social technology

An Open, Social Practice

ifyoutalkedtopeople - gapingvoidAwhile ago Steve Bendt and I put some of what we thought we knew about social technology and how it could influence marketing into a slideshow. We called it "An Open, Social Approach." It was principles, kind of airy stuff without a ton of practice, based on what we thought we'd learned from building BSN (BlueShirt Nation) and Giftag and some other stuff. Now, about nine months later, we have a growing body of practical implementations at Best Buy we can compare and contrast with the principles laid out back then.

Barry Judge reviews the principles and their practice as part of the experiment and John Bernier gives a review of the experience of managing the project and finally Lars Forsberg recaps the whole development experience behind @twelpforce and Best Buy Connect.

You can also watch the practice unfold daily at IdeaX, The Best Buy Idea Exchange.

From where I'm standing it looks like the principles translate pretty nicely into practice. But I'd like to ask you all to help compare and contrast the principles versus the practice - I'm only one point of view afterall.

Social Technology in a Tough Economy

My social Network on Flickr, Facebook, Twitter...

Image by luc legay via Flickr

Here’s how it goes. When times get tough people get a bunker mentality. Lots of de-risking behavior.  Cover up. Cut costs. Consolidate. Anything that looks like it might not work out is set aside. Any exposure to dependencies, internal or external is scrutinized and minimized. Most anything ‘new’ gets a bullet. New products, ways of doing things and new ideas in general are eschewed in favor of the familiar.  Everyone is thinking this way, you and your customers.  No new spending. No new initiatives.  New? No.  Whatever companies or brands were making or doing before the downturn looks and feels highly experimental. Anything ‘experimental’ or ‘unproven’ makes a natural target in a down market. And for a lot of companies, social media or social technology will fall into the category of new.

So this is bad news for social tech / social media. Right? Not really. Although businesses may walk away from it, customers will embrace it. When shit gets sideways what do you do? Who do you call? I’m driving along on my way to work. I hit a patch of ice and woop, woop, woop, I’m in the ditch. What’s the first thing I do after I stop swearing? Maybe I call my wife. Or a friend. Or maybe I get the number of a tow service. Or maybe I talk to the guy nice enough to stop and see if I’m okay. Each of these is a social activity.

Customers aren’t walking away from Facebook or Twitter or Google Groups because times are tough. They’re embracing them. So what do you do?

First thing: Open up
You’re competing for trust. Not attention. Not dollars. Not even share. Right now it’s trust. It is the coin of the realm in a shit economy. One of the quickest ways to earn trust is to be as transparent as possible. Start blogging. Start tweeting. Be honest, especially when you really get the urge to spin something. “I don’t know” “I can’t say” and “I was mistaken” are all better than the most finely crafted PR response.

Share everything you know. At least everything you can. The only things that should be locked are the things that are private. The personal equivalent would be your medicine chest, your file cabinet - where you keep bank statements, tax returns, etc., and your underwear drawer. You know, private stuff. A great way for a lot of companies to do this is to open their API’s.  Application Programming Interface. It basically lets others connect to you by connecting to your data.

Second thing: Try lots of small things

The time of big ideas is over. A big idea is just an idea with a big budget. Not a lot of those to go around these days. Even worse, a big idea leaves no room for any other ideas. And the fewer ideas you have the less likely it is you’ll have a good one.

The next time someone says, “What if we...” your answer should be, “Cool. What’s the cheapest, fastest way we can try that?” There’s almost nothing that can’t be modeled, mocked up or hacked together quickly and cheaply. If you do it right, the first nine attempts will fail. If the tenth fails, move on. But keep trying. A quick note here; ‘small things’ are meant to be tried in low-criticality environments. They are also best tried by small groups of people (like four) who are passionate about the idea.  Otherwise, instead of quick, cheap failures, you get big, expensive, drawn-out failures.

Third thing: Be patient

Not only will you not get the hang of social media overnight, but your customers and maybe even your employees won’t believe it at first. It takes commitment. It takes time. Besides, what else are you going to spend? Money?

An open, social approach

Steve Bendt and I are trying to get straight how what we've learned over the last three years in the world of social technology (bsn , giftag , etc ) can be put to use across more broadly. We've been fiddling around with some thoughts, trying to get it to make sense for our employer - Best Buy. Below is a slide share of where we are topline - each slide has specifics that will be attached.

View SlideShare presentation or Upload your own.

wiki one oh one

As we try to get our enterprise to embrace the wiki as a way of collaborating and sharing knowledge across vast geo space - Steve Bendt suggested this little gem.


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