Unlock the Social Media value inside your organisation as well as outside

The benefits for companies using social media to reach customers are much discussed. But there has been woefully little mention in the conversation of the benefits of using social media to increase the efficiency of communications inside the organization – and as a result, productivity and revenue.

A recently released McKinsey report finds that, while nearly three-quarters of organisations use social media to engage with external audiences, twice as much potential exists in using social tools internally. The report suggests that social platforms for internal comms could increase productivity by up to 25% and unlock up to (get this!) $1.3trillion in ‘annual value’, just across the 4 sectors its research covered.

In June, I reasoned in my blog post, Social At Work, that social media was a powerful conduit for information-flow and knowledge-sharing inside any organization (much like it is outside), enabling workers to more easily keep informed about, and engaged in, developments and events across the entire operation. How many times have you heard disgruntled employees lamenting that they ‘don’t know what’s going on?’ Enhanced product knowledge, increased morale, more relevance, and fewer hours wasted in meetings, being just some of the obvious benefits of adopting a ‘social-culture’ for internal communications.

If only half of the reported 3 billion meetings that occur in the US ever year are a waste of time, then I estimate the direct cost to US industry to be well in excess of $100bn (being ultra conservative) in employees’ time alone. Is this not reason enough to consider the social media alternatives?

McKinsey also reaffirms my point that the real challenge for companies hoping to adopt social media as a platform for internal communications is in affecting the requisite changes in culture – installing the technology is the easy bit.

Is Traditional Marketing Still Effective?

Is Traditional Marketing Still Effective? |.

This is an interesting article that asks whether traditional marketing still has a place in your marketing plan alongside digital and internet marketing.

With the current trend to rush blindly towards social, inbound and content-based marketing, this is a good time to pause for a moment and take stock. Many so-called Internet Marketers are quick to dismiss tried and tested traditional techniques. Proceed with trepidation before subscribing to this doctrine.

Consider that your marketing should serve to solve business problems and maximise opportunities to grow your brand. Diversity across industries and companies means that these opportunities and problems will vary, requiring marketing plans to do the same depending on the business environment. One size does surely not fit all. Therefore you must approach your marketing planning with an open mind about what strategies will best meet your objectives – not a preconception that you must use one set of media or another.

Digital has provided marketers with more channels, and the growing tendency among consumers to spend time immersed in these media make them attractive – not to mention the comparatively low costs of entry. Traditional channels such as broadcast and print advertising, direct marketing and events have suffered as a result, and will have to learn to deliver more measurable results to advertisers at a lower price. But write them off at your peril. You will still struggle to get in to the nation’s front rooms quicker than on the TV, you won’t catch more people on their drive home from work any other way than by radio, and if you are not networking at your industry’s annual trade event then you won’t have as many quality leads to nurture in your snazzy new CRM hub software as your competitor.

This article reminds us that online and offline marketing are two components of the same effort. They should not operate in two separate silos but rather in harmony with each other – in an ‘integrated’ way as we used to say. If your marketing provider offers one without the other then it’s time to sound the alarm.

Many internet marketers have forgotten that the most important word in their title is the second one. A facebook enthusiast maketh not a marketer. If you are seeking specialist marketing advice then you will be well served to distinguish between the two. Internet Marketing can be extremely effective and may very well be a good fit for your business, but the chances are it will play a role in a much larger production. It is a means to an end, not an end in itself.

When Social Media Fails | Social Media Today

When Social Media Fails | Social Media Today.

This is a great post that reminds us off the difference between ‘social media child’s play’ and ‘meat and potatoes marketing’. It’s about time somebody wrote this. I just wish I’d got there first.

I’ve watched the emergence of self-professed ‘social media experts’ over recent years with more than just a pinch of cynicism. As a seasoned marketing ‘grown-up’ I have yet to be convinced that nurturing the ability to create lorry-loads of social noise is any substitute for practicing traditional marketing fundamentals.

A casual glance through my past posts will tell you I am a social media advocate to the last, but everything in it’s right place, right? Social media is important. But it is, as its name suggests, merely a newer kind of media. The fundamental principles of marketing haven’t changed as a result of it – or at least shouldn’t have. But I ask, are they now being forgotten to the detriment of brands everywhere because the hypnotic draw of digital’s knobs, dials and flashing lights is more alluring than common-sense and the realisation of profit?

I breathed an audible sigh of relief this morning when even the Chief Digital Officer of a hugely reputable agency such as Deutsche LA admitted that ‘there are no true experts in digital’.  I concur. There is no doubt that digital media are becoming a greater part of our lives. Marketers can not ignore this. But as soon as we’ve figured it out, it’s evolved or been replaced, and the debate about if and how it delivers real returns to the bottom line still rages on without any satisfactory conclusion.

To reinforce my point, I was amused and disappointed in equal measure while reading the official sales guff of a firm of self-professed internet marketing experts claiming to create ‘great’/’compelling’/’engaging’ (yawn) content for their clients to ‘drive traffic’ and ‘generate leads’, when their own content was simultaneously verbose, lacking in insight (and therefore credibility) and riddled with spelling and grammatical errors. Really?

Is the marketing industry becoming a playground for deluded software addicts that spend too much time spewing nonsense on to the web and not enough in their customer’s heads? How can you tell an ‘expert’ from an enthusiast and to what extent can the digital world really thrive separate and apart from it’s older more traditional brother?

Happy Birthday Atari

atari 2600

The Atari 2600 was 40 years old yesterday. If you were a kid in the 80s then you understand the significance of this magnificent piece of engineering. This was The Beatles of the gaming world. It inspired a generation and shaped the future of one of the biggest industries on the planet. Not to mention, catapulting Atari in to the higher echelons of the coolest-brands-ever list!

Antisocial media

This links to an interesting post about managers who don’t use social media:

http://bit.ly/NS6JJc

I found the account of the CFO fascinating – the one protesting that he couldn’t use social media professionally because of the ‘risk’. Financial people – you’ve got to love them. I used to work with a mid-level manager who wouldn’t touch social. She was quite proud of it too. Above it perhaps? Let’s see if she’s above being employed in 5 years.

So should we or shouldn’t we use social media as professionals?

We’ll deal with the downsides to start with.

First of all, people know your business. My parents’ generation and generations prior to that guarded their personal business fiercely. Knowledge was power so you kept it to yourself. Besides, everybody was out to get you. Everybody! Trust no one.  If it’s not the communists it’s the capitalists. George Orwell warned us that Big Brother was watching. Patrick McGoohan would not be “pushed, filed, stamped, indexed, briefed, debriefed or numbered”. More traditional institutions (banks) still implement military grade security around their customer service portals – passwords to access passwords that allow you to log in with a password…and time you out 6 seconds later. Safe, yes. Intolerable for customers.

I am of the inbetweener generation. We are not our parents, but we also remember a world before t’Internet. And so a little of that skepticism of the oldies rubbed off. If you’d pitched facebook to me 10 years ago, I am a little ashamed to say that I would have poo-pooed the idea in a heartbeat. What sane minded individual would willingly share personal information, family photos, and private opinions in a public forum for crooks, authorities and the unwashed masses to scrutinize, exploit, judge and refute? Poppycock! Ironically, today I’m a veritable social butterfly, as are the vast majority of my contemporaries. Over a quarter of facebook users are 35 years old plus.  Go olds.

The second big issue about using social media is that you might say something stupid that could jeopardize your career. Who hasn’t heard those woeful tales of employees getting the heave-ho because they were caught bad-mouthing bosses or partying like Keith Richards on facebook? Joshua Waldman warns us in his post that the FTC approved social media content as a legal basis for rejection of job candidates in 2011. Another daunting fact to spook the accountant types. Boo! But for anyone who relies on the creation and expression of fresh ideas to make a living (creatives, entrepreneurs), then yes, we are in danger of saying something that could come back to bite us on the arse. And that’s OK, because challenging convention and being bold is the fuel of progress. The alternative is never to do anything that moves your organisation forward and grows your business. That might work if you’re a financial controller, lawyer or civil servant, but if your job requires you to be enterprising then you will have to stick your neck out on occasion, take a leap or ruffle feathers, otherwise nothing positive ever happens. And every now and then you’ll have to take the consequences on the chin, so it helps if you have one.

Now the upsides of using social media as your soap box.

First of all, people know your business. Today we live in a society that embraces the sharing of personal information, online communities and self-publicity. Technology changes but human nature doesn’t. Just as before, those that succeed tend to be those that make the most noise (yes, I know that sucks). Only the platform has changed. These days the noisy ones can make more noise than ever before. Social media empowers us to become self-professed industry leaders and build huge networks of relevant contacts. This means that if you’re not banging your drum and blowing your horn online you’re more likely to be overlooked. That’s the first bloody nose for your career.

The second bloody nose for your career (or more of a concussion blow to the head) will come when you realise (or worse still, your employer realises first) that you can no longer communicate and function in your work environment. It won’t be long before social media is standard MO for the internal and external communications of all organisations. It’s inevitable. It’s as intuitive for today’s school leavers as sending a fax was for us. Email will go the way of the fax. Certain professions (finance?) and senior managers may still frown upon the use of social media in business today, but this antiquated attitude will be swept aside by a new generation of leaders that know no other way. This is inevitable, given the potential of social media to enhance the flow of knowledge and speed of communication in business, making companies leaner and more competitive (see my earlier post on social media at work).

So, the question of whether or not you should be using social media comes down to whether you think it’s better to be visible or invisible in your career . How would you like to come across in a management meeting or a job interview? How would you like your clients or potential employers to view you? If being seen scares you then maybe you should become a secret agent…or an accountant. As Joshua Waldman points out in his post, if an employer is considering you as a potential candidate ‘you will be googled.’ Probably best to be in when they come a calling.

Something you do

Work is something you do, not a place you go. So the cliché goes.

It takes me back to my very first work experience, way back in the late eighties. My fresh face pitched up at a local IT firm (I’m not sure we had the term IT back then though) for my induction in to the world of nine-to-five, suits and ties and office politics. I was horrified. It was the most uncomfortable, nonsensical and generally unpleasant environment I could imagine. Turns out I had a point. Why did grown-ups behave this way?

We are creatures of convention. Which is probably why we persist with the idea of work being somewhere you go rather than something you do (if we didn’t we wouldn’t need the cliché to remind us we’re doing it all wrong…still).

If an employee does what they are paid to do within the time frame set and given parameters, does it matter what hours they keep, where they work and what they wear? Of course, if you are a receptionist you must be in the physical space in to which you are receiving. Likewise, if you are a security guard, you probably can’t guard a location without actually being there to wallop the bad guys over the head. But unless your role ties you to a specific location in this way, the answer to the question is no, it doesn’t matter where you work.

I can speak with authority about the South East of England, but I am sure the same applies to most of the developed world. Rush hour is an impossible scramble to get to work. Overcrowdedness on public transport grinds it to a standstill. Highways are clogged with stationary motor vehicles spewing toxic emissions. Tempers fray and accidents happen. Workers arrive late, flustered and stressed, or exhausted from rising at the crack of dawn to avoid the throngs. They are forced to spend thousands of dollars they can little afford in travel and eating expenses for this privilege. So that when they eventually arrive at their station, they can be distracted all day long by over-burdened colleagues, over used communications technology, irrelevant meetings and unnatural attire.

Now, if work really were something we actually did in practice as well as theory, it would probably look more like this…

Employees would work in a place that’s easy to get to and comfortable, probably their homes. They would feel relaxed, energized and grateful, and would be able to manage (read reduce) distractions so they can do more (and better) work. As such they would be more motivated, more creative and more productive. Communications technology would give them all the connectivity they need and managers would step up their game to task and assess them based on output delivered, rather than hours slogged, so that employers would get what they actually need instead of just a bum in a seat. Employers would slash the eye-wateringly high costs of providing office space, such as rent, utilities and equipment. And the boss could also enjoy the added bonus of knowing she has done her bit to relieve the burden on the nation’s transport infrastructure and the environment thanks her for it (ooh, some PR mileage too!).

We’ll see this become the norm in a couple of decades, and that spotty teenager with a Simon Le Bon haircut and not a day’s business experience in his life will have turned out to have been half a century ahead of his time. Well, that’s how I like to see it.

Imagine a world where work really is something you do, rather than a place you go. It’s easy if you try.

Going SoLo

The world generated 1.8 zettabytes of data in 2011 according to Forrester, who also predicts that marketing spend on email, mobile and social will more than double to $16 billion by 2016.  They also tell us that nearly two-thirds of consumers are active on social networks every week.

No huge surprises here, but it serves as a useful reminder to businesses that they need to go where their customers are. I’m not sure how much I’m fancying email as a promising marketing platform of the future, but mobile and social are clearly the way forward for marketers as consumers spend more time on the go for business and pleasure, and increasingly socialise via technology.

SoLo marketing (location based social media marketing) increasingly marks the zenith – the point where mobile and social converge – for consumer brands looking for a generous slice of the action. Context is key, reaching consumers in a way that is relevant to where they are and on a platform that allows them to share the experience with their networks.

Foursquare, with nearly a million registered businesses and 8-figure strong consumer base, and the growing number of services like it, are ideal for businesses trying to net passers by and get them to shout about it. But retail businesses can also benefit from a whole slew of activities that promote their location to potential consumers in the area, such as blogs, directories, coupon apps and optimsing their websites for mobile. This link takes you to a neat little shopping list:

http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/location-based-marketing-tips/

If your business relies on drawing customers in to your physical location, then it’s well worth reviewing how many more of your marketing dollars need to be allocated to going SoLo.

Oh, and 1 zettabyte = 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 bytes. Fascinating.

Is technology ruining children?

Is technology ruining children?

It seems increasingly normal (and acceptable) that our youngsters can’t spell, can’t converse, don’t exercise, don’t engage (at school, at home, or socially) and are generally consumed by a virtual reality where pixels replace people, places and practicality. Technology is typically the culprit fingered by the grown-ups.

It doesn’t sound promising, does it? Not to most of us who are old enough to remember a world before the Internet. Yet I recently found myself playing devil’s advocate in the debate, arguing that this trend represents evolution rather than regression.

For example, many of my peers are horrified by the abbreviation of words and phrases to abstruse acronyms and crude codes by a generation of txters, IMers and BBMers, or the omission of punctuation altogether. But put this in perspective, Shakespeare would wince at common practices in written communication of recent generations. Are we really naïve enough to believe that communication has been perfected to the point that its evolution is no longer appropriate?

How much faster younger people communicate, facilitated by technology and shorthand.  How much more news they absorb thanks to the ambient and multi-channel nature of social media. How much more quickly they can process and respond as a result of communication saturation and (I’ll risk it) gaming (there, I said it). How much more knowledgeable they are as a result of instant access to information. No, it’s not in their heads, but why should it be? So much of it’s out of date as soon as it’s learned. And if the key to thriving in a rapidly evolving and ever more complex society is possessing the skills to adapt, then surely the ability to find and process information is far more vital than the retention of stale facts?

You see, the LOLers and OMGers of today will be the business leaders of tomorrow. And in a world that will be changing at a rate that is beyond the comprehension of their parents, it’s probably a good job too. The speed of business in 10 to 15 years from now probably won’t allow them the luxury of full-stops, commas, expansive formal speak and physical meetings. That’s evolution baby.

This may be a black eye for the purists and the culturalists, and even the more blinkered academics, but it’s an inevitability which warrants some careful consideration about what goes on in the classroom and how we prepare our children for what lies ahead.

Now, where did I put my copy of ‘The Tempest’?

Googling goggles

Google Goggles allows you to search using pictures.

http://www.google.com/mobile/goggles/#text

The concept is still in it’s infancy so it won’t work so well on less readily identifiable objects, but the potential ignites the imagination.

It has some pretty clear educational benefits for sure, like researching objects and places of historical, cultural or geographical interest.  Could it eventually be used to provide guidance for solving every day challenges, such as diagnosing technical or engineering (or God forbid, medical!) issues simply by taking a photograph of the problem?

What impact will this technology have for marketers? It could help consumers access product information in stores (like code scanners), or allow them to identify the vendors of products they see and like? In any event it will increase the importance of image usage in the search optimization process. Time for a new product shoot methinks.

waiting for godot

I am not an IT specialist. But I am a knowledge worker. Or put that another way, without a computer I can’t work…at all. When my computer dies at work I ‘log the issue’ with IT according to protocol, who may or may not turn up a day or two later, depending on how much noise I make. Sound familiar? In the meantime, my employer is paying me to do absolutely nothing. Yeah sure, I can find something productive to do but let’s cut the crap, it’s not best use of my time so I shouldn’t be doing it.

What is the annual cost of this downtime to businesses, the cost of paying (often senior level) employees to do nothing and interrupting workflow? What would be the net effect of offsetting that cost against the cost of employing more efficient IT systems and teams? I will wager my big toe that in most knowledge-worker environments the net effect would be increased production, increased morale and more profitable operations. I am sure the analysis has been done a gazillion times – feel free to share here if you’re party to this insight.

So where’s the urgency when employees are forced to stop work because of poor IT infrastructure and support? If an employee just tooled down and went home for the day I’m pretty sure we’d see it. What’s the difference?