Social Media Week & IBM's new approach to collaborative intelligence gathering

It’s Social Media Week! Did you know? Ok, I’ll admit I didn’t either until it was pointed out to me. But there are some really interesting experiments going on this week around the topic ‘Social’.

IBM is joining in and performing a Smarter Commerce Scan.
An experiment where they are trying to see if it is possible to gather intelligence by posting tantalizing topics around different aspects of Social Commerce to the Social grid. Each day a new question is posted and by the end of the week an Executive summary will be made highlighting key themes and trends as well as top responses.

The first question posted:

One of the central tenets in the emerging idea of “social business” is that people do business with other people, not companies:
How should all aspects of commerce — selling, buying, providing service, developing products and marketing them — become more human? More centered on building and maintaining relationships? More personal and personalized?

Wanna join the discussion?
Check the IBMSocBiz on Tumblr site for daily topics & responses and follow the hashtag #IBMSocBiz. Answer through Tumblr or use the hashtag #smwQ1 (‘Q1’ for the question of the day) in your social streams. There’s even an app for iPhone & Android (see tumblr site).
Make your voice be heard, Social is the way to go!

Get in touch!

You would think that getting in touch with people has become a whole lot easier since we’ve all become so ‘social’. Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Connections, IM, chats, etc. You could even say that in some cases it’s hard NOT to. But still I find that really getting ‘in touch’  sometimes is a challenge. Take a recent situation I encountered.

I wanted to ask a distant social business contact something that required some delicacy and a personal touch. I didn’t know the person ‘in person’ (there’s an ocean between us) but I ‘knew’ her on Twitter, Facebook, through Connections, Sametime and even through a persistent Skype chat group. More then enough venues I guess to contact her. But this was harder than I thought.

First I considered the Connections link I had to her. The question was related to that anyway so this seemed logical. The problem though was that she hadn’t listed her contact details and I wasn’t about to put my question on her public message stream.
Next was twitter but that is mostly public and even when I had used a DM I couldn’t really get my question into a 140 character text anyway. So that one was out of the question too.
Facebook wasn’t ideal either. On reviewing her Facebook stream I figured she used it strictly for non- business related stuff and as it was a business related question I didn’t want to use that route (DM or Chat) for a business related question. Even social business has its etiquette…..

So I looked on. She didn’t have a blog (I knew about or could find) and on LinkedIn I found several people matching here name, most without pictures, so no luck there either.
My last chance seemed to be the Sametime and Skype chat. Not ideal but it would at least allow me to ask her for her mail address.  The problem was though that she wasn’t online much and by the time she was, I wasn’t (that darn ocean again!).

This was frustrating! Here I am, connected to this person on at least 3
social networks and 2 IM systems and still I had trouble getting in
touch with her! Having this persons email address would
have saved me a lot of trouble. In stead I had all these social links
but no decent way of getting in touch.

So in the end I solved it the old fashioned way. I called her company switchboard and asked for her.

Ironic isn’t it? That even with all these digital channels and links to her I
finally had to resort to the old fashioned phone call to really get in

Early Adopter

I got a baby card in the mail this weekend from a good friend that just had his first son. Nothing special there, it listed the obvious details as name, date of birth, weight and length as well as the normal visiting hours for baby & mum.

What was surprising though was the design of the card (as if it was the personal Facebook page of the newborn) and the addition of the baby’s Twitter, Facebook, Youtube and personal website addresses. This is what I would call a early adopter! This kid isn’t just launched into the world, it’s launched into cyberspace (with a little help and moderation of his parents of course).

Now this got me thinking about my own baby card. My parents intended it to depict a silhouette picture of a baby walking, supported by one leg. The printer however got it wrong, printing the picture upside down. It didn’t look as if the baby was supported, it looked as if the baby was unceremoniously hanging by one leg. Not the idyllic image my parents had in mind and it meant my parents had to do some explaining there, not in the least to me when I saw it in my birth photo book a couple of years later.

I wonder what the explanation will be to this kid in about ten to twelve years when he sees his baby card and starts asking: “Dad what is Facebook?!?

My babycard…. 35yrs ago, no Facebook in sight then!

Social media frenzy and Obama's death

So the last few weeks we’ve been seeing somewhat of a Social Media frenzy among Social Media users. With Google+ going live (nicely hyping it by limiting access calling it a ‘beta’), Facebook reacting with its new Video chat functionality and Twitter…. Well Twitter kept silent. The only news on that front: the hacking of a Fox News account starting to proclaim Obama’s death.

Still that last titbit of information intrigues me… Not because a Verified twitter account was hacked or that twitter is staying remarkebly silent about Google+ but because the ‘Obama news’ generally didn’t cause much of a stir at all. In fact, reading the different reactions I’d say people mostly just shrugged it off.

There used to be a time that when a renowned or at least well known media source or paper would publish something everybody would simply believe it. If the morning paper or the tv-presenter said so most people wouldn’t doubt that. They had limited resources to verify and generally just trusted the journalists to have done their homework.
Ok, yes I know this was more then a decade ago but still you’d be surprised how many people still believe in the integrity of journalism and regard a well known news agency, network or newspaper name as an instant proof of validity.

So when the FOX account started spewing out messages about Obama’s death I kind of expected a certain part of the internet population to start blindly retweeting this, like they retweet all kind of nonsense…. It didn’t happen (or at least not as blindly as I would expect it)! In fact the tweets I saw about it all identified the fact the account was hacked.
I think that’s great, it proves we’re starting to mature into the new age of unlimited access of information. Instead of blindly believing and following what others say or write we try to verify. We take a more sceptical approach to news and news suppliers and check up on more sources before believing it. And… we’re more aware about the dangers of hacking.

I know most of you won’t see this as anything special but I really think it is. Not so long ago I tutored a group of senior citizens on using a computer. This was a challenge to say the least. For their age these people were advanced as they actually were interested in learning this new phenomonon. In all truth though some of them struggled to even grasp the simplest concept of mail or internet information. Teaching them to be vigilant with what they could and what they shouldn’t believe (phising, hoaxes, spam, unvalidated information) really was a hell of a job. They were used to libraries with books that had been edited, scrutenized and categorized into nice definitive catogories like ‘science’ and ‘fiction’. So all that unvalidated info confused them.
Similarily intriguing I think is the group of youngsters, that although generally pretty well aware of the lack of validation on certain internet information still choses to believe blindly sometimes. Is it stupidity or lazyness, I’m not sure but I do find it fascinating how easliy they sometimes just take the internet info as fact.

So the lack of response to the Obama news shows we’re getting there. We are learning how to digest the info that is out there in cyberspace and when a supposedly verified Social Media account starts announcing the US president’s death we are critical and don’t get into a frenzy.

Now if we could only do the same when a major internet company announces the hottest new Social Media network….

Google+….. Searching for the plus….

After waiting impatiently for days to get into Google+ I got in. Excited to check out all the new features I started exploring. That took me about 10 minutes. “Is that it?“…. Yep that was it. Than real life caught up with me along with a major workflow project going life and a bunch of support request that buried me up to my armpits. It just lost that ‘WOW!’ factor, that made me jump through hoops to get in, really rapidly.

The one thing I had really high expectations of was the idea of the circles but at the same time it makes me so conscious about what I’m posting to which circle that I find myself hardly posting at all.

The same seems to be going on on the other side and the posts that I do see from my most active Social media connections seem to be mostly on Google+ itself. Another effect is that from certain people I now get only their ‘business’ content. Ok yes, I’m not calling them friends, most not even acquaintances but by reading not just their business content but also their quirky, personal, sometimes funny, sometimes sad messages they become alive to me. Keeping me interested and keeping me reading. Someone that posts just a lot of technical stuff I tend to loose interest in real quickly. Call me a sucker but I just love the ‘social’ in social media.

So am I won for Google+ ? Not exactly yet. Am I going to use it? Definitely! Probably a bit more after it gets picked up by Social Media tools like Tweetdeck, Hootsuite and Yoono. Because for now I don’t see myself being weaned of Twitter and/or Facebook any time soon and updating all those networks separately is just too much of a hassle.

Anyway, if you want to add me to your Google+ circles then please do (Profile) and let me know what your opinion is. I’d love to hear! Who knows. Maybe we can ‘Hangout‘. Haven’t had a chance to test that feature out yet anyway 🙂

Could I offer you; another social network?

I’ll admit it, I’m really curious to see what the Google+ project is all about! No, I don’t have an invitation and judging on this post I probably will have to wait a while before I get one. But when I do I will certainly give it a try!

Even though its not even fully accessible yet, opinions are already given on its merits and potential. And even though I’ve only seen the slick presentations and haven’t had a chance to explore it myself. My first reaction is leaning towards the ones that don’t really see a future for this new social platform here……

 The reason being that this market has already more or less been conquered by Facebook.
Why would a user move over to Google+ when almost everything they can do there is available (or will most likely be available shortly) on Facebook, twitter or LinkedIn? You don’t want to start all over again after you spent months/years building your social network, do you?!?

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think Facebook and Twitter will remain dominant in this market forever but I do think that any replacement will have to offer a lot more then some shiny new features to wean their target audience of them.

So what would it take me to be convinced to really switch over to let say Google+?
Apart from new functionalities (Hangouts, Huddles and Circles definitely look interesting!) I guess the main feature that could win me over would be a possibility of using the functionality without loosing my already existing social network. So instead of having to convince all my friends of Google+ benefits to get them to move over I would like a system that allows me to invite my existing Twitter/Facebook contacts to the new functionalities like Hangouts, Huddles and Circles allowing them to log in with their existing Twitter/Facebook credentials.

Mmm… nice for the user but how would this benefit Google+? Well, simply allow users with a foreign (eg Twitter or Facebook) account to use the functionality when invited, but build in a catch like not allowing them to initiate new Huddles, Hangouts, etc. This limits them in their usage and at the same time shows them the benefits of moving over. Then as deal closer offer them an easy registration process that copies in all the relevant data, pictures and information from their Twitter/Facebook account. Effectively eliminating their need to manually recreate their social profile. That, I think would make it a really strong contender. As said before, I haven’t seen the darn thing yet, so who knows, maybe some of this is already in it. 

But even if all this was possible there’s one more reason why I think Google+ could struggle:….. Its commercial.

I mean there is no illusion what Google’s main purpose in life is: To sell adds. So joining a network exposing all of my personal interests and contact information to a company who’s using that info to sell me goods…..I don’t know……
Then again, Facebook isn’t that idealogic student startup either anymore and is there really anything Google doesn’t know about us already?!?

Future will tell how this will all pan out. It’ll either be another Google Wave or maybe the new Facebook. Whatever it’s going to be, it’ll certainly be a thing to keep an eye out for!

Feedback? You bet!

With Google heading in a new and possible exiting direction with its Google+ project and their new Me on the Web tool I was checking out some of the new features and stumbled upon the Google Profile. Not something I had ever seen before (even though it supposedly has been around for a while) but nevertheless another Social Profile so why not try it out.

While doing so I ran into some simple things that I just didn’t get from a usability point of view. One of them was that when I wanted to add links to the ‘Links’ section and choose the ‘Manage Connected Accounts’  option I’m rerouted to another page. Nothing wrong there but when finished I don’t see any option to return to the profile. Ok, yes of course I eventually tried simply closing it and that worked fine but it didn’t feel logical to close it like that and gave me the uneasy feeling I might lose the data I had just provided. A simple “Finish” or “Return to Profile” button would have been nice.

I believe in the power of giving Feedback to help further the development of products and will not hesitate to give it when asked. So when I noticed the ‘Feedback’ button in the bottom lower corner of the Profile form I decided to report it back to Google as something they might be able to take into consideration.

And then….

So, first rule of involving your users: If you want their feedback and ask for it be ready to receive it!

Worldwide use of Social Networking

Interesting visualization of Social Network penetration world wide by Global Web Index. The Netherlands scores average when it comes to content sharing & messaging but considerable less when it comes to joining/creating groups. Not something I would have expected!
Most notable though I find are the figures for Japan. For a country so obsessed by mobile gadgets you would expect them to be more active on Social Networks as well.

Click herefor a full screen representation of the graph

Twitter DM's not private…. Weiner watch out!

Applications can use the Twitter API  to get you to grant them access to your twitter account without having to share your username and password. You would expect your DM’s to be excluded though by default from the information (eg. Tweets, Favs, Lists, etc) that applications can than access or at least make it configurable. Apparently this is not the case! See this blog by (in German) in which they unearthed it. It means that as of day 1 any application you granted “READ + WRITE” access to your Twitter account had access to your DM’s and potentially could even send them out on your behalf…..?!?
Twitter seems to be aware and working on a solution (planned for the 30th of June) and has added a notification to the Access granting page:
I’m feeling a perfect ‘Weiner‘ – excuse popping up here. ” No sir, I didn’t put those pictures up, it was a twitter app that I authorized to access my Twitter account! It took pictures while I was drying myself after a shower without me even knowing it and posted them to my DM’s…It wasn’t me, I swear!“. Oh wait, too late, he admitted to putting them up there themselves…..
It just shows. Leave your Frankfurter out of it or the Germans will find it!
Thanks to @ThomasBahn for bringing it to my attention by tweeting about it!

Smart ways to use Twitter commercially

Twitter is a lovely tool to keep in touch with your friends, customers and contacts and learn what they are doing. But how can you use it for business purposes? I had a discussion with some of my colleagues and a fellow Business Partner recently about this. Because there certainly are opportunities!

Ok, yes I know. There are some nitwits out there that think that blasting spam-like tweets across their networks with advertisements links is a good way of using Twitter commercially but I block those immediately and so do most of the people I know. Not interested in those and in my opinion certainly not a good use of twitter! If anything, those tweets put me of from using that companies products or services at all. So how can you use twitter then? Well you can use it to interact with your users. Don’t forget: With hundreds of millions of people on twitter this is is an amazing channel to use for name building and branding.

I love twitter and use it regularly in my own personal and business life. So I tend to tweet about the things that happen to me. I recently installed a Beta release of Firefox because I wanted to try out a cool new feature that was in it (Tab Candy but that is a totally different story). While doing so I found out that my favorite Firefox add-in “Yoono” wouldn’t support the Beta release causing it to cease working. Bummed out by this I tweeted the following:

This was just an observation. I wasn’t actually addressing anyone. I took it for what it was and thought I’d have to use an alternative tool in the mean time and was tweeting this. But within 10min I got the following tweet:

Well, nice” you might say but at that moment I was seriously contemplating to use an alternative which would have meant I would have ditched the Yoono tool all together and installed a competitors product. By simply tweeting me a link though, they helped me with my problem, gave me the feeling I mattered to them as a customer and kept me on their product. Effectively they gave me the ‘warm, fuzzy feeling’ that ensures I will not forsake their product any time soon!
Commercial? I would say so, I’m even writing this blog about it!

A second way of using Twitter is by letting your users do the talking. This example is again taken from my personal experience.

Earlier this week I did a session on social plugins for Lotus Notes including a product called Gistat the NLLUG event. One of the attendees tweeted about this:

A couple of hours later this was retweeted by one of the engineers at Gist:

Very clever. They simply retweet a tweet from a user that is appreciative about the product and that mentions it is being talked about at an official event. This gives the product an objective credibility outside of the Gist companies claims. Again, is this commercial? Well I think so! Customer loyalty and credibility ensure people stay with your product and might even recommend it to their contacts and getting your customers to talk positive about you in their network is the best advertisement there is!

Tips on using Twitter for your product/company:

  1. Have a company Twitter account (company or product name) and post on it regularly. Mention updates, enhancement, future developments, etc.
  2. Obey twitter etiquettes, this is important!!
  3. Follow what is said about your product on twitter. They might not always directly mention your twitter account or hashtag so use filters and search tools to search for variations of your products name. In the Gist example above for instance the @Gist name tag or #Gist hashtag aren’t used at all but the name ‘Gist’ and in this case even the site ‘’ are. Both should be included in your search filters.
  4. Retweet positive feedback about your product but don’t overdo it. If you retweet every mention of your product your followers might get annoyed. Try to limit it to one positive tweet every couple of days. That will keep the good vibe without it looking arrogant or becoming spam like.
  5. Answer tweet questions on your product if you can and think they could be relevant to others. It shows goodwill and commitment and your network is assured you take them seriously. At the same time, don’t try to answer all. Your network is following you, not every user that might tweet a question or remark about your product. So they will only see what you answer, not what is being asked/said (unless you retweet them). Answering tweet questions shouldn’t become a day job in itself, you probably have some formal support channels for that.
  6. Use DM (Direct Messages) to communicate with people if you don’t want the rest of your network to see a certain conversation.
  7. Use personalized or support accounts for answering questions. In the above example Gist has a company Twitter account for general messages and updates but the retweet was done by an actual employee called Greg whose twitter account conveniantly is GregAtGist ensuring the link with the company. In the Yoono example a YoonoSupport account was used. So split support tweets from marketing tweets in this way and give your responses a personal feel (people like that).
  8. Be appreciative and generous. Thank people for their compliments (which in itself is a way of retweeting the message) and suggestions (if they are valid and on your roadmap).

And a final one that might be out of your hands already….. Make sure your company or product name is unique because otherwise following it on twitter becomes a whole lot more difficult!