Posts Tagged ‘Enterprise 2.0’

Who Leads the Social CRM Market? – An Analysis

April 23, 2011 3 comments

The question was raised on Focus and my answer may have surprised a few people. I started my answer with a disclaimer “I work at Sword Ciboodle” (a technology vendor for those of you who do not know). I then proceeded to state my opinion that no technology vendor currently leads the market, even questioning if there is a “market” for Social CRM, my logic is that technology is only one part of the problem. By the way, the word Social is starting to get in the way:

“The leaders in the market are the consultants and analysts. The reason is simple, I am not convinced that Social CRM is an actual market. Integrating Social Channels into a customer strategy is something that needs to be done, absolutely. Connecting the Social dots is something that does need to be understood and practiced, but a market, not sure yet.

When I was speaking on the topic last year, I was cautious to describe it as ‘CRM in the Age of Social’. Customers have problems to solve, companies need to figure out how to solve those problems – just with a whole lot more channels. My first statement about consultants and analysts was not a knock, it is a recognition of the complexity of the problem, people and process first, not technology.

CRM is often discussed by its 3 core components, Sales, Marketing and Service – when we discuss Social CRM, which one are are talking about? Or are we talking about all 3 and more? Are we talking about Business to Business or Business to Consumer? There are 6 segments at least, where I believe there might be 6 different leaders”

Social CRM does Require Technology, but it is about People

A previous topic also on Focus sheds some light on my answer; “What are the top reasons for integrating Social Media with CRM”. Caty Kobe expands the question/problem statement to facilitate the discussion: “What are the top reasons why an organization should integrate CRM with social media channels” – There is the explanation to my answer, right there, simple. I did not even need to go to the answers (though friend Brian Vellmure has a good one), just the question.

Social CRM, from the technology perspective, is about integration of new channels, Social Media is a channel. Properly, Social Media is dozens of channels, where you need to choose the ones right for your business. The hard part, the real work, is choosing which channels to integrate and then designing the processes around these channels – the people part. Just “being there” because someone told you to is not a reason! Too many industry insiders (Vendors, Analysts and Consultants) are trying to put Social CRM into one simple bucket, it is not simple, and it is not one thing.

We need to find a balance among the new terms, big words and fluffy buzzwords. It is not all new – parts are new, the combinations are new, but in the end, Social Media is just a channel. If you are trying to figure out the Social CRM puzzle and you are doing your research, you might find definitions and descriptions; something like ‘The company’s response to the customers’ control of the conversation’ (@pgreenbe). If you are not comfortable with that one, I am sure you have found one you like. There is only one correct answer to the question of what is Social CRM, yours. Not OK with that, how about focusing on the strategy, not a definition? Looking back to a great post by friend Wim Rampen, who outlined a concise Social CRM Strategy:

“A Social CRM Strategy is all about understanding Who the customer is, through Listening to Engaging with and Collaboration between Customers, Employees and Partners and aimed at Developing Innovations that allow Customers to do What Jobs they need to do, by means of a Personalized Design that empowers Customers, Employees and Partners to influence How well Customers and Companies can meet their Desired Outcomes.”

Wim outlines some great actions, I encourage you to go back and read the original post and the conversation which followed. Notice that Wim only touches upon the technology components. Recognizing that they are there, but not focusing on them first. Some may find this strategy to constraining, some may find it to broad. The beauty of sharing it is that people can take from it and see how it fits within their own organization. It is not only about building new strategies and new frameworks – honestly I think some of the new stuff, without even a hint at looking at the old is pure rubbish. You will need to take this strategy and apply it to your programs of work. If we all spent a little bit more time understanding where we have been, we might be better at figuring out where we need to go.

So, Who is in the Lead?

Finishing off with the Social CRM Market question, which I do not want to leave hanging. There is not ‘a‘ Market, there are many different Markets, including both technology and consultative, there are data questions and process questions. From integrating social channels into your Customer Service operations (where Ciboodle excels) to Socialytics (which Ciboodle does not do, but we have friends who do) – and all the bits in between. For now, it is about how to integrate; technology and process, Social into the programs of work for the foundational components of CRM; Sales Service and Marketing. In the future, we will be able to get rid of the ‘Social’ descriptor and go back to focusing on doing business. The organization or person in the lead is the one who solves the problem you need fixed – not the one with the best marketing department.

Can the Value of Social CRM be realized in the absence of a Collaborative Organization?

In short, no, it cannot – that simple. Disagree?

The essence of Social CRM is about inviting your customers into your organization, like you invite an old friend in for dinner. But, in order to invite them in, you must be prepared. The preparation will require change, both cultural and technological. From a technological perspective, tools (yes, tools) that support social networks are going to be key. The support, or the backbone, will need to enable, and even foster collaboration between and within companies and increasingly, with customers. This doesn’t mean a technology-first approach. But it does mean selecting the right technologies (and only the right ones) to enable a natural collaborative ecosystem. “Natural” is a fun concept, here, it means, hang out with your customers where they are, not where you want them to be. If they invite you to dinner, that will work as well, just mind your manners.

It is about the best use of technology, leveraging what is present, or expanding what you have as needed. It is not about the platform, but about the people who are the platform.  If tools and technology can be used to leverage the knowledge within and across your organization, then make sure people understand the tools. If you are a small agile organization and this is not about technology, but experience, then make sure your team gain experience at every possible opportunity.  If your teams are able to adapt and communicate efficiently, then  meeting the needs of the customer will be that much easier; then, and only then can SocialCRM can be realized. Wait, is the objective to realize Social CRM or the value, independent of the name? And does technology need to be involved at all? No, asking the the right questions, at the right time, in a caring and sincere tone is Social (we have been living with that for the past 1000 years).

Friend and sparring partner Esteban Kolsky wrote a post “What comes after Social Business” recently where he shares a concern with trying to match internal transactional data with collaboration data. (no he is not really a sparing partner, I actually learn a lot from Esteban)

“The idea behind social business of bringing internal collaboration together with external interactions has one major flaw – it attempts to integrate an action (collaboration) with information (data) as if they were equal.”

I think Esteban gives more credit to businesses than is deserved, no one is there yet – thus we are not ready to figure out what comes next.  We need to think about what the customer wants to do, and enable it. You know the royal “We” this is going to take some work to figure out. These are important aspects of your business, no one, nor a tool can direct you to nirvana. It might take some long hours, and lots of thinking (and data analysis) to get there – think about your customers, put yourself in their shoes. Even better ask other parts of the organization to do it, it is worth the time!

If a customer wants to collaborate, cool, let’s work together. If we are focusing on transactions and information, then that is good too, just another type of good. If I am a small company, with a unique clientele, then there is the possibility that we can achieve both at the same time. In other words, let’s do business together and work towards increasing the value of the business for each of us. I cannot do it alone though, other members of you team, organization or enterprise need to be involved.

In short, I stick by my first statement, if you cannot help, allow or enable your organization  – large or small – to be collaborative, work together, then the value of trying to be Social within the context of CRM will be lost. How are you going to get this done?

Who Owns Social Data?

April 21, 2010 3 comments

Martin Schneider (CRMOutsiders) asked this question – Who Owns Social Data? to a panel at the recent SugarCRM conference, held in San Francisco. Sameer Patel, Esteban Kolsky, Jeremiah Owyang and Diogo Rebelo participated in the panel. Since I was in the room, and organized the track, I threw my $.02 in every once in a while (sorry guys). I followed up via email with Sameer and Esteban, and Jeremiah started a whole thread on data and data ownership on the scrm-pioneers Google group.

Please keep in mind that I am looking at this question from the company perspective. I know, how very non-social of me and of course Inside-out. In fairness, companies knowing more about people is a good thing, it can aid in more Social CRM types of activities – I understand your privacy concerns, but let’s not go there just yet.  The idea I threw out at the conference was simple “Data owned and Data borrowed”. My meaning was/is simplistic, there is some data that will be managed by the company and then there is data managed by someone else (maybe even me). An example of this is the data that a company has because they asked me for it, core demographic (Email, Address, Phone) and then there is the data that they try to find out about me and my company by taking the core demographic data and looking elsewhere (Hoovers, LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Radian6, Gist).

So, on to my thoughts…

The following taxonomy (a bit of an obnoxious word, apologies) which I forwarded to Sameer and Esteban looks like this:

1 – Data owned – The system in question is the canonical source for the information
2 – Data copied – The system has a copy (synch maybe) of a piece of data
3 – Data borrowed – The system is either pushed a piece of data or it pulls it and it can act on it logically but does not keep a copy
4 – Data displayed – Think UI mashup, the system itself is basically unaware of the presence

(With friends as witnesses, this article was well underway prior to the SalesForce announced intent to purchase Jigsaw. What was once ‘borrowed’ or displayed data – as we will see – might now be managed data, if this becomes a trend, the equation may change)

Esteban, in typical fashion, started with “I like your taxonomy, but…” Esteban suggested a slightly simpler approach “Created, Stored, Used”, which is a little simpler, as borrowed and displayed are combined. While the majority of the world seems to enjoying bickering (me too sometimes) on minute details, I am perfectly fine with the suggestion (no “but”). Esteban’s most valuable point to me is the following:”..the true value is not in the creation or storage, is in the proper use.” I like that, as long as the use within the terms specified by the owner. Going into data ownership is beyond this post, (and I will quickly get in over my head), as the Terms of Service seems to be a little different for various data sources.

Now, on to some feedback from Sameer. Sameer struggles with my suggested taxonomy as well, and he has a right to, as I was unclear in my email to him. Was I intentionally ambiguous, no, but I tried not to lead the answer either. Thinking out loud if you will hoping to get others to think as well. Sameer flattened my taxonomy as well, but he combined copied and borrowed. This is an interesting perspective and I cannot disagree with his logic either: “Where it used to be that the money was in the aggregation, now its in the network facilitator who in turn gets to sell the fire hose or the data to be manipulated into intelligence.”

Operational versus Analytics, it makes a difference

If the system is looked at from a purely operational perspective; meaning people trying to make decisions based on atomic changes (versus masses of data) the approach needs to be one way. If you would actually like to understand trends and behaviors (you know, Analytics) then you would actually need a copy of the data I referred to as borrowed.  In reading back through my own words, I suppose the question is not really “Who Owns Social Data?” (As I believe Sameer said on the panel “Who cares?”) it is more important to understand what you would like to do with it – what you need, when you need it.

In the end, I might suggest to keep the more detailed taxonomy, and you can feel free to condense or expand as necessary. I believe that for their described uses of data both Esteban and Sameer are correct.  I also know that Sameer does not just focus on Analysis, nor does Esteban just focus on operational use – my point is specifying the use upfront is important.What are your thoughts? Is the taxonomy too simple, too complex – or just plain old unnecessary?

I would like to thank them each of them for their time. Each has their own blog, and you should pay attention to them there!

Esteban Kolsky is a customer strategist. He advises organizations of all sizes how to approach their customer initiatives to succeed. Esteban believes strongly in analyzing data from carefully thought out research. Esteban also likes to tackle the sticky issues that the rest of us avoid – calling a spade a spade if you will.

Sameer Patel helps leading organizations accelerate employee, customer and partner performance via the strategic use of social and collaborative approaches and technology. He shares his thoughts on this, as well as the software vendor landscape and on occasion, a healthy rant or two about unrelated stuff that’s on my mind.

MindTouch CEO Aaron Fulkerson, on Collaborative CRM

April 2, 2010 1 comment

This is a Guest post and a cross post (with permission) by Martin Schneider

CRM takes on many faces, and encompasses a lot of different technologies.  We would be ridiculously arrogant, and wrong, to assume that our solution was the only way to manage a CRM initiative.  When at the optimal stage, CRM systems are hitting on all cylinders by not being one piece of technology but rather many tools working together to support the people and processes that make your human interactions unique.

In that vein, a major trend we are seeing among users and in general is the need for more fluid tools to support the highly versatile forms of collaboration going on around sales, marketing and supporting customers. Gone are the days of information silos – where a sales rep or manager reigns supreme over most of the interaction data surrounding an account; nor is it sufficient to only arm support agents with the data and tools to solve customer issues.

MindTouch is a company with an interesting take on collaboration and data sharing (and what’s even greater is that Mindtouch is a commercial open source company). I caught up with CEO Aaron Fulkerson recently to discuss his SugarCon presentation around Collaborative CRM, and the conversation quickly opened up to include concepts like the convergence of enterprise 2.0 and social CRM, as well as how cloud computing is affecting modern CRM deployments…

Aaron, your SugarCon session is around “collaborative CRM.”  Can you give a quick definition of collaborative CRM vs. traditional CRM?

Terms like “social CRM” and “Collaborative CRM” are being used a lot these days and it seems as if the products in this space grown daily.  MindTouch has a very specific view of what Collaborative CRM needs to be.

I can boil down the biggest difference in two words: Information Asymmetry.  Let’s take a common CRM use case – managing a specific transaction.   This transaction has a lead account manager, perhaps a sales rep who helped qualify the deal, a pre-sales engineer, and possibly a services manager engaged.  All of these team members have various contact points inside the prospect.   These multiple contact points can quickly create an information asymmetry situation where data that might be held in the form of emails, documents, phone call notes, etc., isn’t as accessible as it could be, and that could be to the detriment of the transaction.

Our vision of Collaborative CRM is to create an information advantage for all of the team members involved.  I’m excited to share this vision at SugarCon.

So, where exactly does “Enterprise 2.0” meet with CRM? Are they two separate things?

To realize the ‘information advantage’ I mentioned before, the CRM system must embody Enterprise 2.0-type attributes – that is to say, to openly and easily interface with other information-rich systems, to support the collaboration amongst team members, including those who wouldn’t traditionally interact with a CRM system.

A lot of CRM systems are great with structured data, but how can users better leverage unstructured data like emails and PDFs etc. in their CRM initiative?

Great question.  Unstructured data cannot be overlooked, as they are vital pieces of the activity stream.  All too often, aggregating the data in those activity streams is overlooked, this is especially true for purely ‘social crm’ solutions.  These emails and PDF’s are typically relegated to your desktop or your inbox.   Emailing these documents back and forth has to be the single most inefficient way to share documents, and everyone does it.   MindTouch ensures these types of data points are not overlooked, by integrating them directly into the activity stream, making them collaborative – easy to find, share and act upon.

How does it benefit a user organization to have open collaboration tools versus proprietary alternatives?

No two organizations are the same. You can definitely provide customers with purpose-built and feature rich solutions – but there will always be the desire on the customer side to perform their own customization.  Most often, this occurs with a custom application they’ve developed in-house.   With rigid, proprietary offerings, this might not even be possible.

Finally, how are you seeing “the cloud” change the way businesses collaborate with each other, and their customers?

MindTouch is web-based, so we’ve always had the benefit of providing our customers a solution that could cross boundaries – enabling internal teams to collaborate with partners, vendors and customers.  The big benefit we see in the cloud is that it becomes a great equalizer.   No matter how easy you make your product to download, install and deploy, there will always be that slice of the market that doesn’t have the IT wherewithal to make it a reality.  With the cloud, any size organization can simply sign up and be up and running in minutes.    This means a company of any size can now leverage the same enterprise collaboration solution that companies like Mozilla, RightScale, Intel and the WashingtonPost rely on.

The Path to Success in Social Business is through Social CRM

March 18, 2010 6 comments

At first I was going to state the title in the form of a question, but this is not Jeopardy, and I wanted to make a point. The point is simple really, the path to success in Social Business is through Social CRM, said with conviction, not hesitation. This is not going to be a blog about definitions, though some may show up later or in the embedded presentation. While I have decided to move past the definitions, others may not be ready – fair enough, catch-up when you can. My approach is to put forth a convincing argument by using the characteristics and attributes that make up the Social Customer, Social CRM and a Social Business; not trying to redefine them.

My own struggle has been to place these concepts in the proper context, individually. To try to talk about any of these topics, without bringing up the other two is just hard and many times it just does not make sense. My operating theory is, ‘if I am having trouble a whole lot of other people are as well’. If you are an IT purist, it is like trying to talk about just Cost, just Schedule or or just Scope (not to mention Quality) without talking about the others  – they are related, strongly – interdependent.

While technology certainly plays a role here, maybe it is even to blame, this is not about technology, rather what has started because of it. While the conversation would not be happening if it where not for the rapid change in behaviors caused by technology, it is about the change in culture and the change in behaviors of the customer (iPhone, Facebook, LinkedIn, FourSquare, YouTube, Blogs). Because they are ALL talking to eachother! By the way, whether you are Business to Business or Business to Consumer, it does not really matter. Yes, there are some differences, but there are more similarities than differences. We are all humans, and emotions play a big part in business too, sorry, it just is!

What is the point?

I have stated on many occasions that I use blogging to formulate my own thoughts on a particular topic. In this case, it was the creation of a presentation – or the template for a set of presentations which I need to deliver, beginning next week. I wanted to share the presentation, so that I am able to get feedback and begin a conversation on how I can refine the delivery. What would a presentation be in this space, if it is not actually Social and Interactive. The presentation will not remain static, nor should it. It is also anyone’s to use, if you think it can help. The presentation is not an attempt to be a strategy either, that is yours to create.

My thought process was to break it down into small pieces, then attempt to put it all back together. The baseline of understanding is not a definition of a system, but the characteristics of the system. The end of the presentation is not yet complete, but I wanted to put this out there so people were able to review. Please let me know your thoughts – Selecting the “Wide Screen” option on the lower right worked best for me. If the embed feature did not work, there is a link below.

Vodpod videos no longer available.
I was able to integrate the Prezi on wordpress using vodpod, if the embedding did not work right, just do it the old fashioned way Social Business through Social CRM on Prezi.

Connecting the dots, first step Creating Buyers!

A purist could say I am avoiding the word ‘Sales’, not really, just choosing a phrase I deem more appropriate for a Social Business. I strongly believe that the future of business will be more about the creation of buyers than what we think of today as the selling of product. That said, with all of the talk about ROI, KPI and value, we still struggle to convince our own bosses that this is will happen, because in the end, the measurement is about money changing hands – but that to will also change in subtle ways, as we move forward. My final personal objective is to highlight and expand the Altimeter Group Use Cases. Why, because they represent a great way to get past the ‘Buzz and Hype’. Also, an important aspect, business executives, marketers, PR folks and CRMers can understand them. No, the Use Cases are not perfect, they are not meant to be, I see them as a foundation.

At the end of the Prezi I make the case that in order to actually put the Use Cases into practice, it is required to combine a few of them together to support a full process. If used in isolation, a Social Business will end up creating silos, not what we need – not very Social. Since I am also charged with presenting in between Dharmesh Shah (Hubspot) and Umberto Milletti (InsideView), I took the approach of putting specific Use Cases together to build the process:

The Business Process/Objective: Increasing the size of the ecosystem by creating buyers

Attributes of the Business Process: Listening, Engaging, Information, Transparency, Trust, Value

Use Cases Used: Social Customer Insights (F1), Social Sales Insights (S1) and Rapid Social Sales Response (S2)

Is this perfect? – not even close. Are there other Use Cases which should be enabled here, probably. Should there be a series of conditions, dependencies and ‘what-ifs’. That depends – No blog, book or article will be able to define a strategy, your strategy. You know your business. You know your customer or do you?

Consumerization of the Enterprise

March 10, 2010 2 comments

I wrote this as a guest post for CRM Outsiders where as an Employee of SugarCRM I stated agreement with Mark Benioff of Salesforce.  After this post, one may wonder whether I will be invited back for more, or not. So, I will quickly get to the point. Two things happened during this past week which drove me to write this post.

  1. Mark Benioff wrote a great article, and the consumerization of the Enterprise is certainly upon us – a position that I agree with
  2. Paul Greenberg  wrote a great post, which hit home on a few fronts – this article is a way to show respect for the thoughts

Starting with Paul’s post first, he raised several issues, but the one that hit home is that there is too much “Jockeying for position”. The reference was not specific to any particular vendor, but the point was made.  Paul stated the following: “When this manipulating jockey decides to differentiate to get “position” they denigrate what others do.” Paul is correct, and it is rather interesting as well that we are in the CRM business. While we certainly would like to do well, there are certain topics where that agreement leads to simply a better product.

Paul went on to say “Compete by the strength of your offerings”. The core of the offerings of any company goes beyond the products that are built, but are also the people behind the products. I would like to further point out that in the future of…well, the future of just about everything, the differentiators will increasingly be the people. As friend and IDC analyst, Mike Fauscette, likes to state, “People are the platform”. My simple conclusion on this topic is that the boundary between work and non-work is getting fuzzier by the day. Making the next part of this post that much more interesting.

Why I believe Mark Benioff agrees with me

Now, not to upset the apple cart by trying to play nice, and then jockey for position. A wording trick suggested to me by a friend, changes the positioning, doesn’t it? In many recent conversations and even comments on other’s blogs I have made the case that there has been a large shift in expectations by people regarding Computing and Access. Until around 2002 – 2004 or so, the faster computer you had access to was at work, and the fastest data pipe you had access to was also at work. Is this true anymore?

If you combine that phenomenon with the availability of cloud based applications, both consumer and enterprise, consumer is growing faster. (Sidebar – anyone who thinks that Gmail, LinkedIn or Facebook are not cloud apps, friend me and we can chat about it).  Ok, enough setting up the scenario, what exactly are we in agreement on? Here is a quote from the article (actually the prequel) “We need to transform the business conversation the same way Facebook has changed the consumer conversation. Market shifts happen in real time, deals are won and lost in real time, and data changes in real time.”

But, it is about usability, not technology

I am not going to try and say “I agree, but” (that is like saying “I’m sorry, but”). I will however extend the thought, in the following way – So, for all 90% or more of you who have one or more of the applications I just mentioned in the sidebar above, how long did you spend reading the manual for any of these applications? Facebook even changed the application 2 or 3 times (depending upon when you joined) and even after the yelling and screaming and the joining of the ‘no do not change FaceBook’ fan page – 350 million of us are members and 175 million log in each day. Facebook did more than change the consumer conversation, it changed the enterprise conversation as well.

Ok, I lied, it is not only about usability, it is about the fact that we enjoy the social dynamic these applications provide. It is also no longer a technology play; that is simply accepted. I am probably the only one who takes a break from Facebook and Skype at home by checking my work email. The boss (my wife) tried to block access to work from home, but the IT department (me) pushed back. If she was successful (unplugging the router) then I just access work via my iPhone and 3G. While this sounds a bit backwards, how far off am I? It is about usability and culture. People, Process and Technology – help people to succeed and we will all succeed. If people enjoy where they spend their time (online and offline) they will spend more time there.

This is the first part in a series where I will explore other topics on the consumerization of the enterprise, data and cultural silos.

Wow, that deserves a standing ovation!!

February 28, 2010 14 comments

Huh?! What?! – Certainly not my last run down the moguls this past week, that is for certain. I was lucky enough to enjoy some time on the slopes, time with family as well as some time to read from actual books, not even an e-reader. I stayed at a great Bed and Breakfast, in Waitsfield, Vermont (near Sugarbush) with my family (minus one).  Somehow, a book on Complex Adaptive Systems ( John H. Miller and Scott E. Page) made it into my overnight bag, and I began to read.  Before long there was a particular area which I wanted to dive a bit deeper into, an interesting phenomenon called ; The Standing Ovation Problem (SOP). Creative Commons

Staying true to my electronic hiatus of sorts, I decided to do a bit more research when I got home. The SOP, at a qualitative level, is straightforward, easy to understand and has relevance in modern business. Specifically, the SOP can be used as a real world metaphor of outcomes often generated by the tools and technologies which are used by modern businesses, who are trying to be ‘Social’. A better understanding of the ‘why’ or ‘how’ could help  to explain some of the issues encountered by a Social Business, both externally (Marketing, Support, Communities) and internally (Enterprise 2.0 tools). I am not saying I will be able to accomplish all of that here, but it is a start, and I so welcome your opinion.

What exactly is the Standing Ovation Problem?

To help me to understand the problem at a deeper level I found a 2004 research paper, The Standing Ovation Problem, by the same authors. The timing of the research and paper is interesting, as it predates the explosive time line of the Social Networks we know of today. The paper takes a very mathematical approach to the problem. However, a dissection of the problem, approach and theories makes extending the metaphor quite interesting. As the paper states:”The SOP has much to offer as it (1) is easily explained and part of everyone’s common experience; (2) simultaneously emphasizes some of the key themes that arise in social systems, such as learning, heterogeneity, incentives, and networks; and (3) is amenable to research efforts across a variety of fields. These features make it an ideal platform from which to explore the power, promise, and pitfalls of complexity modeling in the social sciences.”

Stated simply, a standing ovation is at the end of a lecture, presentation or performance (stage or athletic) certain members of the audience stand up and clap for a long(er) duration, which leads to other audience members doing the same. While a 10 year old might be able to explain what it is (mine did); why it happens, is another issue altogether.  The reason this phenomenon is intriguing in the context of Social Business, is because there is a Social Media equivalent to the phenomenon . Actually, there might be more than one. Via Facebook, Twitter and Buzz, we make public proclamations of likes and dislikes. Whether is a good or bad experience with a company which we make make public or an article or YouTube video which we Retweet. Within an organization, this type of ‘public’ opinion are certainly commonplace, now more than ever.

What are the components, and who are the Actors?

From a systems perspective, Use Case modeling may not work all that well, but I could not pass on giving it a shot. Though trying to ascribe mathematics to SOP, modeling is required: “In modeling the SOP, one must explicitly account for many aspects of social interaction. Here, we shall discuss just three: the spread of information, the timing of events, and the behavior of the agents.” (to simplify, I will treat an agent as a person in the SOP). Is the author talking about SOP, or could it be Twitter, Google Buzz or Facebook?  I believe that there are definitely social media equivalents, therefore understanding why these events occur is worthwhile.

I am not a marketer by trade, nor a social scientist, but the picture in my mind of the audience, is very similar to how Twitter is organized, maybe Facebook or Buzz, not sure. In the real world, we are all there to watch something, our interests are close enough that we came to the same event. We may or may not be ‘friends’ with the people in the audience. We might be very much in alignment with some members of the audience, though not sitting next to them. How does this relate to articles we read, videos watched or experiences we have, which are then forwarded or shared?

While I might actually know some of the others in the audience, for the most part I would suggest that I am not heavily influenced by them, with one exception. In a pure social sense, if everyone begins to stand and I do not, then I it might be ‘awkward’. Social Media has its equivalents as well. I might be trying to both impress (a Retweet), influence others AND there is less of an ‘awkwardness’ if I do nothing. This is referred to as simply conformity, however, this is not too interesting, but does occur. There is also an interesting difference between the people at the front of the theater, and those at the back. Those at the front are not influenced by others (they cannot see them), while those at the back can see everyone else. The analogy to Twitter would be people with lots of followers and those with fewer. This simple concept could be a whole post in and of itself.

Get with the flow, audiences exist within the enterprise as well.

The paper has a nice section on mathematical theories. The suggestion is that by using the SOP as a “backdrop” many different agendas can be addressed. These might include information aggregation, conformity and information cascades (I think of information flows). As practitioners, vendors, consultants and influencers expanding horizons and pushing back on businesses who claim “we are unique” just a little, is important to help them grow. A deeper understanding of why people – peers – act or react in certain way when new ideas are presented. As businesses work hard to become social, what are the impacts to other groups and departments as the silos are broken down?

Will you be the first to stand, sending a strong signal, when an idea is presented? Are you at the back of the theater, or the front (Leader or Follower)? The comment about being awkward is interesting as well, as one can be awkward in the beginning, by being the first to ’stand’, while it may be equally awkward at the other end to be the only one sitting. In an enterprise, if you are the first to stand then you are taking a risk, no? If you are the last to stand, then you might be taking a different kind of risk, yes?

Without diving into the mathematics, it is a little tough to do justice to the sections regarding information cascades. My reasoning for even addressing them at all, is that an understanding of the social dynamics within the company/enterprise are important. Within a theater, a person can send a limited number of signals, stand, sit and applause. Within a company, you can send these as well as many others. Even in the public timeline, you are able to send extra signals. Studies show that words such as “Great”, “Read” and “Loved” enhance the Retweeting of something, most often pointing at some form of content.

Where does that leave us, is there a conclusion?

The model and this discussion would certainly need to be extended, but the social aspects of an enterprise cannot be ignored. Words such as ‘transparency’ and ‘open’ mean that more and more people are making their opinions known in a very public way. This will change the culture within an organization. My sharing this blog, and the research behind it is a way of suggesting that the foundational research may already be there, if we look around a bit.

Here are a few of the conclusions reached by the authors. The fun question is how do these relate to a Social Business?

  • Most people might be standing, even though they do not necessarily agree with the extra praise offered by a standing ovation;
  • There is a greater pressure to conform, which leads less “efficient of information”. Could this be considered group think problems?;
  • People in the front may “have a large impact”. Is this the follower count issue? Just because you are in front, are you smarter?

There are lots of interesting places to take this type of conversation. I am inclined to ask some friends very specific topics, but will wait to see if people find this line of thinking interesting. Are there other areas we can all learn from this type of application of research to the ‘Social’ world? I am a firm believer that we all need to reach out and learn from other disciplines. Basic, sound research can be applied so many ways.  What do you think. Have I gone astray….?