Thursday, November 06, 2008

8 Factors for Web 2.0 Business Success

There is a 'Tipping Point' in how business is conducted - public sector or private - that the Obama campaign has highlighted. American or not, supporter or not, every manager/strategist must recognise that something important has to be learnt from that campaign. Like Senator Obama, Ron Paul reached an audience and retained a presence that would have been impossible 8 years ago. Business is as much about communication as Politics is. The new tools are essential for business too. That's why companies like Oracle so keenly embraced a PR 2.0 (Public Relations 2.0) strategy.

Governments are reviewing the efficiency and effectiveness of their service delivery. The Australian Government is running presentations for their Departments on Web 2.0. The Department of Finance website, somewhat ominously, states "The Government and particularly the Minister for Finance, the Hon Lindsay Tanner, has a keen interest in this area and is promoting increased use of Web 2.0 applications to engage with the public and to enhance government information and service delivery."

Let's drill down into what and why a bit more. The article from The Huffington Post The New Organizers, Part 1: What's really behind Obama's ground game is one of the few 'must reads' about the campaign that examines the management structures and the communication tools that were brought together to make the campaign effective. Key activities I can see here are:
  1. Recruiting people that are interested - heavy use of advertising and social media.
  2. Allocation of basic 'test tasks' - note the transfer of empowerment and communication tools for reporting results. Also note that there is a complete set of instructions and a backup person to go to for help - all online.
  3. Assessment - easy to overlook that all advancement is on the basis of assessment.
  4. Allocation of new roles to fit the person's skills - not the 'holes' in the organisation - using the virtualised organisation to get the person's input to where it is needed e.g. a person in one location phone banking in another. Even tasks like door to door canvassing could use people bussed in from elsewhere.
  5. Empowerment and full briefing with support materials and training courses - yes I've mentioned this before but three things are important here - empowerment comes after assessment (again), empowerment is given clear direction through support materials and training and there is constant engagement - not monitoring, but awareness.
  6. Maintaining engagement - whether donor or volunteer the regular news keeps you involved and feeling that you are part of a larger movement - and there is always someone online to help you - quickly. (Have you ever been in a Bank and seen the internal staff having to wait on the same phone queues as we do - it wastes everyone's time and leaves us all feeling secondary to profit - your call is valuable to us - well answer it then). Constant engagement means that all levels of the organisation know what is happening above and below in a collaborative way - not a directive/enforcement way.
  7. Finishing the job of communication - 2 days after the election one of the other major campaign sites was still asking for phone volunteers.
  8. Fundraising - why did I put this last when it grabbed the headlines? Because it was the result - the outcome - of doing the rest right. Ron Paul also used the web effectively to raise funds, although his power brokers did not react to social pressures in the same way. It was about more than funds.
Some these factors translate into business directly. TS14plus is a clothing company for the Woman with Curves. Every day one or other of the management team sends out an email to all staff and shops with news about the TS14plus world. A new shop has opened, there is above target turnover in a store, an opening sale here, an event there and new stock just released. It is upbeat, semi-formal, professional but community - and it helps keep the franchise engaged as a community across Cities and States - and going gangbusters when other clothing stores are feeling a chill wind.

Engaging staff, volunteers and donors is not easy - it has to be done right - but the path is clear. How do we reach customers and stakeholders? Oracle finds that clients respond to the 'voice of genuine experience'. White papers have a role, the academic framework and list of product features is an essential part of informing clients - but what they really respond to is a real person and a real voice. The pasteurised, neutralised language of the traditional white paper doesn't create enough of the trust relationship - it forms part of the foundation, but not the motivation to act. Oracle took action and created the Oracle Blog Centre where any authorised blogger (note assessment before empowerment) is allowed to blog, and the community rates the blogs up or down. Clients and stakeholders help Oracle identify their MVP's (a basketball term - Most Valuable Player) and they get all the second level information (e.g. what are the hot topics right now, where are ou problems) that social software communities offer.

What else can social software show? This example is from The Network Thinker blog. The article Complete Polarization analyses Amazon book buying data to show the extent of political group polarisation during the lead up to the 2008 US Presidential Election. Using the data to gain behavioural insights can give important strategic direction. This example helps explain why political comments in blogs drew such strong reactions during the immediate lead-up to the election.

An associated blog is Network Weaving. In one article it discusses using twitter (Triangles on Twitter) concluding "Connect on your similarities and profit from your differences".

Imagine the information about us, our organisations and our competitors that a similar analysis of Twitter would reveal.


So where do we start? How do we find out what this means? Glad you asked. PR 2.0 The Social Media Manifesto – Integrating Social Media into Marketing Communications is where I would start


Because you want you or your organisation to live on the web. Doc Searls has written succinctly about the difference. "A question arose: Why are there so few visitors to our websites? Millions use their services, yet few bother with visiting their sites, except every once in awhile.

The answer, I suggested, was that their sites were buildings. They were architected, designed and constructed. They were conceived and built on the real estate model: domains with addresses, places people could visit. They were necessary and sufficient for the old Static Web, but lacked sufficiency for the Live one.

The Web isn’t just real estate. It’s a habitat, an environment, an ever-increasingly-connected place where fecundity rules, vivifying business, culture and everything else that thrives there. It is alive." Read the rest of this Harvard article if you are serious about your web presence.


What is Web 2.0 anyway? Participatative Anthropologist M Wesch probably explains it best from the links in Understanding the Dance - Web 2.0 through Youtube - brilliant videos.


Do it now. A community organiser has shown the World what can be done. Governments are training staff in it. EDS is sponsoring training sites. Leading companies are using it to reach customers in a trusted relationship. The time is now. The wave is here.


Ben said...

Great piece - another confirmation for me of the necessity to push from inside the department to get these things right, now that we are finally talking about them.

Alistair said...

Thanks Ben. I'm just about to post another on why this works. Keeping a Government perspective is made hard because most case studies are private sector. Let's change this.