Twitter from Wachovia; save our ship

I stumbled on the Wachovia Twitter page.   It is strange to read these little tweets from a sinking ship in real time.

On Sept. 18 we hear that all is well at Wachovia:

CEO Bob Steel posts on wachovia.com, reaffirms company is strong, stable, well capitalized, check it out here: http://tinyurl.com/3s7kg7

Then the rollercoaster begins… and you have to feel sorry for any shareholding Followers of Wachovia.

These near-real time blasts relate another fascinating aspect of Twitter that my friend Steve Nelson at Clear Ink blogged on.  While it may prove to have historical reference value (as blogs and other internet content have) Twitter is a real-time news river and this makes it a far more effective tool for searching on current (I mean NOW) events.  Here is Steve on that point;

On Sunday, Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced that an economic stabilization bill had been written and was available at financialservices.house.gov. I tried going there for about 10 minutes, but the servers were swamped.

So I went to Twitter search, and merely searched for “bill”. The immediate results included several comments about the bill, and at least two links to download it from non-swamped servers. This tells me a couple things: I trusted in the critical mass of contributions to Twitter that I would find what I wanted – and sure enough, it was there. It also shows the power of searching the immediate NOW.

A Google search for “bill” includes a 5-hour old news link, imdb’s of movies like “Bill” and “Kill Bill” and wikipedia entries on Bill Gates and Bill Clinton. But for the moment I was searching for “bill” on Twitter, there was only one “bill” that mattered most.

This is how Twitter brings together the massive amounts of information being fed it NOW with what I am searching for NOW. This is just one way Twitter works, if you know how to use it

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The Harder Stuff – Leadership, Culture and Change

I often refer to the “harder stuff” as shorthand for leadership, change, culture and implementation so I thought I would reproduce a post I made in Radar last week titled, “ Getting Web 2.0 right: The hard stuff vs. the harder stuff…” – along with one of the comments that I took issue with:

I had a powerful conversation recently in Europe with one of the top executives of a major industrial company. They have 100K+ employees in over 50 countries. When he joined five years ago their business was struggling and in need of major transformation; their stock was at two dollars a share, they had ethics issues and product quality problems – you name the malady, they were suffering from it…

Fast forward to 2008 and now they are one of the most extraordinary success stories in Europe – stock is over $28 a share, great profits, growing operations, well regarded in the business community etc. When you fly through a European airport they are everywhere.

I asked him how they were able to turn such a large, multinational ship around.

He told me most executives talk about “the hard stuff” vs. “the soft stuff”. Their focus for success in the organization is on the hard stuff – finance, technology, manufacturing, R&D, Sales – where the money is to be found, where costs savings are to be made. The soft stuff – leadership, culture, change and implementation – is there in rhetoric but not in reality (e.g., “people are our most important resource”). But the truth is that it is not the “hard stuff” vs. the “soft stuff”, but the hard stuff vs. the harder stuff. And it is this “harder stuff” that drives both revenues and profits by making or breaking a decision, leading a project to a successful conclusion – or not, and allowing for effective collaboration within a business unit or an organization – or not. He told me it was a consistent focus on the harder stuff that allowed them to turn their company around.

This is an apt description of the problems we face in bringing Web 2.0 into the enterprise. Web 2.0 is a game changer – it holds the potential to turbo-charge back office functions, foster collaboration and transform every business unit in the enterprise. Yet the resistance occurs when it comes down to implementing Web 2.0 because it represents a series of shifts that challenge traditional business culture and models of leadership. How often have I heard the knee-jerk reaction, “we can’t let our customers talk to each other” or “we don’t share our data” or “we are going to upgrade to a new platform – we are on a three year plan to get it done” (I keep a list of these reactions so please help me add to it). If developing a web 2.0 strategy is the hard stuff – moving that strategy forward is the harder stuff – and the bigger the company I work with – the harder the harder stuff is.

Rick added this to the comments:

Implementing 2.0 stuff doesn’t necessarily to be very difficult to implement. If I relate to my experience there are at least two ways do it wrong:
1) Top down push (employees, middle management just gets another tools, and do not experience any advantages)
2) Technology push (advantages are unclear, most often a geeky solution with less usability).

What I think you should do is to identify what would drive this people. What would make them to use / adopt a new tool. Is it time saving, is it the ability to work at home, it’s money saving, opening a new market for their product, inexpensive innovations (Lego Case *)). Technology push will not help to implement a 2.0 tool, having a useful tool that match their business and change drivers will help you to make adoption and implemention easier.

*) Concerning Lego: Lego used to have 100 designers creating 300 designs a year and the average age of a designer was appr 29 years. By introducing Lego Factory they now have 1 million designers creating 3 million designs a year and the average ago of designer is appr 9 years (and these 1 million people do not have to be payed by Lego!)

Rick made some good points and it allowed me to clarify:

@ Rick
I agree that tools are a distraction and I think this is a very useful way to think about the issue in terms of traditional business objectives and adoption. However this frames Web 2.0 as an incremental improvement to business as usual (better customer intimacy, better operational efficiency, better innovation) rather than a game-changer (customer/employee led innovation, rethinking IP, rethinking the whole concept of marketing etc.). IMO It is the more radical potential that isn’t being tapped into.

In the case of Lego my understanding is that it required senior leadership to make some big changes in the way that they conceived of and executed on innovation and that they also had to rethink their notion of IP. Lego’s story is one of transformation.

Don’t you think that both leadership (and I mean leadership in a “2.0” way; leadership that allows leaders to surface at all levels of the organization) and your model of change need to be aligned for real business transformation?

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Interview: Customer Service is the New Marketing

During the Web 2.0 Expo in New York I filmed a series of interviews. The focus was always the same: how can traditional business look to get the benefit of social technologies? This interview is with Lane Becker of Get Satisfaction (Disclaimer: OATV, O’Reilly’s VC arm, is an investor in Get Satisfaction).   Lane’s point about “Customer Service is the New Marketing” is dead-on.   Customers now control the conversation – and companies need to understand how a powerful customer service focus can create an army of brand evangelists.  The video appears below – however Lane has agreed to answer questions to my original Radar post here: http://radar.oreilly.com/2008/10/ustomer-service-is-the-new-mar.html

The most insightful moment in my opinion comes when Lane talks about how even smaller companies and companies not structured to deliver superior customer service can use new technology to get it right.

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The Evanglist’s Toolkit – Part One

Thanks to everyone who attended the recent webinar.  Here are the slides from that presentation.  The “slideshare” icon will allow you to download the set from Slideshare.   I would love to hear any follow up questions or issues you might have.   I am going to try and take many of the questions that I had today and post responses here.

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Listening Devices: Part One

In the network economy Listening beats Talking:  Listening is another way of finding answers – and finding answers from new places – from customers, partners and employees outside of the leadership circle.    Why is this important?   Most of our companies are structured to talk.  Marketing, PR, Tradshows and events –  are all vehicles for advocacy – for talking.    Listening companies reap the benefits of reduced cycle time, open innovation and better customer intimacy and loyalty.

Ultimately, listening is a commitment to take action on the part of a company.  Because they do this so well, Starbucks is often cited in this regard.  “My Starbucks Idea” definitely gets it right.  Despite the fact that I am no fan of Starbucks they are part of the dialogue on improvement and they take action when ideas reach critical mass in the community.

But where do you start?

While there are paid services and tools for monitoring online brand conversation, I often counsel clients to begin with setting up a very basic set of listening devices;  free tools that allow you to get a sense of how your company is being represented on the Social Web.   Here is the dead simple starting kit.    I would love to hear of any additions.

Set up Google Alerts – you can track what is being said about your company quickly and easily.  Google will send you a daily email.

Set up a good RSS reader If you aren’t getting your news customized and delivered to your browser daily – you are missing out.   I use NetVibes because it is elegant and also signs me into my social networks at the same time.  In the workshops I run this alone is worth the price of admission since it will save you hours of time.

Search Facebook for groups with your company name (you may also want to check Bebo, HiFive and Ning if you are industrious).  I had a conversation yesterday with a business owner who was stunned that his one-state restaurant chain had 37 dedicated groups in Facebook.   You can also try adding adjectives to your company name (+sucks, +rules etc.)

Try this same procedure on Technorati to go back in time and see what has been said about you in the blogosphere.   A friend at a major clothing retailer built her case to fund  Social Web initiatives by collecting customer quotes/complaints gathered on Technorati.   Add worthwhile bloggers to your Netvibes page to get a sense of what else they are talking about and tracking.

Use Twhirl to eavesdrop on Twitter and other microblogging platforms.

This is a good starting place – I would love to hear of other free listening devices that people are using.

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Instrumenting the world – The web as a sensory net

As Google turns 10 they posted a great summary about where collective intelligence is headed:

we’ll … see a rush of new devices customized to particular applications, and more environmental sensors and actuators, all sending and receiving data via the cloud. The increasing number and diversity of interactions will not only direct more information to the cloud, they will also provide valuable information on how people and systems think and react… Thus, computer systems will have greater opportunity to learn from the collective behavior of billions of humans. They will get smarter, gleaning relationships between objects, nuances, intentions, meanings, and other deep conceptual information.

In other words more devices and more people are connecting to the global Internet every day.  100 million new people join the 1.4 billion people every six weeks (these figures pulled from worldwideinternetstats.com) This holds a lot of promise to instrument the world and help address big issues.   As Tim O’Reilly says in his post, Web Meets World:

there’s a huge contribution that Web 2.0 techniques can make specifically to the world’s biggest problems. Instedd’s approach to early detection of infectious diseases, Ushahidi’s approach to crowdsourcing crisis information, Witness’s harnessing of consumer video to report on human rights abuses, and AMEE’s APIs for exchanging carbon data between applications, are all part of the “instrumenting the world” trend

The other key factor driving the next phase of collective intelligence is that more and more this data will come from sensors such as the GPS in our phones and Internet connected sensors monitoring our homes, buildings and vehicles.  This data will drive a whole new class of potential decision-making and problem solving that could include energy, food distribution, emergency management and disease control.   It will also open new opportunities for start-ups that harness these data types.   Google’s primary advantage comes from it’s data on user searches for web pages.  There is fertile territory to conquer these new classes of data coming from sensory devices and wrap value added services upon them.

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Web 2.0 Expo comes to NYC

I am excited to be speaking at the upcoming Expo in New York -but more interested in hearing from this year’s line-up of speakers. Over the past few years the focus of the Expo has become a more sophisticated spectrum from alpha-geek to business-practical; from technology to social. As usual my focus will be on the social challenges that Web 2.0 represents for traditional business.  My talk is entitled The Moonwalking Bear; what traditional businesses need to know about Web 2.0 – You will have to come to the talk to actually see the moonwalking bear.

I will also be grabbing some informal video interviews with speakers that will appear on the O’Reilly network as well as in this blog.
Stay tuned…

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