KLM: Surfing the social media tidal wave

Earlier today KLM, the biggest flight operator at Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam experienced problems after a software update. It caused their site, booking systems and other operations to fail and caused lots of delays and disruption at their main hub, Schiphol Airport.

I’m not flying today but noticed it because of an article on a Dutch news site. Now in general I wouldn’t really have paid much attention especially as I read the article several hours after it had been posted and the disruption had already been cleared and services resumed by then, but one line intrigued me:  [translated from Dutch]

“….Travellers can contact KLM through its social media accounts Twitter or Facebook. There will be employees there that can check in customers online or book flights.”

Now a major international company taking their online reputation and social customer service serious during a major services outage isn’t new but to specifically offer operational help (like booking or check in) through a Facebook or Twitter account is not something you see often. The reason being that in order to do that on a large scale you need a totally different skill set then for simply answering a customer service question or responding to remarks or complaints.  Traditionally most companies still see the role of a social media department mostly as a communications / marketing endeavor and hire their social media staff accordingly. Thereby limiting the reach of their social channels.

From experience learned during the 2010 Iceland volcano eruption that caused worldwide mayhem in the aviation industry and a major boost in social Media use, KLM instead chose to create a Social Media department with people from all sides of its operations: “… a dedicated team creates synergy by sharing their expertise from a varied background including communications, e-commerce, customer care, ticketing, marketing, operations and cabin crew” [source]. Thereby making it possible to quickly and autonomously react to possible problems and easily involve other departments (volunteers) when needed.

And that meant that when their own IT services went down today they could immediately react and go beyond the normal realm of social media customer service and offer services that would otherwise not have been available.

They described their social media strategy and the process of how that came to be in this 4 part blog series. I can certainly recommend reading it as it is a really good (and entertaining!) read for all those interested in how big corporations tackle the ever expanding social media tidal wave that is hitting them.

Paving the way for others, KLM is certainly among those facing it head-on.

The power of Greenhouse

I’m working on a project where a customer is evaluating several social business platforms for an onsite implementation. To get him a better feel of what Connections could do for them I helped him set up a community in Greenhouse and told him how to invite his project members. I was somewhat apprehensive to let him loose on it as it can be overwhelming but I clearly underestimated him as it took him no time to get his team involved and experimenting. He loved it:

“…I wish more vendors would offer something like Greenhouse! Being able to have my project team members experiment within a fully functional and operational environment where they can interact in a real-life scenario with the software and experience how others do that before having to commit to buying or locally installing it, means they now for the first time get what a social platform can do for them. It means I no longer have to peddle abstract concepts about Social Business and can finally move on to discussing actual use cases and possible implementations!…”

I’m sure todays upgrade of Greenhouse to the brand spankin new Connections Next is going to make him even happier.

Living, breathing and working IBM software I sometimes take for granted that we have something like Greenhouse. The truth is: I love it and use it daily. Not just as a demo or test environment but also to interact with other business partners, IBM’ers and customers over Sametime, to share information and to learn what’s going on in the community. Silently it has become a staple in my social diet and I actually missed it when it went offline for the upgrade last Friday!

It’s easy to take things for granted. Sometimes it’s good to step back and appreciate what you’ve got

Kudos to the Greenhouse team!

Microsoft buying Yammer: big steps forward or stifling a promising hatchling?

Some interesting discussions going on this week about Social Business, Yammer being bought by Microsoft one of them. Until now I really haven’t given my opinion on it even though I was asked about it by several people as I have been blogging a few times about Yammer before and have been specifically looking at it for it’s possibilities of extending Sharepoint, one of the platforms on which we actively sell services and solutions. But not just about the Yammer/Microsoft move but also in respect to what this could mean to IBM Connection. IBM’s social platform that has been a major focus for me professionally over the last few years.

To be honest, I had to mull this one over a bit before I could answer but here it goes, my 2 cents worth on it…


First steps

First of all, I think Microsoft did a really wise move buying Yammer. I think someone in Redmond finally realized that just calling Sharepoint a collaborative ‘social’ platform doesn’t make it one and that they really had to take some bold moves to catch up as others like Jive and IBM were miles ahead there in the social business arena.


Secondly I think Yammer can benefit from this as well. As I said before I believe Yammer has one of the best social conversation streams in the Social Business arena right now and their way of bottom up adoption is innovative and effective in getting new users, but their collaboration options (file sharing, activities, communities) just aren’t mature yet and on that end it was missing out and in need of some serious investment.

So combining Microsoft’s capital and Sharepoint’s collaborative content management with Yammers  capabilities in getting the social conversations going, I think, could benefit both. Especially as this is already being done. Integrating Yammer in Sharepoint isn’t something new, it is already there. This move will only embed Yammer into Sharepoint even more.

Competitive position

So what does this mean to IBM Connections and to Microsoft’s competitive position on the Social market?

To be honest, I don’t know. It all depends on Microsoft’s next moves:

  • Will they take Yammer as is and just make the already existing integration stronger? Yammer right now is a cloud based product. Will that appeal to customers who deliberately chose for on-premises installs?
  • Will they incorporate the Yammer data into Sharepoint? A big downdraft I see with the existing Yammer/Sharepoint integration is the fact that the conversation is separated from the content. The document, file or workflow being in Sharepoint and the ‘conversation’ and social content about that document, file or workflow being in an externally hosted social environment. Maintaining integrity and consistency of data with a model like that over time and during the contents lifespan can be a big challenge.
  • And lastly…. Will Microsoft allow Yammer to fully incorporate into Sharepoint allowing the social knowledge Yammer has to embed itself into the more document oriented current Sharepoint environment or will it remain a little new playfriend on the sideline? From the communications right now it seems Microsoft is keeping Yammer as a separate entity within it’s portfolio and not blending but integrating it into the other product streams, not bad from an innovation stand point but not beneficial to Sharepoint either which is in desperate need of some ‘social understanding’ influx.
Leading by example, building from experience

So what does all this mean to IBM Connection? Well, for now little I think. Of course, Microsoft will use this to strengthen its position on the social market and give some footing to it’s claims of being a social platform provider. Rightly so, it is taking steps. But to really leverage Social Business I think it needs to do more. It needs to start thinking as a social business.

And that is exactly where I see IBM’s strength coming through. IBM Connections wasn’t created as a platform to fill a gap for a new hype, it was designed from personal experience in becoming a social business, living an ideal and experiencing it’s challenges and pitfalls as IBM itself was becoming a social business. It was build on experience and is focused on getting people to leverage their strengths to grow as an organization by collaboration and participation. To say it bluntly: It’s not just about starting a conversation, it’s about getting that conversation to turn into collaboration and therefore to start generating revenue.

Taking it forward

Yammer was well on its way to build a truly collaborative social environment over the last year and a half or so. So if this move from Microsoft is going to succeed depends, in my eyes, solely on how much of this Microsoft really gets. Personally I hope Microsoft will recognize it and use the knowledge and social strengths of Yammer to, for lack of a better word, “infect” it’s organization and Sharepoint development with the social bug. Or, better yet, build out Yammer to eventually overtake Sharepoint (I know a bold thing to say!). The market for social business is booming and the combination of Sharepoint’s market with Yammers social aptitude has enough potential to grow into a major player. But I also think Microsoft still has a few steps to take before they truly ‘get it’.

After all, social isn’t just a tool to be bought, it’s a mindset and requires a major culture shift, and on those IBM can still teach Microsoft a lesson or two I think.



#StuffIBMersSay: testing IBM's social elasticity

A while ago I wrote a blog post about a twitter meme that was going on where people were tweeting funny things IBM’ers had said with the hashtag #stuffIBMerssay. It became hot real fast and got over 3000 tweets and retweets before it died out after about a week. In my post I did that first day when it all started I stated “ps. Seeing a perfect opportunity here for IBM to use it’s new Analytic tools to analyze this social phenomena!” and well, it seems they have.

I knew they were working on it but hadn’t seen anything made public about it yet until I saw a blog yesterday from Keith Brooks with a link to the research report IBM did on this, the official research page for the meme and an interview with the researcher. It’s really interesting to read and I can see how analyzing this kind of social meme’s can help understand sentiment and feelings within organizations as well as how the rest of the world perceives an organization.

But what this impromptu phenomenon and IBM’s response to it showed best to me is that IBM really is striving to be a truly social organization. Being a social organization isn’t just about providing the tooling and ‘talking the lingo’, it is about recognizing and empowering the individuals within the organizational eco-system so that they can leverage their strengths to get the organization to a next level. That also implies allowing yourself to be viewed through the eyes of those individuals both for the good as well as for the bad and both on the inside (employees) as well as on the outside (partners, customers, contractors, etc). A daunting thing to do, especially when it happens unexpected, unplanned and uncontrolled, which is exactly what happened here. The fact that over 75% of the people who participated were from within the IBM organization itself and that they felt save to tweet about this and inject a lot of humor and banter without feeling they were harming the IBM organization or their own career shows a remarkable openness and engagement. I think that is exactly why this whole thing grabbed me the way it did back then…. and still does!


Nicely said but the real proof of the pudding is in the eating as they say and for me that proof was that seven months on, the two people who unleashed it all, and whom I’ve been closely following ever since, still proudly list “Working @IBM” in their Twitter profile 🙂


Especially had to smile while reading this:

“Second, the qualitative analysis suggested that contributors to the #stuffibmerssay thread were also able to poke fun at the bureaucratic nature of a large global enterprise. We termed this “the Dilbert effect” where tweets served as satirical observations of how the processes within a large organization could be bewildering.”


So fitting with one of the tweets I quoted back then!

@FlemChrist: I swear that guy writing the Dilbert cartoon works here. #stuffibmerssay


Repost IBM Insights Blog: Food for Thought: Social Trust

I recently started writing for the IBM Insights blog http://ibm.com/blogs/socialbusiness. As part of a team of Redbook Residency bloggers. The aim is to write about anything having to do with Social Business or Social Media. To keep track and a personal log of it all I will regularly repost the blogs I write for the Insights blog on my personal blog as well.

Original Publication: https://www-304.ibm.com/connections/blogs/socialbusiness/entry/food_for_thought_social_trust3?lang=en_us
Original publication date: March 9th 2012

Food for Thought: Social Trust
Femke Goedhart, Business Consultant, Silverside

Social media use is everywhere. With more than 800 million users on Facebook, more than 225 million Twitter accounts, Google+ rapidly gaining on the competition, and countless other platforms popping up left and right, it’s hard to ignore. But how do you control your people going online and using social media and are you even allowed to?!? That is a question that more and more companies are asking themselves nowadays.

Personal versus professional
Traditionally the division between personal and professional life was something that was strictly observed. What you did at home had little to do with what you did in the office and vice versa. People who walked around in suits all day could go out partying at night without any of their colleagues ever knowing it.
Social media is changing that. The traditional borders between personal and professional life are fading with people engaged in social media posting pictures, tweeting and Facebooking about all aspects of their lives — often, even mixing their professional and private social networks together. It is forcing companies to search for ways to handle their “social exposure.” But it’s not an easy topic.
The main reason for this is the cross over into the personal domain. What rights do copanies have to restrict people in their personal life?
But it’s not just in the personal domain that there are limits to what a company can restrict. The element of freedom of speech and common law limit what can be restricted in professional life also. This was recently highlighted when the US National Labor Relations Board started a review of cases in which social media had played a role in firing employees. A large number of these cases turned out to be about overly broad social media policies infringing on the protected conserted activities rights of employees.

Taking control
So how do you (if at all) control what is being said? Well, the first step is in recognizing that it is going on. Companies that think ””my people don’t tweet” are in denial. Social media is gaining popularity everywhere and not just with the younger generation. More and more people 35 and older are joining in the conversation on one or more social platforms. Sometimes just to follow what their friends or kids are doing but often simply because they are interested themselves.
The second step is to figure out what it is you want to prevent.
Forbidding it outright isn’t really an option because that infringes on personal rights and reaches deep into the personal life of employees. Forbidding social activities in the professional realm is disputable as shown above, but most of all it can have serious downdrafts.
For instance: If you meet your hairdresser at the grocery store and greet her but she ignores you completely, because her boss told her not to engage in any conversation with customers outside the work environment, then you would be offended and would probably not return to that hairdresser’s shop again.
So why would you want to get that same effect with your employees being social? Customers are just as likely to be on social media, and restricting your employees from interacting with them might make them seem aloof and arrogant, which in turn would look bad for your company.

Restricting the already restricted
Another major aspect to consider is the employee contract. Any self-respecting company will have clauses in its employee contracts restricting employees from performing acts detrimental to the company. The same applies for non-disclosure clauses. So in fact, most of the things social media policies try to restrict are things that are already restricted.
Does that make them obsolete? Not necessarily. There does seem to be a need to re-enforce restrictions as employees are having trouble distinguishing between their professional and personal “social” life and forgetting about responsibilities. The question though is if that really needs to be in the form of another restrictive contract or policy type document. Sometimes, just reminding them of their responsibilities should be enough.

Guideline versus policy
So the question is whether having a social media policy is really the answer. An interesting shift is that some companies are now moving off the idea of banning social media through policies and opting for embracing social media through guidelines. This is based on trust and respect for the employees’ ability to act responsibly, and the implicit assumption that most employees really don’t want to do harm to their own company but do want to engage in social media.
Enforcing the positive behavior the company would like to see instead of discouraging misbehavior is the goal. This is an interesting shift because it means that instead of thinking of the employees’ social media exposure simply as a threat, it now can become an asset.
It does also mean accepting that people will sometimes mess up, which is human. So, telling people how to react in those situations should be a part of the process, as shown in the following excerpt from the IBM Social Computing Guidelines:

“Be the first to respond to your own mistakes. If you make an error, be up front about your mistake and correct it quickly, as this can help to restore trust, but make it clear that you have done so.”

It speaks of respect when companies feel confidence enough in their people to trust them to act wisely.

Take the lead
Don’t ignore what is going on. With social media not likely to go away any time soon, it is better to start identifying its opportunities instead of simply focusing on the risks. Acknowledge the role it is playing and start training the employees in how to use it responsibly.

Yammer's Sharepoint integration

Apart from IBM products our company also delivers Sharepoint solutions and adoption. So when I learned that Yammer integrates with Sharepoint it intrigued my interest. Especially as Sharepoint isn’t exactly known for it’s social capabilities and the other way around I must say I wasn’t really impressed with the document sharing/collaboration options Yammer had to deliver. Combining the two together however could offer an interesting alternative to Sharepoint customers willing to invest in driving adoption and or adding a social layer within their existing Sharepoint platform.

I must say that from what I saw today I was impressed. The integration is done through web parts, making it possible to leverage and engage in conversations with Yammer streams and groups displayed seamlessly in Sharepoint sites, adding private streams to MySite profiles, exchanging profile information, doing two-way activity alerting, allowing for simultaneous searching of Yammer & Sharepoint data and (most importantly) sharing content directly from Sharepoint without having to take it out of the Sharepoint environment.

Why is this last thing important? Well because not every company wants their files uploaded into the cloud. In fact it’s a Yammer option to disable Yammers own file sharing capabilities completely to force users to use the onsite Sharepoint environment for file sharing.
So while the conversations around for instance a document happens on the Yammer environment the actual documents themselves can remain safely stored and accessed in the Sharepoint environment. The user won’t even realize this as SSO and the seamless integration displays everything from within the Sharepoint environment itself.

Still there are some things to keep in mind when doing this.

  • By using Yammer as a social layer and integrating it with your Sharepoint environment you more or less disengage the ‘conversation’ from the ‘content’ as one is Sharepoint (on premise or apparently also on Office365?*) while the other is in Yammer (cloud). The user might not notice this but taking it out of Yammer and maintaining a relation between the two might be impossible lateron while archiving
  • EU based companies which have stringent  requirements on data storage locations might have a problem with Yammers US based server park.

But overall certainly an option worth investigating when you are on Sharepoint and want to drive adoption or engage it as a social platform. Yammers proposition for driving the social ‘conversation’ with #hashtags, groups and @mentioning really has an edge on a lot of other products out there and definitely has something to offer to any Sharepoint environment.

*The Yammer rep that gave us the demo mentioned Office 365 integration as a possibility but I haven’t been able to find much about that online so not sure whether this is already in place or something being developed/under investigation

Google Apps & advertising

Stumbled upon a blogs on Google Apps today that mentioned ads in Google Mail even for payed business accounts. Now this got me wondering as I always figured the adds would automatically be turned off once you bought a licensed account but apparently this is not the case. The domain admin can disable it but by default it is on, even for payed accounts.

Reading this help description on how to disable this I couldn’t help but notice the little text about Web Clips that won’t be disabled with that setting and that can apparently still contain sponsored links…

Ok, yes you can individually disable the Web Clips on a mailbox but I can’t seem to find anything about disabling this for a full domain so if that is the case Google Ads are sneaking their way into their corporate clients domains anyway.

Interesting! Especially as the (paying) customer doesn’t seem to get the revenue for the ads being shown in their corporate environment as far as I can see. Seems like Google is making money off their corporate accounts twice. Once for the licenses they sell them and once for the ads & sponsored links they show them…. smart cookies.

Or am I missing the point here?

Gamification – putting out the welcome mat

I love IBM Connections. It’s a great way to connect and share information and it allows me to broadcast my opinions and ideas within our company. Out of the box though IBM Connections can be a bit sterile. Yes, there are some templates and yes you can customize it of course but it’s still all a bit aloof. It can take some time to really feel connected with it, which means getting the adoption going can be a struggle.

Cue gamification: We recently became a partner for Kudos Badges, a gamification module that helps drive adoption of IBM Connection and implemented it within our own environment to try out. Suddenly everyone was talking about the badges and checking out their scores. The overall usage picked up immediately.
Ok yes, I work with mostly males and regardless of what you say…. THEY ARE MORE COMPETITIVE than females (although I’m usually worse then most of my male co-workers but that’s really the exception). So there was a definite surge in activity visible and it caused most of my co-workers to really start exploring and using IBM Connections.

But apart from the competitive element it adds something else: A visually appealing effect.
It personalizes the for some relatively overwhelming digital social tools environment and adds a bit of humanization and color to it. Making it less sterile and less intimidating. It’s like putting the ‘Welcome’ mat out and a pot of flowers in the windowsill to invite people in.

Now yes, I am competitive but that is secondary to visual for me. When I look at something I notice style, color, layout and navigation first and functions second. The better the visual appeal and logic the better I understand and recognize the functionality and the more I am inclined to explore it further.
And I am not alone! Why do you think Apple products are so appealing to so many…? Their way of putting design on an equal level to the functionality clearly works. Gamification for IBM Connections, if done right taps into that as well.

So in a quirky way Kudos Badges is livening up IBM Connections in more then one way. On the one hand with a competitive element, offering leaderboards and scores and on the other with a bit of visual appeal and logic, offering clues and tips on usage, colorful achievement badges and challenges and goals to strive for.

Does this mean it is something that will entice everyone or that this is an end to it self? No, but it’s a great onboarding tool, something that can help you get that initial adoption going and get people interested. Helping them overcome their initial hesitation of using IBM Connections.
So use it to put out the Welcome mat and give your users a warm welcome. Let’s get them over the threshold! 


Silverside Kudos Badges partner

As of today Silverside is proud to announce that it hassigned a partner agreement with ISW Australia for distribution of Kudos Badges software in The Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg.

Kudos Badges, asolution that provides gamification for IBM Connections to stimulate use andadoption for social collaboration, is a product we feel can add significantvalue to any IBM Connections installation.

 To provide for our Dutch customers Silverside has been collaborating with ISW in creating a Dutch version of Kudos Badges allowing for better integration in Dutch and multi-lingualenvironments.

Yammer: a wolf in sheep's clothing?

Last week I talked about visiting the Yammer on Tour (YoT) event in Amsterdam. Somehow it is still playing my mind. Not that I changed my mind about it but mostly because I’m wondering why it is so popular among the Dutch. If the announced number of 500.000 payed Yammer accounts in The Netherlands is right that would mean Yammer has a more than substantial penetration of the Dutch labor market of about 8.5 million… A penetration most software providers would kill for and more importantly one obtained without much marketing.

So why is Yammer so popular here?

First of all I think the Dutch are very outgoing and adopt social tools at an incredible speed because of that. Having an opinion and speaking your mind is something that is embedded in Dutch culture and taught from a very young age. The whole social revolution just taps into that. Something that is clearly visible with the adoption of all social platforms, not just Yammer.

But there are other factors here too I think.

The Back-door-factor:

  • As Yammer doesn’t really need any IT department involvement to be kick started within an organization (anyone can just start a company community free of charge) you see a lot of instances where adoption is done bottom up. IT is not involved until a large part of the organization is already using it and is therefore put on the spot. Seeing it being used and accepted and not having had any time to investigate the need or workings for such an application they simply go with it and more or less accept it as is. All the factors and barriers that would otherwise have had to be passed in a software platform acquisition process are suddenly completely bypassed.

The gullibility factor:

  • Yep, it isn’t nice to say about my own fellow country men but I feel gullibility plays a big role here too. I don’t know how it came to be but at a certain point some government institutions started using Yammer for their internal social communications. It didn’t take long for more to join, and more and now several really big and important governmental institutions are using it. Institutions that are handling highly sensitive personal and financial information. The Dutch in general put a lot of trust in their government so other companies seeing this and thinking “Well if they use it it must be safe” joined in and before you know it you’ve got a lot of companies seeing this as a perfectly safe option.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying it isn’t or that non of the organizations really investigated it. But I do get the impression a number of them really didn’t look into it too hard.

The idea of information, in this case possibly even my personal information being discussed and shared over Yammer servers located in the US with the US data security regulations – regulations we all know do not necessarily comply with EU legislation – makes me twitchy at best. And as Yammer stated themselves, they are not planning to open any EU data center for the foreseeable future….

How delicate this is was demonstrated when at YoT someone, working for one of the these government institutions got up and asked “How do we control that information shared on the Yammer network stays compliant with the information in our regulatory systems, as we want to make sure our people are consistent in their communications to the outside world when using information obtained through Yammer?“. The answer was (correctly) “Yammer is not for sharing the information but only sharing the location where it could be found“.
The fact this question was asked though already shows that this really is an utopia.

I do believe that most people at all these institutions are probably using it responsible, but at the same time I can’t help but wonder if this isn’t just a short way out for a lot of these companies and institutions. They see the need (and yes, there definitely is a need for social business here in The Netherlands) and jump in at the first option they see swimming by.
If that really is a feasible option though remains to be seen. Yammer seems to be mostly a Facebook like tool and doesn’t offer much more then a really nice way to start the internal conversation. Social business though is about more than that and gets its real value from collaboration. Something Yammer in my eyes still falls short at.
Not to mention the problems they could get themselves in for not complying with EU privacy act regulations…..

Not surprisingly thus that some of these major institutions, recognizing the sensitivities and lack of collaboration, are now turning to other tools like IBM Connections to handle their social business needs. How the smaller ones will fare though remains to be seen. It isn’t easy changing social platforms once you’ve chosen one.