Engagement and Reach

I am trying to make the case for why social media should be used within an organizational setting.In my last post I considered aspects of defining benefits as as way to tell an effective story. Now I want to take a stab at a different approach. This time I am going to be a little more graphical a là Kathy Sierra.

I want to find some set of indices that show the value social media brings when compared to traditional communication channels. With this chart I am trying to show that social media has the ability to create engagement similar to one on one conversation but with the potential to reach a much larger audience. Does this make any sense? Or is there a better set of indices to show the value better. (Note: The size of the circles is supposed to have some relationship to cost, but I am not sure it works very well.)

Update: the graphics did not show up as well as I hoped. I guess I am not providing a great user experience. Translation: Upper Left – Face to Face, moving down and to the right, email, speakers, and finally Traditional DTC in the lower right corner. Social media in Orange.


The RSS Organization

Lisa Haneberg refers to it as a BKE (Breakthrough Experience) in her essay in More Space. All the pieces seem to fall into place. The picture is unclear, and it is hard to articulate, much less coherently explain it to someone else, but you know it is a significant transition point.

This particular BKE started a week or so when I read People Subscriptions on 43 People, by  Lee Lefever. Something clicked, the idea of creating an on-line identity by aggregating all the feeds from all of your activities. I realize that this is not a fundamentally new idea, mainly just newly synthesized in my head. But the part that has me really excited is applying this concept to  communications  within organizations.

Look at how most organizations communicate internally now:

  • Hierarchical cascade through the chain of command
  • email to anyone and everyone you thinks needs to know  in order to CYA, not that they really care
  • newsletters, virtual and hardcopy
  • townhall meetings and other big venue presentations

…you get the picture. This is all "push". The content producers try to control the message by pushing it to everyone whom they hope to influence. Unfortunately only a small percentage of the information ever makes it through the filters. And oddly enough there are usually people that want the information that never see it. All in all not very efficient, but a world we all know and unfortunately accept.

What if we change the paradigm. What if organizations operated primarily on an information pull approach? Control shifts to the seekers of information. Let every project, every department, every process (basically any and every entity) that exists within an organization manifest as a virtual on-line entity with tags and RSS. (Let’s ignore for a minute the fear and chaos this is likely to cause and assume the necessary skill sets broadly exist.) As a project leader or a department head, I stop focusing on who I need to influence and start focusing on delivering an excellent outcome. Every bit of content the project/department produces gets tagged and syndicated. If my project has value it will be found. Those that want to contribute will be able to do so, Open Source Operations.

I realize that this is worlds away from operations in most (shall we say all) organizations today, but just think of the gains in productivity that could be made with this type of approach. Transparency and integrity are inherently incorporated into the system. Central control, and with it bureaucracy, goes out the window. The best ideas move to the forefront effortlessly. Bad ideas, no matter what power structure conceived of them, quietly drift away.

OK, maybe I am a bit of a dreamer and an idealist, but hey, isn’t that what blogs are all about, the freedom to put your two cents on the table…more to come!

Lexicon, Oops, My Bad

I like the word "lexicon". When I have the opportunity, I like to use it. It makes me feel smart, or something I can’t quite label. It may be because it is a word that many people don’t use, and when I use it I am often asked to clarify its meaning in context. It makes me feel indispensable, or something.

What I am seeing here is that it is all about how I feel, not about communicating in the most effective way possible. Oops, that is not how it is supposed to be!

Stephen Baker has a post today called Why Jargon Leads to Dead-ends. I agree with him completely, even though I tend to dismiss that advise personally. It is easy for me to see how we got into this predicament.

We all tend to operate in such a way as to put ourselves in the best light possible. If I can show that I have value by virtue of my specialized area of expertise, I will tend to do so. Jargon helps to perpetuate the myth. Unfortunately the unintended consequence is that I make myself unintelligible.

If we can ever come to a collective understanding that what is better for the group is better for the individual, then as a society, we may start to turn the corner on the myriad problems that plague us.

This is a topic that I believe to be extremely important and should not be dismissed. Unfortunately as we move more and more into niches, both on the production and consumption sides of the equation, I believe that more jargon will be created, widening the gap between silos.

I have posted and commented on this previously.

Mainstream Awareness

In the last week or so it seems that every MSM (mainstream media) outlet is getting on the ‘Let’s talk about blogging" bandwagon. The most recent one I have seen is in today’s Financial Times, via Scoble. If the management of today’s big companies read this in earnest, maybe some of them will start to adjust their own  worldview (as defined by Seth Godin). A couple of my favorite quotes from the article:

Giving employees free rein to criticise their company’s own products or
to praise competitors is a big departure from the carefully constructed
messages of traditional brand management. But Ms Charman says companies
that insist on carrying the old ways of doing things into the
blogosphere are heading for trouble.

“Business is used to inhabiting a broadcast environment, and that is
not what the blogosphere is about,” she says. “Companies need to learn
that they can’t control the message any more, then they have to learn
that that’s good.”


Mr Jen argues that, used properly, blogging can help a company reach
out to its customers in powerful ways. “When you go to an individual’s
blog and read the content . . . people will actually take the
perception they get from an individual and project it on to the company
they work for,” he says. “That perception is often stronger than the
message that the company is trying to [get across].”

Such an
approach requires that companies place an immense amount of trust in
employees to act as capable ambassadors. Mr Jen says that companies may
have little choice. “You could say, ‘I’m not going to allow my
employees to blog,’ but any one of your employees can still go out and
start a blog anonymously,” Mr Jen says.

IMHO, there is a lot of world-shaking going on here and companies that choose not to see it are doing so at their own peril. It is not going to be easy:

For companies, the rising importance of blogging as a communications tool presents a difficult dilemma.

the one hand, avoiding the blogosphere altogether seems a bad idea.
Kryptonite, a maker of bicycle locks, was caught flat-footed last year
when an enterprising blogger discovered he could pick his expensive
Kryptonite lock with the end of a plastic pen. Kryptonite’s lack of a
significant blog of its own meant it had no efficient way to respond to
the original blogger’s claim. A video exposing the lock’s vulnerability
soon spread into the mainstream media.

On the other hand,
companies that wish to engage with the blogosphere face an intractable
credibility problem. Bloggers are an anti-establishment lot, and
messages from big business are automatically suspect. In bloggers’
eyes, most companies’ attempts to insert themselves into online
conversation come across as ham-fisted at best, and disingenuous at

Companies need to engage in the conversation now if they want to survive in a Cluetrain world.

[Editorial Comment: Labeling all bloggers as an "anti-establishment lot" is a bit of a broad-brush that I do not agree with. I think forcing the establishment to look at itself and re-evaluate its own existence is in fact pro-establishment. Too bad most of the MSM does not see this. If you haven’t read the Forbes article yet, you should.]



Context and Contrast

The other day I was watching Noggin ("television for preschoolers") with my 2 year old. They were singing a counting song and dancing around holding up cardboard cutouts of numbers. The number 4 was yellow, but they were holding it up in front of a mostly yellow background. My first thought was "pretty poor set design, they need more contrast". Then all of a sudden it occured to me that any type of communication need strong contrast to to stand out from the background. Or in other words, to paraphrase Seth Godin, to be seen or heard your message needs to be remarkable, it needs to stand out, …contrast.

As my son went on watching Dora the Explorer, I started writing this post in my head… "what else is necessary to deliver a good message?" The first thing that came to mind was context. For any message to be understood, it needs to be in context. Words, symbols, pictures, books, whatever have no meaning out of context.

My experience is that most people try to deliver a message by focusing mainly on the content. I would add contrast and context as on par with content, and necessary ingredients to make a great message.