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Please speak Human!

<rant on>

A plea to marketers everywhere:

Humans distinguish themselves by their ability to speak and communicate verbally with each other. Please, please, please stop squandering that gift by spewing out inane pointless drivel that means absolutely nothing, just because it fills the pages and sounds impressive. What is the point in asking idiotic questions, which can only ever be answered in one way?

Here is a random sample of phrases & questions that I’ve collected just this week. Names withheld to protect the guilty…

  • Optimise businesses with enhanced business insight from business relevant information
    [What? You mean read the newspaper?]
  • Are the right people involved in the decision-making process in your organisation to foster performance and responsiveness?
    [No, we just pick random people off the street]
  • Are there organisational initiatives that are driving you to become more efficient, improve quality, decrease customer churn, or increase profits?
    [No, our organisation has suicidal tendencies and prints its own money]
  • Do you systematically extract intelligence from your emails?
    [No, we don’t read them, we use them for wallpapering the office walls]

And I would challenge anyone to explain to me what this is about:

  • An information-packed session to get the inside track on maintaining focus and clear leadership in an age of rapid technological change, including some unique insights into the impact that continued convergence will have on your business, your customers and your staff…
    [Huh?? Come again?]

Please, I beg! Life is too short…

<rant off>

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Categories: marketing Tags: ,

Social Amnesia – What’s your social identity worth to you?

I had the unfortunate experience of losing one of my Social Media accounts recently. And as per the popular song… You don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone!

I like Social Networking: Even if I haven’t quite eschewed email and my C: drive, I rely heavily on my social network for information, for feedback and for personal communications. My 350 carefully vetted Twitter followers, my 150 Facebook family and friends, my 100 LinkedIn business contacts and University alumni, my 50 RedBubble artist friends and the dozen subscribers to my WordPress blog, make up most of my social network.

It’s not a huge network, but it’s mine, it is personal, it is relevant and it is important to me. Whether I like it or not, it also defines my public identity, to a certain extent.

So what happens when disaster strikes? What if all that was wiped away?

Louis Richardson very eloquently describes a new Information/Knowledge Management environment that centres around the individual and his social network rather than information collected in documents. (“People-centric vs. Content-centric” http://bit.ly/gU5Skf). AIIM (by voice of Geoffrey Moore) similarly describe the transition from “Systems of Record” to “Systems of Engagement”. (http://www.aiim.org/Research/AIIM-White-Papers/Systems-of-Engagement)

Both of these highlight the fact that my social identity is now a more important asset than the collection of knowledge artefacts that live on my hard disk and get backed up regularly.

I have no backup of my social identity!

Within my work environment, people will look to my social community profile, to understand who I am, where I come from and what my interest and expertise is, based on my profile, my tags, my network contacts, my blogs, the communities I belong to, the bookmarks I shared, etc

One day my public profiles (through a weird upgrade bug) got wiped clean. My profile was blank, my identity was gone! I was no longer an opinionated thought leader and social media zealot, or helpful ECM advocate with answers to questions. I was another blank profile with just a name.

Rebuilding that identity is not easy. Not only it takes time and effort, but trying to remember what was there to start with, is a nightmare. Who was I connected to? Which communities did I belong to? What tags did people assign to me? More importantly, how long will it take for my profile to “mature” to the same level of trust and credibility that it carried before?

Thinking about this, I realised how much I’ve come to rely on social media. Facebook and LinkedIn are my address & phone lists and birthday calendars for friends, family and work colleagues.  My on-line calendar is also my diary and meetings history log.  My blog site contains most of my innovative thoughts & nuggets from the last 3 years. The people I follow on twitter are my market intelligence engine. The people that follow me, are my influence sphere.

If these accounts were to suddenly disappear, I will have lost not only years of investment, but my social identity and my social memory. And that would cost me time, it would cost me operational efficiency, it would cost me credibility, it would cost me competitiveness, and it would cost me personal angst. It will ultimately have an impact to both my work and to my private life.

How do I protect this identity? Some tools, like Facebook, have their own mechanisms for taking a backup copy of your profile data. Did you know that? When was the last time you took a backup of your Facebook account? Other third-party tools (e.g. http://www.backupify.com) will backup and restore multiple public profiles from different tools. They are commendable, but not complete. And how many of us actually use them?

Take a step back: Imagine for a moment that your Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter accounts are wiped clean. Imagine that your blog has no entries. In the people-centric world of social networking, what impact will this Social Amnesia have to your business and your personal life?

The Art of the bleeding obvious…

(I better caveat this: Any resemblance to actual organisations or events are entirely coincidental! These are my own opinions and not those of my employers…)

Let me tell you a little story, entirely hypothetical of course:

Analyst: We predict… (great fanfare and drum-roll), that by 2015, 85% of business operations will be done on mobile devices.

Vendor 1: Analysts says we’re going mobile. We better jump the competition. We’re buying a small unknown apps company and make a big song and dance about it.

Vendor 2: The Analyst is predicting and our competitors are buying. While they are sorting out their integration issues we’ll write our own apps which will be better, and we’ll jump the market. Let it be known and let it be so!

Vendor 3: Oops – our competition has a jump on us. Let’s build a cut-down version very quickly with limited functionality and launch to the market before the other ones have a chance. While they are fighting  for big deals to recover their investment, we’ll gain market share.

Analyst: Look, we predicted this will be a hot market and now three vendors are already competing for that space. We better write a review / scope / quadrant / wave for that market. Let’s see: We predict that Vendor 1 was the inovator in the market, Vendor 2 has the strongest offering, Vendor 3 will appeal to the mid-markets.

All together: (gasp of wonder) All hail the Analyst, for they have powers to analyse the market and predict the future so accurately. What is your next epiphany, oh mighty one?

Ok, ok, so it’s a generalisation, it’s irreverent, and I’ve probably insulted every analyst and IT vendor in the process. Is the scenario so far-fetched though?

A while back, when I was working as a consultant, we used to be the butt of many jokes: “The definition of a consultant, is someone who asks you for your watch before they tell you what time it is”.

The next time you read a great new “innovative” press release from a vendor, or analyst for that matter, just look at it more critically: Is it reflecting a business need or is it creating a new one? After 30 years of constant innovation in the software space, why are we still trying to solve the same problems: Reducing operations cost, improving performance, protecting and sharing information? I can count in one hand the innovations that have fundamentally changed business models: Straight-through processing; Supply chain automation; eCommerce; Satellite communications and precious few others. Most other “innovation” is just giving better sharper tools to do the same job. We’re still building the same cabinet, only we’re using electrical routers instead of chisels and planes.

There is nothing wrong with better, faster, cheaper tools of course. That’s progress. But whenever you come across “The next BIG thing” just take a step back and think: is it really that big a leap? Or is it the bleeding obvious next logical step forward, creating a self-fulfilling prophecy?

George

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