28th February 2007

Exploring communities and corporate HR…

Ever notice that is loaded with Recruiters??  That’s not the point of this post, but I think we can all agree that the recruiting function of HR has long since discovered communities as an avenue for adding talent to organizations.   But recruiting is only one small part of the HR function.  What about talent management and organizational design?

Wikinomics got me thinking more about this HR connection.  The obvious assertion in the book is that there will always be more smart people outside your company than inside your company.  It goes on to claim that volunteers will self-organize in more efficient ways than managers can accomplish inside hierarchical organizational structures.  I don’t know if I buy this, but the possibility that it is true should be enough to make your consider the implications.  I will buy that volunteers are frequently more motivated than paid professionals - there is a natural difference in motivation.  Think about your own volunteer efforts and test this.

So, how should HR think about this.  I’m not sure I know the answer, but it is high time to engage in the coversation.  I think you can safely say that talent management and organizational design are dramatically different in the Web 2.0 world and the traditional, largely internally focused (except recruiting), role of HR will be tested by this evolution.  Product and services insight gathering is certainly low hanging fruit already underway, but I think that is just the beginning.  External participation through co-production, co-development and user generated content are big opportunities.  That said, don’t get me wrong when I say "opportunities".  It isn’t long term market advantage for those companies that do this well, it’s market relevance, as this is the way business WILL be done in the future.  There will be benefits for fast and first movers and I think harsh penalties for those who don’t move.

I’d love your thoughts and examples on this!!  In the end, this may be one of the most core issues to how your company might think about communities and the impact of Web 2.0.

I wonder, can large, traditional organizations facilitate self-organizing principles?

Oh…and remember, if you liked this…"Digg it!!"



Popularity: 13% [?]

posted in Business Strategy, General Community Discussion, Social Media, Web 2.0 and corporate HR, online communities, web 2.0 | 7 Comments

27th February 2007

Politics and communities update…


This was shared with me today and has some interesting insights on how the candidates are using technology in the race for "myPresident".  http://www.techpresident.com/

Plenty of interesting discussion here, I’d recommend taking some time to check this out.

Added on 3/2…from YouTube Election Channels launched: 

Popularity: 6% [?]

posted in Examples, Social Media, web 2.0 | 0 Comments

26th February 2007

A little discussion on "Corporate Transparency"…


In Convincing the Unconverted, Part 3, I shared a list of reasons, or motivations, for businesses to engage in community development.  One of the topics I mentioned was Image or the "humanization" of your company.  I thought this topic deserved a bit more exploration.

To me, we reached this point through natural evolution (The Evolution of Consumer Empowerment) aided by a cocktail of recent catalysts driving corporate transparency.

  • A new generation (Gen "Y")
  • Sarbanes-Oxley
  • Web 2.0

A New Generation:

Let’s start with a short discussion on Generation Y (roughly those born between 1981 and 1999) and "why" I think this is important.  A quick review of Gen Y is helpful and wikipedia provides a good baseline.

Note:  There is considerable controversy on the naming of this generation, including "net gen, millenials, google gen (I hate this one - oops, bias slipped in), gen next," etc.

The point of this post is not to dive into these inherently controversial topics, but to talk about how these generational differences are leading to Corporate Transparency.  I think anyone who has ever had parents or children (I’m hoping that gets everyone here) can agree that there are significant differences between the generations.  While our parents might look at us and think we should behave more like them and we look at them thinking they should behave like us, the reality is neither will happen - the same will be true for our children.  The example that brought this home for me in a business context was a colleague who said the following:

Today’s 22 year old coming out of college into the workforce will have the expectation that they can just walk into the CEO’s office and present and defend their ideas.

It was a simple anecdote, but it struck me that I think it’s generally true.  Now, I’m not judging this as good or bad, right or wrong, only substantially different than the way most traditional companies function today - you "earn the right" vs "expect the right," so to speak.  This is the generation of interaction.  Not the gen that watched TV as much as they played online.  Not the gen that watched the evening news, but the gen that created the news in the blogosphere.  The traditional company will think these "kids" should behave like their "parents" and these new "kids" will not understand why their "parents" aren’t behaving like them.  (In a future post I will explore this further in the context of how communities could impact the traditional corporate HR functions.)  In the end, businesses are people-driven and will need to evolve to learn from and leverage these generational changes, or you can be sure they will suffer from talent retention.  This new generation will bring with it a fundamental shift in how knowledge within companies, with users and across partners is shared.  Strap on your seatbelt, they may well know something you don’t.


I look at Sarbanes-Oxley as another catalyst driving corporate transparency (albeit the stick vs the carrot..).  This legislation was passed in response to several scandals involving accounting irregularities - most notably with Enron, Tyco and Worldcom. These scandals ushered in a new era of corporate distrust.  Suddenly, we not only wanted increase corporate accountability and transparency, but we wanted it for much more basic reasons.  Enter Maslow’s Hierarchy on needs.  We didn’t want this transparency for reasons of belonging, esteem, or self-actualization (strong drivers I would associate deeply with Gen Y), but for very fundamental reasons of Safety.  People, a lot of people, got hurt in what can only be describes as outrageously offensive corporate acts.

Read/Write Web:

Enter Web 2.0.  A new, highly engaged and interactive generation born in the age of online gaming, , and is driving a wave of participative-culture change, fueled by an environment of corporate distrust.  A great cocktail for re-inventing how business gets done in the social web.  In this new business reality, static or non-interactive web pages offer little value to a generation looking for interaction and discussion.  This is where your company, or more specifically your employees (who, by the way, are more and more represented by Gen Y) come in.  I may not know what your company does, but I know what most of your web pages say without ever visiting them.  What I want is a relationship and I can’t have a relationship with a Web 1.0 portal.  I want to interact with your employees through employee blogs.  I want to connect with and read content written by other users.  I want to participate in product feedback and discussions.  I want to help myself and I’d rather not talk to you on the phone (in your call center).  These are my new expectations.   How you as a company choose to engage in this new openness is your opportunity for transparency and your opportunity to re-invent your image and humanize your company through personal connections.  Remember, it’s easy to dislike a company - it is harder to dislike the people, once you know and relate with them.

Sure, there are lots of other catalysts contributing to this evolution, including Moore’s law, broadband proliferation, mobile phone penetration, etc - but I see these more as enablers of change vs agents of change.

Any thoughts on this?


Popularity: 25% [?]

posted in Business Strategy, Examples, General Community Discussion, Social Media, Why Community Matters, web 2.0 | 17 Comments

25th February 2007

What am I reading right now?


I thought I’d take a few minutes to share what I’m reading (or read recently..or sitting next to me in my “must be read pile”) when it comes to communities, business and leadership.   Maybe I can get some good recommendations back?  Hint…Hint…


Wikinomics: How Mass Collaboration Changes Everything

The Long Tail: Why the Future of business is selling less of more

The Cluetrain Manifesto: The End of Business as usual

Smart Mobs: The Next Social Revolution

Vitrual Community: Homesteading on the electronic frontier

Death By Meeting

The Five Dysfunctions of a Team

Profiting from Uncertainty

Outside Innovation

Strategy Safari

Confronting Reality

Managing Brand Me




Best Engaging Community

Creating Passionate Users

Online Community Report


Dion Hinchcliffe/zdnet

The Social Web

Social Media/Social Networking

Howard Rhiengold

The Social Customer


Deborah Schultz

Web 2.0 Journal

Enjoy the list, I hope you’ll make some additional recommendations.

Useful? Digg it!



Popularity: 6% [?]

posted in General Community Discussion | 5 Comments

24th February 2007

The Evolution of Consumer Empowerment…


Alright, this is all about how online communities, web 2.0, read/write web are really nothing new!  But wait, haven’t I been blogging about how they are new and different?  Time to un-wrap this just a little. 

Everyday, we all make a lot of decisions…Where to eat?  What movie to watch? What mobile phone to buy?  What cell carrier to use?  What school to send our kids to?  What camera to buy?  What plumber to use?  Which computer to buy?  Where to go on vacation?  How to properly BBQ a steak:)?  How to get the moss out of my lawn?  You get the idea.  The bigger question is, how do we make all these decisions?  Well, generally, we make them the same way we have always made them. 

A Look Back…

We’ve always used and been very heavily influenced by our friends, family, neighbors, co-workers and or others in our personal networks.  The problem with ”personal” or physical networks is that they are by definition finite.  Most people’s personal networks are regrettably full of people who share common demographics, opinions, preferences and experiences.  This is just the way it is.  So, when it comes to influence, that personal network is powerful, but relatively limited in its breadth and depth of knowledge and experiences. 

When our need for knowledge exceeded our personal networks, what did we do?  Often, that’s where we went to retailers or direct to manufacturers.  The manufacturers bought premium shelf space and invested in training sales staff in retailers to win influence at the point of purchase.   We’d go to multiple suppliers to check the advice we were getting and ultimately we made a selection - but, in the end, the supply chain wielded a lot of influence over our choices. 

In our personal networks, we might have referred to this process as word of mouth.  Marketers tapped into new tactics to influence word and mouth and then the web ultimately gave explosive growth to the formal discipline of  word of mouth marketing.  (note:  today, this is stretched even further through the online evolution of guerilla marketing - gone horribly wrong recently by Turner Broadcasting.)

Present day…

What the web has changed in this equation is the massive proliferation and democratization of information and access to peer expertise.  Across every topic, language, culture, product, service, opinion… Not only are we no longer bound by the limitations of our personal networks, but our access to information and peer insights is nearly limitless.  Consumers will have more knowledge as part of their decision processes than ever before. They will be in the driver’s seat.  They will even be invited into the innovation cycle.  Consumer to consumer conversation as part of the consumption cycle has become an expectation and is driving an obligation for corporate transparency (see future post).  If the consumer goes into a store at all, who will know more, the consumer?  Or the person behind the counter?  I think it’s clear the trend here favors the consumer.

So, if user-to-user conversation is not part of your business model, then you may have a “going out of business,” business model - get on the community bus! (Still working on your community business case…read “convincing.”)

Yes, all these conversations will add a lot more “noise” into the system and we will ebb and flow out of information overload, but innovations (Digg for example) will help manage that noise to the fringes.

So, while there was a time when manufacturers held the influence, then the channel/retailers took over, so now the baton is passed to the consumer, leaving retailers and manufacturers to re-invent themselves to this new user-centric authority. 

My 2 cents anyway:)

And if you liked it…don’t forget to Digg it!



Popularity: 8% [?]

posted in Community Development Business Case, General Community Discussion | 2 Comments

23rd February 2007

Politics and Online Community - who’s good?


Great examples of community often come at the intersections of passionate debate. So in the spirit of taking a look at communities from an “analytical” standpoint, I thought a great issue to follow would be the race for the US presidency in 2008. Below is a list I compiled that I think captures at least everyone who has declared intent to run for president. I’m sure I missed someone, so feel free to add to this list. That said, if I did miss someone, you might argue they are already in trouble – too hard to find!


Tom Vilsack: http://www.tomvilsack08.com/

Bill Richardson: http://richardsonforpresident.com/

Barack Obama: http://www.barackobama.com/

Dennis Kucinich: http://kucinich.us/

Mike Gravel: http://gravel08.us/

John Edwards: http://johnedwards.com/

Christopher Dodd: http://www.chrisdodd.com/home

Hillary Clinton: http://www.hillaryclinton.com/

Joe Biden: http://www.joebiden.com/home


Rudy Giuliani: http://www.joinrudy2008.com/

Samuel Brownback: http://www.t-worx.com/Default.aspx?alias=www.t-worx.com/brownback

John Herman Cox: http://www.cox2008.com/cox/

Duncan Hunter: http://www.gohunter08.com/Home.aspx

John McCain: http://www.exploremccain.com/?sid=msn

Tom Tancredo: http://www.teamtancredo.org/

To be fair, this will be far from the first elections to embrace communities and social networking as part of their campaign strategy.

For an illustration of how online communities are already impacting the process, check out the following article: “Obama backers find voice on Facebook."  A quick look into takes you to the following ,  where you’re presented with the following facts about this grassroots effort:

THE STATS (on the Obama facebook community)
Created January 16th, 2007
100 - (Jan 16th) Reached. Within 1 hr!
1,000 - (Jan 19th) Reached. By Jan 17th
10,000 - (Jan 26th) Reached. 6 days early!
100,000 - (Feb 1st) Reached. 1 week early!
250,000 - (Feb 5th) Reached Feb. 10th
500,000 - (Mar 10th)
750,000 - (Apr 10th)
1,000,000 - (May 10th)

A further look at www.barackobama.com shows you this on the front page:

Nice range of community features, including discussions, networking, personalization and a connection from online to offline (Find supporters near you). And obviously this scales the fund raising process like crazy!!

I also like the notion of McCainspace to at: http://www.johnmccain.com/Connecting/. Enables quick supporting web site creation and YouTube town halls for outreach.

John Edwards has been active here too.  But, his model appears to be the shotgun model, sprinkling across everything with unclear focus almost by design. - I don’t think I like this.

Now, DO NOT read this as an endorsement of Obama, McCain or anyone else (I’m a very undecided voter – and this is not a political blog)…but my short inspection of the list above suggests that as of today Barack Obama has tapped into communities perhaps the strongest at this point.

I’d love your input on this.

Who else here do you think is doing a great job with online communities and why?

Let’s keep watching this as the month’s progress and see how moods shift across candidates. As fast as communities can lift you, they can even more quickly sink you in the political realm.  I’d caution in this whole area to think hard about brand association as when you are a political candidate "you" are the brand and as others associate with you, they impact your brand (positive or negative).

Interesting? Digg it!


Popularity: 15% [?]

posted in General Community Discussion, Social Media, Why Community Matters, web 2.0 | 2 Comments

22nd February 2007


Ok, perhaps time for a little controversy…maybe I should have said: Is “Search” stealing equity from your brand? (I think the headline I used a little more attention grabbing though…) 

Let me throw this out and see what kind of response I get.  In fairness, the answer to this question is a big, fat, definitive “maybe.”  If you are a large company that has a very strong brand, ask yourself, as you think about your community and online presence, what impact is search having on my brand?  You are investing big money and resources in your site, content and online services but your customers are finding you via Google/(search).  Let’s say your customer has a question about one of your products or services.  They go to search (right?  That is what they do) and type in what they want.  Now, let’s say that the answer found is on your website.  Great!  Or is it great?  From the standpoint of the user, who just helped them get their answer, you or Google? 

Does it matter?  If it does matter, what can you do about it? 

Maybe this is nothing new.  If you are a consumer packaged goods company and you sell your products through retail, you take a lot of risk with your brand in how the retailer presents your products.

Does that matter?  I bet it does…what do you do about that to protect your brand?  Are the lessons of that supply chain model applicable in the online "answer-chain" model example?

Not quite done with this…Back to my example above where the user found the answer on your site.  Now imagine that they found the answer and it wasn’t on your site (perhaps in another community from another user instead)?  How does this change the equation?  Hmmm…economically, this might be good.  Assuming it is your intent and you’re not re-inventing the investment in content on your site that the community already possesses.  But this example is much more complex when it comes to evaluating the brand question.  There are other benefits of the answer being somewhere else; like it might be a more believable, independent answer.  I only include this example to make the point that if you are working through the online/community model in your organization, you should consider this scenario and decide how you want to treat it.

In the case of the vast majority of companies for whom your brand is largely unknown, this equation is different.  On whole, search helps your brand/company become more discoverable than it ever was before.  So, this is certainly not a 1 size fits all debate.  


Like this discussion? Digg it!

Popularity: 18% [?]

posted in Business Strategy, General Community Discussion, Social Media, Why Community Matters, web 2.0 |

21st February 2007

An Online Community Apology…JetBlue


I don’t know if anyone who reads my blog was directly effected by the events at Jetblue, but I think it’s interesting and commendable to see them reaching out personally (and via community - or else I wouldn’t blog about it) to apologize and re-position with a personal face on what is a business and customer service dissaster.  At their site you can read their new customer bill of rights (not ground breaking in terms of a reaction) and more importantly see the YouTube apology from their Founder and CEO.

What I like about the video is that it feels personal, humble and not overly scripted/polished - which to me is what makes it pretty effective.  Unlike corporate apology letters that never sound quite right.  Take for example the recent hoax in Boston and follow up apology letter from Turner Broadcasting.  Now, who is to say which company and executive is truly more sincere…but which one do you believe is more sincere based not of the issue, but their respective responses?

Digg it if you like it!


Popularity: 17% [?]

posted in Business Strategy, General Community Discussion, Influencers, Social Media, Voice of Customer, Word of Mouth, web 2.0 | 4 Comments

20th February 2007

Are you blogging without Windows Live Writer?


Ok, so I hope I bought a little credibility by giving up on Live Spaces and moving to Word Press, but today I am drinking the Kool-aid.  If you are blogging and not use Live Writer then you might be crazy.  If there is something better out there, feel free to let me know, but with only a few days under my belt using it, I’m very impressed.  It is dramatically improving my life quickly and addresses one of the weak points of word press (the editor).

What you get (from MS web site):


WYSIWYG editing: Edit using the style of your blog, including fonts, colors, line spacing, margins, etc.
Rich content: Insert and customize rich content like photos, maps and more
Offline editing: Compose and edit drafts even when you’re not connected to the Internet
Blog preview: See exactly what your post will look like in the context of your blog before you upload it
Smart image publishing: Add images to your blog post, and they’ll automatically appear as thumbnails that link to larger images with more detail
Compatibility: Support for publishing to Windows Live Spaces, as well as Blogger, LiveJournal, TypePad, WordPress, and many other blog hosting services


And now that you have Live Writer, go to Codeplex and grab the insert website image plugin which will allow you add web page images in seconds…


Useful? Digg it!

Popularity: 8% [?]

posted in General Community Discussion | 9 Comments

19th February 2007

Online Discussions - Insights you could use!


In the series I wrote on Convincing the unconverted, Part 3, I talked about using the data/evidence approach to convincing your business of the value of communities.  It often feels to me like many of the investments being made in communities by businesses are first and foremost about brand and brand marketing.  That is not inherently wrong, but I do feel it is too limited a purpose for communities and in fact if done in isolation to other motivations may be perceived as insincere by your users – (and, they might be right!).  I guess I tend the see marketing benefits as a good by-product of why you do communities, not the reason you do it.  I thought in this post I’d talk a little more about “insights.”  This can be broken down into a number of areas:

1.     Product feedback (both current and future) – Important:  Don’t assume you know everything you need to know from your call centers!!  That is a “going out of business feedback model.”

2.     Policy, program or content feedback

3.     Demographic insights – better understanding who uses your products

4.     Preference information – Why people use your products or why not

5.     Companion information – people who use your product also use _____?

6.     Competitive insights – whose products do they use instead of yours

7.     Unexpected insights – users often do what you didn’t intend with your products – this might indicate new markets or avenues of sales/development


Now, realistically, it would be difficult, if not impossible, to do all of this – particularly in a short time frame.   Just collecting all these insights is non-trivial to say the least – it could be a massive amount of data (unstructured data)!  And taking action on it, which your users expect, is even more challenging.  Not all of it is actionable and you can’t be all things to everyone.  So deciding how to manage this is a complex, but important task. 

Perhaps, together we can share some thoughts on who we think is doing this particularly well and what we think about the approach is effective.

I’ll start with a couple of examples:

http://connect.microsoft.com/: Now, I’m not hiding that I work at Microsoft, but I don’t work on this project and either way, I still think this is very good.  The concept of connect is to provide an engagement, feedback and voting mechanism on Microsoft products.  On the splash screen, you can see connect has over 800,000 members who have registered over 225,000 bugs and over 30,000 product suggestions.  You can quickly view a list of connection opportunities, manage your participation and join others in publicly contributing and/or voting on others contributions.  Imagine, a public database of everything that is wrong with your products – this would be heresy for many companies.  But communities are all about transparency. 

http://www.dellideastorm.com/: This is pretty new, but is another interesting engine for gathering insights.  After registering, you get a quick idea of the size of the community and some light reputation based on top participants.  More importantly, you can quickly navigate user provided insights and either add to the insights or vote on existing.  As a company that brands itself on user customization, this is an interesting way to extend their customer research process.

:  Just so I’m not accused of any Microsoft biasJ  The level of activity here doesn’t seem very high yet (I think this is fairly new), but the idea is quite similar to those mentioned above.

As the collector of insights, knowing how to think about the thresholds for when you take actions and how you close the loop back will be an important part of your planning process…but the first step toward collection and transparency seems to have some obvious long term benefits.  A big challenge of feedback systems is that they can add so much noise to the system that you don’t know what to do.  That’s what I love about these examples with voting models implementing.  With nuturing, the community will manage the noise out by voting for what is good and marginalizing what isn’t most important. 

Imaging how your users will feel when they “see” their feedback in your product!!  This ain’t easy!!  But, that should be the core principle. 

Now, who do YOU think is doing this well!  (yes you, this means now you post a comment) 

Feeling informed? Digg it!


Popularity: 20% [?]

posted in Business Strategy, Convincing the uncoverted, Part 1-4, Examples, General Community Discussion, Influencers, Social Media, Why Community Matters, online communities, web 2.0 | 12 Comments

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