Facebook as a quick and dirty corporate collaboration tool. It Depends.

On the face of it, Facebook groups would seem like one of those cheap, quick, and effective ways to build quick cross-enterprise communities. Set up a group, invite attendees, guide the non-users in how to establish an account, and then control membership.

The alternatives would be a paid account like 37Signal’s most excellent Basecamp, but that is less quick and less dirty than a Facebook group, which to my eyes has a lot in common with the Web 1.0 world of Yahoo Groups. One could also think about any number of wiki solutions, but let’s say the requirements come down to an virtual team room for a collection of four to 400, heck 4,000 users all united in some cause that requires a fast, familiar, and cheap platform.

Facebook would meet that bill except for one vital detail: not everybody can use it.

It’s blocked, along with some other social networks, by many corporate network admins. Right there game over. I was pretty surprised to be in a meeting today, to hear Facebook proposed, and then watch it get shot down in less than one minute as first one, then two, then three seriously senior IT people said their organization’s blocked Facebook. I would argue that no big deal, the platform was, after all, designed for college kids to check each other before attempting a hookup. Having old farts and suits invade it as an enterprise collaboration system was not its intention.

So, the old issue of cross-organizational collaboration is still with us. How would you solve it? Rules are: open platform, open APIs, no fee, no onerous set-up. Needs a file sharing/library including rich media hosting. Must be secure.


All Things Cahill – Shark Jumping?

All Things Cahill » Blog Archive » Social Media – Shark Jumping?

Jeremiah’s Tweet that Avenue A has trademarked “social influence marketing” prompted me to ask rhetorically if the shark had been jumped. My good buddy Mark Cahill posted:

“What I am finding is that most of the people I am finding in my general circle on Twitter are social media types. That’s to say, folks that attend a lot of conferences, and have generally drank fully of the social media Kool-Aid. The thing that calls it all into question for me is the number of people who are generally ex-online marketing folks now using strange titles like “Social Media User Guru” or something equally ludicrous. It reminds me of a networking group I once attended that turned out to be a room full of sales people, each hoping to sell something, and none realizing there weren’t any real customers there.”

Amen Mark. Lots of sharks chasing very few fish I think.

Corporate employee blogs: Lawsuits waiting to happen?

Corporate employee blogs: Lawsuits waiting to happen? | Tech news blog – CNET News.com
Tip of the hat to Chris Kobran for this del.icio.us link to a recent CNET story about a Cisco patent dude getting sued by some patent attorneys after the Cisco guy uncloaked his anonymous authorship of a personal blog about patent stuff:

“Cisco said it still believes “common sense” should be a guiding force for employees sharing information online, but it also added the following rule to its three-year-old Internet postings policy: “If you comment on any aspect of the company’s business or any policy issue the company is involved in where you have responsibility for Cisco’s engagement, you must clearly identify yourself as a Cisco employee in your postings or blog site(s) and include a disclaimer that the views are your own and not those of Cisco.”

Seems pretty clear to me what the dominant rule is: blog about whatever you want on your own time, but if you talk about the company you identify yourself as an employee. Sames goes for company related comments on other blogs, editing of corporate, competitor or industry related Wiki entries, forum postings, bathroom graffiti …..

Does Your Company Have a Blogging Policy?

Web Worker Daily » Archive Open Thread: Does Your Company Have a Blogging Policy? «
I know it is in vogue to say “feh” to blog policies and focus more on blog strategies, but this post on GigaOm’s WebWorkerDaily provokes a $64,000 question:

“What comprises an effective blogging policy? How do you go about developing such a policy? Do employers have authority in dictating what an employee blogs about, given the company’s name is never mentioned? [emphasis mine] Do you know if your company has a blogging policy? If so, is it too restrictive?”

The question is more accurately stated as: do employers have authority in dictating what an employee blogs about on a personal blog, given the company’s name is never mentioned?”

I say no way. No authority. If an employee wants to blog about some heinous activity or state some very radical opinions that is entirely their free right to express those opinions as their own. I do believe a company has a right to request that an employee blogger not blog about work on a personal platform, or, if they do, to insure that the Golden Rule of Cross Examination applies, to wit: “Would you want what you said or wrote read back to you by the plaintiff’s attorney when you were sitting in the witness stand.” I would imagine most confidentiality agreements and intellectual property covenants that are de rigeur for new employees would be binding.
In other words, blogging about work on a personal blog and saying, “Man, working like a dog on a big project. Sucks the vending machine is out of Cheetos” is a lot different than saying, “I think the new Gonkalator project is going down the tubes fast. It’s a shame, we invested so much money in that and to see it die is really sad.”

I mentioned Lenovo here from time to time. I actually blog about the company to give it some link love. I try to be a good corporate citizen here. But, I always go back to the late Tony Churbuck’s advice after I was caught mooning the M/V East Chop one summer afternoon in 1976 from the deck of my sailboat somewhere near Horseshoe Shoal (the captain recognized my boat, and I worked for the same company, I was not known then, as now, for my good discretion). The old gent said: “Buddy: Never $*%& where you eat.”

Mooning Amtrak

Customers Should Avoid Community Software Vendor Lock In: Own your data

Customers Should Avoid Community Software Vendor Lock In: Own your data

Jeremiah is right — a company entering into SMM should be very wary of outsourced relationships. If you do go outside for support, make sure you are in a portable format so when and if you decided to bring the operation in house, you can easily import the data accumulated under the outsourced relationship:

“I’ve been talking to more and more companies that are creating their own corporate communities around their brand. For the most part, they lean on the SaaS models that the white label social network, collaboration, or even insight community vendors provide. While it certainly makes sense for marketers to lean on application service providers (it’s all setup, ready to roll, without the hassle of dealing with internal IT) and a decent to moderate price.”

We used Ogilvy Digital Influence to launch our first corporate blogs, but insisted it be build atop WordPress so we could migrate the archives onto our own boxes when we hit the tipping point that justified a self-serve. Photos are all in Flickr and easily exported and migrated (well, not exactly “easy”), videos are moving to YouTube.

Verge ’08

In NYC today for the Ogilvy Verge conference — a one-day digital discussion for Ogilvy’s partners and clients.

Highlight was a late afternoon panel of John Battelle from Federated Media, John Bell from Ogilvy’s Digital Influence Project, Nick Denton of Gawker and Owen Van Natta of Facebook. No bon mots spring to mind, but the key insight was delivered by Battelle and confirmed by Denton — essentially, the current digital model of impression based media is not going to survive, that some new media model is required and has been lacking for over a decade, and that in the end the mostly likely place it will be found is in Social Media.

Battelle recounted a Dell campaign run in Facebook — seemed semi-interesting, but not earth shattering. Bell called out the move from 101 SMM to 201 and AP level discourse on the finer points. Indeed, moderator Polly LaBarre basically told the crowd of mostly clients that if they haven’t gotten the “transparent, authentic, marketing-is-a-conversation memo” then they were essentially under a rock.

Bell is working with me on a very cool Olympic play I’ll disclose next week. I don’t feel compelled to rush into Facebook anytime soon, and as for Federated — we shall see.

Planning session tomorrow morning, working lunch, then back to the Cape of Cod where it looks, but doesn’t feel, like spring.

Social Media 201

I guess I stepped in the big cow-pie last week when I called out the SMM Pundits for overworking the elementary level of social media discourse – “be authentic!” “be transparent!” “it’s a conversation!” – as 101 Thumbsuckers. Now I am officially Mister SmartyPants 201 and feel compelled to play the part of know-it-all weenie. I guest blogged on a sample “201” topic for Jeremiah Owyang at Forrester on how to avoid blowing a corporate policy through a private action. I also threatened to give Jeremiah a list of example topics I want to see more discussion on. Here we go. In the Kawasakian Tradition of Blog Lists: here are ten random things that I don’t see a lot of discussion about:

  1. Tool and platforms: what tools a corporation uses for its social media platform says volumes about its credibility. I look at the footers: Is it a WordPress blog? Do they use Flickr for their photos? Do they license those photos as Creative Commons 2.5? Do they use MediaWiki for their wiki platform? Do they launder their feeds through Feedburner? Are there Digg and del.icio.us tagging tools? There are smart tools which to me indicate a deep understanding of certain basic precepts crucial to effective SMM. Are the tools favored by the organization also widely adopted by users or did the company seek a commercial vendor relationship and non-standard proprietary tools? Is an agency supporting and providing sysadmin functions?
  2. Pronouns: I have a bug up my you-know-what about the overuse of the Royal We in addressing one’s audience. Am I alone in viewing “we” as an attempt to dilute personal accountability for an organization’s actions? How many corporate SMM, community managers take accountability and responsibility on their shoulders by using “me” and “I?”
  3. Metrics: this is a 101 topic that is a 301 headache. SMM has no Internet Advertising Bureau or Web Analytics Association to codify a set of uniform measurements, and as all of us have to bow to the God of Accountability, how ROI is proven is going to be debated forever and ever. Let’s get off the “engagement” thing and go to the next level. Is it comment counts? Rank and influence? Pageviews and gross tonnage? Net Promoter Scores gathered through surveys?
  4. Rogue SMM: what do you do when a member of the organization launches into a blog brawl by stepping into a customer’s comments and says, “Blow it out your #$%, you have no idea what you are talking about you whiny $*%#%$@!” How can you manage the unmanageable? How do you keep you employees from editing the Wikipedia entry for your brand? What do you do when legal and security ask you to help them track down the identity of an anonymous employee blogger who is leaking company secrets? How do you educate rather than discipline?
  5. How to do SMM/SEO right: how do you promote favorable expressions about your brand and should you? When is it ethical to promote a piece of social media (e.g. “Digging”) and when is it unethical? (demoting a negative comment or flagging a negative comment as “objectionable” without identifying yourself. Knocking off hats to draw attention to yourself (something I a good at, it would appear.)
  6. Going Uplevel: what are your escalation paths? When do you pull the fire alarm? When do you declare Code Red and ask for all hands on deck in resolving an SMM crisis? Have you established crisis “service level agreements” with the legal and PR teams? Is there a formal mechanism for bringing an issue to the attention of an owner and getting a public statement out within a reasonable amount of time?
  7. Organizational Ownership: where does SMM belong? Customer service? Marketing? Public relations? All three?
  8. One vs many: a single corporate blog or many? How does SMM loosen control without losing control over the organization’s burgeoning ranks of bloggers? Where do you drawn the line between corporate and personal blogs.
  9. Review mechanism and buddy systems: how do your SMM statements (blog posts, forum discussions) get vetted and approved? Should they? How do you make your bloggers sensitive to the “RSS is eternal” phenomenon so that there is no such thing as a “deleted” post. Do you use a buddy system.
  10. The politics of being a know-it-all: okay, you’re the authority. You’ve done the Social Media 101 stuff, you’ve read the books, you went to the conference, you have all the right pundits in your RSS. You can b.s. about transparency and Marketing 2.0 and the ClueTrain with the best of them. You get your wish and now you’re the SMM person. How do you deal with those less enlightened recesses of the organization that view you as a loose cannon? Who do you threaten? How do you navigate the shoals of internal politics?

I could do ten more – throwing out topics is easy — delivering something substantial and actionable is another issue altogether. If 101 is theory and broad practice, 201 is operations and execution, the sort of stuff you’re going to stumble into as you go along. Dealing with customers and partners, critics and competitors – that stuff is either natural or it isn’t. Writing a solid corporate Social Media Marketing strategy document, knowing the difference between it and an SMM policy document, building a strong operation without paying hundreds of thousands of dollars in licenses and agency fees …. That’s SMM 201. I’ll try to tackle one of these every week – amidst posts about clams, the King Phillip War, sculling, and interactive/digital marketing. And, in the spirit of 101 advice, always end your blog posts with a call to action to your audience: tell me what is on your mind.

When employees blog and comment off the farm

Here’s a conundrum for which there is no answer: what do you do when an employee decides, on their own, to go off and comment on a customer’s blog and a) disagree with them, b) divulge incorrect information, or c) opens an “anonymous” blog of their own and begins to talk     about life inside the organization?

From editing Wikipedia to commenting on customer blogs to launching their own blog, I predict the next great issue, in corporate blog policies will be how to stem the tide and reputational risk factor of employees who decide to engage with the world at large on their own terms. I have no issue with a disgruntled employee or ex-employee grinding an axe in public – that sort of thing is inevitable. But how do you let the body politic know there is a mechanism and a policy for getting the word out there and connecting to customers?

PR people never had to worry about someone in manufacturing issuing their own press release. Social Media Marketing teams, in effect, do.

Facebook’s snail mail and social network fatigue

Why do I get notifications from Facebook about 48 hours after the event occurs (invitation from a friend, etc.)? Amazingly stupid to act on an invite and then two days later, like a bad echo, get a useless email informing me that it all went down.

In general, being an antisocial kind of guy, the social networking fad is just that, a passing fad for me that hasn’t really lit me up in any meaningful way. Among the casualties:

  • LinkedIn feels like being a member of the Rotary Club. Random head hunters pinging about opportunities in Kuala Lumpur. Vendors looking at me like a trussed turkey. SEO consultants, lead gen spammers.
  • Facebook: okay, FunWall, Scrabulous, Flixster, and every other application that I have been invited to install? Compare my movie taste with Bill Clinton? Well, in order to do so, for some reason, Facebook and these apps think it is cool to check off the box next to each and every person in my friends list so I can “invite” them to check out the app. This is turning me into a spammer and I hate it.
  • Plaxo: this is the ultimate spam engine for torturing friends. What started as a semi-useful tool to let people know about a change of address or cell phone number is now an instrument of inbox torture.
  • Long-tail networks: look at the post below. Ergscores.com. Cool site, lets me file my ergometer scores and then mashes them up on a map and publishes the scores on this blog. Only problem, Concept2 has a six year head start on my data — and I can’t unlock it.

Problems aside, I think Google’s Open Social initiative is on the right track — give me some permeability between social nets and their functional value will sky rocket — wall me in with a close system and it’s back to the knuckle-dragging days of Prodigy, AOL, and CompuServe.

And we know how that turned out.

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