Prerequisites For Setting Up A Business-Driven Web 2.0 Effort

Since the beginning of the year, have been asked the following question (in various forms) time and time again: If we want to use this social media "stuff" to connect with customers, how do we get started?

this point, it seems that the natural inclination is to jump right in
and start prescribing technology (e.g. "well, let’s set up a WordPress
or TypePad blog and we’re done!" or "Let’s get the Haystack network up
this week!").  While the technology is an enabler, there are still the
basic questions that need to be answered in order to get things off on
the right path, and help to stack the deck in favor of success.  Today,
let’s concentrate on the fundamentals of what an organization needs to
think about before embarking on a social media activity.


#1) Why

Why do
this?  Why start a blog or a social network or other Web 2.0-oriented
effort?  Sometimes, the answer is simply "In order to connect."  And,
in the case of many, many blogs (and IM, and Plazes, and Twitter,
etc.), that answer is sufficient.  However, as is more often the case,
there are additional reasons to jump in:  better and more timely
feedback from customers, the ability to connect with others working on
similar problems, putting a human face on what had been historically a
sterile organization, creating a framework for communications, or, most
importantly, creating a platform for enabling better/broader/more
timely information exchange. 

The "why" is critical.  (And, as a point of note, "because we
want to explore this and get to understand it" may be the right
answer.  When that’s the case, make sure that expectations are set

#2) Who

2.0 is about people.  Period.  Who are the people involved?  Who will
be the primary contributors to the effort?  What are their
backgrounds?  Who are they as people?  In addition, who are the other
people who will be interacting with the environment, even if they don’t
initially contribute?  In a blog, the ratio of commenters-to-posters is
large; the ratio of readers-to-commenters is astronomical.  What’s in
it for each of those constituencies?  Does the environment support them
and provide what they need?  What value does each group derive from it?

Similarly, in a social network, there are typically a handful
of "power" users, a slightly larger group of sometimes-contributors,
and a huge group of people who may only be observing.  (Members of this
last group are commonly referred to as "lurkers.)  What’s in it for

#3) Where

Online gathering places are examples of the "third place" as
defined by Oldenberg:  a "place" other than home or work, for
democracy, civil society, and social engagement.  Is what you are
putting together a destination, or a directory that sends people forth
on their journeys?  (Both are relevant.)  What does the place feel
like?  Is it open, or exclusive?  Is it part of a larger site, or a
stand-alone entity?  How will people find it?

#4) When

Is the activity that you are proposing using social media an
ongoing concern, or tied to a particular event?  Note that unless there
is a large, existing group of participants, it will oftentimes take a
few months, perhaps even a year, to achieve "critical mass."

It’s like planting a garden.

#5) How

is all about the norms of the place.  What’s the tenor of the
interaction?  Is it "strictly business," or relaxed?  Is it moderated,
or free-wheeling?  What will participants do if their contributions are
edited or deleted?  If there is a "topic," will off-topic discussions
be immediately squelched, or will the interactions be free-form, like a
lively dinner party?

Additionally, a key "how" item is thinking about how the
site’s members deal with "trolls" and spammers.  Will the be ignored?
Banned?  Given a warning?  Deleted without comment?  Sent to "time out"
for a period of time?

Much of the "how" derives from the "who."  The types of
individuals who collectively make up the constituency of the place are
the ones who will drive the "how."  Heavy-handed moderation will make
the place constricting, yet too lax a policy will rapidly devolve the
interactions into noise.

Want to see a guide that you can use to start conversations in your organization?  A template you can use, after the jump.

Continue reading “Prerequisites For Setting Up A Business-Driven Web 2.0 Effort”

Marketing, From The Customer’s Point Of View

Want to come out and connect with others who are thinking about how social media are changing marketing and customer relationships? You may be interested in attending one of the upcoming sessions of How Consumer Controlled Media Is Re-Shaping Your Online Go-To-Market Strategy.

The program is being hosted by the American Marketing Association, and we’ll start out our 3 city tour in Chicago, IL on October 28th.

Who else will be speaking? Check it out…

Podcasting/Video Blogs
Stowe Boyd, President, Corante, Get Real

Bill Flitter, Chief Marketing Officer, Pheedo, Pheedo Blog

Word of Mouth Marketing
Pete Blackshaw, Chief Marketing and Customer Satisfaction Officer, Intelliseek (New York session)
Andy Sernovitz, CEO, Word of Mouth Marketing Association, WOMMA (Chicago session)

Interactive Social Networking
Randal Moss, Project Specialist, American Cancer Society’s Futuring and Innovation Center

Social Networking
Christopher Carfi, Principal, Cerado, and author of The Social Customer Manifesto. (Chicago and Scottsdale sessions)
David Teten, CEO of Nitron Advisors (New York session)

Power Law Structure
Judith T. Meskill, Principal,, Judith Meskill’s Knowledge Notes

Session dates:

  • October 28 – Chicago
  • November 11 – Scottsdale
  • December 2 – New York

More info here, including how to register.

Hope to see you in Chicago, Scottsdale, or New York!

Information Is Social

Outsell has just published their 2006 Information Industry Outlook report (free reg. req’d), which is chock-full of great findings on how individuals and enterprises are using information their day-to-day and business lives. One of the headlines that jumped out of the report: Information is Social and Peer-to-Peer. Outsell:

“Now, instead of looking ‘up’ to oracles, users are looking sideways – to peers and to social contexts on the Internet, where published information is instantly unveiled, vetted, praised, condemned, corrected, and altered through the ‘wisdom of the masses.'”

This subsection of the report goes on to note the following items as evidence:

  • The increasing reliance on colleagues and peers as a source of information
  • Blogs and other social publishing media are becoming a key resource for knowledge workers
  • The emergence of open models in scientific publishing
  • Instant verification (or refutation) of news and peer reaction to events
  • Credibility derives from scrutiny of peers
  • Youth are sharing and remixing information and will continue to do so (and adults do, too)
  • Information intermediaries are still relevant in order to relieve users from the information glut

The points above are from pp. 10-11 of the report, which runs about 30 pages.

Two Fascinating Collaborative Environments


Just tripped across two flash-based sites that have sent the idea of “collaboration” off into a new direction. The first is a collaborative scratchpad where multiple people can all interact with a drawing that is being created:

As they say, what you see above is a “simulated image” (in this case, what might have been on the napkin before this was created, with kudos to Lee).

My actual experience on the scratchpad site was less-than stellar due to the combination of a troll who chose to scribble out the drawings of others, and the manic sketchings of a wanna-be Larry Flynt. The current scratchpad area appears to be a completely unmoderated, anonymous area. Not suitable for those with an aversion to profanity, etc. You’ve been warned; here’s the link. But, despite the presence of the troglodytes on the site, the possibilities are impressive.

To interact with the scratchpad, there was no loading of anything needed. No installations. No registration. No training. No nothing…just show up, and start collaborating.

The second site, also by the same author, was a collaborative site where one can move the virtual equivalent of alphabetic refrigerator magnets around. Again, no setup was needed; by simply showing up at the site, you are immediately immersed in the environment and collaborating with the others who are there. The same caveats apply as above, here’s the refrigerator magnet link.

The thing that makes these sites revolutionary in my opinion is their ease of use and light-weight nature. The scratchpad site appears to be a 29K shockwave file, and allows up to fifty concurrent participants. Similar specs on the letter game.

What if an organization could point a website visitor at a private site like this and work with that customer or prospect on architecting a solution to their problems, collaboratively and in real time? Or what if you could integrate these capabilities into, say, a wiki-based environment, and document and take snapshots of a solution as it evolves?

There’s something significant here.

Intellisync Embraces Wikis For Collaboration

Wireless email and mobile software provider Intellisync is beginning to use wikis to enable collaboration between a number of their global PR agencies, according to Blogspotting.

Stephen Baker writes: “In the last two months, they’ve [Intellisync] linked up their four p.r. agencies that work for them around the world, and put them all on the same wiki. That means they post and respond to each other’s ideas. They put up documents on the wiki that they never shared before. Rip Gerber, Intellisync’s chief marketing officer, says that once Intellisync gets used to using wikis internally, it will extend them to customers and business partners.”

Digging a little deeper, it appears that Intellisync is working with the folks over at Eastwick Communications and their emerging Eastwikkers practice in this effort. Eastwikkers is providing “an agency branded collaborative workspace powered by software vendor Socialtext.”

In all, a great step, and, as noted in the article, the key question will be: “can a sense of trust be fostered between the different participants in the effort?” If all goes well, the collaboration and synchronization of the various agencies has the potential to be a great boon for Intellisync in their battle against companies like Good and RIM. On the other hand, if a breakdown occurs in the collaboration, the finger-pointing between the various agencies could be fast and furious.

Can More People Be Like Doug Kaye, Please?

(mea maxima culpa for omitting the trailing “e” in Doug’s name in rev. 1 of this. Thanks to Steve for setting me straight.)

I want to know more about Doug Kaye. A quick search for “‘doug kay’+bio” brings back a paltry 23 results, only two of which relate to this Doug Kay.

I first heard about Doug Kaye at BloggerCon in November, 2004. At the same time, I heard about IT Conversations for the first time. The best summary I’ve found so far is from here:

One of the largest podcasters is Doug Kaye’s IT Conversations. Great, in-depth discussions with folks in the technology community (An awful lot of content of this nascent medium serves its geek constituency. But bloggers spent a lot of time talking about Open Source and the like before they got around to other stuff.)

Some of the most amazing content at IT Conversations is complete audio archives of important tech industry conferences: Web 2.0, PopTech, Bloggercon, Stanford’s Accelerating change and 20 others are there in their entirety, for free.

So, as best as I can tell, Doug has been helping to record, produce, and distribute this amazing body of content. And, with the exception of perhaps some help on the bandwidth side from a sponsor, he’s been doing it for the passion of what he’s doing.

Last month, he got reflective about this very fact. Kaye:

“The one question I’m asked about IT Conversations more than any other is, “What’s your business model?” After 18 months, nearly 300 programs and now with the New Year looming, the time has come to answer that question.”

Your stereotypical Silicon Valley type would start calling up VCs and bankers, and perhaps draw up a business plan for the “next generation, peer-to-peer, highly-distributed content distribution platform.”

Not Kaye. He looked left, looked right, set up a collaborative space to have a conversation, and asked his customers “what should I do?”

Kaye seeded the conversation with two broad categories:

  • Advertiser/Sponsor Revenues
  • Listener-Side Revenues

Then he let it go, and asked his customers “What do you think?

The response has been amazing. At the current time, nearly sixty responses have been given to that simple question, including a number of thoughtful replies from other folks like Ross Mayfield and Steve Gillmor both within the wiki and in the blog diaspora.

And I have a feeling as we venture not too very far into 2005, Mr. Kaye will have his answer. Cheers, Doug. Good on ya for letting the customers drive.

Tell Your Stories On Social Networks, Wikis, And Other Social Software

I’m currently working on a story about social software for Bob Thompson’s CRMGuru online community ( , over 200,000 members). I’m looking for good stories/responses to the following questions from folks who are willing to share them. If you have a story to tell* about your company, feel free to drop me an email.

1: Which companies are using social software (esp. social networking, wikis, and the like) in order to better connect with customers? There are quite a few stories regarding blogs and individuals using social networks successfully…how about organizations?
2: Is there an example (or two) of an instance where you have seen a company get closer to its customers as a result of these capabilities?

3: What have been the challenges / downsides for organizations that are attempting it?
4: Are there any things that organizations should consider if they are considering including social software (esp. social networking) as a part of their connection to customers?

So…any good stories out there?

* – PLEASE NOTE: Comments/emails may be quoted in the story. Please feel free to include your name, title, and company.