Your Company’s Social Debut

Planning Your Company’s Debut or Strategy in the Social Media Sphere

Corporations have long been regarded by the law as having “legal personality”-  which means they have rights, privileges, responsibilities, and protections just like humans (with some differences, like marriage).   It should come as no surprise then, that they’re acting like humans more and more – now they’re relaxing with friends, and socializing! As communication gets easier through digital technology, humans are now able to interact with corporate personalities.  And these personalities are just beginning to awaken to the new freedoms they can find in the digital landscape.

If you’re like me, and I bet you are, you are both human, and, also a part of bringing business personalities to the social scene. In this capacity, I recently attended SocialTech2010 in Jan Jose, CA, right from my desk in NYC.

As the Twitter stream flowed by rapidly with commentary and quotes from the speakers, I watched and listened to advice, case studies and stories from the experts on Social Media for Business. I came away with the recognition that Social Media for business is just like a big networking cocktail party!

Companies aren’t accustomed to acting as social creatures and the adjustment will take some time. We all had to learn social skills growing up; companies can do the same. There are a few things that etiquette would require of a cocktail party attendee and that’s the same strategy the speakers at SocialTech2010 are recommending:  Know who you are, be interactive and respectful, don’t gossip, be a good listener, and don’t be afraid to share yourself.

As businesses gain proficiency in this kind of interacting, they follow an arc towards maturity. Kathleen Malone of Intel outlined the following 5 stages of a Social Media Approach:

1)      Listen: In this stage a company finds out: What are people saying about my Brand and/or my field? Where are they having this discussion? Who are the major players and influencers?  Services like Radian6, which Malone says Intel deployed 18 months ago, make this possible.

2)      Analyze: This is the time to read the room/space, figure out what your angle will be when you eventually do pipe up. Which conversation will you enter? What are your expectations? Why are you going to participate?

3)      Create: This is the stage where the business comes up with something appropriate to say. To participate effectively in the conversation, Malone says your content should be: useful, interesting, human, “snackable” (meaning in bite size pieces, easily consumed), inspiring and should cater to egos and build community.  

4)      Engage: In this stage you go public and enter the conversation, getting your content out there in new ways and/or by participating in the conversations that already exist.

5)      Measure: Your social media approach is not complete without an understanding of how you’re doing. The internet is an amazing forum for measuring how people behave with your content, and you should use a variety of tools to understand the response to your forays. Measuring properly will provide insight on how to proceed, both in the ongoing conversation, and with the business itself.

Both Malone and Brian Ellefritz of SAP outlined the natural evolution of Social Media programs at large companies  – first there are what Ellefritz calls “Grass Roots” efforts, where excited individuals branch out in ways that are unpredictable and non-uniform. He says companies should encourage these exploratory missions. Leadership will begin to emerge internally, and informal education will get the ball rolling. Following the “Grass Roots” period, Ellefritz sees “Silos Form.” This may not feel 100% smooth, but is an important step, as “coop-eteition” (a kind of cooperating/kind of competing relationship, sort of like sibling rivalry that spurs each one on) sees different silos jockeying for position. During this step, Ellefritz encourages companies to “invest in leaders, not laggards”, and to get the players from various silos together to learn from each other.  Also, he says, “don’t wait too long for governance.”

The next evolutionary phase in a corporate Social Media Program is “Operationalizing” – where leadership becomes clear, channels become well formed and in alignment with the divisions in your business.  Tools begin to consolidate and more emphasis on measurement and results appears. By this point your business may have headcount devoted to social media, and content should become less problematic, less of a focus, because it’s running more smoothly.  During this stage it’s important to align and integrate silos, and focus on strategy, ownership, metrics and priorities.

After this shift, the next phase is what Ellefriz calls “Lifestyle.” This is when the Social Media program has engaged and competent employees and success is understood and positive outcomes are frequent. This is a level of Social Media implementation that is fairly rare in today’s scene, though Ellefritz points towards Zappos as an example of a company that may be at this level.

.. .. ..

The wonderful thing about participating in social media is that it lets your personality out! For a business that hasn’t previously seen itself as the kind of entity that has a social life, this might seem daunting at first.  That’s why Ellefriz’s evolutionary arc makes so much sense to me. The way I see it, people and businesses want more than ever to get clear on who they are, and who they want to be, in order to present themselves well, and to participate in Social Media conversations. The best advice is to be authentic. Just like at cocktail parties, the people you’re conversing with generally know if you’re “full of it”, or if you’re being sincere.  Your conversational counterparts like to be complemented, offered nuggets of useful information, and generally considered and included.

For businesses, (and the teams of people that perpetuate them) this will mean really focusing on what the goals are, what opportunities exist to communicate clearly and uniformly around these interests, finding “friends” out there to talk with, and owning up to the inevitable minor mistakes that are so easy to make along the way. Since SM is such a public sphere, the resulting increased level of transparency is going to make businesses change and open up in new ways.

Coachdeb:”RT @MarketingProfs: “When someone says they need a Facebook strategy, a Twitter strategy, I say… Wait! Take it back… What’s your story?” @scobleizer #mptech”

So, armed with the Social Media/networking party analogy and with the stages of approach and evolution path laid out before you – what are you waiting for?  Participate!

Here are 10 tips to consider as you get started:

1)      Go where the fish are – target engagement carefully where the conversation already is.

2)      Social Media is Local. The goal is to be uniform while being decentralized – Intel communicates internally with their 1000 “Registered Social Media Practitioners” with guidelines and trainings (some mandatory). Intel also has their own internal newsletter that aggregates Social Media content – Malone says this makes management comfortable as well as keeps everyone updated.

3)      Have a Content Calendar for the year to coordinate Social Media messaging across channels and people, and to keep it focused on your message. Kathy Malone said at Intel, 2/3 of the content that gets put out falls under the guidelines of their content strategy calendar.

4)      Consider in advance how to manage Social Media Risk. One of the most interesting things Jaime Grenny of SalesForce said at SocialTech2010 is that all their employee training videos on Social Media strategy (and how to use online video for B2B marketing) are up for the public to see on YouTube (here).  This level of transparency lets everyone know what to expect upfront.  Malone outlined a “prevention/detection/response” approach in which 3 teams worked from different angles to mitigate risk on the social media front. And experience teaches: “if you screwed up, fess up”, and be transparent.

5)      If your company is doing moderation of dialogue, consider having a light hand to keep the conversation honest – as Intel puts it, they let the good and the bad in, but moderate the ugly – mostly meaning profanity and non-constructive comments, and they’ve found their audience appreciates it.

6)      Build a business case for your business so you know why you’re entering into Social Media – not only will it legitimize your efforts internally, but it’ll provide clarity for your message. Will it extend customer service? Will it increase SEO? Can you use it to create brand advocates and champions? Can you collect ideas on where to take your product?

7)      To measure, use Context. As with all web metrics, in order to understand what’s happening you need to understand the context of your data, and compare it to a baseline to view trends. Knowing your goals will assist you in setting up context.

8)      People are the PlatformLaura Ramos of Xerox encourages us to get our people out there and seen. Show video of your thought leadership. Get your salespeople to share their stories and knowledge with the rest of your company and make them heroes. Build relationships, and let your existing customers create new business for you. Social Media Marketing is not about reaching many to influence a few but engaging a few to influence many!

9)      Social is relevant. Here are some StatsRené Bonvani of Palo Alto Networks says that FaceBook has a 96% penetration in enterprise, meaning that only 4/100 people aren’t using it at work! He also said that only 1% is posting on Facebook but that people are 69 times more likely to use FaceBook chat than to post.  Another impressive Bonvani stat: 69% of business buyers use social media to make purchasing decisions.  No matter the numbers, it’s clear that with the cost of communication dropping close to $0, as social beings, we’re using the web to communicate more often with more people, and in smaller chunks regularly.

10)   Social media has to be part of WHAT you do, not something else you do. Jeremiah Owyang in his keynote said that the only difference between the Social Site and your business is the URL. He says that in the radical future, websites will be dynamically assembled on the fly based on social profiles. URLs and domains won’t matter – the web will be sorted around people and contextual situations.  Because of this, ads will become useful content.  This is already evident.

So – Get out there and participate!

Edgewater Technology provides strategy, consulting, web metrics, and implementation expertise to help you focus on the best ways your company can engage in these dynamic communities and track your success!

Hidden Impact of the iPad on Your Corporate Website?

Even though the iPad appears to be a device for Apple fans, gadget freaks, tech savvy consumers, etc., it is already positioned to have a significant impact on the nature and shape of corporate websites. The adoption and growth rate of specialized content consumption devices such as Smart Phones, Tablets, and Net Books can no longer be simply ignored. B2B and especially B2C companies need to ensure that their websites not just “function” on the iPad and other similar devices but they must provide a good user experience. Just as higher bandwidths and more powerful computers once changed static websites forever the new content consumption devices are positioned to do the same again. The buzz around the iPad and its successful launch means that any future website planning and upgrades need to keep the new realities in mind.

Perhaps the most talked about aspect of the iPad browsing has been lack of support for the Adobe Flash. Apple CEO Steve Jobs has termed Flash buggy, a CPU hog, and a security risk. Regardless of whether you agree with Jobs or not, recent trends in website design and development do point towards less Flash usage for various reasons. HTML 5 is being touted as the new replacement and many key companies and websites have already adopted it. Therefore any decision to use Flash or to continue supporting existing Flash applications should be weighted carefully. Many major websites like WSJ, NPR, USA Today, and NYT are doing away with Flash and taking a dual approach of providing the iPad optimized apps and rolling out new Flash-less websites.

Still common among corporate websites are the slide out menus that require constant cursor presence which makes for not so friendly experience for the finger based navigation. Touch interfaces are rapidly gaining in popularity and are no longer limited to Smart Phones and Tablets, some of the newer laptops also support them. Another implication of touch interface is that links that are too small or too close to each other make it difficult for users to click them and create a frustrating user experience. The ever shrinking size of buttons and links now needs to be reconsidered and their placement must also be rethought. Touch is here to stay and sites need to evolve to ensure they are “touch” friendly.

In the days immediately following Netscape’s collapse, Internet Explorer became the king of browsers and any corporate website needed only to be tested with 2 or 3 versions of Internet Explorer. Since then FireFox, Chrome, and Safari have gained significant market share, and any updates to the corporate website must once again be tested against a plethora of browsers. Safari has hitched a ride with the iPhone and the iPad and therefore requires special consideration in ensuring that the corporate website renders and functions well. However, browsers no longer hold a monopoly on being the sole interface to the internet content.  The rise of proprietary apps providing customized experience means now there is a challenger to the mighty browser. Major media sites like NYT, WSJ, BBC, etc. all have rolled out their iPhone and iPad apps which provide a highly controlled experience outside of the browser.  

The iPad’s larger screen provides an excellent full-page browsing experience. However, number of sites treat the iPad as a mobile client and serve up the mobile version of the web-site. In most cases user can click on the full-site link and access the standard website but that is cumbersome to the users. Websites now need to differentiate between smaller mobile clients where limited mobile version of the website makes sense and newer larger content consumption devices like the iPad where nothing but the full-site will do. Needless to say the iPad and other similar devices are creating a new reality and the corporate websites need to take notice or risk being considered old and obsolete.

Top Web Technology and Marketing trends for 2010 part 1 – Social Strategy and Infrastructure

I was at Barnes and Noble over the weekend and browsing through the business books section could see only 2 types of titles, books on the financial collapse and guides to social media marketing. Both are selling well I hear.

It’s good to see that after some significant doubts, corporate America and small businesses alike are engaging users on social media sites and twitting away. Unfortunately, what we often get is a complete schizophrenic approach. The corporate website is all law and order, control and command broadcasting carefully crafted and designed branding messages and product introductions. Then we have the social media wild west where everything goes, no rules exist and chaos reigns. Living with a split personality is hard and as Nestle recently found out, trying to enforce brand guidelines on Facebook can backfire at you.

As mentioned, there are a bucketload of books that will teach you how to engage and utilize social media, use it to form personal relationships and provide value add rather than just another outlet for PR.

I think a more urgent task we have is addressing the challenges of changing the purpose, structure and utility of public websites to adapt to the new social reality. Frankly, even after 6 years of “web 2.0” most sites are still pretty static brochureware, but the Social revolution is changing that quickly. Even though not every company will want to cancel their website and send users to Facebook instead as Skittles did for a few months, there is much to gain from trying to marry the two worlds.

The goals of the public website have not really changed: create a positive brand experience, attract and convert new customers, retain existing customers, make it easy to do business with you and provide great service anytime, anywhere. Now adding the social layer on top of that elevates it to a whole new level. It also requires a new and maturing technical infrastructure and tools to manage this experience.

Adding the social layer can take many forms but done right it will make every website more relevant, accessible, personal and effective. The tools to manage this new environment are still evolving and maturing but the next releases in all product categories will include a social integration layer.

Before embarking on the next iteration, every website owner must examine and decide: “How social should the company’s site be?”

Here are some guidelines for different models of social integration

  1. Divide and Conquer: create separate destinations for different types of interaction but make them distinct from the main site
  2. Complete control over brand experience: build the brand site into a social community
  3. Co-Promotion: link and syndicate content from site to social media, promote social media activity on site.
  4. Aggregation and context: aggregate relevant social media to site from multiple sources
  5. Integrate and Connect with Social Media: create a seamless experience and leverage identity and existing relationships

Of course, these modes are not mutually exclusive and can be used for different part of the site or in evolving fashion.

For more on these topics, I’m doing a webinar on 3/31/10 on best practices of social integration and will bring some examples. To register go here.

The Promise of the Real Time Web for the Enterprise

Real Time Web is the latest trend to capture the media’s attention over the past few months, and indeed seems to encapsulate well the effect that Twitter and the social networks are having on the flow of information. The ability to get up-to-the-second information about people, news and activities around the world is a foundation for a new wave of startups and services and is being integrated into search and other services.

As many users of the real time web will attest, its constant stream of information can be overwhelming and disjointed but at its best, it allows awareness and insight to emerge as the confluence of information takes a clearer shape.

Can this be useful in the enterprise? (I’ll be careful about using the term “The Real-Time Enterprise” that Gartner coined a few years ago; it means something else).

Companies generate huge amounts of data that rarely sees the light of day. Let’s consider the following scenario – you are an account manager for several key accounts in a particular vertical. What information are you getting? Most likely direct and indirect emails consist of 90% of the information while the rest is verbal, non-documented conversations. But what if you could get real-time updates on the following:

  • Client specific news
  • Client brand related blog posts, discussions, videos and tweets in real time
  • Vertical news
  • Client services updates about milestones reached
  • Customer support alerts about open service tickets and their resolution status
  • Internal discussions and email regarding the client
  • External email communications with the client by different team members
  • Etc..

Not all of these would constitute information that someone will send a specific email on. Being aware of the stream of news, discussions and information can be invaluable for an agile and responsive approach.

Our current document and email centric information systems are not built to provide this level of constant details. Using the new generation of web mashups and aggregation tools are beginning to offer reasonable solutions.

As Jennifer Martinez had recently observed in GigaOm, there is a huge potential for tools that will help sift and provide context for all of these huge streams of data.

What surprises me is that most of the discussion looks at this as a new phenomenon while there is an industry that has been using this method very successfully for a long time. The Bloomberg (and other) terminals provide bite size financial information in a continual stream that can be filtered, sorted and analyzed. It combines company news, industry news, transactions, price changes, etc., in a way that for a novice seems indecipherable but for the experienced broker is a goldmine.

Providing the right tools are put in place, the potential business value seem significant:

  • Accelerating cycles of decision making
  • Pushing all relevant information to you rather than pulling from multiple sources is a great time saver
  • Decreasing the unbearable email load
  • Increasing and broadening awareness to domain knowledge

For more information on the real time web and the type of tools that exist around it, ReadWriteWeb has compiled a great list of top 50 real time web companies and services.

6 ways to get your web presence and infrastructure in shape for 2010

In this lingering recession, everyone is looking for new ways to better position themselves to compete and grow revenue. A lower level of consumer and business spending will require efficiency, careful optimization and leverage of low cost assets and methods. It’s time to get into shape! Here are 6 ways to revamp and strengthen your web sites and infrastructure on a modest budget:

Revamp your web strategy for a web 2.0+ world.

The internet world has dramatically changed in the last 3-4 years. Social networks, user communities, user generated content, twitter, the iPhone and other mobile devices, GPS and location aware devices and the other components of Web 2.0 completely altered the way businesses and users communicate and transact online. Each of the Web 2.0 components come with their own set of opportunities and challenges. They provide new channels that enable communication at a fraction of the cost while demanding a new approach to openness, transparency and interactivity. Regulatory, security and governance concerns are not always easy to address. Chart a path in these new waters by rethinking your Web Strategy and redefine the role that the web and other digital channels will play in the company’s future and put a plan in place for its execution.  

Implement a social media strategy and measure its value

Social media tools are a great way to build honest online relationship with customers and other audiences. Doing it right is not always easy. A social media strategy will force you to think through and define where to be and what is to be communicated, set the tone and nature of interactions, set guidelines on how to respond to negative feedback, factor in legal and regulatory implications, address intellectual property and security issues and many other aspects need to be thought through. In addition, measuring the impact of these activities is not always easy. Building a model that can assess and provide value guidelines is very important. 

Reduce costs by Leveraging open source and Cloud web infrastructure components

We have a client who recently came to us asking advice after a planned $3M Oracle e-business implementation turned into a projected $15M 3 year project. We recommended they look at OfBiz and other open source e-commerce frameworks. Open source enterprise level software , SaaS and Cloud Computing have matured to the level that major organizations are leveraging these low cost scalable solutions to build a robust infrastructure that can replace big investments in hardware, software licenses and data centers.  

Take control of your content – Deploy a Content Management Solution

For many companies, fresh content is key to repeat visits. As sites scale, managing and maintaining them becomes an expensive and difficult task often dependent on IT or external resources. Content Management Systems (CMS) provide business users with the ability to modify and update sites and global structures that make graphical changes easy to implement. They also provide ability to segment users, add personalization and social features such as Blogs and community without the need for additional software and services.

User Experience Redesign

If your website has not gone through a redesign in the last 3 years, chances are that it looks dated. What looks fresh and relevant changes all the time and the key in the last few years has been incorporation of user engagement and interactivity, quality content that speaks more directly to the users, content targeting and using sites as relationship building tools rather than one way communication streams. Sites need to add rich content, video and mobile support as well as dynamic interfaces. All these changes contribute substantially to improved website ROI

Optimize sites for goals and conversion

It’s crucial that every marketing and search dollar is well spent. To do this, websites need strong web analytics so that sites can be continuously optimized to maximize conversion and be careful to avoid the main pitfalls. Web analytics capability allows businesses to test new ideas, layouts and promotions and to quickly refine them to drive sales and traffic as well as optimize search and marketing spend. With Google analytics and other low costs services, setting great analytics does not have to mean big bucks.

Web 2.0 for Healthcare Providers – Q and A Part 1

Thanks for all those who attended our webinar on implementing web 2.0 strategies last week. If you missed it, the recorded webinar is available on our site. Enjoy.

As I promised, here are some of the questions asked during the session that I have not had time to address:

Q1: Using Facebook and Twitter – how do I get started? How can we monitor it?

Getting started is ridiculously easy. Facebook has a good starter guide . Setting up Twitter is even simpler as there is not much to do other than selecting a name. You have only 15 characters so it is not always an easy task. Twitip has a good guide to best practices in twitting and a list of useful services to track and monitor twitter conversations.

Q2: Why would people want to follow a healthcare organization? How do I promote it without spending money? is it really worth the effort and Investment?

So setting up profiles and pages is easy. The hard part is getting people to follow you on a regular basis. The good news is that you just need to get users to act once and add you to their friends list or follow you on twitter. From that point forward you are just one in a stream of many others.
Spreading the word is done in every way possible, but not through direct advertising. Put it on your website, emails, blog and any other marketing communication form. The best promotion methods are viral. If you have something interesting to say, people will spread the word.

Social media communication tools are just one more way to reach an audience in a fragmented media world but health is something people really care about. If you are a regional hospital, publish daily information your community will want to know. Allergy report, flu alerts, flu vaccine reminders, etc. The cost is usually limited to a resource that will write and maintain all these social media properties. We’ll go into ROI in the next answer but first and foremost the benefit is relevancy. Hospitals that will engage and communicate will be relevant and top of mind. Others will be there when the appendix burst.

Q3: What type of investment is required? What is the ROI

We usually see 2 main areas of investment. The first is Strategy. With so many options, tools, opportunities and risks large organization usually do not just jump in but take some time to look at the landscape, their audience, their revenue centers and their media assets and capabilities to form a cohesive strategy. This is the main area we help clients in as they often lack internal expertise. We usually recommend forming a broader web strategy as these social activities are not isolated from the needs to have an attractive and interactive website than engages users and effective e-marketing programs. The strategy part also looks at the organizational ability to support these types of programs, the skills required and can help in building a cost and ROI structure. The cost of a comprehensive web strategy can range from five to low six figure depending on the size of the organization and scope.

The second area of investment is in the program operations. This usually translates to people who dedicate some of their time to writing content and managing user interactions. It can range from a few hours a week for a small program to a full time position.

The returns: like in any marketing program, these activities are judged by their ability to generate increase in profitable patients and donations. Since they provide a great way to reach an audience without a cost per unit (as you have in email, banners or paid search) the ROI increases as the size of your audience. has a good overview for the qualitative and qualitative measurements for ROI. I think it goes back to relevancy and the need to be part of your audience daily life.

Illustration: Monica Parra / Newsweek

Why CEO’s must care about Enterprise 2.0 as a Strategic Imperative

One of the strongest and most misguided arguments expressed online and in many companies we speak with about Enterprise 2.0 is that it is not strategic.

That this collection of tools, technologies and ideas is not yet mature enough, lacks proven ROI, introduces a myriad of security and governance issues and even if successful is not a priority in today’s soft economy. It is too often delegated to IT managers to experiment with and report back in a few years.

Here’s where the difference is: Enterprise 2.0 is not a technology. It represents first and foremost a new way of thinking, interacting and communicating that includes attitude and cultural changes, empowered by IT. Is there anything more strategic than that and more important to a business future success?

It is arguably the biggest opportunity for IT driven cultural change facing organizations since the introduction of PC networks more than 2 decades ago.

One of the C suite most important tasks is to shape an organizational culture that will make their company innovative, competitive, efficient and successful not just now but in the future. Embracing Enterprise 2.0 now and guiding their employees through this transitional period should be one of their top priorities.

While in a few cases adoption started from the bottom up, a change of this magnitude usually needs to come from the top accompanied by the matching set of values and actions that prove the seriousness and commitment to change.

It requires leadership that is able to see that transparency and increased visibility into activities throughout the company will finally enable them to know what is really happening and will create a culture of trust. That openness and exchange of ideas will lead to innovation and efficiency. That collaboration will enable a diverse workforce to work together in emergent ways while being physically and geographically dispersed.

In short, it requires vision that will set a future path and will ask managers to overcome the obstacles in the way. The type of vision CEO’s need to provide and not delegate to IT managers.

The challenge and opportunity is that not many chief executives have realized yet that embracing Enterprise 2.0 is a strategic imperative and are focusing the discussion around short term ROI.

Dion Hinchcliffe at ZDNET provides a comprehensive review of the evidence and opinions regarding ROI and adoption challenges, and adds his own interesting model of collaboration cause and effect chains that while clearly provide benefits, make them harder to pinpoint and measure.

He also concludes that

an accumulating body of knowledge is pointing to potentially dramatic business returns with Enterprise 2.0. If these continue to be borne out, it will affect the competitive and financial positions of the companies that are proactive and therefore their long-term marketplace success

And wonders what it will take to break the current status quo?

His colleague Dennis Howlett on the other end thinks the ROI is still years off and concludes

As always, the secret to long term success depends on management’s ability to maintain a sustained commitment and all that goes with it. The difficulty today is that same management is wondering where the next sale comes from or how cash will be generated.”

The good news is that Enterprise 2.0 does not require large capital expenditures but mostly thorough organizational commitment. There has rarely been an opportunity for businesses to gain so much competitive edge by investing so little.

As in many cultural revolutions, by the time Enterprise 2.0 related changes start translating into business differentiators, organizations that have not made the transition will look as outdated as an organization resisting getting these useless PC boxes or adopting email.

Hospital and Health Provider Web 2.0 Trends and Opportunities

We recently looked into ways that companies can leverage web 2.0 and monetize social networks.

We got a lot of questions regarding the applicability of these principles and methods to different industries and specifically for hospitals and other health providers. As organizations with a strong social purpose and educational / outreach focus, how can they remake themselves and their services to provide innovative and effective web-based information and health?

We envision the Hospital as the center of regional health, building a community of patients, caregivers and healthcare professionals that work online and offline providing care, support and prevention.

It is an overall shift in strategy that transforms the organization to be more Open, Collaborative, Transparent, Interactive, and Social.  Organizations that have successfully executed Web 2.0 initiatives:  share data and information securely and seamlessly with their health care partners, provide platforms for patients, doctors, and hospitals to collaborate on improving the effectiveness of services and communications, foster community patient support networks, and empower patients to gain access to the best health care services and providers.

There have been some interesting efforts but most providers are just in the initial experimentation mode. Ed Bennett maintains a great list on his blog of all the hospitals and their social activities. According to his findings, Twitter has just become the most popular social media channel among hospitals

Paul Levy, Beth Israel Deaconess CEO has been a trail blazer in his blog, sharing thoughts, ideals, goals, results and experiences, promoting true transparency. The hospital has recently launched the first web 2.0 oriented site with a special section dedicated to interactive features such as blogs, videos, podcasts chat etc.

St. Jude Children Research Hospital has close to 35,000 fans in their facebook group and have extensive social media program on their site. Cedars Sinai in LA is using YouTube for staff recruitment purposes.

These are great examples for a few health providers that seem to have a cohesive strategy for this new interactive age. For most hospitals, just being on facebook or Twitter without setting measurable goals and defining a strategy will not yield the anticipated results.

The following diagram shows the different areas where hospitals can consider collaboration and use of social media and interactivity:


Some of the interesting opportunities we are seeing for hospitals:

  • Use of social media and communities to create an active health community around their health facilities that will involve patients, physicians and hospitals
  • Enhance educational activities to include online courses and support groups
  • Use blogs and actual access to quality and performance data to promote transparency and trust with the community
  • Use advanced web analytics to capture interests and trends and improve content and services accordingly
  • Build a stronger relationship with Affiliated Health Professionals and allow them to collaborate and exchange knowledge
  • Reduce the customer support functions by moving self service functions to the web

Online Social Networking Revenue: Part II

submitted by Ken Allard

In the first post in this series, I wrote about companies that have new online revenue potential by virtue of being brokers of goods or services or by owning a significant share of market.  In this entry, I will explore the revenue opportunities for more traditional content owners who answer yes to question number 3:

  1. Do you act as a broker of goods or services?
  2. Do you provide content or advice to a significant percentage of a specific industry or consumer segment?
  3. Are you facing new competitors who generate revenue by aggregating audience around your content or by providing meta-content?
  4. Do you have data or knowledge within your organization that is obscure to your clients?
  5. Do you serve an audience that is highly fragmented?

Most traditional media companies have faced dramatic profit losses as their audiences have flocked from physical products to online alternatives.  It is ironic that their proprietary content gained intrinsic value online while simultaneously losing its ability to generate income.  Music labels have watched in dismay as their content is shared, and worse yet distributed to thousands, without resulting in direct sales.  Publishers have seen the value of their vast collection of high-priced text-books diminished as students rely on digital sources of  content and publish notes and answers to study questions on their own personal sites.  Even super-star authors like J.K. Rowling, find themselves battling superfans who create valuable media properties by adding meta-content (e.g. character lists, family trees, etc.) around their published works.  (She won that court case, but who wants to start suing fans?)

It is an unfortunate paradox, that while the Internet has dramatically increased the popularity, utility, and accessibility of all kinds of proprietary content, it has simultaneously and systematically erased the revenue models that most traditional companies have relied upon.  Nearly every consumer content company has decided that both paid subscription and fee per article/data slice business models are dead online.  (Consumer Reports is one of the last notable hold-outs.)  Proprietary business to business content services have not been as severely impacted, but they too are not recognizing opportunities to increase profits.  I believe that these organizations are failing to monetize their content because they are failing to take advantage of the fact that it is more popular, useful, accessible and social once it is available in online media.  The key to new revenue is to exploit these inherent benefits:

    1. Popular – Content should be marketed to , optimized for, and appreciated by the broadest possible relevant audience
    2. Useful – Content should be helpful, active, purpose driven and immersive
    3. Accessible – Content should be open, pervasive across devices, and present in the right context
    4. Social – Content should be viewed as the basis for an interaction between people, author-consumer, consumer-consumer, consumer-group, author-group

The most successful online initiatives exploit these online advantages.  Let’s look at a few different examples of companies who have already taken the right steps or who may be missing new revenue opportunities:

Universal Music (various artist Web sites) – Universal Music, like most other major music labels, is failing to monetize its content online, abdicating the revenue to various unrelated 3rdparty entertainment sites, direct to consumer commerce sites, and fan sites.  Music labels have always treated their artist Web sites as marketing brochures for new album releases.  Rather than taking advantage of a direct to consumer connection that could deliver revenue from direct sales of music content, advertising, sponsorship, auctions of unique memorabilia, ongoing engagement with fans, and countless other revenue opportunities, they have simply failed to connect with their audience online. Despite the fact that the “official artist Web site” typically appears first in organic search results, fans spend very little time on most artist Web sites.  Instead they are shuttled off to other media properties, e.g. MySpace,YouTube, or fan run sites, where they have richer opportunities to interact with each other and the music content.  While the music labels do in fact face numerous obstacles in securing all of the rights (because of complicated artist royalty contracts) to generate revenue by using the content online, they often fail to make even a modest attempt to take advantage of the enormous online social energy that propels popular artists.

Nelly is a multi-grammy winning hip-hop artist on a Universal music label.  His official Web site is  It is a good example of the typical artist Web site.  It scores moderate to very low on the four measures outlined above:


Popular – While the site is optimized to be the top returned site for organic search for the word “nelly”, many other sites (e.g. YouTube, MySpace, nellyhq, and lastfm) appear just below the top result and offer better content.  Also, other entertainment sites like AOL and Yahoo have bought paid search results that draw fans away from the official site.  Lastly, the site content is not really targeted to the fans that would likely be searching for it.

Useful – If you are a Nelly fan, it is unlikely that you would find any content on this site that would make you want to come back.  It is generic, “official,” promotional content with no special features (behind the scenes, personal interactions with the artist, “bootleg” versions of the songs) that real fans would likely be looking for. 

Accessible – The site does allow users to buy ringtones for mobile devices and subscribe to a basic RSS feed. 

Social – In terms of generating revenue from an online fan base, this site is a total failure.  Fans who click on community are shuttled off to myspace.  There is no opportunity for fans to upload photos or videos from concerts.  There isn’t even an opportunity for basic fan interaction.  While the site apparently is generating some add revenue, it does little to engage fans to stay on the site or to ever come back.  Conversely, the two sites below are both aggregating an audience based on nelly’s content and monetizing the audience much more aggressively with direct commerce opportunities, numerous advertisements, and offers to join communities of users with like interests.



Universal Music has abdicated the energized network of online fans to a multitude of unaffiliated sites.  While music labels have historically generated revenue by earning royalties on the sales of recorded music, they certainly have the opportunity to gain more rights from artists by creating immersive music experiences for their fans.  Instead of taking advantage of their relationship with and unique access to their artists to create a deluge of fresh, “meta” content online, music labels have resorted to keeping their official sites as anemic online marketing brochures.

MLB Advanced Media ( – While there are thousands of fan sites and sports sites, is undisputed premier site for baseball.  It is the opposite of the official artist Web sites most music labels develop.  Major League Baseball has been extremely aggressive in monetizing its content online, transforming what was once printed pages of scores and sports stories controlled by hundreds of physical media newspapers into a bonanza of advertising, auction, gaming, merchandise, and subscription revenue.  It gets high scores in all respects:


Popular – The site is optimized to be the top returned site for organic search for the word “baseball” or any professional baseball team on major search engines.  It almost always is one of the top 3 choices for player names as well.  It either advertises on or has affiliate relationships with other top baseball or related content sites like  Registration for any feature is easy.  All that is required is an e-mail address and a password. Yet, the site is establishing opportunities to learn more and more about its users over time as people flesh out their profiles as they participate in games, contests, and sign up for additional services.

Useful – If you are a baseball fan, this site has everything baseball related that you could possibly want to consume.  It is completely immersive.  Team sites, player sites, online games, auctions, subscriptions to streaming video, tickets, history, stats, blogs, forums, etc; It is hard to imagine what other kind of content they could add.  The content is active.  Users of the site have a plethora of opportunities to interact with the content.  They can play any number of fantasy sports games, some of which offer opportunities to stay engaged for a whole season, others which offer faster gratification, asking users to compete on the basis of their ability to pick streaks (e.g. winning, hitting, stealing, etc.) 

Accessible – The site allows users to deliver the content to any device.  It has numerous mobile offerings.  Users can also subscribe to RSS feeds by team or for the whole league.

Social – has truly exploited the social nature of its entertainment content.  The fantasy sports games are an excellent example of an online social networking revenue opportunity.  Commodity data is used as the basis to bring fans together to compete in fantasy leagues.  These games increase engagement, impressions, repeat visits, duration of visit, and switching costs to competitive sites.  While fantasy sports is perhaps the best example of a social application based on content, the site also seeks to build community through more common approaches such as blogsmessage boards, and forums.

$$$ uses its content to aggregate an audience and generate revenue through many mechanisms: direct sales of merchandise, auctions, advertising, sponsorships, subscriptions, and ticket sales.  While not all of these opportunities are directly related to online social networks, the users of the site and their ability to interact with each other and the content are what make it successful and differentiate it from static print-based publications and many online versions of traditional media.  Also, instead of giving its content away and allowing a plethora of 3rd party sites and superfans to monetize its assets, has taken an aggressive approach to be the best place to immerse oneself in baseball and get the most unique, exclusive access to players and memorabilia.

BusinessWeek( – BusinessWeek is a traditional print publication that targets a general business audience and has developed an effective online version of its publication.  It is filled with breaking AP stories, proprietary news stories and commentary and is suffering from the same decline in revenue that most traditional publishers are facing.  In 2008, BusinessWeek launched Business Exchange, pithily marketed with the tag line, “Track and share business stories across the Web.”  The Web site allows users to “create business topics, collaboratively aggregate content from the entire Web and connect with other business focused users around these topics.”  It is a great tool for business users to research and/or stay current on business trends that are important to them.  The tool is easy to use and seamlessly integrated with LinkedIn.  While the service is still new, I think that it has the potential to truly differentiate and potentially transform BusinessWeek.


Popular – Business Exchange is presented to users as a tab off the home page.  It is unlikely that non-BusinessWeek users will find it because it has not really established itself as a “destination site” yet and it is unlikely that users will start searching for it.  The popularity of the site could be significantly enhanced with some marketing and PR.   Still, activity on the site is certainly respectable, and any curious business person could easily lose themselves browsing through the many user-generated blogs and stories that are posted there.

Useful – The site offers a lot of utility.  In fact, in my opinion, it notably beats search engines for getting up to speed about new issues or tracking new stories about chosen topics.  It is also provides integrated, contextually relevant opportunities to network with other users and find potential thought partners, new employees, or prospects in a targeted way.  The site has the opportunity to add twitter like capabilities in the future that might add to its overall utility.

Accessible – User profiles are seamlessly integrated with LinkedIn.  This makes it easier to sign up and start with a well-populated profile.  The LinkedIn integration also sets the right context for users. 

Social – In terms of generating revenue from an online user base, this new service has the potential to really impact BusinessWeek’s success.  The magazine has truly embraced the open, collaborative nature of the Web.  Rather than trying to cling to a strategy of differentiation by content, the site is transforming itself into a useful business tool.  While the BusinessWeek brand and content are still important, Business Exchange recognizes that the vast network of readers may have as much or more content to offer than its own staff of writers and editors.  Also, the service has an opportunity to segment and even publicly “tag” users by their reading behavior in addition to users’ explicit self-ascribed tags and interests.  I hope that this service gets some more press and attention as it is an ambitious step forward for a traditional print publication.

At the most basic level Business Exchange will help increase revenue by helping the magazine to grow its user base and dramatically increase user engagement and thereby advertising revenue.  As the service evolves and learns more about its users, it will have opportunities to offer additional business service products such as recruiting and marketing services.

Social Networking Revenue Strategies
There are three basic approaches that these companies have pursued or should pursue to generate new revenue.

  1. Transform traditional content sites into tools by embracing the open, collaborative nature of the Web. (
  2. Aggressively exploit all aspects of your content and your community, paying special attention to meta content opportunities (e.g. baseball stats, behind the scenes artist information), user-generated content (e.g. bootlegs and concert videos), and other forms of user interaction (e.g. games, lists, contests) (
  3. Treat highly fragmented media properties (e.g artist Web sites) as a network.  By aggregating the audiences of smaller sites, companies have an opportunity to increase potential advertising and commerce revenue.

A new e-commerce 2.0 buying model

A just released survey of the top 40 e-commerce sites asked users to rate their satisfaction with the buying experience. Of these top 40 sites, only 2 exceeded 80% satisfaction and most are at 70% or less.

E-commerce 2.0 requires taking existing best practices to a higher level. Technical and social changes of the last 8 years have to be accounted for.

  1. Prevalence of web 2.0 attitudes I wrote about earlier
  2. Influence and communication circles are expanding. Like in the classic AIDS commercial, every customer you touch, you have the potential to touch their friends and their friends’ friends. Now at internet speed.
  3. Social Web. Using the internet is not a solitary experience anymore. People surf together, buy together, twitter all day and share everything.
  4. Web applications are expected to be faster, sleeker and with a rich user interface
  5. Available anywhere. With improved browsers in phones, the phone with its small and limited browser is fast becoming a popular and growing way to surf the web.
  6. Data, data everywhere. The proliferation of interaction channels is making it harder than ever to collect and analyze it.
  7. Service orientation: whether you call it web as a platform, software as a service, service oriented architecture or just web services, web applications are expected to be social too.

Has the cognitive buying experience changed? How should all these changes affect the forward thinking enterprise?

The classic AIUAPR model (Awareness, Interest, Understanding, Attitudes, Purchase, Repeat purchase) can be expanded upon to include the web 2.0 concepts and create a solid backbone for the e-business 2.0 infrastructure. David Mercer in his book Marketing has laid a great foundation adding a few very relevant steps into this process


Susceptibility addresses the set of activities that promote a brand and makes the consumer susceptible to the advertising that brings specific brand and product awareness.

Understanding is added to the Interest as research and comparison are becoming an essential step in the purchasing decision

Legitimacy is ever more important as identities of sellers have to be credible enough to result in a transaction. A strong off-line brand name, heavy advertising or good seller feedback on eBay will make it easier for customers to trust the seller.

The Repeat purchase step was divided into the components that determine if the customer will come back

Experience encompasses the shopping experience, satisfaction / experience with the product or service and even the experience with customer service. As more sites and tools allow customers to share their experiences, the impact of positive or negative experiences is magnified beyond the immediate circles and is kept for posterity.

Loyalty is the culmination of all brand efforts to make you a frequent customer who is loyal to the brand and is a brand ambassador to others.

David Mercer also suggests adding Peers and Vendor activities in parallel to the customer process and examines how they influence the decision making process


Peers Customer Vendor




While this model greatly expands the basic AIUAPR model it addresses the reality e-commerce 1.0

In e-commerce 2.0, a few things change:

  1. Communications are not one sided. Every communication is interactive where data and opinions get exchanged.
  2. The Peer group definition had expanded to include everyone accessible through the internet that has an experience or an attitude/opinion towards the brand, product or service.
  3. As such, it is not enough for the Vendor to try and manage customer experience as they become peers, you need to manage and have specific information and communication plans for the peers as defined at every stage.

The new model will look something like this:

It includes on top the customer, peer, and vendor relationships


On the other it looks at the customer lifecycle from e-awareness to e-commerce and e-service. Each one of these buckets includes the actions and interactions in the phase.

On the bottom it has the funnel that collects all possible data from all these interactions and processes it as analytics, to be fed into the systems and decision processes that will improve the next iterations.

E-commerce 2.0 high level map



What I think differentiates this model from traditional e-commerce models:

  1. Peers. The influence of peers as part of a social network or even opinions of strangers expressed in blogs and communities or review sites had increased tenfold and has to be acknowledged and managed.
  2. E-marketing is evolving into e-awareness as marketing and PR work together to create awareness to brand and products.
  3. Analytics need to be collected at many different levels. Customer actions and interactions not just on our site but through the awareness and service channels. The interactions with the brand can provide great data as to cause and effect and ROI