Friday, August 31, 2012

You've Got Mail: Email Notifications from Enterprise Social Networks?

When I had America Online in the 90’s, I thought the “You’ve Got Mail” announcement was one of the most exciting sounds I had ever heard. Now a days, my overflowing inbox is more daunting than delightful.  It’s like an approaching tide – take your eyes off of it for too long and it’s lapping at your ankles, soon creeping back up to unmanageable, and maybe dangerous levels, leaving you grabbing your beach towels and legging it for the hills.

Nick Bilton of the New York Times wrote an amusing and relatable piece about it this July: Disruptions: Life’s Too Short for So MuchE-Mail.  He admits his inbox makes him sad and describes his never-ending struggle to "reach In-box Zero, the Zen-like state of a consistently empty in-box."

I have known many innovative, driven, hard working employees that will not want to let go of a certain amount of email. They are efficient, talented, and top performers and do not want to have to login to a enterprise social network or "Corporate Facebook" in order to see the essentials they need to do their job. 

Dependency on email as a primary means of communication is at one end of the spectrum and inability to get work done from email overload is at the end.  When one is thinking about designing and managing a social network for the enterprise - how do you reach the perfect balance?

I think that customizable email notifications are a great solution to this conundrum. For a community manager, this means clearly articulating the options and making sure your members are aware that they've been empowered - hear from us if you want. While managing my own community I work with email notifications from the Saba People Cloud application.  Like any other automated email system, they can be useful because you can see what’s new and what’s available without taking the time to sign in.  They can be annoying if you are receiving lots of notifications that you don’t care about. 

The Saba Online Community exists to connect the members, not shout at them. To hand them tools, not to bury them in resources they neither want nor care about. That’s the plan, anyways.

We set it up so our users can personalize your settings and decide which types of messages are important to them.  For example, they can get a notification for each new discussion thread from a product discussion group so they can read tips and offer advice from other customers, but turn off notifications for another group they want access to. They can see emails when their consultant shares a valuable file with them, while excluding piles of email that tells them that same social-savvy Consultant just started following 20 new people. 

And as always, we take advantage of a neat feature that means I can respond directly to my email notification to post in a thread. I know a number of my most active and helpful superusers haven't signed in to post a question, idea, resource, etc in months.  Yet they offer fast and expert responses to their peers daily.

What do you think about email notifications in terms of enterprise social networks?  What about RSS feeds as an option? Do you think we could reach a day of no email?  

Would you want to?

Thursday, May 17, 2012

R.E.S.P.E.C.T is the key to Customer References: Take Aways from the 1st ICRPC Conference

I just returned from an invigorating week at the 1st International Customer Reference Professionals Conference, ICRPC for short, in Cambridge, MA.

This event was the brainchild of Claudia Koenig, a Customer Reference heavyweight out of Heidelberg, Germany, who already hosts a bimonthly conference call for collaboration in this space. Attendees and speakers hailed from around the world, with dynamic representatives from Italy, Costa Rica, Germany, Sweden, the UK, Canada, US, and Australia. I considered the event  a roaring success.  After two and a half long days with this extremely engaged community, my head is  swimming with many new ideas to apply to my own work enabling and celebrating Saba's customers and community members.

Here are some of my quick thoughts from our collaborative week in the city on the hill:

Lessons and Laughs in International Business
We spent a lot of time talking about cultural differences, laughing over our worst faux pas from navigating work with international clients, and jotting down tips to prevent those terrible "foot-approaching-mouth" moments. Our companies and roles were all different of course, most reference professionals at the event sit in their marketing organizations, but there were a few who reported in through sales, sparking some great tips about how to engage the sales team for reference recruitment. Lastly, the scope of experience varied greatly, many people come from more than 10+ years experience working with customer references, but a fair number of us were new to the space, soaking up the ideas and offering a fresh perspective on the industry.

Social Tools
Across almost every presentation we saw a focus on new, social tools, and how best to take advantage of them while avoiding public blunders.  Rhett Livengood, Director of B2B Customer Engagement Programs at Intel, talked about empowering references to participate in LinkedIn communities, linking them with the conversations that matter. Nick Martin, Social Media Consultant at Projectline introduced a new way to highlight our videos and case studies, sourcing and packaging dynamic Customer Evidence so that prospective customers using Social and Search will find our best customer stories. 

Engaging the Big Names
Miriam Rack, CEO at MRM Reference Consulting, LLC said the best way to engage the big names in reference activities is by asking yourself - What can I give them? By looking into their marketing strategy, you can see what story they want to tell, and propose partnering on creating content that will benefit both organizations.

And Finding the Big Stories
I particularly loved listening to Cynthia Hester, Director of the Customer Reference Program at VMware. She shared the journey she's taken since joining VMWare and how she focuses her program around two important concepts: Empowerment and engagement. By communicating continuously with her key internal stakeholders, VMWare is aware of what's new with customers, where the gap areas are, and what the customers care about so she can find and highlight those big stories.

Those were just a few of my favorite moments from the event.  I'll leave off with a quote that Jill Shaul, Marketing Programs Manager form Cisco shared with us from a 2010 Gartner webinar on Customer Success Stories:

“Customer reference stories are amongst the most powerful tools in the sales arsenal and yet it is a discipline which is often neglected or left to chance. Well executed case studies are worth their weight in gold; Few things are coveted more within marketing circles than compelling customer case studies from recognized industry names.The reasons for this desire are clear. Customer case studies help sales people to sell.”

How do you leverage your best customer stories?

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Exploring the Practical Side of Social: Notes from the Virtual Enterprise 2.0 Social Analytics Conference

The average social practitioner is not maneuvering with a lot of down time. But an event like the recent virtual Enterprise 2.0 meeting is one that hundred of us carved time out to attend. The infrastructure of this e-conference was quite impressive. The “Who’s Here” area was particularly gratifying, and showed which areas of the conference are drawing the most of the attendees.

Here’s a shot of that section in the half hour before the first session started – and I watched as more and more attendees joined the event, heading to the lounge to say hi in the chat room or filed into the auditorium to wait for the first keynote to begin.

I want to talk a little bit about the first two presentations so you can decide if it's worth it to register to view the recordings.

How Analytics and Big Data Are Driving Better Social Business

The opening keynote was presented by Dion Hinchcliffe, Executive Vice President of Strategy at Dachis Group. He talked about the current moment in enterprise social business, and how analytics can lead social business pioneers to success.

He pointed out that enterprise social space is 2 to 4 years behind the personal social space.

He took on the question: What is social data?

He talked about aggregation, analysis & mining of observable work – describing the different roles of analytics and search, and why each is essential to a social business.

His presentation provided a lot of valuable insights for social managers who are already implementing innovative projects, and perhaps even more so for marketing professionals who want to create a social focus and need to create the business case for their leadership – how do you use enterprise 2.0? Why is it worth it?

IBM Platinum Sponsor Feature Presentation: Maximizing Competitive Advantage with Social Analytics

In this presentation, Mark Heid, Program Director of Social Analytics at IBM, went into some fascinating details of IBM’s use of Social Analytics internally, and how they pull an impressive amount of information from their internal social posts through IBM connections, Twitter, Facebook, blogs, etc.

However, he also pointed out you have to address the privacy question – if we are looking at much of our employees communications – how do we keep from creating an Orwellian environment?

Heid shared some best practices on reasonable privacy within social analytics. IBM scrubs individual employee information, they only look at the aggregate, never reach out to the individual – so they are looking at trends, not at individual communiqués.

Heid went on to talk about social analytics as it applies to recruitment, within and without the enterprise.

What a fantastic, free event from Enterprise 2.0!

Click here to register to access the recording!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

From the Horse’s Mouth: Tremors and Fandom Courtesy of Twitter

Why Tweet?

There are many things I love about this microblogging platform and the way it enhances my business life and various hobbies. In business I can count on Twitter for an endless stream of recommended blog posts, white papers, and other social media, cloud computing, and learning content that the people I follow post all day, every day.

My music hashtags always manage to point out some new fantastic group, music video, or preview of a new track from a band that dominates my playlist. It's nearly as useful as reddit (If you reddit, you know what I mean, and you should check out r/listentothis)

It's also fantastic to see instant updates around the world the moment news occurs. For example, on August 23rd 2011, there was an earthquake along the East Coast of the United States. It originated in Virginia with a magnitude 5.8 and there were no reported injuries or deaths, though there was some damage to buildings in the area. There was so little fallout, that the initial panic became a bit of a running joke.

In the Saba Lexington office, it translated to this: I was working away and slowly noticed this shaking sensation. I thought someone near me was having a caffeine attack and thrumming their foot against my wall. Eventually it seemed odd enough th
at I stood up, and saw dozens of other people standing all over the office looking around, perplexed.

What was that?

I turned to my twitter stream on Tweetdeck, which is always open on my desktop, and saw dozen of tweets popping up immediately from across the east coast. Dozens of people in New York reported feeling it. Even more Bostonians were throttling the stream with confused updates – Was that an earthquake in Cambridge? My DC friends were much more sure – evacuating – but not before reaching for their smartphones. I added to the conversations, reporting shakes in Lexington. Thanks to Matt Malczewski, a community manager that I met at Enterprise 2.0 2011 in Boston, I found out that the shaking extended all the way to Toronto, Canada.

Thanks to twitter, I knew immediately what was happening before any major news site had broken the news. Yes, they probably released articles a few minutes later, but there is something so exciting about hearing it from the horse’s mouth. Industry peers and friends around the world that are posting their experiences and perspectives with no filter. It’s an extremely subjective but fantastic knowledge exchange. That’s just one moment when I saw the unique value that Twitter offers.

Oh and I also got retweeted by Paul Pierce once. Talk about twitter-related shakes. As a massive Celtics fan, that was pretty freaking unbelievable! I immediately started telling my Boston friends my amazing news, many of whom responded – What’s a retweet?

How is twitter useful for you in your day to day life? And how do you use it to enhance your business knowledge? What’s your best twitter experience?

Shakes? Shivers?

Thursday, January 12, 2012

The Benefits of Activity Streams and their Implications for UI and Customer Care

I wanted to share a very interesting article that I read this week on the Software Advice blog about Activity Streams. Activity streams are a list of recent activities on a website, that provides direct links to the most up-to-date content and contributors in a social site. An activity stream is a feature made most famous by public social networks like Facebook and Twitter, and they are are quickly becoming prominent in enterprise software.

Blog author, Derek Singleton, points out some benefits of activity streams in a manufacturing organization. He lists ways that activity streams can improve manufacturing software UIs including their potential to:

1. Automate reminders to keep projects flowing;

2. Stream educational information along with project tasks; and,

3. Indicate which projects are most important and require immediate action

Read Derek’s fantastic post and join the conversation about use cases for activity streams for your business!

Derek has pointed out some key benefits to the activity stream. I would like to point out another way the activity stream can enable a extended enterprise community.

This topic is close to my heart, because microblogging and activity feed features are so prominent in the Saba Online Community. Powered by the Saba People Cloud, our homepage features the activity feed function and I can see where activity feeds often foster conversations between our members that would otherwise not occur.

For example, today the activity feed helped to shape and promote an upcoming user conference.

See the way it appeared on the homepage - with links for many options. You can:

*Enter the discussion forum

*See only the first response (while remaining on the homepage)

*Scroll through all responses

*Find out more about the community member who posted the question

A conference track owner posted a question asked for feedback from our LMS customers. This was posted in the LMS group, and notifications only went out to the group members.

Of course he wouldn’t have wanted to notify all community members, so that he wouldn’t be spamming customers who are not interested in the LMS, and who haven’t opted-in to be notified about LMS conversations.

After his post, I saw responses from many LMS customers and partners, but also members who were not members of the LMS Group. They offered their advice for session topics. I also saw an influx of new subscribers for our conference page. Because of the easy to expand listing on the public activity feed, his content reached a larger audience on their own terms, allowing all community members to provide feedback on the presentations in our upcoming user event without annoying them with unsolicited emails, and promoting the event at the same time.

What are some benefits of the activity stream?

What are some drawbacks?

How does your organization foster conversation using social media functionality?