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Crowds can be wise with a Social Media Strategy

I was watching this video on the MIX site where Gary Hamel, in conversation with James Franklin of Dell, talked about how he believes Social Media will change organisations. One of his main focus points was in strategy development where he suggest that there will be more “bottom up“ rather than “top down” development.

A follow up comment suggested that Social Media was just about “gaming the system” and cast doubt on the value of “bottom up” developments driven by Social Media.

It’s a debate worth unpacking a bit as to take it on face value you have two very opposed irreconcilable views. One embraces Social Media and the change it could bring about and the other seems to suggest there is very little value in the application of Social Media as a tool for insight. Indeed, if left unchallenged, it could call into question the validity of crowdsourcing, one of the promised opportunities emanating from Social Media.

I will do the unpacking – at least from my perspective – over two posts: one will deal with the more conceptual aspects, and the second will deal with some more specific and practical considerations for crowdsourcing.

So – first up I would defend Gary on the basis that he is, I think, tapping into a very important point that is often overlooked in much of the buzz around Social Media. It is all to easy to be seduced into believing that Social Media is defined by the applications. Twitter, Facebook, You Tube to name a few get a great deal of coverage, not least as a result of the vast sums these brands are now said to be worth, and many think these are what constitute Social Media.

But this is a mistake. The important thing about Social Media is that it is an attitude of mind, a sensibility, a movement and behavioural change that challenges long held assumptions. Of course it is technical change that has enabled us to finally unleash these new attitudes as participants, but the applications themselves that currently underpin it will come and go. What will remain is the mind set.

That mind set is very much about engaging, participating, sharing and contributing with partners, clients, customers, stakeholders, friends. It has encouraged a sense of empowerment for both individuals and collectives, and it has emboldened the sense of value to each voice and a sense of a right to be heard.

In a business context that has quite profound implications. These participants, be they collaborators, suppliers, customers, clients have a voice with broad reach that is not mediated by the organisation. As a result the organisation – if it is to respond positively and seek value in this – must adjust long held assumptions about the nature of that engagement, and this applies to internally facing matters just as much as it does to externally facing.  At the very least they must learn to listen more effectively.

Gary Hamel recognises that this presents opportunities when properly handled and draws on, what I will refer to, as distributed cognition rather than the wisdom of crowds – and so taking a lead from Dave Snowden on this.

The wisdom of crowds can have something of a pejorative connotation – as exemplified by the response to Gary’s post. For those not familiar with it, the idea is that if a crowd is asked a question – for example how many sweets are in a jar – when their individual answers are plotted typically a bell curve will develop with the correct answer usually somewhere in the middle. This is intended to demonstrate the collective wisdom, judgment, insight and heuristics that when aggregated can provide relatively reliable answers. For it to work, however, certain conditions have to be met not least that each has to judge independently without influence and without knowledge of the other guesses.

As the respondent to Gary Hamel’s piece points out this is not the case in Social Media as most would typically understand it. It’s a good point. Certainly there is plenty of historical evidence that the agent provocateur can rapidly turn the wisdom of crowds into mob rule and we have seen reports recently that certain military and intelligence agencies are endeavouring to develop tools that can manipulate multiple social media applications simultaneously so as to create a groundswell of sentiment so skew or influence the collective mood of Social Media channels. This is something of an indictment of the tools themselves or at least how they are deployed. So it is entirely fair to say that simplistic applications of Social Media tools will not yield the returns that an intelligent approach to harnessing the Social Media mindset can.

But to me this does not challenge the validity of Gary’s basic argument. He is not arguing, or at least I don’t think he is, for mob democracy in strategy development. I think he is arguing for the harnessing, intelligently, of the Social Media mindset for better strategy development. That is not the unthinking adoption of every suggestion from the floor. One outcome will be more bottom up development and potentially flatter organisations – I feel another blog post coming on here.

And so it is with all Social Media campaigns. Too often I come across organisations that begin an unthinking deployment of Twitter or Facebook believing it will yield instant returns, only to relent at leisure the ever increasing resource required for no perceived return.

A strategy is necessary – and that is where twintangibles comes in of course.

In the next post we will look at what this better understanding of the wisdom of crowds means for innovation through crowdsourcing.

Social Knowledge – the new paradigm

Social Knowledge – the new paradigm

At twintangibles we believe that Social Media has quite profound implications for the way we do business, and we have already mentioned that we think that its impact and application stretches way beyond the common mantra of marketing. One application that we have mentioned in passing is the concept of Social Knowledge. What do we mean by that?

Knowledge Management (KM) is a much maligned and much misunderstood concept that has, to a large extent, foundered on the common misconception that it is an extension of information management. There are many reasons for this but one of the contributing factors was undoubtedly that the fashion for KM coincided with advent of the Web. The web held a great deal of promise for early KM advocates because at the heart of the KM proposition was a recognition of the vast resource embodied in communities and the desire to liberate and generate value from that. One of the most compelling attributes of the web is its democratising power by lowering barriers to entry and bypassing traditional gatekeepers and it seemed to be the natural bedfellow of KM. However it’s other great strength is its capacity to generate and aggregate data which does have a connection to information and it was this strand that was effectively conflated into KM and very much to its detriment. The connection between the web, information and KM became something of an unholy trinity and the more nebulous, elusive but most valuable principle KM as a liberator and change agent and the web as a potential engine for that was essentially forgotten.

What the web lacked however, and perhaps meant it would never have ultimately delivered as the engine for KM was the conversational and timeliness that Social Media brings. This is the product of a combination technical development and the ubiquity of the architecture and access points and methods, and a changed sensibility of engagement and participation. So Social Media is an engine for conversations, emergent themes and process, rapidly changing evolutionary models and movements.

As such it is also the true platform for liberating that early and mislaid KM potential. But to differentiate it from that somewhat damaged KM model we refer to it as Social Knowledge.

What we mean by this is the use of Social Media technologies and sensibilities to unlock the potential of communities for value. In a business context this can be operationalised as many things, innovation, crowd sourcing, deep insight and any number of other activities and interventions.

This can mean that we have to question some of our long held concepts of business as usual to considering business as unusual. It can challenge our traditional notions of what constitutes the organisation, intellectual property rights, management structures and trust tagging. That challenging is at the same time full of promise and the opportunity to unlock new ideas and hidden potential and value.

We don’t claim to have all of the answers, to be frank no one has. But we have experience and insight in this area and we recognise and embrace the opportunities that it offers. We can help you to both understand and engage with these opportunities, so if you want to know how Social Knowledge could transform your organisation get in touch.

Social Media – It’s so much more than marketing.

Social Media – It’s so much more than marketing.

Social Media has so many applications in a business context. Make sure your Social Media partner understands them. To twintangibles Social Media has the potential to transform the way that we do business because of the way the technologies and sensibilities that underpin it radically alter the dynamic of communication and collaboration.

So why is so much of the buzz about Social Media focused solely on Marketing?

Just the other day I had a discussion with someone who was endeavouring to re invent “Social Media” as “Social Media Marketing” – that is to say adding an extra word to create a new phrase that encompassed all Social Media related activity under the banner of marketing. Hmmm?!!!

Well, marketing is an important aspect of the application of Social Media in the work place but consider the graphic below to reflect just a few of the other applications for Social Media – each of which is a key component in value generation for businesses.

Some uses for SM

A few of the many uses of Social Media

To ignore these opportunities you would be missing a trick. It’s a bit like having a Swiss Army knife and only using the screwdriver because it’s the only tool you can use!

Consider as well how these technologies and techniques can be applied both inwardly and outwardly facing for organisations and you begin to grasp the breadth of opportunity on offer here.

If you are looking for partners in any of your ventures into the realm of Social Media make sure they are capable of addressing the specific needs of the application you are considering, or if you are inviting partners to help you understand the value of Social Media to your business make sure that they do truly understand these applications and are not just marketeers.

To investigate these areas in a bit more depth and to give you the opportunity to test the credentials of your potential partners we will look at the role of Social Media in a number of these areas in the coming blog posts. Stay tuned and follow our twitter @twintangibles feed to keep in touch.

Scottish Craft Breweries use of Social Media

Scottish Craft Breweries use of Social Media

Survey Summary

In September 2010 we carried out a survey on the use of Social Media within the Scottish micro-brewery sector.
We found a generally low take up in the use of SM, with perhaps two or three notable exceptions. These notable exceptions include the clear leader in the sector Brewdog who have usefully used the power of Social Media to launch a successful share issue, and drive brand awareness and engagement up on an international scale. Typically the most active users of social media are those organisations that have a younger demographic in senior management.

However, for the generality and majority of brewers in the sector this would appear to represent a missed opportunity for a sector which would seem to have the characteristics of one that is well suited to benefit from engagement in Social Media.

Whilst it is possible to avoid the use of Social Media, its very nature means that others will almost certainly be using it to talk about your company and brand. We believe that it is much more sensible to be part of that conversation than ignoring it.

Typically smaller enterprises find it hard to find the resource to take the time to understand, set up and maintain a Social Media presence, and for those not familiar with its use it can be harder to recognise the opportunity it represents. However companies like Twintangibles can offer a cost effective solution to those problems.

Background

Our survey – carried out during September 2010 identified 58 active, i.e. operating, trading or brewing Craft or Micro breweries in Scotland.

The intention was to establish the extent to which these organisations had a Social Media presence.

Social Media, which typically includes applications such as twitter, Facebook and YouTube to name a few, offers a powerful armoury of tools that can raise and extend profile and brand awareness for smaller organisations, and to generate deep customer insight and customer led innovation. Our survey was driven by a view that the craft beer consumer has characteristics that suggest Social Media would have particular interest and application to them and so craft beer producers would do well to consider the use of Social Media to generate value for their business.

Findings

Websites: Used as an indicator of the most basic online presence of the 58 active breweries 57 have a website of some sort and these varied in quality and scope from self produced single page sites to sophisticated professionally produced branded, community and e-commerce offerings.

Facebook: Of the active breweries 28 have a Facebook account associated with them. Some of these appear to be fan sites created by fans of the brewery but not employed or with any direct association with them, whilst others are created by the brewery itself or those directly employed and associated with it.
Of this 28, using the very modest criteria set out below – 11 were considered active. That is to say they were being used actively in some way and were not simply place holders or static “brochure ware” presences.

The average number of FB Members or Likes was 337. This may seem quite high but is skewed by the breadth of span of numbers which ranged from 1 to 1993.

Twitter: Of the 58 breweries we identified 12 had identifiable Twitter accounts of which we defined 9 as being active accounts.

Average number of followers is 693 with a span ranging from 30 to 4205. Once again the relatively small number of very active accounts skews the average upwards. Average number for Following was 196 with a range of 1-1025. Average Lists 60 span being 0 – 383

Other online Activity

There is some blogging, some flickr and other picture sharing services used and mashed up in the best examples, and some use of YouTube. Wikipedia entries existed for 25 of the breweries some of which are now no longer active or trading entities.

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twintangibles Ltd is a company registered in Scotland with company number SC397987. Registered office is Blue Square House, 272 Bath Street, Glasgow, Scotland, G2 4JR

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