Your Company is Killed by Meetings

Imagine: you are asked to spend two hours of your day with 7 other people in a room, doing nothing. Just be in the room listen and then leave. If you are working in a bigger than average organisation most likely this has happened to you more than just once. Even worse: it might have become a daily habit. Spending hours on end with a bunch of people talking about stuff, without actually doing anything and making any impact. That activity is an enterprise killer, which is known by the term: “the meeting”.

The inconvenient truth: most meetings are just a way to please the ego of the organiser of the meeting. The organiser needs attention and the easiest way to get your attention is to book a meeting and since most of us are just conditioned to show up, we just show up to please the organiser. The worst thing is: nobody asks questions about how you spend your time. Being in meetings all day is a perfect excuse to most managers that you are at work, while the only thing you do is the opposite: avoiding work.

A meeting is never just an hour of your time, it is an hour of every participant’s time: having a meeting with 7 people and you is a full working day of productivity that is going down the drain just by one meeting. That is just the meeting time, worst case you have to do some travelling to do to get at the meeting place, though there is at least switching time involved to get in a somewhat productive state over the meeting itself. It is more like 1.5 working day lost due to that one hour meeting.

How to overcome  being killed by meetings and become productive once again

Old habits die-hard and meetings are one of the worst habits we have developed over the years. Let’s start to break this bad habit:

Do you really need the meeting

Always ask these questions first:

  • Do you (the organiser) need to consume other people’s time?
  • Do you (the participants) need to attend this meeting?
  • What value will this meeting bring to its participants?
  • Is there an other way to solve the issue besides scheduling a meeting?

Know the goal of the meeting

Is the meeting for information sharing? Cancel it. Meetings are either for problem solving or for decision-making, nothing more. If you want to share information with a group, just make sure you have an enterprise social network solution available in which you can share the information (or request to share information) with the group. This is by far more efficient than stealing everybody’s time and put them in a single space. If there is no goal mentioned for the meeting, always cancel it, poorly prepared meetings are timekillers.

Don’t accept default durations of meetings

Why should a meeting be 15 minutes, 30 minutes or 60 minutes? Scheduling software offers these standard durations, however do you need 30 minutes? Would 18 minutes be sufficient? Why not schedule 7 minutes if you only need 7 minutes. Plan for the time you need, create a constraint and me sure that  you finish within the scheduled time.

Only concrete things are worth having a meeting about

Abstract things don’t exist and therefore can be discussed for days on end. Only have meetings about something really concrete (a product, an issue that can be reproduced a piece of design) are worth having since you can do something with it.

If the meeting is about an issue and the issue has a location go there, not to a meeting room

Issues become more tangible if you experience them, not when they are conveyed in words on a Powerpoint slide. Meeting rooms are just isolated places from reality, nothing really happens there besides meetings. If you can go elsewhere which has a better connection to the subject of the meeting, go there.

No agenda, is no meeting

If there is no agenda, there is no structure, no preparation and absolutely no value. If people appreciate your appearance and added value of you in a meeting, they should appreciate your time first. Appreciation starts with preparation so that you waste as little as possible. Also preparation helps to come to the insights which people must attend (as little as possible).

Meetings end with actions, owners and deadlines

If you don’t end up with actions you’ve had a conversation, not a meeting. A meeting ends with a set of actions in which each action has an owner and a deadline. Reporting back on these actions doesn’t require a new meeting, it requires communication and an agreement on how to update others on the progress.

Actual things you could do tomorrow to reduce your meetings

Over the years I have introduced, experienced and heard about many successful solutions to adapt your workaround in an easy way to become more effective and to spend less time on meetings. They might inspire you to take action and to start changing the way you work right now.

Meeting credits

The issue with meetings is that everybody can schedule them, it isn’t a scarce resource. Well your time is scarce, though when it is managed by somebody else it is not perceived as scarce. To create a better understanding on what you are wasting by scheduling meetings make time a really scarce resource. You can do so by creating meeting credits. One meeting credit is one hour of one person’s time. So if you want to schedule your weekly look-at-me meeting with 10 people it will cost you 10 credits. By limiting the credits you force people to think critically about meetings in general and specifically in who should be attending the meeting and who not, since if you invite too many people or organise too many meetings you’ll be out of credits and you won’t be able to organise yet another meeting.

The standup meeting with a twist

Stand up meetings are supposed to be short meetings, however since some people improved standing into an art form they can go on for hours. There is a simple change you can apply I heard of: ask all the participants to drink a big glass of water before the meeting starts. As soon as the first person has to go to the bathroom the meeting has finished. Drinking water is healthy and not having meetings for hours is also healthy, so why not combine both?

Record and repeat

One alternative I just heard from my friend Björn de Visser was to record and repeat. He is always thinking when he has to do a meeting with a repeatable topic: “Can I make a Webinar out of it”. Indeed, why would you do a meeting more than once (or repeat parts of the meeting) even though the audience is different. That is just poor time management from your own side. Focus on the new things in a meeting, everything that could be repeated could be used in the preparation of the meeting or to consume it afterwards, this way you can have a really focused meeting on the things that really matter.

Socialize

Just talk with each other more often. There is the Allen curve that shows that the more we are apart, the less we communicate. However it is not when we have a meeting that we communicate more with each other, we talk to each other, however that doesn’t imply that there is real communication. Social platforms are a great way to keep in touch with each other and to overcome the Allen curve and to keep the communications going. Meeting can then be used to make decisions, instead of just catching up.

In the end

It is about you managing your time, not the time of others by scheduling meeting in their calendars. That goes of course both ways, others shouldn’t be managing your time by scheduling meetings in your calendar.

6 Social Business Trends

Before firing off some trends at you, let me explain to you why Social Business is important. Social Business is important because we are leaving the era of industrialisation in which we closely rely on technology to create large scale manufacturing solutions that consisted of mainly routine tasks. As you might have experienced yourself and what researchers have uncovered more clearly: work is becoming more non routine. Take that combined with a more equal playing field in publishing, since in the past you used to have either the money or sources to publish via a printing press or it successors, and the world has changed. What not has changed over the last few years is organizations. And you cannot blame them for it, all them are, as my colleague Gopal Padinjaruveetil puts it (to quote him freely):

We have a situation where the Business Users are in the 21st century, the Enterprise IT Department is in the 20th century and IT – Business Processes are in the 19th century.

And the result of it is that organisations that are using social media, aren’t using it for business purposes. They try to catch up with their business users, their customers, however they forget that in every organisations some things are limited: resources and time. They are just copying their old processes on the new platforms and still have the illusion that things are going fine. Therefore one of the oldest business mantras is still in place: if you spend money you should make money, or at least spend less money than you would had to do in the baseline scenario. Or more concise: it has to serve a business goal. The presentation below will give you and idea on what to do next. Since images is just one part of the story I’ve written out the voiceover I’ve used during this presentation below the slides.

The slides

The sweet spots of Social Business

There are four sweet spots in Social Business and keep those in mind when we go to the six social business trends:

  1. Increase employee productivity. The traditional do more with less approach. Since most knowledge workers are stuck for 28 hours a week in either their inbox or in meetings, you can imagine that there is tons of productivity we can gain by reducing this. However there is also a big opportunity in reducing duplicate work, improving communication and by removing decentralised or hidden communication at all.
  2. Increase customer satisfaction. At the same time you can reduce the cost to serve. Which might seem to be a contradiction, however if you think of something like peer 2 peer support in which customers support other customers it might become more clear. By having customers picking up the support role, you can reduce your service costs and if you provide the right incentives customers become more satisfied, have to wait less time to get an answer and become more loyal to the brand since they can make a difference themselves by helping their peers.
  3. Increase lead generation and up sell opportunities. And reduce your marketing spend, since marketing is not the only driver for your sales efforts. You can bolster your sales team by having more information available for them to base their decisions on, but also create a better view of your customer and therefore better tailor your offer to their real needs.
  4. Increase employee satisfaction. Satisfied employees tend to stay longer and that alone already reduces your recruitment costs. However bonding with talents early on and hire the right people early on can be a great benefit as well, since the War on Talent is going on right now. Also maintaining a successful alumni community can help your business with a good network and also for re-hiring purposes.

The six trends

The six trends I am going to describe to you are all trends to you can apply right now, perhaps some fo them you are already doing or experiencing, though overall these are practical trends, nothing long-term or really futuristic. Just realistic trends of today and trends that all fit the four sweet spots I described to you before.

1. Privacy as a Currency

Imagine that you can go to a hotel and get a room without paying any money. The only thing in return is a 24/7 broadcast of you in your hotel room. Everything you do is broadcasted to the world. Might sound scary, however in a way we are already exchanging our privacy for things we want to have or want to use. By using services such as Facebook, Twitter or Foursquare your exchanging part of your privacy for functionality. In some cases you might to do same with companies. They ask you for certain information and you are providing it to them to get for example better service or better offers in return. Basically as soon as you are authorising a social platform with a platform from a business (such as a retailer), you are giving a bit of your privacy to the company, since they can get access to your information. Privacy as a currency would fit in the sweet spot of lead generation and up sell opportunities.

2. Insights are the new oil

Often it is stated that data is the new oil, however oil is scarce and one thing isn’t scarce anymore it is data. However insights are very scarce. Though you can use the social data that is already available for you to create insights for your customers. For example C&A is using the number of likes to show popularity of a certain item of clothing directly on its hanger. You can use social data to do predictions on what the next step can be for your customer or what kind of need he really has. Or you can use social proof to persuade customers to buy a product they normally don’t buy instead of trying to persuade them with a discount (which basically just costs you money). Insights are the new oil basically fits across all the aforementioned sweet spots since these insights help you to excel in all areas.

3. Frictionless sharing

If you are regular reader of my site, you probably have read a lot about frictionless sharing and you can read the collection of articles on this matter on this page. Frictionless sharing is the approach that the user sets up sharing permissions just once and after that content is shared automatically based on other behaviours  For example in Spotify the default behaviour is that all of the music you play is automatically shared with your friends. Imagine if you could do that with your products or services, what would be the meaningful experiences that could be shared with friends and could in the end drive a higher awareness of your products and services and to have more customers in general. Frictionless sharing would fit in the sweet spot of employee productivity, since if they have to think less of when to share, they can focus more on doing things, also it fits in the upsell and lead generation sweet spot.

4. Task completion

People are not using a search engine to search, nobody wants to do searching, people want task completion. Most social media efforts by companies are gimmicks, campaigns that just waste time and doesn’t help anybody in completing a certain goal. If you can design your social business solution that it helps task completion for either your customers or your employees the adoption rate is a lot higher. Elements of Gamification can help to get to task completion in a different way. If you are interested in gamification I would suggest to read the site of Andrzej Marczewski. Also keep in mind that you are not your product. You might sell shovels, though you are basically selling the opportunity to make holes in your backyard. Focus on task completion and focus on what you are actually doing, not on the thing you sell. Task completion of course is obvious to fit in the employee productivity and employee satisfaction sweet spot, also it fits in the increase of customer satisfaction since your customers will get things done quicker.

 5. Death by Marketing

One of the most concerning trends is basically marketeers getting on Social Media using as a new platform to get their message out. Basically the are just using it as a mechanism to shout to their customers how great they are and why you should buy their product. Even worse they are asking you to do the same. They offer a relatively small incentive and asking you (in different words) to spam your friends with their offers. It is a sad state of affairs and it is basically what Hugh Macleod already said in 2006: “if you talked to people the way advertising talked to people, they’d punch you in the face”. Now with Social Media: people do punch in the face and the best thing of it: everybody sees it happening. Death by marketing is a trend, however not one you should adopt but one you should avoid. If you don’t avoid it your customer satisfaction will decrease as well as the opportunities for lead generation and up sell will diminish.

6. Don’t do it yourself

Being a Social Business means that you don’t put yourself into the center of the ecosystem. It is no about you, which also implies that you don’t have to do everything for everybody. It is a common pitfall in web care that companies think that they are the ones that should answer all questions that are out there. Please don’t. Think of your business goals, think of what your product actually is and think on how you could empower your customers and future customers to help you in making you scale while you can focus more on your core activities at the same time. Don’t do it yourself is just as insights are the new oil a trend that fits across all the aforementioned sweet spots.

What will you do on Monday?

After reading more than 1600 words of this article, what will you do with it. What is your next step now? Do you already have your business goals defined, do you know what the ROI could be, or are you just great on Facebook and will you start your next like+win action in a few hours? If you want to know how to make your social media efforts worth doing, please read this article.

Using Social Analytics and BI to be a Smarter Social Business

I presented this topic during the ‘Jaarcongres voor informatie management professionals’. Since the slides require a voice over I have added this voice over below the slides:

If you are talking about Business intelligence in most organisations, it is about organisational data, data that is a result of business processes of organisations. It is the organisation taking another look at themselves in order to, based on historic data, to predict the future and make decisions that might influence the future of the organisation positively. However as every mirror this only reflects one side of the picture of the organisation. Let me explain you how can go through this mirror, the looking glass, to get your organisation into a better world instead of being Red Queened.

There is a whole world outside of the organisation, such as social media, that can provide you with valuable information. This data is superfluous, instead of well-defined and limited based on your business processes, it is information created outside your organisations by people not part of your organisation. It can help you by creating a more complete picture than the just the one you see in the mirror, the looking glass, it can provide you with a 360 degrees view of yourself, your organisation and your stakeholders. However if all you see is just additional data, then it is most likely you are suffering from the Red Queen effect. You are just competing in an arms race with data, a race you are bound to lose as soon as there will be a another player that not only uses the social media data, but also changes the rules of the game.

Red Queen Effect

“Well, in our country,” said Alice, still panting a little, “you’d generally get to somewhere else — if you run very fast for a long time, as we’ve been doing.” “A slow sort of country!” said the Queen. “Now, here, you see, it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place. If you want to go somewhere else, you must run at least twice as fast as that!”

The basic premise of the Red Queen Effect is: do nothing and fall behind, or run hard to stay where you are.  It is just playing a catch up game with the competition and trying to be one step of ahead of them in the same way they try to be a step ahead of you. However you could use the data  and the insights derived from it to transform the circumstances and the ecosystem to really move forward, instead of just running to stay in the same place.

Escaping the Red Queen using the Social graph

There is so much information available in Social Media and that information is already so well-connected to one another it can create a very valuable sets of insights in what you could do next. There is information available on what is being shared by people, people check-in on certain locations to let their friends know where they are. Items online are being recommended via Facebook or other services to other people. Everybody seems to be connected to everybody and something like six degrees of separation has been brought back to 3.74 degrees of separation. And as in every network there are super nodes, individuals that are having a deep impact ont he network itself, not only by being connected with a lot of people, but especially by being able to mobilize people in order to take action.

How Social Media Data can help you

If you are using Social Media data just for history based predictions you are doing yourself a disservice. You now can know what your customer is thinking since they share their thoughts on social media. What your customer is doing, since they share their activities on social media. And you can know what your customer wants, since he is also sharing this on social media. It is beyond just Facebook and Twitter, there are numerous platforms that provides people with the ability of creating wish lists, diaries, activity streams and all other sort of sharing mechanisms to share things about themselves or about their friends. It is becoming possible that you can know more about an individual himself than the individuals knows or at least has realised you could know.

This is instantly the difficult part: how not be creepy. If you know everything, or at least a lot it can be very attractive to use all the information. Target didn’t even use the Social Media Data that was available to cross the creepy line. They use the information from the consumption patterns of their customers to discover pregnancies, even before their customers knew. Now that is scary and that is something you don’t want to do.

Four Examples on what you can do know with Social Media Data

If you shouldn’t be using Social Media Data just as yet another data source, what is the thing you should do with it now? Let me provide you with four tangible solutions you can start implementing right now.

Stop Discounting, Get Social, Sell More

Every retailer has a certain set of customers who buy a lot of most of their products but refuse to buy a certain set of products. For example the grocery shopper who buys a lot of delicious high-end food, however he refuses to buy wine at the supermarket since his perception is that it is a low quality product not living up to his standards. What retailers normally would do is to coupon this person to death. It seems that price is the blocking issue to try things out, at least in their perception. However discounting items to make sure somebody is buying them, is not a sustainable behaviour. Not only are you losing money (or not making as much as you could), you are also conditioning your customer in that if something is cheap he should buy it, otherwise he should way.

Stop couponing, start using social proof. If the individual is reluctant to buy something because his perception is that it is a poor product, why not show him friends who like this product. Friends who already have bought this product and have a positive perception about it. This scenario takes some time to implement, however you can start tomorrow by collecting feedback from your customers on your products. That is the first step: collecting feedback.

Stop Doing Web care, use the data to make a difference

A lot of organisations are doing something they call web care, which is in fact hate care. You can read more about this in one of my previous articles on this matter. It is often a wasteful activity since it is both costing money and still not really solving an issue. However it might be a great marketing show case, though in the end even marketing is a wasteful activity. Web care is typical result of the Red Queen effect: everybody is doing it, so now are your.

In the end you don’t want to do web care, you want your customers help you in helping other customers. Since if people really care about your organisation, they care about their fellow customers as well. However this is a long-term scenario which might you take more than a year or even two years to make it happen. Though you can start eliminating wasteful activities right now. You can use the data on social media to fix the issues that are being reported by your customers. That is something your customers really want: something that works and is not broken. They appreciate the free money you give them and the attention you provide them, however a seamless user experience might get them even more excited.

Tear down the Ivory Tower of Product development

Often new products and services are thought up by a R&D department or an innovation department and if you are looking there has been a customer panel involved to validate assumptions. The downside of the departments and the panel is that it is just a limited group of people who most often share the same opinion. Plus validate assumptions with only very little people only leads to potential disaster, you only know when something will be successful if everybody can get his hands on it.

Stop trying to innovate in this way. Of course it is good to have a customer panel as part of a constant feedback loop, it is good to have people thinking up the next big thing since most customers still cannot predict something they want to have that not already exists in a form or shape. However customers already have a very clear view on what they want and especially what issues they are facing. In the end you want to do probably full co-creation in perhaps even a kickstarter.com way with your customers. However now you can already tap in their stream of thoughts on social media and use that input to think up the next big thing that will solve a common issue.

Sampling, stop analysing behaviour, start using connections

The easiest way to get a customer to buy something new, whether it is a product or a service, is to let the customer try it out. We currently decide which group of customers is most likely to convert in buying the product or service afterwards based on their current consumption behaviours. Which is a very limited view, since you have at best the behaviour of these people based on interactions with your organisations combined with some data how they behave in general. However you don’t have insights in what they think, want or do with other organisations.

So buying behaviour might definitely give you something, however it is not the complete view you need to increase conversions and increase customer satisfaction. Now Facebook has released their Open Graph Search, there are endless possibilities, which you can read in my previous articles here. However there is a first step you have to take before you can harness this information in a good way and that is by making sure there is a connection between you and your customer. As soon as the connection is there, you can get more insights. If the customers allow you to do so.

Don’t be Red Queened, become a Social Business

Instead of running to keep in the same place and just using Social Media Data as yet another data source. You now have the opportunity to escape the data arms race and to become a fundamentally different type of business: a Social Business. You can use Social Media Data to create a different and new connection with your customers. You can serve them better, you can empower them to help other customers and you can involve them in your product development processes.

Instead of being a business with just some more data that is still doing the same, you have to opportunity to become a better business, a social business. However will you take the time to stop running and choose a different direction? I truly hope so, since Red Queen organisations are doomed to lose their business to new players that decide do it differently, whether is has been the music industry, the photo industry or any other industry. The ones not participating in the arms race win, that can be new competitors that do not already exists, or it can be you.

Stop running, start transforming your business.

Why you should be able to code if you work in Social Media

Before I explain why should be able to code while working in the Social Media industry let me explain how I acquired this skill and how it helps me.

My history

Just after I got a cable internet connection at home which allowed me be online 24/7 I learned to code. Before I really learned to code I used to maintain a website on Geocities (it was the late nineties after all) with immense animated GIFs (created with Xara3d) created with Frontpage Express. However at a moment in time it didn’t fit my needs any more, I wanted to do more. So I went to a bookstore and bought this small book. It promised me I could hand code my own website within 20 minutes. It was my first experience with building real stuff for the web and discovering how to make things really work.

From Mark Up to Code

After a while I noticed that writing good mark up was nice, though it scaled rather poorly if you wanted to do a small change and you had to edit hundreds of files. Therefore I was looking around at one of the biggest forums in the Netherlands: Gathering of Tweakers for some help. Instantly there was one guy, named cutter, who was willing to help me by providing me some code snippets and a few sessions on ICQ for additional help. That was the way I learned how to write PHP and work with MySQL.

From there on I had my own company that helped organisations in creating content management systems and I wrote a very scalable blogging engine for one of the biggest websites of the Netherlands (which was decommissioned just a year ago after over approximately 6 years of service). Still I am every now and then playing around with PHP and also some Ruby on Rails just to try out things, build stuff and see if it works.

Now let me explain why it is important for you to learn to code.

There is more in Social Media than being Social

Knowing how to push a button on Twitter or Facebook might look like your core activity when doing something on Social Media, however it isn’t. Neither isn’t being great in PowerPoint to create a strategy or talking with people on how things could change when applying social design or how to integrate a Facebook widget in their website.

Your job is making things work. Your job is problem solving. If all you know about Social Media is what you see of Facebook and Twitter, you’ll miss 80% of it, meaning that at best you perform at only 20% of your level. You need to know what is under the hood, not in detail, nor do you have to be a code ninja. However if you are not aware that there is something under the hood and how it works and how you can make it work, you are doing yourself a service.

You might think it is not your job to build things since you are mainly an advisor or consultant, however you should be able to at least build a quick and dirty solution just to validate your assumptions. Plus you’ll get better on your job if you’re experimenting and creating real stuff. If you only wait till somebody else already has built the solution for your problem so you can include it in your PowerPoint, most likely that other person is becoming more credible and knowledgable in this area since he has:

  1. Build the solution
  2. Spend probably quite some time in analysing everything to be able to build it
  3. Gained insights on what is the next step for the product / service he is using as a platform

So not only has the creator an advantage of having the product, he has also the advantage of having more knowledge than you since he acquired that knowledge during the creation process. Plus he most likely gets a better overview on how things work and could predict easier what the next big developments will be for the platform he has worked on. Overall he gained more knowledge quicker than you did making charts in PowerPoint. Actually knowing how things work is such a valuable experience.

That is only the business side, however wouldn’t it be great that you can finally solve your own problem by just developing your own solution? I know I enjoyed it when I wanted to sync my Google Reader with Delicious, or when I wanted to automate some stuff to be automatically shared on Twitter. Now there is ifttt.com to solve these problems for me, however there is not always a solution available. Why wait on it, start solving it for yourself. Worst case is that you create a solution which is used by 1 billion people.

Your Next Step in Learning to Code

Start coding in just a few simple steps:

  1. Go to Code.org or to Code Academy (or to one of these many other sites) and start a course.
  2. Pick the problem you want to solve
  3. Start solving it in small iterations
  4. Share it with somebody and ask for feedback
  5. Learn somebody else to code
  6. repeat

If you don’t have the inspiration for 2, just ask people who are near you what they would like to do with social media. I am sure they have some demands that aren’t solved already by a solution.

Write code, improve your problem analysis, solve problems, get better in your job, have more fun.

Four Ways to Optimise Notifications for Your Social Platform

We have a very schizophrenic relation with our email. We like the ease of use of it so we can contact everybody, on the other hand we hate the ease of use, since everybody can send email. Email is a great tool in conjunction with social platforms, especially when used as BACN. Social platforms might have better means for interactions, however most people are still less used to social platform than they are to email. People are completely conditioned on checking in on email, every mobile device has by default an email app. Therefore make use of it.

The difficulty of email is not abusing it. It is very attractive and easy to send for each and every notification an email. Since every email could contain a link to a social platform providing people the opportunity to click and visit the social platform.  Sending email is relatively cheap, and if there is an opportunity to send out high volumes of email with a low conversion margin, then you still can have a great return.  That business model is now what we call spam, and spamming is not the most popular activity you can do. So don’t let your BACN turn into spam and  think of the following items:

  1. Measure, it is an obvious habit especially if you have read more of my articles. Know what works, know what doesn’t works. If the email doesn’t work, get rid of it. Don’t spend time and resources on notifications that don’t work. If things work, make sure it works really well, don’t settle for minimal conversions.
  2. Know what interacts. Everything that stimulates interaction on the social platform could be worth to send out a notification for, try out notifications for different types of interactions (or lack of). Though make sure to keep the spam  gates closed. Not every interaction is appreciated in the inbox, it has to provide a certain meaning. Measure this over and over again.
  3. Diversify when you want to apply social proof into your notifications. It is not about how many friends are part of the social proof, it is about how many disconnected groups they fall in.
  4. A/B test notification emails. Not only the layout of emails and the landing pages, but also test the frequency of emails. You know when you go to far as soon as people start to change their notification settings or start unsubscribing. Better make sure you have your apology emails ready when you hit the limit.

 

Transforming Your Web Care Activities into a Money Machine

What do most companies do on social media? Replying on complaints. Reactively responding to negative messages from customers (or from people just talking about your products and services) on social media. Please don’t call this web care, it is hate care. Doing hate care is just feeding the negative side of messages, since people will notice that as soon as they complain about you, or in a slightly more positive way, have a question about your product or service, that they will get attention. Attention is the thing we all want and if you only give if to your non-promoters you end up in a process that feels like it is taking place in purgatory and is adding zero value to your business. You are just creating waste, not adding value.

Hate care

Complaints are waste, since they shouldn’t have occurred in the first place. If your product or service was good enough there would not have been a complaint. If your product or service was clear enough there wouldn’t be questions. Questions and complaints are waste because your processes should have prevented them to happen early on and if you have been working in software development, logistics or manufacturing you know that solving a defect (waste) is way easier and less expensive than solving it later in the process. Though the thing most web care is doing, is just trying to fix the defect at the end of the chain without feeding the beginning of chain on how to prevent this at all.

Nobody wants to be without a job

Not even web care people. However the misunderstanding is that as long as they can answer questions and solve complaints they have a future proof job. Even worse you might even think that if there are more complaints and questions and you can solve them with the same amount of people as you did before you are doing a better job. Or worst case: if you answer every question or complaint within an hour that you are in web care nirvana. Well, you are not, what you are doing is feeding negativity about your brand and its products and services. You are not eliminating waste, you are not really solving problems, you are just creating work for yourself on the short-term, without doing improvements for the long-term. So basically you are managing your company towards bankruptcy and yourself towards unemployment.

Eliminating Waste, Save Money and Make Money

Let’s identify if there is waste in your way of interacting with people online:

  1. You are doing hate care, not web care (see description above on hate care)
  2. Web care is located in a department, not across the whole organisation
  3. Web care can do more than traditional customer care
  4. There is no feedback loop back to the product team or any other part of the organisation to fix the root cause of the complaints and questions
  5. The KPI for web care is not about reduction of complaints or reduction of questions

If ‘yes’ is your answer on one of these five statements than you are leaving money on the table and you are stuck in doing hate care. Let me help you in making improvements:

Social Business not Social Department

First of all it is about becoming a Social Business not about being a Social Department. Web care or any other activities is a Business issue, which means that you have to integrate this activities and its outcomes throughout the whole business. Focus on solving root causes of questions and complaints, that is even more important than answering these questions and complaints (though I would consider it is a big plus if you can do both at the same time). If you can solve the root cause of the complaints and questions you free up time for more value adding activities such as improving your products and services.

Feedback loops

It is vital to have such feedback loop, otherwise it is just like you are emptying the ocean with a thimble. You have to be willing to solve the root cause and social media is an ideal monitoring tool to pick up complaints and questions. You are still picking it up relatively late in the process, however it is better than when you find out that nobody is buying your product and you end up with a lot of products and no buyers.

All channels are equal

If you allow your web care department to provide better or different compensation, you are just creating more waste. Since you are training your customers to complain on social media since that provides them with a better compensation and the more they will complain the more compensation they will receive. It might be clear that you should remove the reason to complain in the first place.

Your multi million opportunity

Your KPI is not solving complaints, nor is it solving complaints really fast. It is improving the perceived value of your product by your customers and potential customers. Since perceived value is one of the items that determines if a customer is willing to give you money for your product and service. The easiest way to increase perceived value is by letting your customers shine.

Your customers don’t  have a vested interest in your company, are most likely not biased and don’t benefit from other customers buying your product. By putting them in the spotlight, they are the most authentic source that can share your story and by doing so they might be becoming your best sales people. However it is not just putting the spotlight on them, it is by providing them the opportunity that they want shine for you.

It is by doing really well and by increasing your perceived value so much that your customer is thinking that he is almost robbing you since he is not paying enough compared the value he receives. It is by making it really easy for your customer to promote you and your products and services and finally is by encouraging your customer by doing so. Not only by making sure there is no reason for complaints and questions but also by letting your customers know you value them. The best way to value your customer is by making sure the perceived value of your products and services is higher than the money that your customer pays for. By doing so you are basically building up credits and in the end your customer is happy to exchange this credit for investing some of his time in recommending you to his friends.

Stop doing web care. Start caring.

Facebook Graph Search, Heaven and Hell for Enterprises

You might have heard of the introduction of Facebook’s Graph Search. Which is just a difficult name for social search. Facebook enables you to explore your network, their likes, their connections and basically all the data they share with you in a very natural way. For example you can search for:

  • Friends who live in Spijkenisse (My home town)
  • Single friends who live in Spijkenisse and like beer
  • Single male friends who live in Spijkenisse who like beer and soccer

As you can see Facebook can find everything that has some kind of relation with one and other. And that exactly why it is both heaven and hell for enterprises. However first take a look at this release video from Facebook that provides you with more examples on graph search and an explanation why they did it:

Why could this be hell for enterprises?

It might be obvious, if you can search for nice relations, you can search for bad relations as well. So imagine the following searches:

  • Employees of company X that like racism
  • Employees of company X that like getting drunk
  • Employees of company X that like the holocaust
  • Or less harmful: “People who work at Coca-Cola and who like Pepsi”

Those searches could create at least an interesting viewpoint on your company. You could imagine that on slow news days some intern at a newspaper who is bored will do some Facebook graph searches and will create a nice news item that can fit a sidebar on the front page.

It is not something new, some people within enterprises have a specific taste or distaste and certain preferences, however graph search exposes this in a very easy way. Easier than it was before. It show cases that real people working at your company, however real people with real preferences can be harmful for your brand. Since you wouldn’t like to be listed in the ‘Top 10 most racist companies in healthcare’, or would you?

However everything is just the same as yesterday, it seems that you have some employees that in their personal life doesn’t fit your profile of ideal employee. It seems they are just human. As long as it doesn’t hinder the way they work, why worry? You might want to provide them with some additional education, since if this effecting your brand, it effects their personal brand as well. Not many people are aware what is public and what is not public on Facebook so go the extra mile for them and educate them on how they can use Facebook in a way that doesn’t harm them in any way, instead of just thinking of the self-interest of your company.

This is absolutely heaven for enterprises!

If you are hiring people, you hire for cultural fit not necessarily for skills. Since skills can be trained, culture is less trainable. However how would you define your culture and how to find the right fit? Well these graph searches could help:

  • Friends of people working at company X that are engineers and that like Monty Python and The Office
  • Project Managers that like Pulp Fiction and Terminator
  • Librarians that like War and Peace

Interests can be a great indicator of a certain culture. If your web development shop is all about Monty Python jokes why not look for somebody who is already a friend of one of your employees, who is an engineer and has the same taste in jokes. You have  a better chance in getting the right person for the right job a lot faster.

In case you are planning to create a new marketing campaign how do you create something your customers can relate to? Simple use their interests that they already expressed on Facebook, for example:

  • Movies liked by people who like Company X
  • Music liked by people who like Company X

Using this information you can find the movies, celebrities, music that people on Facebook that are related to your brand like most and you can create an experience they relate to. And these things are not one-dimensional. You can add more context to the query such as:

  • Movies liked by people who like Company X who live in the Netherlands and like Rock Music

You can make it is as narrow or as complex as you would like to, though you can get to know more about your fans than you have ever  had the opportunity to.

What do I need to do now with this information

First of all reread this article why you should integrate with the Facebook open graph, now with graph search it has become more important.

If you are a retailer not only focus on the connection between your brand and other things, focus on the relation between the products you are selling and all the other things people like as well. If you can find a correlation between what products people like, what people buy, what people talk about, what people recommend to their friends, you are gaining so much more insight than you have already know.

If you are a smart company you will be able to harness this data in such a way that your customers can benefit from it. However not all information is public and not all of your customers are liking you on Facebook. So if you would like to really harness this information you have to give your customers a reason to like you. Of course an iPad give-a-way could be an easy way to get people in, however you might want to try something more sustainable, since you not only need their data, you would like to make sure they have a reason to be loyal as well.

The opportunity to go beyond customer expectations never has been so close for you. Now you need to find a way to connect and to execute.

Your Social Media Efforts are not Worth Doing

If you are not focusing on achieving business goals with your social media efforts it is not worth doing social media for your business at all. Do you know that 50% of the projects done in Social CRM do not provide a worthwhile return or that 57% of the companies are still struggling with even measuring ROI (let alone achieving it!). So half of the companies doing something with social media are just burning money and not earning money. That is concerning, since if you more burn than you earn, you will end up bankrupt on the long run. Let me help you to first of all identify why it could be that your social media efforts and then finish with the most important bit: how to ensure that you can make money with your Social Media efforts and to make it a sustainable component in your organisation. There are three reasons why your current efforts are not worth doing at all:

  1. You have no clue why you are doing it.
  2. You are not measuring returns or you are settling for very little.
  3. You are not investing in it.

Let me explain these three points a bit more:

Why it is not worth your efforts

The Qualman argument

“The ROI of social media is that your business will still exist in 5 years.” – Erik Qualman

Fear based arguments are great, we humans are a sucker for it. And if you think you don’t fell for fear based arguments: you are using tooth paste, right? And you would hate it if you teeth would yellow, right? Tooth paste is born from fear based marketing, the fear of not fitting in a group of white teeth humans. Even if we are not aware of it, we just act upon such triggers. Back to Qualman. If you happen to work in company that will stop existing in the next five years, what is causing this? Trust me, it is not the lack of Facebook page, or not having a tweet button on your site. If you have no clue what is causing it, or if it is very clear that you will be around in the next five years than you would have no reason to do anything with social media according to Qualman. Which just feels weird…

If you happen to work in a dying company and you have discovered the reason why the company is dying, change the company in a different and more future proof direction. Most often your customers are moving elsewhere, competition is better and prices elsewhere are lower. Social Media doesn’t solve this issue on itself (according to Qualman’s oneliner it would). You have to fix the basis and see how social media can help. It is not a holy grail. You have to drive change and to transform your business and if you are social media in this, you have to make sure it has an impact.

In short: only do social media if you can make an impact. If you have no clue why you are doing it, just don’t do it.

Our returns are not substantial, but it is better than nothing…

Nobody can spend more money than he or she earns. At least not forever. You might have some reserves, some savings. However in the end if you spend more than you earn, you’ll end up bankrupt. There has to be a good return from your social media activities, otherwise you can better invest your time and money in something else. Better than nothing is just a poor man excuse, just go the casino, your chances on a higher return might be better and you are more honest on the fact that you are just wasting money.

You have to make sure that the things you are doing with social media are getting you a higher return than other activities you could deploy with the same investments. Returns that are little are often a sign that you either are not trying hard enough (or you are doing it just plain wrong) or that something else might be more worthwhile doing. Perseverance is a great skill, however if you are just doing the wrong thing it is stupid.

In short: Measure what you do and don’t be afraid to kill your darlings. If it isn’t worthwhile doing, find something that is. Perseverance alone doesn’t make you money.

We minimize investments (aka: the interns are running Social Media)

If  ‘Return’  is an important theme in your organisation, then why cut down the ‘Investment’. It is Return on Investment which implies that if you lower the investment, you automatically get a lower return. The fact that interns are millenials doesn’t automatically imply that they know social media better than you do let alone social media in an enterprise setting.

You can learn a lot from interns, since they bring a new perspective, however you cannot expect that an intern will be the one who guides your company to a million dollar opportunity with social media activities. Of course it can happen, just like you can win the lottery: if you are lucky. Interns have a lot learn and if you are lucky they have a lot of questions that in the end will help you in getting things more clear.

In short: If Return on Investment is important, don’t limit your investments by default.

How to make it worthwhile and make money and make it sustainable

If you have read why your efforts might not have been worthwhile, it could be rather obvious what you have to do. However let me elaborate a bit more on this points:

Business goals, business goals, business goals

The only reason to deploy an activity within an organisation it to reach certain goals. If it doesn’t have a goal it is just wasting money and since money is a limited resource in most organisation you’d better not waste too much of it. Social Media can only be effective if it serves a business goal. This can be: increasing revenue, increasing margin, attracting highly competent people, reducing marketing spend. However don’t confuse a vague term such as engagement as a goal. Engagement is a process, not a goal. Business goals are often already set on a strategic level, what you should do it so how social media can contribute to this business goal.

Real Metrics, not vanity metrics

Nobody cares how many tweets you’ve sent out, how many likes you have received or what your Klout score is. If you don’t make money there will be a moment in time that somebody will notice and requires you to start making money. I have written about this topic on this page: How to Measure ROI in Social Business Projects, please read this, since it provides you with good insights in what not to measure, what you should measure and an example business case.

Knowing what investments have for effect

Money and time are limited resources within any organisation. Spending all your money on Social Media will not provide you with the best return perse, you might be able to achieve that with spending less money  or spending less time. However you should know what the difference a certain investment makes. Therefore it is important to have the real metrics in place as mentioned before and to know how your social media activities relate to the business goals and what their impact. If you know how much one extra dollar of budget (investment) would deliver as business value (contribution to a business goal), then you can calculate what you require to achieve a goal within a certain time frame and how much time it would require to start earning more than you are spending.

To keep things really simple:

There are three things you have to do to start making your social media efforts worthwhile:

  1. You have are achieving (or helping to achieve) a business goal with Social Media.
  2. You are constantly measuring and adjusting based on real metrics.
  3. You know what happens if you invest more or when you lower your investments.

To test if you have all these three points, try to formulate what you are doing (or going to do) in a way like this:

  1. When will you start delivering value
  2. What is it you are doing
  3. What is your company or your customers able to do
  4. What are the business improvements
  5. What is the investment
  6. What is the payback period
  7. How will you document your delivered value.

Example:

By the beginning of next year, as a result of our web care efforts, customers will be able to get better answers more quickly resulting in an increase in the NPS and a reduction of 40% the number of calls on the service desk. We need to have two FTE  and an additional 50k to achieve these goals and the payback period for this is six months. We will document the delivered value by measuring the call reduction on our service desk, measuring the sentiment online about our service and by surveying our clients to measure the NPS.

As final thought: please realize that social media (or better phrased: social business transformation) is a specific competence, a skill that requires training, experience and knowledge. A check list is not the thing that helps you solving issues, you need to involve people who have done this over and over again, who have a proven track record and who can commit to certain targets and deliver on time. Yes those people might cost you money, however as mentioned before: if you want results, you know there has to be an investment.

Why LEGO is a Social Business

No it is not because LEGO is brilliant on Facebook or that have a very cool retweet action on Twitter. They do one thing really brilliantly: they give kids what they deserve in the way they understand. Let me show you two examples after which I will explain you how much money LEGO is saving by doing this. Yes LEGO is saving money by giving stuff away in an authentic fashion and that is why they are a Social Business. First the examples:

First of all there is Luka who lost his Jay ZX LEGO character and who sent a letter to LEGO asking if he could get a replacement. He did get a replacement, plus he got some valuable advice:

Luka, I told Sensei Wu that losing your Jay minifigure was purely an accident and that you would never ever ever let it happen ever again.

He told me to tell you, “Luka, your father seems like a very wise man. You must always protect your Ninjago minifigures like the dragons protect the Weapons of Spinjitzu!”

Sensei Wu also told me it was okay if I sent you a new Jay and told me it would be okay if I included something extra for you because anyone that saves their Christmas money to buy the Ultrasonic Raider must be a really big Ninjago fan.

So, I hope you enjoy your Jay minifigure with all his weapons. You will actually have the only Jay minifigure that combines 3 different Jays into one! I am also going to send you a bad guy for him to fight!

Just remember, what Sensei Wu said: keep your minifigures protected like the Weapons of Spinjitzu! And of course, always listen to your dad.

This is already a non standard reply from a big company, however the video on top of the page gives even a bigger picture of what the impact is of LEGO on the life of kids (and their parents):

Now how is this a Social Business?

LEGO has the mindset to go beyond just playing a regular game of customer service with its customers, since they see their customers as something they should cherish, or as they put in the letter to James Groccia: Fans like you are why we are so lucky as a company. LEGO doesn’t think profit centric (since having to do customer service for free is a killer for margins), they think client centric since in the end this saves them money and even better: builds a loyal customer base.  That is what a Social Business is all about: solving business issues in a social and sustainable manner. It is not about just being great on Twitter and Facebook.

And how makes this money for LEGO?

First of all, I am writing about this, however some outlets with a bigger reach have also written about this. The YouTube video has over 1.6M views. LEGO is reducing marketing costs, their fans are promoting the brand and their fans are able to promote the brand in a more authentic fashion than LEGO could ever do.

By doing customer service the first time right you not only make sure that you get a lot of publicity as LEGO got, you make sure that your customers are turning into loyal customers. LEGO customers have a very common life cycle, since many of them will grow up and might have kids of their own and thus might buy LEGO for their kids as well. Also the kids will love LEGO for this and it might be known who makes the buying decision for the next toy: the kid, the parents are only spending money on something they kid will appreciate a lot.

Also if you got something for free, whether it is a complete train or just 3 characters, most likely you won’t dare to ask for a second favor. The next time you screw something up, you will pay for it yourself. LEGO has reduced the number of customer interactions via customer service to one. Just one time per customer in their entire life cycle there is some free interaction. By reducing the number of interactions, they increase the margins they can make.

So basically LEGO is doing three things:

  1. Lowering marketing costs
  2. Increase customer loyalty
  3. Reduce customer calls on the call center/ customer interaction center

How can you do the same as LEGO and save and make money?

First all of: have a clear view of your customer. Who is your customer, who is paying for product and what is their life-cycle. Be aware of what the additional benefit is of turning somebody in a loyal customer and what you will lose if you lose a customer. Know what it costs to help your customers and keep the aforementioned in mind. Since if a customer interaction is costing less than the money you could make by turning your customer in a loyal customer, why not add a little more to go beyond customer expectations? However it is not just focusing on a the per customer costs, it is the overall benefit. Since by giving away one train which costs $100 LEGO has not just created one loyal customer, they have created many, even if only 0.1% of the YouTube becomes a loyal customer they have 1,600 new loyal customer (only costing 0.06 dollar per customer!).

View your social behaviour and returns on a business level, not a department level. It is about focusing on business goals and business outcomes and the only sustainable and really social outcomes are those where not the business benefits on the short-term, but where the customer benefits. It is a long-term activity which has to be done across the company, that is the only way to become a really social business.

Otherwise you’ll just be a social department: a nice gimmick, great on Twitter and Facebook, great in doing campaigns. However unsustainable on the long-term, since you are not able to have the long-term view and the complete business view.

It is Social Business, not social department.

Three Excuses Software Vendors Cannot Make Anymore

Last year was a great year in numerous ways for me. Also because I had the opportunity to see a lot of new products being demoed to me (if you would like to provide me with a demo, read more about how you could pitch me here). However in many demos there were still some poor excuses which were more a showcase of lack of skills than a real excuses. Therefore a small list of three excuses you cannot come up with any more:

Sorry, our people need to be on premise for maintenance

As you might have noticed we the Curiosity has landed on Mars taking many wonderful pictures and doing great research. However did you also know that the engineers of the Curiosity rover did an over the air software update. Of course what Apple did was very interesting with their over the air updates on the iOS devices, however what the NASA did was an update from Earth to Mars, which is pretty impressive. So stop with your excuses that your guys (or girls) have to be on premise to do maintenance.

Sorry, we don’t have an internet connection here

Felix Baumgartner was 40km up in the sky before he started his long (and fast fall). Every bit of this of jump was streamed live, in HD! If you can get a decent connection 40km up in the air to stream at least 720p, you must be able to get some kind of connectivity in a more urban area. Prepare yourself and make sure you have a backup (and a backup of the backup) internet connection with you when you have to demo something which requires an internet connection.

Sorry, our live demo doesn’t work

Demos and particularly live demos are still something that is hard for many companies to do right. Most often there are glitches, failures and other unexpected behaviours that leave the one who provides the demo embarrassed. Google has redefined how you can do your demo in a more exciting way? Did you ever do a demo of your product while doing a parachute jump, jumping over buildings with a BMX and abseiling from a huge building? I guess not. And probably you didn’t do it streaming this demo live. Google did and that is the reason you have absolutely no reason to have a failing demo. Since your demo is most likely in a very controlled environment doing just ‘boring’ stuff.

Just stop making excuses and start being excellent. You are not updating software on Mars, jumping out of a capsule on 40km up in the air or demoing your product during skydiving. You are doing simple things, why should it be then so hard to do it right.