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My Ten Favorite Tweets – Week Ending 022709

From the home office in Denver, Colorado…

#1: Please, I don’t want your automated DMs after I follow you. This practice needs to stop. I never click your links, it’s just spam.

#2: To all you social media whales doing the mass unfollow routine, I say: “Go ahead, make my day.” Got my unfollow trigger finger ready.

#3: Reading @loic post about the realities of following thousands http://bit.ly/CR6A9 Future = Dunbar’s Number + @replies + keyword tracking?

#4: Yammer rolls out new features: lifestreaming a la FriendFeed, and DM like Twitter. VentureBeat: http://bit.ly/qamnq

#5: “Discovering problems actually requires as much creativity as discovering solutions” The Myths of Innovation, Scott Berkun

#6: Innovation myth inside companies: “if the idea were any good, the people at the top would have thought of it already.” http://bit.ly/CfPgl

#7: FriendFeed guys have created the FriendFeed Therapy Room, featuring Eliza http://bit.ly/LseaI See if you can get past her therapist tenacity

#8: Do you suppose accident rates are down in California now that we’ve banned cell phones in the car? Do you feel safer?

#9: My favorite Jelly Belly beans: 1. coffee 2. watermelon. My 4.y.o. son Harrison: smelly skunk (betcha didn’t know about that one). You?

#10: Driving down 101, behind this car. Smelled an odd sweet odor that I recognized. Pass the car minutes later, sure enough dude had a fat one.

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My Ten Favorite Tweets – Week Ending 022009

From the home office in Hollywood, CA…

#1: RT @THE_REAL_SHAQ To all twitterers , if u c me n public come say hi, we r not the same we r from twitteronia, we connect

#2: It’s not teams that get things done inside companies, it’s networks. #uvasna

#3: @jowyang writes about the bankruptcy of “social media” PR firms and vendors who fail to practice what they preach http://bit.ly/IcIG7

#4: Gonna tweet this one more time: Oasys raises $10M for low cost water desalination technology http://bit.ly/siwMG Much needed!

#5: Holy smoke! Just installed Power Twitter Firefox add-on http://bit.ly/yiy4W . Search on the home page, tab for Facebook updates, more. Whoa.

#6: Ma.gnolia throws in the towel, says it cannot recover its members’ bookmarks http://bit.ly/Qwcba

#7: Reading case studies about enterprise social networks and their impact by University of Virginia professor Rob Cross: http://bit.ly/sL4HL

#8: For the record, according to Typealizer, my blog screams a Myer-Briggs personality of INTJ. That’s about right, actually. Nicely done.

#9: My post about integrating social media into product marketing is up on Social Computing Magazine: http://bit.ly/sNMBl

#10: Watching Sally Field on TV in Brothers & Sisters. Is she seriously 62? Looks a lot younger. Must be that Boniva.

Fred Wilson on the Next Wave of the Web

fred-wilson-blog-avatarSearch, filtering, semantics, etc, etc. That’s the next wave of innovation in the real time web and that’s why FB opening up status is a big deal

Originally posted as a comment by fredwilson on A VC using Disqus.

One Thing Social Software Needs: The Guaranteed Delivery Button

At the start of January, Jennfier Leggio and I launched the 2009 Email Brevity Challenge. The goal is to reduce the length of emails, with an eye toward migrating a lot of what’s in them elsewhere.

Well, January is over. Time to see how I did:

email-stats-jan-09

As you can see, I’ve got some work to do. First, my average email weighs in at 164 characters. 164 characters…hmm, doesn’t sound so bad but it’s pretty far beyond 140 characters.

Even worse, 41% of my emails are beyond the bar set for the email brevity challenge. One positive? Check out that median length – my heart is in the right place in terms of brevity.

But I can do better.

Looking at my emails, I see an obvious candidate for cutback. Seven of those 140+  character emails are essentially links with commentary of snippets.

Say what? You work for a social bookmarking company man! And you’re emailing links?!!

Well, yes. But I also bookmark them. Let me explain. I bookmark plenty of links for my own purposes. And true to social bookmarking’s purpose, other people can find them as well, which is better for discussions around the information.

Some of these bookmarks are more than useful information I want for recall later or for others to find in their research. Some are relevant to things that we’re working on right now. They provide context to product, development and marketing efforts.

Those bookmarks need to have higher visibility than typical links do.  And a problem with only bookmarking a link is that many people won’t see it who should.

That’s what email provides: guaranteed delivery. Everyone is using the app, and everyone checks their email. So I know the link + commentary will be seen. What social software needs is an equivalent mechanism.

Social Software Options for Guaranteed Delivery

In fact, many apps do have such guaranteed delivery mechanisms. For instance, you can think of the @reply on Twitter as a form of that. Although even then, it requires someone checking that tab. So TweetReplies will actually email you when someone uses your @name in a tweet.

As I wrote before, email’s evolving role in social media will be more notification, less personal communication. Email is still a centralized place for all manner of notifications and it has that lovely guaranteed delivery aspect.

So what are alternatives for emails inside companies?

Inside my company, I actually have three alternatives to emailing the links with lots of commentary”

Connectbeam: As I mentioned, a simple bookmark has no guarantee of visibility. But the app does include email (and RSS) notifications of new content. You can subscribe to emails of individuals’ and Groups’ activity in real-time, or get a daily digest of those options plus keyword-based notifications. So what I can do is set up a Group, call it “Email Worthy”. I then have all my colleagues subscribe to real-time notifications of activity in that Group. Voila! I add a note to my bookmark, save it to the Group and I know everyone will get it.

Confluence: Another option is to create a wiki page for these entries. I can put longer form commentary in the pages, include a link and tag them. Since Connectbeam automatically sucks Confluence wiki pages into its database, these individual wiki pages would be as good as a bookmark. I could then email a link to the wiki page (using a bit.ly URL), going Twitter style with a brief intro.

Yammer: Yammer now has Groups. Which is something people have been wanting with Twitter. You can publish a message in Yammer (a “yamm”?) to just a particular Group. Yammer has nicely added an email notification feature for Groups. So similar to what I described above for Connectbeam, we can create a Group on Yammer called “Email Worthy”. Everyone can join the Group and elect to recieve email notifications when new yamms come through.  I can post the link + commentary, and be assured of guaranteed delivery.

One problem with using Yammer this way is that information put there is separate from the wiki entries and bookmarks we have. So people would have to check two places for information. As I wrote over on the Connectbeam blog, that creates a de facto silo.

It’s February, A New Month

I’m going to experiment a bit with this. Of course, I need to get my colleagues to subscribe to email notifications for Connectbeam. But I’ll just tell them, “do that or I’ll email ya!” And I’ll try the Confluence wiki approach as well.

I’ll let you know how it goes.

*****

See this post on FriendFeed: http://friendfeed.com/search?required=q&q=One+Thing+Social+Software+Needs+The+Guaranteed+Delivery+Button

How to Integrate Social Media into Product Marketing

Recently, I’ve had former colleagues from a couple of my old employers ask me about social media. Specifically, how to get started in it from a professional perspective. They’re aware that social media can be powerful, but it can be daunting to figure out an entrance point and what you’re supposed to do with it.

Now I’m no Chris Brogan, but I do have hands-on experience. Specifically, I’ve been doing product marketing for a while now, with both Connectbeam and BEA Systems.  BEA Systems was great for traditional product marketing work. Connectbeam is great for social media-oriented product marketing work. I’ve learned some things that work for me.

In that spirit, I’m going to share them here. Here’s a summary of what follows:

  1. What is product marketing? messaging, customers, market trends, market visibility
  2. Leverage the work you’re already doing
  3. The 9 social media tools I’m using
  4. Twitter – narrate your work
  5. Blog – part product, part big ideas
  6. FriendFeed – tracking the flow
  7. SlideShare, Scribd – the post-webinar bang-for-your-buck
  8. YouTube, Google Video – incremental exposure
  9. Wrapping up – feel free to contact me

OK, let’s get to it.

What Exactly Is Product Marketing?

In the graphic below, I’ve put together a rough (and incomplete) map of the different functions one finds inside companies:

map-of-company-functions

I look at product marketing as having four primary goals:

  1. Positioning and messaging of the company’s products
  2. Steady voice and knowledgeable source for customer inquiries
  3. Staying on top of evolving requirements and ideas in the market
  4. Establishing the company in the market, with coverage among sources of information used by customers

I want to distinguish product marketing from other functions. Every function can use social media for its benefit, but the use cases vary. For instance, I’d expect engineering to use social media to tap peers who can help with coding or architecture questions.

But let’s be clear what product marketing is supposed to do. It is an outward-facing function, with a number of responsibilities:

  • Articulate the value of the company’s products
  • Create messaging around the products, via website content, data sheets, white papers, presentations, etc.
  • Develop the business case for products
  • Put on webinars
  • Give customer presentations and demos
  • Do market and competitive analysis

The tools of the trade include: data sheets, white papers, newsletters, PowerPoint presentations, Camtasia demos, WebEx/GoToMeeting, trade show booths.

So how does social media play in all this?

Leverage the Work You’re Already Doing

The nice thing about traditional product marketing work is that a lot of it complements social media nicely:

product-mktg-source-for-social-media

The first bit of advice I want to impart is that if you treat social media like a foreign language, it will be. If you’re wondering where to start, look no further than the thinking and content you already do as a part of your job. That’s plenty good for starting.

There are three activities that the product marketer will engage in:

  1. Monitor: who is saying what of interest
  2. Engage: interact with customers, analysts, consultants, competitors
  3. Broadcast: create content, tweet original thoughts, post to SlideShare, etc.

In the sections that follow, you’ll see all three activities described.

Social Media: What I’m Doing

The tools: Here are the social media tools I use for product marketing:

Changes in latitude, changes in attitude: Attitude is the most important consideration. If you look at the various social media as a pain-in-the-ass part of your job, you’re likely not going to get much from it. It will be too much of a chore for you.

To excel at product marketing, you’ve got to be good at research and building persuasive arguments, along with a personality that engages customers well. It’s really not that hard to extend those traits into social media. And once you read a bit more below, I think you’ll see the value of engaging in social media.

Be a mensch: Do not spend your time running down competitors. It makes you look petty, and you’ll find yourself in entanglements with them which make no one look good. Focus on what your company is about.

Not tonight honey, I have a headache: I’m an ‘I’ introvert on the Myers Briggs test. Which means I tend to reflect on things. There are times I just don’t feel like twittering. And that’s OK. Because there are times I’m fired up. I will rattle off a series of tweets and dive into deeper conversations. Strike while the iron is hot.

Twitter

Twitter is the microblogging platform, and is my most valuable information source for tracking what’s happening in my industry. It’s really quite a simple platform, but it has a tremendously flexible set of use cases.

The basics: Here a few basics about the service:

  • 140 characters – learn the power of distinct thoughts in a limited space
  • Follow – you see the tweets of whomever you follow, and anyone following you might see your tweets
  • @Replies – the @Replies tab serves as an inbox of public tweets meant for your attention. Start a tweet with @[username] and it will end up in that inbox
  • RT – stands for retweet. When someone tweets something you like and you want your own followers to see it, you type ‘RT’ , then paste the tweet (with the @[username] included) and hit update.
  • DM – Direct Messages are essentially emails, limited to 140 characters. People use them all the time for private conversations.

Fill out your bio: Make sure you do the following with your Twitter account: use your real name, put your location, have a website of some type (your personal blog, company blog, company website), tell who your company is and what you do there, and upload a picture. This seems like basic advice, but if you don’t, a lot of people won’t follow you back. Which makes your product marketing job that much harder.

Also, before you start following people, get 3-4 tweets on your account so you don’t look like a spam bot.

Subscribe: You need to find others to follow on Twitter,  otherwise it’s a lonely place. But who? Here a three tips to get started:

  • Find prominent bloggers in your space, find their twitter account, and follow them
  • Look at who the prominent bloggers are following, and follow the same people
  • Run a search on twitter for industry jargon, see if those people are interested in your sector. Click here to go to twitter search.

A lot of those you follow will follow you back. This is how you start growing your own base of followers.

Narrate your work: Great, so you’re set up. Now what to tweet? Lunch menu? Here’s one idea. Narrate your work. Technology legend Dave Winer wrote this idea, and I like it. Tweet what it is you’re doing. But, let’s examine this a bit more.

Do not tweet, “Opening up Microsoft Word” or “Heading into a meeting”. Yes, that’s your work, but it’s nothing anyone cares about. Rather, you might be reading a good article about something relevant to your industry. You like it? Tweet it! A simple tweet like this is great:

Reading: [article name] [shortened URL] [optional - a bit of personal color]

Because of the 140 character limit, typical article URLs are too lengthy for a tweet. Use a URL shortener, like bit.ly. And if you have a pithy thought on the article, tack it on at the end of the tweet.

@reply to people: When someone you’re following tweets something of interest to you, engage them. Ask follow-up questions, agree with them, challenge them. This is the type of thing that puts you “on the map” in Twitter. Done well, you will gain new followers by doing this. Just avoid being a troll. When people @reply to you, make sure you give them the courtesy of a reply back.

Broadcast: Once you’ve established credibility and a set of followers on Twitter, don’t be afraid to broadcast updates. These may be product releases, blog posts, new white papers, conferences you’ll be attending, etc. All that is fine. Unless that’s all you’re tweeting. Then it’s not fine.

And don’t be bashful tweeting successes.

Be an information hub: One observation about @reply tweets. They are the conversational currency of Twitter. Personally, I want to make sure maybe 60% of my tweets are conversational. But I don’t want them too high. As a product marketer, you’ve got a message to impart. Nothing wrong with creating tweets that others like. What are some non-@reply tweets? Retweets, passing along links to interesting information, personal observations as you do your work, or personal life things (such as funny things about your kids).

People will be attracted to twitters who pass along valuable info.

Blog

Check any job description for product marketing, and you’ll see that good writing is a requirement. We do this for data sheets and white papers. And these papers we write are for public consumption. Of course, they do tend to have a fairly structured approach.

Which is what’s nice about blogging. You’re still writing. But the format restrictions of “official” documents are loosened. Language is less formal, you can inject personality and include pictures, videos, polls etc.

What to write: On the Spigit blog, I like to mix it up. I will cover product releases. But I won’t just re-state the data sheets or press releases. I write more of the background, the “why” for a product release or feature.

I cover larger  issues  as well. This is particularly important for smaller companies. When you’re smaller, you don’t get automatic attention the way Google, Microsoft or Oracle do. That means just writing about your product will result in people not reading your blog posts.

But what do smaller companies have? A different way of looking at the market, and the advantage of generally being more leading edge. For instance, this Spigit blog post, Eight Principles of Enterprise Innovation Management, clearly describes what the burgeoning field covers.

Bloggers love links: When you write these company blog posts, link to other bloggers. For your readers, it’s a great way to show how your thinking ties into issues others are grappling with. For yourself, it’s a good way to memorialize a post you liked. And in case you didn’t know, bloggers love links.

When you link to another blogger, they get a notification of that link. In terms of attention, this is even better than an email. It means you took the time to read their post, and built on it. See who the industry thought leaders are, subscribe to and read their blogs via Google Reader and incorporate their analysis, opinion and observations in your blog posts.

Foreshadow things that are coming up: You know your product roadmap: the features and timing. Prior to those releases, get some posts out that lay down the rationale for the releases. Not in some ham-handed fashion, but as a thoughtful look at the problems or opportunities there are. Pull in research, include excerpts from articles and other bloggers. You then have a good basis for announcing the new features.

Practice makes perfect: Don’t wait until you’ve got a sense of what the perfect blogging style is. Just get in there and do it. You’ll learn over time what subjects resonate, and how to craft an argument that gets attention.

Engage those who comment: People will leave comments on your blog. Make sure you take the time to respond to them. That’s a good way to ensure they come back, and you’ll learn something from the exchange. It also leaves a trail of commentary for others to read.

Blogs are a source of high quality traffic: The Spigit blog is a source of traffic to the Spigit website. Not the biggest, but a meaningful source. Visitors from the blog spend more time, view more pages and have a lower bounce rate than many traffic referral sources. And visitors from other blogs exhibit the same tendencies.

Make sure your company blog is indexed: The search engines can deliver great traffic. Make sure your blog is part of their search index database. For instance, here’s the Google page to submit your blog URL: http://www.google.com/addurl/?continue=/addurl

FriendFeed

FriendFeed is a lifestream aggregation service, which lets track all manner of information about other people from 59 different services. There is a good social aspect to FriendFeed, although the company is still pretty early in its lifecycle. So it’s likely that people in your industry aren’t yet active there.

But beside the social aspects, FriendFeed also has incredibly powerful information management tools. And it’s these tools that are valuable to the product marketer. I’m going to cover them below, but a more detailed description is available on this blog post.

Subscribe to people: Just like on Twitter, you can subscribe to people on FriendFeed, if they have an account there. When you do that, you’ll see there tweets, plus other useful information like Del.icio.us bookmarks, new blog posts, Google Reader shares, etc. You get a fuller picture of what is happening with those in your industry.

Subscribe to imaginary friends: Some people don’t have an account on FriendFeed, but they are active on some other site, like Twitter. But you can still stalk follow them on FriendFeed. You’re doing this not to interact with on FriendFeed, since they don’t have an account there. But I use FriendFeed as a master aggregator of people’s activity streams.

Track keywords in a Group: FriendFeed lets you create Group. Groups are containers into which you can pipe content from elsewhere. Use a Group to track keywords that relate to your industry.

For example, I’ve created the Innovation Management Group.  Into that Group, I’m piping tweets with keywords I want to track, and SlideShare presentations and Del.icio.us bookmarks with tags I want to track. One centralized place to stay on top of what’s happening in my industry.

Put it all together into a List: FriendFeed has a feature called Lists. You can categorize the people you follow into different Lists. Then you can focus specifically on the activity streams of those people. I’m currently tracking the activity streams of 61 people associated with the Enterprise 2.0 industry. You can also add your keyword notification Room to your List. So you’ll see who’s talking about your industry beyond just those people you follow. As I wrote before, Follow Everything by a Select Few, Select Content by Everyone.

Track it in real-time: Once you have your industry List set up, FriendFeed provides a nice option. You can follow the activity streams in real-time as they hit the FriendFeed database. I find this to be important for two reasons. First, there are time people you know are tweeting something you care about. There’s an opportunity to do one of those @reply engagements. You don’t want to wait until the end of the day to see that, because the moment is lost. The second reason is that stuff collects, and if you wait until the end of the day you’re less likely to catch things of interest.

As I wrote in another post, it’s really not that distracting to track activity streams this way. An alternative people use for real-time flow and user groups is Tweetdeck. It’s only for Twitter, but many swear by it.

Connecting the dots: Once you’re set-up with with your List + keyword tracking Room + real-time, something amazing happens. You will start to understand what people are buzzing about more. You’ll see recurring themes. You learn who people in your industry are paying attention to. You see the relationships that exist among industry folks, via the @reply conversations. You’ll know which conferences and trade shows are most talked about.

SlideShare, Scribd

SlideShare and Scribd are the two leading social document sharing sites. Social document sharing? Huh? What you do is upload a document to these sites, and others who are doing research can find and read them. Document types include:

  • PowerPoints
  • Word Documents
  • PDFs
  • Spreadsheets

These are great places to share the content you’re creating. Let me give you an example of how this worked for me.

In November 2008, I put on a webinar titled How to Double the Value of Your Social Software. Afterwards, I put the presentation on SlideShare. In the two months since it’s been there, the following has happened:

A more recent presentation for a Spigit webinar, Tapping Communities to Accelerate Corporate Innovation, has been viewed 1,508 times.

I recently added the social software presentation to Scribd, and it now has 586 views and two Likes.

I assure you, the after-webinar action is much greater than that which occurred with the webinar itself. The effect of all this is to get your company’s point of view into the market. You are a contributor to the industry dialogue, and your company is very relevant in the thinking about the industry’s future. As I said, this is particularly important for smaller companies, who cannot rely on a huge market presence to ensure getting people’s attention. But even the big companies benefit from this.

This  is product marketing, social media style.

Considerations for SlideShare, Scribd: As you can see, the webinar presentation can actually multiply in value when it’s on these social document sharing sites. I know Guy Kawasaki has the 10/20/30 Rule of PowerPoint. Consider that a philosophy, not a rule. What I take from his blog post is the advice not clutter up your slides with too much.

When people are viewing your PowerPoint, they will not have the advantage of your voiceover. You can’t provide a spare slide with just a picture and hope everyone gets what you’re saying. In the webinar, you’ll have a nice narration for the slide. In SlideShare and Scribd, each slide has to stand on its own. Here are my tips:

  • Minimize the times custom animation is a requirement to talk about the slide. Because customer animation doesn’t work on these sites.
  • Pictures and graphics – these break the monotony of endless bullets and text
  • Each slide should have two messages: (1) the point/data of the slide; (2) a way to provide your commentary to that point/data
  • Assuming multiple sections, recap the slides of each section – make sure the point is made

And don’t forget to tag, tag, tag your presentations. Don’t be chary with the tags. People will use them to find your documents. Of course, make sure your tags actually reflect the material in the presentation.

As you go into a webinar, think about your presentation being consumed by an audience many times bigger than the number of attendees to the webinar.

YouTube, Google Video

Videos are a popular way for people to view content. A part of your product marketing job may include producing canned demos of the product. These can be on your company website. And they can go on YouTube as well.

I’ve uploaded three demos for Connectbeam to YouTube. In total, they’ve gotten 380 views. Not quite the same as the SlideShare or blog posts. But it’s nice incremental exposure for something you’re creating anyway.

There are countless stories of videos going viral, and it’s a holy grail for marketers. But I don’t spend a lot of time on that. If you happen to have a particular strength in entertaining videos, by all means take advantage of it.

One limitation for YouTube is that videos’ running time can be no longer than 10:59. For basic product demos, this should be more than enough time. But for webinars, which can run an hour, YouTube doesn’t work.

Google Video supports much longer videos. It’s where I uploaded the recorded webinar from November.  It’s not nearly as social as YouTube, but it does come up in Google search results.

Unfortunately, Google is going to stop accepting new uploads to Google Video in a few months.

However, assuming you do get a video to Google Video or you upload shorter media to YouTube, you can embed these videos in a blog post and give them color commentary to spur viewing.

Use high quality resolution when embedding YouTube videos: The normal resolution of a YouTube video is rough. This may be something that happens when you convert a Camtasia video to a YouTube-acceptable format. But you should know about this, because it hurts the viewing quality of the video. Those web screenshots can be hard to read.

Fortunately, there is a solution to this. When you embed a YouTube video on a web page or blog post, you can alter the embed code to force the video to view in high resolution. The hack described in this blog post works. It will ensure that the video’s fidelity is much higher, making it a more enjoyable viewing experience.

Wrapping Up

A site that I think could be more valuable to engage in is LinkedIn. There are groups and questions that people pose. I haven’t been very active there, but it’s worth a look. Depending on your industry, Facebook may also have value.

I hope this post has been helpful. I seriously could triple the size of this post, but it’s long enough. If you want to talk more about this, feel free to reach out to me on email: (hutch <dot> carpenter at gmail <dot> com) or on the phone 415-377-3610.

Finally, here are a couple relevant posts as follow-up:

I encourage you to get out there and start experimenting. It’s the best way to learn.

Angels and Demons of Our Social Media Souls

Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.

angels-and-demons-of-our-social-media-soulsAngel image: The Angel Whisperer

Devil image: People are the boss

*****

See this post on FriendFeed: http://friendfeed.com/search?q=%22Angels+and+Demons+of+Our+Social+Media+Souls%22&who=everyone

My Ten Favorite Tweets – Week Ending 011609

From the home office in Washington, D.C. …

#1: “We don’t do a good enough job of teaching our students how to be productively stupid” http://bit.ly/ZTFa4

#2: Noticing many folks securing their single-name twitter handles. Here’s how: http://bit.ly/Wbem Alas, @hutch is too active for me to do this.

#3: Great…if you’re expecting a tax refund in California, you may end up w/ an IOU http://bit.ly/TibY h/t @ZoliErdos

#4: The Social Media Dead Zone: 2 – 6 pm Pacific. Interactions, traffic drop during that time.

#5: Tired of being asked about things they could look-up themselves instead? http://letmegooglethatforyou.c…

#6: Reading: Ten Reasons Why “Enterprise RSS” Has Failed To Become Mainstream http://bit.ly/XLsZ

#7: Whoa – my blog post about @KarlRove just got linked from Huffington Post: http://bit.ly/Y0rS

#8: 24 fans, make sure you follow Jack Bauer @j_bauer and Tony Almeida @tony_almeida

#9: Reading: The Top Ten Worst URL’s in the world http://bit.ly/ux91 Actual URLs, too funny.

#10: I’m not actually an extrovert, I just play one on Twitter

Why I Like Buzzwords (Enterprise 2.0, Web 2.0, Social Media, etc.)

Via Annie Mole on Flickr

Via Annie Mole on Flickr

UK-based The Register has an article out, They used ‘em, you reeled: the year’s most overused phrases. The article lists “tech terms that were so overused and misapplied during the last 12 months that they began to lose their meaning.” Included in the list?

  • The cloud
  • Web 2.0
  • Enterprise 2.0
  • Software as a service
  • Agile
  • Green

Then I saw this tweet from Lawrence Liu of Telligent:

I hope “social media” & “Web/Enterprise 2.0″ die as way too overloaded buzzwords in 2009. As New Yr reso, I’ll try to avoid using them.

To which Gia Lyons of Jive Software tweeted:

@LLiu I’m with you re the death of “social media” & E/W 2.0 buzzwords. I’m not gonna use ‘em either.

I get the sentiment, getting away from the overselling of benefits and hype associated with these terms. But man, at this rate, we’re not going to have any words left to describe Enterprise 2.0, Web 2.0, social media, or anything.

So What Terms Do We Use?

If we stop using terms like ‘Enterprise 2.0′, what would be the replacement(s)? Here’s what Lawrence thought:

@karitas Use real terms like team, community, Facebook, sharing, commenting, rating, discussing. :-)

Cannot disagree with Lawrence here. Those all are valuable terms. But I wonder how he meant this? Have people been using buzzwords in lieu of those?

  • “We need to get the enterprise 2.0 team together to collaborate”
  • “Let’s put this idea out into our social media community to see what they think”
  • “When employees are web 2.0-ing discussing ideas, make sure the record is accessible everywhere”

What those silly examples show is that there are plenty of points where you shouldn’t use buzzwords. I’m not convinced that people have been abusing the language that badly though.

There are two good reasons that those buzzwords should continue to be part of Lawrence and Gia’s vocabulary in 2009.

Buzzwords Provide Context and Findability

The first reason buzzwords have value is context. When I say ‘Enterprise 2.0′, I’m standing on the shoulders of others who have been working in the field for some time. It’s short hand for:

  • Employees are better off when they can find more content that colleagues create, not less
  • Workers can offer much more value than being just the cog they were hired for
  • People from different locations and units should be able to work together far more easily than they do
  • Companies’ culture needs to be open to empowering employees to drive and critique what’s happening internally
  • Adoption is an ongoing work-in-progress as employees shed old ways of thinking about sharing their contributions

Yup, I get the benefit of those connotations when I say ‘Enterprise 2.0′. You know I’m not talking about CRM or accounting software.

The second reason buzzwords are valuable is they increase findability of content and people. As I’ve written before, I’m tracking the Enterprise 2.0 industry by following specific people (such as Lawrence and Gia) on FriendFeed, plus people who are using terms related to Enterprise 2.0. That’s the whole premise of the Enterprise 2.0 Room on FriendFeed.

If people wholesale stop using buzzwords, the ability to find others with common interests reduces dramatically. When some one writes or tags with ‘Enterprise 2.0′, ‘e2.0′ or ‘social software’, it’s pretty clear what their subject is. But if someone interested in social software inside the enterprise decides to only use terms like ‘Facebook’ or ‘sharing’, they will never be found. To see what I mean, here are Twitter searches for those terms:

Facebook

Sharing

Good luck figuring out who is talking about the enterprise in those results.

When Change Comes, It Will Be Organic, Not Declared

There is a time and place for usage of buzzwords, and it’s possible the language has been abused. But that doesn’t mean you throw the baby out with the bath water. Smart people can discern when to use a buzzword for what they mean, and when to use something more specific (or generic, as the case may be).  I have yet to be troubled by irresponsible use of these terms.

That’s not to say things won’t change. People will use terms like ‘social media’ and ‘Enterprise 2.0′ until better, more descriptive terms emerge. Those new terms will make sense, and will provide the context someone needs when they use them. Right now, our buzzwords fit that bill.

Besides, if we couldn’t simply say ‘Enterprise 2.0′, what would we say?

Software-that-lets-employees-contribute-from anywhere-and-make-it-accessible-to-all-to-improve-a-company’s-ability-to-know-what-it-knows-and-which-requires-a-strong-employees-are-more-than-cogs-culture

I’ll take brevity on this one.

*****

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2009 Prediction: As Social Connections Reduce, Keyword Tracking Increases

Via Army.mil on Flickr

Via Army.mil on Flickr

Let me ask you this:

How are you tracking keywords in various social media right now?

I’ll bet the most common answer is Google Alerts. Not bad, I subscribe to them too. But you’re missing so much in terms of content and people that will be of interest.

Let’s examine why keyword tracking will become more important in 2009.

Social Network Contraction

Peter Kim has a terrific post in which 14 luminaries in social media offer their predicitons for what will happen in 2009. Read the comments below for a common theme:

Peter Blackshaw: Some of us will join the Social Media equivalent of Weight Watchers, eager to trim the excess and rediscover a modicum of “don’t follow everything” discipline.

Chris Brogan: We’ll still have Facebook and Twitter, but the real interest will be in making targeted networks that aren’t “come one, come all.”

Charlene Li: Having thousands of friends becomes “so 2008″ and defriending becomes the hot new trend, driven by overwhelming rivers of newsfeeds.

Greg Verdino: Many consumers will scale back on both the number of accounts they maintain AND their number of so-called “friends” and “followers.”

Several predictions that people will dial back their personal social networks. I’m not sure which people have “thousands of friends”…seems like a peculiar Social Media Whale problem. But I think the sentiment is right. The experimentation of “hey, lets all be friends!” gives way to time management and strengthening relationships with fewer connections.

I’ve written about this before in Who Is Your Information Filter? There are those you follow for their acumen in finding useful information, and with whom you can bounce ideas and questions off.

But there is an issue with this as well…

Seek Out Non-Redundant Information

One risk of tightening up a social network is that diversity of information sources decreases. I love how these researchers from MIT, BU and NYU describe the value of diverse social networks:

Actors with structurally diverse social networks (networks rich in structural holes that link them to unconnected network neighborhoods) derive ‘information benefits’ from network structure because they are more likely to receive non-redundant information through network contacts.

Now if people are going to contract their social networks, what is the logical outcome for network diversity going to be? It’s going to reduce.

So here we have the tension of superior ‘information benefits’ from diverse social connections, and a desire to bring one’s social contacts down to Dunbar’s Number.

How to get the best of both? Keyword tracking.

Here’s what keyword tracking gives the back-to-basics social networker:

  1. Ability to leverage people outside one’s social network as sources of information on subjects you care about
  2. What topics have people buzzing
  3. New people to add, in a limited way, to one’s social network

Keyword tracking is a great way to get non-redundant information while staying in touch with the closest social connections you have. If you only receive information from the same old-same old, you will probably consume a lot of redundant information (aka the “echo chamber”).

I look forward to more movement on the notifications front. For instance, TechCrunch recently covered BackType’s keyword notifications functionality. Following an RSS feed of Twitter searches on topics will become a vital part of people’s information consumption. Personally, I’ve been loving the feed of tweets and Del.icio.us content related to social software in the Enterprise 2.0 Room on FriendFeed. Robert Scoble just set up his own ego tracking room on FriendFeed.

I wrote a post that described this phenomenon a few weeks ago, Follow Everything by a Select Few, Select Content by Everyone. The post included a poll asking people whether they will start using keyword notifications for tracking the world at large. 9 of 11 people said ‘yes’, they would. Let’s see how this plays out in 2009.

*****

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Early: Companies Deputizing Their Employees as Brand Managers

For the longest time, social media enthusiasts have noted that employees represent their companies, whether they realize it or not. This becomes more apparent every day as more people take part in the Grand Conversation.

Two tech behemoths have in recent weeks released their social media guidelines for employees. I’ll describe them a bit below, but I think it’s worth noting what milestones there are. Historically, large companies haven’t really encouraged employees to talk out in the market. But then, historically all you had were newspapers and trade magazines.

Companies have had to figure out how to handle social media. Some are advancing well, others are stuck in the 1990s. Here’s a spectrum of ways companies can handle employees and social media:

spectrum-of-trust-for-employee-social-media

Social media sites blocked: This is an ongoing issue. More companies appear to be enlightened, but there’s still a persistent, old school strain that blocks them. Hard for your employees to engage in social media if they can’t get to the sites.

Only marketing engages social media: Also known as the YouTube Strategy. Social media is a thing that you use to go viral. Other employees may be out there, but they probably need to keep their company identity a secret.

Only approved employees engage: This is actually a company warming up to social media. It knows there is more than the YouTube Strategy. It wants employees to participate.

EMC found some good natural blogging talent internally that it promoted to be EMC’s external voices. And that has paid off well in terms of market engagement. [See update in the paragraph below - EMC is actually deputizing its employees as well.]

All employees are deputized: This is what IBM and Intel are doing. They are treating every employee as an individual brand manager out on the Web. They are deputizing them by giving them guidelines, setting expectations, and then letting them act on their own. It’s a wonderful way to let employees both (1) engage the market about their company and their work; and (2) learn from others as to the state of their fields.

UPDATE: Per the comments below, EMC is actually another proponent of deputizing all employees.

Everyone does their own thing: Not having any type of policy is the policy. This is the default position. And companies still benefit tremendously here. They just may have some employee behaviors they wouldn’t want to see.

Oddly enough, I’d say most companies are on either extreme. They either block social media, or have no policy. But IBM and Intel are pointing to a new thinking about how companies and their employees are engaging social media.

A Look at IBM and Intel’s Guidelines

IBM released its social media guidelines several weeks ago. Intel’s came out last week. Both do a great job of mixing corporate interests with a hands-off approach that defines authentic social media engagement. The documents are pretty good reads, and surprisingly similar. Looks like Intel was a good student of IBM’s guidelines.

I’ve pulled together highlights from each companies’ guidelines below:

table-of-ibm-intel-social-media-guidelines

Lots of respect to IBM and Intel for their guidelines. These companies are trendsetters, and I look forward to other companies joining the fray.

*****

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My Ten Favorite Tweets – Week Ending 121208

From the home office in Charlottesville, VA…

#1: “If you’re not blogging, you’re an idiot” – Tom Peters http://bit.ly/toNh >> Perhaps overstating it a tiny bit…

#2: Reading: Will Enterprise 2.0 ever enter big organizations? http://bit.ly/9QkK Well-articulated point re: cogs v. valu of complete individual

#3: So interesting that corporations are creating social media guidelines for employees. Intel is the latest: http://bit.ly/I3Pj

#4: Working on a kindergarten application essay. Yes, a kindergarten essay. Not something my parents had to worry about when I was a kid.

#5: Observation: if u wait to blog about a big Google announcement til the next day, your post is at the top of the Google post links = traffic.

#6: @problogger Thanks for the tweet of my blog post. Glad you like it.

#7: Reading: How ‘visionary’ raised – and lost – a fortune http://bit.ly/HiPc Great article re: my old employer Pay By Touch. Drugs, crimes, $$$

#8: Consequence of listening to Last.fm. Song I like comes on here at Specialty’s, I want to favorite it. I click around in the air instead…

#9: My preso, “Double the Value of Your Social Software”, was added to the Social Media Leadership group on SlideShare: http://bit.ly/tUaD

#10: Following @SantaClaus25 who is following more than he is followed. Guess he needs to track who’s naughty and nice…

Atlassian’s Confluence Wiki Gets Social: Embed Your Favorite Social Media

Zoli Erdos has a nice write-up of enterprise software company Atlassian, titled Business Models and Right-brained Geeks. In it, he notes the culture of Atlassian is different from many enterprise software companies:

Atlassian is a “different” company in so many ways… no wonder they are still hiring while the rest of the world is busy downsizing.  But one thing I’ve not realized until now is they have a backup business plan. They could quit Technology tomorrow and become a Creative Agency overnight.smile_wink Need proof?

We use Atlassian’s Confluence wiki in our office, and I’ll bet a lot of you do as well. It’s easy to use, and I’ve become a big fan of it versus using Microsoft Word.

So it’s no surprise that the latest release, Confluence 2.10 has a really cool feature: the Widget Connector. Uh…come again?

The Widget Connector. It is a lightweight way to embed content from 16 different social media sites:

atlassian-confluence-connector-widget-supported-sites

I have to say, that’s pretty cool. The ability to embed media created elsewhere is a wonderful feature for any site. I’ve embedded my recent SlideShare on the About Page for this blog. And the ability to embed Vimeo videos was great for a recent post where I talked with MADtv’s Chris Kula.

LinkedIn recently started doing this as well. You can add content and applications from 10 different sites to your profile. It’s a smart play for companies. By letting you bring content from elsewhere, these sites become valuable platforms for getting business done.

Considering the Widget Connector in a Business Context

The interesting thing here is that these sites are indeed social. So the content that will be included is likely to be that which is OK for public viewing. Which means some sensitive internal content won’t be found on these sites. I know many of these sites allow private, restricted access content. It’s unclear whether restricted access content can be embedded though.

But a lot of what businesses do is perfectly fine for public consumption. Well, make sure you embed it in the wiki! Conference presentations, product demos, marketing media, product pictures, etc. In fact, the bias should be to have this content public and findable unless there is a real concern about loss of confidential information. Being a presence in the industry means getting out there with information and ideas that you share. Of course, not everything should be accessible. For instance, a webinar should be public, while a customer presentation will stay internal.

The reality is that companies are expanding their presence on social media sites, even if it is happening in a halting fashion. Turns out consumers are starting to expect it. As use of these various social media sites expands, having a central place to view and track the content on them makes a lot of sense.

Another use I see for this is collecting information from various services and users to build out research on:

  • New product or service initiatives
  • Competitors
  • Customers
  • Regulatory and standards development

Consider Atlassian’s release of Confluence 2.10 another step forward in expanding the use and value of social media for business purposes.

*****

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