Yammer and Microsoft, Next steps after the acquisition

Ok news finally broke: Yammer is bought by Microsoft for $1.2bn. After the close of the deal, Microsoft will continue to invest in Yammer’s freemium, stand-alone service, and the team will remain under David Sacks’ direction within the Microsoft Office Division.  Now what’s next with this acquisition, what are the changes we will see in the next few months and in what areas will Yammer put itself (or be put by Microsoft).

Office as the center

Yammer is now placed in the Microsoft Office Division, which means that integration with Office(including Office 365) in general is a likely first step. A logical next step since collaboration on documents and pages in Yammer has been poor over the few years. The first victim will be most likely Crocodoc that offered a bit of an integration, but is likely to either remain unsupported as optional third-party integration while there will be tight integration with a connector for Office to collaborate on documents, but also to upload them directly into Yammer. Which also means that Microsoft and Yammer might go head to head with Jive who was already offering a strong integration with Office and their social business suite.

SharePoint, though not as you think it would

Another logical step at first sight would be SharePoint. Since SharePoint is often positioned as the social piece within Microsoft’s suite. However the main design principle around SharePoint is documents, while Yammer’s main design principle is people. Those two won’t mix, unless SharePoint 2013 is such an overhaul that the basic design principles has changed. However I don’t believe that to be true, since it would be too radical for most of Microsoft’s customers. What I do believe is that the integration with Office as mentioned before could help SharePoint in making sharing documents easier and making collaboration a bit more human.

Skype and Lync

Even though not directly in the Office suite, Skype is interesting, just as Lync. Yammer already has a way in which it shows presence (who’s online), it would be just a small step to integrate Skype with it, especially in the same way Microsoft did it with Skype in Facebook. Of course a link integration can be a premium for paid Yammer networks.

Azure

The downside for some organisations is that Yammer is only available as a full SaaS solution, hosted in the US. Microsoft has a big play with Azure where it could create an optional private cloud in which Yammer could be deployed in a managed way. Also since Microsoft has many data centers, hosting in Europe or in Asia could help in adding extra performance and lower response times.

Dynamics CRM, head on with SFDC

Dynamics CRM would be a very strategic play of both Microsoft and Yammer. Nowadays SFDC put Chatter as the social glue in the service and sales cloud offerings. And it doesn’t have to be said that Chatter was inspired by Yammer at least. By integrating not only Yammer into office, but also by integrating it more with Dynamics CRM it could eat a big part of the pie that SFDC is looking at. Especially since it is to be expected that Microsoft should be able to integrate enterprise social networking a lot better in Office than SFDC is able to.

Surface

Microsoft has an enterprise footprint which is huge and Microsoft is introducing the Surface as a new important part of their overall mobile and Windows 8 strategy. Having a good and tight integration with their productivity tools that go beyond Office and therefore include Yammer could be important. On the other hand, is the Surface so important that just for this Microsoft is willing to pay $1.2bn? I don’t think it is that important.

Rise of the suites

After the latest acquisition of IBM, SFDC, Oracle, Adobe and SAP it is clear that we are at the start of an acquisition spree in the social business space and particular the enterprise space. It is the rise of the suites and none of them focuses on enterprise collaboration and productivity, now Microsoft does and let the other guys to fight about the social marketing and analytics space. Smart move, now a smarter execution is required to stay ahead.

Just carry on with Yammer

Why would things all of a sudden have to change? We all might think that Microsoft might try to push Yammer in certain directions it shouldn’t be going, however will they? One of the best kept secrets of Microsoft is that they are a good supporter of open source. Microsoft is also big enough to just add a complete product without having to integrate it all and let it grow more organically and by allowing it to integrate with many things and not just Microsoft products and platforms.

Not so big of a deal

Of course $1.2bn is a lot of money, especially when you are acquired in cash. However for Microsoft it is not that much of a deal. It is just as much money as they paid for Visio, Navivision, Fast Search which are not really flagship products. Plus it is a lot less than the $8.5bn Microsoft paid for Skype and to put more perspective to it the net income of the record-breaking Q1 of 2012 was nearly $6bn. So it might even be that Yammer is just a strategic asset for them on the long run as a differentiator or as something that makes certain products more complete, instead of something that is driving change in the short run.

Badge slave – your phone demands your attention

During my last holiday I disabled all my notification on my iOS devices, plus what was even better, we didn’t have any wi-fi during the holidays, so it became a complete disconnected holiday. Basically it showed me that being disconnected is a good thing, especially since there was not so much demand for my attention by my phone.

This holiday provided me with the insight that my phone was continuously requiring my attention, there was always a badge showing of a new tweet, a new Facebook message or another application that needed my interaction. And if no badge was showing then there was a sound for a new message a new email or something. Just like a small pet, the phone had a continuous demand of being fed. Being fed by me giving it my attention.

Now I have disabled all badges, notifications and sounds on my phone (except for the ringtone and meeting reminders) and life has become so much more relaxing with so much less attention demanding impulses. It’s something I would recommend for everybody to do, that email or tweet can wait some minutes or an hour, if it is urgent, then people will be able to find you anyways.

Social Design – Making it a better cat and mouse game

Two weeks ago I was quite fortunate to be invited to speak at the Social by Design event which was organized by Capgemini and Microsoft. During this event I took the liberty to elaborate further on how retailers in specific could harness social design to make it a better experience. Especially since currently most retailers have customer service departments that are more loyalty prevent departments than real service departments. Also something that some retailers (or organizations) in general tend to forget that even though it has always been some kind of cat and mouse game between customer and organization, the customer is now the one who is the cat. He dictates what happens and social media provides him some additional powers in doing so and help in organizing small online revolutions.

To provide some insights in why most current efforts failed I explained the case of JCPenney’s reports on f-commerce and why it failed, something that I wrote about earlier on on my blog. After that I introduced the Social Design elements and explained how they work in some examples of often non-traditional retailers.

The examples I mentioned were:

  • C&A in Brasil which is displaying the number of likes on a hanger for a certain item in store. It provides some additional social proof, plus it provides insights in which item are popular.
  • Lyst. Even though I am not really into high fashion, Lyst is great. As you join you are asked to follow certain brands, people, designers, stores. Based on these choices a personalized shopping suggestion list is build. For each suggestion you can see who also likes this item, but you can also buy it directly. A new way of doing social curated ecommerce.
  • TasteLive. The premiere Wine and Beer tasting community, which connects the offline with the online (tasting beer offline is so much better than online). Provides a platform for its users to connect, but also to share. The frontpage of their website can be seen as a best practice, since it shows very little managed content and tons of generated content.
  • Ovoto shows how things have changed. It is not Google directing people to your site of your product, it is people. Ovoto allows you to take a picture of something and let you ask a simple question about it to your friends (“should I….”) and then provides your friends with the option to vote yes or no on it.
  • Kickstarter show that has become easier to 1) get funding for your product 2) get customers 3) bypass retailers completely 4) earn some decent money as well.
  • Editd is doing fashion forecasting with market intelligence. Which is a highly specific niche, however being a niche might be sometimes better than trying to be everything for everybody. Editd harnesses the data which is out in the open on social media to predict what the next big trends will be in fashion and which brands are loved.
  • Consmr is an app that allows you to scan a barcode and provides you with additional insights on the product with regards to ratings, replacements recalls and other additional information.
  • Stylistpick is quite similar to Lyst, though its approach is different, instead of letting people to choose from different brands, it asks you twenty questions before you join and based on your answers it creates a shopping profile for you.
  • Unbound has similarities for Kickstarter. It connects writers with their audience and lets the audience decide which book will be printed.
  • Hubbub is an interesting platform since it connects local stores and provides visitor with an opportunity to discover great local stores and their offers. They make it even easy for these often small stores to have an ecommerce platform, since Hubbub is taking care of all logistics.

The reason why I closed my presentation with the examples of Sainsbury’s renaming tiger bread into giraffe bread and Sweden which lets every week another Swede to manage its Twitter account is that these examples show how obvious and easy social design can be. It is just a matter of listening and thinking on what really matters for your audience, the audience determines what happen you as an organization might be allowed to participate (on their terms).

 

Best practices: food for thought for the mediocre

I tend to avoid best practices in social design as often as possible. It is not that I don’t know them or don’t share them, I just don’t copy them.  Copying best practices will result in everybody using the same best practice making the best practice in the end into a mediocre practice. And as Jean Giradoux already said a long time ago: “The mediocre are always at their best. ”

In the industrial age it was simple, you could reuse best practices without hardly any adaption of the practice itself. People at the assembly line did similar work, there wasn’t too much context that would influence the practice itself, it was just the assembly line, something on the assembly line and the people doing something to or with the thing on the assembly line. Still resulting in mediocre practices in the end, however copying was making sense since by copying it you could have the same results as the inventor of the best practice.

How I think you should use best practices in social design and social media solutions in general is as inspiration. Those practices are too contextual to be copied since it is likely your brand is different, your audience is different, the way you interact is different, your budgets are different, the people that are executing it are different and the world is different since time has passed since the best practice you were trying to copied was really hot and happening. Therefore don’t try to rely too much on best practices, they were great for a certain organization / group of people during a certain time, however most likely they will perform poorly if you just copy them.

However pick some important design elements from those best practices and see how they can fit your to be social design. Use this design elements and see how they fit your context and if they can be applied in this context. By reusing just the elements and adapting them to your context you’ll be able to define a new practice and if you are lucky: a new best practice.

Social Design Elements

Currently I am working on a approach to make social easy understandable as a design principle. One of the approaches I have taken for this is to split it in six design elements. Those elements are not mandatory in each social design, but at least one of them will occur in a social design:

  • Connectivity: you need to connected, not as in a relation , but as via a wifi network, bluetooth, or any other way that enables you to share and retrieve information.
  • Participation: things get better when more people participate (think of for example of the defacto example of Wikipedia)
  • Data: data is the new oil, social media analytics, prediction markets, filtering etc. Everything you can do with data
  • Identity: the individual, identified by several characteristics. Profiles can be optional, there is more to identity than an username
  • Trust: social environment have a certain trust level in order people can and will participate
  • Shareable: things should be worth sharing and it should be possible to share things with others

What do you think of these element of social design. Are these all elements, are there more element, can these element be merged, what would be proper definitions for these elements? Of course you’ll be credited for this when I use it in my presentations.

Enterprise Social Media – The hidden treasure

For the Social Business Convention I did a presentation on the value of Enterprise Social Media. It shows a very clear way of  calculating the benefits of enterprise social media. There are two different types of benefits mentioned in this slidedeck:

  1. Benefits that create a cognitive surplus
  2. Benefits that create a direct benefit (often cost saving or increase in revenue)

Direct  benefits

Direct benefits are often very contextual, and since examples of these cases would only make sense in a certain context I only listed generic direct benefits, especially since the presentation was for a mixed audience and each of the audience members have their own context. However two generic direct benefits are: reducing telephone costs and reducing travel costs. For me these are rather obvious savings which provide people with the insight that there are other and better ways to get in touch with each other and to exchange information.

Cognitive Surplus

Saving  time (for example by making employees more productive), doesn’t directly create a cost saving. However these additional hours can be seen as a cognitive surplus: time that can be spend in a very useful way for a company. Or in some cases: playing some additional solitaire or Angry Birds. The cognitive surplus and especially the increase of this surplus is often one of the basis benefits of enterprise social media. These benefits are applicable to nearly all companies and are often implemented rather easy (as in: the return on investment is rather high and the turnaround time is at worst a bit more than three months).

ROI and Business Cases

Business cases are guesses, since nobody knows exactly upfront what the benefits will be and how much money you will save or if you will be able to create or increase a cognitive surplus in our organization. So the best way to move forward is to do things, to make change happen. Only when things are done you know what the actual result was and you have a clear view on the benefits. Though one thing is certain: benefits are there and social enters the workplace no matter what company or market you are working in.

3F the typical community approach

A few weeks ago I presented on B2B goes social about B2B communities. After my presentation and during the drinks I got this question: “If I want to start a community for my customers tomorrow what should I do?”. Basically those kind of questions always boil down to the 3F answer: Friends, Family and Fools.

If you want to get things started ask the people who are close to you what they think and if they would like to help you. Don’t just drop them an email, invite them over, give them a proper coffee (or if it is in the afternoon: a good pint) and share your thoughts with them and ask for feedback. If they care as much about you as you do about them you will get good advice.

It might sound obvious to you, however friends and family are a good starting point for many of your new ventures. The third F, fools, is the group that arrives after a while. It is a sign of a mature community as soon as the fools arrive.

Product designers: don’t be a gatekeeper, be just better

If we can’t make something that is better, we won’t do it

Apple designer Jony Ive

An easy way to keep your audience in or to grow and audience, is by being a gatekeeper. Of course that is attractive since the effort to get and keep your audience is relatively low, since people getting in is simple (there is just one way to use content: our product), getting out is really hard (since again: only your product allows access to the content).

I noticed that Spotify is doing this by forcing you to download their product before you can listen:

Spotify is probably great in a lot of things, and does a lot of things better than other products. However it doesn’t make listening to music better. Especially not by forcing installing the app before you can listen to a certain song. It is a typical method of a company in a relatively young market to grow market share: closing the gates and let nobody out and make sure that the only way to get access to content is via your product.

What might have been a more mature solution is by letting me listen to this song and then try to convert me to Spotify by offering something that my traditional music player doesn’t. For example:

Now Spotify lets me listen to the music and can give me a compelling reason to get their product: if I want to hear more music like this, or if I value erwblo’s music choice I can use Spotify to keep up to date to this by subscribing to erwblo.

It is not about making things only usable via your product, it is about giving people a compelling reason to use your product in the first place. It has to better, if it isn’t: don’t do it.

Vanity Metrics – Measuring the wrong thing

About the time this blog is published I have just finished my presentation at B2B Goes Social. At this event I presented about Getting Real with B2B Communities and to be more exact about the pitfall of using vanity metrics instead of real actionable metrics. The main reason to do a talk about B2B communities and vanity metrics is because this was also a topic I did 2-3 years ago for B2C communities. Since B2B lacks 2-3 years behind B2C I found this topic rather applicable for reuse in a B2B context.

These are the slides I have used and below the slides there is a summary of what I have talked about.

With communities there are two general mistakes made in approaches:

  1. The 90-9-1 rule defined by Jakob Nielsen. Read why I think this limits the efforts of community builders here.
  2. Vanity Metrics.

Vanity Metrics

Vanity Metrics for me have two main appearances: aggregated numbers and false, non actionable metrics. For the latter I choose to dive into the aspect of signing up users into your B2B community, since one of the key KPIs I see is the number of users and since getting users on your community is important though the number of users is irrelevant, it is about what these users are doing.

Aggregated numbers

A typical view on success of communities is the total number of views or the total numbers of posts or to abstract it a bit: the total number of actions in a certain time frame. These give false information. Since even if your community has an increase of 200% in the number of views, is it really great? First of all it is important to know what has caused the change and second it is important to zoom on a more detailed level to see what the change actually is.

For example if your community was linked on Reddit, Slashdot, Digg or Twitter and these channels drove an enormous traffic spike then it is nice to have this spike, to there is no sustainable change. However if you have made a change in the user interface and all of a sudden your users don’t visit two pages per session but 6 pages per session you have a more meaningful insight.

Detailed Analysis

Even more meaningful would be to divide your users in different groups, such as new versus returning users, but also based on the life cycle of the user and perhaps even on demographic data or based on typical actions (users that buy your goods, users that review them, users who just read information).  In this way you can see what happen to certain changes. Also if you average user has a life cycle of three months in your community and you have an enormous peak of sign ups, you will know there will be a huge drop-off of users in three months after that and you most likely want to be ready for that.

 Attracting users

Even though the sheer number of users would be a vanity metric, it is still important to attract users. Since without users that do something communities are  boring. Research of Janrain has shown that users on different media have different preferences on (social) sign up, however that doesn’t mean there is just one solution that fits all. Important for social sign in and sign in-flows in general is that these are A-B-tested continuously. Since your first sign-in/up-flow is based on the assumptions you have about how it would work best. This is not about what the user thinks that work best. So involve the user early on, either by doing A-B testing, user interviews or any other way, though it is about validating the assumptions you have early on. There is no such thing as ‘the user’, users are people too.

Going viral

‘How do I get to the tipping point?’, a question often asked, since if you manage to get at a tipping point growth is happening at an immense rate. The basic premise to achieve this with the sign up of users is to make that every new user will bring more than 1 user with them. If every new user will bring a least two users you will get to a tipping point. To get there are several techniques you can use. You can choose the more black hat approach such as automatically spamming customer network with invites for your community, however this might drive traffic on short-term, it most likely will drive your reputation into the ground.

Therefore providing relevance is more important. Research from Cornell University about Facebook has shown that relevance is also something worth to A-B test:

“What jumped out at us was that someone’s likelihood of joining really corresponded not to the number of friends represented, but to how many disconnected groups the friends listed on the e-mail fell into,” Kleinberg says. “We were surprised by how clean the effect was.”

Getting in touch

Standard approach of communities is to get in touch twice with new members: one time when they join and the other when somebody leaves. However it might be more valuable to get in touch more often and first all not at the first moment they just joined. At that moment in time you have their attention, it might be more valuable to get in touch after a few days when they forget about you.

Flickr, or to be keep it more human: Caterina Fake and Stewart Butterfield, founders of Flickr, used to welcome every new member on Flickr personally. This is a tedious job and consumes a lot of time. However each interaction with your first users is well spend. It is an investment you’ll have to make to make sure that your community will be viable. It is an investment in creating your first few community evangelists who will promote your community for your. And it is an opportunity to get instant feedback from those who are willing to join your community in this early phase.

The best solution for you

The best solution for you, is the solution that works best for your customers / users. Therefore don’t assume too much upfront. Start early, (AB)test early and adjust often. Don’t use vanity metrics, use real actionable metrics that can be related to your business goals and your assumptions. Validating your assumptions early is important for your community, since if you hold on to incorrect assumptions for too long your community will probably not bring what you had expected.

5 steps to get your CEO on social media

You have decided it is a good thing to have your CEO tweeting or blogging, however you have no idea how to make him / her. Well here is how:

1. Ask your CEO

CEOs are humans too. Just talk with your CEO about this idea. If there is no compelling reason for you CEO to take part in social media he or she won’t. So make sure you know why your CEO should do this and what the benefits are for you CEO (personally and for the company). If you cannot explain it why the CEO should do anything on social media, most likely it won’t happen.

2. Schedule time

CEOs are busy, always. However they have a calendar with all their meetings and other appointments. Make social such an event as well. Yes it is great if your CEO would be a natural change agent and would embed it in his or her personal life instantly. However change takes time and if things take time, better schedule it in the calendar of your CEO (and in your own calendar since you’ll have to help).

3. Pick the medium

You might be a great writer, though maybe your CEO isn’t, why force your CEO to blog then? Is he talker? Maybe podcasting or vodcasting are an option or a ghostwriter. When using a ghostwriter make sure that you are transparent about it.

4. Provide feedback

Did something great happen to the content your CEO has produced? Inform him or her as soon as possible. Are there any comments on the latest blog? Be sure to schedule time with your CEO to make sure that he or she answers these comments . Most important: let your CEO know why it is a good thing that he or she spending his/hers time on this by showing results. Don’t hide any negative feedback, your CEO will get to know this feedback anyways.

5. Evaluate this initiative

Time is valuable, not just for CEO it is also valuable for you. Set a time window upfront in which you give this initiative a go and evaluate afterwards. Was this experience valuable for you, the CEO and the company? Did it deliver what you thought it would? Did you reach the goals you have set? Is it time well spend? Does the CEO like to do this. Is this something you still like to do? Should you continue doing this?

Make sure you know why you want to do this and why it is good for you CEO and / or your company and make sure to book some time in your calendar to make this happen. Don’t be afraid to stop doing it if it not living up to expectations, however don’t kill it after two weeks, take at least 3 months to do this together with you CEO.