Why Facebook and not SharePoint 2010 could become your Intranet for 2010

With the arrival of SharePoint 2010 lots of new and interesting features arrive within most corporate firewalls. Old SharePoint licenses are renewed, new budgets are approved and new features are implemented. However is recreating your new Intranet with new features the best you can do? Should you be renewing your SharePoint license for new features in your Intranet?

Facebook might be better

Give it some thought, especially since you might already be considering to stop all developments for your Intranet. Every new feature seems to be challenged if it was worth the time, the money and the effort to thrive adoption. Why not use Facebook as your Intranet? It is likely that your colleagues are spending more time on Facebook than on your Intranet already and are having a better experience on Facebook than they ever did on the current Intranet.

Facebook is an immense Juggernaut with more than 400 million users (one out of every 4 people with access to an Internet connection has an account), billions of minutes are spend daily on Facebook and what is even better: your colleagues already adopted it, and even your business partners already have a presence on Facebook.  So why create something new, while you can build your Intranet on an existing platform that is fully adopted by your colleagues? Even better: you don’t have to pay for development nor for hosting, since Facebook is taking care of that. And if you are afraid to make the move towards Facebook as an Intranet, keep in mind that Serena Software already did it a long time ago, with the introduction of Facebook Fridays

So why wait? Create that Facebook group for your company and let your colleagues join. The interface is familiar, almost everybody has got his profile filled in fully and people are already visiting Facebook on a regular basis (unless you are blocking Internet access).

Facebook is public by default

However keep in mind that Facebook is a public platform, and therefore it might not be the best for sharing confidential information, nor there is an app for the integration of your SAP HR system. If that holds you back to go full fledge into Facebook, just use your Facebook group as a portal to get your colleagues to the news on the Intranet (which could be based on SharePoint 2010).

Save money, thrive adoption. Not every successful solution has to start inside your firewall or should be custom build. Use the tools your colleagues already know, use the tools that they already selected as the tools they prefer to use.

Here have something you don’t want

Imagine you are invited to a party of one of your best friends and your friend decided there should be a one-size-fits-all solution for the drinks: a Bloody Mary. Everybody who visits the party has to drink it, there is nothing else, not even plain water. Nobody asked you if you’d like it, even worse: the Bloody Mary was decided by the single person who is not at the party, since he managed to get a major discount on it.

Choice?

If you have only one option, there isn’t so much left choosing, is it? However most enterprises think this is the way to implement concepts such as Enterprise2.0. They choose one solution (without consulting the people who will have to use the solution) that is often presented as the solution to everything for everybody. Often the implementation of this one-size-fits-all-solution is top down, just pushing the solution as hard as possible. You can’t blame them, since there will not be a groundswell, since nobody really wanted this solution, even worse, most often people are already using a complete other solution (shadow it) that better suits their need.

The weird thing is, that this approach is accepted in a lot of environments, a very few deciding for the majority without consulting at least a few representatives of this majority. As Lee Provoost wrote in his blog post about closing the gap between Enterprise2.0 and Social Media it is important to choose a user centered approach. A user centered approach (bottom-up)  is key in driving adoption together with a good and strong community management (top-down) tremendously raises the quality and success of your community as Lee mentions.

User centered approach

But keep in mind, even when you use an user centered approach, you should not be focusing on one-size-fits-all-solutions. Users are different and they often work in different parts of the enterprise. There’s a good chance that they have different needs, however this is not a license to have as many solutions as possible. Focus on solid solutions for (and with) the users and focus on integration and solutions such as a federated search.  A proper integration with the ‘normal’ process and other enterprise2.0 solutions, a federated search for your enterprise2.0 solutions and ‘old’ solutions and, don’t forget, your people are the glue to have a succesful adoption.

Providing choice and involving users will save you more money in implementing Enterprise2.0 concepts in your enterprise than choosing just one solution and trying to push it real hard.

Nielsen, Rogers and the lack of contribution

If you are implementing anything that is related to collaboration most of you will know and have used the rule for participation inequality or the 90-9-1 rule. This rule shows that in an average group of people 90% are lurkers, 9% contributes from time to time and 1% of the group members participate a lot and account for most contributions.

On the other hand there is the theory of the Diffusion of Innovations of Rogers, which shows us of how, why, and at what rate new ideas and technology spread through cultures. He defines adopter categories of the members in a group, the categories are: innovators (2.5% of the group), early adopters (13.5%), early majority (34%), late majority (34%) and laggards (16%).

If you combine to these two rules, you’ll notice why it is important to start with a group that is big enough:

Just the participation inequality rule

When you start with a group of 100 people, 1 will actively contribute (sometimes up to 90% of the content), 9 will contribute from time to time, and 90 will read. As you notice, 1 person creating 90% of the content is not that exciting, and only 10 people that contribute in total is also not that many. They might get out of topics for conversation.

Combining the participating inequality rule and the adoption categories

If you start with a group of 100 people, you know that 16% will be laggards (they are likely not to  participate), leaving you with 84 people who might contribute to the collaboration platform. Taking into account the participation inequality rule, you will end up with maybe one person who will actively contribute, about 8 people will contribute from time to time and 75 people who will read the content.

Some even say that not only the 16% laggards aren’t participating but also about 50% of the late majority, which means that about 30% of the group will not be participating. Making the numbers to about 1 (if you are lucky) to contribute actively, 7 contributing from time to time and 62 people who will read the content.

Don’t despair

The group you’ll select will be not a standard group that will be a representation of your enterprise. Most often that group does not consist of any laggards and, but mostly of enthousiastic people who will help you driving adoption in later phases. However, always keep in mind that not everybody will contribute on your new platform, so be aware your group who will be using this platform is big enough.

Google Buzzkill or why I am a Luddite

You might have noticed that Google launched Buzz somewhat 12 hours ago. And since the fanboys are already cheering: I won’t be cheering, since I think it is not the best thing since sliced bread. Google tries (and fail) again to get one of the most important parts of the Internet: creating a massive social network.

Some reasons why I think Google will (again) not succeed with Buzz:

It’s noise

“Comments get sent right to your inbox so it’s easy to keep the conversation going.”

My inbox is for email, not for buzz. If I want noise, I go everywere else. However my email is just for doing things, not for noise nor for buzz.

Default opt-in network

“Automatically follow the people you email and chat with the most in Gmail.”

The people I email and chat with most, are not necessarily the people I want to have in any social network. For example: I use my mail to communicate with all of my colleagues on a regular basis, however I don’t need my colleagues in this social network, they are already in Yammer. Plus I follow some people in Google Reader since they share interesting links, however I don’t need more from than the links. The links are the things we share, we don’t need a social graph on that.

Plus I have lots of people I don’t mail, but would prefer to have in my network, and there is no easy way to get to them now, especially since I don’t have there email addresses…

@@@

Just something that is weird: why would I reply to somebody with @rickmans@gmail.com? Way to many @ into that references. rickmans@gmail.com is already an unique reference / mention, no need to put an @ before that email address (unless you want to resemble Twitter).

It’s not a Foursquare, Facebook nor a Friendfeed killer

Nevermind what the fanboys are cheering, but it is a different product, it has location based features, however Foursquare is by far more than just locations, it is a social game. It has the ability to create connection, Facebook has too, the big difference is that Facebook has 400 million users, and is already harvesting social and personal information for years. Google has a lot of information, but not the personal information Facebook already has. Will Google kill Friendfeed? Probably not, since Facebook already did a good job. Friendfeed and Buzz are different, both real time, both aggregators, although still very different in using it.

Why another network?

What new problem is Google solving? Why would I need a new social network? Buzz doesn’t solve any new or already existing problems

Is your community a restaurant or supermarket?

Before you start a community, think of its audience and think of its purpose. It is like starting a location to provide people with something to eat: are you building a restaurant or a supermarket? Both facilitate the option of providing something to eat, however they do it in very different ways. The same goes for communities: some are just supermarkets and some are restaurants.

Restaurants

A restaurant is a place where people most often spend time, not only to eat, but also to have a good time. Visitors of a restaurant are often known by name, especially when they reserved a table. To manage a restaurant properly you’ll have to focus on ensuring that  people are having a good time: they should have a good experience. People don’t mind to pay for a visit, especially when they already know they will have a good experience. Sometimes eating even becomes secondary to the good experience.

Supermarkets

On the other hand, people don’t go to a supermarket for a good experience, nor will they spend hours on end in it. Most often people won’t sit down in a supermarket, most supermarkets won’t even offer a place to sit down. One of the reasons that people go to a supermarket is to get out of it as soon as possible with their groceries. Task-completion is key.

Know if you are a supermarket of restaurant manager

When you are the facilitator of a comunity in which people pop-in regurlarly to get their knowledge or to get the things they need, do not manage it like  a restaurant. People will get annoyed, since they don’t want to stay for hours, they just want task completion. The same goes the other way around: if you manage a community focussing on task completion, while people would rather have a chat with their friends or colleagues, they will easily get the feeling that they are not welcome.

Be aware of what kind of community you are managing. It doesn’t matter if it is a restaurant like or a supermarket like community. Both models add a lot of value to its members as long as you manage it the right way.

Building communities as a homeless person

At my super market there is a homeless woman who is selling a newspaper to earn just some money to get through the day. Although she really needs the money, she is not focusing on the transaction itself, but on building a relation with every single visitor of the supermarket. Everybody who enters (or is even in the neighborhood) of the super market receives a kind greeting form her.

Consistency is key

At first this may be quite annoying for may people, however after a while they notice that she is very consistent and sincere in this and are greeting her back. This way she’s building a relationship with people that visit the supermarket regularly. Still she is only greeting people and she is not trying to make a transaction: selling the newspaper so she gets money. She’s only holding the paper and greeting people.

This might seem weird, especially since she needs the money. However what she managed to realise after a few weeks is that frequent visitors know and appreciate her, with some of them not even taking the newspaper in return. So the outcome is that she gets the money she needs and since not everybody is taking a newspaper, she has the opportunity to get even more money than she’d originally had by just focusing on the transaction and selling as many papers as quickly as she could.

How does this relate to social media?

How does this story of this homeless woman relate to social media and communities in particulair? She is building a community of people who want to invest in her by building a relationship first and by not focusing on transactions. This may not give a huge return on investment in the first few weeks (or even months), however in the long run your ROI will increase and will be higher then if you just were focused on transactions. As the homeless woman shows, you can get even better value out of it, than when you were just selling your product or service. She gets donations, and therefore she can earn more since she has more newspapers left to sell.

What do we learn out of this story? If you want to build a community, you should focus on the relationship with the potential community members. Where are they, how can you reach them? Get to know them and get them to appreciate you. When building a community there is one thing you should keep in mind and that is that everything you do should at least create the beginning of a relationship.

Making flowers bloom

People like to group things, I don’t know exactly why, but it seems that it helps us to cope with information. This is in real life, but might occur even more online (you can call this ‘digital packratting’). Most platforms I know, and that are used within enterprises, offer the feature to create groups to put content (discussion, bookmarks, files, etc) in. When introducing these kind of platforms without proper community management I often see two general approaches for groups that are both recipes for failure:

  1. ‘We know what is good for you’; In this approach an enterprise defines groups upfront. There is no option to create a new group. However one could file a request for creating a new group although new groups are often not created.
  2. ‘Go ahead, create some groups’; In this approach the users can create any group they want. However there is often nobody who takes into account if groups are duplicated or not used after creation.

In the first approach the users will end up with groups they don’t want and need, in the second approach there are so many groups that users will become clueless if there is any group that is already fulfilling their needs and wants. It might be clear that there is need for a different approach than the first two.

A right way

The first two approaches are often the result of not appointing a leader for the platform, you could call him either a community manager, a chief blogger, a patron, a gate keeper or whatever nice role name you’d prefer. Most important is that there is somebody (or several persons) that cares about the platform and its purpose and who is able to guide people in using the platform, while letting users do what they want . He should be helping people in whatever they want to do on the platform, He prevents the cluttering of content due to users creating too many groups (which is quite arbitrary though), he helps people to discover content and people they weren’t aware of at first.

Groups are always a potential problem

..and every problem is an opportunity in disguise. When you let users create groups (or others buckets in which they could put content), think upfront what the desired outcome may be. Even more important is to think of what you should do if somebody creates a group that is either duplicate or which isn’t viable after a few weeks. What will you tell this user, without offending the user who created this group? The person who created the group seems to think that there is a need for it, so how can the community manager help him? What will you do when somebody creates a group which is very active but about a topic you’d rather not see people talking about (for example about the enormous bonus of your manager…)?

Preparation is key

As you might have noticed preparation is key, just installing a new platform and promoting is a starting point, however most often not the most successful one. You need somebody who takes care of the platform, just like a gardener takes care of a big park. The gardener can help to prevent that things are becoming a mess in the garden, however he can not force a rose to bloom. With the right tools and enough time the one thing he can do is to create the right circumstances to give the rose the opportunity to bloom and that is exactly the thing a community should do: just creating the right circumstances for others to participate and to give the best of themselves.

SMILE, it’s social media marketing

If you start with thinking of using social media to connect with your customers, please first think of the goals you would like to accomplish. At first it seems like that goals are numerous, however there are really only five goals that can be accomplished with the support of social media.

Social media marketing is using social media for activities such as public relations, customer service, marketing, sales and crowdsourcing. Or as I put it into the diagram below:

  • Supporting
  • Meshing
  • Interacting
  • Listening
  • Evangelizing

If you start using social media for the first time, you probably won’t go for all five of the goals. You might just want to listen at first to get to know what people are telling about your products and brands. If you want customers to evangelize your products, you probably first have to listen to them, support them and interact with them before you have reached the phase that they want / will be able to evangelize your product.

So keep in mind that most goals aren’t single objectives. Sometimes you have to set up some other goals first, before you can accomplish your final goal.

SMILE

How I distribute my content on social networks

Every now and then I get the question how I manage to be always online. I always have a hard time explaining that I am not online all the time and that I have some easy tricks to make sure my content comes in the right places. For me there are currently two important places on the web:

  1. Twitter (You can find me as @rickmans on Twitter)
  2. My personal blog (Don’t Mind Rick)

These are my main channels for interaction and also the main channels I distribute content to and add content manually. The reason I choose for these channels is that I like to keep something like a business card online. On Don’t mind Rick you can see about the things I write who I am (although I should extend my about page) and on my lifestream (which is almost ready) I will aggregate all the other services I am present on and which generate content. Twitter is important for me since on this service all my day-to-day contacts are present. It is for me a great service to get in touch with people, to absorb the immense knowledge that is shared and to give my back the things I know.

Distribution

As you can see in the schema at the top of this post, almost everything is linked to everything, however I put in some effort to prevent to overload people with information. As you might have noticed there is different between the line styles of the arrows, dashes mean that this is a seperate manual action and a solid line means that this is automated. Let me explain the schema in more detail:

Google reader is at the bottom right of the schema; each item I share is automatically shared on my Delicious via a script I wrote a while ago and which you can download at Google Code. All my Delicious links are send to my Tumblr and my twitter account. Also the links are send daily to my blog which results in a daily digest with all the links that I bookmarked or shared via Google Reader.

Another tool I use frequently is Posterous, which is in the center of the schema. Posterous has a great bookmarklet which lets you easily share content. I use Posterous to share my content to my blog, to Facebook, Vimeo, Flickr, Identica and Tumblr. I have little overlap between these services so people with who I am connected aren’t overloaded with duplicate content.  I use Mobypicture on my iPhone  to share pictures to almost all the same services as Posterous does, except for my blog and identica, plus Mobypicture creates an instant update on Twitter the minute I shared a new picture and it publishes on Hyves, a social network that cannot be managed via Posterous.

There are three items on the schema left I did not described yet, the first one is Foursquare, every time I check in via Foursquare it creates an instant update on Twitter. Via Twitter I share every now and then some content to Yammer by adding the hastag #yam to a tweet. Capping IT Off is the corporate blog on which I blog regularly. These content is either original and will be distributed to my personal blog after I published it, or was already published on my personal blog and is therefore republished on Capping IT Off.

If you have any suggestions on how I could improve this setup or any questions how I configured this setup, please let me know.

How I distribute my content
How I distribute my content

Foursquare might end the recession for you

Some days ago Twitter started to rollout the option to add location information to a tweet. Although it might sound like a minor change, this change can be very disruptive, both in user experience as in monetization of Twitter. Twitter becomes a more valuable and personalized medium since it is no longer just about trusted people (people in your network), trusted topics, but also about people who are in the same location.

Personalizing experience

By making things available locally, you can add a personalized experience for the users.  For example if I hear a police car racing in the street behind my home, or see some smoke in the air two blocks away, the newspaper won’t tell what is happening there at that very moment. It is far too local for them to report, not even considering the fact that there are too little people interested in it and often they are not able to report about those things in real time.  By offering location information to your tweet you can create great meta data about certain locations and venues. It is also easier to connect to other people who are on the same location / event. When you are at an event,  you are probably interested in what other visitors have to say about the event, not what non-visitors have to say about it.

Free beer

Foursquare is already covering a big part of the niche Twitter might want to have with localization. Foursquare offers you and your friends new ways of exploring your city. The application gives you the option to share your location and to earn points and unlock badges for experiencing new things. This all might look like a silly game, however it is a great impulse for bars, restaurants and clubs. Some of these companies are even offering free beer for the persons who check-in the most at their location.

What will you get with this feature of Twitter, will it add any value to you, will it change your business? Yes it will, it will create new niches with new needs which are in search for somebody who can fulfill those needs. The mass market, just died a little bit more.