The Mountaintop Insights, Inspiration and Perspective for Enlightened Marketers

December 31, 2010

Embracing Social Change in 2011

It seems predictive posts are all the rage right now so in my own mad style, I’ve taken a look at the tea leaves in order to share some “Sensei-riffic” (trademarking in the works) predictions for marketing, social, and the relationship between customers and brands. So rather than give you the usual obvious predictions, I am going to take a step towards the ledge and peer into the darkness. The signs I see  herald tremendous change that is just off the radar.

So sit back, relax, and prepare to have your liberal marketing senses offended while enjoying or becoming outraged at this rum-nog fueled post! Cheers!

Prediction 1: Social CRM will be a huge failure.

Why? Because you cannot quantify an emotional human relationship no matter how hard you try. The quest to do so has begun anew with sCRM. To be clear its predecessor CRM is about numbers, not people. What other system does that to people? Right! The prison system!

The same people who created CRM are now pushing sCRM. Same shit, different steaming pile. CRM completely dehumanized the customer by reducing the relationship to math. Next it is horribly lop-sided designed to deliver insight into how to get more money from a customer, not how to build a better, mutually beneficial relationship. Does it actually benefit the customer in any way?

Maybe we should call it CWM (Customer Wallet Management), how about CMM (Customer    Money Management) or even CDM (Customer Decision Management) because it has nothing to do with actual customer benefit. Call me jaded but every company that has a CRM profile on me uses it to try and get more money from me with no clue on how to actually gain my trust.

Is sCRM the second coming? Not in my books. All we have done is given marketers yet another source to gather data to try and soak more money from our customers without working on the actual customer relationship. Still waiting for a company to actually put the R in CRM or sCRM for that matter.

My prediction, it won’t amount to much and most of the companies offering an sCRM solution will be snapped by bigger CRM players as “just another feature” while the ones that stay on their own will go stale. Its a great idea with the same poor execution that CRM enjoys.

Prediction 2: Customer Loyalty, not Customer Acquisition will Become the Big Social Play for Smart Companies.

The greatest mystery to me is why almost every company (B2b and B2C inclusively) focus social marketing on new customer acquisition. Is it that old human failing that we ignore the ones who love us? That we barely appreciate those in our lives every day? Maybe its casual indifference or perhaps something far more mercenary… Whatever it is, we have been ignoring those most important to us. Maybe we are just too dense to realize we are risking our current relationships for the potential of a couple new ones? Like the man who wakes up one morning to find his wife has left him after years of passive neglect.

I live by some simple rules and one of them is “you dance with the ones that brung ya”.  It may be my bumpkin simplicity talking, but the first people we should be investing in are our employees and customers – these are the ones that “brung us to the dance”. So what happens when you ignore the ones that love you and step out to find others? You make an ass of yourself in the international media, lose your endorsements, your fortune and your game.

Looking at how social networks actually work, I am shocked how many companies remain clueless to the value of social solutions for their customers and employees.

Here is the relationship chain I have identified…

  1. Happy employees deliver better customer/social experiences.
  2. These better experiences create happier customers, in turn appreciating employees more.
  3. Happy customers spend more, are more loyal and will defend your brand.
  4. Happy customers are in the public social networks where positive brand experiences spread very quickly.
  5. Happy customers and happy employees are the best brand ambassadors and will actively engage in thousands of conversations in blogs, FaceBook, Twitter and other “traditional” social platforms like kitchen tables, events and cafes.
  6. The actions of your brand ambassadors attract new customers!! Because everyone who hears the stories wants to be with a company that appreciates them! Go figure.

So why oh why are we focusing on acquisition? As for the execution of a social solution for customers and employees all I can say is make them feel two things: appreciated and exclusive. This is the gas in the social engine.

Do yourself a favor at your next marketing strategy meeting and ask “Are we ignoring the ones who brung us to the dance?” and see where it goes.

My prediction is the next big social play will be private communities for employees and customers; perhaps even allowing them to (god forbid) intermingle. These communities must focus on delivering a positive customer and employee experience to thrive. Don’t be a Tiger.

Prediction 3: The Rise of Social Risk Manager and Social Experience Designer as Specialized Marketing Roles

So now that we have literally millions of so called “Social Media Experts” to set-up our Twitter accounts and FaceBook pages, we need to look at more specialized positions past the technology. My prediction is that two roles will emerge for mid and large size enterprise: A Social Risk Manager and a Social Experience Designer. Let’s throw some lose definitions behind these two roles.

Social Risk Manager: A strategic and tactical position serving to homogenize PR, legal, strategy, and operations into one accountable role. Custodian of the Social Policy and Social Risk Mitigation Strategy, adviser to PR and Social team on risk management techniques/training, and “eye in the sky” on emerging issues/trends that affect the business and the industry. Throw in a healthy does of analysis to continually adapt the strategy too.

Social Experience Designer: Again a strategic and tactical role integrating the brand/communications strategy to ensure a consistently positive customer experience in the social channels. Social has been largely “by the seat of your pants” execution with little strategy or rationale, so this role is meant to make Social make sense to the customer. The social experience is designed to utilize the unique factors of the social channels to build the positive perception of the brand in the same way you would design a retail interior or website.

Prediction 4: The Employee Revolution

One of my first posts ever was about the Relationship Revolution over at So we have seen a customer revolution via Social Media, now I predict a social uprising within the enterprise. Why? One simple powerful goal:  Improving the Employee Experience. A couple factors at play here…

  1. GenY employees are less loyal, so to retain them you need to understand and engage them in different ways.
  2. An employee experience, much like a customer experience, is based on how you engage with them and the experience you design that must be consistent across the company, but diverse enough to promote individuality – be that cultural, gender, social, tribal, regional, etc…
  3. Allow employees to socialize on topics other than the company! For the love of Pete, when will we learn that we are not the center of their universe? Let them engage on anything they want and let them know its okay to do so.
  4. Global competition means keeping talent. Being social with employees let’s you understand emerging needs and issues before they go too far. Plus Social Media has made it way too easy for your employees to get poached; Linked In is crawling with recruiters as is Twitter…

Prediction 5: The Awakening that Social Media is NOT a Big Deal, but Social Relationships ARE

No I am not trying to grab attention by being a contrarian, but I think many people just don’t understand the real drivers behind the rise of the big social media platforms; that being the rise of social relationships. The basis of every good, long lasting relationship for any human being is communication. Communication or our drive to communicate is like a river… its fluidity is its strength allowing it find the easiest course to continue its way to the ocean. In much the same way human communication is fluid finding the easiest route or channel to enable two or more people to socialize.

So now let me connect the dots on this prediction. Social Media is both the channel and the technology that enables it. The success of a particular social platform is based on its ability to enable its participants to communicate easily and quickly while delivering small, measurable improvements to enhance the experience. The companies that deliver this technology are madly looking for ways to monetize these channels driven by the fear that the competition will outmaneuver them. They are currently adding layers of complexity not just in the technology and interface, but to the communication process itself. They are also enabling “intrusive” communication from corporations looking to reach the participants.

As the channel becomes more complex and more difficult for simple, uninterrupted  social relationships to work, human communication will begin to look for a better channel. Let me be very clear here…

It is the company that invests in the social relationship, not the social media channel, that will achieve long term success. Its what i refer to as a socially dominant brand trait. More here on the struggle for existence and social traits.

Prediction 6: The Real Role for Social Media is Lead Nurturing

In the same way you can’t use one tool to build a house, you can’t use one channel to take a net new prospect and drive that relationship through to a sale; especially in B2B marketing.

Lead Nurturing is the art of the relationship and is a long play. Its the same space in time as that point between the first couple dates and moving in together. It takes investment, patience, understanding and time. Has there ever been a role more suited to Social Media?

My experience leads me to believe this is the advantage in turning quantity of leads into quantity and quality of leads. The big challenge? Marketing and sales must work together for it to work.

Of course, once this realization has sunk in, you can actually begin to target your social at specific audiences and behavioral types – greatly increasing the power of your social marketing to engage and accelerate sales efforts.

Do you have a lead nurturing strategy yet or is your social strategy doing everything for everyone?

Prediction 7: The Rise of Mobile Marketing

This is a big one and is by far the most exciting communication tsunami coming our way. I have always said that when we looked at social marketing, we were looking at the south end of the horse walking north by focusing on web-based social.

Think about it for a minute. All of the emerging nations (Brazil, China, India, Africa, etc) are bypassing laptops/pcs and going straight to mobile. The magnitude of these market behemoths and how global companies market to these unique populations will end some brand empires and give rise to new ones.

Take India as an example, it is it is projected that India will have 1.159 billion mobile subscribers by 2013 effectively passing China as the #1 mobile market in the world.

How does this impact our ability to compete in these markets? Check out this cool review of Indian and Chinese markets

If you haven’t started giving serious consideration to the importance of mobile marketing (whether you are B2B or B2C) what exactly are you waiting for?

First movers always, always, always get the market advantage.

Prediction 8: Social ROI Measurement is a Waste of Time

I have watched for about 2 years as marketers focus more and more on measuring customer relationships; social or otherwise. Then it came to me recently… ROI measurement is the equivalent of marketing masturbation – We do it to pleasure ourselves. Don’t get me wrong, we should measure our success along the way, but I have seen this grow into a very unhealthy obsession for many marketers. Is it because we find solace in numbers? Or maybe we can manufacture success in the absence of real proof…

Every time I speak with senior execs it always boils down to one thing: Is what you are doing generating profitable revenue? Its another strong argument for marketing and sales alignment to measure the customer life-cycle from first contact to sale.

It seems to be an inferiority complex we can’t shake as marketers. We constantly try to prove to the rest of the enterprise that we do matter to more than just ourselves. The obsession has to stop. It takes valuable resources away from activities such as lead nurturing that drives profitable revenue and delivers constant touch with a potential customer.

My prediction is that most marketers will continue to go overboard on ROI measurement endlessly because its their comfort zone. We will continue to measure things that don’t matter and report on things that have no bearing to the bottom line.

The marketers that can align with sales and keep delivering simple, bottom line-focused analysis will win the day.

Prediction 9: The Beginning of the Great Social Mergers

You can almost feel it in the air. Some big mergers are coming. There are some real hungry large companies out there looking to get into the social scene in a big way. Meanwhile we have some high potential targets that are not big enough to survive on their own for an extended period, but not small enough to die out quickly.

The Hunters: Apple, MSN, Google and FaceBook.

The Prey: Four Square, MySpace, Twitter, Second Life and a dozen smaller social platforms.

The Dark Horses: Linked In and Skype and other indirect social platforms like Ebay/Kijiji and CraigsList.

Apple: Apple needs a viable social platform past its devices. I don’t know that Ping has any merit for them, but a social platform like MySpace makes a great fit to continue to dominate consumer demand for music. Four Square might be of interest as well as this geo-social application gives Apple reach into retailers and their quest for mobile marketing dominance on the iPhone and iPad. Of course this all depends on whether Jobs can get over himself…

FaceBook: Is Facebook reaching the point where an acquisition of a smaller, niche player makes sense? Maybe an acquisition to build out its business offering? This is where I see something like Second Life really giving huge depth to Facebook for both consumers and business. Skype would be a very cool addition to the consumer side giving the ability for real “face time” via video. Lastly, buying out Zynga might be an excellent strategic move as well, but the relationship is dodgey already. Social gaming is a huge part of FaceBook’s future to be sure.

MSN: MSN needs a better social footprint for sure. Bing is not a social platform and their deal with FaceBook is simply a strategic alliance. They need to get into the scene. For them Twitter, Linked In and Four Square make excellent targets and integrate well with their business and consumer offerings. With Windows on mobile devices now, perhaps a stronger relationship with FaceBook is in the works. Who knows.

Google: Google is a fascinating and dangerous company in my mind. They already own You Tube, Buzz is a failure, and its easier to acquire a smaller player than try to risk failure again with an in-house project. I really see Twitter being a nice fit with Google. Its adds great depth and power to Google’s already dominant search and would really put Bing on its heels. Any of the Dark Horses like Skype,  Ebay/Kijiji or CraigsList would also be a very interesting for Google to expand/consolidate its reach.

Prediction 10: No One, and I Mean No One, Understands What Influence is or How to Measure it.

If there is one thing Klout and Fast Company’s Influence Project showed us its that no company understands human influence at all. Let’s be honest with ourselves… number of Tweets/followers does not an influencer make. But this hasn’t stopped the bandwagoners from jumping on it early as a possible solution- how many bot owners do you think take advantage of Klout Klub in Vegas?

To me, Klout is an ingenious social game that uses heavy game mechanics to feed two human addictions: acquiring  prestige and competing vs. friends/peers. The result? A compulsive need to constantly check and improve your score by ramping up your Tweets to an obnoxious level fueled by a fear of being beaten by a friend or peer.

Can't stop Tweeting, Klout'll eat me.

For such a simple word, Influence is potentially one of the most complex human conditions that exists today.  I lamented this complexity recently…. To me, everybody has an “InQ” or Influence Quotient; that is the first layer of Influence complexity, but that is the simplest thing to understand and what Klout and Fast Company based their rudimentary assumptions on. But your InQ is affected by dozens of other layers and types of influence that nobody even talks about or gives any credit to; the most powerful of which is Situational Influence – a topic I intend to explore in an upcoming article.

Want to begin to measure influence? How about giving every person a trust rating that is voted on by their friends and peers? Make the trust button come with a string attached which forces the person who hits the button to say WHY they trust that person. FaceBook “Like” is wishy-washy and any bot can have 500 tweets a day with 1500 people, but trust is a serious commitment. Trust is the root of true influence.

So my 10th and final prediction is that Influence measurement is the holy grail and anyone saying they have THE way to measure it is selling you something. Sure, maybe that makes me a Klown, but nobody listens to me anyway, my Klout score is too low…

Thus ends my rambling end to a new beginning in 2011. Enjoy it, become outraged, or whatever you choose to do. I’m cool with it and wish all of you immense success in 2011 and beyond.

Cheers and beers!

Jeff – Sensei

October 2, 2010

Fall Editorial Schedule for The MountainTop

Filed under: Editorial Schedule,General,Overview — Jeff @ 1:59 pm

For those that know me, I have been going through some personal challenges for the past 2 months and as such, my blogging and core business has suffered. My mother suffers from severe Bi-Polar illness with an alcohol addiction and I have been helping her get back on her feet after leaving her husband of 20 years. Its been very trying but I made the choice to set aside my professional career consciously – knowing full well it could affect my business negatively and it did.

Why am I opening up with something obviously very personal for a blog editorial schedule? Well, its because I’ve learned so much in that time about myself, about my mother and about nature that my perspective on business, marketing and the world has changed a bit; hopefully for the better.

Now that my mother is almost into her own place, I can begin to gain my old stride, deliver more provocative thinking and share the thinking of others with you.

The Fall schedule will focus on 3 main topics:

  1. Natural Selection in Social Media Environments. A further exploration of how the laws of Natural Selection not only apply to Social Media environments, but how we can identify and harness these laws to our advantage.
  2. Online Demand Generation. Discussing advanced techniques for Enterprise companies to improve awareness, social engagement, lead quality and revenue from the online channels.
  3. Spotlights. This is something I have been thinking about for awhile now and I believe its time. So many Enterprise companies are looking for insight past the “How to use Twitter and Facebook” so I am going to really dig into enterprise level issues as well as looking at some low hanging fruit in relation to:
    1. Off the radar social communities worth investing in.
    2. Social targeting: customer and generational segmentation in social marketing
    3. B2B customer behavior and psychology
    4. Enterprise social marketing issues such as managing multiple global brands, social sales, mobile convergence, etc…
    5. Interviews with prominent, thought-provoking B2B and B2C marketing leaders to tap their genius on all of the above and more.

Guest Bloggers and “left of center” Research

I will be inviting some colleagues to blog at The Mountain Top; all Sensei’s in their own rights. One interesting collaboration coming up will explore the Nature of Social Influence to the next level with my good friend Stephane Poirier @ExoPoirier . It should be a great post as Stephane applies some advanced thinking on Chaos and Complexity Theory to the social equation.

Lastly, I am going to bring in some enlightening and sometimes absurd research from other industries and disciplines to try create some new perspective for Enterprise marketers. The whole point is to be able to strengthen your understanding of people and communication channels by looking at what other people are doing and being able to take that learning and apply it for your customers.

Let me know what you want and I’ll find a way to get it for you

Most importantly, if you have ideas or questions you would like me to tackle and blog on, just let me know here by comment or by email jeff(at)senseintegrated(dot)com or on Twitter @jeffthesensei. I can’t promise answers, but what I can promise is a great intellectual and spiritual journey with you to find the answers.

Cheers and thanks for reading. I hope to continue earning that trust into the fall and beyond.

Jeff – Sensei

August 7, 2010

Optimizing the Enterprise Website for Demand Generation – Turning Traffic into Revenue

I wanted to share a technique my firm has used for the past decade to drive substantial improvement in converting website traffic into revenue. We have been able to prove this prospect engagement process out over a variety of different industries in both B2B and B2C enterprises. We developed this approach to solve a huge issue every single company we met struggled with: Lots of traffic – very little conversion.

Here is just a little example of some of the results our clients have been able to achieve using this approach are:

80% increase in qualified leads through the web globally (measured by calls to live sales agents). The only thing we measured was calls and inquiries to live agents so that it was directly linked to sales and not “false positives” like website registrations and other questionable lead gen measurements. The process we deployed involved 12 unique global sites in 7 different languages and ended up representing 50% of the total qualified sales leads globally and at a cost of 15% of the total marketing spend for lead gen.

$200K revenue in first quarter from zero revenue the year before (measured by web orders). Focused on three key audiences instead of 10 and designed the entire site around an option-based engagement process. Other results when combined with SEO/SEM were a 300% increase in traffic and a max of 4 clicks to delivering customer fulfillment.

So how did we manage to achieve this?

Well, its a synchronization of several factors that is all based on a single, ultra-powerful principle for human relationships: Everyone, without exception, makes decisions based on emotion which is then justified by logic.

Once you understand (and accept) this principle, you need to begin to develop ways to reach your customers emotionally on both a conscious and subconscious level. As human beings, we are constantly being emotionally influenced at a subconscious level by everything and everyone around us and our brains are designed to process this information subconsciously so as not to overwhelm us. The result is a complex set of behaviors, perceptions and belief systems that governs our decisions on a constant basis- all governed by emotions and justified by logic.

So now that we have identified what to do (and why to do it), let me share the “how to do it”  in 3 straight forward steps and lets start with a visual to help understand what it looks like.

(Click to enlarge the image if its difficult to read)

Allow me to briefly explain the example above. This is based on a Fortune 500 client we worked with in the US  financial services sector in partnership with an ad agency to target 4 distinct consumer segments.

  • We identified 3 unique pathways that meet the need of all 4 segments and aligned both the emotional process and logical process with their potential emotional states represented by the Caution – Comfort – Trust along the top of the diagram.
  • The demand generation process took the form of a Flash-based interactive presentation that used audio/video to engage the audience. This was embedded on the home page and targeted at specific segments.
  • They entered the process depending on their emotional state (caution, comfort or trust) which was aligned with corresponding logical milestones of: interest – propensity to buy – buy.
  • The process was designed in two seamlessly integrated layers: the emotional layer and the logical layer that advanced them through the engagement process in a natural, familiar and simple way to the end result of some form of commitment (the blue calls to action).
  • The graphics, audio/video and content were also designed to advance the audience through different emotional states by using imagery and wording that focused on building ongoing rapport and reinforced each step in front of it.
  • The calls to action were designed specifically to present 3 options each corresponding to 3 commitment behaviors from “Do-it-yourselfers” to “Do it for me” to “I need time but I will be back”.
  • Regardless of the commitment, the customer was given valuable take-aways such as a retirement vision document or a retirement plan document. By giving away value without asking for commitment, we actually greatly improved engagement. At every step it was on their terms.

Using this example, here is a simple and high level way for you to begin to leverage this technique for your enterprise website. In fact, it is possible to deploy several of these demand gen processes throughout an enterprise site; each one potentially targeting a different stage of emotional commitment or different product or service.

Step 1: Understand the customer’s emotional and logical decision making process.

  • This is a research based approach and relies on both internal knowledge of your market, but also customer research to identify emotional triggers and processes for each segment you are going to target. It doesn’t require extensive research, but for this to work, you need to understand the emotional needs of your customers.
  • Once you have identified emotional needs, preferences and how emotions affect their decisions, you need to map it out and overlay the logical validation (selling) process over it to form a framework. This can be a linear process, a closed loop, or any other various processes that fit the needs of your customers; not you. Very important point.


Step 2: Design the content, imagery, and engagement process to meet emotional need

  • Create a design plan for the process that maps out and evolves the emotional experience as they progress through your framework including:
    • Emotional architecture and triggers
    • Delivery method – Flash, mobile, html, web application, etc…
    • Engagement method – guided tour, do it yourself, interview style, quiz/game show style, etc…
    • Content – A/V, imagery, messaging and copy
  • The obvious story boarding and audience testing should be done.
  • Compare the testing results back to your research and key assumptions on emotional need and fulfillment. Identify gaps in the process and adapt to create an end-to-end experience


Step 3: Integrate the demand generation process into the corporate website and other engagement tactics.

  • This is probably the most difficult part, making sure its integrated properly into your website, marketing tactics and channels (social media, email, events, retail, etc..) and sales (live agents, experts, lead capture, etc.)
  • The key is to not over complicate things by trying to do too much for too many people.
    • Focus on a specific audience and a specific ask; wrap the entire demand gen process around that
    • Embed the beginning of the process on the home page as a feature and create “doorways” from other parts of the website that correspond to different emotional states (caution – comfort – trust)
    • Integrate other ways for them to develop a relationship with your brand into the process so that if they leave prematurely or have preferences for continued dialogue they can continue easily; this includes linking to your customer communities, social media, email, retail channels and events primarily.
    • Integrate with your sales, retail and relationship development services to allow immediate follow-through for potential customers.
    • Filling out a form or buying online just does not satisfy many people and does nothing for emotional fulfillment. It is an option and should be included, but always allow for human-to-human contact with your brand.
    • Give them plenty of take-aways and the ability to share it with others. Also allow them to come back to the point they left; never make them go through it again. Simple functions like “remember me” or profiles are an easy way to deliver on this.
    • Most importantly, allow them to come and go as they please – soft sell throughout and present options to commit in simple ways.


Want to try this? Start small and build on your successes

If this is something you want to try then I encourage you to start small for the first couple tries. Focus it on a single audience you know well and a single product or service you want to drive demand on. Keep the process manageable and the implementation simple; tie it to one sales channel, 2 tactics, and access only from the home page.

As you get more comfortable build it out to include several other related products (a great way to market to current customers by the way) or to another similar audience. Just make sure you don’t rush ahead and try to do too much. The secret to this working is the ability to keep it simple for the customer and focused on their needs.

Measurement is key and we have always kept that dead simple as well. The easiest measurement is traffic through the demand generation process and commitment stats (online, retail, and sales). Tracking back to sales and revenue is vital and this will ensure senior executives continue to support the program. The great thing here is that Social Media becomes an integral part of ongoing prospect nurturing and becomes much easier to track and measure actual revenue against.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this and connect with anyone who is looking to try it. I’m always willing to give advice and help others use what our clients have used so successfully over the past ten years.


Jeff – Sensei

March 20, 2010

Risk Mitigation for Large Enterprise in Social Media Environments

Filed under: General,Human Behavior,Social Media — Jeff @ 12:58 pm

By now, everyone is talking about how Nestle screwed up on Facebook. I am not going to bore you with the same tripe that everyone else is spewing out about the situation. Yes they screwed up, now move on about it. Instead in true Mountain Top fashion, I am going to look at it from two different perspectives; one Pro Nestle (tied back to Risk Mitigation) and one Pro Consumer (tied back to understanding online human behaviour).

This post will deal with the Pro Nestle perspective and tie it directly to Risk Mitigation within Social Media environments.

The Risk for Large Enterprise in Social Media Environments

As I watched the Nestle situation unfold, I immediately thought about risk to their brand and the impact that a lack of risk management was having on them. The kerfuffle started over Green Peace UK attacking Nestle online for buying Palm Oil from a company that was destroying orangutan habitat in Indonesia. The catalyst or spark that ignited the wild fire was the use of the KitKat logo (to the right). A clever and effective tool to get a rise out of Nestle and it worked. Very well.

Understanding that situation requires us to look at how risk is different in Social Media environments which requires a different kind of risk planning.

  • Large Enterprise is exceptionally vulnerable in public Social Media environments but they typically think the opposite. You are a target now susceptible to attacks from every individual and organization that doesn’t like you. The difference here is every action around a volatile situation is on display for the world to see, and they are watching. How Large Enterprise perceives itself is critical to reducing vulnerability.
  • Exposure = Risk. Depending on where you go, your level of exposure to risk changes, thus the level of risk changes. Open public forums like FaceBook have the most exposure thus have the highest risk. Twitter has less exposure, You Tube less than that, and blogs least of all. Managing exposure is another key ingredient to understanding and managing risk.
  • Predators are everywhere. As a large enterprise you have enemies of all shapes and sizes. They are all online. This is unique to online environments like Social Media where two way conversations are expected. Your natural enemies know this and will take advantage of it every chance they can get. Know who your enemies are and understand what they are capable of.
  • It only takes a spark to start a wildfire. Within 10 hours, the situation with Nestle spiraled out of control, hit the news media, was picked up by blogs and their fan membership on Facebook raced to 91K all for the wrongs reasons. One spark, the way the Nestle rep handled the public on FaceBook, ignited a wildfire they could no longer control. In Social Media environments, risk to your brand is immediate and far reaching.


What is Risk Mitigation for Social Media Environments

Ideally, it is an integral part of a well thought out strategy and approach to going social with your customers and the public.  The risk planning portion should have the following components.

  1. Understanding of who you are in the big picture. Without question, Large Enterprise believe they are the big fish in the pond wherever they go and whatever they do. Not in Social Media. Understanding is the self-analysis leadership needs to do to recognize who they are and their place in Social Media environments. You are prey, not predators. This mean designing a completely different approach and experience than you are used to delivering.
  2. Risk Planning Scenarios. Once you have identified all of your potential vulnerabilities and predators. You need to scenario plan around them. It doesn’t need to be extravagant or complex because the implementation of risk planning relies on the capabilities of your front line people. Develop general cases for evaluating and managing risk that can be applied to multiple types of situations.
  3. Design a Vigilance Process. This is all about teaching your people to recognize the early warning signs of risk and giving them guidelines to manage it and public engagement rules for dealing with it immediately. This gives you time to properly apply resources and escalate your response to control the situation. Don’t go nuts, simple elegant, powerful processes are always the best for everyone involved.
  4. Get the Right People. Having the right people in Social Media is critical to your success. Their aptitude should be open, approachable, friendly, understanding and patient. In hostile situations, it should add helpful. Being armed with questions or techniques to disarm predators or delay the risk in a situation is key. No knee jerk reactions, no retaliation, no low blows. Lastly, asking good, probing questions to define the situation and understand their point of view becomes an important factor in risk management and escalation.

The Value of Risk Mitigation for Large Enterprise Social Media

Before we talk about the value, let’s look at the cost of not having a risk mitigation plan in place. Nestle was hit hard not just from a “Brand perception” point of view but also in the stock market. That’s real. That’s bottom line impact and measurable. If anything, my hope is that this hard fought experience for Nestle will help them realize how potent Social Media can be.

The value if Risk Mitigation can deliver the opposite effect. If it can impact stock prices negatively, it can impact them positively. Imagine if they had rolled out a well managed plan that turned that situation positive and made Green Peace look impotent? Could that have driven investor confidence? Sure it can.

More importantly, the sustainable impact to brand perception can only be improved by applying a risk mitigated approach to dealing with the public. The unique factor is that you have to do this within a two way forum on the open world stage. You have the chance to convert customers into evangelists and enemies into friends, or at the very least make enemies impotent. A win either way.

In the end, risk mitigation makes you a tough target. No predator, human or animal, likes tough targets so the natural inclination will be to move on. Predators look for weakness and when they find it, the exploit it ferociously. Adopt risk mitigation in your approach and make yourself a tough target. There is no downside.

March 15, 2010

Focus on the Social Approach, Not the Social Medium

One of the things I have been preaching about for the past while is not to focus on the medium, but on the approach in Social Media Environments. I have taken to calling this the Social Experience.

What is Social Experience Design?

Much the same as Customer Experience Design, it is the design of an experience that is specific to being social with your customers in online environments. While it is similar to customer experience which covers much of the enterprise (from marketing to sale to customer service) it is also very unique.

Why? Because Online Social Environments are so unique and very unlike what the majority of companies have experienced before.

How is Social Experience Unique?

Here’s a short list I’ve been working on:

  • It is a 2way conversation – Since when did we want our customers to do anything but listen to us???
  • It is personal ranging from 1-1 conversations to 1-many/many-1
  • It is shared control with your customer or prospect and this makes every Enterprise with control issues very, very uncomfortable.
  • It is about them, not about you. This is the killer, especially in B2B, where we are so used to talking about ourselves and nothing else.


The Value of Social Experience Design in the Enterprise.

So if you are able to craft an approach that delivers a positive social experience, you should be able to apply this to ANY social media environment from the big public wastelands like Twitter and Facebook to private customer environments and everything in between.

If your approach is wrong and the experience is indifferent or negative, it won’t matter where you go, you will fail.

The Medium is Going to Evolve

Betting on the medium right now carries a lot of risk for many reasons. Think back to other media that have died, but seemed great at the time such as VHS, CD/DVD, and desktop computers just to name a few.

To put it in the perspective of online media declines, I’ve captured some specifics below:

  • Some Social Media channels are already showing signs of decline such as My Space. When the celebrities and self proclaimed gurus leave Twitter for the next big thing, Twitter will decline rapidly too.
  • Mobile culture is going to be one of the biggest driving forces for change in the next few years, especially in B2B. According to IDC, the shift to mobile is immense and in the immediate with nearly 1 billion mobile workers accessing enterprise systems this year.
  • For B2B and B2C alike, innovations like augmented reality are going to begin to draw more people to the mobile realm. So how long do laptops and traditional websites really have?


One thing is clear, the media we use to communicate with our customers (and they to us!) is going to continue to evolve rapidly with our without us. By focusing on the social experience, we create a much more adaptable approach to evolutionary changes in the social medium.

The Tail End of the Horse

I have always believed that marketers latch onto new media channels like Social Media way too late. By the time most companies get caught up to speed on Social Media it will have changed yet again, and guess what, email or something else we GenXers hold dear may have gone the way of the Dodo too.

What we need to do is get in front of the horse and try to see where its going instead of walking behind it and getting shit on our shoes.

Disagree? Agree? Just want to argue the points? Let me know!


Jeff – Sensei

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