If you had a great reputation as an expert in something, you probably worked hard to earn it. Doesn’t matter if its computers or cooking.
What if that reputation didn’t matter? What if every place you went was like the first day of school? You had to start over to build your street cred.
Just imagine, you work for MegaCorp and you are MegaCorp’s resident expert in say, invisible widget design. Inside the four walls of MegaCorp, noone was allowed to develop invisible widgets without following your guidelines. And, because of your rockstardom in invisible widget design, the company’s culture was to not even think about invisible widget design without at least bouncing their idea off of you. For you, life’s pretty good at MegaCorp.
Now, imagine MegaCorp is bought by a rival. The rival has some really smart experts from Sweden you’d love to collaborate with, dream come true, right?
So what if none of the work you’ve done at MegaCorp can be accessed by the Swedes? What if they can’t verify your bleeding edge work? What if they have to simply take your word?
Worse yet, what if because you can’t be vetted as an expert, you can’t get access to the Swede’s email or phone list? Nobody will give it to you. The Swedes are very protective of their experts.
You can’t find them and they don’t even know you exist. So, you work and work and work to make contact and work some more to prove you are as smart as they are. After all, all you want to do is collaborate, right? Well, after a lot of hard work, you achieve your goal and the Swedes will talk to you. Shortly after all of this, you learn of a new Ninja Master in invisible widgets. He’s in Japan. Again, you reach out to introduce yourself and invite him to work with you and the Swedes on the next new thing…Nano Widgets, invisible of course.
The Japanese Ninja Master of Invisible Widgets has never heard of either you or the Swedes. Not interested unless you can prove to him you are worthy. So, you start again.
From him, you hear of a conference in Moscow on the very topics you know cold. Keynoting is a must and should be a lay-up.
The conference organizers have never heard of you. So you offer up some referrals but the conference organizers have never heard of either the Swedes or the Japanese Ninja Master. Feel free to come and listen but no access to the real thought leaders, all of which are from Brazil, Canada and of course, Luxemburg they tell you. You go, but you are sure you won’t get as much out of the conference as you might have otherwise if you’d be recognized as an expert.
After a while you are spending as much time reinventing your reputation as you do plying your trade. It gets tiresome and frankly isn’t worth it, so you retreat from new places where you aren’t recognized and just interact with your small community of peers…who know you and you them.
This somewhat silly example isn’t really so silly. It spotlights the very real weakness of today’s social sphere. Today, reputation isn’t portable beyond the four walls of any community and that’s the social web’s Achilles’ heel. A SME (Subject Matter Expert may recognized as an expert in one place but not another).
Right now, the social web is essentially a large group of city states with roads in between. Sure, you can travel from one community and website to another but rarely if ever, the reputation you work so hard to develop in one doesn’t really follow you anywhere you might want to go. See the problem?
And, reputation within any group of users is increasingly important. Why?
Would any of you click on a blog or forum reply that says ‘Here is a better way:
Back to my MegaCorp example. Imagine the above imaginary link I share is posted in a forum for Brazilian experts in Widgets who focuses entirely on pushing the envelope in Invisible Widget design. The link takes you to a video of a question you posed to a speaker at the Russian Conference you attended and the bleeding edge conversation that ensued between yourself and the keynote speaker in which he took notes.
Imagine the video was posted by one of the Brazilian experts who was there and by clicking on his name, you were able to see a universally accepted profile, with all the appropriate ‘merit badges’ he’s earned over the life of his career and the opinions of others (a lot like you see in LinkedIn) you’d probably be a lot more comfortable in clicking a link you don’t recognize.
Being able to quickly quantify someone’s expertise and value would make the social web a much more effective collaborative environment.
Incredible advances are currently being made in the areas of social web Listening and metrics. However, reputation portability innovation is sorely lacking.
It needs to be a focus for the web to stay on track as a useful, healthy and safe place to collaborate for all users.
I have a friend who started his career almost 30 years ago as a journalist. Today, he is a PR professional who isn’t quite convinced that the world of journalism and marketing has been fundamentally changed by the onslaught of social media. I have one word for him: BLAGO!
I live in Chicago, which sits in Illinois, the “brown-bag-over-the-citizens’-heads” state Almost more than any other place except perhaps Louisiana, our politicians are regularly charged with corruption and do the perp walk straight to prison. Whether that is the fate of our impeached and recently convicted Governor Blagojevich remains to be seen.
His recent conviction on one count of lying to the feds and the hung jury on the remaining 20+ counts is the country’s side show and our three ring circus! Local Chicago media lead with the story every day and cover it in every granular detail. Jury consultants and trial jury members practically have their own TV shows and radio slots. The national news is beginning to ebb but for the most part the online news media has become the BLAGOsphere.
The most interesting journalistic phenomenon to emerge from all the coverage was the new media definition of man-on-the-street interviews. The other morning, one local network affiliate threw the trial coverage to a reporter who was getting reactions from the locals. The set-up for the piece was something like, “And, now Susie Sunshine has reaction from Illinois residents. She’s on the plaza in front of our Michigan Avenue news center.”
Imagine my surprise when the camera cut to Susie. She was indeed on the street, but not standing next to real people ready to opine. Instead, she was in front of a news van. On it’s hood, she had balanced a laptop open to the station’s Facebook page. She proceeded to run her finger under posts as she read them aloud. After reciting four comments, she proudly proclaimed, “And that’s how our local citizens view yesterday’s verdict.”
Wow. That’s the newest school version of the man on the street interview I have seen to date. I think the fourth estate has officially entered the fifth dimension. I wonder what my old school journalist pal thinks.
I love cupcakes and gleefully embraced the cupcake phase over the last few years. I sought out the best in my home town of Chicago and tried many places and many different kinds of cupcakes. A persnickety friend of mine, whose opinion on food I value, recommended a wonderful, homey spot called Sweet Mandy Bs, which is right in my Lincoln Park neighborhood. It offers wonderful cupcakes with a fine, velvety crumb and yummy butter cream icing that reminds of the stuff my mom made for our birthdays. Sweet Mandy Bs became my standard for a great cupcake experience.
When I travel, I try different cupcakes. Cooking magazines and reviews are my guide for where and what to try. While none quite measure up, it is a fun pursuit. And, since cupcakes are somewhat ubiquitous, it is easy to experiment along the way.
From time to time, the “celebrity rags” show a star eating a cupcake, usually from Sprinkles Bakery in Beverly Hills. The cupcakes look beautiful and I always wanted to try one. One day, a friend forwarded a link heralding the imminent arrival of Sprinkles in Chicago. Cool…I couldn’t wait!
The hype for the opening of the Sprinkles Cupcake Bakery in Chicago was deafening. It was suppose to open last spring a few blocks from my office, but ended up debuting a few weeks ago. I kept walking by the location to see if I could try one of their sweet morsels only to be greeted by construction barriers and piles of debris. Not very appetizing.
Then about a week before its opening, a well-oiled publicity machine cranked out coverage befitting of a Cubs pennant victory. On opening weekend, coupons for a free cupcake went viral. The wait to get in the front door was 4 hours. Really. I don’t care how good the cake, I wouldn’t wait. Fast forward a few weeks. We were having a late summer pot luck dinner for the ComBlu crew at our house. Someone volunteered to bring cupcakes. And, of course, we had to try Sprinkles. Believe it or not, there are still lines, but now with only 10-12 people. I heard through the grapevine, that the way to beat the lines is to have a dozen or so delivered. Perfect. We ordered a few dozen, but were stunned to have to pay $15 for the delivery. Zappos will ship my shoes cross country for free (and back again if I want) and I had to pay $15 delivery charge for cupcakes from a bakery a few blocks away.
I wish I could say it was worth it! In a word, they sucked. The texture of the cake was more like country bread than cake and had a heavy feel in the mouth. Worse, they had a strange after taste. I sampled little bites of several flavors and the story was the same. In fairness, the icings weren’t too bad.
To me, Sprinkles is another classic example of a brand that has buzz with little long term positive talk value. Buzz does a great job of generating awareness and stimulating trial. For sustained value, the brand needs more. In this instance, a product that tastes as good as it looks. Brands need to engage after igniting the initial awareness flare or be stuck in a cycle of constantly needing new fireworks.
If you think about my cupcake saga, I was so ready to engage and be a customer over time. I love the product category (cupcakes); I am willing to try new cupcake experiences (my travels); I knew about the particular brand (publicity) and was predisposed to try (sought them out several times before I could finally actually experience them.) I was an advocate waiting to happen! And I am, but for Sweet Mandy Bs. They are the best. I recommend them constantly. I purchase from them all the time and several of the people to whom I recommended them, also spread the word. The bakery gives me “surprise and delight” goodies from time to time and recognizes my value. Most importantly, they never disappoint. Their product deserves its great reputation. They don’t have the hype of Sprinkles, but they don’t need it
Next time you’re in Chicago, give Sweet Mandy B’s a try. Tell them Kathy sent you.
Like any good party, there is a period of anticipation, which then leads to excitement and if it’s really a good fling, exuberance (sometimes irrational) which can last till the wee hours, which inevitably is followed by one of two morning after thoughts:
1. “What the hell was I thinking. ” Which usually translates into ‘that is going to cost me.’
2. ‘”Wow, that was fun, I’m glad I did that.” Which usually translates into ‘that will pay off for me.’
Choice number one or number two depends on how irrational the exuberance was.
The tech bubble party led to one giant hangover. It was one wild party. Trust me, I was there and saw it first hand….eCompany Now’s launch party renting out Candlestick Park and hiring the hottest Top 40 band around for 750 people is a great example (but it sure was fun!).
Sure, we recovered but it took a while. Some lessons were learned. Sometimes you have to go on a real bender and suffer the morning after consequences to learn these lessons.
Social is experiencing some of that morning after right now. However, unlike tech’s ‘What the hell was I thinking’ thought, social has woken up with a smile. You see, social’s party, fun as it’s been was a bit more responsible.
A year ago, ComBlu began compiling it’s first State of Online Branded Communities report. There were a lot of brands trying social on and in all sorts of ways, which was sort of the problem. It was a little chaotic. Lots of experiments lacking any real cohesive strategy and lots of ghost towns. Newly minted relics of the ‘build it and they will come mindset.
Unfortunately, at the time, nobody either thought of or was convinced that a community dedicated to one niche activity and brand (to take a look at who some of these were, click here) would cause consumers to abandon their current trusted, broader social resources and start all over within their walled garden and such a stand alone tactic wasn’t the best idea. You see community isn’t a place but a concept and a promise. It must not exist in one place but many. Early on, this concept was lost or ignored, as the party was on a tear. Today, we are a little wiser.
As summer winds down and we are compiling our research findings of the second annual report, we see a different picture. Responsibility is prevailing and results have dramatically improved. Social is a bonafide business strategy; if done correctly and more and more people are adopting proven best practices and developing disciplined processes. Today, social is proving to be as important as CRM and Product Development in sustaining profitability and market share.
Here’s a simple example of what I mean. Overall, we see this being manifested with fewer and fewer meaningless buzzwords taking root. Of course there are still a number of consultants that sell based on buzzwords and convincing clients that this is all net-new and they are the only resource capable of navigating such unknown waters.
However, in large part, social is speaking the language of business.
It took tech a lot longer to figure this out. Remember ‘The Old Economy is Dead, long live the New Economy’?
Today we see people talking about ‘sCRM’ or social crm and BI or Business Intelligence. Interestingly, it’s simply a social and collaborative version of the CRM best practices in place since the mid-1990’s. BI has been important for quite a while. Or take ‘Listening’. Prevalent but not really a buzz word, just a descriptor that any 70 year old board member should be able to wrap their head around. Lastly, I hear less ‘next killer app’ language in social and with less frequency, which tends to lead me to believe we are focused on making what we’ve got work.
This is all good news. Social adopting business terms means social is adopting business philosophies (which exclude give everything away for free and simply drive eyeballs in volume for endless VC dollars or an IPO). Social is also in love with measurement and usually, measurement shines a light on performance and we see social’s metrics and KPI’s starting to creep toward those seen on the balance sheet.
Within a number of market segments, we see customer engagement assets growing more robust. We also see the evolution, albeit glacial speed, of campaigns as a tactic within long term engagement instead of the defacto-standard. We still have a long way to go here but social is helping to speed this process…which in the end is good for everybody.
So all in all, good progress for only the morning after, don’t you think?
As we work to compile our second annual ‘State of Online Branded Communities’ report, I am sure there will be more on this topic before we release it.
I’ve always loved the phrase “Grandmother Research.” It’s a casual approach to gathering input about a topic of interest. The person conducting the survey asks everyone they know about the topic and then forms a point of view that reflects common wisdom. Not very scientific, but probably a good indicator of opinion trends among people you know and trust.
My personal Grandmother Research today is around the topic of social marketing and its adoption among major corporations. I’ve formed an opinion based upon experience in the marketplace and numerous conversations with other practitioners of the art. The common wisdom among this group is this: the sophistication of social marketing is rapidly evolving as the market becomes less experimental and more strategic and integrated in their approach.
Here are five emerging topics that we find interesting and encouraging:
At ComBlu, we’re excited about this new level of discussion. In fact, much of it coincides with the current work that we’re doing. Part of my Grandmother Research indicates that our growth will come in these very areas. To handle this, we’re always looking for smart people and feel blessed to have just added one such professional, Dawn Lacallade, to the ComBlu team.
As an expert in community strategy, advocate activation, social engagement and social media, Dawn brings added firepower to ComBlu. Her forte is building healthy, thriving on-line communities and integrating social media into the marketing mix.
Before joining ComBlu, Dawn was head of Social Media and Community at Solar Winds, a Network Management Software Company. In that role, she was instrumental in embedding community experience throughout the product lifecycle from innovation to support. Prior to Solar Winds, Dawn held several community positions at Dell, including Manager-Dell Ideastorm and Manager–Dell Community Forums, where she led the evolution from the focus on support forums to a broader integrated community strategy.
As a recognized thought leader in the on-line community space, Dawn is a frequent speaker at industry conferences including Community 2.0 conferences (3 times), WOMMA Summit, Microsoft High Tech Summit, Google Product Management Leadership Summit, Social Media Breakfast, e-Business Conference and guest speaker on multiple webinars. Dawn is one of the founding members of the Community Roundtable and a member of the Social Media Breakfast and the Social Media Club.
Dawn is great; I even think my grandmother will like her!