At Social Business Summit

A busy day last Thursday at the Dachis Group’s Social Business Summit London 2012, courtesy of a much-appreciated invite from the ever-indefatigable Dave Gray.

An interesting day, too – not least because of the parallels and differences compared to my more usual haunt of the ‘big-picture’ end of enterprise-architectures. Hmm…

Anyway, looking at my notebook, I probably took some thirty pages of scrawled handwritten notes, but for here I’ll do a brief summary of impressions from the day, and then maybe follow-up some specific items in other posts.

First up was Sandy Carter of IBM. In one word? – impressed. This was someone who really knows her stuff, really knows how social works – and knows how to hold back on the sales-pitch, too. She came out with a useful acronym for social-business assessment, AGENDA:

  • A – Align organisational goals and culture
  • G – Gain social trust
  • E – Engage through experiences
  • N – Network your business-process
  • D – Design for reputation [‘something’ – I can’t read my own scrawl here…]
  • A – Analyse your data

She gave real-world case-studies for each of these, which was really helpful. One example, which raised a wry laugh from the audience, was a CEO of a large organisation whose board had “decided that we’ll opt-out of this ‘social’ stuff” – and then discovered the hard way that they, uh, couldn’t…

As Sandy said, in the present context, it’s far more risky to not engage in social-media. She suggested a three-pronged approach to preparation for the inevitable social-media incidents and PR-disasters:

  1. Have a plan and a team – develop an explicit disaster-recovery plan
  2. Be proactive and fast
  3. Be transparent with two-way dialogue – and don’t try to manipulate, because it will backfire…

She also gave some useful examples of social-analytics: such as that the #1 influencers for energy-drinks turn out not to be athletes, but gamers, who need the energy for all-night gaming-sessions – a point which lead to a rapid repositioning of marketing by the company that discovered this!

Next up was Christine Spivey Overby, from Forrester, talking about ‘Marketing To the Always Addressable Customer’. In two words? – Oh dear… To be fair, she’s Forrester’s specialist on interactive-marketing, rather than social-business as such, but I’ll have to say that this was my prime example (of several) about how not to do social. I’ll have to do a separate post on this, I think.

After that, as a very pleasant contrast, was Paul Richards, from Royal Bank of Scotland, on ‘Reflections on Driving Social Business Adoption in a Large Company’. In one word? – Yes. A very good illustration of how to roll out what some people would still call ‘Enterprise 2.0’: an organisation-wide collaborative workspace.

A couple of key points stood out. One was the wry remark that “we’ve never mandated its use – but you know it’s working [i.e. succeeding] when people yell at us when it’s not there” – which seems to me to be a very good test for engaged adoption.

The other comment was about the role of the ‘Technology Services’ unit within RBS: its explicit focus was “on the place where information, people and process intersect”, and on behaviour and culture-change. That’s very different from the technology-centric approach mandated in TOGAF and most other current ‘enterprise’-architecture frameworks – and very important, too, as was their emphasis on the need to support two-way conversation, in contrast to the ‘one-way broadcast’ structure of their existing (and under-utilised) intranet.

Overall, sure, it’s not glitzy, not exactly state-of-the-art, not ‘customer-centric’ etcetera, but instead a really solid, concrete, practical implementation of social-media principles within the organisation’s own everyday operations. Nice.

After a break (and another brief reappearance of Sandy Carter), we had two of my social-business heroes, Nilofer Merchant, on ‘Thriving in the Social Era’, and Dave Gray of Dachis Group, on ‘The Connected Company’, largely introducing his upcoming book of the same name. In some ways it was all familiar ground for me – Nilofer from her HBR blog-posts and her own website, and Dave Gray from his prolific output on Google+ – but in any case it was a real privilege and pleasure to meet them in person. In three words? – they get it. ‘Nuff said, really – go check out their work on the links above.

Somewhat later, it was the turn of Simon Andrews of marketer addictive, on ‘SoLoMo – the Sweet Spot for Brands?’. [SoLoMo = Social, Local, Mobile] In one word? – ouch… I don’t know what it is about marketers, but every one of them who presented at this conference was still trying to do classic push-marketing in a social-business context – which is exactly how not to do it. As with Christine Spivey, there were some good points here – such as “local searches are more likely to carry through to action”, and ‘the new 4Ps of marketing’, People, Places, Physical and Promos, held together by Devices. But there were also some spectacularly wrong ideas as well, such as “we think social and local are the same thing now”, which very, very clearly they are not, in a physical, virtual or any other sense – and asserting that they are is likely to lead off in some dangerously destructive directions. Bah.

After that, Vincent Boon from giffgaff/Telefonica, on ‘A Mobile Company with Community at the Core’. And ‘a mobile [telco] company with community at the core’ is exactly what giffgaff is, because its business-model would simply not be viable without the very strong social element, making it more like a cooperative than a classic us-against-them telco business. For example, other than for billing-enquiries, there’s no company-driven customer-service: all customer-service comes from the community, on the forum. As Boon put it, the community-forum is ‘the way through the wall’ between the company and its customers.

The key, really, is a set of core principles, such as simplicity, feedback, mutual respect, mutuality and collective good. And the mutuality is real, too: people who support the community get paid in various ways for doing so. In four (or five) words? – proving that social-business works.

I’m sorry, but Michael Jones of Dachis Group, on ‘Trust and Money: The Case for Engagement @Scale’, seemed to be yet another of these marketing-oriented folks who somehow manage to miss the whole point of social-business. What cemented that impression for me was when he talked about the need “to engage at scale and the need to engage your employees” (which is fair enough), “as advocates” for the organisation’s brand-story (which is also fair enough), but “all coordinated, on brand-message” – which is classic push-marketing, which doesn’t work in a social-business context. Oops…

He did redeem himself somewhat when he said, at the end, that “it’s not always about money”, and then “it’s much deeper than just money”. But other than that, and some useful statistics and the like, it really did seem like just another pointless attempt to rebadge the same-old-same-old that all of us know just does not work. In two words? – oh well…

Next up was Alexandra Deschamps-Sonsino of Designswarm, on ‘The Business of Social Objects’. In two words? – delightfully wry. To be honest, it wasn’t much about business as such, but more about the current and upcoming technologies of the ‘internet of things’, and the kinds of mistakes that people and companies make when trying to open those technologies up to a broader net-based context. Referring to some examples she’d just given, she warned that “the things here (cat, plant, unborn child) are not customers” – so most conventional business-notions of customer and the like won’t make sense in this context. And she also gave the sad example of a company whose proud innovation – a digital picture-frame that could be updated by email – was of course spammed into unusability within days of its launch… Anyway, a couple of useful resources she mentioned:

  • the book Everyware, by Adam Greenfield – a seminal text on ‘internet of things’
  • a blog-post listing references, articles, providers and other resources on ‘internet of things’Definitely worth following, anyway.

Then another Dachis consultant, Davide Casali, on ‘Designing Motivation for Social Experiences’. In one word? – engaging. Some useful cross-references to Dan Pink’s work on motivation, and a nice four-part motivation-framework:

  • competition or comparison (such as in competition-based gamification) – probably the easiest form of motivation to set up, but can be problematic in many social/business contexts
  • excellence – about shared-goals
  • curiosity (especially when combined with connection) – “create stories, create content, together”
  • affection – in essence, what I’ve been describing elsewhere as engagement in enterprise-vision or enterprise-purpose

The last, he said, is the strongest, but probably also the hardest to create and maintain. A few other notes from Davide:

  • ‘bottom-up’ works because people solve their own problems (i.e. they own the solution)
  • nudge to change – don’t try to force anyone to change
  • advocates are important because they lead by example – they exemplify the change

Finally, a wrap-up of the conference by Lee Bryant of Dachis. Probably the one comment that struck home most for me was this: “This is not ‘doing social’ because your boss read about it in Newsweek: it’s about real business goals”. That’s the point, really: as with enterprise-architecture, the start and end is always a real business-need.

A really worthwhile conference, anyway, and strongly recommended: watch out for it when next it comes your way.

3 Comments on “At Social Business Summit

  1. Tom,
    This was astounding and timely. By the way, Sandy has a slide deck:
    I am on the board of the Kansas City chapter of the IIBA and am heading up a growth committee. What you have presented here is what we have been trying to center up on. Here is an interesting model we have been considering:
    The chapter is assuredly a Social Coterie (my term for lack of a better one (?)). We are going to build a set features that the chapter does for its members showing its attractiveness to those who should want to members. (I trust this explanation is in sync?) The ‘pull’ thing you talk about is right on the money. I will be referencing your work for our work.
    PS: I want to talk about the possibilities for Skyping you in for one of our monthly meetings at some point in the future. Feasible?

    • Hi Myron – many thanks, and apologies for the delay in replying (it’s been a long slog getting the websites moved, and I needed to hold back on doing any comments until it was complete).

      Thanks for the pointers to those resources (Sandy’s PPT and the Influencer model) – very useful.

      Re Skyping somewhen – yes, sure, would be very happy to do so: my Skype-ID is tom_graves . Look forward to talking with you on that channel somewhen soon. 🙂

  2. Welcome Tom to the social world. Sandy Carter is THE social media person at IBM. She is also in a book compiled by Jeffrey Gitomer “Social Boom”. A great intro to those who need to understand “social”.

    Her AGENDA was very clever!

    Thanks for sharing.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *