Why Our Widgets Whip Click-Through, or, Pay Per Click Ads

CPM: Cost per thousand impressions
CPC: Cost per click-through
CPA: cost-per-action
Conversion Rate: The percentage of visitors who take a desired action
Customer Acquisition Cost: The cost associated with acquiring a new customer

Internet Marketing Dictionary

Complex Formulas
What it feels like trying to figure out Search Engine Marketing.

Searching for  Search Engine Marketing

I recently signed up for Google AdWords and started playing around with its campaign site. After twenty, or, thirty minutes, I started getting a splitting headache and through frustration, closed my Google Chrome browser and defiantly opened up Firefox.  Now to be fair, I had no business signing up for AdWords, since I can’t even spell S-E-M (SEM) but, I was determined to get a better understanding of what I could be missing.  Being a start-up and desperate for bootstrapping sales, it seemed only logical to investigate.

Google Sales to the Rescue, sort of

The very next day I received a call from a Google Sales Rep – Terry Dewey, who was incredibly helpful, and patient, in walking me through the site & giving me my very own S-E-M 101 Course. But, by the end of the call, there was one thing terribly obvious to both of us. If I couldn’t manage to spend $7500 a month on AdWords advertising, then there simply wasn’t any point in getting started.

WCT: Wholly Crap Through

At $7500 a month, with an average of 3% conversion rate, my customer acquisition cost was probably going to cost me more than I was going to make.

Reality Check and The Referral Engine Bibles

So needless to say, I’ve abandoned my jump into SEM and have returned to the teachings of Guy Kawasaki’s Reality Check & John Jantsch’s The Referral Engine. If I understand correctly, the key to success is sharing with those who can help. So that’s the motivation behind the :AnotherSocialEconomy Reseller and Referrer programs. Another lesson learned, is that I have to make it real easy for those folks to pass the message along and that’s why we developed the :Widget and the :Bookmarklet.

The Ultimate Cost Per Action (CPA)

CPA offers are the truest form of performance marketing. Rather than basing payouts on bulk traffic which may or may not convert, cost per action refers to compensating affiliates/publishers for real sales, leads, and other conversion metrics. This is often the most empowering method for advertisers, as they are able to gain direct results from their advertising budget. The CPA model is a risk-free approach to advertising that usually targets niche specific publishers or clever affiliates.

Peter Hamilton

According to Rubicon Consulting & Online Communities and Their Impact on Business: Ignore at Your Peril, where they found 10% of the community members contribute 80% of the content. These Most Frequent Contributors (MFCs) are second to word of mouth when it comes to influencing others.

So for starters, here’s how our Widgets whip click-through and pay-per-click advertising for Influencers (MFCs).

  1. Prep work:
    1. Become an AnotherSocialEconomy Reseller
    2. Post an AnotherSocialEconomy Widget on your blog, or, web site. The widget can be customized to your site’s look and feel so it doesn’t distract your readers.
    3. Contact Retailers, suppliers, manufactuers, brands, distributors, and anyone else in position to close a sale – locally, or, online and have them register as AnotherSocialEconomy Retailers.
  2. Blog, review, rate, do whatever you do to contribute valuable content.
    1. Your readers can then fill in your site’s Widget to purchase whichever goods and/or services mentioned.
    2. AnotherSocialEconomy will then notify all registered Retailers within range of the Consumer’s location and ask them if they have the goods/services available for sale.
    3. Those Retailers with inventory on hand, then propose their goods to the Consumer via AnotherSocialEconomy.
    4. Once Consumers confirm, they can then proceed to the local Retailer and pick up their goods.

Bottom line

AnotherSocialEconomy is about connecting serious buyers with local retailers. So only those Consumers interested in buying, will click-through.  And only those Retailers in a position to close the sale, need to reply. There’s no conversion rates, or, customer acquisition costs to worry about. Retailers only pay when they close the sale.

But wait, there’s more …

And what about that kind Influencer? Since they Referred the request via their site’s Wdiget, they get to share in some of AnotherSocialEconomy’s proceeds.  And in this particular scenario, since they- as  a Reseller signed up the Retailer who made the sale, then they again, get to share in some of AnotherSocialEconomy’s proceeds. Now that’s some CPA, eh?

Thanks

I’d like to thank Michel Drouin for connecting the dots between click-through advertising and the value proposition of :AnotherSocialEconomy’s :Widget.

Stay tuned and I’ll let you know how this one works out.

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Kicking off social software in Sara’s elementary school

Emerging Early Adopters: With only 10 min demo, 11 & 12 year-olds pounce on social software in their elementary school.

Social media tools enable them to be connected, extend their outreach, and ensure that all members can have a voice within the tribe.

— Seth Godin, Tribes Q&A

edu.cyn.in Mind Map
edu.

Given my previous post on Max, I was a bit delayed in getting edu.cyn.inCynpase ‘s cyn.in Software as a Service, launched. However, since my Update on pitching social software to Sara’s elementary school post, we did manage to sign-up 34 members – exactly half of which were parents. (This also helps support the grassroots approach to social software adoption.)

Site structure and Permissions

On one of the last days before school broke for the holidays, I was left with only ten minutes of demo time. So I decided to quickly peruse the site structure which has a Space for the elementary school and sub-Spaces for the Students and another for the teachers and parents. I explained to the students that parents & teachers can view, but not write, in their Student Space, so they need to be sure that whatever they post is appropriate. Furthermore, they can’t even view what’s in the teachers’ & parents’ Spaces. However, everyone can post (read/write) in the Home and their school Space. Basically, the students are allowed to write whatever their conscience allows for.

edu.cyn.in Statistics - General
edu.cyn.in Statistics - General
Status Logs

Having explained the Big Brother philosophy and with precious little time remaining, I gave them a quick tour on how to navigate the site & then showed them Cynapse’s Status Logs. This is almost the equivalent of Twitter except:

  • there is no Following, so there’s no need to Follow whoever is in fashion
  • the messages are threaded, which allows members to Comment on a specific Status message, as well as, Reply to those comments.

My only objective was to enable the kids to stay connected during their holiday break. Once back, I’d go into more detail about the different features and then get The Project – referred to back in my Update on pitching social software to Sara’s elementary school, underway.

edu.cyn.in Statistics - Contributors
edu.cyn.in Statistics - Contributors
Most Frequent Contributors (MFCs)

We’re now at the end of the holiday break, and some of the kids are well beyond Status Logs. It’s also interesting to note, that these early adopters – 11 and 12 year-old kids, are following the same patterns as their elders. Back in an earlier post – How to be a hero with stuff like Twitter, Facebook, blogs, delicious, wikis and more, under Step 4: Getting Viral, I refered to Rubicon Consulting & Online Communities and Their Impact on Business: Ignore at Your Peril, where they found 10% of the community members contribute 80% of the content. These Most Frequent Contributors (MFCs) are second to word of mouth when it comes to influencing others. Which is the basis for my grassroots approach to social software adoption.

edu.cyn.in Statistics - Commenters
edu.cyn.in Statistics - Commenters
Site Statistics

Out of the 34 signed-up members, 50% (17) are parents – none of whom, aside from myself, have contributed any content yet. Of the remaining 17 students, nine (9) have contributed. So with an introduction of less than a total of 60 minutes spread over two weeks, the student-MFC numbers (over 26%) better those in the above study of 10%. And that’s over the holiday break!

What does this mean?

My guess, and hope, is that once school starts up again this week, and I start my usually Monday Lunch & Learn sessions the following week, that even more of the students will be contributing content. Once I layout the The Project Plan and dates, I’ll have the students present their own Lunch & Learns about their adopted Features. As their knowledge increases, my guess is their adoption will increase with it. As the student adoption rate increases, my guesss is that the parents and teachers will follow shortly after.

Reflection

What kind of social software adoption rates have you experienced? Are they better/worse/in line with the MFC study?

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Lessons learned from Social Content 2.0 Circle of Life – Part 2

per·spec·tive n. Subjective evaluation of relative significance; a point of view.

Perspective
Perspective
Background

In an earlier post, How to infuse Social Content 2.0 into your social software lifecycle, I reiterated a common theme I noticed in Gartner’s Magic Quadrant for Social Software. That theme basically stated that many social software providers’ ability to execute may suffer due to their lack of resources, or, size does matter – according to Gartner. To address this issue, I posted my Trial offer to test the Social Content 2.0 Circle of Life where I proposed the services of a new player – the Community Product Manager. And finally, after receiving some much appreciated feedback, I followed-up with my Lessons learned from Social Content 2.0 Circle of Life – Part 1 where I clarified the distinction between a Community Manager, Product Manager and a Community Product Manager. In this post, I’ll focus on what I discovered during that trial week by presenting some concrete examples and how I think it fits into the big picture.

A fleck of paint

Recently, there’s been a lot of news about Space Junk;

In June 1983, the windscreen of the U.S. space shuttle Challenger had to be replaced after it was chipped by a fleck of paint measuring 0.01 of an inch that impacted at four kilometers per second.

So here’s my fleck of paint: For the purposes of discussion, I purposely selected trivial content in order not to distract from the point I’m trying to articulate. For now, you’ll have to trust me about the volume of content flying around in cyberspace 🙂

It’s really a matter of perspective

Here’s some content I found using Radian6 during the trial period and a few different perspectives:

Scenario 1: Broadcast of new feature to anyone listening for Socialtext
Tweet from pascal_venier on Feb 28, 2009 02:48 PM

Studying Socialtext wiki automatic “Email notification of Recent Changes” to your inbox. A nice feature. http://twurl.nl/ypcmoj…

Perspective Possible reaction
Anyone connected to Socialtext May retweet
Competitor’s Customer Compares to current experience and may contact support, or, retweet
Competitor’s Community Manager May need to ask Support about feature and if it exists, may tweet their own spin
Competitor’s Community Product Manager Compares to current feature-set & if it exists then tweets their own spin else documents 1-line User Story. For example: “As someone interested in the contents published on a particular wiki, I’d like to receive email notifications of updates on a scheduled basis, so I don’t have to visit the site to ensure I have the latest content.”

Scenario 2: Broadcast of feature request to Liferay & anyone listening for Liferay
Tweet from helmblogger on Mar 03, 2009 12:34 PM

@Liferay Our business problem… “News” both organizational and departmental. Need to display “all-in-one” and “by department”.. thoughts?…

Perspective Possible reaction
@Liferay (Perhaps Community Manager) Depending on their role, may forward to Support, or, Development
Anyone listening for Liferay May retweet & contact Support too
Competitor’s Customer Compares to current experience and may retweet & contact Support too
Competitor’s Community Manager May need to ask Support about feature and if it exists, may tweet own spin
Competitor’s Community Product Manager Compares to current feature-set & if it exists then tweet their own spin else documents 1-line User Story. For example: “As an author, I’d like to publish hierarchical content, so that groups based on the hierarchy have permission to read it.”

Scenario 3: Blog post targeting sought after project management features and referencing a few social software players
The Best and Worst Project Management Apps posted Feb 08, 2009 05:17 AM

… But there are a number of organizations that command large amounts of cash who need to procure project management systems for their divisions around the world. This includes NGOs, Government Agencies, International Schools, Non-Profits and more. In these harsh economic times, businesses should be looking for ways to tap into new markets. Most emerging economies still have nearly 100% room for growth, if only developers take into account their needs and circumstances.

Do any project management products exist that are ready to serve this multi-billion dollar sector?…

Perspective Possible reaction
Anyone listening for Basecamp, Zoho, Google Apps, Zimbra, ActiveCollab, ProjectPier, OpenGoo, Dot Project, Cyn.in, Confluence, Rockclimbr, Drupal, Yammer, Noodle, Present.ly, Collabtive, Trellis Desk, Achievo, or, Product Planner May comment, or, tweet
Anyone associated & listening for any of the above organizations Compares to current experience and may comment, tweet, or, contact Support too
Competitor’s Customer Compares to current experience and may comment, tweet, or, contact Support too
Competitor’s Community Manager May need to ask Support about features and possibly comment/tweet their own spin
Competitor’s Community Product Manager Compares to current feature-set & possibly comments/tweets their own spin else documents 1-line User Story for each missing feature. This example is really about architecture: “As an emerging market decision-maker for social software selection, I need a self-hosted solution, so my users need only intranet access since Internet access is not always available.”
Do you see the pattern?

Assuming the organization has a Community Manager then there may be an overlap in responsibilities with a Community Product Manager. However, this can be easily addressed with a little bit of collaboration. However beyond the overlap, a Community Product Manager could potentially extend the above scenarios by:

  1. Reviewing User Stories with their counter-part Product Manager & determine any course of action
  2. Engaging with the source and/or user community to elaborate and document the feature requirements
  3. Supporting the Product Manager in the feature development lifecycle thereby completing the Social Content 2.0 Circle of Life (see post title)
Panning the river for gold
Panning the River of News for gold

However, the most important pattern that emerged and lesson I learned was the one of Perspective. No doubt, even with the help of Radian6’s River of News, there’s a lot of work involved in mining for gold nuggets in cyberspace. But the beauty of striking these nuggets is that they’re environmentally friendly – they’re reusable! As illustrated in this post, one piece of content can yield dividends for many investors. It’s just a matter of perspective.

Up next

My next post will propose a Community Product Manager business model. I’d love to hear any of your ideas and will be more than happy to attribute and share them here.

Reflection
Do the above scenarios and quotes help in providing concrete examples of where a Community Product Manager can add value to your development process? Do you need more? Do you have any examples of your own you could share with me?

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Lessons learned from Social Content 2.0 Circle of Life – Part 1

Distinction between a Community Manager, Product Manager and a Community Product Manager

Feedback
Feedback
Feedback

First of all, thanks to all of those who shared their thoughts with me on my last post – Trial offer to test the Social Content 2.0 Circle of Life. In general, there were two common threads:

  1. Disticntion between a Community Product Manager and a Community Manager
  2. Can’t justify business case for that role
Community Product Manager versus Community Manager

Despite my attempt at defining the former, most thought I was offering the services of a Community Manager. To be clear, my understanding of a Community Manager is based on Chris Brogan’s post Essential Skills of a Community Manager. Here’s a quick summary: Community Managers

  • are like a good party host mixed with a fine restaurant host.
  • must be experienced communicators
  • are ambassadors and advocates in one
  • are bodyguards and protectors
  • must build actionable reports
  • cultivate internal teams for further support

On the other hand, there’s Pragmatic Marketing’s Product Manager definition which can be illustrated as;

Pragmatic Marketing Framework
Pragmatic Marketing Framework

In my opinion, while a Community Product Manager is in between these two roles, it’s much more aligned with the Product Manager’s, except, it’s outside the development organization’s firewall. Which means, a Community Product Manager could potentially assist the Product Manager with the highlighted areas illustrated above.

Can’t justify business case for that role

In an earlier post, How to infuse Social Content 2.0 into your social software lifecycle, I reiterated Gartner’s findings that many social software providers / vendors may suffer from lack of resources. And while I received a bit of flack for the “size matters” point, I still believe the Community Product Manager role need is there – to some degree, which I’ll save for another time.

Up next

In my next post, I’ll focus on the content by presenting some concrete examples of what I discovered over the past week & how I think it fits into the big picture.

Reflection
As always, all comments are welcome.

Thanks again to those who shared their thoughts and a special thanks to Alora Chistiakoff over at Social Computing Magazine for suggesting a few concrete examples will help clarify matters.

Trial offer to test the Social Content 2.0 Circle of Life

More on infusing community and product management for social software development. Read on and email me at steven@stevenmilstein.com if you want to participate in my free trial offer.

Circle of Life
Circle of Life

Background
I recently posted How to infuse Social Content 2.0 into your social software lifecycle where I mentioned 38 social software companies reviewed in the Gartner Magic Quadrant. I then went fishing for Comments by tweeting all those names and more (see tags listed below), with a link to the post. Good, or, bad, almost immediately, three of them left comments plus one sent an email plus another responded with a few tweets. I’m guessing that means their listening for their brands. I’m also guessing that the others may either not be listening, or, are too busy to get engaged – even with the post being resyndicated at Social Computing Magazine the very next day! As a result, I feel its time to stop blogging about it and start delving deeper into my theory.

 

Definitions

Social Content 2.0: Content derived from the spontaneous, effortless, contagious and insightful use of social software. This content flows independent of the networks, platforms and tools themselves and is solely driven by the interests, concerns, opinions and experiences of the community and their desire to contribute.

Community Product Manager: A new type of product manager whose primary task is to listen, engage and represent the stakeholders outside the software development organization and help communicate this nurtured Social Content 2.0 into the agile development process.

Social Content 2.0 Circle of Life: Harvesting Social Content 2.0 from both the outside and inside of the organization to feed further development and support of it’s products and/or services, in turn producing it’s next generation.

Tools supplied by Radian6
I’ll be using Radian6‘s social media monitoring solution to harvest the social content.

Free Trial Offer Iterative Process

  1. Select social software vendors based upon their interest, ability to assign owner on the inside to collaborate with me and timeliness in replying to my offer
  2. Configure Radian6 for social software market place and filter for selected vendors
  3. Discover the content and it’s contributors for five business days
  4. Analyze trends, keywords, level of engagement for five business days
  5. Blog about market-level results on my site
  6. Blog about vendor and product level results on vendors’ extranet, intranet, or some other private space

Service Offering – Post Trial Offer Iterative Process

  1. Collaborate with traditional product manager representing outside stakeholders
  2. Participate in development process as required
  3. Engage with community contributors as required
  4. Reflect with respective community contributors

Trial offer
So how pragmatic can a Community Product Manager be? If you’re a social software vendor and prepared to collaborate with me, let’s measure the fruits of our labour. To be clear, my resources are limited, as I’m sure yours are too, and I cannot possibly agree to help everyone that responds. So if you’re as serious about this stuff as I am, then please do not hesitate to respond and lets get going. You can email me at steven@stevenmilstein.com.

SERVaaS – Service as a Service?
If all goes well, then I hope to have a better understanding of the demand for Community Product Managers and the viability of offering the above services. Once I have a few customers in place, then taking it to the next level is already the subject of sleepless nights in Montreal and will have to be saved for another post down the road.

Reflection
What do you think? Are you in development? Do you think there’s a place in the software development lifecyle for Community Product Managers? Or, are you a stakeholder on the outside yearning for a(nother) voice on the inside? Either way, please comment, share with a colleague, customer, developer and help get those email requests coming in.

Many thanks to the good folks; Amber Naslund, Cory Hartlen , Marc Whitchurch, Chris Ramsey and Marcel Lebrun at Radian6 for all their time and consideration.

And another Thank You to Alora Chistiakoff over at Social Computing Magazine for reaching out to me and offering my first resyndication.

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How to infuse Social Content 2.0 into your social software lifecycle

This is about me taking a traditional role in software development and creating its counterpart on the customer side to improve communications between all stakeholders. This is where Product Manager meets Community Product Manager.

Social Content 2.0: Content derived from the spontaneous, effortless, contagious and insightful use of social software. This content flows independent of the networks, platforms and tools themselves and is solely driven and by the interests, concerns, opinions and experiences of the community and their desire to contribute.

Gartner Magic Quadrant for Social Software (Oct 2008)
Gartner Magic Quadrant for Social Software (Oct 2008)

The social software state of affairs

  1. According to Gartner’s Magic Quadrant for Social Software, there is not one software company in the Leaders quadrant and only Microsoft & IBM in the Challengers quadrant. That means, there’s lots of room for improvement in today’s social software offerings.
  2. Based on these excerpts, almost 40% of the players have size issues when it comes to their ability to execute:
    1. AskMe-Realcom: The impact of the June 2008 merger between AskMe and Realcom on the company’s direction and product evolution will take time to work through.
    2. Atlassian: The company’s size (currently 190 employees) and reach can limit its ability to handle growth and meet the demands of large global organizations.
    3. Awareness: Despite doubling to 50 employees during the last year, Awareness is still a relatively small organization.
    4. blueKiwi Software: Despite some growth in 2008, blueKiwi is a small company with about 30 employees, limited resources and no activity outside Europe.
    5. Blogtronix: The company’s small size, small partner network and limited enterprise deployments limit its ability to execute.
    6. CustomerVision: CustomerVision has limited market presence, is very small in size (18 employees) and has a limited “ecosystem.”
    7. Drupal: Acquia is a small and new organization with an unproven ability to execute.
    8. eTouch: eTouch is a small company (15 employees) with limited ability to execute.
    9. EMC: EMC has a document- and process-centric view of collaboration, with little support for informal communities in its current eRoom product.
    10. EPiServer: The company has almost no presence outside Europe.
    11. FatWire: Although TeamUp is being deployed independently, its primary short-term appeal will be among existing FatWire customers and creative marketing teams or media agencies dealing with rich media content.
    12. Google: Weaknesses in social interaction support and group information organization, moderation and expertise location will need to be addressed before the product is suitable beyond content authoring and sharing.
    13. GroveSite: The company’s small size (15 employees) limits its ability to execute.
    14. Huddle: Huddle is a small U.K.-based company, with a limited ability to execute, and no large-scale deployments (beyond 2,000 users per site).
    15. IBM: Whether justified or not, perceptions of complexity and dependencies on other IBM products such as Domino, WebSphere or DB2 will make it more difficult for IBM to reach customers outside its existing customer base.
    16. Igloo: Igloo is a small company that needs to attract a broader customer base beyond its handful of customers in Canada and the U.S.
    17. Jive Software: Although growing, Jive Software’s size will inhibit its ability to establish a clear positioning as an enterprise vendor.
    18. Josh: The company is very small (16 employees) and has limited exposure outside Europe.
    19. Leverage Software: Leverage is still a small organization (40 employees), with activities mainly in the U.S.
    20. Liferay: Commitment from the vendor and the Liferay communities to the collaboration and social software market is still unproven.
    21. Lithium Technologies: It offers limited support for team collaboration via document/content creation and sharing, and no informal project support.
    22. LiveWorld: It has limited authoring, document sharing or team collaboration support.
    23. Microsoft: There are functional gaps including social tagging and bookmarking, social search and an improved wiki (although some of these are offered by Microsoft as open-source components through its Codeplex community).
    24. MindTouch: Despite doubling to 26 employees in 2008, MindTouch is still a small and young organization that has yet to prove its ability to serve enterprises.
    25. Mzinga: The company has little experience with internal employee collaboration beyond talent development and social learning.
    26. Novell: Product visibility beyond the existing Novell customer base is limited.
    27. ONEsite: Despite the Social platform acquisition, ONEsite is still a small organization with just over 50 employees.
    28. Open Text: Despite capability enhancements in Livelink ECM – Extended Collaboration and the RedDot product line, some gaps will remain (for example, rich profiles, social tagging, social analytics and mobile support) until the release of new social computing offerings currently in production.
    29. PBwiki: The company is small (30 employees).
    30. Six Apart (Movable Type): Six Apart’s main focus is not the enterprise, where it has an unproven track record beyond blogging services and technology.
    31. Small World Labs: Although it is a growing organization, it is still small.
    32. Socialtext: Its primary audience is outside the IT department, which makes it easier to strike quick opportunistic deals but harder to close large enterprise deals.
    33. Telligent: Although very good in general community support, there are functional gaps in social network analysis, social search and support for more structured collaboration (such as tasks, simple workflow and projects).
    34. ThoughtFarmer: It is a small organization with a small client base and no evidence of large-scale deployments.
    35. Tomoye: It has limited geographic and vertical-market diversification.
    36. Traction Software: Traction is still a very small organization (10 employees) that needs to grow faster if it is not to be left behind.
    37. TWiki: The governance issues between the TWiki.net commercial organization and the TWiki developer community, and the subsequent creation of a new splinter project (www.twikifork.org) in October 2008 will impact its ability to execute.
    38. Vignette: Collaboration has not been Vignette’s main focus, although it is an important ingredient both in its outward facing Web Experience strategy and for supporting internal collaboration.

    Using your browser, Find for the word “employees”. Aside from this last occurance, there should be 12. Now Find “small”. That should add another 2. That means 14 of 38 – almost 40% of the companies Gartner chose, have size issues related to their ability to execute. If you look through the rest of the report, you’ll see that all of them, not just the others listed above, have product issues.

  3. The global financial crisis has resulted in major job cuts – software developers and service providers are not immune. That means that all of them are being asked to do more with less. For many that may mean focusing on customer support and maintenance issues, as opposed to, new features, innovation and growing their market. That makes the 40% even more vulnerable.
  4. Outside-in (see below) and Agile software development processes are proven & accepted methods for getting & validating that customers’ needs are not only being met & delivered, but delivered with high quality. These methods help reduce the risk that precious development & testing time is only spent on features valuable to the business.
  5. Social software, in itself, is vital to outside-in agile software development. The content that flows through these products, like blood through your viens, is intellectual property conceived by the social network. Let’s call that “Social Content 2.0”. This content, this priceless commodity, needs to be injected into the products’ development lifecycle to not only reduce risk but increase its value to the business and its stakeholders. (See my 2 minute video which refers to the various stakeholders.)

Community Product Manager – The missing link
Everyone is low on talent. Many are missing, or, simply can’t afford the connection between the market and development. So why not have an outside-in community product manager for your social software? What does that mean? Traditional product managers work alongside the development team. They are responsible for a multitude of tasks, including gathering, prioritizing, managing and conveying requirements and priorities from their stakeholders to the development team. That’s a lot of stuff for someone to do with decreasing resources. So how about having a counter-part whose sole purpose is to represent the outside stakeholders – like Principle, End Users and Partners. Preferably a Community Product Manager would have some of the following traits:

  1. A software product development background
  2. Customer facing experience
  3. Strong presentation skills
  4. Strong writing skills
  5. Training/mentoring experience
  6. Ability to effectively work remote to keep expenses down and more importantly, timeliness up
  7. Willingness to travel on-site
  8. Has a stickman profile image

One of the challenges facing many product managers is described in Chip and Dan Heath’s book Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die. They call it …

The Curse of the Knowledge: When we start to forget what it’s like not to know what we know.

IBM’s Carl Kessler and John Sweitzer wrote Outside-in Software Development: A Practical Approach to Building Successful Stakeholder-based Products. One of the key take away points for me, is the importance of mixing the social process into the software development process.

So the primary responsibility for the Community Product Manager is to filter, manipulate & translate that Social Content 2.0, derived from the stakeholders, into the language of the product manager and the development team. If everyone gets along, this should not only reduce the workload of the over-burdened product manager but also infuse the community’s Social Content 2.0 into the product’s development lifecycle. This is the aim of outside-in software development.

The time is now
Clint Boulton reports in Enterprise Social Software Headed for Consolidation Cycle During Recession

What do companies like Socialtext, MindTouch, Jive Software, Awareness, Yammer and NewsGator have in common? As providers of messaging and collaboration enterprise applications, they all may be fodder for acquisition in 2009. Gartner analyst Matt Cain says 60 percent of such vendors will get bought or go under, with the recession paving the way for more deals at cheaper prices.

Q. Now what else do you think these companies have in common?
A. Everyone should be highly motivated to welcome the services of a Community Product Manager.

It’s your move
So this is my big plan. I’m going to reach out to the social software development community and offer my Community Product Manager social services.

Reflection
Infusion anyone? Do you think there’s place in today’s economy and social software’s state of affairs for a Community Product Manager?

How to be a hero with stuff like Twitter, Facebook, blogs, delicious, wikis and more

Hint #1: The monkey was right.

The monkey was right
The monkey was right.

Look beyond what you see
Are you trying to convince your friends, or, colleauges that they need to get into Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, blogs, wikis, instant messaging, etc. Worse yet, have you convinced your boss that these tools of social software are not developed and promoted by the Axis of Evil for the purposes of killing our productivity?

Don’t get me wrong. Look at what I blog about. Look at my photo. Do I look like a member of the Axis Of Evil Social Software Society? Look back at my Starting My Own, Thanks to … post & you’ll see that at one time, I too didn’t see the business value of this stuff. However, since then I can honestly say, that I don’t recall ever learning so much from some many different people – absolute strangers yet, in such a short period of time. Oh yah, did I mention that it was all for free? All thanks to social software, social networking, social media and most importantly the folks that provide the intellectual property – the content. Now that’s just my experience. And it may be just yours too. But it may not be your colleagues’, or, boss’. So the big question is; “What did your organization gain?” Where’s the business value for social software?

Enterprise 2.0
The originator of the phrase “Enterprise 2.0”, Professor Andrew McAfee defines it as

the use of emergent social software platforms within companies, or between companies and their partners or customers”.

Oddly enough, he specifically states that

Wikipedia, YouTube, Flickr, MySpace, etc. These are for individuals on the Web, not companies. Some companies use sites like YouTube for viral and stealth marketing, but let’s explicitly put these activities outside our definition of Enterprise 2.0.

Dion Hinchcliffe, in his The state of Enterprise 2.0 post, reminds us of the primary concern of business

Whether Enterprise 2.0 brings real bang for the buck by making the daily work of organizations measurably more productive, efficient, and innovative.

Is it just me, or, don’t you find that a little bit funny? In my opinion, I think these examples of social software actually feed and drive Enterprise 2.0. I think its more about content than tools. But it’s Andrew’s phrase so I guess I’ll have to come up with my own. How about “ Social Content 2.0“?

Hint #2: What starts with someone requesting something & ends with someone else delivering it? (And it’s not pizza.)

One Smalll Step for Man
Find a cause. Remember

Step 1: Find a cause
Now, if we could see beyond all those tools, beyond what is and what is not Enterprise 2.0, and simply concentrate on the content, then I think we’re well on our way to becoming that hero. So find a cause. Find something you need to deliver. Something that you can’t do on your own. Something that cries out for collaboration, sharing, communicating. Use the tools to help you achieve your goal. Sound a little too abstract?

 

How about a project?
Projects start with someone asking for something and end with someone else delivering it. Projects are very social. So we’ve got our cause now. Now let’s look at our tools. We already have enough examples of social software, so now let’s consider our tradtional project management software.

The problem with projects
I’m in the middle of reading Chip and Dan Heath’s book Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die and came across the following passage:

… “No plan survives contact with the enemy,” says Colonel Tom Kolditz, the head of the behavioral sciences division at West Point. “You may start off trying to fight your plan, but the enemy gets a vote. Unpredictable things happen – the weather changes, a key asset is destroyed, the enemy responds in a way you don’t expect. Many armies fail because they put all their emphasis into creating a plan that becomes useless ten minutes into the battle.”

Now replace some of the key words – like “enemy” for “customer”, “armies” for “software labs” and “battle” for “development”. Sounds like the Colonel and I have been on a few software development projects together. And I doubt we’d be alone in that analogy.

Step 2: Get social
IBM’s Carl Kessler and John Sweitzer wrote Outside-in Software Development: A Practical Approach to Building Successful Stakeholder-based Products which contains some great examples of things going wrong and how to rectify the situation. For me, outside-in software development is really about mixing the social process into the software development process.

In my previous The Role of Social Software and Outside-in Agile Development I discussed how we are moving away from the Waterfall Model for software development towards Agile. Coincidentally, I also illustrated how we are moving away from the stoic/static Ivory-tower based tooling to the outside-in community-based ones. And finally, I tie it all together with an illustration of how you could use Rational Team Concert, the Agile/Scrum Process and IBM’s Lotus Greenhouse for outside-in software development.

I then followed that post up with Whiteboarding about Social Maps and Software and sketched how various communities of Stakeholders can form ad hoc social networks through the use of social software, (read IBM’s Lotus Greenhouse).

Step 3: Find a project management tool that’s sociable
Flip through Leisa Reichelt‘s presentation about how project management is evolving.

Social Project Management 

View SlideShare presentation or Upload your own. (tags: collaboration process)

Here’s a few other opinions and possible tools to help you on your way to becoming that hero:

  • Andrew Filev, founder and CEO of Wrike, Inc. writes that “Project Management 2.0” is based on

    Collective intelligence … is a form of intelligence that emerges from the collaboration and competition of many individuals.

    and

    Emergence … is a form of collective behavior, when parts of a system do together what they would not do by themselves.

  • Bruce P. Henry, a founder of Liquid Planner writes in his Social Project Management post that

    … project management is about people making commitments to other people to work with still other people to get something done or built for perhaps some other people. Project management is about people. If that’s not social then I don’t know what is!

  • Rick Cook in his post Jazz in Concert—Jazz Platform and Rational Team Concert Make Sweet Music for Development Teams writes

    Collaboration in software development isn’t a luxury—it’s a necessity that software teams have to figure out how to do better. With the right tools such as IBM’s Rational Team Concert built on the Jazz technology, any size software development team can stay in sync in real-time, regardless of location.

Superman
Be that hero. Put Social Content 2.0 into your next project.

Step 4: Get viral
Take a look at Business Week’s Social Media Will Change Your Business By Stephen Baker and Heather Green. You don’t have to read it. Just look at the number of comments it solicited. At the time of this post, it was at 3110! Now that’s social. That’s viral! That’s Social Content 2.0. And apparently, it doesn’t even matter how accurate, or, truthfull some of those comments are. According to Rubicon Consulting & Online Communities and Their Impact on Business: Ignore at Your Peril, 10% of the community members contribute 80% of the content. These Most Frequent Contributors (MFCs) are second to word of mouth when it comes to influencing others. So while having Web 2.0 technology features in your project management tool may make it more social, it’ll never make your deliverable more viral.

The Sweet Spot – Social Content 2.0
Dion Hinchcliffe’s #1 prediction from his 8 Predictions for Enterprise Web 2.0 in 2009 Enterprise Web 2.0 post, states

1. Tight budgets will drive the adoption of low-cost Web 2.0 and cloud/SaaS solutions. This seems like an obvious prediction but how it plays out will be very interesting. This could end up actually helping the smaller Enterprise Web 2.0 players as companies look to get away from the big-ticket, enterprise-class offerings from major vendors like IBM, Oracle, and others. But in reality, once enterprises make the decision to move to platforms for wikis, enterprise mashups, cloud services, SaaS enterprise apps, and so on, they may find the one-stop shop of pre-integrated solutions from entrenched software providers more than they can resist. Make no mistake, however, IT shops and businesses alike will be looking to cut costs and I expect a lot of IT and business downsizing to happen in a surge of “Economics 2.0″.

Did you catch that? The “pre-integrated solutions” part? To me, that’s the sweet spot. Whoever can, not only integrate Web 2.0 technologies into their project management tools, but integrate that viral Most Frequent Contributor Social Content 2.0 into the products developed by those tools will rule.

Reflection
Do you have any experience with any of the products in this space? If so, I’d love to see your comments. If not, are you a traditional project management type? Do you think this is just one of those phases & in the end folks will return to the classics?

In the spirit of openess, I’m going to reach out to some of those mentioned above. In addition, I’ll ping someone at Basecamp and Cynapse who I know do great things in collaboration software but am uncertain about the extent of their project management features.

Your opinion along with any constructive feedback is much appreciated.

Photo credits, click on images to find source.