28th December 2007

User Generated Help and How-to Content Model

Occasionally it feels like those of us focused on the social media phenomena live a little bit in a vacuum.  While the circle seems to be growing, there are times where it feels like we are all preaching to the choir - to the already converted.  We read each others blogs, follow each other on , friend each other in , attend many of the same conferences, etc.  Most of this is great!  Heck, it is a bit of the theme of how I named this blog - "group therapy."  There’s a lot of value in those of us with common interests and challenges getting together and sharing experiences, ideas and new learning.  I do wonder how we all measure whether we are broadening the circle of those embracing social media.  It struck me at a recent conference (that was great by the way) that everyone in the room was essentially bought in on the topic in a significant way.  This is good in that it gathered really amazing people and inspired focused conversations, and we need that.  It was bad in that it didn’t feel like the circle really grew that day.  Out of that conference, I committed that in 2008, I will focus more of my conference time on industry events where social media is a track, vs THE TRACK - for example, I just committed to speak at SSPA in May. 

What gets missed sometimes in our swarming with each other is capturing the simple examples that help illustrate how the business and user engagement model changes in a web 2.0 world.  Content is one of my favorite illustrations of this.  Many companies spend extraordinary amounts of money on content for their users - for this post, let’s focus on help and support content.  Here are a few examples:

Once the investment is made in an authoring model (in house or vendor), more money is spent to localize the content - all of which, at best, serves the fat part of the long tail of help and support content needed to really assist the breadth and depth of users.  There’s nothing unique about this model, this has been in place for many years and as we know, changing the model is not simple.  This is obvious ground for community models (Q&A support forums and wikis).  Most are doing this, though in very few cases are these different models integrated - look at the sites and it’s clear these are silo’d efforts.  If your users can draw your org chart just by navigating your web pages - you have an integration problem…ok, opportunity:)  Does a single search crawl both in-house and user generated content?  What about user generated content beyond the bounds of yourcompany.com.  For example, look at this 6 minute video on Youtube of   Note the # of views, stars, favorites and the two most recent comments!


How should Microsoft (Disclosure - I work at Microsoft right now) treat this content on Youtube?  What are the processes to discover content like this?  How do you decide what to include or not?  How much risk do you take with dead links to external content that can vanish?  What should be done about the video creator - this is an influencer - probably should thank him at a minimum - but much more should be done (another day, other posts on influencer program development). 

A more radical view of this would be the following question:  When do you stop authoring content in house? (and re-deploy that investment to drive a user generated content model?)

Before I go further, let’s be realistic. You probably can’t just stop authoring content.  There will be some content you may always need to author.  Security content for example - where many users will expect vendor created (and legally indemnified content).  You may also find that this enables a shift in which content you write - more pre-release and deployment/training content and less help and how-to content.  Likewise, there is a business scorecard problem.  Businesses measure results on a monthly/quarterly/annual basis - particularly when we are talking about investments like content.  So, how can you achieve a breakthrough in results from a new, user driven model, when your scorecard is assuming continuous quarter over quarter improvement.  This conflict quickly converts companies from being risk takers to risk averse. 

What would happen if you stopped writing content and converted your entire KB/FAQ process to a wiki?  In the near term?  There’s a high probability the quality of your content would initially go down (at least that is the right expectation to set).  User generated content is not the holy grail, it won’t solve world peace.  This is where the scorecard conflict is key - you need executive patience in longer term goals than quarterly results.  Look at Wikipedia…a few years ago there was plenty of debate about its accuracy - now it is generally accepted (and research has supported) to be as accurate, or more than, commercially published encyclopedias.  In fact, a simple example is to look at how current it is.  When will that old school publishing model be updated with yesterdays assassination of Benazir Bhutto.  Wikipedia took less than 24 hrs and it’s not just in English, but here in French, Spanish, Dutch…and many more. 

The real answer is more about percentage of content authored in-house vs via community - move from 80-90% internal to 80-90% user generated.  While the quality might initially go down, there is little question that ultimately a user generated content model will be more complete (topic and language) and at least  as good (likely far better) than anything that can be done in house.  Depending on your business, you need to forecast how long this transition might take - will it exceed the old model in 6 months, 1 year, 3 years?  What’s the bet?  What’s the tolerance for the duration?  How do you risk mitigate the potential quality dip?  You know you will have resisters who on day 1 will email around links to some user submitted piece that is terrible - are you prepared - is the corporate culture ready to withstand these bumps?

By now you should also be thinking about the revised scorecard.  Why are you doing all this?  To save cost on content?  Deflect calls from your call center?  Reach more users?  Increase satisfaction (users find what they want)?  All valid goals, but with only these elements, it’s likely a richer scorecard than what most organizations have today around help and how-to content.

Practical social media for business.  I like it, wonder what you think?


Popularity: 86% [?]

posted in Business Strategy, Examples, Influencers, Microsoft, Social Media, Why Community Matters, online communities | 4 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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Popularity: 38% [?]

posted in General Community Discussion, Social Media, online communities | 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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Popularity: 25% [?]

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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Popularity: 40% [?]

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

13th September 2007

The Age of Individualism…

I was in a session today with colleagues across the industry put on by the Consortium for Service Innovation.  Much of our agenda was around the impact of online communities and social media on knowledge centered support environments.  As you dig into the impact of web2.0 in this space, the dialog naturally branched in many interesting directions including:

  • Community segmentation
  • The role of emotions and conflict in online communities
  • The impact on call centers and traditional knowledge management
  • Tools and technologies
  • Roles and responsibilities
  • Organizational change management
  • …and more

It was on this last point of organizational change management where we discussed what the indicators of a "flat company" might be (related recent post).  The more we discussed, the more it seemed we were discussing a new business age…what seemed to me to be an "Age of Individualism."  I’ve talked about something related as consumerism meaning "consumer empowerment," but this term really has a different definition and doesn’t work well globally.

I liked the phrase "Age of Individualism" when I said it.  I wrote it down and thought, ah, there’s a blog post.  Turns out, I’m hardly the first (once again) to have this particular thought.  A quick online search found a nicely written piece by Micro Persuasion blogger Steve Rubel I recommend reading.

At any rate, nice piece Steve.



Popularity: 26% [?]

posted in Events, Social Media, Web 2.0 and corporate HR, online communities | 0 Comments

9th September 2007

Let’s face it, not all friends are created equal in terms of what I want to share and how I want to communicate.  I would really like multiple profiles and profile preferences managed from a single place.    I don’t want to live in multiple social networks…meaning for business and for social.  I really just want one place to live and services in and out that allow me to communicate and share content, ideas and presence data in ways that make context sense.  Let’s say my daughter was in a dance recital yesterday and I wanted to share photos or videos.  I’m pretty sure my entire network doesn’t want to see this - nor do I want to share that kind of info that broadly.  Likewise, most of my personal friends and family could care less about my latest blog post about social media.

What I’d like is the ability to easily create, manage and publish to a variety of "friend populations" that I control.  The set up for me might look something like this:

  • Group 1:  All approved "friends" in my network"
  • Group 2:  "Friends" I approve but don’t really know
  • Group 3:  Business associates (all)
  • Group 4:  Business associates (within the company I work)
  • Group 5:  Business associates (external to the company I work)
  • Group 6:  Personal friends and family
  • Group 7:  Family
  • Group 8:  Fully custom 1
  • Group 9:  Fully custom 2

Then, give me the ability to configure (with easy multi-select on publish) who gets access to what content, ideas and/or presence data.  Admittedly this adds complexity to the system and in general, complexity is not good, but I think this would make Facebook even more of a personal platform for business, entertainment and social networking.

What do you think?


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Popularity: 22% [?]

posted in Social Media, online communities, web 2.0 |

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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Popularity: 42% [?]

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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Popularity: 22% [?]

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

29th May 2007

Visualization of Tag Drafting…

Awhile back I introduced the notion of Tag Drafting as a way to think about adding efficiency to online information consumption…via topic drafting and/or author drafting.  I’m still very sold on this model in terms of how you might apply it to drive high quality content filtration to online conversations - in fact, I’m drafting every day on the topics that interest me most.

Lots to discuss here in the future about rating, reputation, voting, and social Bookmarking tools - various combinations of which offer community managers a number of new ways to improve communities both for the most active participants and equally importantly the drive-by participants or "silent searchers."

Sue Waters at Mobile Technologies in TAFE took the topic a little further in a good explanation at this link of RSS Drafting.  She was kind of enough to send me a link to extisp.icio.us.  

For those inclined to like the idea of tag drafting, this cool little tool gives you a navigable visualization diagram of a tagger’s tags in delicious.  Have a look at my visualization:  http://kevan.org/extispicious.cgi?name=seanodmvp.  Obviously I have a few topics I predominately tag about :)  But you get the idea.

It’s my belief that people who share one interest often share other and related interests as well.  I still think it is too hard to make all of this super efficient as part of my normal daily workflow, but I see a lot of great innovation leading in the right direction.  Assuming I know the delicious name, I can quickly grab the visualization, click on a tag and click on an RSS feed to everything that person tags on the topic…Love it!

More to do of course… For example, it would be really powerful if I could create custom groups of people, visualize their tags, and subscribe to a group RSS feed on the topic - a multi-author, single topic RSS feed - sounds like a combination Reputation + Bookmarking + syndication service).  If someone knows an easy way to do this, let me know:)

Late addition:  Sue also has a great Wiki article on maximizing your use of Delicious.


Popularity: 26% [?]

posted in Business Strategy, Social Media, Voice of Customer, online communities, web 2.0 | 2 Comments

1st April 2007

Joined a new community today…likely not to help my productivity…

Ok…truth is I’m not a big gamer, but how can I resist the beauty of Xbox.  I’m going to rationalize this as extending my "research" of social software and online communities…and in fairness, Xbox live and Xbox communities look really cool.

So…if you are part of the Xbox wave…you can find me online via my gamertag:

(side note:  This gamertag added via a new live writer plug in in the gallery.)


Popularity: 10% [?]

posted in Social Media, online communities, web 2.0 | 4 Comments

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