Conversation Intelligence – What are your customers talking about online

In one of my previous writings I wrote about why companies shouldn’t invest in monitoring tooling. Companies should not invest in monitoring tooling when everything they do with it, is just faking engagement. Since what normally happens is that this becomes so “customer service” oriented that people forget the true power of listening and engaging with your customers, partners, and employees.

So don’t use these tools to fake engagement, but use it as an analysis tool, a tool which helps you getting to the information that is required to provoke an unique and hopefully satisfying experience (online and offline). Monitoring tools are not just about listening to complaints. They usually can also do analysis which can be useful for variety of purposes from doing a service response to running more effective marketing campaigns. Monitoring tools like any other tool can be very useful when used correctly of course. It is afterall an intelligence tool, but what you do with gathered intelligence is what will make the difference.

Conversation intelligence

How are you going to harness this intelligence, what are you planning to do with it? Think of this before you make your decision which monitoring solution you are going to use and what intelligence you need to provide a brilliant experience to your customers. Don’t see it as just customer service based monitoring the conversations, it is conversation intelligence.

A big thanks to my colleagues Nicolas, Milind and Guarav for the conversations about this topic and for valuable content for this blog.

Why companies should not invest in online monitoring

“If the news is that important, it will find me.”

source

This one of the most famous quotes in the last few years.  We do not only expect that news will find us, but also if we have a complaint about a product or service, we expect the manufacturer or the provider to find us and to solve our issues. And since the web is indexable and searchable most companies want respond to complaints before they spread and end up in the top results of Google.

To make sure such companies can tap into the complaint / conversation that is going on about their products and services, they choose monitoring tools as a solution. Such software monitors the Web on certain topics and keywords providing some reporting and alerting so the company at least can pretend that they really listen to the conversation.

Faking engagement

Since that is the only thing web monitoring tools do: they help companies to pretend they are listening. If companies really cared about what was going on, they would have invested in such a social infrastructure that complaints / news about their products and services would come to them in no time. So therefore monitoring tools are a poor man’s solution to engage with your audience.

Finding your audience online and engaging with them will take time and will probably require some  budget. However, when you are in touch with your audience and y0ur audience can find you and you have created a group of loyal people (brand ambassadors / evangelists) around your online presence, you won’t need monitoring tools to discover complaints. You will either notice the complaint since it popups in your network, or the brand ambassadors will see it and solve it for you.

The price to pay

If advertising is the price companies pay for being un-original, web monitoring is the price companies pay for not engaging.

Figure-it-out is not a social media strategy

Implementing a social collaboration platform is something that requires careful attention. Not only you have to come up with a plan on how you will thrive adoption, you should also think of ways to introduce this platform at the users for the first time.

A strategy you might use is the so called champion/ superhero or ambassadors concept. This concept consists of preselecting an enthusiast and often passionate and tech savvy group who are well connected in the organisation for which the social collaboration platform will be implemented. This group will lead by example and help other colleagues to adopt the platform.

Guidance

However you need to guide these ambassadors first. You cannot throw a platform at them and expect them to figure it out. You have to guide them on the new platform and explain what the uses of the platform might be. Of course you have to leave room for them to come up with new uses themselves which should be supported and implemented before the final outroll, however you cannot expect them to come up with everything without you doing anything else than just providing the platform.

If you only provide the platform and let it up to the  ambassadors or even the users to come up with the uses, than it seems  that your critical success factor is luck. You have to design something to come to a social collaboration platform that supports your business goals, if you don’t design for intentional outcomes and therefore don’t design the uses of the platform upfront, you are just like Alice in Wonderland wondering where she would go next:

“Cheshire Puss,” she began, rather timidly… “Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?”
“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,” said the Cat.
“I don’t much care where…” said Alice.
“Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,” said the Cat.
“– so long as I get somewhere, Alice added as an explanation.
“Oh, you’re sure to do that,” said the Cat, “if you only walk long enough.”

Design for success

Design your platform so people don’t have to figure it out what use this new platform could have for them.  Provide guidance, provide help and make sure there is enough room for them to come up with initiaves and ways of working for the platform, however don’t expect them to keep up with everything, you have to invest a bit more time than just press ‘next’, ‘next’, ‘finish’ to install your platform. You should design for intentional creation, people shouldn’t figure out what use a platform has to offer for them, most of them even don’t have the time for that.

So before starting the implementation you’ve got to ask yourself one question:  ‘Do I feel lucky?’  Well, do you? If not, make sure your people don’t have to figure out the uses of a new platform, define already some uses upfront, help them, support them, guide them. It will take some time and effort, but it will thrive adoption.

How Facebook Will Get To 1 Billion members

Some might wonder if Facebook will ever reach 1 billion users, however Mark Zuckerberg is confident about it. And I think  he is right, Facebook is the platform that can grow to this number an even finance its growth.

Just pay Facebook users for their profile

Since Facebook is thriving on information that users provide (your data is their biggest asset), they might even want to make sure that with the number of new users joining, they still acquire more and more information of their users. Facebook will earn more money if they have more data (and they might already earn around 1 billion a year), so why shouldn’t Facebook just pay every user who completes his profile.

By not only offering the incentive of keeping in touch with your friends and catching up with old friends and like minds, but by also offering some money ($5?) for a completed profile. It would be easy for Facebook to get to 1 billion members and collecting more information from its users. Both the amount of users as the immense data set will push the revenues of Facebook and will increase the  dominance of Facebook on the Web.

Micro payments

However entering data in a profile is easy, though incorrect information will devalue Facebook. Data validation should be just another part of the social ecosystem of Facebook. For example: your friends can validate your profile, making sure your will get your $5 dollars from Facebook (maybe even in micropayments for you and your friends per ‘slice’ of data you provide and is approved). Or: your friends can provide the information to Facebook and you can validate this information and approve the publication of the data.

Using this process Facebook gets more interconnected, creating more activity on the platform and it might even create more relations. And again, even this process will increase the value of Facebook. So paying $5 per complete profile might be just a bargain for Facebook.

Diaspora: by far not the ultimate social network (yet)

The way Facebook handles privacy (or not handles privacy) is a well known topic. Maybe less well known is Diaspora, which is positioning itself as an alternative for Facebook. Diaspora is, as they say: the privacy aware, personally controlled, do-it-all distributed open source social network.

The ultimate Social Network

Before people start claiming that Diaspora is a Facebook killer, or as I noticed in my Twitterstream “the ultimate social network”, think again. I truly believe that Diaspora will be able to build a nice piece of software with certain features, however the only people who use a product for its features are geeks. Social networking is not only about geeks, the 400 million plus users on Facebook are mainly non-geeks. And that is exactly the main issue:

Diaspora doesn’t have 400 million users, it currently has more than 6100 supporters who gave them money (nearly $200k), however a social network with 6100 users is rather boring. Especially if the only improvement is that this network is privacy aware, personally controlled and do-it-all distributed open source. The issue with each service that has some kind of social in it, is that it is somewhat boring until your friends or there (or as soon as you have been able to discover new friends on that social service). However as long as their are not that many people there, it is something that is boring.

Features alone won’t do the trick

Therefore Diaspora has to offer more than just features. Geeks care about features, ‘normal’ people just want an easy to interact with their friends without to much hassle. And one thing that Facebook is really good at, is to let you make the connection to your friends. Especially since more than 400 million users already have joined Facebook, so it is very likely that at least one person you know is already on Facebook.

So is Diaspora something that is really great? No, for now it is just a software project. Sure it has potential, however they should offer more than just features for geeks to get adopted by the mainstream audience. However it has potential, since most geeks who are supporting Diaspora have already a big network which can be activated to be moved to Diaspora. But Diaspora first needs an audience before it even can call itself a social network.

‘Sorry, we don’t care about that social media thing’

‘Sorry, we don’t care about that social media thing, we have work to do’. It wouldn’t be the first time that I heard something like that as a response on what a C-level board could do with Social Media. Maybe the people at BP are thinking likewise, since it seems that they don’t have any idea that somebody is participating in the conversation about the oil disaster in the gulf.

Genuine?

The twitter account (@bpglobalpr) may seem to be genuine at first sight. However if you read the tweets of this account you might notice the only thing it does is trolling with tweets such as:

Thousands of people are attacked by sea creatures every year. We at BP are dedicated to bringing that number down. You’re welcome!

If we can make it so the ocean can be set on fire, doesn’t that make us like the David Copperfield of oil?

Currently about 3000 people are now following this account and there a lot of retweets with the hashtag #IWantMyBPShirt since @bpglobalpr is offering a free tshirt because, as they put it:

People are upset, so we are working nonstop to make as many “BP cares” shirts as we can. Tweet #IWantMyBPtshirt if you want a free one.

What will be the consequences?

Will this hurt BP? Yes it might be, the account seems to be genuine at first sight (good use of the BP logo, plus a credible account name). Especially the retweets could be harmfull, seems not so many people will check of @bpglobalpr is a genuine BP account, since the account name itself is very credible and since the retweet is often from a person they trust.

So should BP do something with social media? Yes they sure have some work to do on this matter.

Bottom up: an overrated and underperforming social strategy (for lazy people)

Every now and then I catch up with some friends in a pub to talk about social media and what they are up to. And it seems to be that there is quite some confusion about what a bottom up adoption strategy is for social media. To make my point of view clear: a bottom up strategy for social media does not mean that you can sit back and relax watching other people doing your job.

It’s an excuse to not spend time

Bottom up strategy is often used as an excuse to either not spend any budget on adoption of a social media solutions after the implementation, or is used by lazy community managers. Of course, saying that you apply a bottom up strategy in a risk averse organization helps that nobody will be able to blame you. So if you think this is the way a bottom up approach should be, yes then it will be overrated and underperforming. The good thing is that, if you do not succeed, you can blame the users: they should have driven the adoption and they did not try hard enough. You just gave them all the room and opportunity they needed, you cannot be blamed, you did your part of the deal.

Taking the real bottom up approach is often hard work and requires adjustment of plans every now and then. So it will require budget, it will require hard work and yes there are risks, since you allow others to make changes in your plan. When taking the effort to do a real bottom up approach:

  • You may define an integration of the social solution with processes (or even define new processes), however you accept and implement the uses from the users. The users will define their way of working in the end, however they will need help
  • You should help people participating, not by defining the conversation, but by facilitating.
  • Senior management still participates and leads by example? (they will become rolemodels), however they are not dictating the way people should work or have any hierarchical influence on the social platform.
  • You will have to make sure that you have the incentives right, without any incentive people are less likely to invest time to participate and to contribute.

It’s more than letting other people do your job

So if you go for a bottom up strategy, please bear in mind that it is not about letting the users do all the work while you are just sitting in a chair staring at a screen. It is about enabling the users so they can do the things that add value for them. And enabling is an activity, so stop staring and start helping the users to achieve their goals.

Doing old things in an old way on a new platform (and fail)

The biggest mistake you can make when introducing something new, is to keep the process exactly the same. About ten years ago my bank decided to put all the forms that customers needed online. At first it seemed really great until I discovered you could fill out the form online and than you had to print it and send it by mail (the old fashioned non digital edition) to the nearest office.

Standard behavior, standard mistakes

This is a typical example of a company moving an existing process to another platform. It is also a very typical mistake: doing the process that always worked in exact the same way on a new platform (just with minor changes so the new platform would fit in). What this bank forgot, was that putting the forms online wasn’t helpful at all, even worse: I have had to do more work than I used to to send this simple form to my bank since they introduced the extra step of printing.

This might be just an example of a bank with a few forms, however I often see the same thing happening when collaboration software is introduced. For example a Wiki is implemented to speed up to collaboration on documents and to reduce the e-mail overload. However instead of less e-mail, people get more e-mail (since they subscribed to updates of each page) and instead of speeding up the collaboration it is slowed down due to the fact they treat the Wiki as a word document and create a new Wiki page for each new version of a document.

New things, new processes

It might be obvious, however if you introduce something new such as collaboration software, you have to adjust your processes. First of all, everything that is in the standard process will be adopted and secondly software is supportive for processes, software alone doesn’t make a real improvement. When you introduce something like a Wiki because you think it will increase productivity, take your team and rethink the process in which the Wiki will be used.

And more important: make sure the new thing is easier and better than the old thing: people have a hard time in adapting themselves, however when there is an advantage for adapting, it happens a lot quicker.

Starting a new social platform; should you still use email?

Last week I had a discussion with one of my friends on how to get people to a completely new internal platform. And since this platform is a new social Intranet, most people involved in the project thought they did not have to use e-mail. Especially since the platform was social. However they forgot three things:

  1. People aren’t  yet on the platform
  2. It only is social when there are enough people (network effect)
  3. People have to do something for about 66 days before it becomes a habit
  4. Users still share a lot of content via e-mail (and generate the highest engagements and conversion rates)

Therefore it was obvious that e-mail should be one of the media to promote the new platform together with some other internal communication tools. Especially since most people use e-mail in their daily life (how many e-mails did you receive today?) and it is an “in-the-face”-medium without annoying people too much.

Are we in control of our decisions

However the next thing we ran into was the newsletter. The first thought about the newsletter was to put it on a seperate place of the platform and let people decide (opt-in) if they would like to receive the internal newsletter about this platform. After a few discussions we decided it was too hard for the user to decide: the user already receives quite some mail and he doesn’t know whether this new newsletter would add value for him. Therefore we decided to subscribe the users by default on this internal newsletter. However we already made sure there is an unsubscribe mechanism in place so people can opt-out if they would prefer.

For me one of the key factors to come this decision was the presentation of Dan Ariely – Are we in control of our own decisions.  What do you think, is using e-mail as one of the media for the promotion of a new platform a rational decision?

Why your business should be a network

It seems that most companies stop collaborating as soon as they are at the firewall. There is an inside and an outside world. If something is done with social media, it is either internally or externally, however there is hardly any hybrid solution.

The big problem with the view of enterprises on the outside and inside world, is that the views are often static and people tend to treat the roles  and people as static things as well. However these roles are continiously changing. Customers are becoming suppliers, employees are becoming partners. Companies such as Threadless, Lulu and Sellaband are the examples that there aren’t static roles anymore, nor there is a strict divide between internal and external. Lego has a design process that is both internal as external (external design process is powered by the Lego Factory).

If you can transform your business in a social business you will be able to be plugin into a bigger ecosystem and then you can participate in a network of networks. And as with every network, every new node will adds exponential value for the network and thus for your business.