Wednesday, 26 November 2008

Day one at OSNBC 2008

As promised, here are some notes on some selected sessions from day 1 of Online Social Networking and Business Collaboration:

Richard Kimber from Friendster and Rebekah Horne from MySpace

Deep within these two key note presentations (once you got past the promotion of the particular social networking sites that Richard Kimber and Rebekah Horne represented) I picked up a few ideas in respect to the role and application of social networking tools inside organisations:

  • On the Web, social networking site are becoming “social portals” – however, people probably only have a capacity for using 2-3 different social networks. Statistics on membership show that there is little overlap between different public social networking sites.
  • Different public social networking sites are successful in specific geographies. Also, different cultures use social networking sites in different ways – for example, in the west authentic social networking is the norm, but is less typical in north Asia.
  • Mobile access to public social networking is gradually growing in importance.

I think there are some interesting implications for people trying to deploy social networking tools inside organisations, particularly with the reference to portals – an area that continues to produce mixed results in the enterprise. Horne also discussed their success with the MySpace Road Tour and I think that this might also provide an interesting model for the success of social media and social networking inside organisations too – and that is you still need to link the online world back to the real world.

Horne also shared a list of Six Social Network user archetypes (based on research by MySpace in the UK):

  • Essentialists (38%) - People who use social networking sites to stay in touch with friends and family;
  • Transumers (28%) - People who follow the lead of others and join groups connected to their interests;
  • Connectors (10%) - People who revel in passing on information and links whenever they come across something they find interesting;
  • Collaborators (5%) - People who use social networking sites to create events;
  • Scene Breaking (5%) - People who hunt down media (bands, blogs, video) online and share that through the site; and
  • Netrepreneurs (4%) - People who accessed the sites for the sole purpose of making money.

I also learnt that MySpace is a well established and profitable company… (sorry, that’s a bit of an in-conference joke)

Paul Slakey from Google

This was a refreshing change of gear from the key note presentations on social networking sites, although the bulk of Paul Slakey’s presentation was really ‘Google Apps 101’. He described some of the business benefits of Google Apps as:

  • Low cost solution (e.g. $3,785 per user per year for implementing a traditional office suite versus $87 for Google Apps);
  • Scalability; and
  • Continuous product innovation.

I would also add to that list, accessibility where ever a Web-connection is available. Google Apps in particular is also revolutionary in the way it gives smaller organisations access to the types of integrated collaboration tools that in the past only larger companies have had access to.

Having said all that, Slakey doesn’t believe that hosted applications will replace all traditional applications – instead they will continue to co-exist. But looking at that idea more critically, I do wonder then if organisations will really save money with hosted apps – either they’ll end up with both or Microsoft Office will be evolve into a niche product that will be priced as a specialist ‘power tool’. Really to get the full cost saving you’ll also need to migrate all that macro programming in Microsoft Excel and Word into the cloud.

One other interesting point was that Slakey sees an emerging role for an ecosystem of providers that will help organisations both to migrate data to Google Apps (e.g. email accounts, calendars and data etc) and also help them to develop the new practices and skills needed for cloud-based collaboration.

Chris Knowles from Heinz Australia

I saw Chris Knowles present last year at the Intranets ‘07 conference, so this was a bit of an update for me really on what he has been doing more recently in this space. Heinz have implemented internal blogs and a wiki, an extranet blog and an external social networking site for customers. He explained that the internal tools used simple software options that didn’t need database infrastructure, while the extranet and external social network used cheap hosted solutions.

He is a very relaxed presenter and happy to share as much about what has worked at Heinz, as he was about what didn’t work. For example, internal blogging has been more successful than their wiki. However in the process of promoting their new blogging platform to Heinz’s mobile sales staff as an improvement to their intranet, Knowles found he couldn’t assume that people actually even knew what the intranet was! He also told us that he had been asked on a couple of occasions to remove comments.

Some of his tips include:

  • Start simple;
  • Remove any disincentives and make sure you have the right incentives to participate;
  • Expect to fail – label everything as a ‘beta’;
  • Use working groups to help guide future development of the tools; and
  • Don’t stop evangelising, encouraging and educating.

I also get the impression that in the process of rolling out these different social media tools, Knowles has been prepared to ‘eat his own dog food’ and use the same tools to support how they are used. However, overall I was left wondering if there was any deliberate strategy or plan behind the different initiatives. Also, how much of the long standing knowledge we have about managing Web-forums applies to the situation at Heinz?

Jeremy Mitchell from Telstra

The key point in Jeremy Mitchell’s story of Telstra’s Now We Are Talking site was the importance of getting high level support so you can be as transparent as possible.

Ok. That’s enough about day 1. I’ll blog another post about day 2 next.

1 comment:

  1. Your instinct is correct, there is no specific strategy for utilising social media within Heinz.

    All four examples I spoke about were mainly to solve a particular problem but also partly to experiment. And what we have done has really been unofficial.

    I actually think that's the best way to do it as there's less pressure on the project and you can truly let it run its course without worrying about whether it's going to succeed.

    Ultimately, I don't think we ever will have a specific SM strategy - I think that blogs, wikis, podcasts, etc will just be additional tools in our kitbag and it will be a case of selecting the best tool for the job.

    What I am finding is that they certainly seem to be less attractive to Marketing than they are to Corporate Affairs.

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