Friday, February 3, 2012

Happy New Year 2012 - When the hockey stick meets the road!!

While it has been a while since writing about so many things, I figured I would re-engage with my fingers (boy do I hate writing) to discuss some changes in the social media landscape.

There has been an analogy I often use to describe the development of the social media marketplace.  It is an analogy that is based on the concept of the day.  I had the great fortune of getting involved in social media analytics and application a long time ago.  In fact, I didn't even realize I was doing anything novel until I began working in social media on a daily basis.  Two lives ago, back in 2006, I actually met NetBase as a customer when they were known as Accelovation.  At that time, I was working in the R&D function developing a corporate technology strategy process and in consumer products a key part of that is finding consumer insights.  At that time, working from R&D, it was taboo to spend money on consumer insight development.  Voila, this novel concept of using social media crossed my desk.  It just made sense.  We found a way to get sponsorship for looking at trend work in a new area of business.  In fact, the output of this work was viewed as very novel.  Later, we had the chance to work on a new brand launch.  In this case, social media data helped provide the WHY that the marketing folks could not get from their traditional methods.  The low bias and free speaking consumer on the web, was better able to articulate their interests.  And then lastly, we were able to insert ourselves in the acquisition process.  On this project, we were able to give the executive team consumer insights they couldn't get and we helped inform a nearly billion dollar acquisition.  You would think that under these circumstances that social media would catch like wildfire.  It did not.  Even with all that value in the 2006-2007 timeframe, people still couldn't feel comfortable with the data.

FRANKLY...IT WAS MIDNIGHT (my day analogy)

People laughed at midnight.  They chuckled.  They questioned who was on the internet.  They worried the data was influenced. They didn't see that we were controlling bias by simply capturing data in the "wild".  It wasn't how things were done.  We use focus groups etc...etc...etc...

Fast forward...

Over the next several years, I would say that tools were not up to snuff.  NetBase, Radian 6 and others didn't have their operational tools.  Everyone was focused on different parts of the organization.  Radian 6 focused on PR, NetBase focused on market research and the JIVES of the world (CRM).  The market is fragmented, and more importantly the consumer had not begun to drive the marketplace.  Why? Data maturity.  Twitter and Facebook were still growing in their usage and application. It was a slowly maturing market.  But as we moved into the end of 2010, something started to happen.  C2B!  The arab spring saw people using twitter to manipulate governments and more tactically, we saw consumers shouting out.  The greatest example occurred September 2010 when GAP launched its new logo.  The logo survived a week.  Why?  Consumer backlash. They hated it...they let people know and they made the adjustment because of this.  On the corporate side, however, people were still wedded to their methods so they weren't paying attention to what was happening around them. 

Corporate behavior (how they interacted with consumers) was not aligned at all with their own consumer behaviors.  What do I mean?  Everyone person uses social to make decisions personally, but corporations weren't telling them what to do.  Essentially, I use the web to pick a restaurant, decide what to buy, understand what hotel to stay, what doctor to use BUT I don't trust my own personal behavior to make business decisions.  There are a lot of misalignment from the corporate side, the data side and the technology side.


Today we see constant social media change.  Just today, after several days in the news, the Komen foundation not only caved on removing financial support for Planned Parenthood, but the amount of support Planned Parenthood received from online microdonations during this event almost equaled the $680,000 Komen gives in a year ($400,000 from 6,000 donors).  Think about that.  Komen makes a controversial decision to pull its funding.  Social Media not only turned them around but the infrastructure it provides helped it get an addition 75% funding for its programs over the controversy.  This is a unique case.  Usually we simply see reversal.  Such was the case for both Bank of America this past summer ($5 debit card fee) and Verizon (Sept/Oct $2 fee) this fall.  But now we have an example where they reversed their decision AND came out ahead (planned parenthood that is).  It is only a matter of time that controversy is staged to see this type of effect.

Either way, the data infrastructure is built to support the consumer driving business.  The cycle accelerates and the impacts are impossible to ignore.  The question continues in the corporate and service sector; will they figure out they need to trust this data so they can get busy living.  To date, my experience with the market research community (who sort of owns the analytics side of things) has been guarded at best.  I again last week asked a room of 150 market researchers how many of them trust social media and less than 5 raised their hands.  There was no improvement versus the same question last year when the room had 60 market researches and only 2 raised their hands.  That being said they all raise their hands when you ask them if they turn to the net when buying something or picking a restaurant.  The culture shift in Corporate America continues to be filled with people who behave like consumers one way but act at work in their corporate cultures another way.

I am happy to say that things are improving.  For one, I see the cycle of purchase for social media tools getting quicker.  People know they need something to help.  Unfortunately, we are still in a manual people process world.  This means that people think they know how to pick a tool, but they continue discard a scalable human methodology to make their tools/toolbox sing.  Although I work for NetBase, I do understand that some solutions take a suite of tools and in the current technology landscape that might be still be how you implement.

The good news is that corporate culture is getting its head around what is happening to them...


The question remains...when will the sun sit highest in the sky?

When will it be NOON?

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