Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Trend 1 - Five Trends that indicate Social Media and ECM are Converging

Trend 1
1:1 Markets – Closing the Gap and Reducing the Supply Chain

More Details From the Article: The Convergence of Social Media and ECM

Trend 1
1:1 Markets – Closing the Gap and Reducing the Supply Chain

The goal is to shorten the supply chain. Companies are starting to take advantage of Twitter in particular to provide a better clip_image011customer experience. They are closing the gap on trying to create a 1:1 relationship. Examples include Comcast, Dell (see Trend 1 Details), Whole Foods, and Zappos. Some are doing it much better than others, but I give any company credit for at least trying. However, “Trying” is NOT enough - See Trend 5. The companies listed here are closing the gap. I expect to see many more companies starting to use Twitter and other Social Media technologies in the coming months. Companies that make the effort should also make sure they are being genuine and authentic (See Trend 5).

Additional Details about Trend 1

A few things to consider before jumping in and committing to the use of Social Media tools and technologies in conjunction with you Enterprise Content Management systems. Successfully creating, managing and maintaining 1:1 relationships requires some planning and thinking ahead to understand the overall experience. Below are a few items I have observed to be effective. There are many others that contribute to the overall success of a converged ECM and Social Media solution. I’m open to your feedback and experiences – please comment or send e-mail.

Keeping it Current (and Authentic - See Trend 5)
Content goes stale. Not keeping the information current and up to date effectively makes your Social Media technology into a dumping ground. We’ve seen too many web sites like this in the past. Companies willing to invest the time and money to develop a Social Media strategy should factor in the time and effort required to keep them current.

  • Key Point: In order to have a 1:1 relationship it needs to be a conversation there should be an opportunity to have a dialogue. Just like in real life there are at least two sides of the conversation. If you don’t keep it relevant, you should not be surprised if the people you are “talking” with have lost interest and have wandered off.
  • Is it ever OK to have stale (or static) content? Overall I would say no. However, since a constant stream of chatter would also be annoying and likely to turn people off I think there are cases where new information needs to be trickled to the target audience. So, if there is nothing new today that’s OK, but make sure that does not become the standard.
  • Use the content that has been captured in the ECM system in conjunction with the Social Media technologies to weave a story that resonates with the customer.
  • Remember this is supposed to be a conversation, a running dialogue. When you are talking with people in a conversation there are moments of silence, but a pause of several days, weeks or months will cause people to look elsewhere.
  • One example is Dell – Dell has a few Twitter accounts. Keeping them all current may be tough. If they have no new content this may be fine. Alternatively, perhaps they need to consolidate to keep in fresh?
    • Running counter to this idea or perhaps to counter the multiple twitter accounts I give Dell big props and kudos for encouraging employees to create, monitor, and manage their own Twitter accounts. One Twitter user that I follow is RichardatDELL. There are others at Dell and I’m sure there are many other employee/employer advocates – maybe there needs to be an easier way to find them – see below “Can your Customers Find You?”

Can your Customers Find You?
Choose your Name Wisely (and hope it has not been taken). One of the risks of using Twitter to stay connected with customers is making sure your customers, or whatever you want to call your target audience, can find you. While this is quite obvious there is a risk that your name may already be taken – legitimately or by a squatter hoping to make a profit. One of the risks related to name squatting is related to authenticity (Trend 5)and veracity.  I expect that this will rectify itself, much as it did with web sites, over time. Hopefully without the squatters tax.

For example:

  • I took a look at Dell’s semi-obvious names for Twitter accounts (Direct2Dell, DellOutlet, StudioDell and a few others) and noticed that they have not been keeping them all current (violating the Keeping it Current Rule).
  • This may be because Dell has several Twitter accounts. There is nothing wrong with the use of multiple accounts. Dell, and many other companies, have different markets and market segments they target.
  • If your target audience cannot find you it defeats the purpose of even using Social Media technologies and does not make effective use of all that enterprise content that has been gathered.
  • Before you think I am bashing Dell keep in mind that they have had success (see Evidence below) and they have gotten into early adoption of Social Media technologies. I’m not bashing them, but I do think they need to rationalize their accounts and get an even better ROI. This is something every company will need to deal with. Dell is ahead of the curve. Perhaps there are some DELL services offerings in the works?

Know the Difference between an Alert and a Conversation
An alert is not a conversation. However, alerts can be very useful to leverage the content in the Enterprise Content Management system which allows for the use of Social Media technologies as a vehicle for delivering the content.

A case in point happened to me just today. United Parcel Service (UPS) called me to let me know a package requiring a signature will be delivered tomorrow. Actually, this was not a person making the call it was a bot that automated the call. As a bonus - The bot even gave me the option to hear the message in different languages. So, was this a conversation? No. It was an alert. An alert that was driven by my opt-in choice to have the UPS system alert me when my package would be delivered. What’s this got to do with Social Media you ask? Well, the delivery vehicle for this alert was my mobile phone today. It could have just as easily been a direct message (DM) from Twitter. Social Media technologies will continue to be both a front end and a back end for access to enterprise content management systems.

For this case the UPS computer systems had some data (i.e. content) about a transaction that I had initiated. It was probably a combination of logistics systems that included ECM and several other computer systems. A triggering event was set in the system (using some form of workflow engine – Workflow is one pillar of an ECM system). When the triggering event conditions were met the next step in the process started. Which was to tell the UPS calling bot to find my mobile phone number (in the ECM system) and place the call. It worked and I was impressed.

Because this is a connected society there are alternatives to SMS, Twitter Tweets, and phone calls. One of the other Social Media + ECM options I had available to track the package  was to use the confirming e-mail that UPS sent to track my package in near real-time. Again, accessing the content in the ECM system in combination with other logistics systems within UPS to deliver updates to me in several formats.

Is there an upside for corporations to use Twitter?

The Evidence says YES!

Example #1: How Dell made $1M with Twitter,
This is a blog post by ZK and while it does contradict my point above I wonder if there had been more synergy between the multiple Dell accounts on Twitter if number could have been $2M.

We may never know, but I’m sure more articles are being researched and written that identify the metrics to “prove” the value of Social Media. If you have examples please tell me about them via e-mail. More customer evidence proving the value or Social Media (and ECM) are still needed.

Example 2: Comcast and their @ComcastCares Twitter account:

During the recent storms in Seattle we lost our internet connection. Even though the weather system had passed hours before our internet connection was dead, yet our cable was still active. I had heard Comcast had a Twitter account and thought I’d give it a try.

I sent a tweet to Comcast (@ComcastCares) and was really impressed by the speed of the response – it took minutes. Comcast is making the investment and I think it’s paying off. I’m a fan and now a follower on Twitter.

Minding the Gap and getting closer to a 1:1 relationship is something that the convergence of Enterprise Content Management and Social Media will continue to make easier and as results start to pour in more companies will make the investment.

Thinking Points:
What have been your experiences with companies that are Minding the Gap and making great 1:1 relationships?

Will companies continue to invest to get closer to the customer? How will results be measured?

Your comments and feedback are greatly appreciated. Please feel free to comment on this blog, tweet about it, Retweet it and if you are so inclined send me e-mail directly. You can also find me on Facebook and LinkedIn too.

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About The Author:
I have spent the better part of the last 16 years working in various aspects of the ECM space. I spent time at Kofax, Microsoft, FileNet, K2, and most recently Captaris (which was acquired by Open Text in Nov 2008). Prior to that I was a Unix VAR running my own company.

2 comments:

ComcastCares said...

We are always just happy to help no matter which channel a Customer chooses to communicate. Social Media is just another channel in which Customers can be heard. It is just a question of who is listening.

Frank

RichardatDELL said...

Thanks for the perspectives and constructive suggestions.

People choose to connect for different reasons and different purposes. Therefore we offer:
- ways to find information (which update as there is new info);
- find deals/purchase opportunities; and
- find and connect with people.

Does that make it complex? a little, I suppose. But we are a big company offering customers choices that people seem to want.

You can find more at www.dell.com/twitter and related links orin my delicious book marks :-)