Tag Archives: social media

Appreciate it, understand? The conundrum of implementing online collaboration

I recently gave a talk about the issue of getting social media to work in a company, using weight management as a parallel. The whole idea really was to show that, not only is it an endeavour that requires many moving parts to coordinate and be driven together, but that to get it to work on the external community, the internal community cannot not participate either.

While the topic is not at all new, I actually only had two weeks to prepare my presentation. To be brutally honest, I incubate my content for a very long time before I deem it worthy to be seen by public eye, so two weeks is not a lot of time.  Because my three fellow speakers were going into fairly intense topics (strategy, business, FB contests and content), I decided that, as the opening speaker, I’ll go easy on the audience and present something fairly high-level but easy to understand.

No, they didn’t want that. They wanted practical advice, stuff you can actually put into “doing”. Good on them, I say! It’s good that they want practical, implementable advice! It’s good that people are no longer satisfied with yet another philosophical speech on why Social Media Is Good For You. Because: We Know Already Lah. Instead, they want “Yes, yes, but how do I get it to work, dammit?”

So anyway, I made my point: it’s high time to take social media from its fashionable outward-facing marketing role, and bring it back into the organization. Because it’s high time we used social media internally, as an organization tool for knowledge sharing and collaboration. That’s the bit that’s missing in Singapore that keeps us from catching up with the mature social media markets out there, overseas.

But it’s not that easy
But the problem with implementation is at least two-fold. First, there’s the usual stuff about identifying the right software, forming the project team, doing up the ITQ/tender (argh), tech specs, etc. Frankly, all the annoying, boring stuff (except maybe the first one). …. And the fact is, many people have already done this. I’ve done it before. And it didn’t work most of the time. Internal collaboration didn’t happen even when all this stuff was “implemented”. Why?

There are many reasons why. Chief of them is, why, people are still stuck with their emails of course, and unproductive habits of mailing each other Word docs to co-edit. Gosh, it’s 2013 and we’re still doing it! So much for progress! Ridonkulous! We nod at each other with chagrin, wondering why our colleagues still don’t get it. Six months later, nothing changes.

The root of the problem is a certain lack of internal practice. Two things are missing: an appreciation of the social, and the practice of social. Both are related. It’s like: it’s impossible to explain the beauty of Twitter to someone who simply refuses to use it. Even if you somehow get an approving nod at one strategic meeting where you did succeed(?) in explaining Twitter, by the next meeting, the heads that nodded have forgotten. Why? Cos they don’t use it.

It’s exactly like, oh everyone knows sugar is bad for you and you have to exercise. But how many practise that? Not many.

Now the thing is, failure to enable collaboration is not for lack of intellectual understanding. We know precisely, in descriptive terms (you know, like words in the grand Strategic Plan White Whatever Paper), Why Social Is “Good”/”The Future”/”What Your Business Needs”. But knowing the “why” does not translate into appreciation. Social needs to be appreciated. This is the missing bit. This is why 100% of everybody agrees that “collaboration” is holy and good, but only 10%* actually use it, cos that’s the percentage that appreciates it, because they actually use the damn tools.

So, what I’m telling you is that – we’re not getting anywhere in online collaboration, because we just talk, nod our heads in meetings and write papers about it. Stop that. Just do it already. Take a leap of faith – you say you know it’s good right? So just go ahead and implement it. And then you jolly well use it, bosses, managers, people and all.  I’ll have you know that I spoke to a consultant on successful implementation of online collaborative software and she and I had the same conclusion – it’s the support and leadership of management that makes the difference. We sighed in mutual understanding.

*Possibly less.

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10 Reasons Why Social Media Community Managers Are Like Common Sense

obviously-common-senseOne of the most frustrating things about being a social media or online community manager is trying to define what is the set of rules, framework, or principles by which you work with. You can do two things: you can attempt to “legislate” all that encompasses community management in some sort of rule library or bible; or you can just put it down as common sense.

“Common sense”? “That’s not acceptable – it’s too short an answer!” comes the retort, sometimes from yourself. If you can’t define it, you can’t possibly have it….. yes?

So that’s the trouble. Online community management is made up of a lot of healthy ingredients. 25% Trust, 20% Credibility, 12% Leaps of Faith, 15% Just Do It and 24% (at least) Common Sense, with 5% trace elements.

Wait, isn’t that more than 100%?  Yeah, because it feels that way most of the time.

So here they are:

10 reasons why social media community managers are like common sense.

  1. Like common sense, social media community managers are actually (you guessed it) uncommon.
  2. The more you try to wrap rules around them, the more they break down.
  3. You can count on common sense, but you can’t count it.
  4. Often when you try to count it, it makes no sense.
  5. Best learned through making mistakes. (That’s common sense).
  6. When you meet someone else who gets it, it feels surreal, like realizing you aren’t actually the last of your species.
  7. Everyone believes they are an expert in common sense. But the moment you call yourself a guru, you lose it.
  8.  When you attend a talk on it, you find that it’s all – common sense.
  9. You get it, and then you have to deal with people who don’t get it.
  10. When a social media community manager dies, there is no funeral, because everyone knew common sense died long ago.

(Hey but we’re still here, right? :)

Nuclear power is just like social media

nuclearI was munching on my lunch while reading this io9.com article – “Nuclear power will kill fewer people than natural gas“. Basically, NASA scientists Pushker A. Kharecha and James E. Hansen say that nuclear energy leads to fewer pollution-related deaths and greenhouse gas emissions compared with fossil-fuel sources.

The argument is simple: the ongoing pollution caused by burning fossil fuels is much more dangerous than the problems caused by nuclear power, objectively speaking.  Using nuclear power prevents more fossil fuel-related deaths than fossil fuel pollution causes.

Here’s another good article about this: Fossil fuels: Deadlier than nuclear radiation. Look at the death figures for the coal industry.

WAIT! This article is not about whether this is true.

This article is about how nuclear power is like social media. Both hold great promises for their proponents and users. Both promise to generate tremendous results. Fossil fuels are like traditional marketing – you can generate results too and you can’t live without them, but the cost is high and there’s a lot of wastage.

Nuclear power has its inherent risks – that core meltdown that one hopes never happens. Social media crises are often also described with the same term, a meltdown. It seems the promise of quick wins also holds the risk of a major crisis.

In theory, if handled properly, such a meltdown is very rare. The benefits of social media are worth it in the long term. Nuclear power advocates say the same thing. The argument in the above article is that fossil fuel pollution is far worse – in part because the damage is guaranteed and sustained.

Societies use fossil fuels because it is an old habit. Same with traditional marketing. Nuclear power is used by those who are maybe considered more risk-averse, forward-thinking, or plain desperate for energy – but viewed by others as risky. Social media? Same – companies that use social media are often considered more forward-thinking, more willing to experiment, or they simply must have the attention.

You can stick with fossil fuels, but the long-term future is catastrophic for the environment. Traditional marketing too – you can continue to use it, and it will still be helpful to your bottom line, but it is arguably less competitive compared to social media marketing.

So which makes more sense? A powerful modern solution with a rare chance of disaster, or a costly solution that is tried-and-tested but cost-inefficient?

Assessing the me that’s assessing you – social media insights and privacy

Terminator Vision Mugging Suitability Profiling

Of late, privacy has been in the news. For example, Google Glass is being questioned over how it would affect privacy. A cafe in Seattle has already banned it.

Actually, privacy has always been an issue since the rise of social media . We’ve all read the stories, but that’s not where I’m going with this post.

We talk about assessing social media performance. But it’s not like we’re assessing a motor engine. We’re assessing the activity, the interactions and even the sentiments of what sentient people are saying.

We’re assessing people and they probably don’t realize it. Our dashboards are saying so-and-so are “influencers” because the system looked at their public blog, Flickr and Twitter accounts and see that there’s a connection and they talk a lot about our brand. Fine if it’s positive, troublesome if not.

I might be over-reacting. Of course when people praise or complain about a brand, there’s a good chance they do want to be noticed. But for them it’s a sort of social, transient interaction on the surface. I bet most of these people do not realize many companies and their social media vendors are also putting down their postings and identities in reports to management. For good, or for whatever.

Did I say it’s ok to assess me?
As social media enthusiasts and workers in this field, we sometimes forget we are also being archived and examined. This post will soon be visited by search engine bots and archived at some point, for example. Personally I don’t mind that, I even intend it. I’m consciously aware it will happen. Whereas many people out there don’t think about this aspect of being on social media – that you’re not just being read on the page, but also turned into insights, analysed for sentiment, counted for virality and even put into monthly reports.

The standard argument is that – you posted it in public, so it’s free for companies to data-mine. Is it? Maybe the terms are in the TOS I never read. :)

Is 70% of the truth, truth?
One question worth pondering about is the issue of sentiment analysis accuracy. To date, some 4-5 years++ after sentiment analysis became active in mainstream businesses, the accuracy remains less than 100%. Much less in fact. Some recent writers suggest even 70% accuracy is considered an optimistic ratio, and that is the realistic ceiling.

I personally think 70% is not only not accurate, but it’s also just a number. A number trying to measure the accuracy of something trying to objectively measure something subjective. In other words, I am highly tempted to say this number is just as airy.

OK, but that’s actually not the point here. The point is this: if say sentiment analysis and other social media measurement tools are not entirely accurate, just how much of the assessment of what people say or do online is “accurate”?

What if a sarcastically positive tweet I made is interpreted as positive in sentiment when I meant it to be negative, and this is reported in some brand’s report to management as “positive”? And product/service decisions are made based on this reading? The end result is that the company might believe it is doing a good job, whereas customers do not think so. Is this not unlike how some middle managers filter their reports to upper management to make it look like they’re doing a good job?

Sentiment Analyzing Self
Let’s bring this back to us: so we who have to prepare social media assessment reports to our managers need to take care. You are not just handling computerized insights – you are handling real people, and their sentiments.   You are an agent of sentiment and veracity – what you report can be construed as putting words in people’s mouth and that’s a huge responsibility. So, when you put on your assessor glasses, don’t forget to assess yourself.