• November 3, 2010
  • A lot of information is coming together this quarter that begins to put new spin on Social CRM.  While we’ve all been busy getting networked in our personal lives and professionally, a huge mountain of data has been accumulating that will make our work in social technology more valuable.

    Last week Harvard Business Review released a report sponsored by SAS Institute which shows that while many enterprises are well on their way in adopting various social technologies for business use, the number that also are deploying analytics lags.  I know of at least two other reports that will contribute similar information when they arrive on the scene too.

    This disparity between data accumulation and data analytis is temporary because as an organization accumulates customer data without basic analytics most of the data is useless.  If you want to know who your best customers are, it’s relatively easy to get a report that says who bought the most in the shortest period of time.  But with analytics you can also delve into the data to ask questions of the why and why not types and there life gets interesting.

    Asking why can often uncover alternatives, things that were or were not done and to examine the root causes.  In finding those causes you can uncover new opportunities, revenue that is there for the taking because you know where and how to look.

    Last week in Las Vegas I listened to many smart people from big companies discussing how they used SAS Analytics to gauge customer sentiment, run marketing campaigns and manage the conversations they have with customers.  I learned about millions of found dollars brought to the bottom line because analytics were able to make sense of the data thrown off by each customer transaction.

    Now, granted, in a billion dollar company a few million bucks may not seem significant but it’s the easiest money you can make.  There’s nothing to invent, market or sell to get the revenue, it simply comes from doing a job better.  Also, if you happen to be lucky enough to own the P&L for a department using analytics, your growth goal in a challenging economy might look a lot easier to attain with analytics.

    Consider the above as playing offense, analytics help with defense too.  According to the Harvard study, most companies don’t know what their customers are saying about them or where (Facebook, Twitter, blogs etc.) they are saying it.  Even my crude research a few weeks ago into using search engines to discover how many customers dislike their vendors, indicates a certain lack of intelligence about the outside world.  If hundreds of thousands of my customers were angry enough to write blogs about my company, I would want to know who they were, but most vendors aren’t at the level of having the appropriate tools yet.

    Using analytics to digest customer sentiment and make the data actionable is another way that a company, through reputation management, can potentially earn more on the work it does thus taking some pressure off growth objectives.

    So for these and other reasons, social media is building the case for a virtuous relationship between analytics and the data that social media generates.  As a result I see plenty of reasons that analytics will continue to shed its outdated reputation as a technology that is only used by an elite few in an organization.  The big data sets involved also make a strong case for web based analytics processing to help defray the hardware costs, at least for some vendors.

    Embedding analytics in the applications and processes—especially those governed by social media—that deal with customers and capture their data will become more important over time.  That’s why it is inescapable to me that analytics will become the secret sauce of a well-run social media or social CRM implementation.  Isn’t there an old adage that says it’s not the data it’s what you do with it?  There should be.


    Published: 13 years ago

    My favorite scene in The Social Network is when Mark Zuckerberg’s character has an epiphany that Facebook’s screen should have a field to designate a user’s status, as in relationship status or availability.

    Wait, I didn’t give something away did I?  You’ve seen the movie, right?  No?  Go see it.  I’ll wait.


    Zuckerberg, Facebook’s founder and CEO, is depicted as a computer savant lacking in social graces immediately in the first scene.  But at this point we are not sure if his rudeness and sarcasm reflect his youth or something else.  As the movie progresses we discover a character who is what some professionals would describe as “on the spectrum,” not autistic, not asperger’s syndrome, perhaps, but clearly not the gregarious party animal that he becomes surrounded by either.

    That Zuckerberg would need this epiphany might just be creative screen writing to advance the plot.  But its effect is to depict Facebook as the elaborate creation by a gifted young man on the spectrum, of a social filter that can potentially help him navigate through the social life at Harvard and beyond.  Thus the importance of the epiphany — people socialize for nookie, among other things.  Who would have thunk it?

    Social media is a filter that most people don’t need but happily use to increase their number of manageable contacts in what is becoming a social arms race.  That’s an important message for the rest of us who, in our outgoing and youthful exuberance, use social media to spam the details of our oh-so-important personal lives.

    Social networking is a listening tool but you might miss that message from the movie and actual use but not if you study Zuckerberg’s character.  There’s enough other information in the movie to question the character’s ethics and temperament — I guess strange things happen to you when billions of dollars suddenly occupy an important part of your life.  My impression is that the guy is misunderstood.

    But the film also gives some perspective on social media’s adoption by business.  To date most of the attention received by social media has been for its ability to reach out to so many people quickly and inexpensively.  It is the same appeal that email marketing had but also direct mail and broadcasting before that.  The implicit assumption is that you simply need to get your message to lots of people and that a few will self-select and respond.

    It’s an idea that has always worked but the movie depicts an underside worth noting, namely that a jerk with a Facebook account can play the game but not necessarily win.  Ok, maybe a billion dollars will help even the playing field for a jerk but that’s not the reality for the vast majority.

    A company that uses social media to spam, and doesn’t have a billion dollars to make itself look attractive, might suffer a different fate.  It gets back to listening, the Zuckerberg character builds Facebook more or less to help filter reality and that makes it a powerful listening tool for all of us if we choose.

    The thing that’s different about social media in business is the impact of analytics.  In your personal life your brain does a kind of personal analysis of everything that comes in.  Some things you trash others you keep but in business it’s not so simple.  In business you need analytics to help sift through everything that comes in so that you can arrive at statistically meaningful information.

    But it all starts with listening and asking the kinds of questions that show you are interested while encouraging people to open up.  Facebook makes some things easy because it has a field to capture a specific data item like status.

    The current rage for social media is a normal part of a product lifecycle.  It’s the stage when people apply a new solution to every conceivable problem to see what happens.  Sometimes, the results are utter nonsense.  Eventually, though, things will settle down and social networking will seem as boring as a telephone and that is when it will make its greatest contribution.

    Published: 13 years ago

    The Face of Facebook

    There’s an interesting article in the September 20 issue of The New Yorker on Mark Zuckerberg, CEO and founder of Facebook.  Written by Jose Antonio Vargas it is a synopsis of a short life that includes a partial Harvard education — Zuckerberg dropped out a la Gates to run Facebook — and a whirlwind thereafter.  With the movie The Social Network coming out on Friday I thought it provided a good back story to the founding and evolution of this social networking site.

    The main thing that struck me is how young one is as a college sophomore.  I had forgotten that, though I am sure those close to me would vouch for the fact that I have not progressed much from that point.  College is like work release from childhood for most of us.  We’re out in the world, more or less, but still tethered to a more or less structured life of classes, projects, friends, music, parties and the usual anxieties — Does she like me? Will I get into grad school?  Find a career?  Follow my dream?  What is my dream?

    So getting a peek at Zuckerberg as a precocious programmer and accidental entrepreneur is sobering.  It is more sobering than understanding the exploits of another famous Harvard dropout, Bill Gates, who left to found Microsoft.  It’s one thing to build, buy or steal an operating system that will, if it runs well, be the equivalent of computer wallpaper and quite another to build and be the front man for a social networking application.

    Unarguably, both men and their inventions changed the world, but it seems that Gates had just a little bit more space-time between him and the rest of reality in which to mature as a person before taking on the persona of a public titan of industry, or whatever you might call it.

    While the article is, I felt, balanced and the writer interviewed Zuckerberg for the piece, the same can’t be said for the movie coming out.  The article indicated that the movie and the book on which it is based used no interviews with Zuckerberg to gather source material and it is unauthorized.  Now, I know this kind of thing happens all the time, but it makes one just a bit more sympathetic for Zuckerberg.

    The article (and probably the movie) tracks the ups and downs of Zuckerberg’s odyssey from baby nerd programming applications for his father’s dental practice (his mother was a stay at home mom and psychiatrist) to Harvard kid helping other students develop a site that would become the progenitor of Facebook.  The article and the movie get into the lawsuits over the IP too.

    That’s where I said, “Whoa horsey!”  I suppose there are plenty of people out there who are conniving enough to steal an idea from a fellow college student, but how many turn it into a franchise that, if the company ever goes public, will make him one of the richest people on the planet well before his thirtieth birthday?

    Facebook’s founding is murky — who had the idea and who programmed it are largely established but what about the influences each had on others as the idea got hammered out?  Critical questions because they go directly to how much each should receive in a settlement.  Would the product be as successful with a different constellation of characters or different relative amounts of contributions from each?  Would it even have gotten off the ground?

    The Face of Facebook is interesting because it brings these issues to the forefront, but it also is a tale of the very early twenty-first century when almost any idea can be commercialized and the time horizon on youth is shrinking.  It’s ironic that our culture, which celebrates youth, could now be forcing kids into adulthood almost before they’re ready.

    Published: 13 years ago