B2B Social media eVALUEated

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As mentioned in my previous post, the buzz around social media is also building a discussion regarding its soft and hard ROI. To my opinion, its measurable and financial value in B2B will further be recognized overtime yet is set to contribute to enhancing at least:

* Market | Customer | Competitive intelligence
* Branding
* Product development & innovation
* Customer support services
* (Open) innovation
* Lead / Demand generation
* Employee related benefits such as enhanced project collaboration and knowledge sharing, employee motivation, (management) development & retention

For political, lobby-intensive or CSR-related organisations social media additionally might bring value in terms of Return on Impact. Social impact therefore in terms of mobilizing citizens’ voice by organisations that target both other businesses as well as consumers such as @350, @WWF, @changents and others. But let’s focus now on businesses that need to satisfy their shareholders.

Speed, transparency & efficiency key benefits
Almost 1700 executives from around the globe took part in a longitudinal 3 year study by McKinsey on social media entitled ‘how companies are benefiting from web 2.0’. 69 percent of respondents report that their companies have gained measurable business benefits, including more innovative products and services, more effective marketing, better access to knowledge, lower cost of doing business, and higher revenues.

Scanning diagonally thru its key results, it seems that bigger speed & transparency as well as reduced (travel & communications) costs are seen as most significant business benefits. Increasing revenue is mentioned by some, yet this is the lowest percentage. Whereas ‘measurable gains’ were reported, the McKinsey researchers unfortunately did not explicitly state whether and in how many cases there actually was a positive ROI in financial terms – dollars, euros, rupiah, sterling or yen.

Me, myself and my community
The McKinsey research distinguishes between the deployment of social media internally to employees and externally to partners, suppliers and customers. Judging by the relative number of respondents as well as the relative biggest gains reported, internal at present seems to be the most popular category. The survey does highlight the relative usage of SM across verticals – not surprisingly high tech and professional services frontrunners – and reports a 35% gain in employee motivation.

With the relative loose connection in most western companies between organisation and employee, this is a significant gain that merits further study. Whilst in many cases the increasing individualization and economic downturn may cause low levels of employee-employer commitment, which in turn results in suboptimal retention – the need to build a powerful corporate community is as strong as ever.

The massive uptake of Facebook, Hyves and other social, friend communities reflects the need for human beings to belong and connect. Why therefore would a corporate environment not try to build a successful, happy community of (professional) employees? To my opinion, this should definitely enhance a firm’s capacity not just to attract, but also to attach the right workers to the right place at the right time. A ‘happiness factory’ – perhaps.

Social media: ROI (re?)defined

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Marketing taken seriously?!
Current perception of marketing all too often is inextricably linked to advertising, branding and creativity. For marketing’s declining reputation to be improved, it increasingly needs accountability and a closer link to tangible business benefits and financial objectives. This was the key finding of recent award-winning research by Verhoef and Leeflang of Groningen University, the Netherlands.

As new, promising kid on the marketing block, social media need to be accompanied by tangible ROI to be taken seriously by senior decision makers. As Calibrero’s Ewald Jozefzoon illustrates, sometimes ROI in social media seems to be replaced by eg ROE. Return on Engagement is defined as “the measurement of involvement in social media based on online interactions and relationships.”

Hard or soft ROI
It’s better, ‘cause it’s new. Isn’t that almost how some fast movers promote their new toothpastes, washing powders and detergents? As new element in the marketingmix, web 2.0 or social media are receiving an ever-widening audience and bigger attention. And a lively discussion is emerging as to how to measure their actual business benefits.

Tech Crunchies take the softer ROE stance, emphasizing the need for social media engagement and relative lack in control of who one reaches, when. In a recent blogpost they do include a handy overview of ‘All Social Media statistics and Facts’ that, quite consistently, largely falls in the ROE segment as well.

Even @equalman | Erik Qualman, emphasizes the value of Socialnomics predominantly in terms of means or inputs rather than business and monetary ends. He thereby confirms that social media in essence embody a new, highly successful channel, intelligence and communications instrument with a phenomenonal penetration speed.

Value of social media
Don’t get me wrong. I love social media as – depending on the time of day – the digital 2.0 equivalent of an inspiring newspaper or an Irish pub. I equally welcome trials and experiments in social media to separate best from worst practices and to refine its discipline. From that perspective, I’m inclined to supporting the notion by @MktgROIorDIE that “many of the activities of creating soft ROI are often stepping stones in achieving hard ROI.”

Over the next months and moving into 2010 I will be trying to uncover best practices in B2B, resulting in a tangible, measurable financially-sound ROI. I will also be keen to jointly discovering new insights to properly/ best (re)defining the return of social media. This might refer to either improving a company’s bottomline by leveraging cost efficiencies or its top line growth. And, with the relatively smaller customer base in B2B, what tangible contribution is the adoption of social media bringing to enhancing customer lifetime value? Your feedback, suggestions and experiences are highly appreciated!


Entering the realtime, augmented, social search arena

With in excess of 70 million YouTube videos, more than 130 million weblogs, in excess of 1,1 billion tweets to date, 10 million Wikipedia articles and more than 1,000,000,000,000 (one trillion!) unique URLs in Google’s index  according to the FutureBuzz –  it’s a truly insanely staggering amount of data and information that humankind is producing. Content is king. Is it?

From retrospective knowledge management to real time insights
Less than one decade ago, knowledge management experts and solutions aimed at making implicit or tacit knowledge – stored in the heads of experts – explicit in some form of content management system. Intranet, extranet and other solutions were implemented to help enable the corporate flow of data, information and knowledge within and beyond corporate boundaries. The digital role of the community was known yet undervalued.

Overtime the ever increasing amount of content, added with the difficulty of keeping everybody disciplined in posting regular updates, has given rise to more emphasis on the network or community of people. Rather than making all content explicit, wouldn’t professionals be better off having a transparent and actual rather than retrospective view of who does and knows what? Here is where communities come in and why social media have started to play such a dominant role in sharing and exchanging views, information, experiences on a whole host of topics including services, products and the companies behind these.

If Google can’t answer the need for social search, who can?
Google has only been around for some 10 years and has become one of the most successful companies on the planet as @JeffJarvis brilliantly describes in What Would Google Do. Besides rumours on an updated search interface, Google has recently announced social search, by which insights from one’s network pop up to the search to complement historical, 3rd party sources as traditionally displayed. Yet, as the Socialized blog wants it, there are new kids on the block. Microsoft’s Bing has made a successful appearance on the search scene with more relevant social search value to be announced in 2010. Integrated into Bing, Wolfram Alpha has the built-in power as ‘computional knowledge engine’ to provide the one and only just answer to a question submitted rather than generating thousands or millions of hits for the users to filter.

As the amount of content and the number of sources themselves become overwhelming, the human inclination may well be to simply ask for advice or recommendation in one’s own small circle. From a consumer point of view real time answer to a quest for the ‘best’ product or service then simply comes from the most recent blogs, facebook posts and tweets generated by one’s inner circle of friends and followers. I agree with @lewmoorman in his blog Beyond 140 that Twitter therefore becomes a serious alternative to Google. In quest of relevant, authentic information and real customer feedback when researching companies, products and services, breaking news and live events/conference updates, Twitter search is a fine place to go [pls note, Twitter search no longer exists today].

Consumer trends 2010 & search
Diagonally scanning the well-defined 10 key consumer trends 2010, the new search paradigm to my mind becomes apparent in at least a blend of trends #3 (real time reviews), 5 (mass mingling), 7 (tracking & alerting) and 9 (profile myning). ‘Nowism’ refers to consumers’ lust for instant gratification as well as their almost incessant contribution to the real-time content stream of reviews and write-ups. Searching and finding relevant opinions and socializing online thru social media will lead to more physical mass mingling as people inherently enjoy meeting up with other people.

Search has the notion of information pull, yet the growing usage of tracking and alerting may complement the conventional search with a push version, see for example the online tracking programme that reveals New York’s city agency performance. Lufthansa’s myskystatus keeps the family and loved ones up to date on the progress of a journey. Furthermore, data and profile myning (no, not mining) refers to the huge untapped potential of consumers revealing their preferences, needs, wants and full personal profile possibly in exchange for a lower search burden.

With the strong human preference for impromptu decision making in combination with getting visual information, the forecast take-off of augmented reality (AR) should pave the way for a new generation of search platforms to be used anywhere, anytime and providing far better visual clues – solutions one could perhaps better refer to as ‘find’, ‘match’ or ‘insight’ solutions in the first place.



#TEDxAms & Social Media: ideas worth spreading?!

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Two days ago the first Netherlands-based version of the world reknown TED (Technology Design Entertainment) conference was held in Amsterdam. A rich blend of dutch and international speakers covered a wide array of topics ranging from eg architecture, the produce made from pig ingredients, human fears, diversity to sustainability. And inspirational talks and ideas they brought!

TEDx as powerful platform?
As the TED motto rightly says, good ideas are ‘worth spreading’. However a platform for some of the brightest individuals on the planet to my mind is only as effective as the influence one is able to exert as a result of this meeting of the brains and minds. I am convinced that a great deal of valuable networking took place in Amsterdam, contact details were swapped via bluetooth and intentions for new or further collaboration were nurtured on the day of TEDx. Yet wouldn’t TEDx be even more powerful a platform if and when the best ideas on say sustainability would be taken to the next level by the TEDx audience? Here’s where social media could to my mind lend a helping hand.

Social Media around TEDxAms
A brief and pragmatic analysis of the buzz surrounding TEDx Amsterdam was conducted thanks to TED participants and fans using the hashtag #TEDxAms. The analysis was done one day after the event, just before midnight CET November 21st 2009. Some 2810 tweets were made on TEDxAms according to Tweetvolume. The average number of tweets per day according to TwitterVen amounted to 335 for TEDx Amsterdam, somewhat higher than the score for the NY-based event Web 2.0 expo #w2e but frankly speaking not a big difference[1]. The noise generated by a powerful crowd of 400+ TEDx attendees, augmented by their followers, friends and fans objectively could be a lot higher than this. Yet one could argue, quality matters more than quantity. Browsing through the word cloud and some TEDx tweets, it becomes apparent that the majority of tweets either praise the TEDx organisation, reconfirm their happiness with attending the inspiring event or indicate their favourite speaker(s). Using Twitter StreamGraphs and screening for the last 1,000 tweets on TEDxAms, this picture is reconfirmed.

Leveraging social media as catalyst for influence
First of all why not limit the number of TEDx topics and speakers? Or swap the tail-end programme on TEDxUniversity dubbed by speaker @earlybird44 as an afterthought for further in-depth review of the content already on the table? The time won could then be re-allocated to have the TEDx attendees as well as other TED fans around the globe vote realtime and online for the best idea, and have them add their suggestions, contacts and tips as to how to make that best and brightest idea come to fruition. Crowdsourcing then would become a powerful instrument to refining both the best idea and moreover its deployment. Furthermore, assuming the power of social media is better leveraged one could use both the amount of votes for the best idea as well as the general buzz around TEDx to bring to the attention of decision makers or politicians that actually will be discussing next steps on that topic. The ROI/ Return on Ideas would surely benefit. With future TEDx events elsewhere and in Rotterdam, Netherlands coming up, please share your ideas and builds on Twitter or as comment to this blogged line of thought.



[1] PS Not significantly different/ higher from the combination ‘Frans, Verjaardag (dutch for birthday), Nederland (Netherlands)’ checking the amount of buzz surrounding my father’s 74th birthday yesterday November 21st. That combination’s score amounted to respectively 278, 747 and 2645 tweets ;-).

Social media superstar transforms superwhiner into superpromoter


Dine and whine?
Some people including @JeffJarvis in his great book What Would Google Do? wonder if overtime we don’t all end up as super whiners. The combination of the power that social media provide, examples like the Dell story that demonstrate the benefit of complaining as well as the need felt by so many consumers to be taken seriously might indeed fuel our society to develop a whining culture. Wining and dining then becomes ‘dining and whining’.

Culture of complacency
This risk is fuelled by the current prevailing corporate culture of complacency in too many sectors ranging from airlines, retailers, electronics manufacturers to public sector organisations like your local village or city. The economic recession seems to have had only small shake-out consequences let alone any real shift of perspective on how businesses should engage in improving customer relationships and offer really better products and services. In my home country the Netherlands this could become even worse because of the dutch calvinist perspective on life and the preference to believe ‘the glass is half empty’.

Social Media as corporate conscience
The ROI on Social Media is often questioned, but who can justify the multi million dollar spend of above-the-line advertising in billboards, newspapers and tv? TimesSquare therefore seems to represent the platform of corporate arrogance: my brand is so big we can spend a million per quarter just to get noticed. Yet as Buzz Bishop illustrates in a recent update of the Cyberbuzz blog explains there is room for organisations to really start listening to their key audience and engage in an authentic conversation. Social Media offer this opportunity and could almost act as a corporate conscience. Re-allocating above the line spend to social media expenditure, one could for instance kickstart a nationwide team of dedicated social media superstars to listen to individual consumers’ suggestions, needs and complaints. And then provide real attention which in turn can lead to real improvements in the way that brand is perceived and referred to. Real attention that in today’s manic world has increasingly become  a scarce resource yet to my opinion will be re-appreciated overtime.

The Superpromoter currently seems to be the -all too often exceptional – customer that is not just satisfied but overjoyed with the company he has bought  a certain product or service from. Fathered by Rijn Vogelaar (@Rijn on Twitter), the superpromoter represents a new way of looking at a company’s key assets; its customers. Vogelaar claims it’s way better to focus a company’s attention on superpromoters rather than on dissatisfied customers, and refers to the power of enthusiasm. Reallocating former advertising budgets to social media customer engagement, I would argue also represents a healthy business case. Former superwhiners can indeed by turned into superpromoters, when one has the willigness to really listen and care. What about ROI? The Return of Investment (or perhaps we should rename it into Return of real Interest) will become clear to organisations really giving this their best shot and commit to listening to their customers now and in the long run – not just because it’s cool to be on Twitter or Facebook.