IBM’s TrueNorth launches the concept of bio-inspired computing

IBM TrueNorth chip

Note: Although IBM’s TrueNorth announcement is not specific to social media, it is a fundamentally different way to deal with networked data with computing assets that simulate the human mind. It will provide the computing ability to analyze social media sentiment and intent thousands of times better than current computing hardware is able to do. As such, TrueNorth is an interesting technology that should be on your radar over the next 5-10 years as this technology is commercially launched. Continue reading

5 B2B Marketing Tips for Using LinkedIn Shares

LinkedIn Meetings

LinkedIn is the best site for Business to Business sharing, yet it is still underused and poorly used as an effective B2B channel. Some believe LinkedIn is just another Facebook while others believe it is more like Twitter. However, both of these approaches are wrong and will lead to social media usage that doesn’t give you any value. Continue reading

Part 3: Getting Value from Social Media

In Part 1 of our social media tutorial, we spoke about how to start building your B2B social media profile. In Part 2, we spoke about how to maintain your profile. Now, in part 3, we’ll talk about how to get value out of your social media profile.

There are many ways to potentially translate social media into additional business value. You can use social media to get in contact with journalists and thought leaders in your space. You can bring users and readers together by hosting social media jams focused on a specific topic. You can identify people with specific questions and help them with their problems. You can build friendships and relationships with the most important people in your field. You can ask users what they want out of a next generation product or service. You can find talented people in specific niche fields. All of these areas can provide value, but it is hard to do all of these at once.

From a difficulty perspective, these use cases basically go from Business Development < PR < Talent Acquisition < Marketing < Sales.

Yes, I said that business development is the easiest of these use cases. In fact, I would argue that any professional who is responsible for alliances, partnerships, channels, and consultant relationships needs to understand how to use social media both because the barrier to entry is so low, the immediate gains are great, and the basic tools are all free. You can meet executives from a wide variety of industries through social media just by having a basic interest in their business and their focus areas. If you truly share a passion and an interest with a well-connected executive, chances are that you should be speaking to each other anyways. Social media just helps to close that gap more quickly.

PR is the next easiest because every good journalist is now on Twitter and pays attention to their feeds. All you need to do is be genuinely newsworthy to get their attention. If you're not genuinely newsworthy, you may need to spend more time developing your core products and services….

Talent Acquisition is a fantastic use case for social media because it is hard to fake being, so interested in your subject matter that you are willing to blog, tweet, and post about your topic. At this point, I check the social media profiles of all of my potential candidates and have done so for years. I don't care if they have drunk pictures of themselves of Facebook or the typical HR concerns. But I do care about if the candidate loves their topic so much that they share their knowledge with others. Social media is a good way to show your personal passion. Even if a candidate hasn't managed to gain a significant audience, sometimes it's more important to simply see their github or LinkedIn profile than to build an audience. Not everyone knows how to build an audience, but everyone has the ability to show the world their interests.

Marketing takes slightly more work, since this involves brand, attracting an audience that is not as directly interested in your company, and a higher level of quality of social media content. To me, it always seemed odd that social media at the B2B level seemed to focus so much on marketing. I studied marketing for my MBA and know about the branding and messaging aspects of social media, but social is fundamentally about creating a personal connection whereas traditional marketing has been more of a mass market and demographic based activity. In fact, marketing has had to fundamentally change its approach to focus on the Power of One partially because of social media. Remember as you look at the marketing aspect of social media that the power of social is in engagement. Social media does not create clicks or views in and of itself. It's only when you actually engage and interest your user into a shared engagement (such as answering a poll, voting on a question, or chatting with an audience) that social becomes useful. Design social marketing to elicit a response that will give you new and interesting data.

And then there is sales. One of my heroes in the social world is Jill Rowley, who bravely took on the world of Oracle as their Social Sales Evangelist and was fired for daring to actually be social. But there is no doubt that social sales is the hardest of the basic business use cases in social to accomplish. You need to find people who are asking the right questions. You need to engage them without being creepy. And then you need to build the relationship to the point where the potential customer wants to set up a real-life email, phone, or personal exchange with you. This is not a Social 101 accomplishment and, to be honest, it takes a pro to teach how to do this correctly. Although I consider myself to be an expert in social media, I would estimate that only 10-15% of my sales pipeline comes directly from social. In other words, it is one of many channels, but it may be the difference between getting your bonus and not. There's a reason that even an inbound marketing monster like Hubspot has a small army of inbound sales people.

So what are some of the next steps that companies can take to start supporting these actual use cases? Let me provide a few examples along with the use cases that are best supported by these initial tips.

1) Create content such as
2) Hold a Tweetchat on your favorite topic by scheduling a half hour or hour with friends and colleagues.
3) Use aggregations/mashups like Storify to summarize events
4) Start a LinkedIn Group on your topic of interest or join a group.
5) Blog on LinkedIn – I will blog separately on the importance of blogging on LinkedIn, as this is a new opportunity. Any time you see a social platform or interaction that has a built-in audience or represents a new and different form of interaction, you only have a few months to get on board and establish yourself to get first mover status.
6) Master at least one visual social platform: Tumblr, Pinterest, Instagram, Vine
7) Engage specific individuals for a focus group
8) Identify specific users as potential partners or buyers

There are a lot of different directions to go in building out your social media efforts for B2B success. To get a better idea of how DataHive Consulting supports B2B social efforts, take a look at our Social Jumpstart efforts.

The Social Media Jumpstart

At DataHive Consulting, we talk about doing “Social Big Data for Human Insight.” And the most common response is “That’s great, but what do you actually DO?” Continue reading

IndieWebify.Me and the Knowledge Gap

Last week, a friend asked me what I thought of IndieWebify.Me, a movement intended to allow people to publish on the web without relying on the tools and storage of the giant corporations that currently control the majority of the social web. I’m the kind of person who gladly supports her local independent bookstores and farmers’ markets and food purveyors, links to instead of Amazon to buy books, and admires the ideals of Open Source Software. So, I’m biased towards an independent and open experience.

IndieWebCamp, the conference devoted to strengthening the Indie Web, describes the concept of the “Indie Web” thus: “We should all own the content we’re creating, rather than just posting to third-party content silos. Publish on your own domain, and syndicate out to silos. This is the basis of the ‘Indie Web’ movement.” You’d think I’d be all over a movement aimed at bringing back more of that feeling to the modern internet.

I’d love to be, but I can’t just yet. IndieWebify’s an ideal with some pretty serious barriers to implementation; key among them, the base level of knowledge necessary for the average citizen of the internet to “Indie Webify” themselves.

If you look at IndieWebify’s main page, there are three levels of “citizenship,” each with two steps to implementation. In theory, six steps don’t seem that challenging. Unfortunately, the reality is more like WordPress’ Famous Five Minute Install – it assumes familiarity with technical concepts that your mainstream Internet citizen lacks. I’m a reasonably tech-savvy person. I can write HTML and CSS and SQL and work with JavaScript and JQuery; I’ve maintained self-hosted websites for almost 15 years now. Steps 1 and 2 seem fairly straightforward – set up a domain name, then on the home page, add a few slightly enhanced links. Not too difficult. But Step 3 (the first step to publishing on the “Indie Web”) is more confusing: “Mark up your content with microformats2.”

Okay, clearly, I’ve got some reading to do, so I click through to learn about microformats2. The general idea isn’t too difficult for someone accustomed to writing HTML and CSS – microformats2 is a collection of standardized class names that should be applied to web content to help computers contextualize things like blog posts and comments. But this leads me to a lot of questions: Can I make my existing installation of WordPress automatically include the microformats2 markup when I write blog posts? (No.) Do I need to manually mark up my content every time I write a post? (Maybe, but that’s a long list of class names to memorize or be constantly referring to.) What is an h-card in this context? Why does it seem to represent multiple opposing standards? … and who do I know that knows how to use the existing “implementations” (which are actual code libraries to be imported and implemented, rather than more user-friendly plugins)?

Talk about jargon-filled! The amount of technobabble here depends on any users possessing a fairly high baseline of coding knowledge. Though I’m willing to click on the links to learn more, this process is nowhere near as quick and simple as joining an existing social site. And this is just step 3 of 6 – we haven’t even gotten to implementing the technology to have the federated (whoops, more technobabble) cross-site conversations that are the core that would allow for you to properly “own” and attribute all of your words to you in the context of your personal domain. Compare this to the existing Corporate Web options, like Facebook and Twitter and Google, where the only thing you need to know how to do is type the natural language words you want to share.

Even assuming you have the motivation to learn, this is not an easy proposition. Buzzfeed’s Charlie Warzel wrote of Twitter: “Ask a longtime user to tell you about their first experience with Twitter and they’ll probably lead with some variation of, “Somebody showed me how to use it…” The idea [is] that, unlike most social networks [today], you didn’t usually just discover and use Twitter – you are taught, or at least climb a fairly steep learning curve.” He then goes on to explain that this isn’t good enough anymore; that for Twitter to continue growing, they need to cater to the mainstream, and make it easier to understand. IndieWebify’s version of this is so far from that point of being accessible to the mainstream that even early adopters are barely on the horizon.

Noted tech evangelist Anil Dash has pointed out how this technical insularity burned the development of the Open Web in the past: “We took it as a self-evident and obvious goal that people would even want to participate in this medium, instead of doing the hard work necessary to make it a welcoming and rewarding place for the rest of the world. We favored obscure internecine battles about technical minutia over the hard, humbling work of engaging a billion people in connecting online, and setting the stage for the billions to come.” Right now, IndieWebify.Me feels like it’s a lot of technical minutia. Maybe that’s how it starts, but it needs to get beyond that for broader adoption.

So, if you’re one of the few who actually knows how to implement these new Open Web tools and want to see the Open Web succeed, what can you do to spread this? As I mentioned above, “somebody showed me how to use it” doesn’t scale, so new tools require accessible design and/or tutorials. The challenge is that IndieWebify.Me currently has a simplified set of instructions, but these still need to be translated further to the technical capabilities of the early adopters, not all of whom are programmers. In comparison, most new social apps and websites come with engaging tutorials that do not require learning a complex set of standards or platform protocols, or being tied to a dictionary of these terms. This is the opportunity for evangelists who are serious about the development of the Indie Web as a competitive and viable alternative: create tools that will let users add these capabilities to existing publishing platforms as easily as I installed Facebook and Twitter on my phone. Heck, WordPress itself is already Open Source. I’d love to be able to install a WordPress plugin that would IndieWebify this blog; there are some plugins out there for older microformats standards, but none fully supporting the microformats2 standard as far as I can tell. I don’t want to have to write my own CMS just to connect this blog to the Indie Web communications mechanisms.

Despite my idealism and my honest desire for an Open Web, I am concerned about IndieWebify’s ability to support this dream; it can’t be just a niche for techies. They need better outreach targeted to idealists like me whose desires outweigh their current coding capabilities, and they need to make the process itself much simpler. I hope the current model of IndieWebify is an intermediate step towards a simpler adoption pattern that will compete with Apple and Google from a usability perspective. In today’s computing world, usability has proven to be the ultimate judge of adoption as social tools such as Tumblr and WhatsApp have proven. By bridging the knowledge gap, the IndieWebify movement can go a long way towards building the next generation of the Open Web.

How #Gartner Got Gamification Wrong

Pong photo courtesy of Bumm13.

Apparently, Gartner has decided to “Redefine Gamification.”

I’m torn. On the one hand, I’m glad that Gartner is putting a stake in the ground in an area where I’ve done projects on and off for the past decade. But on the other hand, the reasoning behind their definition is not backed up by the market or by hands-on experience. Continue reading

Facebook and Oculus: A Step Forward for Social Big Data

Oculus Rift and Social Big Data
Oculus Rift photo courtesy of Sergey Galyonkin.

Yesterday, Facebook announced that it was purchasing Oculus VR, makers of the Rift 3D virtual reality headset, for two billion dollars. If you’re not a hard core gamer locked into the happenings of the International CES show, you may not have seen this technology before.

Oculus has created a development kit, originally funded on Kickstarter, for an immersive 3D headset. This headset won multipleBest of Show” awards at CES and was widely seen as one of the top technologies in Las Vegas this year. Continue reading