Thursday, July 7, 2011

Innovation speed dating, trust and implementing social media

As a change agent who hangs his hat in the social media arena, I want to start bringing some of my learnings from driving change into the social media discussion in a more overt way.  Why?  Because as I continue to wander around the social media landscape, I continue to find great similarities to the simple fact that getting people to adopt social media across within the organization is a game of change.

Back in 2008, I gave a talk called Innovation Partnerships:  Being the benevolent virus which highlighted the key behaviors to building a successful partnership for an innovative offering.  One of the most important steps in building innovation partnerships is approaching the creation step differently.  In my talk I call it Being and Innovation Speed Dater.  Why a speed dater?  Because when you speed date you only have a few minutes to decide whether you want to go out on that date.  If you can't decide, someone else might steal the date from you.  And to be a speed dater you need to have the right mind set when you are learning about you potential partner.  Below is a slide that highlights my point (from the talk link listed above)

What you see here are how the innovation extraction/speed dater mindset is different.  In my experience over the years I see most people taking a lean back, skeptical and prove it to me approach.  How is this any different in social media?  I am seeing the companies who are leaning forward and taking action as the ones who are winning (my personal experience).  This point brings one story to mind.  I  went to a company to meet with the executives about our products (last fall).  In fact, this executive was invited to be a lighthouse partner for the creation of our product.  He said, I will wait and see then.  When I met with him in the fall, he again said I will wait and see.  Today, his biggest competitor is a client who is leading the charge while he simply waits and sees.  As a lighthouse partner, he would have had a say in how it looked, what it did and even the future roadmap.  Today he probably can sit there saying...look when I buy it I will get it totally finished and didn't have to take the risk to invest all this money to find out it didn't work.  But can he ever really make up for lost time.  Because even when he says yes finally (and I will start working on that soon) he will have to get a whole cadre of people to buy in to do it.  He will be at the starting line, a tortoise, while his competition was the hare, but this hair ran out of the gate and isn't stopping for a nap.

The point is this.  Being an innovation speed dater is about trust, believing in what your partner says and most importantly at the BEGINNING giving them the benefit of the doubt as you EXPLORE what is possible.  Does this you are married forever? NO!  It means you will trust your partner and what they are telling you enough to do an experiment to find out.   Nothing tried, nothing is a saying for ninnies who are terrified to win.  And in social media that statement is one for the dead, because if they don't try there are so many reasons there competition will kill you dead.  Remember the speed of insight is climbing by the second.   I can tell you exactly what people liked and didn't like about #askobama hastag today.  If you standstill the insights are passing you by and if you don't have good won't have a business for long because the DAVID who uses social media will really kick GOLIATH's ass in a guerilla marketing street battle...

If you are desperate enough to look for love in your own an innovation speed dater in your business one!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Why is social media data quality less important than quantity?

I will keep this short, but I am at wit's end over this.  As I work with many companies across the business landscape, I am appalled by the number of people who are continuously enamored with social media data quantity over quality. 

What does this mean? 

To the average person I see many more people questioning social media data because there should be more of it.  Or they say using a statistical sample is garbage because they want to know about the other 990,000 data points.  I hear people say that unless we understand everything then it can't be true.  Yet they will manhandle 20 sound bites that state there message and run off the to press room.

I mean come on.  This is just craziness.  Isn't it true that presidential elections are usually fairly accurate using standardized polling methods that use statistical samples of data with a few thousand data points.  No one questions these number even though they are usually generated through calling home phone numbers that are becoming obsolete.  Isn't that statistically "difficult" to swallow.

I remember when I was a lab scientist that my head was beaten in if I didn't do the right control experiment, collect the data enough to be sure it was right or simply had the common sense to accept relevant data sets. 

With social media its like people have gone crazy due to data overload.  Are you really going to miss the insight if you don't get that 999,999 sound bite characterized?  All I am saying as I usually do is that social media listening does not equal understanding.

If you have 1000 great highly accurate data points doesn't understanding what they are specifically saying help you more than knowing there are 3,200,000 tweets on a website and the volume is up 5% versus yesterday. 

Give me a deep understanding in a day (versus waiting 4-8 weeks with a normal brand tracker), rather than a surface look at a ton of junk...

I am just sayin...let's think a little harder about why versus how much or how much more.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

When social media strikes!!!!! - A theoretical scenario in the near future


 You are the Vice President of Marketing/Market Research/PR... at a very large company.  Your role includes ensuring the business stays healthy.  Your company is #1 in the marketplace and the key to your success has been the expert way you have managed understanding your consumer.  Over the past five years, you have successfully managed the business by always bring quality products to the marketplace focused on delivering against the promise of your brand.  Your brand is viewed by consumers as having high quality.  They believe in the brand promise of keeping my family safe and your long standing reputation as a good corporate citizen who has been a leader in fair labor practices.  Regardless of whether to new products on the market are innovative or merely line extensions/product improvements you have a great grip on your consumers.  And while many may consider your products boring, the history of the brand has made your a stalwart with the boomer generation and their children.  You are very aware that you need to reinvent yourself with the younger consumer but because your brand is associated with their grandparents the market research being conducted suggests you are slowly winning them as well because it reminds them of the comfort of their family.

The scenario...

The phone rings.  It is 5AM Tuesday morning.  You roll over to answer the phone knocking it over.  From the floor you hear the frantic shouts asking if you are there.  Startled, you grab the phone to hear your boss the COO on the other line.  He/She is panicked.  In fact, they can barely get the words out to you.  As the severity of their emotion strikes you, you quickly awaken from your slumber to reality.

"What happened?" you ask.

"You need to get to the office right away.  I was waking up to head to the gym and you won't believe what I read on our Facebook Fan Page.  A consumer asked some pretty serious questions about our product safety.  A consumer stated that their child nearly died when they used too much of our newly launched product.  They referred to a report talking about recent findings by a University that our main ingredient across our product line poses potential health risks for children under 14.  The study is by a very influential assistant professor who continues to look for the link between ingredients and health issues in children.  You remember the guy.  He was the one who spent two years showing how powdered formula made babies obese and that certain brands were more at fault than others.  Holy crap.  The number 3 player ended up number 1 because they had moved away from the less expensive material towards the more natural one.  This guy is a big net influencer.  His twitter stream has over 150,000 followers and his blog posts are picked up by all the mommy blogs.  What are we going to do?  I need you in the office in 30 minutes so we can game plan on this issue."

You quickly jump in the shower thinking through the problem.  Over the past two years, your brand trackers have shown time and time again that there was little to no risk from your main ingredient.  In ethnographies, parents often told you that while there were some trade offs using the product your long standing tradition of quality limited the risk.  You quantified the consumer panel time and time again.  Your vendors assured you that your brand equity was one of the strongest and that you had beat back any local questions around this issue, because the science showed there really wasn't any issue.  Focus groups worked and your facebook fan page allowed you to talk to your consumers to keep a pulse on how much they loved your products.  In fact, your follows show great passion and love for what you do.  You don't expect the question to blunt the followers.  Your agency continued to give you buzz reports showing how much traffic your brand has been getting launch after launch.  In fact month over month it was growing by 5%.  You are confident that your listening tools will help you answer the question because they will help you monitor where the buzz is and if it is dying down.

When you arrive at the office, you check in and call your social media manager.  They quickly check the facebook fan page and see there is a small group of people asking questions of the post, but the faithful followers swamp them out.  You look at your listening reports show that while your traffic is up, there is nothing unusual occurring that you can see.  The story doesn't seem to show a dramatic increase in impression beyond the facebook fan page.  Calmly you report to your boss that your social media report seems OK and you don't think the issue will pick up because the question on the fan page has been met with skepticism and the buzz seems stable.

What is wrong with this picture????

This executive is stopping at listening.  Just because your direct marketing effort to your fanatics on your facebook fan page is calm AND you know the buzz is up or at least steady is not enough to help you UNDERSTAND if this is an issue.  Any company who feels safe under this type of analysis with the speed of insight in social media is taking a risk.

Here are few questions...

1.  Does this executive have any idea beyond their Facebook Fan Page (their only direct window into social media consumers) what the chatter is saying?
2.  How can one UNDERSTAND the why within the data if they are just checking the BUZZ (mentions) to see where the volume is?
3.  How could a few posts that are checked represent the meaning or sentiment of the potential millions of tweets are that out there the social media sphere?

What is missing from this analysis to make it more complete?

One could use a brand passion index (which looks at buzz, sentiment and passion on one chart) to understand if there was a change in the brands passion with consumers.  You could also do a netnography (brand audit online) to understand what is happening specifically with the brand.

The point is this...Listening does not equal Understanding in social media and there are many holes in taking this approach.  When companies can quickly find the RIGHT social media data and UNDERSTAND what it is saying in say less than an hour then you have a good way to deal with this made up scenario.

I have a feeling however it is like matter...Matter can neither be created nor destroyed but merely changed in shape or form.  I would argue there are execs struggling with this right now.  And regardless of what you think the best tool should at least ask HOW LONG WOULD IT TAKE ME TO UNDERSTAND WHEN SOMETHING HAPPENS?  If they say longer than an don't have a good tool!

Friday, July 1, 2011

Breaking Filter Bubble's - How Natural Language Processing can help.

Recently, a colleague sent me a link that has stuck in my brain.  It is a 9 minute talk on TED by Eli Pariser on the concept of internet filter bubbles.  What Eli argues is that while the internet was created to help drive globalness and openness between individuals, the optimization going on behind the scenes is simply destroying it.  Essentially, companies have worked so hard to develop algorithms to make sure you see what you like that we are now living in a world where we see what they want us to see.  It is scary to me.  In his talk he gives an example of two people doing the same search on google (search is Egypt) and that they see completely different front pages.  And that as your usage goes so does what you see until you only really see a small portion of the internet.  This filtering, in essence, leads to a world where people believe they are in a free e-world able to roam around where they please but in reality they cannot anymore.  The sites we use are starting to hold us hostage using these behind the scenes methods of "observing" you behavior.  I do agree that this type of optimization would be useful to give folks a positive experience about their product experience (because it drives efficiency, control and some measure of confidence).  But can I really find what I want?  And do unemotional algorithms monitoring my clicks UNDERSTAND what I want to really do.  If I am a person who worries about their health and likes to read on the issues I may think I have, are we doing consumers a favor by continuous taking them to sites giving that type of information with medicine ads that help them treat the problem.  Wouldn't we do an even greater service UNDERSTANDING over time that this consumer is afraid and that they also need to find sites that could help them deal with their fears of getting sick?

The question is this; doesn't something like natural language processing, where you can understand the link between sentences give us the ability to break these filter bubbles by taking an out of the box approach to checking behavior on web content?  Instead of simply seeing clicks it could see links within the language you write in your queries (or even let you write sentences as queries rather than key words) to get to a wider variety of information.  And over time this approach would broaden the filter bubbles by bringing information in that connects not only with WHAT you want know but HOW YOU FEEL when trying to find out.  This would at least give the consumer the option to go places that currently computers currently decide for you.  Then you could get more control of your own online world and at least get you out of your own infophobic bubble you let the companies create for you behind the scenes.   But I guess the real question is...shouldn't they just give us the option to click the unfiltered button before we click search?