Is this Future Shock?

musings on how technology is changing my business environment

Will your social media engagement scale?

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gig audience

Do you listen to your customer?

We do … that’s what we all say. It’s what we all want to do. Sometimes, particularly in a big corporate, it gets to be a bit difficult to hear what they’re all shouting to you.

Sometimes, it might be “Thanks”; sometimes, “Can you do it tomorrow?”; it might even be “I want to complain”. We want to hear all of those. We want our customers to know we’ve heard them.

How do they talk to you

Ideally, how they want to. They can ring you, email you – hey, even write to you.

What if they use Twitter?

@SouthwestAir and @ComcastCares are examples where corporates engage with an audience – they look for who’s tweeting at them, and talk back to them or help them.

@stephenfry is an extreme example of an individual – some 63k people follow him and he follows back about 32k. He can’t hope to see everything that comes through [replies virtually every 5-10 seconds], but he does engage with his audience. [You can find me at @steveellwood, but I only have 203 followers – but I follow 234 people!]

What if they use Facebook

What groups are being set up around or about your brand? Are they positive? Are they YourFirmSucks? How are you going to deal with it? If you don’t, what’s the message you’re giving? Not saying anything, is making a statement – whether you mean it or not.

Should you engage with your customers via social media

If you start to, and more customers pile in, will it scale?
Chris Brogan (surprisingly enough @chrisbrogan) says in Are you Important to me?

No. No, it will not scale. You cannot … maintain a 1:1 relationship with every single person who interacts … I think the same is true of using these tools within an organization. Only, the beauty is this: inside an organization, you can spread the connections out a bit. Not everyone has to talk with Tony Hsieh at Zappos. They might want to, but they will find that there are plenty of other great folks there.

Ditto Comcast. Ditto Dell. Ditto every brand that’s trying to figure out these tools and this space.

It will not scale, but if you want the bottom line return on investment value, you’d best remember to remind people that they’re important to you. And that’s what these tools do best.

What are you doing to engage with your customers in social media? I’d be interested to hear.

Image Credit:svenwerk

Written by SteveEllwood

January 26, 2009 at 4:00 pm

Websites, blogs and content management

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Cromarty CG

Please, can we have a website?

How many of us get questions like that?

I did, and the Cromarty Coastguard website was the result.

So, the answer was “Yes”.

Recently, my local Coastguard Team decided they wanted to get a quick team website off the ground. Most of the team are happy with the internet for searching for technical information, they all use email, but they’re not really content providers of any sort.

They seemed astonished when I said that they could have a website, with their own domain name within a day or so. They were then a bit surprised by the number of questions

What’s your website for…

Usually the first thing you should decide.
Are you:

  • providing a service
  • sharing information
  • building your brand with it
  • selling something
  • or just learning HTML/CSS

We wanted an information site, which would highlight the work we do for potential new members, and provide some easy reference material.

Who’s going to manage this?

The idea was, “Oh, the team’ll do it”. I’ve heard this before, so wanted to make it as easy as possible for people to provide content. I’ve offered to help admin things, but I expect the Station Officer will take a lead.

What’s it going to run on?

It’s a tiny wee website; I’m not expecting huge traffic. I expect regular changes as we respond to incidents and do training exercises. I thought I’d better get a content management system(CMS) . I’d heard about Joomla and Drupal… but I’d also read about using WordPress as a CMS. I blog with it, so am familiar with it. I’d been thinking about moving a couple of other hobby sites onto WordPress, so this was an ideal opportunity.

So, our website runs on WordPress.com, with its own domain name. I’ll watch the stats with interest, and see how many members author content for it – and look for any links for other coastguard sites.

From request to up took 2 days; much of which was finding content and getting the domain name up on WordPress.com. I’d certainly use WordPress again for a hobby/small site.

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Written by SteveEllwood

November 25, 2008 at 10:36 am

Giving customers what they want

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or, are we dinosaurs?

@jobsworth has written another thought provoking post on the customer’s voice and choice, and I commend it to everyone.

We need to be in the business of providing the customer what she wants when she wants it, where she wants it, how she wants it. We need to focus on making things that the customer wants to buy, rather than trying to get customers to pay for things they neither want nor need.

There was a time when we could decide for the customer. There was a time when we could constrain the customer’s voice and choice. There was a time when dinosaurs ruled the earth.

via Faster horses in the age of co-creation

I think it’s fair to say that we need to know what business we’re in, and what we can sell to our customers – and in these turbulent financial times – what we can sell that will bring us cash in, and provide us some margin for our business.

If we can’t bring in cash quickly, and make margin on what we’re selling, then we need to walk away quickly from that opportunity and fix what we do.

Otherwise, we’ll sell the customer what they want, but what we can’t afford.

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Image Credit: whizchickenonabun

Written by SteveEllwood

November 11, 2008 at 12:05 pm

Posted in customer service, JP

Even Demos says allow Facebook at work

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Facebook, Inc.

Image via Wikipedia

In an article on use of social networking sites reported on the BBC, a Demos report states that firms should allow the use of these sites at work.

“Banning Facebook and the like goes against the grain of how people want to interact. Often people are friends with colleagues through these networks and it is how some develop their relationships.”

When even the BBC and Demos are picking up issues @jobsworth was blogging about last year in Facebook and enfranchisement you figure this must be going mainstream.

Now, as long as companies can hold their nerve and not retreat into the comfort zones of “retrench/forbid/ban” – and revert to centralised command & control, maybe some of the innovation at the edges, and the contacts people build will help us get through the recession; if not, at least it will give their people some more human contact and stability in difficult times.

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Written by SteveEllwood

October 29, 2008 at 9:08 am

Keep up with your social network as the crunch comes

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Everyone needs friends and contacts

While we find our way through the next year or two, there are going to be many changes. Orders get cancelled, expenditure is cut, and jobs will go.

If your circumstances change

Change brings opportunity, so accept it is inevitable, and look forward to what it will bring.

Your network is key to finding opportunities, so keep up with your network.

If you stay as you are

You’ll be fortunate, and unusual, but your friends and contacts will need you.

You may be key to them finding opportunity, so keep up with your network.

Change brings uncertainty

In the midst of change, people look for stability. Your tweet, blog post, IM or phone call might be the touch of normality people look for. Don’t stop being a social creature. Keep up with your network.

I was so tempted to have as the previous paragraph:

“Uncertainty brings doubt.
Doubt brings fear
Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate . Hate leads to suffering.”

but I thought leading with Yoda

might be a bit much.

Image Credits: Litandmore &
bbaltimore

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Written by SteveEllwood

October 21, 2008 at 3:48 pm

Social Networking fixed my heating!

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I started to write this post in the summer, when someone asked me about social networking. As the weather turned cold, and the heating came on, it’s given me the impetus to publish it.

They were quite dismissive.
“I haven’t time for all that nonsense. What on earth do you waste your time with that for?”

Occasionally, I have trouble articulating what I like about social networking, but on this occasion I came up with a couple of examples.

  • As a homeworker, it replaces the chat over the desk, or round the watercooler/coffee machine.
  • As an inquisitive guy, it opens windows on new things to learn – from some really bright people in a range of industries… including in my own company.

I then had the bright idea of saying “Of course, it was social networking that fixed my heating…”.

When asked, I said I was leaving the pub after a pint, when I met my neighbour. We were chatting about how things were going, and I said my biggest problem was finding a central heating engineer who could cope with an old solid fuel system. He asked the symptoms, and said he was a boiler technician. I expected a punt for a job, but he said “Ach, it’s no your heating. It’s a jammed radiator valve or two; that’s easy to fix”. We had another beer, and I thought no more about it.

The following day, I was in the garden, fixing a light, and he asked if he could pop in. Less than 10 minutes later, he’d fixed what I thought was a heating problem. No, I didn’t pay for the advice; yes, I did buy him another beer.

Social networking isn’t about the tools or technologies. It’s about the connections you make, and what you do with them.

Remember your real world social networking, too…

Image Credit: Coreyu

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Written by SteveEllwood

October 8, 2008 at 10:06 am

The URI is the Thing (TUITT)

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TUITT

Paul Downey – also known as @psd – has done another one of his pen & ink masterpieces conveying the importance of the URI.

I’ll admit to my shame, than it wan’t until I started reading some of Paul’s stuff on Web APIs that I even realised what URIs were.

Of course, I soon learned how to identify a Cool URI thanks to Tim Berners-Lee

This shows shows the perils of ignoring the virtues of the URI…

You can get a clean high-resolution PDF from archive.org, and see the annotated copy at Flickr

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Image Credit: psd
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Written by SteveEllwood

October 7, 2008 at 11:44 am