A number of luminaries participated on this week's W3C Social Business Jam, including Doc Searls (pictured), Alex "Sandy" Pentland and the inventor of the web itself, Sir Tim Berners-Lee. A jam is "an online conversation among leaders in business, government and technology about the current state of social business, the future role that social technologies can play in improving the bottom line, and how social technology should evolve in order to support business objectives."
There were a number of deep conversations, which generated over 1,100 posts on the topic of social business. The key issues explored were:
Of the topics covered, a few rich seams emerged. Doc noted that "way back in 1995 we got hooked on the cookie as a way for sites to keep track of our relationships with them. This, along with the login/password ceremony, cemented client-server in place as the default for e-commerce (and everything else) on the Web. This not only legitimized dependent submissive-dominant relationships, but made every site into a silo, and contained our imagination about What Could Be Done as well. This is why every 'solution,' it seems, is yet another site/service, each of which is its own silo, even if it has open APIs, uses open standards and the rest of it."
This is a notable point. If you contrast the key pieces of social media infrastructure today, such as Facebook, Twitter and Google+, or internal collaboration tools like Yammer and Salesforce.com's Chatter, all are their own proprietary systems. Contrast this approach to the approach of the most social of all online tools, email, or even the web and the internet itself. In all of the latter cases, a handful of fundamental, interoperable standards have enabled a thousand flowers to bloom. Can you imagine Facebook and Twitter and Google working together to insure that their systems interoperate? Fat chance. (In fact, Facebook just killed one more bit of openness, by deprecating the ability to import RSS feeds from one's own blog into Facebook Notes.)
In the same thread as Doc's thinking above, Charles Oppenheimer, the CEO of Prizzm (and a great, great dude who is working on "Reverse CRM" which dovetails nicely with ProjectVRM), noted that "through the history of markets, which I suppose is a lot briefer than human history, markets were the place to be social on a daily basis, and defined our interactions with the community. Especially in rural places, that is the hub. But if we work in the 'enterprise,' we are in the business of taking something straightforward, exchange of goods and services - into something that scales, massive, and abstract. Goodbye social, and community -- and I guess that is why the web/social technology seems to be a big deal. Bringing the old stuff back."
This is an important point, in my opinion. Social business, when done right, enables us to play both sides of the fence. We, wearing our "customer" hats, can engage with each other at a human level and, when done right, enterprises can also organize their people and processes in such a way that enables connection with customers at this same human level. It's not an either-or any more, where interactions with enterprises need to be filled with jargon and a deflection of the "human" in order to operate at scale. Instead, smart businesses are re-tooling their processes in such a way that they can both interact at a human level and do it at scale.
You can check out everything from the Social Business Jam until December 31, 2011, at which time the online archive will no longer be available. (You'll need to register for the site, which is free.) And of course, if we're talking about jamming, there is only one sound track that matters...
The big news today is that Google+ has finally announced their long-awaited brand pages with a blog post here. The top line, from Google:
For businesses and brands, Google+ pages help you connect with the customers and fans who love you. Not only can they recommend you with a +1, or add you to a circle to listen long-term. They can actually spend time with your team, face-to-face-to-face. All you need to do is start sharing, and you'll soon find the super fans and loyal customers that want to say hello.
A number of pages are already available (see below), but any organization will soon be able to join the community.
A few good examples of brand pages can be found here: Examples of Google+ brand pages
While the overall brand page implementation is new, it is still imperative to secure your organization's presence on the Google+ platform, if nothing else to prevent others from infringing on your organization's brand. The brand signup page is located here: https://plus.google.com/pages/create (Do note that Google is incrementally letting new brands onto the system, so it may take a short time before your'e able to successfully log in and secure your organization's name.)
For a deeper dive, here are the differences between individual profiles on Google+ and Google + brand pages: http://www.google.com/support/plus/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=1713824&topic=1710599
Normally, Businessweek comes on Friday. For some reason this week, the magazine showed up today instead. I didn't think much of it when I walked out to the driveway, actually. There it was, folded up in its weatherproof bag, just like usual.
I brought it inside and opened it up, and saw that they featured a tribute to Steve Jobs on the cover. It was spare and gorgeously typeset, with nothing but the title of the magazine, the iconic photo of the salt-and-pepper Jobs, and "Steve Jobs 1955-2011." (link)
I opened up the magazine and started to flip through it, and was immediately engrossed. The first sixteen pages were a slideshow of moments from Jobs' life juxtaposed with individuals engaging with Apple products, and engaging in life. All of these were overlaid with quotes of his, some familar, some new.
As I went through the issue, I honestly was pulled further and further into the stories and the images, and was completely enthralled. I shared it with Lisa, who was similarly taken in. Other than the photos and stories of Jobs' life, there was nothing else between the covers.
I can't clearly articulate how well done, how beautiful, the work is that was done in this magazine. I've honestly never seen anything like it. Yes, it says it's the "October 10 - October 16" edition of a weekly magazine, but it feels much more like coffee table book, a biography, a memorial. A tribute.
Then I realized something...Jobs passed away on Wednesday, and this issue showed up overnight between Friday and Saturday, meaning that they must have scrambled mightily, stopped the presses on the issue they had planned, and delivered it within 48 hours.
There was one more thing.
I flipped back through the magazine, going from cover to cover to make sure I hadn't missed something. I went back and looked at every page, and my suspicion was confirmed.
There was not a single ad in the issue. Not on a cover, not on a flap, not on a page, not even a classified. Not only did they scrap (or at least defer) everything in the issue they were planning on running, but they did it in the classiest way possible.
Phenomenal job, Businessweek team. Really, really well done.
Almost seven years ago, in October 2004, I wrote The Social Customer Manifesto. It was short and sweet and it read like this:
THE SOCIAL CUSTOMER MANIFESTO
At the time, I'd recently re-read Cluetrain, blogs were not well known, and I had just returned from Dave Winer's BloggerCon III, where I had fantastic conversations with Dave, and Doc Searls, and Jay Rosen and many others I'm still grateful to call friends to this day.
Since then, the concept of the "social customer" has inarguably taken hold. Others have taken the term and incorporated it into their own blogs and book titles. (CRM Magazine even devoted an entire issue to "Who Owns the Social Customer?" in 2009.)
When those words were written in 2004, the seeds were being planted for a change that, today, is still in its infancy in many ways. At the time, the blogging for business was something very nascent. (In 2004, we were still nearly a year before BusinessWeek declared "Blogs Will Change Your Business, which was the seminal article that really launched the concepts of blogs and early social networking for business into the stratosphere.)
There were really two camps. You were either a "publisher," or you were a "consumer." (Not a "customer," but a "consumer" -- one who consumes.) The concept of something that was in-between those two extremes was outside the realm of view for many. The thought that both the tools and interest for self-publishing would be widespread was oftentimes viewed with skepticism.
The way of the world was that the mass-producers produced, and the consumers consumed that output.
On August 18, 2011, a group including Tom Guarriello, Matthew Mahoney, Tim Bursch, Sean Bohan, Jeris JC Miller, Nancy White and Christopher Carfi held a Google+ Hangout to discuss different scenarios that were enabled by Google+'s announcement that it was working on capabilities for brands within G+, from both customer and brand points-of-view. The setup for the conversation is here: http://l.ccarfi.com/18aug11
The overall conversation was 60min in length, and this video is the summary and wrapup of the conversation, about four minutes in total.
Interesting note: With Google+ Hangouts, while images look "correct" to others on the hangout, local video is mirrored. That is, left is right and right is left. As such, the whiteboard in this video is flip-flopped. If you go to http://l.ccarfi.com/18aug11, you can see the layout of the grid in a non-flipped manner.
What: Google+ Scenario Planning for Customers and Brands
When: Thursday, August 18th, 10am PDT / 1pm EDT
Where: Via Google+ Hangout (http://l.ccarfi.com/18aug11)
Who: Anyone interested in actively participating
How: Just show up at the URL noted above with your strategy cap on
Host: +Christopher Carfi, VP Social Business Strategy, Ant's Eye View
Cost: Your engaged participation*
(If you're interested in participating, please leave a comment at http://l.ccarfi.com/18aug11)
Google+ is adding users at a remarkable rate. A recent estimate from Cnet pegged the Google+ population at over 25 million and growing at an estimated 1 million users a day. And where there are users, there will be brands that want to connect with them.
Some brands such as Mashable and Ford jumped on the service almost immediately, leading to a confusing period where Google asked brands not to participate yet, as it was "designed for people, not for brands." Google has now stated that they are working on offerings for brands, but neither an official launch date nor details of what these brand-friendly aspects of the service will be have been made public. (Some brands, such as +Ford Motor Company, now have "test accounts," however.)
This leaves both customers and brands in a quandary. Especially on the brand side, the reward for smart decision-making and first-mover advantage can be huge. But what to do? And when?
Strategic thinking in environments containing a high degree of uncertainty can be done; there are tools in the toolbox for exactly this type of situation. One particular tactic I've found useful when dealing with uncertainty of this sort is scenario planning. There are many different implementations of scenario planning; the one I use is a modified version of the one described here and originally pioneered by Peter Schwartz at GBN. Here's one that I did for the Vendor Relationship Management (VRM) space in 2006-07; it seems to be holding up pretty well:http://www.socialcustomer.com/2007/01/vrm_scenarios.html
On Thursday, August 18th, let's have a Google+ Hangout in order to do "Google+ Scenario Planning for Customers and Brands."
So, I think the two big questions for this scenario are the following:
Q1: Will the tools that Google provides be more aligned with customers, or with brands?
Q2: Will Google be mainly trying to enable interactions with billion dollar brands or SMBs?
This gives us a landscape that looks like the framework below.
What we'll do during the conversation is attempt to paint a picture of what the world would look like if we pulled the scenario out to each of the corners of this model, and create a template that can help to guide our decision-making.
It's important to note that we are explicitly NOT trying to "predict the future" using this technique. Instead, what we are trying to do is understand the forces that are at work in this scenario, and create a set of guidelines that can aid in our decision making if and when we see any one, or more, of these scenarios coming to fruition.
I hope you'll join me in this experiment. See you on Thursday right here.
UPDATE 8/24/11: Thanks to everyone who participated in this conversation! Summary video of the session is now live here: Google+ for Customers and Brands: Scenario Planning Summary [video]
I was fortunate enough to luck into a few Spotify invitations earlier today, so I decided to try a little experiment in checking out click-through rates on Google+ vs. Twitter. I put similar offers up on Twitter and Google+ at the same time (7:38am PDT on a Thursday), and checked to see what drove traffic over to the blog. (I turned off comments on the Google+ offer, so folks could only go to the blog and to not split the sample.)
I then grabbed my referrer data to that post on the blog over the period of a few hours after these both went up.
Over that time, I had about 60 clicks recorded in the logs. I was surprised to find the raw number of click-throughs from Google+ was about 4x what it was from Twitter, even though the followship was a little smaller. (There's also a big group with "no referrer," that could have come from clients or other sources.)
Number of click throughs, by source
Update: Tac Anderson notes in the comments that "you can pretty much count 90% of those no referrer directly to Twitter clients." So, if that's the case, we're at about parity on the click-through rate between Twitter and Google+, with Twitter being slightly higher in aggregate between the traffic explictly attributed to Twitter and adding in the 'no referrer' traffic that likely came from Twitter clients.
I love this...and I think we're going to get to "gesture fatigue" pretty quickly here. We all had to learn a whole bunch of new things when smartphones (and the iPhone in particular) came out ... "pinch-to-zoom" and the like. And now OS X Lion is introducing a whole new set of gesture-based interface items. Now on the horizon are "bending" gestures and such.
Ok, it all looked cool in the movies when Tom Cruise did this kind of stuff the first time. And it does make new capabilities easily accessible, if you know all the gestures. So, what about you...does this Cambrian explosion of interface capabilities make things easier for you to interact with your devices, and the world? Or does it make things overly complex?