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January 2, 2013 in Big Data, Information Lifecycle Management, Social Media | Tags: Business, collaboration, Information Integrity, Internet Marketing, Online Communities, Social Contribution, Social equity, Social marketing, Social media, Trustworthiness | 1 comment
Changing social platforms is like moving to live in a new country.
How do I know? Because I have done the latter three times and met the same hurdles to a settled existence as I now detect in moving to a new platform on social media.
The largest of those hurdles is collateral. When I came to live in the US, for example, I had no credit rating, because there was no record stateside of my economic conduct. I had no guarantors other than my employer because friends and family lived in Europe. Slowly I established myself, connecting with the economy and communities until my rating facilitated the more desirable loan rates.
The second of the major hurdles is equity or net worth. Equity comprises assets, liquid and fixed. Liquidity or cash is necessary for every day living, the small transactions that allow us to commute, feed ourselves and be entertained. Fixed assets are a little more problematic, because they are usually hard to convert to liquid status. Furthermore they tend to be anchored in the environment from which you have departed, and have little value in the new environment. Owning a house in Europe has no weight when trying to buy a house in the US, and vice versa.
The same holds true when one considers investing effort in an additional or alternate social platform. While you may have a generic social score aggregated across active platforms, your credit rating on a new, or seldom used platform is non-existent. Collateral in this case is not about your financial credit rating, it is your trustworthiness as a social participant. Just as in immigration that rating has to be built gradually and cannot be transferred from the old to the new.
The analogy is consistent for equity as well. Equity in social terms is the value of contributions. These most commonly are the status updates, messages, tweets, replies, mentions that make up the social media conversations of each second, hour and day of our lives. It is also the knowledge base and territorial familiarity of that platform, knowing who does or knows what, where expertise lies, or when particular events occur, or what time is best to capture the attention of your networking collaborators.
All this is platform equity. Not surprisingly very little, if any, of that equity is transferable. Those contacts, the followers and those followed, like the friends and relations in the old world, belong and remain on that platform. Those contributions and the manner in which you supplied them is also tied to the platform. Unlike property or disposable assets these cannot be liquidated into cash.
The new platform requires new equity and collateral, it cannot easily be bought, at least not without compromising trustworthiness. The only alternative is to invest a similar amount of time and effort in building equity on the new platform, thus forcing a decision on whether to build and then maintain multiple platform equity and collateral. That factorial investment might be too high a price to pay, especially for those individuals whose roles do not include 100% social engagement.
There is one positive to this situation and it is somewhat paradoxical in the fact that the fixed social equity is more versatile than the liquid. I refer to blogs. The platform that best supports communicating complexity, rationale and clarification. Blog posts like this one allow ideas and insights to be expanded, formatted and packaged for distribution through any social media platform. However they do only offer the foundational piece; the interactions, connections and short communications still have to be performed.
There are several implications of the above, especially as we consider scale:
Consistency: Equity and collateral are both affected by inconsistency. And we all know that consistency is more than desirable in social media, it is almost obligatory. However context can vary and what might be considered consistent in one platform could be seen as inconsistent even contradictory in another. Furthermore maintaining dialogues and connections across multiple platforms can easily foster miscommunications, especially if the connections themselves participate on multiple platforms. Since we cannot easily store our contributions, we cannot easily reference our interlocutors’ or our own previous conversations. The more platforms we engage with the higher the likelihood of miscommunication and inconsistency.
Social Marketing Investment: It would be fair to assume that few social-media active consumers will engage heavily on a large number of platforms and will more likely inhabit and contribute on a manageable handful (2-4). It is also unlikely that consumers of specific brands will inhabit the same platforms. This is not dissimilar to the position industry faced with the proliferation of television channels in the latter part of last century. The answer then as now is to promote on the most popular channels or platforms. Unlike television however marketing organizations would be cautioned against abandoning platforms that drop in popularity, since their collateral and equity will remain, albeit diminished over time. The danger is of course that the least attended platform then becomes the greatest liability. Such platforms are more prone to negative activity that could fester unaddressed.
Social Collaboration: Perhaps the biggest challenge for industry will be in the requirements for and selection of collaborative services, especially if the components and resources have preferred social platforms of participation that are different. Ideally a common platform solves this problem, one where context integrity is assured. Multiple platforms dilute that integrity unless all contributors and contributions are consistent across all platforms, though such purity would inevitably be strained by diversity of geography and culture. This suggests that established collaborative groups and activities will be more conservative and less exploratory of new platforms. It also suggests that new collaborative groups and activities can explore new platforms, especially those that offer better functionality or efficiencies. But these organizations also warrant caution in deciding for a new platform, for it may well exclude them from collaborating with resources and communities on the older platforms.
I am sure there are many other points to consider, but one thing is certain: adding or moving to a new social platform is a non-trivial event, and one that demands a lot of adjustment and effort. This post is my attempt to bridge the increasing number of platforms to which I contribute as I will distribute it on all. Hopefully it will spark further discussions on the challenges as well as progress on removing the walled garden barriers to the preferred open environment.
July 27, 2012 in Governance, Social Media | Tags: Business, Business Data, Business Development, Business Functions, Business Process, collaboration, Control, Governance, Internet Marketing, IT, Marketing, Ownership, Proof of Concept, Reputation, Responsibility, Social media, Social Network, Test Analysis | Leave a comment
Who should own Social? I have heard this question asked many times, and though the answers given are nearly always the same “CMO, CIO or COO“, the fact that the question continues to be asked suggests that such responses are not satisfactory. Most certainly the question is not the right question, after all who can own an adjective? As soon as you add the noun the dilemma is not as muddy but it is still far from clear. Whether its social media, content, information, stream or network we still don’t have obvious answers although some of those nouns give us clues.
The fact is that we do not know what the golden apple of social media really is. We do know that it is current, topical and massively popular. Additionally the more we engage the more we realize that “social” is a mindset, a behavior and like the big data that is produced – extreme. That last word should send a frisson of caution through any CEO or Board of Directors, enough to suggest careful consideration before any “engagement” let alone appointment of “social” responsibility.
“Social” means different things to different organizations and communities, so before delineating any bailiwick, the CEO or board must determine what “social” means to their business, their business culture and above all their customers. Customers are most important because the world of social is public, visible, and can act like litmus paper in highlighting public opinion, good or bad. Like it or not customers are going to be influenced by an enterprise’s “social” reputation. In turn customers and even the general public are going to influence business strategies and objectives to some degree. Understanding the risks, opportunities and attendant costs over time is critical input for any plan, and social engagement is no different. However with “social” any implementation is more visible, and feedback is much more immediate and amplified.
The best way to get to grips with the issues is through experience. The best way to get early experience is to perform Proof of Concepts (PoC). Notice the plurality, which is extremely relevant to “social”, because it is a behavior and an operational style, not a function or a process. PoCs allow you to apply “social” behaviors and styles to specific functions or processes within organizations. At the detailed level that might be Customer Service Problem Management, Sales Force Automation Management or it could be Asset Control Process Improvement. While these functions might not be the first in line for examination, they do illustrate that there is no division or department that presides over all the possible functions. Of course Marketing, Finance and IT are going to be involved, as they should, but the purpose of the PoC is to determine whether “social” behavior is a fit for specific parts of the business. Further analysis and possibly additional PoCs can then determine the scope and reach of “social” adoption. Some organizations will be better suited to “social” behavior, others may have to consider major organizational and or cultural changes. However the decision to adopt, in part or in totality, depends on business need and business commitment at the highest level if anything other than discrete projects are being considered.
The Judgement of Paris is the myth of impossible choices. In the story Paris, a Trojan prince, was asked to present a prize of great value, a golden apple, to one of three goddesses, Aphrodite/Venus, Minerva/Athena and Hera/Juno. Paris gave the apple to Aphrodite, the most alluring and beautiful of the three, securing her appreciation and support in the future war with the Greek states. Alas he also incurred the disdain and wrath of the other two goddesses, who supported the Greek kings and princes, Agamemnon, Ulyses and Achiles in the conflict. The apple didn’t cause the war, that was Paris committing another poor judgement call by absconding with Helen, Agamemnon’s daughter, and carrying her off to be his bride in Troy. But the apple did establish which godly powers belonged in which camp during and immediately after the hostilities.
“Social Media” is a golden apple. Marketing, Finance, Business Development, Audit, Operations and IT are all potential recipients. Giving the responsibility or ownership of “social” to one of these functions is fine if the business only wants to operate “social” exclusively within that function. But here lies the dilemma in which Paris found himself, the business gains on one side but not on others. For example allowing Marketing to direct and control “social” could require the subordination of IT (I have heard that said many times) which also provides service to all other functions, their processes and their data. Is that a responsibility that Marketing really wants to be accountable for?
Paris didn’t have the option, but he could have approached Zeus, the CEO of Olympus and either given him the apple or asked him to decide. Social business is larger than any one department, it is likely that most businesses that depend on consumerism will become fully “social” both internally and externally. It therefor makes sense, once the analysis of early trials has been conducted, to create a change agent at the most senior level, reporting to the CEO or Board of Directors who is charged with developing the “Social” strategic plan and the transformation, if necessary, of the enterprise culture. Once the transformation is complete the change agent can withdraw and the functions will run themselves as they did before, they will just do so in a “social” style. In the “social” business, everyone should have a slice of the apple.
The illustration above is from an 1848 publication of the UK periodical “Punch”. The cartoon refers to the famous myth and depicts the political dilemma faced by French voters in the 1848 French General Election. It is easier to compare business departments to politicians than it is to enchanting immortals.