Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Welcoming Powered to our Ecosystem

What better occasion to hop back on the blog than our acquisition of Powered, today! As Peter Kim mentions, this acquisition makes us the largest Social Business consultancy in the world.

Many will be quick to note that Powered is a social media agency-- "helping brands realize the potential of social media programs to drive tangible business results." I will just as quickly point out the emphasis on the latter half of the sentence (business results) over the former (social media). While their services span platforms marketers are intimately familiar with, (i.e., Facebook and Twitter), they are highly relevant to the "other side" which we so often fool ourselves into thinking is an alternate universe, E2.0.

After having gone to an all-girls school for the first 10 years of my life, I vividly remember my first class with boys. This was quickly proceeded by my first lunch in the cafeteria with said foreigners. I remember being shocked when I realized how similar they were... how they talked about the same exact things as we did, in the same way. I had this same realization at my first E2.0 conference when I realized that marketers and IT professionals too speak the same language.

This is important to understand when thinking about our recent acquisition: Dachis Group is a Social Business consultancy. Many of the Social Business constructs we talk about today transcend divisions between marketing and IT.

While this acquisition directly expands our customer engagement practice, keep in mind we're all "listening" to various stakeholders. We're all interested in seeding, feeding, and weeding our communities. We all need governance, education, and playbooks as we migrate to new platforms. We all need to evolve our thinking around measurement. We all need social strategies-- and the methodologies by which we arrive there are in fact quite similar for 'E2.0' and 'Social Media'.

We welcome Powered, and its subsidiaries, Crayon, StepChange, and Drillteam to the Dachis Group family and look forward to designing better, social businesses across both of these worlds.

Welcome to our ecosystem, Powered!

Monday, September 20, 2010

the bias lurking in your listening

[This post is cross-posted on the Dachis Group Collaboratory]

The other day my father asked me if I was happy and I responded “I don’t know.” He laughed out loud, as if to suggest it would make more sense for me to say yes or no, something definitive.

I didn’t know what he meant by “happy” and wanted clarification before I gave an inaccurate answer. Happiness can be so complex. How did I know if he was asking me about my current mood or my long-term satisfaction with life?

Like any researcher, if I don’t understand the question being asked, I’m reluctant to give an answer.

This rarely happens in an interview. Never happens on a survey. People will always provide an answer as much as meetings will fill the entire hour. Inherent in those answers is an assumption that each other’s definition of a given topic/construct are the same, take happiness. Guess what? This happens in Listening too.

Although Listening implies gathering naturalistic data, it’s subject to the same bias as the forms of research above. Perhaps because automation is involved, people forget you’re still asking a question, despite how passively you’re listening.

Each of your “alerts” is a boolean query, which is just like a good old-fashioned research question. It's what you're asking of the internets. It requires clarity. Sometimes the bias manifests as simply as a query that contains only your brand name, the way you know it and market it, as opposed to incorporating slang and nicknames. Sometimes it’s more complex-- you think the “functionality” of your product (e.g. cellphone) has to do with its feature set (e.g. app market), but it’s really about perceived value or how easy it is to use (e.g. haptic feedback). “Quality” is another good example of where definitions can vary widely.

Someone once cited some research (that I cannot find) suggesting that when expecting parents discuss their anticipation of a new child, the male partner envisions the imminent child as a 3-year-old; the female pictures a newborn baby. Although unspoken, the parents are completely misaligned in what they’re bonding over throughout pregnancy. This is the exact kind of vivid image to think about when you Listen-- something that conveys how differently people could define your topic of interest.

To be a social business, we need to smarten up on Listening, or more accurately, anticipating answers. Question clarity in Listening demands both query precision and comprehensiveness. Be sure you’re capturing the specific data you’re hoping for, and being exhaustive in the ways it could be conceived by others.

This, by the way, is also why Listening demands data integration. More on that next time.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Fans and Followers; Apples and Oranges?

“Think of it like a nutrition label”

I keep hearing this come up... with respect to LEED certification on buildings, Wal-Mart’s sustainability index, and several other newsworthy scoring systems of late.

Is a nutrition label the ultimate scorecard?

What’s interesting about nutrition labels is that they present several numbers-- everything isn’t added up into a single grade or score. In today’s business world, there’s a tendency to add everything up, particularly when it comes to incorporating social media metrics as KPIs.

This is a trap!

One number doesn’t necessarily provide a shortcut to all the varied aspects of business. That’s not to say we should open the floodgates and serve up raw data. Like individual food items impacting your nutritional profile, several variables play roles in your overall social media presence and your overall business performance.

A scorecard should provide guidance on what we cannot immediately discern the health of, be it a food, community, or business. The trick is to find the right level of aggregation. That is, we need to elevate low level behaviors to the appropriate categories and then leave them there, not continue to aggregate (i.e. create one score).

Edelman’s SMI was one of the first to add things up across platforms. At the time, it was pioneering and innovative. Jonny Bentwood and David Brain were creative and transparent about their methodology. They were also wary of and vocal about the subjectivity involved.
“This is definitely adding apples to oranges we admit. So for example, we are placing a score for Facebook depending on the number of friends someone has. For Twitter, it is the number of friends, followers and updates. And if that is not insulting enough, we are then coming to a comparative weighting of someone’s Facebook score against their Twitter and blogging score. And the most sinful step is of course the final one where we have added those scores together and come up with a total Social Media Index.”
You, like the rest of the business world, are probably interested in building the ultimate scorecard. You might even be engaging in methodology like the above.

Make sure you are highlighting the right aspects of your business-- things that measure important movement and things that matter to those who consume the numbers. Choose metrics that impact your “overall meal”-- like calories and fat, but also recognize there is value in certain parts of the whole, like qualitative assessments.

What does your organization's nutrition label look like?

[This post is cross-posted on the Dachis Group Collaboratory]

Thursday, May 20, 2010

in memory of Devendra Singh

Devendra Singh was a clever and charming firecracker. So smart. So gentle. So caring. So persistent. 

In my dissertation acknowledgments, I wrote this about him: 
Dr. Singh has shown me that loving what you do will keep you alive. His wisdom about life, enthusiasm for teaching, and concern for my well-being have bettered my life in countless ways. I have learned from him how to think like a scientist and will forever remember his unmatched ability to captivate a classroom.
I remember the first class I ever TA'd for him. We walked slowly for several blocks in the brutal Texan summer heat. I didn't think he would make it. When we arrived in the classroom, he got up on a table, sat cross-legged-- looking half like a child, half like a yogi, and hacked away until he caught his breath. When it was time for class to begin, he was ON - no signs of distress until the 'high' of teaching escaped, an hour or so after class.  

I've never seen a classroom of college kids listen as intently as they did to Dr. Singh, day after day, no matter what the content. I've also never seen someone command a room so powerfully with such a gentle voice, strong Indian accent, and transparencies dating back to the 60's. 

Dev loved teaching. He also loved when people appreciated his teaching; thus our relationship. He inspired everyone who stepped foot in his classrooms. And this, only one of his many dimensions-- brilliant researcher, devoted and very, very proud father, gourmet chef, and so many other facets that came up over the years. 

Dev was groundbreaking and controversial. He would be disappointed in me to know I memorialized him without mentioning his research on the evolutionarily preferred .67 waist-hip ratio and the adaptive significance of female attractiveness. Students were literally on the edge of their seats when he gave the backstory on this research-- again, using his old transparencies. 

I know he suffered over the past few years, especially this last semester when he was prevented from teaching. I'm so sad he's gone. Missing him so much already. 

May everyone have a fig today to honor the passing of this inspiring man. 

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

not (just) listening anymore

The Listening space just got exciting. Again.

Or should I say the Social CRM space?

Coming from what used to be called a social media monitoring research firm, I find changes in this space very interesting-- whether they revolve around the quest for the ultimate metric for engagement, the hot new look of a dashboard, or the advancement of semantic technology. Most interesting is when companies join forces, including oldies like BuzzMetrics and NetRatings and Cymfony and TNS and, those hot off the press, Attensity and Biz360 and Scout Labs and Lithium - both of which are being billed as dominant forces in the suddenly expanding Social CRM space. 

Merging open and closed networks is an important move for businesses; so is responding in real-time; so is amassing massive amounts of data. Each of these, a promise of social CRM. 

And with each of these much-anticipated-features of Social CRM comes important watch-outs:  

Merging networks:
One of the most important precursors to merging data sets is data quality. Have you evaluated the breadth (e.g. which networks, blogs, forums, Usenet, tweets, videos, etc.) and depth (e.g. comments, likes, wall posts, etc.) of the data set you're querying? Be wary of the mechanics of your data before you assume they can be married.   

Real time response:
An often overlooked aspect of real-time response is a corresponding workflow to enable a sufficient response. Are there formal processes in place to connect the subject matter experts to the consumers? Before trying to respond too quickly, prioritize the signals you're responding to and make sure there's a process in place to both facilitate response and fix any associated problem.  

Amassing data:
People love to talk about warehouses full of data. With APIs opened up, are you hoarding additional data or making sense of it? Make sure you're not mindlessly adding apples and oranges. Add variables together with cause, and look for patterns beneath the surface

I'm really excited about Scout Labs and Lithium joining forces, largely due to their stellar casts of characters. Jenny Zeszut, Margaret Francis, and Jochen Frey at Scout Labs; Joe Cothrel and Michael Wu at Lithium all are enlightened minds I always learn from. Congratulations to all of you!

Your customers are indeed everywhere and you need to be as well. My colleague, Peter Kim is hosting a webinar on this today. Join him as he shares his observations on social media trends and the market factors driving businesses’ need for expanded customer intelligence over the Social Web, Wednesday 5/19 at 3CT/4ET. 

I'm anticipating a lot more creative moves in the listening space in the near future. Just be wary of the basics before you identify your new Social CRM provider.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

I'm back!

I'm a little out of practice, having been gone for the past 2 months on maternity leave. I haven't been blogging, and only infrequently tweeting. But that doesn't mean I haven't been thinking about social business. As the folk wisdom goes, sometimes taking a step back gives you a fresh POV.  

One of the best perspectives I got came from the worst part of my maternity leave: a 3 day stint at the Children's Hospital, where they had the most impressive analytic dashboards. 

In the pediatric ICU there are monitors everywhere, with all the right real-time analytics. At first, I was in awe of the gold 'standardness' of it all -  they know exactly what to look at to monitor the health of their patients. One dip or rise and the alarms sound. If only we knew the equivalent of heart rate, blood pressure, and body temperature in social business... 

But what I learned is, even when you've got the right metrics, it's still complicated. So as you continue to chase the holy grail of business metrics, here are some things to think about.

  • Don't set thresholds too aggressively. The monitor in our room buzzed all the time. Initially, I panicked each time. Inevitably, a nurse would come in and turn it off. No exam necessary. No big deal. They had set the thresholds for various measures as early warning signals- the beeping wasn't really cause for concern. Eventually I learned to ignore it. When your metrics aren't calibrated to levels that require action, it leads to non-response.

  • Connect your sensors to the right surface (think: people, department, products).  My son's blood pressure gauge was on his ankle. With any kicking, the monitor was overcome with noise. He kicked all the time. Again, I endured the meaningless beeping and worse, an eye-opening flatline would appear on the monitor. The signal was great when it worked, but it was hard to read patterns over time with so much missing data. If you want your signal to come in loud and clear, be sure you're accessing a reliable location.

  • Single measures mean little in isolation. Each of the measures monitored was a very strong indicator, but never did movement in one call for action. Action was the result of a configuration of activity across measures, over time, and as a result of consensus across nurses and doctors. Here was the biggest lesson: 'metrics that matter' actually means more than identifying the right metrics, the holy grail-- it's about finding the ones that act in concert to yield something meaningful, having the right people monitoring them, and instituting the right processes for crisis response.

Now, this is NOT a critique of the medical practice. This particular hospital had it down- they knew exactly how to 'listen' to their dashboards. Having internalized tactics like the above, they knew exactly when to intervene. 

This is, instead, a lesson about valuing what it is that you're currently measuring. The right metrics will come; for now, make sure you're making the most of your current dashboards.

More to come!