More Serendipitous Social Upside Vignettes

Continuing with my series on unexpected windfalls and other business benefits realized from socialworking, here are two more examples.  I need to anonymize these to protect the member companies.  One is a large retailer, the other is a large life sciences multi-national.

Social Delivers the Goods (and more)

We’ve all had that experience when we waited for that shiny, new appliance to be delivered.  In this case, it was a washing machine.  Our member, a large retailer, prides itself on its service to customers in its appliance department.  When the delivery driver arrives at the home, they pick up the old appliance, install the new, test it for 15 minutes, and teach the homeowner how to operate it.

This leading retailer delivers thousands of appliances every day.  Delivery drivers (independently) were starting to see problems with a particular model of washer.  As it turns out, a fitting on the back of the washer had been changed by the manufacturer, and they were leaking after installation. The vendor didn’t know about it, the merchant didn’t know, and the drivers definitely were not informed the manufacturer had made the change.  But, the same problem was presenting itself around the country from different stores delivering the appliance.

A few of the delivery drivers turned to the company’s community space and asked, “Is anyone getting leaking problems on this model of washer?”  Once they realized what happened, they were able to stop a problem that would have been a major issue in returns, liability, flooding basements and utility rooms, simply because the manufacturer had decided to change the fittings and didn’t inform the merchants. (Do I hear social supply chain anyone?)

The activity stream of collaboration and sharing got the message to the merchants and back to the vendor and the problem was fixed in a matter of weeks vs. months.  Without a social platform for this mass-scale type sharing, it could have racked up hundreds of thousands of dollars in damages to customers’ homes, diminished customer experience, aggravation, etc., before it bubbled to the surface in a meaningful way.  “The platform gave them the opportunity to share.  Now, the enterprise has to listen,” said our member.

The rewards of over-sharing

Many of our members (some say, like Sisyphus) are trying hard to change the culture at their large organization to encourage new social behaviors.  One of the killer tools in the social toolkit is the “work out loud” axiom.   Work out loud dictates that rather than burying your work in email threads or unsharable telephone calls, you publish what you’re doing and thinking online in a collaborative space (all day long) so others can learn what you know, and likewise, you can mine the intelligence of others’ expertise and experience.   This sort of thinking often falls into criticism from those who are not enmeshed in social business transformation.  The particular vignette  I’m about to discuss cropped up in a thread in the Council where I was grousing about grief I was getting in our Enterprise Irregulars back channel on social business.  My EI compadre, Esteban Kolsky, had expressed his opinion on all things social with this comment directed to me:

…that has nothing to do with being social, and they are not mutually exclusive. you can collaborate without being transparent or authentic – and the whole Kumbaya aspect of being social has been overplayed and shown to have not correlations with real business results. The whole “social” revolution is not about producing more data (as most people expect) but about purposeful engagement in new channels – which if you did not know how to do before, you cannot do now. Know who you engage and how, not just throw you stuff out there for everyone to pick it up. Twitter is no more than an awesome and free PR tool, not an engagement network. Facebook is no more than a way to stay in touch with friends and family. If you can prove otherwise, I am listening- but the people with the best results in the “social” world will tell you it is not simply about “being out there” or being transparent or authentic or collaborative.

Of course, I politely disagreed with Esteban, but in the subsequent discussion with the Council members, a number of great gems emerged to reinforce my opinion.  One of which is the following shared by one of our Life Sciences members:

“Serendipity happens. If you just wait to share until someone ‘needs to know’…you miss potential opportunities. We had this happen a few weeks ago. A marketing person shared information openly to create awareness about their approach to a new project…and someone from research saw it, and commented about some existing data from her department along the same lines. The two teams got together offline as a result and saved us tons of money thanks to knowledge re-use and reduced duplicate effort. Without just ‘being out there’ for the sake of ‘being out there’…that wouldn’t have happened because we are too large to identify all those opportunities on purpose.”

I asked him if he could quantify the savings.  He investigated it and related this to us:

Savings from serendipity: $250K – a planned research project was cancelled thanks to the shared learning across departments.  The existing data was determined to be more informative toward the cause than what the new project would have generated anyway.

Increased Sales: Sales projections estimate a potential sales increase of $30M over 5 years, thanks to the improvements applied to the marketing approach.

Intangibles:  Better insight into customer experiences, leading to improved resources that aid in providing better outcomes for the consumer.

So, by being transparent, authentic, and collaborative in this new way, the member company decreased operational expense by $250K and potentially added $30M in future sales from this single event.

Another member, Joachim Stroh, summed up the conversation neatly with this illustration.

Enjoy!

Attributes of a Socially Optimized Business

Once again, I had the great pleasure to work with my colleagues on an XPLANATiON with our Social Business Council members.  We interviewed a core group of our members to identify the attributes that comprise the whole of the socially optimized business.  I think you will agree, the results are fabulous.

Where are you on the course from Start to Social?

Special thanks go out to members @briantullis, @jimworth, @kendomen, @kimberlymahan, @kristenritter, @seanwinter, @dpontefract, @bricejewell, @robcaldera, and Joachim Stroh.

The Sabermetrics of Social: A Weapon of Mass Disruption

Jonah Hill is not a sexy guy.  He was perfectly cast, however, juxtaposed against Brad Pitt in this year’s academy award contender, Moneyball.  If you’ve not read the book or seen the film, the plot premise centers on the true story of how an under-financed ball team, The Oakland As, leveraged the black art of sabermetric principles to divine a record-breaking season in professional baseball.  The true star of the film was Hill’s character, Peter Brand (Paul DePodesta in real life), who brought a dweebish Ivy League blandness to the romance of American baseball by introducing, well, math. DePodesta was one of, “a new breed of front-office executives whose personnel decisions rely heavily on analysis of performance data, often at the perceived expense of more traditional methods of scouting and observation.” (source Wikipedia).

Stripping out the emotion and the soft factors that tally up player value in baseball is analogous to what’s going on today on the social web.  Everyone’s got their eye on the superstar plays (say, the Old Spice guy, @comcastcares), but they’re missing the raw analysis of true performance metrics.  Making sense of the nuanced patterns is the key to securing competitive advantage.

I saw the film this weekend and couldn’t help making the connection between the film’s premise and the Social Business platform we’re building at Dachis Group.  We launched the Index publicly about three weeks ago.  The SBI is just a lightweight view on a monster social vacuum pulling social data from literally millions of sources about the leading brands in the world.  In order to unleash the power of the tool, you need to get in there, ensure your brand is pulling from all your social sources and start looking for significant patterns.  The social business data platform exists to help brand managers and interested brand marketers discover how social is impacting their brand performance.

We invite you to use this data to hone your social strategy.  As Forbes pointed out recently in its cover story, “Newly armed customer and employee activists can become the source of creativity, innovation and new ideas to take your company forward.”  Harvesting those data sources is our job, but it’s going to take a Peter Brand (Manager) to unlock what the data is telling you.  Relying on consistent, verifiable data analysis, you’ll be able to make sensible predictions that can start delivering wins in the same way the A’s racked up its record-breaking season.  Big data may not be sexy, but gaming the win potential is an irresistible seduction.

There are a host of extremely interesting services coming from the SBI development team.  Very soon, you’ll be able to measure business outcomes framed by a distinct set of measures and metrics that are driving those outcomes.  With user-assigned metadata, you’ll be able to view a variety of dimensions on those outcomes.   This is just a taste of what’s in store.  Social data has the potential to become the long tail that wags the brand dog.  Make sure you’re taking advantage of an early mover advantage, before your competitor does, that is.

Serendipity Happens… to Deliver Million$

As the world turns… social, expect to be surprised by the fruits of serendipity.  When large workforces embrace working socially, or as I love to call it – in “socialworking” mode, they discover new ways of solving problems and creating opportunities.  Insights are revealed in the fluid web of connections and sharing. We’ve seen a dramatic mood swing toward all things social this year.  Even the naysayers have been touting the benefits of working socially recently.

I wanted to take the opportunity to highlight just one example of how working in a truly social organization delivers benefits that could never have been predicted in an executive conference room undergoing the scrutiny of a hard-core ROI analysis.

 

The Million Dollar Cry for Help

This vignette comes from our member Andrew Carusone at Lowe’s Companies, Inc. who told the story at our workshop this summer.  Lowe’s on-boarded 100% of its employee base to its collaborative platform, IBM Connections last year.  That’s every executive, store manager, retail clerk, and stock boy on the payroll.  The entire Lowe’s workforce of 289,000 employees have access to Connections.  What’s interesting is that less than 17,000 of these employees are salaried employees, and even less are members of the management team.  The challenge for the Lowe’s social business team is to inspire the employee base to turn to the platform in the course of their normal day’s work.  For some employees, it comes naturally.

During beta tests, an enterprising Paint Department employee decided to try something new to demonstrate the ease of cleaning a Teflon paint tray.  She poured latex paint into it, let it dry, and then peeled the paint out whole.  She left both the paint “mold” and the paint tray on the paint counter.  Customers were amazed and delighted. Suddenly, she was sold out of the paint trays and shoppers were clamoring for more.

The employee turned to all of her traditional channels to get additional inventory.  She accessed the company’s enterprise inventory system, however, like most major retailers, the business process tightly controls the amount of additional inventory employees can request.  After exhausting other traditional sources, the employee then turned to the Connections platform and asked “out loud”* if anyone knew how she could get more inventory.  Funny thing happened.  Although everyone felt her pain on the inventory shortage, they started replicating her paint mold/tray demo in their stores.  And guess what?   Suddenly other stores were selling out of the paint trays too.  As interest in the thread and the display idea grew in popularity, sales skyrocketed.

When applied on an enterprise level, the unique display idea represented more than a million dollars in additional revenue of the SHUR-LINE Teflon 9″ Metal Tray.  With that single serendipitous public share –employee-to-employee – at the kind of scale that Lowe’s enabled with its full workforce deployment, ideas like this can easily pay in full for the technology platforms that enabled it.  And this is just a single example.  Our Lowe’s members say these examples happen all the time.  I have a few more along these lines from other members I’ll post in the future.

What’s interesting to me in this example is that when the sanctioned business process that the Lowe’s employee was “workflowed” to use failed to deliver, it prompted her to seek out alternatives. (The company regulates how much inventory a store can order and when.)  She also reached out via other channels: email, phone calls, etc., with little success.   It was only after she circumvented the traditional sources and leveraged the power of pull within her employee base, did the company realize this unexpected windfall in revenue.   Not because she was able to order more inventory (her original ask), but because she shared her clever merchandising technique with the employee base creating demand for her idea far beyond her single store.  As Andy says, “What felt like a pebble – landed like a stone!”

It was the innovative idea that went viral in the company, resulting in the huge inventory demand (and subsequent sales) corporate-wide.   Smart employees throughout the ages have always found better ways to accomplish their goals, but these massive collaborative platforms are yielding leapfrogs in productivity and serendipitous wins on a large scale.  Be sure not to overlook this important upside of working socially.  In other words, “Be careful what you don’t ask for, you just might get it.”

*We talk a lot about “working out loud” in the Council.  Try it.  It just may delight you. 

I, For One, Welcome our New Social Data Overlords


Historically, the trouble I’ve always had with social media was the precision deficit surrounding the interpretation of its influence.  It always seemed to me that if you could get, say, Chris Brogan to talk about anything, you were successful with social media.  Okay, maybe that’s an exaggeration, and social media has really never been my area of expertise in the spectrum of all social business.  Readers of this blog know I focus more on the internal enterprise side of social business.  Because, well, it is more rational maybe?  See my coverage of my first SXSW Interactive.

BUT…

Before I got back into the technology sector in the 90s, I spent a solid few years in the Advertising business.  And not digital or online advertising (it didn’t exist yet). In the real Advertising (TV/Broadcast/Print) world. (With a capital A.)  Think of it as Mad Men for Yuppies (late 80s).  I entered the ad world as an Account Executive on the IBM account. The agency I joined, LGFE, was a boutique outfit, a part of JWT.  We had 100% of the IBM business.  In 1980 dollars, we had a $160M annual media budget for IBM and it comprised the lion’s share of the agency’s billings.  The agency was best known for two things: 1. its launch of the IBM PC and 2. its famous Executive “breakaway” which literally made Advertising history.  But those are great stories for another day.  Like most LGFE employees after the breakaway, I skedaddled my way down Madison Avenue to a new position with Ogilvy & Mather where I helped teach our Creatives about the Unix operating system.  Again, great stories for another day, another blog.  I just wanted to establish a little Mad Street Cred before I get to the heart of this post.

When I think about the burgeoning world of social media, I compare its trends and “findings” with what we were doing 30 years ago in Advertising. Even back then, for all the hoopla, big expense accounts, private limos, and 5-star hotels, Advertising was pretty serious stuff.  It was all about the numbers. (We all thanked the technology gods for Lotus 1-2-3.)  Campaigns that strove to cultivate an emotional connection to a brand were paid for by executives who wanted to see stone cold returns on their investment.  And, I’m going way out on a limb here, after 30 years I’m pretty sure that hasn’t changed.  In fact, the pressure to deliver results from media spend is probably more fierce than ever considering the fracturing of a traditional media landscape that was fairly easy to manipulate in the old days before the Internet and mobile technology.

So fast forward to 2011. No, 2010.  Erik Huddleston joined Dachis Group as CTO. When Erik first arrived, I wasn’t sure what he was going to do.  Get our wifi working in the office or something.  But, the next thing I knew, Erik was presenting at Defrag, whaaa? and young men in black tee shirts that said, “Hadoop” started skulking around the office.   I finally got briefed on what this little dream team was working on buried away in remote locations around the world, and I was kinda blown away.

A beginning step in that effort is announced today for public consumption.  Erik’s team has built a platform that crunches hundreds of millions of data points in near real time to deliver a view on how social a given company is –  how they compare to their industry, their competitors – broken down as best in class by company, subsidiary, geography, department and brand. Culling from APIs, data buys, data partnerships, page scrapes, crowd-sourced data, company contributions, and our own internal data team, we now offer the Social Business Index (SBI) to anyone who wants to get a view into how your company’s brand is performing on the social web.  Over 100 leading companies participated in the early access program to get the data refined and help develop useful insights for its use.  The SBI offers insights for 26,000 brands from over 20,000 companies by analyzing over 100 million social accounts world wide, and hundreds of millions of other sources.

Again, the SBI is simply a lightweight lens on a massive platform that is compiling ground-breaking social data analytics and analysis.  The SBI is free for the companies covered and anyone can sign up to see how your brand is doing at www.socialbusinessindex.com.


This first effort is just a taste of what is coming.  Big data will yield something that has been inconveniently missing in marketing on a large scale: evidence-based marketing with business outcomes correlated to measurable metrics. Internet marketers have done a great job with what’s known as performance marketing, but with the advent of big data, marketing spend can be targeted with much greater precision and brands can engage meaningfully in near real time. In fact, interactive advertising has finally matched broadcast TV spend.  Forrester recently reported that, “By 2016, advertisers will spend $77 billion on interactive marketing – as much as they do on television today.”

This post is a departure from what I typically cover regarding the Enterprise 2.0 sector, but I’m extremely excited about this work.  On the road map is deep analysis into workforce/partner/supplier engagement, so the relevance for the enterprise is huge.  Even having this type of brand intelligence will impact internal operations in many ways.  Agile companies who can react quickly, will be competitive winners in their categories.

If Dachis Group is known only for its BSD (Big Social Data), then I am totally cool with that.  Being first to market with real ROI on social is sweet, and will go far to relegate the buzzfest of social media 1.0 to the history books.

 

SMC Austin Chapter hosts a conversation on Social Business

SMC Austin is held at the original Austin City Limits studio. Gorgeous venue.

Be there: Register today.

Just when you think you have all the answers, something crops up that challenges your beliefs on how Social Business works and will work in the future.   Whether it’s new platforms/tools, new regulation, organizational changes, even world events — the Social Business world does not stand still and learning in this space is highly iterative.  At Dachis Group and for our Social Business Council members, we face this reality day in and day out.  The good news on Social Business is there are ample opportunities to increase and share your learning.  To that end,  I’m going to be moderating a panel discussion on Social Business at the upcoming Social Media Club Austin meeting next week. (Tuesday, 8/16 from 6pm – 8pm CT).  I hope you can join us if you’re local, and if you’re not, I’m sure the tweet stream will be buzzing.  The twitter hashtag for Social Media Austin events is #SMCA.

We’ll have a great panel of vendors (who just happen to have great “user” experience as well) relating their own journeys on transforming their clients, as well as their own companies, to become fully-functioning Social Businesses.  There is a lot of collective wisdom represented on this panel of experts, so I hope you’ll join us in the conversation.  This will be my speaking debut to our awesome local Social Media Club chapter (most active club in the world, outside of San Francisco I hear).  I’m looking forward to mashing up my knowledge of the internal enterprise social space with the external expertise resident in this town, as well as meeting lots of new social enthusiasts.

On the panel we will have Jive’s Deirdre Walsh, who is somewhat of a hometown hero of mine as she led National Instruments‘ social strategy prior to joining Jive as Social Media Manager.  Then, we have the amazing Kat Mandelstein who has been a terrific champion for Social Business at IBM and one smart cookie on all things social.  Kat is also on the international board for the SMC and has done a great job supporting the Austin SMC chapter as Vice President.  The other two panelists are Will Staney of VMware (which recently acquired Socialcast) and Jean-Claude Monney of Microsoft.  I have not yet met Will or Jean-Claude, but have heard great things about them, so I look forward to hearing their insights.  Will has an impressive background in introducing social media and adoption of social technology at VMWare with a  solid foundation in community management and new media strategy. Jean-Claude leads Microsoft’s technical strategy in the Discrete Manufacturing industry, chairs the Microsoft High Tech Customer Advisory Board and represents Microsoft as the chair of the OAGi High Tech Council, a global B2B standards organization.

In preparation for the panel, we’re soliciting your questions ahead of time so we can get them into the session.  Don’t be shy.  Let us fashion the panel to suit your interests.

Send us questions you’d like to hear answered.

See you there!