Thursday, December 10, 2009

When realtime is not enough - recap on Leweb09

As Billy Flynn says in the musical Chicago, "it's all show business". And I did enjoy listening to keynote speakers deliver their messages, watching some cool new ventures like Stribe or Tigerlily
and having the feeling to belong to one great family. I got a number of insights and the general impression that, whatever Gary Vaynerchuk says about not caring about money, it was all business.

As I gather some thoughts from these two days, I wonder whether realtime is related to content shrinking. It's an idea from Sean Percival: as mobile devices become the first access to the web, content is adapted in size and content consumption time is going down. I would add that status-oriented applications like Twitter or Plancast are also making content shrink. But then, Sean says, some day we will have fat birds instead of tweets, or, as I understand it, dense tweets, that will convey more information. Twitter and other status-oriented services remain basically information/relation transport facilities. Content is indeed shrinking, but mostly in the mobile world.

Considering it from an individual point of view (I do not like the word user), some people like to pass information through, some others like to indulge into some deep thinking. Mobile is fine for passing or obtaining situation-related information. But fixed platforms with huge screes still have a use for deep thinking. Even for passing information. Everyone was connected to his laptop, at LeWeb, probably because there were other things to do than just twitting. Realtime is not enough, not yet.

The second idea I find interesting is Facebook Connect being the social glue of the internet: the service that allows you to bring your social information with you wherever you move. The idea of the glue is interesting, and I find it very similar to what some services do with your credit card numbers, for instance. If Facebook is the social glue, I would say that companies need to make their own glue, and become the insurance glue or the banking glue of the internet. Just as your social data on Facebook follows you everywhere, so should the other, less fancy but probably at least as useful data about your insurance policy, banking accounts, social security status and so on. It's a good approach to your personal identity on the web.

The lasting impression I get, though, is that business is maturing quickly. Applications, for instance, are a grown-up business: 300 have more than a million users on Facebook. But applications are not for developers, they are for well equiped companies, that can deliver them for free and make money out of the business these applications link you to. Applications are like websites, and you do not make money through a website, you make money by delivering a customer experience.

In this maturing business environment, some strategy seems to be needed. I liked the argument between Brian Solis and Matthias Luefkens about ROI. While Matthias argued that you can only try to understand "Return on Involvement", Brian stressed how, today, you need to understand the inverstments your are making in this realtime web.

Jeremy Owyang was the one that really got my attention. This post's title is taken from his presentation (When Real-time Web is not Fast Enough). You need to look at his slides about the web moving from Asynchronous to Realtime (today) to Intention (what I plan to do). And understand about corporations, today, not being able even to keep up with the Asynchronous web. That is why he recomends to personalize social technologies, engage an army of unpaid volunteers and build information systems. A really interesting approach.

I would humbly add a "human factor" slide to each of the three steps in the strategy Owyang proposes:
  • Personalizing social technologies, and basically socializing your whole customer experience is the way to go. It's important to remember, though, that there are real people behind the social technologies that a corporation can implement. And as I see social personnalization as rather straightforward, I think motivating and training people to the uses and behaviours that are needed in this realtime web is the key issue;
  • Engaging an army of unpaid volunteers is the second step. In other words, you want your clients to work for you, in exchange of reputation, fun or a particular experience. The best way to get there, obviously, is by having been as lucky as Apple, that has developed a strong customer community throughout the company's life. Other than that, what we are really saying is that we want our employees to work with customers, because advocacy programs will not work for every business. If employees work with our customers to, say, design a compelling experience, they will be building a real community, that could transform into an army of advocates. Advocacy programs may work for large companies, but for smaller ones, I have the feeling it will be employee generated customer communities;
  • Last and certainly not least, the systems. Nothing to say here, I basically agree that you need to integrate your social media data with the CRM data. There is one system, though, that you need to change before the three steps do work, and that one is management system.
Social web fuels real-time web is one of the last quotes from Jeremiah. I go back to Gary's presentation, when he says it's all about relations, about people. I agree with that, and say that for most companies the challenge lies in changing mindsets. Only, this time, it's not about driving change management programs through the ranks of your company. In the social web, you do not meet company employees, you meet real people.

Realtime is not enough. Corporations need to worry about engaging their real people.

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