Wednesday, 27 July 2011

The socmed files: I wanna believe

This week I had a chat with Steve Denning and Michael Ricard, and also some comments on IBM presenting their social profile.
Both are related in the sense that lots of (social) promises are made, but little social or not outcomes presented.
That worries me. Social works for me, for sure, and for many others I know. But why? Is it the What -just get yourself on the social bandwagon and you'll be saved- or the How -adapt to the social media ways of living and you'll enter the Promised Land- or the With What -connect via as many social networks as you can and you'll be Socialised

For me, this is how it works:

I'm on Twitter, and LinkedIn.
I occasionally pay attention to LinkedIn but to me it's just a way to link to people, almost all business. What Doc Searls maybe had in mind with VRM, is what LinkedIn does for me as "BRM": Business Relationship Management. Very long-lasting, not prone to change, LinkedIn for me enables me to manage my business relationships.
I pay attention to Twitter as much as I can. I like to follow my stream 24/7, but apart from the need to sleep there's also the need to work, and the need to enjoy my family, and lately that fills up pretty much of the 24 and even the 7 - although I do find gaps every now and then. It's an awkward medium as I don't want to just use it to broadcast and let others know what I do, Twitter is my everyday conversation with the people around me - I can't just speak and not listen back

That's my input, now what's my output? On LinkedIn, I stay connected to my business contacts, get updates on how or what they're doing, and give that too. It keeps me up to date, gives me an excuse to have a business lunch or dinner, spot business opportunities and general trends.
On Twitter, I get the best of ideas and conversations, challenging notions and real-time updates and questions (and answers) on whatever matters to me at that very moment. In-depth conversations I mostly get via direct messages, but also via public @replies. I get invitations to conferences, unfortunately for most of which I haven't found the time so far, and I see how people are doing that were or have become close friends

Would I quit LinkedIn? No. Could I live without it? Yes and no - it would mean me reverting to my old database of contacts and not having a particular trigger to contact them, nor vice versa.
Would I quit Twitter? Absolutely not. Twitter is my global platform for keeping in touch on a daily or weekly basis with those I know, but also gives me a chance to get to know the unknowns: friends of my friends

So what do Steve and IBM have to do with this? They share one thing: they talk about social input. And no-show on social output

I really like Steve's ideas, and absolutely agree with what he says, but I'm looking for that double-blind test that actually proves that it works from a business point of view. Same-ish for IBM: in the last 15 years I've gotten to know IBM as a cumbersome bureaucracy with a great brand name, confusing IT solutions and having a horribly lacking Professional Services support in Europe. I've personally dealt with several IBM products and solutions, and 10 out of 10 they had to fly in people from abroad for support during design and development - with 400,000 employees across the globe, that is downright unacceptable; yet I hear similar stories from colleagues in the field

What would be Social? Let's analyse how IBM presents itself as social. Quoting from this link:

Some examples of IBM’s internal social media footprint today include:

* 17,000 individual blogs
* 1 million daily page views of internal wikis, internal information storing websites
* 400,000 employee profiles on IBM Connections, IBM's initial social networking initiative that allows employees to share status updates, collaborate on wikis, blogs and activity, share files.
* 15,000,000 downloads of employee-generated videos/podcasts
* 20 million minutes of LotusLive meetings every month with people both inside and outside the organization
* More than 400k Sametime instant messaging users, resulting in 40-50 million instant messages per day

Social examples of IBM's external social media footprint today include:

* Over 25,000 IBMers actively tweeting on Twitter and counting
* Over 300,00 IBMers on Linkedin
* Approx. 198,000 IBMers on Facebook

Right, that's input. Given the fact that the average IBM employee costs 100,000 dollars a year (I distilled that once from another link, but whether it's 90 or 110 K doesn't really matter), there are 30 million page views, 20 million LotusLive meeting minutes and 1.5 million instant messages every month.
Let's cap a pageview at 2 minutes, and an instant message at 1 minute, then we get 81.5 milllion minutes a month (I'm being generous here) - divide that by 400K and the average IBM employee spends 3.5 hours a month on "Social" - one week annually, meaning 2,000 dollars per employee, meaning 800 million dollars on the global annual IBM scale.
So, IBM spends close to a billion dollar a year on Social

That's one percent of their revenue, but 5% of their profit. Now what do they get in return? Quote:

Today, more than 130 communities of IBM professionals around the globe are collaborating virtually. This has reduced the time it would have taken to complete projects by 30 percent, increased re-use of "software assets" by 50 percent, and cut component costs by 33 percent.

That's impressive. Projects completed 30% earlier? That must mean huge profits for IBM, or decreased prices for their clients. Has it? No mention of that.
Reviving Lotus Notes as "the social solution" and the results of that? No mention either. Why not? Aren't clients embracing this? Of course not. IBM is the epitome of user unfriendly GUI's - yet they have their marketing machine running at overtime pretending they're leading Social among enterprises

Social isn't a goal. Social is a means. If it works for you, great. If it doesn't, too bad - or is it? But if you're a faceless bureaucratic institution, how can you exploit Social? The usual way: Old wine in new bottles...

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