

Now, it is your turn.  Did you read them all? some? most? What did you learn? What is new or different that you picked up from today’s experiment? Do you have any ideas on how to do it better?  woudl love to hear your thoughts…

Update (12/23/2009): The #MonTwit hashtag will be revived in 2010 for more like experiments.  If you are interested, keep a search column in your favorite client to stay updated.  Thanks for the persistent asking everyone.

Late Update (01/02/2010): David Carr (@carr2n) wrote a compelling #MonTwit entry — without hashtag.

What I've discovered about Twitter

This is part of  the #MonTwit experiment; several bloggers are writing about the same topic on the same day, each adding their own perspective, so we can share our earned experiences about Twitter and learn more in the process.  I will update links at the end of this post as I find them, but feel free to follow hashtag #MonTwit in your Twitter client or browser to see where this is going.

I have been on Twitter since 2007 — well, almost.  I signed up with a bogus account in May 2007 to see what the buzz was about (there were so few people really doing it back then, it almost sounded like a porn place — was not going to use my real name for that… there was also some privacy fears).  Used it for 4 days — but not sure the word used is the proper one to describe my behavior.  Posted some breakfast and lunch things, exchanged a few messages with some people I never knew – but most of the talk at that time was not about technology or business, rather between friends and with some little professional chatter mixed in.  Left it behind, thinking it was interesting, but was not sure how it would actually make it to the next step.

Then in 2008 the noise was too high to stay out and jumped in.  Still, I was clueless as to what it was (I think it was in May of 2008).  I read about it and learned as much as I could: you have to follow to be followed, you have to listen before engaging, you have to put interesting stuff out, you have to build you presence… you read all the advice.  I turned into a generic Twitter user: no purpose, no reason, just follow the “basic rules” that everyone was touting.

I could not see the value of being another voice in an ocean of millions — I started to experiment with it.

Follow people who are different, with lots of followers but that have something interesting to say, participate of events, follow links, RT different things to see the reaction, and many other things.  A picture began to emerge of what Twitter was, what it can do for me, and how to use it better.  Slowly started to change my follower/following ratio, using searches more and more to find the right people and the right content.  Began integrating Twitter with other social networks, with blogs and other places.  Started to admit I was a Twitter user at meetings, explaining to people what it does and watching their reactions.  It was all data that contributed to my learning about Twitter.  To understanding what it was, how to use it, what it does.  It was the preamble to these three key things i discovered about Twitter:

1. Twitter is what you make of it. Twitter has no life, nor purpose, no direction, and no idea of who you are.  Sorry, hate to break the news like that to you – but that is it.  It is a platform that just sits there and waits for you to do something with it.  Approaching 100 million people quickly, it is a very large platform actually.  True, there may be 20-25 million active users — but that is still something.  However, it won’t wait for you or guide you to accomplish something. If you know how to get value out of communities, then you are going to enjoy Twitter.  If you enjoy listening to people talk about — well anything, you are going to get value.  If you know what you want to do in Twitter, you can get it.  Twitter has nothing prepared for anyone, it is what you want to make of it.

2. Twitter is a community.  Shocking, I know.  There are no forums or ideas or structure (well, you could try hashtags — it worked very well for the #SCRM Accidental Community), but it is a community.  I wrote about this a couple of times.  The main difference, and the great part about it, is that each person gets to build and mold their own community – and change it at the drop of a hat if you want.  You can create and follow lists, groups, searches, hashtags, and people for The Red Hat Society today, and for Punk Rock tonight – without much effort.  You can create several IDs and follow people in different ways, have several personas here and still be you.  It is a great build-it-yourself, shape-it-as-you-go community.  Just be yourself in as many ways as you want.

3. No one is ever wrong about Twitter. There is no right and no wrong way to do Twitter, since it is what you make of it and what you build around it.  So, don’t tell anyone how to do it right, or wrong, or better or worse.  What works for you, or your organization, may (probably won’t) not work for someone else.  Share your experiences and lessons, but make sure that you understand that it is just that  – yours.  As with any communities, the ideal outcome is gained knowledge from tribal sharing, or gained power from aggregation.  The way you go about doing that is going to be different, so don’t expect other people to do it same as you.  Share your knowledge in your community, learn from them, and always look for new ways to use it and get value out of it — then you’ll be right about it.

What do you think? What have you learned or discovered about Twitter? How was your experience different from mine?  Would love to hear your thoughts…

Other blogs participating on #MonTwit (constantly updating this section):

The Five Issues to Ponder Now

At the end of the year I work on my wrap-up for the year, and prepare for the year ahead.

I go through my notes from conversations, oft-forgotten “blogs that I must read”, books, and everything else that  has a tangential effect into my research for next year.  I end up with my “predictions” for next year and the next five years, and a wrap-up of what mattered in the year past.

These are the five bullet points that are getting more and more momentum as the key issues for next few years:

1. Generational Shift – This is the one where I am reading more and more off-topic information.  Anything from Zogby’s book  “The Way We’ll Be” and academic research dealing with the coming generational shift from the Generation X and Baby Boomers to Generation Y Digital Citizens.  This is the root cause for the “social business” coming of age.  Our responses to this are evolving and it is becoming quite interesting.  It is not what we are thinking, but what we are doing about it.

2. Experience Continuum – I started to talk about the social experience and the change in the customer experience when I wrote “A Brief History of SCRM”.  I started this blog to dig deeper into customer experiences and the coming changes in organizations, and it remains the focus of all my research.  Social businesses’ goal is to co-create ever improving experiences using feedback from customers – the biggest change brought on by the Social Evolution has been an increased and faster influx of data to co-create these great experiences. It is this faster change to experience management that becomes interesting.

3. Communities – I am not thinking how to create better communities, or how to be a better community manager.  Plenty has been written (wrongly, I might add) about that.  My thought process on this is how to make better use of communities (Brent Leary wrote a great short post recently about what he considers communities – I agree with him) that already exist, how to leverage the knowledge created and how to do it better.  Communities are not managed, nor created ad-hoc – you can only leverage them.  It is leveraging communities outcomes that will make a difference for organizations.

4. Analytics – I was recently asked what was the biggest change we experienced in the last five years, and what will it be for the next five.  The biggest change has been the change from “drinking from a firehose” of data produced by CRM to “surfing the tsunami” of data produced by the social evolution.  And this is where Analytics is critical.   The input from SCRM into the organization is actionable insights – and analytics is the only way to do that.  It is about creating actionable insights in a timely manner.

5. Data Management – All the data we are capturing is becoming too much for our antiquated models of data management to handle.  There are three areas that matter: the speed of analytics (stream flow analytics), the capacity of the store-and-retrieve models (theory that goes way beyond relational), and the actual storage medium (the hardware).  All three must work together for us to be able to realize real-time (or near-real-time) benefits.  It is about using what we have, better.

What are your top-of-mind issues right now? How about for 2010? Did I miss something big in my thinking?

Why Chatter Matters

Well, as usual I am late to break the news.

Salesforce introduced Chatter with great fanfare — and most everyone covered it in detail and analyzed it (Dion Hinchcliffe, Sameer Patel, and Michael Krigsman provided some of  my favorite coverage).

I am going to tell you what I think most people are missing and the reason it really matters.

Chatter is not Salesforce’s response to the social prowess of Microsoft, Yammer, Sharepoint and friends.  Yes, I know that Marc Benioff said that — but he always goes after Microsoft.  It is also not a leap-frog to get ahead of SAP and Oracle in social functionality.  That would be short-sighted and naive, as either one of them can then do pretty much anything they want  to get ahead in turn.

The key to understanding the value that Chatter brings to the table was evident on the second-day keynote, when we talked about platforms.  Deep within the many amazing demos we saw from customers was the answer of why Chatter matters:

It is part of the platform.

It is not a feature or a function that becomes part of an application, it is part of the basic infrastructure that Force.com provides.

I have been saying from the very beginning that you won’t be able to prove ROI for your investment in a social network if you try to get beyond the initial listening and reacting.  This is one of the main reasons why organizations have not gotten past this point: they are being asked for a return on investment that is not there, cannot be calculated.  You can do some calculations for basic functions you will perform – but there is nothing really that talks to the infrastructure investment.

My answer has always been: you won’t get an ROI, but you need to invest on it as if it was infrastructure.  Who computes an ROI for more storage? or an additional laptop? a printer?  Those are infrastructure components that your organization must have and you just invest in them without expecting a specific return on the investment.

Back to Chatter.  By integrating it into the Force.com platform Salesforce accomplished three things:

  1. It changed the conversation from reacting to social events to making social part of the architecture.  We have advanced from trying to figure what to do to making the people and the applications within the organization become social.  When applications and systems can talk for themselves (as they can with Chatter) the conversation changes.
  2. They have shown that the cloud is indeed in progress, and that they are no longer just a SaaS or on-demand vendor with a cool marketing term.  The cloud is a series of interconnected platforms, and Salesforce has gotten closer to it with this move than ever before.
  3. It has essentially changed the game for all the feature vendors with social tools. No, they won’t put them out of business — to the contrary, they have enhanced their chances for survival (if they are smart).  They no longer have to worry about the underlying architecture and infrastructure of their product, they can ride on the cloud and just focus on the features and improving them.  This is the true meaning of working on the cloud – not worrying about the technology underneath but actually being able to focus on improving the Experience Continuum.

I know there are at least two to three years before we actually see this implemented and see more details (Chatter is not expected until late 2010 to begin with).  I know that it may not happen (yes, I read the Beta Agreement — sorry, Safe Harbor statement that Marc displayed on screen as well as everybody else).  And, yes, I will be disappointed if it does not happen — but even if that is the case, the milk has been spilled.  The path to the cloud has been uncovered.

I have sustained for some time that Salesforce was focusing on the applications too much and not enough on the infrastructure, and I finally got the sense that they are turning that around (of course, they will continue to make applications and sell them).  I see them as a platform provider with some decent to good applications.

Alas, by making the cloud matter they are not merely catching up to their competitors — they may even be leaping ahead… stay tuned!

So, what do YOU think of chatter?  Is it really a revolution in the basic infrastructure? Or an underwhelming set of social tools that are not even up to par with the market?  Please let me know your thoughts…

For more of my thoughts on Social Businesses you should follow me on Twitter here.
And, don’t forget to subscribe to my RSS feed here.

Building Communities as the Saying Goes…

As I wrote in the final part of the Roadmap to SCRM series, we are plunging into an era of community participation.

Communities are so much more than the traditional forum-like model.  It is necessary to build good communities to get value and a return on the investment you put into it.

There are plenty of common wisdom sayings we use in our everyday life to guide and explain our actions.  I have found three popular sayings that apply to community building that can be used as rule of thumb.

In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king

I know this will come as a shocker, but there are lots of charlatans and “snake oil salespeople” out there.  People who not only don’t have experience and knowledge but they say with such authority and conviction that you are tempted to believe them. Alas, if you go beyond the soundbite there is no substance, no value.

These are the people that hurt a community the most since they tend to throw themselves into the role of leader or super-users.  I wrote before that communities are self-policed and self-managed, but when the community is too small it is hard to spot and “control” these charlatans.

Avoid if you can these people.  Until we have a reputation system based on more than noise made and buzzword compliance, demand and expect credentials to back up everything said.  Just because anyone can get a twitter account or a blog, does not mean they deserve to be heard.

Provide Sex Education, not Sex Training

This is a deviation from the Chinese-attributed story of teaching a man to fish versus giving them food.  This adaptation was first uttered, that I heard, by Mike Muhney in a webinar I attended – and I think it is a brilliant way to describe what your communities should be about.

Even in support communities you have to ensure that all members learn and grow.  The purpose of being a member of any community is to grow by sharing.  However, the growth should not be tactical (training), but rather methodical (education). Would you prefer that I solve your technical problem today, or that I teach you how to solve them yourself next time?

Good communities are made of people who want to extend their knowledge and both learn as well as impart valuable lessons.

A rolling stone gathers no moss

I wrote in my roadmap to SCRM series that communities are created and dismantled in short term, few of them live to be long-term.  Don’t be afraid to participate in different communities, to expand or contract them as the purpose is served or changes.

Keeping constantly moving is a way to ensure that you learn, grow, and reach new people for the different communities in which you participate.  You benefit yourself and others by cross-pollinating and frequenting different communities, by inviting new members in your communities.

Make sure to take advantage of that.

What are your favorite sayings to describe – well, anything and everything you do?  Are mine off the mark?  What do you use as your rule-of-thumb to build your online presence?

The Roadmap to SCRM – Part 5 of 5

Part 1 – Introduction
Part 2.1 – SCRM-E2.0 Pivot Point
Part 2.2 – SCRM Business Functions
Part 3 – SCRM Rules Layer
Part 4 – SCRM Channels Layer

Alas, the last part of this series (and my favorite) communities.

I do believe that communities are going to become the most important part of any social business – even to the point of quasi replacing the customer as the recipient of products, services, and experiences.  I said this in my first long post on SCRM (A Brief History of SCRM), and I still maintain it.  It is one of the two pillars of my research into 2010 and beyond.  There are three things I want to cover at this high level:

First, why communities and not clients.

A very common assumption from organizations is that communities are nothing more than groups of customers.  I defined communities before as

a like-minded group of individuals that favors two-way communication as a way to increase their power and knowledge

The critical parts of this definition are the increases in power and knowledge, not the aggregation or grouping of individuals.  Individuals will remain as they are, single entities that purchase products, receive services, and interact with the organization.  That is not going to change, nor is the delivery of experiences to customers going to change.

What must change is the way organizations interact with communities.  Until now the collective thought is that communities are “owned” by organizations and that they are entitled to the knowledge and benefits derived from them.  If the organization provides a support community, the knowledge generated by it is now part of the corporate knowledge-base.  If the organization sponsors a marketing community, it can be used a focus group.  Nothing is further from the true.

There is a lot of value to derived from a community, but none of it comes directly from the community (OK, some of it does probably — a support community will reduce the number of support tickets, a marketing community will provide insights into R&D needs, and a sales community does reduce the cost of sales – but the largest value you can obtain is not from “owning” the community).  The major value an organization can derive from a community is that it knows who the influencers for their customers are.  What better value can you obtain from a group that to know who the influencers to your customers are, and have the ability to influence them, change their mind, an even obtain a referral.

This is similar to outfitting your house’s basement with all the amenities so your high school-age son or daughter brings her or his friends over all the time.  What better piece of mind as the parent of a teenager that having them at home – and with their influencers (sorry, friends).  This is the way you should think of the communities: as the points of influence for your customer, and the people you need to interact with so they, in turn, influence your customer in your favor.

Second, purpose of communities in SCRM.

The best implementation for any community, regardless of the purpose is to provide a platform and let the users define and use their own communities.  Let them self-police and regulate their own communities (preserve the right to close communities that are offensive or otherwise detrimental to your business or society but let the community manage their own users), and you will notice a much richer knowledge and participation.

There are three purposes for communities as part of an SCRM strategy:

Ideation and Innovation – generate ideas related to product, services, features, good and bad.  Either use the information provided to innovate and improve existing components or to create new products.  The organization can participate as a member, but ideation communities are better served by letting them freely express ideas and features, acknowledge them, inform on the progress, and provide news and information about other products – not as marketing, rather as informational channel.  The role members play as active two-way participants and co-creators make them very different from focus groups (which are exclusively one-way offline communities).

Service and Support – these are traditionally forums, but are not the only example.  The idea is to have the community members assist each other, and generate knowledge that can be leveraged by the organization to augment their existing knowledge-base.  Participation from the organization as super-users or admins is necessary to maintain the community active and engaged, although heavy recruitment of super-users is an alternative, as the members don’t care where the answer comes from as long as it is correct.  A reputation system is mandatory for trust in the answers to develop.  A very important part of enlisting the community to create content is to ensure they are also there to assist in the maintenance as it changes.

Feedback – we traditionally see these communities develop as subsets of the other two, when people begin to express their opinions about product or service as a result of a service transaction or ideation implementations.  The main role of these communities is to monitor people’s feedback and respond in teal time to problems or situations that arise. Twitter is probably the best known example of how these communities are used today.  The critical aspect is to capture and act on the feedback, then use it internally to improve the underlying processes.

What’s about Sales communities?

Not part of an SCRM implementation; they tend ot be internally focused, collaborative groups that offer the ability for salespeople to collaborate and improve their jobs – but no measurable direct sales benefits to the organization.  For organizations to be able to create and perceive value from sales the current sales model of one-to-one, privileged relationships between sales people and customers must change.  No one in the organization owns the customer, the customer owns the organization.  Alas, I Don’t see that happening anytime soon, but would love to see it.

Third, what types of communities are we talking about?

Sure, when I say communities you immediately think of the traditional model of forums – but there is so much more than that to consider.  Yes, forums are one part of communities — but not the best or more important one.  They serve a specific purpose and they do have a place in your community sub-strategy, but there is so much more to communities.  Consider these community models:

  • Forums – the traditional, continuation from the old BBS (bulletin board systems) and Compuserve Forums except that these are in an open network (Internet).  The idea is to offer a place to have themed, threaded conversations.  Most often used in service communities since is easy to segment by product and problem-type.
  • Wikis – although not generally thought of as communities, the fact that they can store knowledge and share it among their members makes for good communities where collaboration and content are more important that the conversations.  Yes, they do allow for conversations, but they work much better as content manager framework than as a conversation manager (forums are excellent for that),
  • Blogs – yes, they are communities.  Sure, they tend to be weaker than wikis for content management, after all there is only one author and the content is mostly static after publication, but the serve well as a tools to reach more and more people, and enter into conversations.  The threaded comments section is very similar to a forum, but the need for content before the conversation and the static segmentation by posts makes them not very efficient for lengthy, multi-topic conversation.
  • Newsletter – this is the perfect example of a one-way community used to spread knowledge.  It severely lacks on real communities options for two-way conversations and the spreading of knowledge from all members to all members, but it works very well for passive communities of people that tend to not get engaged and mostly read (you did hear about the 90-9-1 rules – right? newsletter cater to the 99-1-0 rule)
  • Offline – I know, incredible that I would mention a community that has no bearing on technology-driven implementations.  But that is because SCRM is NOT a technology-driven implementation, and if you follow the basic definition for communities I used, and the fact that organizations are trying to reach all the communities that influence their customers, offline are the ones that deserve more attention than online, since most people spend far more time in offline communities than they do in online communities.

After you select a purpose for the community and a model that caters to that purpose, you need to define the model of community you want to leverage.  There are three types of communities to choose from:

  • Task-Driven – short-term communities created and used for a specific purpose. Also called ad-hoc communities, they focus the interactions in a specific event or situation.  An example is a feedback community prepared for the launch of a product.  When the product is launched, the task is completed that the community disappears (although, sometimes it changes into a support community – but the conversion rates are not as good as recruiting rates for new support communities).
  • Objective-Driven – long-term, established communities with a specific objective (e.g. collect ongoing feedback, provide support).  They don’t have specific end-dates (e.g. an event occurring), and they have large quantities of active members participating in them.  Good example of this is a service and support community, where new members join periodically and even though the product may change versions or features, the community continues to provide support.  Over time it becomes a recognized element in the experience of owning that specific product.
  • Impromptu – these are the ones that show the most promise.  They come together without notice, for a specific event or task, and they are created by their members without prodding or help, there is not maintenance or rules to abide by, and the organization is not aware of their existence immediately.  The promise for these communities is for organizations to be able to capture real-time actionable insights that would change the way they act in light of those insights.  A sports game community built up and discarded shortly after the game, providing wisdom-of-the-crowds to coaches and analysts?  The feedback affected people can provide back to the company during a PR crisis?  The use of twitter during the recent Iranian elections?  All examples of impromptu communities with great value.  The best way to sponsor them is to provide the platform for communities to come together without notice, carry out their short-lived purpose, and then move on.

The community is the basis for Social CRM to exist and for Social Businesses to grow.  There is no social without the communities.

I know, you are going to tell me how social is all about the customer, not the community.  However, show me a customer that functions without a community and I will agree with you.  Would you rather aim for managing a relationship with a single customer at a high cost? Or would it be better to engage with multiple communities and affect the same customer via them in an organic form at far lower cost?

What do you think of this post? the entire series? is there anything I am missing in the series or here? are you working on your roadmap to SCRM? would love to know more about it…

The Roadmap to SCRM, Part 3 of 5

Part 1 – Introduction
Part 2.1 – Pivot Point
Part 2.2 – Business Functions

It is important to recap a couple of things that we said before:

  • The SCRM Strategy is composed of multiple sub-strategies, some of which you may already have in existence
  • The roadmap to SCRM is an iterative process, where you will re-visit many times each strategy and sub-strategy

Why am I emphasizing this? Because we are now at the rules layer of the model. There is no physical or quantum method you can leverage that will get it right the first time.  It will take several passes at each, improving from the good (and bad) experiences.

First, let’s bring up the chart on how to create a SCRM strategy for reference:

Slide2The rules layer is simple to explain, but takes a lifetime to master.

I won’t be able to do it justice in one single post and I don’t think I could address all the issues and questions in one sub-post for each.  This is becoming part of my research agenda for next year.  This post is only going to briefly touch in the high-level issues that affect SCRM, but more details will come next year.

The following chart shows the six different sub-strategies for the rules layer – in the order you should tackle them (from the inside out):

Slide5Segment – The  different groups of customers affected by a business function.  The critical aspect for SCRM is to go beyond the traditional revenue- or profit-driven segmentation and begin to consider social function, social channels, even reputations and rankings in different communities when building different segments.
Business Rules – Rules that govern how each of the business functions and processes will execute.  Some business rules may be mandated by compliance, some are controlled by industry-wide practices you must support to remain competitive.  Business Rules are implemented in conjunction with the other layers in this model, they cannot be implemented separately.  Social considerations for rules are aligning them with the policies and stated positions to become a social business.
Service Level Agreements – Service Level Agreements are about managing customers’ expectations.  SLAs are set at different levels by channel and segment.  Social considerations for SLAs are to adapt the delivery of specific functions to the new social channels (promise what you can do, then over-deliver.  If you cannot do, don’t promise).
Measurement – A measurement strategy is about the internal tools and metrics used to measure efficiency of business functions.   This is  done by correlation of metrics from the front-office processes (effectiveness metrics usually) with back-office metrics (performance metrics traditionally).  Social Considerations for measurement strategies are to accommodate the new metrics and KPIs for the newly deployed channels.
Feedback – Feedback is the external tools and metrics to measure effectiveness of business functions.  Deciding at what part in the process to collect feedback, and how to use it to measure the effectiveness of the process from the customer’s perspective, is also closely related to the Analytical sub-strategy. Social aspects of the Feedback collection are related to the inordinate amount of data collected in the new social channels and how to use the social channels to collect feedback.
Analytical – This is where a large part of my research will be next year.  The idea is how to control the very incredibly large amount of data and feedback collected in unstructured form, and use that to further the business.  This sub-strategy is about figuring how to create actionable insights, and what to do with them in a social business.

How does it work all together?

Building sub-strategies independent of each other will not yield any advantage over today’s methods for collecting and using data.  The key to using these components to create actionable insights is to focus on the client-expected outcome and mesh that to an existing or created experience, then look how the six elements above describe that process.

An example, if you are going to implement technical support:

  1. are you going to do it for all segments? who is entitled to it?
  2. how are you going to deliver it for each? what is the result? what data will you need? what data will you produce? how will you manage it? what will the results be? what business rules will apply to this function? for each segment?
  3. what service levels are you aiming to achieve? how will you set expectations? how will you manage those expectations?
  4. how will you measure the success? what metrics will you use to measure success? how will you know that the process is working internally?
  5. will you collect feedback? how will you know you are doing a good job? how will customers be able to improve the process? how will you use the feedback you collect?
  6. what insights could you gather from the completed process? what will you do with them? where will you apply them? where will the feedback go within the organization to become useful? how will the customers know they were listened to?

This is the point where you go back to the beginning of this post, scan through it again and come back to this exact point a second time and say

What is the difference between doing this and doing a traditional CRM implementation?

Some time ago I wrote my first post in SCRM.  The title was “Don’t call it Social CRM – just add Social to your CRM“.

Building a SCRM strategy or deploying it is no different from building a CRM strategy and deploying it – except for two tiny, tiny details: the volume of feedback you collect has increased by magnitudes in excess of 100X the original feedback you used to collect via surveys (and it is unstructured), and the emergence of communities (try a different mental picture).

This picture will give a more clear detail of what matters in SCRM — and also show you the reasons those two items are my research agenda for next year.


So, what do you think?  Any questions so far? Are we moving closer to mastering SCRM? Are you more confident about success with it?

Updated: Link to next part for easy reading Part 4 – SCRM Channels Layer

Three (more) Rules for Making Social Marketing Work

As promised, I’ve decided to share (and test) my next three rules of social media marketing, as a follow on to my last post.

These are loosely inspired by the “immutable laws” from Ries and Trout, and are based on some of the models my firm is developing.  They also aim to be observations and discussion starters as much as recommendations.

I welcome your feedback, critique and ideas for additional rules, and will plan to post more real-time thoughts and updates via Twitter.  So here goes.

It’s better to be better, than it is to be first

I know, I said this list is loosely inspired by Ries and Trout – but I just couldn’t help this one.  Traditional marketing says that you should be first.  But I’m convinced that social media rewards the fast follower.  Not only are switching costs dropping (to zero?), but the nature of social media makes it incredibly easy to share hot tips, create buzz and look for the lower price or better option.  Take MySpace vs. Facebook.  MySpace was first, but by the middle of 2008 Facebook passed MySpace in monthly visitors and hasn’t looked back (note that MySpace still has the second-highest market share of US visits for social sites).  Plus, many early social marketing campaigns were essentially market tests with little or no way to really measure ROI.  Some worked, some didn’t.  Now, better tools and emerging ROI models allow us to create better campaigns and user experiences and returns for our investors – and build on the successes (and failures) of others.

Social conversations continue (or start) offline as well

Last time I mentioned that social media is the ultimate discussion starter.  But it’s not the only discussion starter (or finisher).  Communities, and user groups and focus groups existed long before social networking!  And in work environments, organizations that have the most effective knowledge sharing have created a social infrastructure (business platform) that not only supports multiple social channels but also traditional channels like email.  Social marketing doesn’t exist in a vacuum.  And just as radio didn’t go away when television came along, traditional marketing programs won’t either.  For this reason any reasonable Community Marketing Model (yes, I have one) needs to include both online and offline touch points and a seamless weave of social and traditional marketing as you move from conversations, to deep discussions and learning from the community.

Social marketing IS a battle of perceptions (and good content)

To get the part, you have to play the part.  If user-generated content and connections are the primary currency of social media, effective social marketing needs to not only be informational or clever or offer unique content, but also establish the company or their representatives as regular, trusted members of the community.  A number of successful B2B social networking sites and portals have done just this, by promoting both the benefits of reaching peers and having ready access to unique content or research, experts, news feeds etc (see common ground for a great example).  In traditional marketing, the message shapes perception.  In social marketing, the community increasingly shapes your brand.  Before, perception was an outcome of good marketing.  Now, having a good perception in the market may be necessary to even getting your message out!

What do you think?  Do these three new rules hit the mark as well as the first three? Any other ones?

Master Interviews: Sanjay Dholakia, Lithium CMO, on Communities

I first wrote about collaborative service in 2002 when few Forums vendors existed.

We have seen since the launch of very large and very successful communities, a fair amount of them using Lithium, one the leading vendors for communities.  They use a deployment model that helps their customers leverage reputation and analytics.  I asked Sanjay to explain in as few words as a marketer can what is the difference between their offer and others.  Below are his answers

(note: the embedded links will take you to material in Lithium’s website that complements the answers.  They are provided as optional add-on information)

1. Lithium has been running an incredible rate of growth in the last months – what do you see as the basis for the heavy demand from customers?

The revolution in social technologies – and the generational change associated with that — has fundamentally altered the way customers want to interact with businesses and each other.  And, for every business, their  customers are their company.  Increasingly companies are realizing that they can’t take a chance with their customers – they are realizing that if they don’t create a social customer network of their customers and prospects, those customers and prospects will go to competitors that offer the engagement model they want.  Customers are now in control of the conversation.  But, this can create opportunity.  Savvy companies are realizing that creating this customer network  allows them to unlock millions of dollars in value by allowing customers to innovate, promote, and support on behalf of the company.

This video illustrates the point  http://bit.ly/QaTUu.  This story in the New York Times about Verizon shows the benefit in practice.  http://bit.ly/wujg2

That last article probably illustrates why Lithium in particular is experiencing such dramatic growth ahead of the industry – mainly because we have been demonstrating real, hard ROI with our customers.  Most other companies are still at the theoretical stage of the discussion.  And, in this economy, real results and ROI matter – particularly when you’re talking about a company’s customers.  Our customers have been showing that Social CRM — where online customer communities are integrated with the broader social web and traditional CRM systems — is already producing tangible, measurable results for companies that do it well. USA Today recently published an article highlighting the value for Lithium customers like myFICO, Lenovo, and Sage Software http://bit.ly/KhVpl — myFICO documents over 40% increase in customer spend; Lenovo sees a 20% reduction in call center activity; and Sage has seen an increase of 20 points in its NPS score.  Our growth rate is being driven by the success of our customers.

2. What do you see as the biggest challenge for Social CRM?

I would say that the biggest challenge to Social CRM is underestimating what it takes to succeed.  As mentioned, if done right, there are huge returns to be had.  However, many companies do not succeed (one report said that 75% of all customer communities fail to reach 1000 users).  Our communities on the other hand are doing about 2 billion page views per month today.  We believe the challenges for most lie in two specific areas.  First, many companies underestimate the importance of Reputation Management in the underlying Social CRM technology.  Social CRM is fundamentally different from any other enterprise software initiative in that customers must WANT to engage – they cannot be mandated to participate or use applications like employees can.  Reputation Management is critical in the software to drive the behavior that drives success.  The second area that creates challenge for companies is in change management – this is a fundamentally new mode of interacting with customers and requires a strategic shift in some organizations.  We have been collecting best practices for over 10 years and sharing them with our customers to ensure that they have the highest chances of success.  Lois Townsend from our customer HP recently discussed how she was able to gain internal sponsorship for Social CRM and how she recommends gong about the change management process.  http://bit.ly/73jwP

3. How can communities and other channels, like Twitter or social networking sites, integrate to provide a better picture of the Social Customer?

It has always been important to get as good a picture as possible of one’s customer.  Traditionally, that has meant understanding ‘characteristics’ and ‘buying behavior’.  However, customer communities and Social CRM offer something powerful in addition – specifically, “what are my customers thinking and saying?” By integrating views of customers across social networks, companies can now better understand customer behavior, their preferences, their influence, and their networks. This integrated view allows companies to efficiently gather requirements, effectively market to customers, and better serve their customers. We take our view of the possibilities even one step further – this integration can not only give companies a better picture of the Social Customer, but, done properly, it can actually EMPOWER the Social Customer to advocate on behalf of the company.  For example, Lithium’s twitter integration and Social Web Connect http://bit.ly/11H5BP allows the customer community and network to answer questions directly or promote community conversations to their networks.  Company employees and agents are no longer the gating factor – this allows companies to take true advantage of the scale advantages of the social web.  Too many companies are still thinking about the social web as one more ‘channel’ that their employees have to listen to and monitor – that doesn’t scale – it just makes the company’s life harder, when the goal was to make it better.  If they actually integrate the social networks and communities such that their customer network is carrying the load, now they have created real value.

4.  Lithium has a scientist on staff who does a lot of research in how to do communities and social CRM better, has that helped you grow the awareness in the market?

For sure.  Because we are the only Enterprise SaaS provider in the Social CRM and customer community market, we have the advantage of sitting on top of billions of bits of interaction data across hundreds of communities.  Our chief scientist, Michael Wu, leads our efforts to discover new insights daily.  This research and enablement of Social CRM is absolutely critical to our business.  We have found that there is a deep hunger in the market for data on measurement of social behavior and impact to the business.  One of the things that made a big splash earlier this year was our announcement of the Community Health Index – or “CHI”.  Michael and his team were able to devise a formula that captured the health of customer communities in a single number, in the same way that FICO sophisticated algorithm captures credit risk in a single number or score.  We published that formula as an open standard because we felt that helped the entire market – we’ve since seen it show up in places like business school curriculum lists!  It really has helped raise awareness and give the market confidence overall.  The other thing that Michael and team have been able to offer our customers is a unique Benchmark analysis http://bit.ly/QQznj.  We are able to compare the behavioral and statistical data of a customer’s community to aggregated benchmarks of similar communities so that we can offer advice on best practice and specific actions to improve their Social CRM efforts.  This ability to compare to best practice benchmarks has really captured the imagination of many in the market and, again, has helped raise awareness both for Social CRM and Lithium in particular.

5.  I am fascinated by the fact that you track over 100 metrics of usage for each customer.  How do you use all that data?

Doing the work that we just discussed with the Community Health Index and Lifecycle Benchmark analysis requires capturing all of this data – without this level of tracking, you can’t do this analysis – it is a significant differentiator for Lithium since no one else in the Social CRM space tracks as many details.  In addition to the things we discussed above, the data helps us deliver the most vibrant communities in the industry.  Let me use and example to illustrate the point.  One of the things we track is which messages a user has actually read – and making that visible to them.  Imagine if every time you came back to your email application, it showed all of your messages as “marked read” regardless of what the reality was – that would be pretty useless as an email application, not to mention annoying.  That’s how other customer community and Social CRM applications work.  Lithium, on the other hand, because we track those 100+ usage metrics, can provide a much more satisfying user experience that keeps people coming back.  With a vibrant community, the data then helps our customers drive tangible business value by identifying – based on behavioral data —  key influencers and advocates of today and tomorrow.

6.  What is the future for Lithium and for Social CRM?

Given the value that enterprises have been seeing with Social CRM and customer communities, we think the future is clear. Many of the drivers and trends have been laid out in this Social CRM whitepaper http://bit.ly/1AyGlN .  While the industry is in its early days, the dramatic growth and adoption rates signal to us that customer communities and Social CRM are rapidly approaching “must-have, mission-critical” status.  If your competitors have a customer community and are engaging in these Social CRM practices and you are not, you will be at a competitive disadvantage.  Today, a company – of any size – isn’t can’t really be in business without a website.  Tomorrow, a company  won’t really be able to be in business without a customer community and Social CRM infrastructure.

Disclosure: I did not take payment for this write up nor do I have an ongoing partnership or business relationship with Lithium.  I don’t expect to get any business from them because of this post, nor do I expect any other sort of compensation from them or anyone else for writing this.  My interviews don’t indicate endorsement for a product or vendor, just an interesting person in the world of Customer Strategies.  You are hereby admonished to do your own Due Diligence before deciding to invest or acquire this tool or enter into an agreement with this vendor.  I am not liable for your decisions to adopt or implement this or any other product or vendor reviewed – you are on your own making your decisions.  The opinions of Sanjay Dholakia are his and his only, I just respect them.