The Missing Link between the Social Pioneers & the Preachers – The Practitioners

There is a huge gap in social business. Doesn’t anyone else see this? There are people out there sermonizing, but who is delivering the goods?  There are plenty of glossies and white papers about how it should work, but there is a missing link between the preaching and the process.

My theory about the next stage of growth to come is pretty simple. I suggest there is also a gap in most of the current discussions between the Pioneers and the Preachers about social business that will only be filled by real practitioners. The living fossils that want to link the theoretical as the applied science of social collaboration.

As with evolution theories of any sort, sometimes it takes the rediscovery of fossils to stir up debate and new depths of practical knowledge. We’re reaching a stage in the progression of Social/Collaboration business where new findings need to be explored even if it alters dearly held beliefs. Much of value has been written about strategy and engagement from both internal and external perspectives  like the somewhat surprising observations in the post ‘The Perception Gap in Social’ by Mitch Lieberman, and definitions about what social and collaboration mean. But, there are gaps in the experiments and the experience.

The Social Species

At one end of the chain, we have the Primal Preachers. They’re often young, playful, consumed with the newness and novelty of social, yet some tend to more closely resemble older primates forming the Silverback Network. Sometimes their arms are longer than the legs they stand on. Usually lead by a singular dominant male they congregate in troops, frequently grooming each other and picking off nits and eating them alive, and will attack any young not sired by them. Challenges for supremacy and leadership are met with growls, roars and chest-thumping.  When confronted with demands for proof of concept, they may charge on all fours in a show of knuckle walking intimidation.

Researchers have discovered that 99% of their charges are bluffs; providing the rest of the troop time for retreating to a safe distance.

On the upside, Siverbacks are highly communicative creatures, with a wide range of auditory and visual cues they use to teach and extend their range. (In fact, they’re a fascinating case study in social amongst primates.) They get people thinking that Social is the next step in an evolution that will happen whether people believe in the theory, or not. Right now they’re the Kings of the low-land forests and are a very necessary link in the chain of the creationism of Social Collaboration. They appeal to the masses.

At the other end of the range, we have the Perceptive Pioneers of the Old Boys Network. They’re older, wiser, and more likely to be seen walking upright, although often with a bit of swagger. With burly firm business legs to stand on, their reach is shorter, and the stretch is longer to grab the attention away from the chest pounders and the allure of Facebook and Twitter. They form & reform the network without so many obvious battles for leadership. Rather, they are more often found in shifting pods commonly known as Analyst firms where they share forth as a mostly cohesive community, targeting most of their communications to vendors & c-suite executives.

The pioneers understand that everything new is old again.  They’re the Prophets of the high-land woods equally necessary as they point towards what will be in the future. They will lead the way in turning social collaboration into feasible business strategy.

The Implementors are the Tactical Missing Link.

Sooner or later, there will be a need for a new breed of transitional fossil. Beings that marry both the primitive traits of traditional business with the full promise of internal and external collaborative social engagement. Part dinosaur and part Jetson, these creatures are the intermediate species that span the two groups of animals above to put it all together with the systems, technology and the tools.

In a recent interview about lessons learned in Social CRM, when asked if we have the right tools yet to collect the right data for analysis Esteban Kolsky replied,

 “The right tools are there, but we don’t have the right people. Analysis doesn’t require tools. Tools need to know & be told what they’re looking for.”

I agree, in whole, although I’ll apply it in a slightly different context here. In addition to having mathematical statisticians to make sense of the data, between the strategists and social socialites, someone has to understand industries, collaboration, processes, metrics –> how businesses work day-to-day, hands on –> then make the new technologies and tools deliver the right data and the magic metrics!

Those are the Process Practitioners. Currently, many belong to the ‘largely untapped – yet’ social network. Often found skirting the edges of both the Preacher and the Pioneer posses, they’re neither young nor old, just well-seasoned from long days in the blistering trenches and longer cold nights sweating over system Go Lives.  Usually bow-legged from spanning silos, and slightly hunched over from digging in the trenches, they nit-pick, too. Poking, prodding and pressing until each need is wholly understood and plans to fulfill them are devised in minute detail. The only young they care much about are the systems they deliver after a long labor with the stretch marks to show for every contraction.

Who is Delivering this Social Stuff in a Meaningful Way for the Vendor’s Customers?

The preachers will tell us that the tools and the technologies don’t matter, but ultimately organizations will select platforms on which to begin their engagement efforts. This is the tactical part of the process, and it’s being sadly neglected.

Looking at the positions posted on three ‘top’ social platform vendor sites doesn’t bode well for the clients. While we’re all searching for success stories, I forecast many dismal failures ahead if the right people aren’t being used in the right ways. Of 55 jobs posted by those vendors offering social collaboration solutions for businesses, only 4 of the jobs listed have any sort of business analysis consulting or software implementation experience as a requirement. That’s nothing short of scary.

In between ‘Let’s get socialized and collaborate’ and ‘Let’s achieve some new goals for your organization’ smart companies will be pausing to ask, “Who is going to put in the work to make these tools and systems live up to the strategy devised?”

The vendors better be ready to offer up the Missing Link:
The Practitioners.

I’ll tell you more about the Practitioners in a later post. Time for a new spurt of evolution, don’t you think?

 

Previous comments on this post here.
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I like my strategy hard-boiled, with pepper

There is a late night ad that drives me nuts, because it reminds me that sometimes ‘innovative’ attempts to repackage the basics are neither truly innovative, nor ultimately very useful.  The same is true with the way some people (pseudo gurus) and organizations are trying to approach ‘social’ business. One of these things is just like the other:  Behold, the Eggies System, which takes one of Mother Nature’s most perfectly engineered foods and turns it into a flat, hardened mess in a singular form.

Much of the social business hype reminds me of the Eggies System battle cry “Finally enjoy Hard-Boiled Eggs without peeling a single shell!” And, “When it comes to eggs, hard-boiled means hard work!  Messy shells, broken whites, and you’ll be peeling all night! Well, not anymore… introducing Eggies, the fast, easy way to cook hard-boiled eggs without the shell!”

When I watch that commercial, and I admit I’ve watched it far more times than I should, I hear the voices of the Social Gurus in my head, touting their wares. “Cook your eggs just like in a real shell,” sounds a lot like, “Go social, never mind how it fits into your core business.” Even while watching the recent keynote and corresponding tweets for Dreamforce, I was alternating between mockery and ire, as Salesforce  took it further and pitched ‘collaboration’ and ‘workflow’ so that they became sexy, trendy must-haves for the masses. This isn’t new. Or even fresh.  In fact, its long past the ‘best before’ date.

Collaboration, process, design and workflow aren’t new for many of us. They’re a given as necessary aspects in knowledge worker’s days. I believe that the attention E20 got via the Salesforce event will help us shape and mold broader adoption, which is something we’ve long strived for, but inevitably, I’m still left wondering who it is that businesses will trust to crack the necessary eggs, (and the heads), to implement it all in the Enterprise?

Crack, Pour & Boil!

But guiding organizations as they evolve to include social and collaboration into their cultures, helping them change to grow, is a business like any other. It’s not a brand new way to crack an egg and cook it. We often tell this to everyone who will listen, probably irritating them to no end with the repetition, and the sometimes strident tone. But, we will keep on saying it, because it needs to be said. Being a change agent is a business, with procedures that we study, refine, then improve upon, the same way that chefs learn to make a fluffy omelet or cook the perfect soft-boiled egg.  It takes practice, and an understanding of methodology until techniques are honed through the years and time-tested to work.

Susan Scrupski recently sent up call-to-arms to practitioners in Zen and the Art of Enterprise Maintenance, while championing a corporate culture ‘do over’:

“To get to the “fix” part of this equation, it’s going to take the smarts and knowhow of everyone who’s focused on the Enterprise.  There’s a great thread on G+ from Sameer Patel on the “how.”  The lasting value will be to apply the spirit of social revolution in the enterprise to the practical application of social in the enterprise.  I’ve heard reports from Dreamforce that the rhetoric-to-reality gap was pretty stark once you left the Benioff keynote cathedral and walked onto the show floor.

This is the hard part.  Delivering on the promise of social.  So consider it a clarion call for all practitioners, consultants, and vendors (big and small):  Figure it out.  Bring it home for the rest of us and the planet.  We’ve done the first hard part which is selling the promise of revolutionary change.  And we’ll keep beating that drum, btw.  It’s the backbeat to the song we’re singing.”

Which is definitely a tune I’m in harmony with, but I believe there are challenges in building an army of experienced change agents that can be heard above the choir of social misfits who lack any genuine enterprise knowledge or experience.

Do you want it whipped, fried, baked, scrambled, or coddled & cooked in plastic?

Much like new and improved cracked shell Eggies, the social gurus seem to be easier and more appetizing to the HR gate-keepers than the hard-boiled trench soldiers presenting old style resumes as their shell.  I hear it day in and day out from valued, truly expert contemporaries who have extensive domain knowledge, singing the same refrain for change, but they have to reinvent  themselves first as the jargon changes to compete. We’re forced to repackage the expertise and knowledge that will really benefit organizations into new HR marketing norms, using industry buzzwords that sometimes have little to do with the real value seasoned enterprise software vets have. Those of us ahead of the curve in experiences had better get cracking to stay competitive and findable.

And as a bonus – you’ll get the Eggie Slicer!

While this outstanding piece by Sameer Patel was written to illustrate the need for process and innovation in the HR space within the enterprise, I’d add Assessing the Real Value of Me to the must read list for consultants who are trying to hatch-up a better way to get the HR wardens to give them a closer look. Consider the line “I’m much more than what HR thinks of me, today”, as you read through the Four Dimensions of the Employee System of Record, then do an inventory to determine if you’ve put enough of your eggs into a basket that recruiters, colleagues and references can easily access.

We can’t blame it all on the gate-keepers, if we’re just recycling the same old CV’s and portfolios that used to work years ago, and yapping away on twitter and Google+. While reading Sameer’s piece, I recognized that while I have an extensive, solid body of work that clearly demonstrates my own abilities and value within a large enterprise that happens to be in the business of providing collaboration solutions – it isn’t findable to external resources. And while I rail against the thin veneer of of buzzword SEO, I recognize that in order to get out there as trusted practitioners, we do need to work to remain relevant in the same way that we preach and promote change in the organizations we serve.

There are problems to be solved, and improvements to be made.  Doesn’t matter what the problem is really; companies should be hiring people who know how to do both. Not just people who speak fluent (pick your target industry/role) hype.  But, this whole issue of relevancy and being heard is just another problem.  And we’re problem solvers and solution creators. We can do this.

While we might want to work with folks who dig a little deeper than the buzz anyway, we could be making it easier on them and ourselves by enriching the E20 community with ever more voices talking about the HOW TO get it done. In my case, that means bitching less about the gurus, and writing more about the delivery.  We all need to keep talking, singing, preaching and cracking through shells so that social isn’t just another gadget to clutter up the kitchen.

And that’s no yolk.

The Missing Link between the Social Pioneers & the Preachers – The Practitioners

There is a huge gap in social business. Doesn’t anyone else see this? There are people out there sermonizing, but who is delivering the goods?  There are plenty of glossies and white papers about how it should work, but there is a missing link between the preaching and the process.

My theory about the next stage of growth to come is pretty simple. I suggest there is also a gap in most of the current discussions between the Pioneers and the Preachers about social business that will only be filled by real practitioners. The living fossils that want to link the theoretical as the applied science of social collaboration.

As with evolution theories of any sort, sometimes it takes the rediscovery of fossils to stir up debate and new depths of practical knowledge. We’re reaching a stage in the progression of Social/Collaboration business where new findings need to be explored even if it alters dearly held beliefs. Much of value has been written about strategy and engagement from both internal and external perspectives  like the somewhat surprising observations in the post ‘The Perception Gap in Social’ by Mitch Lieberman, and definitions about what social and collaboration mean. But, there are gaps in the experiments and the experience.

The Social Species

At one end of the chain, we have the Primal Preachers. They’re often young, playful, consumed with the newness and novelty of social, yet some tend to more closely resemble older primates forming the Silverback Network. Sometimes their arms are longer than the legs they stand on. Usually lead by a singular dominant male they congregate in troops, frequently grooming each other and picking off nits and eating them alive, and will attack any young not sired by them. Challenges for supremacy and leadership are met with growls, roars and chest-thumping.  When confronted with demands for proof of concept, they may charge on all fours in a show of knuckle walking intimidation.

Researchers have discovered that 99% of their charges are bluffs; providing the rest of the troop time for retreating to a safe distance.

On the upside, Siverbacks are highly communicative creatures, with a wide range of auditory and visual cues they use to teach and extend their range. (In fact, they’re a fascinating case study in social amongst primates.) They get people thinking that Social is the next step in an evolution that will happen whether people believe in the theory, or not. Right now they’re the Kings of the low-land forests and are a very necessary link in the chain of the creationism of Social Collaboration. They appeal to the masses.

At the other end of the range, we have the Perceptive Pioneers of the Old Boys Network. They’re older, wiser, and more likely to be seen walking upright, although often with a bit of swagger. With burly firm business legs to stand on, their reach is shorter, and the stretch is longer to grab the attention away from the chest pounders and the allure of Facebook and Twitter. They form & reform the network without so many obvious battles for leadership. Rather, they are more often found in shifting pods commonly known as Analyst firms where they share forth as a mostly cohesive community, targeting most of their communications to vendors & c-suite executives.

The pioneers understand that everything new is old again.  They’re the Prophets of the high-land woods equally necessary as they point towards what will be in the future. They will lead the way in turning social collaboration into feasible business strategy.

The Implementors are the Tactical Missing Link.

Sooner or later, there will be a need for a new breed of transitional fossil. Beings that marry both the primitive traits of traditional business with the full promise of internal and external collaborative social engagement. Part dinosaur and part Jetson, these creatures are the intermediate species that span the two groups of animals above to put it all together with the systems, technology and the tools. 

In a recent interview about lessons learned in Social CRM, when asked if we have the right tools yet to collect the right data for analysis Esteban Kolsky replied,

 “The right tools are there, but we don’t have the right people. Analysis doesn’t require tools. Tools need to know & be told what they’re looking for.”

I agree, in whole, although I’ll apply it in a slightly different context here. In addition to having mathematical statisticians to make sense of the data, between the strategists and social socialites, someone has to understand industries, collaboration, processes, metrics –> how businesses work day-to-day, hands on –> then make the new technologies and tools deliver the right data and the magic metrics!

Those are the Process Practitioners. Currently, many belong to the ‘largely untapped – yet’ social network. Often found skirting the edges of both the Preacher and the Pioneer posses, they’re neither young nor old, just well-seasoned from long days in the blistering trenches and longer cold nights sweating over system Go Lives.  Usually bow-legged from spanning silos, and slightly hunched over from digging in the trenches, they nit-pick, too. Poking, prodding and pressing until each need is wholly understood and plans to fulfill them are devised in minute detail. The only young they care much about are the systems they deliver after a long labor with the stretch marks to show for every contraction.

Who is Delivering this Social Stuff in a Meaningful Way for the Vendor’s Customers?

The preachers will tell us that the tools and the technologies don’t matter, but ultimately organizations will select platforms on which to begin their engagement efforts. This is the tactical part of the process, and it’s being sadly neglected.

Looking at the positions posted on three ‘top’ social platform vendor sites doesn’t bode well for the clients. While we’re all searching for success stories, I forecast many dismal failures ahead if the right people aren’t being used in the right ways. Of 55 jobs posted by those vendors offering social collaboration solutions for businesses, only 4 of the jobs listed have any sort of business analysis consulting or software implementation experience as a requirement. That’s nothing short of scary.

In between ‘Let’s get socialized and collaborate’ and ‘Let’s achieve some new goals for your organization’ smart companies will be pausing to ask, “Who is going to put in the work to make these tools and systems live up to the strategy devised?”

The vendors better be ready to offer up the Missing Link:  
The Practitioners.

I’ll tell you more about the Practitioners in a later post. Time for a new spurt of evolution, don’t you think?

The Structured/Unstructured SCRM Data Puzzle – ‘in-the-trenches’ Techie weighs in

Don’t lose the cornerstone pieces of the CRM Puzzle in the quest to go Social, or the picture will never be complete.

Data Puzzles

I’ve spent a lot of time lately exploring some of the newer Social CRM solutions being developed and frankly, I’m concerned about some of what I’ve seen in the attempt to swing the innovations for Social too far from the Management part of SCRM.  You’re probably wondering why you should care  that I have an opinion at all, but if you’re planning now for product enhancements & integrations later, then voices like mine are important.

I’m your other customer.  I’m the one who will implement your solutions.  Which means I am the one that will also help make or break the success of your SCRM offering. Make me your advocate by developing your products so it is easy for us to make you rich & respected for providing quality solutions.

We’re the front line knowledge workers who are going to have to make all the pieces of the puzzle fit together to give your customers the complete picture.

(And we’ll take the direct body hits from your customers if those pieces don’t fit. So be kind, pay some mind…)

I’m not a renowned E2.0 Thought Leader or Analyst, but I have been a  ‘Techie in the trenches’ for the past decade as Professional Services Implementation ‘expert’ for Enterprise collaboration software, which means I’ve architected solutions, implemented, configured, integrated, migrated-to-and-from, most of the top traditional CRM packages that come to mind, not to mention  a handful of mid-market ERP packages, gaining a level of process knowledge & data intimacy that many strategists haven’t.  And I’ve implemented sales processes that would make your head spin.

All in the pursuit of providing adequate analytics as the outcome  so your customers can Manage their Customer Relationships and make more Sales.

What I’ve observed is that some vendors are so overly-focused on socializing the process with unstructured data/process innovation dreams, that they’re too cautious about laying the right ground work for future scalability based on a true understanding of the smallest data sets required for optimal analytics, and further feature growth. I won’t presume to offer up a lesson here on 3 layer ‘constraint, schemata, and object’ architecture when there are much brighter Knowledge Management development experts out there, but I will share some basic thoughts on structured minimum data sets and why they are still important.

Unstructured vs. Structured Data – A precarious balance

Let’s illustrate the need for non-structured/structured balance with a recent experience I had while testing new SCRM software. I put it through many different scenarios in an attempt to build a use case that would demo the product end-to-end, but the one function I found most interesting was when I imported a test batch of contacts with a csv file. While I was mapping address fields I noticed in the user interface it looked like I was plunking them all into one address field.  My prof services brain went into over drive at that point, asking questions like:

  • Well this is interesting… I wonder how this works when I search on multiple states to either flag accounts in my territory or run a report on my territory… you know, so I can keep an eye on my pipeline & and commissions?
  • I wondered if the data was being truly parsed into any sort of coded structure with constraints so that we didn’t have multiple dirty data entries for California: Cali, CA, CAL, …
  • What happens in the business logic layer if the user is doing manual account creation and skips the state field altogether? Boy! That will be a lot of fun for the Order Processing department when I push the sale back to them to invoice & ship! WHEE!
  • Users won’t care much if they’re using Googlefied-style searches on most screens, and while I have a deep respect for the need for more natural human language in developing business intelligence, the potential impact on the product’s future ability to integrate in the future with ERP/Accounting packages that rely upon the data in basic address fields like City, State and Country for segmentation that drive things like commission territories is worthy of forethought and a concession to the need for some standards.
  • I checked in with a respected company that develops web-based VOIP billing solutions and learned that they absolutely do hard-code those fields and only Googlefy the results on screens.
  • In short, the ‘C’ in CRM stands for customer, or in the world of data, it still stands for the Customer Record.
  • There must be respect for and knowledge of the Taxonomy of the way the customer handles the sales process once the external social lead becomes a real customer, while still enabling people to enter their own Folksonomy in less critical entry fields.
  • You don’t want a hard-coded relational monster with 236 possible fields for a single record, not counting related tables/fields (been there, done that, haven’t we?) but there is a bare minimum of account detail & segmentation that can’t be optional if the end goal is full CRM functionality including actionable reports & metrics.
  • If done right, this is accomplished with as few as 20 well thought-out fields.

It’s the ‘little things’ you don’t plan for now that will trip you up later when the analysts start vetting your solution.

In another example, I was testing Opportunities created via Twitter leads. I noted that the ‘Stage’ & ‘Likelihood of Close %age’ fields were not related in any way.

  • Simpler for the user, certainly, but that makes it much more difficult to deliver a true ‘weighted’ sales forecast to fulfill the Management part of CRM.
  • That also makes it more complicated to develop templates for simple B2C, Mfg B2C, Wholesale B2B, or other sales cycle processes that you can drop in for plug-n-play verticals.

These are only a few selected examples that seemed obvious and easily identified to this PS geek who has one foot firmly stuck in traditional data/process la-la-land, but it did cause me concern that the innovators might be trying so hard to innovate social into the mix that they have tunnelled their vision too tightly on the Social/Relation part of CRM. With too little strategic focus on the Customer (record) and Management (processing sales & acting on measurable outcomes) part of the acronym.

Aside from the points above, I’ve also concluded that truly visionary SCRM companies will have Professional Services Veterans on their teams. ;>

You will be asked to develop order processing features, or integrate to existing systems that handle those transactions. And if you’ve created a great product, you’ll need to migrate data from existing systems.

Are you building your solutions with those growth challenges in mind? Are you laying the foundation up front?

(Next post… the importance of ‘roles and rights’ in channeling leads through to sales/customer service efficiently. If you stretch your brain, you’ll note that this has intriguing impact on licensing models, too.)

How an Absolute Nobody hit a 71% Klout Score

On Matter, Mentors, Mentions & Manners…

Upwards & Onwards
It’s about engaging more, not increasing Klout

With recent chatter about Klout revising their measurement algorithm, I’m going to share some thoughts on interacting more while adding value, versus hanging out on SM channels, trying to ‘build your personal brand’.

When I started being active online in twitter, I had a klout score of 1. I had no idea if that was 1st or last (we’re #1,) but after learning and settling into  my own comfort zone, a friend pointed out today that my klout was 17 gazillion! ;>
I’ve taken some justified teasing as a result from fun (and wise) folks because my score is now higher than some genuine Thought Leaders. I’ve had a good laugh along with them, as while it is flattering, it has had no direct impact (yet) on my ability to trade it in on a wondrous new gig in my field.

I’ve also taken some snark recently from long time friends in real-life. “Yeah, I noticed some have higher scores though they don’t ‘work’ to engage like you do.”  mmm-kay…

Some think that the algorithm (and new version) used is utterly skewed if a relative nobody can hit high, and others note the true value of influence ratings are still an unknown; neither of which concerns me much one way or the other right now, but has made me think about the things I’ve done differently since my early days on twitter when my score was -17 gazillion.

Let’s turn this into a learning experience for those who do think there is merit in a higher Klout score.  Or better yet, maybe it will simply help someone out there improve their own ability to influence ideas or learn more about their profession through Social Media efforts.

(I hope this doesn’t come across as a vanity post, as my goal here is to share lessons learned forward as a person, not a self-proclaimed pundit of any sort. I get so much out of Social Media, personally & professionally that I can’t help but share.)

It won’t work if you’re working it…

Every social media maven out there will tell you the key to success is being genuine and having a truly authentic voice.  And they’re absolutely right.  Some of the stuff I’ll share below probably sounds like I work at it, but the reality is that I’m simply sharing the content that matters to me in my own efforts to increase my knowledge about things I’m interested in. I’m studying anyway, so it is only a few clicks more to put it out for others’ benefit.

It also really helps if you find a channel you love. I often see people starting out in social media and spreading themselves too thin on too many channels. I think that dilutes your message, and eventually, it would feel like work.  Think about your normal communication style off-line.  Are you a writer, speaker, photographer, or an artist? That will help you figure out where to focus your efforts. This is a great example of a Personal Social Media policy that clearly outlines which channels a friend uses, how & why.

In my case, that Klout score is almost entirely from twitter.  I never use FaceBook, only seldom comment on blog posts, and my addition to group discussions is also less frequent than it should be.  Hell, I don’t even blog (which is another blog in itself for another day). For me, Twitter suits my real world style best – I’m a talker, so engaging in real-time, fast-paced conversations and idea exchanges is not only comfortable, it’s natural and fun.

Regardless of the inaccuracies or flaws in Klout’s system, I’ll admit I am interested in this part of my score, because at the end of the day, I’m just being me. My goal is to meet and interact with new people, as well as those I already know and respect.

“Kelly Craft generates actions and discussions with nearly every message.”

I hope that is right, because it means I’ve done what I set out to do in the first place: I’m learning, sharing my knowledge, and part of discussions, not just spamming a bunch of one-way push crap. It implies that I am getting the true value of twitter.

If I have attained any degree of success, it’s because of …

Matter, Mentors, Mentions & Manners…

As I said, I use twitter more for my own selfish desires, gaining a free education from brighter minds, rather than ‘gaming the system’ to build the ‘Irreverent @krcraft Brand’. 

In my pursuit of an ideal learning/sharing experience, I guess I do use a few ‘tricks’ to make it less work to find quality content. I’ve posted a bit about this before, but I’ll be more specific below.

  • iGoogle rocks! My iGoogle is my start page and command central of my learning hub. From here, I can feed my passion with access to the Best and Brightest Minds that are Mentors, whether they know so, or not. Links to ‘must read’ blogs and favourite discussion groups are only a click away with constantly fresh brain fodder. I check in often throughout the day for new posts, and if I find one that makes me think, I share it in a tweet.
Command Central
  • I also have specific Google news & blog alerts set up to advise me when there is breaking news about Enterprise 2.0. Even so, I also check manually for updates several times a day, always selecting news in the ‘last 24 hours’ to ensure that I’m not posting the same-old, same-old that a million others have posted that day.
  • I follow many of those same expert bloggers on twitter, too.  In fact, they have their own ‘must read’ column in Tweetdeck, which is the first one  I look to for information I want to learn and discussions I want to jump in on. They’re also on a separate ‘stimulators’ Twitter list, which makes it all the easier to share their value forward.
You can’t just randomly RT everything that Thought Leaders/Influencers/Fun Farts post. 
  • I never post any link – ever – that I haven’t first read. What’s the point? And how do you know if it is truly valuable, controversial, or has nuggets of knowledge gold? How do you know if you even have an opinion on the content, or not, if you don’t bother to care before you share?
  • I’ll admit I’m even more thirsty for new ideas than most, as I find many sources for new knowledge (and content) by clicking on the links within those blog posts. ‘Oh the places you’ll go… ‘ that you’d otherwise miss altogether if you tweet like a robot.
  • If you read something particularly clever, favourite it and recycle it now & then for new followers to appreciate and in hopes of renewed discussions.
  • Twitter Chats are also a lively way to learn, engage and discover new people you want to hang with & learn from on-line.  Check out this list of chats to see if there is one that piques your interest or a passion.
    • I don’t recommend participating in more than 2-3 chats per week, otherwise you may find your followers becoming unfollowers due to the flurry of tweets that aren’t their cup of tea, but carefully selecting one or two chats is a certain way to introduce yourself and be introduced, to others who care about whatever it is that tweaks your brain.
    • As with the Must Read group, I do the same thing when I am in a chat.  After watching for a few weeks, it is easy to see who the leaders are, the ones that are expert voices. They’re also in a column of their own, with the #whatever in another.  Sounds cliquish, but I simply don’t want to miss their opinions in the flurry.
    • That doesn’t mean that you only engage with ‘Board Leaders’, like a snotty mercenary. If you do it right, you monitor key notes and discussions around the topic and share/forward them to less experienced participants and your own followers who might not be part of the chat.
  • On Mentions and Manners… this is a really easy one to screw up, and I still struggle with it myself – and here is why:
    • Gratuitous mentions or RT’s of someone high-profile or influential for the sake of looking like one of the ‘cool kids’ bugs me enormously.
    • Which is not to say that I never mention someone who has those attributes, but I’d like to think I only do so when they’ve shared something I appreciate, or when making an actual comment to them, in discussion or as an aside.
    • I follow many influential folks, just like others, but I usually only directly @ them if we’ve already got some sort of existing relationship via previous conversations, events, chats, introductions, or discussion groups.
    • If you really want to raise someone’s profile, why not pick someone new to your twibe who seems bright &/or funny, then draw them out in a conversation about something interesting they said or shared? >Buildup as yet unknown influencers – don’t just follow the usual suspects and hope they’ll beam a little benevolent attention your way.
  • I panic every time I sit to send out my ‘thanks’ for mentions & RT’s.  I’m always worried I’ll forget someone who was particularly kind, and hurt feelings inadvertently. That said, I’ve also come to learn that it is almost impossible to thank every person, every day, for every bit of kindness or lively talk.
  • Some of the people who ‘influence’ me the most are the ones I thank least often.  We’re friends, or study-buddies in this big social world, and they already know I value them greatly, simply because we connect when & where ever for facts, fancy & fun.
    • I’ve tailored my thanks tweets to make certain to appreciate those who reached out or shared unexpectedly, encouraging further interaction.
  • I’ll also bust the ‘secret’ vault wide-open and admit I’m not a fan of #followfriday in many respects.
    • Truth be told, I really don’t want a bunch of random new followers who I might not share any common interest with.
    • Likewise, it is always very uncomfortable for me on Fridays when I know I’ll hurt some feelings by not reciprocating full #FF lists on which I might have been included.  I don’t necesssarily know all of these people, so be damned if I’ll ‘promote’ them just because someone else suggests it.
    • I like to think of #FF lists as I would think of hashtags I follow.  For example, there are #custserv folks I will consistently recommend be followed, because I know others can & will benefit from their insight and expertise. Likewise with #E20 & #scrm, which I’ll include at the end of the #FF tweet so that others know these folks have specific areas of interest & knowledge.
    • I’d like to see #FF go in an entirely new direction altogether. It’d be great if instead of pushing out random #FF’s each week, people made one or two direct introductions between other professionals in their field, people passionate about the same cause, or picked a favourite charity to promote on Fridays. We can all do that every day, but it’d be especially nice to see Friday’s stream full of some fresh changes with high value, and less guilt. ;> 

If you want to have more influence, be more influential. Have a clear, focused voice about what drives you. Increase your signal with fresh content. Share content only if you truly have an opinion on it or learned something from it. Pay attention to only the ‘cool kids’ who have something to say that actually resonates with you personally. And give the (allegedly) less cool kids a leg up in their own Social Media efforts.

Most of all, be your own self, whether it be driven, focused, funny or a snark monster.  You’ll find your footing, and others you want to meet will find you.

It’s only work if it isn’t genuine.

What am I missing?  What methods do you use to add value to your own Social Media efforts?

One Man’s ‘Stalking’ is another Man’s ‘Savvy’

No Stalkers - Savvy Only

I’m often amused by the over-the-top posts on Slashdot about online privacy. While I appreciate the intelligent discussions on security, I often think that some of the slashdot nerds have no front line experience with business, nor a clear understanding of how Social Media is changing customer engagement best practices.

Case in point:  When I clicked on this tweet: @slashdot: Cisco Social Software Lets You “Stalk” Customers http://bit.ly/b5JHe2 via @jockr I wasn’t the slightest bit surprised to discover the post filed under ‘Your rights Online’, nor was I shocked to read the comments, most of which are nothing more than ‘Is Cisco crazy’ tirades about invasion of privacy and lawsuits looming.

One man’s stalking is another man’s new world business savvy.

In the first place, this isn’t new.  It isn’t like the Cisco roll out of SocialMiner is the first ever effort to enable enterprise listening solutions to monitor customers via various channels. Pick any company with marketing smarts and I guarantee that whether they’re using listening software or not, they have key resources assigned to ‘stalk’ their customers with both ears tuned to hear what is important to the customer.

“The software is designed to not only enable enterprises to monitor the conversations of their customers but to engage those that require service,” Cisco says.

I’m annoyed by the negative reaction and the less than lucid arguments being posted as comments against this roll-out. Is this Cisco angst, or merely a fundamental lack of business knowledge? Perhaps both, but here is what the detractors aren’t considering:

  • First clue of note, if your customers have a blog, then they want it to be read.  That’s a pretty basic, safe assumption. It’s in the public domain for a reason.
  • ‘Customer’ in this instance is not the end-user little guy jealously guarding their privacy — these are enterprises working B2B. ‘Customer’ means another company, not a specific person tweeting reviews about the movie they watched the night before.
  • Universal McCann reports that 77% of all active internet users regularly read blogs. That would include business blogs. Increasing efficiencies in doing so for business isn’t much different from improving RSS feeds, which most of the same nerds use daily to watch news on ‘privacy right invasion’.
  • Customer Collaboration is part of the entire Customer Experience

I’m sure we could add many more points to the list, but the bottom line is that the loudest voices that bemoan ‘stalking’ are entirely oblivious to the reality and benefits of social media listening for companies and their customers. I guess they don’t know what Enterprise 2.0 is about. ;>

Are you concerned about listening to your customers to offer better service and support?

Gray Matters – A rant about Ageism

gno grey matter tee

Cool tee from Gno Streetwear Says it all

 

I’m ticked off and stymied by some recent things I’ve seen as ageism towards GenX.  Age discrimination is often not taken as seriously as other forms of discrimination. 

Ageism can be combated through inclusive planning and design which reflects the circumstances of persons of all ages to the greatest extent possible. Age diversity that exists in society should be reflected in business  for policies, programs, services, facilities and so forth so that physical, attitudinal and systemic barriers are not created.  Where barriers already exist, those responsible should identify them and take steps to remove them.

Ageism, can have the same economic, social and psychological impact as any other form of discrimination. I can attest to that based on a recent experience with Company X.

I’m not your average bear when it comes to putting myself out there looking for a new position.  I’m very selective about where I want to work, and I approach the whole process like a job in itself. I’ll research a company for months, get to know their management and staff on line, and listen to their customers. Why? because I’m recruiting them as much as they’re recruiting me. And I’m picky.

Company X intrigued me. Product is similar to what I’m an expert in, but in a vertical channel that is growing as an industry.  Feels like something I could be very passionate about working with.  I’ve been dancing with them for months, including multiple interviews that seemed to go well. The feedback was certainly good, with one exception that’s been bugging me for weeks now.

A big goal they had in Professional Services was to put better business analysis processes in place. I won’t post my résumé here, but “Hello, this is what I DO. WELL. One quick look at LinkedIn recommendations would confirm that for ya.”

Most of the ‘not now’ feedback was stellar and made me feel like a million bucks, except for this part:

“… Although X feels that you have a great background that could transition over, our consulting services are aren’t as mature as we’d like at this point to be able to take best advantage of your skills. Although your interviewers were most impressed, they feel that we wouldn’t be able to offer you the right fit in Delivery, yet… ”

That’s been rattling around in my brain since August.  (Note I highlighted the word ‘mature’, because we’ll circle back around to that in a minute.) Many things flitted around in my grey matter as to what that meant, none sticky enough, or logical enough, to make me feel better about not getting a role with a company I want to work for and know I could help with continued growth & success.

Until today.  As another step in the dance, a VP invited me out for a coffee chat, just because we’ve met online in twitter and she wanted to put a human face to the persona that occasionally tweets about them.  So I met with a lovely Lady about my age (GenX), with an incredible sense of style and keen business savvy. One of my tribe.

She had no idea that I’d had any past exposure to the company via interviews, but I was quite candid about the high level of frustration others like myself must feel seeing those same jobs posted over and over each week on the local tech job board. Without saying it precisely this way, I was clearly stating, “WTH – that is nuts.”

I did twist my thinking around after hearing this response, “Let me add some context to that. Our company’s median age is in low-mid 20’s. That was great when we were a startup and needed that energy as a startup, but now we are realizing we need to get people in the door who don’t need to be taught their jobs, or how to manage a critical issue, but can hit the ground running to get things done.”

*bing – lightbulb goes on* Ah, so the previous interviewers really meant I was too mature in age for the department, and not in skill set. Oddly that made me feel a lot better.  I know I have the skillz, and dying the gray hair doesn’t affect my abilities to use my gray matter. In other words, this is their issue, not a weakness or failure on my part. We old folks can be intimidating, I guess. *rolling my eyes as I type that*

Another friend, who is one of the keenest consultants I’ve had the great fortune to work with, is contemplating a career move of his own. A recruiting specialist told him last week, “You might be too old to be employable in Enterprise these days.”  He’s 47 and runs 6 miles a day. huh?

Now I feel a rant about reverse ageism.  What is it with these younger managers, especially in successful startups that prevent them from understanding just how much gray matters? I’ll pit decades of success after deep-diving in any industry over a GenY holding a newly-minted college or university degree out as a reason to be higher up on the hiring pile.

And I guarantee that us old fogeys will be far more innovative and creative in approaching any business issue you can throw at us.

A common refrain heard too often from my contemporaries, “I know more about what this role really entails and requires than the person/s interviewing me.”

I’m sure it is a lot more fun to fill an office with like-minded people enjoying the same trendy amusements that appeal to youth entering the professional work force, but it’s not a very bright business management game plan for the long-term strategy. 

I’ll continue my dance with company X. I think they’ve got a product to be very proud of, and I’m certain of their success.  I’m also hoping that today’s conversation cast a little illumination on an internal issue that is more widespread than many realize.

Hiring managers: Upgrade Your Team’s Gray Matter, because Gray Matters and can bring you instant street credibility.

Have any workplace ageism stories?  How did you deal with it?