I think you've figured out by now that I really like what Jive Software is doing in this social productivity software space. Nobody's perfect, but they're still on top, in my book.
And -- at Jive -- there's nobody as fun and creative as Sam Lawrence. If you aren't following his blog, you should.
I wasn't able to participate, but an incredible list of questions was created that I found fascinating. I also realized I had some specific points of view on many of them.
Matter of fact, I felt compelled to respond to most of them ... ;-)
So, not to hijack anyone's thoughts, but I thought it would be interesting to cull out a few, and offer up my personal thoughts, based on our experiences here.
So -- You Ask .. And I Attempt An Answer !!
Do you find that customers come asking for your advice thinking “Strategy” or thinking “Campaign”? (short term versus long term)
I think that "customers" in this term refer to the customers of either software vendors or consultancies, just to clarify.
I would offer that if you're thinking in terms of campaign, you're thinking about it way too small, and most likely, you'll be very disappointed with the results.
What's better, a quality campaign, or a quality strategy? A customer satisfaction campaign or a customer satisfaction strategy? A competitive campaign, or a competitive strategy?
If you think this whole 2.0 think is big (and many people do), "strategy" is the right way to think about it. Campaigns have a beginning, and end, and defined inputs and outputs. Strategies don't really end, and can evolve in interesting ways to achieve very broad -- and surprising -- objectives.
In context to my previous question, how should an organization address compliance matters within the social space, e.g. with respect to the information exchanged ?
Interestingly enough, I have a point of view on this, not only because it's my issue at EMC, but EMC is a vendor of information compliance solutions, we have a compliance office, etc.
The trick here is not to single out social productivity from other forms of electronic communication. Whatever policy and capabilities you have for email, files, IM, et. al. -- should be applied to social conversations, whether inside or outside of the firewall.
To single out blogs, wikis, discussion, forums, etc. as "something special" misses the point from a corporate responsibility perspective -- it's all digital information -- don't discriminate. As an example of something that EMC sells along these lines (that we're using internally, BTW, take a look at this.).
Early on, we started thinking along those lines. Smart move on our part ...
For an online community, what are some of the more effective tools you’ve seen that drive interaction? Blogs, detailed profiles, instant messaging?
Answer: none of the above. What makes this stuff work is passionate people who want to express and share their points of views on things they care about. They write great blogs, fill out their profiles, use a variety of communication techniques, etc.
Find the passionate people, get them engaged, the rest kind of happens naturally.
How do free tools work such as google analytics for a smaller company?
I'm not going to answer this, because I think -- given the problem at hand -- no one's come up with a way to quantifiably measure a qualitative experience in this domain. And that's what we're all after -- quality, not quantity.
Have you seen prediction markets catch on as a market research tool?
We've experimented a bit, and come away with the conclusion that they're extremely useful -- about 50% of the time. Sure, sometimes the crowd is wise, but other times they're completely wrong. Which is why we have winners and losers on Wall Street, right?
Rather than just open blogging, having people submit content and someone monitoring what goes up on the blog?
Yuck. Don't bother. The best blogs are written by passionate people who care enough to express and share. I've seen these sorts of blogs, and I find them of a poorer quality -- and hence less useful -- than those written by passionate people.
Monitoring? We use our "social computer" for that -- our blogging community has gotten into the habit of looking out for our own in terms of feedback, and our visible bloggers have gotten into the habit of using that community if they're unsure how something will be perceived.
Your thoughts about hiring a “ghost” blogger to represent your company (in conjunction with an IT media firm)?
What an awful thought. Blogs are about authenticity, transparency, openness. Hiring someone to portray you in that manner just rubs me the wrong way. And, besides, anyone who's tried this has decided it wasn't that good an idea -- based on what I've heard.
Imagine you hired someone to represent you on an online dating service. Sooner or later, the truth would come out, wouldn't it?
What are your thoughts on controlling content of a blog?
We don't, because it wouldn't be a blog then, would it? It'd be some corporate publication, and we've got PLENTY OF THOSE ALREADY, thank you.
I tell people that the oats look much better before they go through the horse.
We ask people to use good judgment. We remind them that they're representing our company, and all of us who work here. It's a big responsibility, so don't take it lightly, folks. We can tolerate a few mistakes, differences of opinion, slightly inappropriate wording, etc. -- that's part of the fun.
There was one guy we had to go to and gently suggest that perhaps his blogging activities weren't really helping himself -- or EMC. He responded pretty well, given the circumstances.
So are we going to start seeing people construct bogus negative comments just to show validity?
Haven't seen that yet -- in any form. You don't have to be negative to be a real person, do you? We do see a few well-intentioned criticisms and suggestions from our bloggers -- but it's offered in the right spirit.
We tell people there's a difference between disagreeing and being disagreeable.
Can we take a stand against ROI because it is quantitative and this is clearly a qualitative realm? We need to help businesses re-frame their language.
Yeah, I agree with that, but in the world I work with, I do have to sketch out ROIs for certain individuals. It's not hard to do -- if you take their ROI concerns in isolation.
As an example, EMC spends a lot of money flying smart, articulate people around to get in front of customers and have some pretty interesting conversations. There's never enough smart people to go around, and travelling is expensive on several levels.
What if we could have our smart people write a blog? Let's see: increased value of that person, less travel (or travel more effective), etc. Incremental cost -- near zero. Additional risk -- near zero.
BTW, this is the same person you put in front of important people every day -- unscripted, and unmonitored.
Now, the actual ROI expands to multiple additional dimensions, but -- why bother with all that? That's enough for the ROI-interested person. Move on.
When starting “small” how do we keep interest of our publics?
The natural tendency is to think big. However, communities tend to form small and grow. The single most important aspect -- that's turning out to be very hard -- is to teach people about community dynamics. It's about what the community wants, not what you want, and finding that balance.
And, if anyone has a magic pill that I could prescribe to about 5,000 people here, I'm all ears ...
Manager for internal communities? Yes. They need fostering and managing just like an external one.
Is it possible to apply that approach to internal rollouts?
This has turned out to be the single hardest thing for us. Community developments skills (or interest in acquiring them!) is an exceedingly rare commodity, at least in our culture. We're trying different things, and making progress, but this has turned out to be the hardest thing.
So, better give it some thought. People with psychology or sociology backgrounds are becoming more interesting in this dynamic, no? We look for these people who have the natural characteristics, and we work with what we have.
How do you sell social software when there are so many free software programs out there?
Easy. You get better time-to-value with packaged software than other alternatives. And it's all about creating value, right?
As an example, at EMC we had multiple "free" solutions at our disposal, including EMC's own eRoom, Microsoft SharePoint, and lord-knows-what-else.
We elected to buy something. You should too.
How does one justify the resource costs for the types of roles talked about in this discussion? Are there any reports or research that support the justification for such resources?
I am now framing the justification in terms of "acceleration". Sooner or later, our company will become proficient at this stuff at a natural rate, whether we focus on it or not.
What you're paying for is accelerating that proficiency. Now, that assumes that proficiency drives business value -- you just want it sooner than later, don't you?
I haven't found any useful reports or research that justify such resources. I'm OK with that, since -- by the time there's a nice body of quantifiable research -- it's old hat, you're late to the game, and you've missed the opportunity to create unique business value for your company.
As an example, I'm sure there are great studies on the value of email in large corporations. But that isn't really an interesting topic these days, is it? It's kind of assumed.
Where do you see social networking/communities being driven from within the enterprise? Marketing? PR? Marcom? Other?
Funny, it started as a "marketing thing", but the marketing guys at EMC have been eclipsed by other functions. Engineering groups, for example, have turned out to be enormous users of this stuff. Customer service. Our Global Services consulting organizations. HR. And so on.
That's why we -- early on -- saw this as a corporate-wide capability (like email!) and not limited to any particular business function. You might consider the same.
Do training costs fall in the soft costs area?
First, anything you need to be trained on to use isn't gonna fill the bill. However, we've invested in a "user enablement" person who's a friendly, knowledgeable person and has all the time in the world to answer your question, show you how it's done, explain the rules of the road, etc.
We wanted a very social experience. Think about that for a moment ...
This person also produces self-help materials -- wikis, short videos, webinars, etc. -- based on the questions he receives.
Works out very well -- short money invested, big benefit. Note that this person is not part of IT, or our training organization. They're on a special team with a special mission -- make this fun!
What are the typical ROI metrics used to justify investment in such a tool/initiative?
Strategically, it wasn't a question for us. We knew we had to do something, and quick. However, different stakeholders are looking for different kinds of ROI, and we've elected to take them one-at-a-time and produce context-sensitive justification around their personal hot buttons, as described above.
Trying to do an intergalactic, all-aspects, all-audiences ROI on this stuff is just too hard, and isn't all that useful, anyway.
The numbers of companies having a community strategy is quantitative. Aren’t we missing the qualitative?
Yes, abosolutely. I am very skeptical about the percentages myself. Now, in the course of my day job, I meet literally hundreds of companies a year. I'd put the real number (e.g. get it and are being honest) in the low single digits. Or, maybe they're doing something, but it's one small group to solve one small problem.
What do you think about having a so called “blog” without comments for an organization that’s afraid of receiving negative comments?
I think they need to get over it. People are saying negative things anyway -- it's your choice as to whether you want to pretend it isn't happening, or you want to engage. And a corporate culture -- or brand -- that can intelligently handle criticism -- well, that's a good thing, isn't it?
I will say -- based on my experiences with external blogging -- there are people who seem to be mixing commenting with alcohol and/or other medications. I think I'm doing them a service by deleting their comments -- I think it's common courtesy.
BWI -- Blogging While Intoxicated -- not a pretty thing.
Documentum now provides a release that enables discussion threads on documents. And companies like Jive, obviously, enable discussions as well as documents. Will there be a sensible convergence in this space, so that you don’t sacrifice capabilities in either the document management or the discussion forum categories?
Oh yes. We're not there yet, but this convergence will absolutely happen -- there's no question in my mind. And, for what it's worth -- I'm very close to driving this convergence at EMC -- both as a user of technology, but also as a senior exec.
I see this as a "social layer" over existing content management capabilities -- one shouldn't exist without the other.
Putting people first sounds easy, but can the panelists talk about the cultural challenges with actually doing this?
Well, we're doing it, does that count?
Seriously though, you're right, this is more about social engineering of the new enterprise rather than anything else. And people, being social animals, will model their behavior after people they respect.
The trick is to find a critical mass of such "social leaders" in parts of the enterprise, get them to use the new tools, demonstrate the new behaviors, and others will follow.
It takes time, but it works. We're about 9 months into it, and you can visibly see the cultural changes starting to radiate throughout the organization in concentric circles. Big fun.
What are some ways to measure the success of online communities?
I don't know. How do you measure the success of a really good party? Or a really good conversation? Or a very intelligent point of view?
I mean, Nike has had a great experience, but they've got a very specific community for a very specific purpose.
I think we'll get better on this in the future, but I for one am not waiting for better measurement to go do the right thing.
What government bodies have online communities / strategies?
I've encountered a few, but they're definitely not in the majority. And I think they're taking a fair amount of career risk in sticking their neck out.
But, viewed alternatively, if you see government's role as serving the people, you've gotta believe that we'll see a lot more of this in the future.
How do you regain interest in an already established social media outlet, which has gone through a lame duck period?
You put energy and focus into it. The lame duck phenom is nothing more than people losing interest all around. Keep it interesting, keep it engaging -- people will come back.
Some people seem to think that this stuff runs itself. It doesn't.
How can we increase the quality of social content in terms of relevance without putting too much burden on the community members?
Competing for recognition, prizes, etc. seems to work really well.
It's not a burden if they want to do it.
Your thoughts on utilizing social networking to grow your customer base in a small business/mid-size business environment that primarily has relationships with customers managed by individual sales/account managers. How can social networking be useful to help in such situations to grow the business?
I think you have to be prepared to bring something to the table to make the community valuable.
I meet people everyday that think that if we put a forum out there, somehow it will magically attract proficient, contributing users, with little or no intellectual investment on our part. And, every quarter, we seem to put another one out there that fails along the same lines.
I know that when Amex tried to do something similar, they invested in people and content that actually was of value to their target audience -- they brought something to the table.
So, what do you bring to the table that an SMB person would find engaging? Other than a discussion around your product or offering?
We recently switched our external (student) communities to Jive Clearspace Community, and we’re trying to decide whether to use that same instance for internal collaboration, or to use Jive Clearspace or Microsoft SharePoint Server. We are also trying to figure how how to bridge internal & external collaboration.
Well, we see internal and external communities as the same continuum. We want to use Clearspace for both. Sure, maybe we'll have separate instances for different reasons, but the user experience ought to be pretty much the same.
Bridging the domains isn't intrinsically hard; you've just got to find someone who's willing to bridge the gap. The technology supports it; finding someone who's going to put the time into it is another matter.
Have u conducted any research on the companies which have used social software effectively? If yes, would you provide some examples.
Ummm -- no one's researched us, but I'd offer that EMC is starting to do just that. So much more to do, though ...
More openness internally - less sensitivity. Great opportunity to teach E2.0 behaviors readying folks to move outside
Whoever offered this comment -- you nailed it! It's all about skills, behaviors and mindset. And, if you can't make this stuff work internally, you have no business whatsoever going external.
How do you position Social Platforms within the myriad of forms of collaboration (messaging, communications, docs, etc) without making it just another tools to remember ?
Before we implemented -- this was a big question.
After we implemented -- the questions just went away.
Technically speaking, we position this technology as
- "asynchronous" -- you can interact on your own schedule, unlike concalls, IM, etc. and more like email
- "one to many" -- a group discussion, unlike phone calls, or emails with small numbers of recipients
- "researchable" -- all information is available at any time, to any one
- "engageable" -- if you're curious, go talk to the people who were contributing -- that's what you really want anyway, right?
Or, you can just wait until they see it up and running, and they'll get it.
Are companies bringing business partners into their networks?
Not yet, but we will be soon. The level of capability and investment is turning out to be significantly higher than what we needed for internal proficiency.
Costs - has anyone looked at the percentage of total costs that are accounted for by technology versus people costs?
For our internal use:
Technology costs -- very low (at least for us, and that's compared with other technology projects we routinely undertake). People costs -- 3-4 dedicated people, so that's a bit more significant.
What do you think about the need to “connect” the inside and outside (towards customers/partners) of social interaction & collaboration?
Yep -- that's the goal state -- you get it. But we're starting with our side of the conversation (internal) first.
Is there a future for a merge between intra and extranet?
Ours is currently merged to a reasonably high degree. It was a pain in the patootie. The trick was to categorize all content types (using Documentum, naturally), and teach people to categorize upon creation.
What industries are more appropriate for building communities? Do you see any differences in how people interact in the technical/scientific space (maybe not as open to participate in a community)?
Do you have a high proportion of passionate knowledge workers? You're a candidate. It's that simple -- at least to me.
Is it better to try to build your own online community or just sponsor and get involved with independent social networks that already exist in your industry? Which has more traction?
They're not mutually exclusive, and the same set of "passionate engagers" are doing both.
Which department typically heads up social software? IT, Marketing….?
At EMC, I work in marketing, but I don't think of it as a marketing problem. We're doing it for the whole company, and not just the marketing folks. We all see it as a corporate initiative.
I met a guy who's been very successful at this as well, and he worked for an IT function. But it wasn't your normal company, nor your normal IT group, and he wasn't your average guy ;-) BTW, I'm not your average marketing guy, either ;-)
HR usually turns out to be the most passionate about this stuff, but struggles to spread its use beyond the HR group.
I would say -- find someone who's very influential and very passionate about this stuff, and go from there.
Can one social software offering adequately serve as both enterprise and extranet, or are they really different enough that they need to be separate?
We believe the answer needs to be "yes", so we're going down that path with Jive.
I have heard that Social Networks for businesses can lower support costs due to self service. Are there any hard facts to backup this claim? Also, any employee retention facts due to Social Networks
We have hard facts based on our own experience that validates both statements. However, our perceived ROI goes far, far beyond that.
Be careful on what you choose for justification. If you build your communities with the sole purpose of call deflection -- as an example -- you'll perhaps miss the bigger benefit, which is more customers, happier customers -- who tend to spend more ;-)
What is best practice for providing Search across a Enterprise-created support knowledgebase and community-authored content?
We'll be using our own Document-based capability for this. Not a hard problem for us.
However, tags are turning out to be better, and -- even better -- being able to ask someone for advice, like "what should I be looking at?".
What have you found to be the biggest unexpected benefit, or use of Business Social Software?What are the critical success factors for implementing a social network in a “legally sensitive” industry vertical like pharma, healthcare or finance?
For me, it was the cultural change. We're a better company now. And -- interestingly enough -- the people who are engaging in the platform tell us they're getting smarter about the company, our industry, etc. They're better connected to each other. They like working here. They're rapidly evolving as the leaders of tomorrow -- far faster than before.
It's hard to describe -- it's almost magical. And I'm reluctant to discuss it, because I end up sounding all preachy and cuddly-wuddly. But it is an extremely powerful effect, and shouldn't be discounted.
Where can I buy the Enterprise Octopus?
Yeah -- I want one too ....
And A Final Note
These are great discussions -- anyone want to start a wiki on this?