24th June 2008

Nuggets from Social Media workshops as of late…

posted in Uncategorized |

I’ve done a number of workshops the past few months with clients designed to do two primary things:

  • Land a common understanding across the teams involved around what social media, communities and influencer programs really are and more importantly why it matters to a business. 
  • Drive a strategy development process that results in a project vision, objectives, roadmap and success metrics.

Each workshop is its own learning process.  I’d like to say I’m getting this codified down to a common process such that each workshop is easier to repeat, but the reality is they are each governed by some of their own unique characteristics. 

Here are some random thoughts from a collection of these experiences and feedback from conference speeches:

1)  Features are NOT user experiences:  Warning…if you ask someone about desired user experience and they say wiki or forum, you have work to do.  Lots of diverse versions of this.  My advice - get people talking about the customer lifecycle from pre-consideration to post purchase.  What is the outside-in approach at each phase in the lifecycle today and then focus on how to make that better (and connect that to business measures that matter).  The answer is NOT always social media/community - that would be another warning sign if it was.

2)  Including your agency partners in the workshop can be extremely useful:  Likely not a good solution in all scenarios, but I had one client include their agency partners in the workshop and I thought it went brilliantly.  I was impressed how difficult it was to tell who was who by the 2nd day.  This is a big complement.  They were very in sync and collaborative and having them there prevents a large “translation” effort from what we learned and decided to the partners who will ultimately help them implement.

3)  Cross functional participation is important - but consensus is only a “nice to have”:  Much of the long range benefits from doing this work brilliantly accrues from driving cross functional execution(Marketing/Support/Business Units).  For example, if you go create an external facing idea portal but don’t do the hard work to drive process change internally with the functions that own the changes your users want - your idea engine could do you more harm than good.  That said, if you are a large company, it could take you 3-4 months just to coordinate calendars to get all the right people gathered!  So, don’t get paralyzed by the cross group challenges - move it forward and determine where the opportunities to improve customer experience are for what “you control” and drive progress there - then fan out with your early successes.  

4)  None of the following are community platforms:  Wikis, Blogs or Forums.  I wish that could be enough said.  These are not platforms…these are implementations on top of platforms.  A platform should have an extensibility model, a content management model, a user profiling/membership model, a rating/reputation system (for content and authors), and registration system, etc, etc, etc…you get the idea.  A wiki may have all these things, but that does not a platform make.

5)  PMO required:  ok, if you are just doing a team blog, maybe not, but that isn’t the work I’m focused on.  Most of these projects end up touching multiple orgs, have multiple phases and senior stakeholders.  In this scenario, you really need Program/Project mgmt and your consulting partner (in my opinion) should not be your PMO.  Given the organizational and culture change issues, someone who is an insider and onsite is an important success criteria.  If your subject matter expert is also your PMO, you are either over-paying for PMO help (bad) or being undercharged by your SME (good job!). 

6)  Social Media is not new…just digitizing the norm:  Reminded of this all the time.  Social Media is really just facilitating what are actually much more natural human interaction behaviors than traditional web was able to support.  To me, this is why this isn’t a fad - but genuine change in the customer interaction model (user to user, user to brand and brand to user).

7)  I’m not convinced there is a “tipping point” for social tools (like twitter):  Many may disagree on this and likely we’ll end up debating semantics…but here’s my thinking.  Television hit a tipping point - but channels (NBC) don’t.  Ok, ok, maybe they do in terms of commercial viability, but inherently there is motion from channel to channel based on content, time, cost, benefits, etc.  I think the same is true for the bevy of social tools.  Social networking has hit a tipping point, but the channels will continue to ebb and flow.  The channels are interesting and at times very useful, but the channels are not “the change.”  Maybe one of you can make this perspective better or give me a different way to think about this. 

8)  “Participating in the conversation” is hollow advice for a large corporation:  Too many give the advice of “join the conversation” without enough guidance behind the surface.  I spent a long time in a very large brand.  Had someone shown up and said “join the convo,” I would have thrown them out.  Why?  The advice isn’t wrong - but too simplistic.  As I was leaving that brand we looked at sizing the amount of conversation (hard activity), but the best research we had indicated over 2 Billion conversations about product, service and brand.  Go join that!  Good luck.  If you haven’t been participating until now, another 6 months won’t kill you!  Take the time to step back and do the analysis work to understand where the conversations are taking place, how do you categorize them, who are the influencers, what should the internal accountability model be for taking action, ensure you are trained/ready to participate, determine what are you trying to accomplish and how will you sustain the participation.  Nothing like deeply listening before you start talking to help ensure what you are doing is “joining the community.”

9)  Most companies have “hearing systems” not “listening systems.”  It strikes me that the word listening has sort of become tainted.  Most every company can give you a valid and committed set of “listening processes” they have had in place for the past decade or longer.  So, they are listening, right?  Well, in most cases their users don’t think so and the perception matters.  I describe this as hearing systems.  I hear your feedback and stuff is happening to change, adjust, fix, etc.  But, I’m not closing the loop back with you to tell you what I did with your feedback.  To me, that’s the difference - that is the opportunity.  A real listening system both “hears”  and “responds” to its participants.  Response is really hard work - but that is where the reward is in driving brand affinity.

10)  Converting behaviors in the participation demographics is NOT the goal:  70/20/9/1.  Let’s assume we can generally agree that ~70% will lurk, 20% join, 9% will be regulars and 1% participate in the community in extreme ways.  There is a temptation to look at this and say, hey, it’s a pyramid.  Therefore, the business goal is to mix shift the segments!  Move 70% to 60%, 20% to 25%, 9 to 12% and 1 to 3%!  I think this is the wrong goal.  The distribution is essentially a reflection of human behaviors.  Changing behaviors is exceptionally hard and very expensive.  Even if you do change behaviors, I’m not convinced you’ll know why or that it is sustainable or that the cost model you put in place is sustainable.  I think the goal is to grow the entire pyramid and optimize the experience for each segment.  Make the 70% more successful at finding what they want to find and make the 1% more effective at contributing in the ways they want to contribute.  If the demographics shift in your favor over time…great!  But not likely the first order of business.

10a)  This applies to Influencer programs too:  They should be about finding, activating, facilitating, appreciating and aligning behaviors NOT creating behaviors.

11)  Affinity represents a shift in thinking:  I wrote about this before here.  It’s gratifying to see this resonating and opportunities to push the model further.

I know once I publish I will think of other items, but already this is too long.


Popularity: 83% [?]

This entry was posted on Tuesday, June 24th, 2008 at 12:26 pm and is filed under Uncategorized. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

There are currently 10 responses to “Nuggets from Social Media workshops as of late…”

Why not let us know what you think by adding your own comment! Your opinion is as valid as anyone elses, so come on... let us know what you think.

  1. 1 On June 24th, 2008, Josh Ledgard said:

    I agree completely. Too many people come to Telligent, as a platform vendor (yes, we have multiple extensibility points and workflow definitions), and say they “Want Facebook” for thier website. But they haven’t really understood the implications of what that means or what they REALLY need for thier business.

  2. 2 On June 24th, 2008, Bev said:

    Too many companies see the social side of a product as just another focus group - the communication is one way from the community to the company with little coming back from the company. To be fair, popular products are going to have a bigger community than others and these big companies will end up with a communication problem. Money needs to be spent on keeping the community - I am willing to bet that money spent on community activities is a darn sight cheaper than “market research”!

  3. 3 On June 25th, 2008, Sean said:

    thanks for the comments Josh and Bev.

    Josh: Good point. The social side is interesting when it comes up in B2B or B2C. I’m not convinced there is a lot of evidence in BUSINESS communities that people come to those communities for social networking (like Facebook / MySpace). Content still is king. I’m not saying there isn’t social networking occuring, but it is a byproduct of a successful community around a business topic, not the primary cause of community growth/vitality. I’m sure there are examples on the other side of this, but thriving communities on B2C or B2B have large populations of lurkers that are largely there for transactions (they want an answer, knowledge, expertise, learning, examples, etc) and don’t really engage in the community itself. As a business, that audience is the long tail that needs a great experience.

    Bev: hear hear! It would be money well spend and scale is no longer a viable excuse for the communications problem. Yes, it makes it harder, but not out of scope.


  4. 4 On June 26th, 2008, Gwynne Kostin said:

    Good and thoughtful post. As an old content hand, I have been finding myself arguing with people over the technology. While I know it is never really the technology, the proliferation of channels and the development of niches find me flipping on my content colleagues and emphatically stating that they need to better understand the technology (esp. the basics of XML)to develop a content strategy. So I am whiplashing between trying to sell people on how to use wikis or blogs and telling them that a wiki or a blog is not the “solution.” To one client I am saying “No! you don’t need that.” The next client I am trying to explain the criticality of the tool to their strategy while they balk. Your discussion above gives me some fodder for both.

  5. 5 On June 28th, 2008, Jake McKee said:

    Couldn’t agree more - my experience doing similar work is in near exact alignment with what you’ve outlined here.

  6. 6 On June 29th, 2008, Jumping into the conversation? Great, now can you sustain it? at Kevin P. Micalizzi said:

    […] making sure the efforts are sustainable. There’s a post from Sean O’Driscoll called Nuggets form Social Media workshops where he talks about participating in the conversation (section #8). It’s the best advice […]

  7. 7 On July 1st, 2008, Blake Cahill said:


    Great post - need to get together soon to update each on things. Speak soon.



  8. 8 On July 1st, 2008, sean said:

    #8 and #9 are particuarly right up your alley Blake:)

    yes, need to connect. hoping for slower summer weeks. I owe you lunch.


  9. 9 On July 29th, 2008, Community management blog reading « eme ká eme said:

    […] Ten very sensible points from Sean O’Driscoll at CommunityGroupTherapy. Most of them would apply to many other types of consulting situation… but this (not very recent) article has struck me as more packed with good sense than most things I’ve heard in this field. Also, this even more antique one (about getting to know the community your company’s -willingly or not- involved in) should be pasted onto some foreheads. […]

  10. 10 On September 2nd, 2008, How to “Join the Conversation” « Creative Fusion SEO:Ethical Search Engine Optimization Consulting and Training Services said:

    […] 2, 2008 · No Comments What does the phrase “Join the Conversation” mean in terms of actual tactics and implementation? Shane O’ Driskoll has a great answer: […]

Leave a Reply

rss posts
  • Categories