What did the ROI calculation for the iPhone development look like? For the iPad? Or for iPod?
I never met Steve Jobs. I never worked at Apple. Still, based on what I’ve read about him I doubt that there ever was an ROI calculation for the investments made in any of Apple’s and Steve Jobs’ breakthrough innovations. He believed and he dared. His compass knew it was the right thing to do.
Yet he was the most acclaimed business innovator in the past decade.
Next time I’m asked about the ROI of social intranets I will counter with this question: Would Steve Jobs have bothered calculating it?
I hope it will go down better than my current standard question of: when did you last see an ROI calculation for implementing SAP?
Comparing the investment needed to unchain the potential of the company staff with making an investment in production equipment that can produce faster or more efficiently is nothing short of an insult to the people working for you.
Innovations can be classified into two categories: Enabling or Improving. Either they make something possible that was not before – like the automobile once made it possible to travel long distances fast and with a flexible route. Or something currently possible to do easier, more efficient or with better quality – like more fuel efficient cars, safer cars or innovative service programmes. Improvement innovations are suitable for ROI-calculations, enabling are not.
So, if you allow the social intranet-train pass you by and wonder:
- why all talented people work for the competition
- why your customers keep telling you that your competition are faster at getting up to speed and at solving problems
- why people keep working in silos
- why you keep reinventing the wheel
- why your competition is more innovative than you are
- why customers tell you that you’re old fashioned
– then go back to your archive, pull out that ROI-calculation run it through the shredder and realize that inspiration, collaboration and staff commitment is not to be reduced to numbers.
As a parent, I’ll do it later seems to be an eternal and ubiquitous source of aggravation. Unfortunately at work too, sometimes. Rumours claim that it even may occur between spouses.
Usually, the result is:
- It does not get done by the person who promised “to do it later” since it is either forgotten or something more important (for that person, that is) or more urgent takes precedence
- You end up reminding (nagging, kids call it) since experience has taught you how likely it is that #1 will come to happen
- You end up doing it yourself since: either #1 occurs, it cannot wait any longer or you simply lose patience (lesson learned by the other person: “if I just say “later” I might not have to do it anyway”, by the way)
Translation: I’ll do it when it suits me, not when it suits you, because my priorities are more important than yours.
What I want to hear instead: now or when
Many of us social addicts have come to rely on aggregators to help us post across social platforms and to view and manage our scanning of the buzz in one application. The ones I have come across are Tweetdeck, Echofon, Seesmic and Yoono. I’m sure there are more. Please feel welcome to add a comment if I have left out your favourite.
They all have their advantages and disadvantages. I have come to use Tweetdeck and Yoono more and more. Tweetdeck because of the neat control of the panels where I can follow a subset of twitterflows and Facebook. For quick posting, Yoono integrated into Firefox gives a continuous flow of updates, including a nice, but sometimes distracting notifier in the bottom right hand corner of the screen. You can turn it off if you want to, forever of for a limited time. But the best thing about Yoono is the coverage of services: Facebook, several Twitter accounts, LinkedIn, FriendFinder, MySpace, Flickr, Foursquare, AIM, Yammer, Yahoo Messenger Google Buzz and Google Talk as well as YouTube. They just had to give up on Microsoft Live Messenger but who cares really?
Now when Google have released Google+ to the public, I wait in suspense to see which of these aggregators (or others) will be the first to integrate with it. Whichever it is it will get a big + in my book since that is currently a prime hurdle to my use of Google+.
It’s unlikely to be Tweetdeck (since they were recently acquired by Twitter)
I hope it is Yoono.
I actually think it will be Yoono.
—- UPDATE —-
13 October 2011
The correct answer is: None of the above.
I have just sent my first cross-network update using iStatus+, an iPhone app by Nadan Gergeo. Read more here
Let’s try out these new social media, they say. Then they use them to distribute a flow of press releases, linking to their own website. What the **** is social about that? And then they get disappointed about the results.
- Social means two-way communication
- Social means engaging people
- Social means people engaging with people
- Social means listening
- Social means responding
When discussing with companies who are contemplating starting to use social media, my advice is usually the same and pretty simple:
- Start scanning Twitter and other platforms where it is possible for your company and brand names – why not for your competitor’s too? – for your products and services and other topics of interest.
- Establish processes to channel the “spontaneous feedback” to those concerned in the company
- Start interacting with people who make interesting posts. Respond to complaints and comments. Engage with potential ambassadors.
- Then, but not before, start interspersing with your own marketing messages. Since, by this time, you are likely to have built sufficient credibility with the public and strong relations with the ambassadors so they pass your messages on through their networks.
Say after me please: Social Media is not just another megaphone
If there is one thing almost all intranets have in common, it is that people complain about them. The appreciation of traditional intranets generally is somewhere on a scale between neutral and abysmal.
If you ask employees who have access to social intranets, they would rather be somewhere on the scale between neutral and extatic (at least on occasions).
Communalities of most traditional intranets are:
- Information is spread down- or outwards in the organization
- Content is created by a cadre of communication professionals
- The editors constantly debate structure and editor access
- Users have difficulties to find their way in the structure
- And just as much difficultyto find stuff when searching
- Much of the content is out of date
- An ever-present question for the company is “How do we make people use the intranet?”. (The response usually is to make it the default start page for all browser installations)
So what about social intranets?
- Content is spread in all directions by the people who know the topics, not by the people who know how to write about them
- The creators of collaborative content don’t care too much about the big structure. Only about the substance. And everybody have access to create content (but not everywhere, though)
- Structure is secondary, since content is found through searching, and by association with similar content and with people you trust
- Search works much better since it is based not only on search engine “mechanics” but is boosted by peer recommendations and social bookmarks
- Social intranets apply “Content Darwinism”. Almost all presentation is based on “recency of updating”. Hot topics and communities therefore float to the surface while inactive communities and stuff people aren’t interested in slowly sinks to the bottom. (It can still be found through searching for it though)
- As the intranet is seen as valuable and relevant, people will want to use it. There is no more need to make them go there.
Of course, it cannot be ALL social. The most powerful tool is blending the traditional with social. The communications folks may give some screen real estate away, but increased exposure of what remains is likely to compensate with a healthy margin for the lost real estate.
But, won’t the staff waste valuable time socializing via the intranet? No way! I’m constantly amazed by how the same kind of features result in such different uses on each side of the firewall. Or would you consider it a waste if:
- people find experts to help them solve problems fast and with proven solutions
- instead of re-inventing the wheel for the umpteenth time, people find documents from others that they can adapt to their current needs
- employees band together in communities to share and build common knowledge on topics of professional and corporate value
- knowledge is unlocked from employees hard drives, brains and desk drawers, shared and made available for the common good of the company… and for the future – an aspect to take into account in these days of retiring babyboomers and shortening average tenure
- and – much needed in many a company – the ability of employees to network and communicate in all directions bridge geographic and organizational boundaries helping to overcome the frequent suboptimization stemming from organizational protectionism.
- the criss-crossing of networks and communication generates chance meetings of people with other people or with unexpected information, a well known, proven and sought for environment for creativity and invention.
For me, it is very simple: the ability of implementing social intranets is the possibility for companies and organizations to show that “Our Employees are our Most Valuable Resource” weren’t just empty words.
Whatever value you look for in your network, socializing, improving your knowledge, finding job opportunities or finding a spouse, the headline formula stays valid: the value of your network depends on who (and how many) are in your network and what kind of relationship you have with them.
Just having 168 friends on Facebook doesn’t bring you closer to any target whatsoever if you don’t nurture your relationship with them.
So how do you nurture relations online? There are some simple basics:
- Standard: Help them to know who you are through your status updates
- Stronger: Respond and comment on what they share (Simply, we appreciate more to get feedback on our stuff to reading just one more status update by someone else)
- Share generously (I don’t mean all of your party pictures! Of your personality, knowledge and helping hands)
Regarding the “People” component of the formula, only you can know who are the best people to have in your network. But I do have a view on “how many”: The more, the merrier. Why? Three simple words: “You never know….” as in:
- Who might have the answer to your question
- Who will know someone you need to get hold of
- Who may inspire you to make good choices
- Who may put a smile on your face