8th November 2008

Why is "Why?" still the most under appreciated question?

Questions, in life or in business, fall into the following buckets:

  • Who?
  • What?
  • When?
  • Where?
  • Why?
  • How?

I’ve spent a great deal of time defining my own as well as evaluating and using other methodologies for strategic planning.  For the record, I’m a fan of scenario planning.  If interested, here’s a pretty good read:  Profiting from Uncertainty.  Having said that, strategic planning methodology can be a lot like ice cream…some people just like different flavors and at times a different flavor is just a better choice.  If you’d like to explore methods, there’s another pretty good reference book called Strategy Safari.

Most of work I do today involves strategic planning around Customer Experience, Social Media, Communities, Influencer Programs and Voice of the Customer initiatives.  When it comes to social I often use the following planning framework to help structure a project:


And in case it’s not obvious, if you use this framework, start with Purpose.  I’m in the process of documenting a playbook based on this approach which hopefully I can share at a later date as the above really isn’t as detailed as it needs to be, but perhaps a reasonable starting point. 

Methodology forces you to ask and answer a lot of questions, but throwing all thoughts of methodology to the side, it has struck me in my last 6 months of consulting projects the imbalance in basic questions. 

Most of the focus on questions are the following:  What, When and How?

  • What are we going to do? 
  • What technologies are we going to use?
  • When are we going to launch?
  • When is it going to be done? 
  • How are we going to measure it? 

And far too little time focused on these questions:  Why, Who and Where?  (Especially Why!!)

  • Why are we doing this? 
  • What problem are we trying to solve (ok, ok, that’s a "what" - but it is really a why!)
  • Who is our audience?
  • Who are the internal stakeholders?
  • Where are we going to focus our efforts?

So, maybe the old questions we learned in grade school could be a pretty good v1 planning template.  The irony is that the biggest question I get asked is always around metrics and ROI.  They are critical points, but until you answer the question of why (and gain organizational agreement to that answer!!) you can’t answer the ROI question with any specifics.  I can give you a list of metrics to attach to a social site or community, but I can’t tell you if those metrics matter unless I know what the business objective is.

So, maybe some primer questions to start the list, I’m sure you can think of more to add.

  • Why:  Define you purpose
  • What:  What are the business objectives
  • Who:  Define your audience and/or segmentation
  • How:  How do our users do it today (whatever you define it is in the why question)
  • Where:  Inventory where users are going today
  • What:  What are the interactions we need to enable to improve the experience
  • What:  What systems and processes do we need to integrate with
  • What:  What technology and tools are necessary to support this effort
  • How:  How will we know it’s succeeding
  • What:  What are the success measures
  • Who:  Who are the internal stakeholders
  • Who:  Who are the key people and organizations we need to get engaged / participating?
  • What:  What are our policies and/or guidelines to govern internal participation?
  • When:  Define the project timeline
  • How:  How much is it going to cost (to execute AND sustain)

And maybe two last points.  You’ve got to re-validate that why question again and again and ensure you are continuously educating everyone involved on the answer - otherwise you’ll stray.  And lastly, friends don’t let friends plan without execution or execute without plans:) 


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posted in Business Strategy, General Community Discussion | 6 Comments

16th October 2007

So many "friends," so many "streams"…

So many colliding streams, I’m nearly ready for social channel surfing.


I blogged earlier about the would address.  I’ve friended about 500 people in .  As I described in the earlier post, I’d like the ability to create, manage and publish to a variety of "friend populations" that I control.  Not all friends are the same, nor do I want to share the same media and or content with all my friends - and frankly, many of them likely could care less about much of what I share.  The current model sets up a lowest common denominator experience or shotgun approach when what I really want is to create and follow social channels.

So, not only would I like to be able to create and manage discreet channels of friends, I’d like to be able to toggle through and or subscribe differently to these different groups.  For example, maybe I have one group I want mobile updates for what they are doing, but others I only want to view on-demand.  Ok, this adds complexity and the use case may be at the margins today for how people are using FB, but it doesn’t seem that big a stretch for where this stuff needs to go.

Would love to know how others are handling this.  Heck, maybe there’s a slick way to do this in FB today and I just don’t know it!  Fill me in, quick!


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posted in General Community Discussion, Social Media, online communities | 0 Comments

14th October 2007

Social Media: Fad or Trend…

Sharing another in a series of slides I’m using in talks this fall:


I generally can’t get through this slide without some reference to Maslow’s hierarchy and the role the age of individualism is having on the portability of talent - more and more people operating at the level of self actualization. This also interplays nicely with Friedman’s notion of a Flat World and my own expected emergence of flattened companies.

Input, ideas and additions welcome.


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posted in General Community Discussion, Social Media | 0 Comments

8th October 2007

Inc. Technology Coverage on Online Communities…

You never know how you will come out after a 20 minute interview for a few comments in a story, but I think this came together ok and overall it’s a good piece.  Have a read of Helping Customers Help Each Other Online in Inc. Technology online.

There’s also worthwhile reference in the story to a company called Get Satisfaction that is worth exploring.


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posted in General Community Discussion, Social Media, online communities | 0 Comments

30th September 2007

Some thoughts on "5 P’s" of Social Media…

I’ve been doing a number of presentations as of late on social media and I thought I’d share a slide I’ve been using that I call the "5 P’s of Social Media."  I figured posting here might be a good place to get some feedback to make this even better.

The marketers out there will remember the 4 P’s of marketing popularized by E. Jerome McCarthy:  Product, Pricing, Promotion and Placement.

In the 2001 book High Intensity Marketing by Idris Mootee, the author proposed a new set of 4 P’s for the Internet age: Personalization, Participation, Peer-to-Peer, and Predictive Modeling.  Overall, I like this model and had never seen it before doing some research in prep for writing this blog post (I’ll have to get the book).  While social media has matured a great deal in the 6 years since this book came out, I think the model applies very well.

What I was looking for was a prescriptive and informative model for describing the various forms of social media as well as the underlying components required for describing a social media strategy.  Here’s what I came up with:


note:  It’s a build slide that starts with People and builds clockwise.

In fairness, it probably needs to be 6 P’s by adding "Purpose" - but for me, purpose is the overall talking point for the slide, therefore, you don’t see it here.  And 6 P’s? - Getting carried away!! :)

Here’s a short summary of definitions (though this is made more real by using examples that are relevant to the audience).

  • People:  The talkers, authors, contributors - empowerment of the individual.
  • Places:  All the diverse venues the conversations can take place in.
  • Process:  What collaboration (and moderation) you enable, how you entitle contributor types and how you integrate with existing systems.
  • Platform:  Where and how you tie together the places, processes, people (identity/privacy) and privileges.
  • Patterns:  Presenting, tracking, filtering, measuring, monitoring and decision support.

That’s it…let me know what you think, what I missed and what examples you might use.



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posted in General Community Discussion, Social Media, Word of Mouth, online communities, web 2.0 | 4 Comments

28th September 2007

What’s Web 2.0? Again….

In any given week I have the opportunity to talk with both the web 2.0 savvy and those that are still asking the fundamental question of "what is it?"  There’s no shortage of resources for answering this question, but as I’ve said before, the same explanation doesn’t resonate with everyone.

So, I thought I’d add another explanation that has been very useful to me as of late.

It goes something like this.  Most web users arrive on web pages via search - ultimately they are looking for something or have a question.  The problem with most web sites is they are lonely, closed experiences.  Visit any given web site and there could be 10s, 100s, 1000s, 10000s of other users on the site at the same time (depending on the size/popularity of the site) - but their presence on the site is invisible to you.  If you don’t find what you’re looking for, what do you do?  Back to search.

What web 2.0 does is it exposes the presence and activities of all these other users.  It turns a static experience into a social experience.  Better yet, it gives you access to the collective knowledge of all those other users.  And perhaps, most importantly it gives the users social proof that this is a "good" place to be.

Imagine you are in an unfamiliar city looking for a place to eat.  You see two restaurants.  The first one has no other customers in it…and the second one is crowded.  Which one do you want to eat at?  What if there’s a 15 minute wait at the crowded one?  If you’re like me you will go to the busy place.  All that visible evidence tells you a great deal about the restaurant that reassures you this is the place to be.

Now, it could be that other restaurant just opened and actually has better food, but perception, comfort and risk aversion naturally pushes you to the busy place.

It’s easy enough to pull this analogy apart and describe all sorts of web 2.0 sites that don’t really fit this example perfectly - that’s not the point.  The point is finding ways to describe this evolution that resonate with the broadest set of people possible.  If you want to be a web 2.0 evangelist to your friends, your mom, your legal department, your IT department or your executives, but they don’t seem to get it, who has the problem?  Not them, you’re the evangelist.  It’s your job to continue to find the right way to tell the story until you see that oh so sweet "ah ha!" moment.


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posted in General Community Discussion, Social Media, web 2.0 | 1 Comment

18th August 2007

Some time back I asked in a blog post if "  It struck me that brands don’t really consider what shows up "next to them" in their search results with the same discipline and care as they consider the issue at retail in traditional brick and mortar environments.

Today’s headline regarding , reminded me of this post.  I don’t know all  the merits of the case, but none the less, it is an issue for brand managers and web strategists - and on the surface seems wrong to me.  In this case, AA keywords like "AAdvantage" are returning AA competitor results next to American’s paid result.

stands by the actions in the article:

Google spokesperson says: … confident that our trademark policy strikes a proper balance between trademark owners’ interests and consumer choice, and that our position has been validated by decisions in previous trademark cases."

But interestingly when I tried this search in Google this morning I saw only one sponsored link result - and it was for American.  Here’s the view I got:

And Live Search for sake of equity (nothing by AA here):


I wonder what’s up with the apparent change in the search results this morning?  And more importantly, I wonder how much brand managers are thinking through these issues.  Having competitors appear with your keywords is perhaps troubling…but there are far more disturbing links that could show up next to your brand!


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posted in General Community Discussion |

13th August 2007

The World is Flat - your company isn’t. Uh oh…

In The World is Flat, Thomas Friedman explores the impact of globalization on economics, business and competitive marketplaces.  It’s a worthwhile read that has been reviewed by many bloggers - so I won’t here.  In the book, Friedman outline’s the 10 drivers of flattening and the more recent convergence of these flatteners driving even more rapid change in the industry.

This whole line of thinking has had me thinking about issues of governance, decision making and innovation velocity.  The principles of a flat world can give you strategic advantage, but "flat companies" will WIN in the flat world. 

So, what are the signs of an organization that is not flat?

  • How many people between the "front line" and the CEO (span of control and org depth)?
  • How close are executives to customer listening systems - and how accountable are they held for the results?
  • How difficult is cross functional collaboration? (test:  "us or them" speak vs "we" speak)
  • How fast (if at all) do ideas flow from the front line to the decision makers (CXOs)? 
  • How many people need to be in a room to make a decision?
  • How quickly can you respond to competitive pressures and or changes in the marketplace?

I’m sure this is not comprehensive and would love to see you add to the list.

Keep in mind, a flat organization is not a democracy - success is still dependent on strong and empowered leadership.  I think the question is how quickly and accurately leaders are provided with the inputs necessary to make decisions.  And once made, how efficiently do those decisions flow back out and turn into action at the front line.


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posted in General Community Discussion, Voice of Customer, Web 2.0 and corporate HR, online communities, web 2.0 | 4 Comments

9th August 2007

ok, I’m hardly the first to comment on this.  While I really like what FB has done, I don’t like that nothing inside FB is discoverable without having a account and logging in.  One of the issues that most troubles me is the proliferation of speciality groups with tons of people joining and then nothing happening in them.  Here’s what I see (and have done personally)…

1)  Person creates well intentioned group with a good topic.

2)  (oops several other semi-related groups already exist).

3)  Person posts to their groups Wall and starts a few questions with a discussion board.

4)  People join the group and early arrivals say something on the wall or in the discussion board.

5)  Nothing.

6)  I now belong to a bunch of groups where very little is going on.  hmmm.

What do you think?  Have you seen the same thing?  Am I just in the wrong groups!!  I feel like this is tightly related to the walled garden issue and community landscape that is continuing to fracture and specialize without really addressing the core issues of discoverability and usability for the masses.



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posted in General Community Discussion, Social Media, online communities |

7th August 2007

Social Bookmarking Made Easy

If you’ve read my blog for awhile (or heard me talk), you’ll know I’m a big fan of social bookmarking.  A few months ago, I talked about the notion of Tag Drafting.

Well, the good folks at Common Craft have pulled together another in their "Plain English" series…this one called, Social Bookmarking in Plain English.  Check it out, I highly recommend it.  Great work Lee and Sachi!


Popularity: 15% [?]

posted in General Community Discussion, Social Media | 1 Comment

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