The Social Contact Centre

to a social networking way of working through the eyes of a Contact Centre manager

Posts Tagged ‘Web 2.0

Doing your Social homework

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So imagine social networking  was Biology. My daughters have spent a couple of months and I feel extremely sorry for them. I remember revising some subjects where I wasn’t quite “getting it” and feeling very vulnerable. There is a danger that we think we know it all and stop doing our own revision. Social Networking is developing so quickly that we have to keep learning, benchmarking and testing. Imagine it was a subject with an exam next week. What would you do differently if you wanted to be sure of passing?

One way is to read the literature. There is no easy textbook but I would recommend Wikinomics – How Mass Collaboration Changes Everything by Don Tapscott and Anthony Williams http://www.wikinomics.com/book/. It was written in 2006 but has been updated since then. It lays out the principles of social networking and Web 2.0 with some excellent business examples. It demonstrates clearly the difference between social neworking and social media and is timeless because of it. Its references to  MySpace bely its age but it doesn’t matter because you can just replace the references with Facebook and not lose the power of the story. As with many worthwhile projects like this it doesn’t end with the book. It has been updated but there is also a wiki around the Playbook. @dtapscott is on Twitter and has 32,000 followers!

You then need a playbook. In a world where everything is even now still quite new I really like Groundswell http://empowered.forrester.com/groundswell/book.html by Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff. It lays down the principles but then defines a simple framework for businesses to follow. I say “simple” but that’s surely the hallmark of a great business book.

This highlights a need to use your personal social networking presence for learning and collaboration as well as for your own business development. There is a wealth of knowledge and experience to take advantage of and to contribute to. There are some visionaries out there with some huge ideas which are worth looking at and Web 2.0 has encouraged them to share. One of my favourites is www.managementexchange.com/hack/social-architecture-manifesto by Luc Galoppin (@lucgaloppin) which is beautifully written, thought provoking and quite wonderful.

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Written by greencontact

July 27, 2012 at 10:09 am

50 Shades Can Pay

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There can’t be a soul in the United Kingdom who isn’t aware of the literary sensation which is 50 Shades Of Grey. It has just broken records with  the 1 millionth sale on Kindle. Although marketeers are welcome to read the trilogy they should also be paying attention to the message. Apart from the fascinating demographic and the creation of labelling of the Mommy Porn genre, the phenomenal success is yet another example of the rise of Social Media and Social Networking in a concrete way.

The work started as fan fiction which in itself is an enormous subculture. Time magazine ran an excellent, non-judgemental article on fan fiction The Boy Who Lived Forever. While most people may not be interested in the subject matter, I am always interested in numbers. Fanfiction.net hosts over 2 million pieces of original fan fiction covering a wide range of genres with the Harry Potter section holding over half a million pieces. There is an associated infrastructure of competitions and editing which most people are unaware of. Other interesting similar areas are the huge gaming and roleplaying worlds. When the Maryland Association of Certified Public Accountants sets up a headquarters on CPA Island in Second Life http://www.journalofaccountancy.com/Issues/2008/Jun/AccountingforSecondLife.htm you need to start paying attention.

EL James moved her stories from a fan fiction website on to her own website after some comments about the content of some stories and then rewrote some elements to take away the direct character references to Twilight and then published as an ebook and by a small Australian print-on-demand publisher. Sales grew through word-of-mouth recommendation and book blogs until finally in 2012, news agencies identified the phenomenon driven by viral marketing. With phenomenal pace, references, spoofs, parodies, huge increases in sales of ereaders and spinoffs are appearing in a way that only social media can drive. Even sales of a piece of music referred to in the novel have increased.

50 Shades Of Grey is a huge success story with important messages:

1. It is a superb example of success of Web 2.0, user-generated content shared for peer review.

2. It is an example of a new business model with money being made from ebooks rather than physical books

3. It hints at the possibility of crowd subcultures to be understood and developed in the way the CPA model has

4. It demonstrates the entrepreneurial opportunity created by large numbers and low costs/barriers to entry

I’ve still not read the books but well done EL James!

 

Written by greencontact

July 16, 2012 at 9:20 am

Don’t get Blogged down

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Courtesy Eloqua

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We’ve all read blogs and any search in Google will probably come up with a few blog references on the front page. A huge part of the growth of Web 2.0 is about user-generated content. The barriers are down and anyone can join in. The excellent Eloqua infographic above just shows the breadth and influence of bloggers in the UK – some of these names will be familiar to you.

Blogging is growing in influence and brands and pressure groups centered around blogs are becoming more prevalent. To me as a newbie to social media the barriers to entry on blogging were far higher than other media. What would I write about? Who would read it? It is far easier to be passive with Twitter or Facebook and just observe other people. You can and do just read other people’s blogs but making your own blog an effective tool can make a significant contribution to business success.

I started blogging with a personal blog using Tumblr and really using it as a journal. I thought the look and feel of it was OK but I did realise that most of the business blogs I was looking at either had personalised urls or used other platforms. My daughter was the one who advised me that Tumblr is geared more towards images and short comments and that I should really be on a different platform. Thankfully migration tools are available and I settled on WordPress as it seemed to have good tools on the iPad as well as online. All blogging platforms these days give you a really easy interface but if you have any html skills you can certainly be more creative. What I liked about the WordPress platform was the range of free “looks” and the choice of widgets to bring it to life.

As with all social media you need to get the mission clear from the start. What role does the blog play and how does it link with all your other activity. In my mind I see the blog as the centre of my activity and so my Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn activity will occasionally signpost to it. Each posting on the personal blog creates a tweet and for this blog it creates a LinkedIn update. If I had a website I may use the blog to direct customers and prospects to it. My objective is to generate blog subscribers and reblogs first, comments and likes second and page views third.

So you have a blog created, how do you fill it? There’s no doubt that you need to be able to write. This isn’t an exercise in creative writing but readers expect punchy, interesting and original content I think. There can be a balance of original content, reblogs and links but there must be a healthy amount of original content. This can be generated by guest contributors or the workload can be spread across a range of people in your business if you are lucky enough to have the support. If you have one good writer they can edit the rough submissions of others as a ghost writer if this is easier. In my view as well the blogs posts need to be honest and heartfelt rather than over-polished advertising pieces.

Frequency is a significant challenge as we all lead busy lives and blogging is definitely a slow burner with a big payoff. You won’t get huge readership quickly unless you happen to be a celebrity or have something enormously radical to say. For the rest of us mere mortals stick with it. The pleasure of getting interaction and knowing you are being seen makes it worthwhile. Try to find a routine which results in regularly adding additional original content – weekly if you can – and then use reblogging to draw in other good material from other bloggers. When you have built up a good library of material you can also repost some of the old material – maybe with a bit of spring-cleaning first. Some other tips for getting the writing done :

1. Write when you have a good and fresh idea but don’t always post straight away. Use the options to post the blog later which are in most platforms. That way you get ahead of the game and not feel deadline pressure. Timing is also key to ensure readership. You may get your ideas late at night but your readers don’t necessarily want to read at that time. All your automatic promotion may be triggered at the time you post

2. Try testing ideas in Word first. There should be a good few ideas you discard as not strong enough and if you create in the blogging platform you’ll be tempted to publish when you shouldn’t

3. Blogging is about personality so don’t write about too restricted a topic. This gives you more subjects to go at while also making your blog a more attractive read

4. Ideas don’t always need to be long essays. Think about just posting lists, short ideas or reviews.

5. Use content you generate in other areas – for example use the Twitter feed widgets, press releases etc.

It’s then about growing the readership. Use your other Social Media platforms to signpost to the site but respect your followers by not bombarding them. You also need to think about each blog post and how you can attract people to it. The topic itself is part of it but also use the tags to make it easily searchable. If you’ve had a great idea, and you really think people will enjoy reading it, don’t be shy…advertise. Think about what other bloggers you would want to reblog your content. Read their pages and comment on their content honestly and constructively. When people comment, apart from spam (of which there is a lot), always approve the comments regardless of their support or otherwise and engage in a conversation with them. Make them know you value their contribution. You can also stimulate interaction by running polls or expressly asking for opinion in your content.

Blogging is not for everyone. If you don’t enjoy it and get it, don’t do it. It’s not compulsory but can be enormously rewarding.

Written by greencontact

July 11, 2012 at 9:45 am

A benevolent crowd

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Social Networking is driven by the fundamental benevolence in the participants and this can be immensely powerful. The desire for people to help each other encourages people to do a day’s work and then spend further hours helping out complete strangers. Consider this: The DIYDoctor.org.uk website offers advice for DIYers having problems with any project. Member plumbbob has helped out with advice over 1600 times and Sparx 2100 times. The IT community are used to sharing knowledge. When was the last time you actually called Microsoft or Apple with a problem rather than Google it or look through forums. Stackoverflow.com is ranked as the 64th most visited website in the UK (according to Alexa.com) and has a community of developers helping each other and gaining reputation points from their peers. Not far behind is TripAdvisor in 71st, a site that hosts 45m reviews of hotels, resorts, attractions and restaurants by benevolent travellers.

From a cult which began as forums the desire to share has now spawned sites dedicated to answering your questions regardless of topic: Yahoo Answers, Answers.Com, Quora.

So what is this benevolence based on? Clearly there is the fundamental desire to help. It is human nature to be charitable; to help someone in need. But much of this activity is on a low degree of urgency and displays a degree of self-interest too. Some other factors which appear prevalent are:

1. Gaming and competition. There are specialist providers who offer to “gamify” websites to drive up engagement. Web 2.0 is all about participation and engaging with the community. Think  about the number of engagements which are rewarded with badges or are stimulated by targets. WordPress itself reminds you of the next goal in terms of numbers of posts. TripAdvisor has badges for contributors set at a fairly low threshold. This is not really about rewarding loyalty but about stimulating usage. For many the objective of Twitter is to maximise followers. Across a range of Social Media platforms tools such as Klout and Peer Index attempt to rank and profile engagement.

2. Boasting. Particularly for the more technical skills there appears to be an element of wanting to be “seen” as a guru or expert in your field. In some of the forums there appears to be a little jousting between technical rivals even. The Stackoverflow website nakedly scores contributors with a reputation score based on volume and likes.

3. Companionship. For some the social media world has undoubtedly given them a voice which they would be shy to use as frequently or at the same volume in the “real” world. Engagement is not always about answering the question or solving the problem – there is a high level of empathy demonstrated.

4. Cost and time saving. Possibly the most important factor of all is the desire to reduce our costs and save time. Web 2.0 is a 24×7 world with vastly more expertise available than any one call centre. People understand that the contributions they are making are an investment for when they need help themselves. There are still huge numbers of “lurkers” who take without giving or are waiting for the problem to come along that they themselves can answer.

There is an undercurrent of manipulation emerging which sceptics have latched on to. TripAdvisor, in particular, has attracted negative publicity over “false reviews” which are either placed by owners or proprietors to boost rankings or by malevolent individuals looking to extort from them. Forums are regularly monitored or moderated by undercover suppliers. This is undoubtedly a threat to benevolence but Web 2.0 users are very savvy and can read between the lines more than ever before.

The true sign that benevolence is alive and well comes in the form of  Crowdfunding. Charity has long been successful asking for donations with no payback in support of worthwhile projects. Crowdfunding allows people to connect with projects and to contribute money to them in return for recognition or token gifts. Examples at the moment on http://www.crowdfunding.co.uk are unsigned artists looking for funding for their first album, charity projects, and political parties looking for funds for TV adverts. Similar platforms exist for businesses looking for equity. The difference is that inherent in the investment is a close relationship between funder and recipient from the start. The funder is providing the money directly to the individuals for a very specific project which they have an interest in – more Dragon’s Den than traditional sources of capital.

Photo: bridalwave.tv

Written by greencontact

February 6, 2012 at 10:46 am

Saving Canute

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The social media world is not all sunshine. The Wikipedia blackout earlier this week demonstrates the dichotomy of the Groundswell vs The Law. We could add to the chargesheet the allegations today by Neil Warnock that Twitter comments contributed to his sacking from QPR http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/football/16641490.stm, breaching of superinjunctions by Twitterers, manipulation of reviews by professional complainers on TripAdvisor or product endorsement by celebrities…the list goes on. And these provide easy targets for the sceptics. What can we do to counter the argument and what can we do to address the problems in our strategy?

I think that it is too easy to blame the messenger. Football managers have blamed former players and the Press for their demise in the past. National newspapers have run the risk of legal action in the pursuit of the truth. There have been “payola” and product placement scandals in the past. All Social Media allows is a louder voice and a larger audience – it has shifted the balance of power. What is often overestimated is the influence of  the message by assuming a naive and unquestioning crowd. We know that there will be some who take the message – fashion and newspapers are all about opinion and setting or following the trend – but the social media user is increasingly savvy. They are also inherently benevolent: alongside the desire to share is a healthy dose of openness and honesty.

There is undoubtedly a feature of the Web 2.0 which expects to have things for free (or more precisely to pay for it in different ways). This is highlighted by the enormous success of open source software such as Firefox or Linux which have developed due to the desire for software users to be free of the limitations of cost and speed of development. They have shown that the emperor is naked – there can be a different way. Sadly, the disreputable element is also evident in the copyright challenges which were at the heart of the Wikipedia blackout and the Megaupload.com closure yesterday. Yet again though it is too easy to blame the messenger – copyright theft happened long before Web 2.0 – yet again the technology has only made things easier. However, what it also highlights is the consumer demand is changing. Many people have thrived on the development of Linux – both suppliers and consumers. The big losers are the vendors of proprietary operating systems and hardware. The entertainment industry is learning. I think they are right to clamp down on blatant theft but they are also lobbying for laws which are far too draconian and could unintentionally catch some innocent bystanders in the process. Already companies like Spotify, Netflix, and Lovefilm have understood the groundswell and are developing products which more fit the lifestyle and expectations of the Web 2.0 generation – and make money at the same time.

The right strategy for dealing with the negative is to understand the underlying motivations. You can stand Canute-like on the shore waving at the sea…until you drown.

Written by greencontact

January 20, 2012 at 9:32 am