Archive for the ‘Social business’ Category.
Snapchat seems to be attracting more interest recently with more users of and more questions about the mobile sharing app which allows you to send images and text (‘Snaps’) to contacts with an ‘auto-destruct’ after a few seconds. In April, CEO Evan Spiegel announced that 150m photos were shared each day, and the app has come under investigation as to whether the images actually do auto-destruct. There is also a perception that the app is a fad among teens, and the auto-destruct nature of the communication makes it suitable for mere frippery or even for sexting.
But the rise of Snapchat is much more interesting than that; it presents a real innovation in communication tools.
Social media tools typically allow communication (in text or visually) that is then stored forever. You can get lost in a sea of your own memories and in the messages and updates for others. This can be confusing in itself – the nature of memories tends to eschew this kind of cataloguing of detail. But also it reflects more the nature of written communications - things that are logged and recorded; filed and searchable. And this is at odds with the nature of much of the things that we communicate on social media.
Much of what we want to say to contacts in social media is ‘of the moment’ – it is a greeting or a friendly hello, a piece of information or advice. It is not content that the recipient will need after they have read it, and it is certainly not content that needs to be stored, catalogued and searchable. It reflects more much of our spoken communication – passing a message on in the now. And to date social media tools have been poor at meeting this need.
What Snapchat offers is a tool for communication as ephemera – content and messaging that has a shelf-life and doesn’t need to live on after that.
So much of the way we interact as human beings is like this that I would expect to see a real rise in tools that operate in a similar way to Snapchat; tools that don’t require everything we say in social media to be forever.
Of course, there is much that is wrong with Snapchat – the concerns of bullying, sexting and whether those photos are really deleted are all real. But the essence of the app – the ephemeral nature of communication is also very real. And it has the opportunity to develop and to change the way we communicate through digital devices, and the way brands communicate with us. What would you say if you could pass on a message that genuinely lived just in the now?
Last year I wrote about innovation having attended an Open University Business School event on the topic, and recently I’ve just been to another one all about leadership. Here’s a quick summary of 6 questions and answers that came out of the session:
1. What do we mean by leadership?
Professor Jean Hartley took everyone through the 5 Ps:
- Person – personal characteristics and leadership style(s).
- Position – e.g. a position of authority often creates access to resource pools, but equally there are many leaders who don’t hold positions of formal authority.
- Process – i.e. between a set of stakeholders, and energising and organising others.
- Performance – achievements and skills.
- Projection – both in terms of the qualities the leader projects to others, and which others project onto the leader.
The advice was to consider all 5 Ps as opposed to focusing on just one area.
2. What type of leadership is best?
It depends on the context, and the type of problem the leader is encountering, e.g. Rittel and Webber’s:
- Tame problems – which although complicated are still resolvable because we’ve come across them before and know how to fix them. In these cases leadership is more about applying tried and tested approaches capably.
- Wicked problems – which we’ve never encountered before, and are typically interlinked with so many other factors and issues as to make them incredibly complex and multi-faceted. In these cases leadership is about asking the right questions, and knowing who the right stakeholders are to be involved, and how they should be managed.
3. What skills should a leader possess?
According to Professor Hartley:
- Strategic direction & scanning – what you need to do, and when, and the tenacity to stick to it. The leader really has to believe in it if it’s going to be a success.
- Building alignment & alliances – i.e. the leader as a “connector”, and crucially demonstrating political astuteness – a skill which people accepted was important in Hartley’s research, despite the stigma and “dark arts” reputation of organisational power and politics.
- Reading people & situations – e.g. alertness to different agendas and power pockets.
- Interpersonal skills – a mixture of hard and soft skills, and crucially listening to people and properly communicating with them, as well as understanding different situations and perspectives.
- Personal skills – self-awareness and self-control, being genuinely curious about others, and taking the time to be self-reflective and learn from mistakes and feedback.
How do people learn these skills though? According to Hartley’s research, people tend to learn most through making mistakes, and the inference was that more could be done to enhance training and development activities and programmes.
4. What’s an example of these leadership skills in practice?
The FT’s Caspar de Bono gave a particularly interesting talk which highlighted the importance of strategic direction and planning through his concept of leadership as action that is purposeful, but also creative (changing the paradigm), and courageous (i.e. you are out front, leading the way). In the FT’s case it was about listening to what customers wanted, and sticking to their business knitting while still innovating (i.e. operating broadly the same business model, but through improved digital channels and technology). The key was always to keep a clear idea of the WHAT while allowing the HOW to be more emergent, and informed by stakeholder involvement and analysis.
5. What’s the best leadership style to have?
In short: a mixture, and adapted to the particular business context in question (e.g. its size, stage of development, etc. etc.). Hay Group’s Lubna Haq identified 6 leadership styles, and asserted that the most effective leaders tend to have a minimum of 3 or more dominant / preferred ones:
- Directive – based more on control and coercion, often more prevalent during downturns.
- Visionary – opposite of directive and is primarily about building and selling a compelling vision.
- Affiliative – creating harmony.
- Participative – involving others.
- Pace-setting – accomplishing tasks to a very high standard of excellence.
- Coaching – focusing on the long-term professional development of others.
6. What are the key things to know about leadership?
- A leader should live the cultural values of their organisation, and be visible and approachable.
- Focus on achievements and also the long-term. Keep short-term issues in context.
- You can’t please everyone – confront issues head on and make those tough decisions if necessary.
- Think consciously about your style – is it right for the context you’re in? Is your style transformative or transactional?
- Political astuteness is important – forget about its negative press.
- Optimism is key – particularly during these current difficult economic and political times.
Old Trafford, Manchester (Photo credit: Sean MacEntee)
At 09:20 this morning Sir Alex Ferguson retired after 26 years in charge of Manchester United. The club, and the manager, are respected and supported far from the city of Manchester, and reaction was quick to spread on Twitter. In many analyses of event and how Twitter reacts to them, the focus is on volume – just how many people are talking about an issue. But more interesting than this is what people are saying.
There is a hypothesis that when there is ‘breaking news’ (at least on Twitter), most of the discussions convey the same information – people either retweeting the original message or people conveying the same information to their followers that lots of others are doing at the same time. So in this case immediately after the announcement, whilst they may use different words, we would expect people to be conveying the simple message: Sir Alex Ferguson has retired.
But is this true – what did people actually discuss on Twitter in the first hour after his retirement was announced?
What we did
We captured every Tweet that clearly discussed Sir Alex Ferguson during the first hour after his retirement was announced shortly before 09:20 this morning. Using Datasift, we captured all Tweets that included the terms “Alex Ferguson” or “#fergie’ or ‘#mufc’.
In total we captured 95,312 Tweets in the first hour of discussion on Twitter – or about 26 Tweets every second.
What we found
First some basic stats about the discussions on Twitter in the first hour after the announcement:
- 68% of people discussing the retirement were male (16% were female and the remaining 16% had genders that could not be determined from Twitter)
- With 4.3% of all discussions, the news was actually discussed most in Manchester; London came second (3.8%). The global impact of the club is reflected with Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia and South Africa being in the top 10 locations for discussions
- 22% of Tweets were people retweeting other people’s content; the remaining 78% were original Tweets
- The most retweeted account was the club themselves. This was followed by a number of accounts in Indonesia (UtdIndonesia and detiksport). The most mentioned UK news provider during the first hour was SkySportsNews.
With only 22% of Tweets as clear retweets, there was a lot of original Twitter content being produced. So what were people actually discussing:
- Just over one third of Tweets (34%) were simple statements that Sir Alex Ferguson had retired
- The next largest group (26% of Tweets) were reflecting on their own experiences or thoughts – memories of the club and what Sir Alex’s time there meant for them
- A further 14% of Tweets were thanking Sir Alex for what he had done for the club or indeed for their own experiences (a trend started by the club themselves in their announcement)
Some topics were less popular but noteworthy:
- 360 people (0.7% of all Tweets) were wishing Sir Alex luck in or sending their best wishes for his future
- 53 people (0.01%) were worried that Sir Alex might have died
So the first hour on Twitter was an interesting place, and the discussions were more varied than just retweeting or repeating the simple fact of Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement. In fact a significant proportion of Tweets were reflecting on what his role as manager had meant to them and the memories they had of his time with the club. This kind of reflection and content is altogether more interesting than mere retweets and statements of fact and shows Twitter at its best – connecting personal experiences and opinions to larger events.
Listen, Understand, Act (Photo credit: highersights)
According to Altimeter, 42% of businesses in the US are prioritising Social Media Listening in 2013 – putting real focus on how they sift through and learn from the conversations in social media. But a recent study of US consumers found that 51% of them do not want brands to be listening to what they say online. As a greater emphasis is placed on social media listening and big data, the tensions with consumer privacy will also rise.
The report, by Netbase, is based on a survey of 1,062 US consumers and highlights the challenges brands will face as they increasingly listen to and act on conversations in social media.
- Most consumers (68%) realise that brands are listening to what they say online
- Just over half (51%) want to be able to talk to their friends and contact in social media without being listened to in this way; 43% would go further, saying that being listened to is an invasion of their privacy
- Finally, 64% of consumers only want companies to respond when they are directly spoken to
These numbers are confusing and difficult to interpret, and when you add in the data about what consumers do think brands should do in social media they become more so:
- 48% of consumers say that brands should listen in order to improve products
- 58% say that brands should respond to negative comments online
The numbers are all over the place so what can we learn from this?
The data is confusing which may be a result of poor research, or indeed may (also?) reflect the fact that understanding of social media listening is confused for consumers. That brands can listen in to conversations they are having with friends and contacts online can feel intrusive, but when the potential benefits of this are explained, more consumers are willing to accept this.
This is probably the best way to understand this data and to begin to understand how consumers will react to social media listening: they do not like it, but they like the benefits that they may get from brands listening to them. So for listening to be really effective, brands will have to make sure they have worked out the consumer value proposition before people make it more difficult for them to access their conversations online.
Classroom (Photo credit: Vitó)
Last week I got a glimpse into the future of education through the eyes of two visionaries: Salman Khan (founder of the Khan Academy) and Martin Bean (Vice President of the Open University). Both speakers talked about how online learning has had, and is still having a massive and transformative impact on education, and how it has the potential to vastly improve society. Khan’s website now has roughly 6.5 million unique users a month and it’s videos have had more than 200 million, while the Open University has had more than 1.5 million people graduate from their courses.
What is the Khan Academy?
The Khan Academy is a non-profit online learning environment that was set up in 2006. Salman’s continuing mission is to create a world class education for anyone in the world at any time; so that there are no barriers for people to gain the skills they want to develop. With more than 3,600 online video lessons, viewers can master a variety of subjects at their own pace, such as maths, physics, history, economics… even how physics can be related to an NBA basketball player.
Khan suggests that the ability to remedy gaps in someone’s knowledge at their own pace is one of the websites greatest assets and is turning people who shuddered at the thought of tackling a long division questions into “mathletes” who are now entering maths courses at degree level.
Four aspects of the future of education
Four themes were common across the talk:
- Access: Education was once only something for the extremely well-off people in society, but now with the global reach of the Internet and the power of online video, a world class education can be accessed by almost anyone in the world, at any time.
- Agility: One of the greatest features of the Khan Academy is the ability to go off and master a concept in your own time, so that there won’t be gaps in your knowledge before you move onto the next stage of your learning. The Khan academy gives students the tools to see where they have gaps in their knowledge, and is developing a tool to send users relevant material and members who can help you progress to the next level.
- Analytics: Khan and his team have been using the website to perform a wide range of experiments on the site, which they are then using to increase student’s engagement with the learning material. One of the best parts about online education is that Salman and his team have constant feedback about how users are engaging their educational material and using web analytics and A/B testing which they can experiment to make the material more engaging for learners.
- Improvement: Growth Mindset is the idea that learners should be rewarded for improvement rather than their attainment. Khan has taken this idea and incorporated it into the website, by giving users motivational quotes during their exercises and has found that this has greatly increased the amount of time people spend doing problems and exercises.
Other education options online
Millions people are now regular using the Khan Academy to educate themselves and their families and come from a wide range of ages, incomes and geographies. However, the Khan Academy isn’t the only way to learn online and here are a few other options to think about:
- iTunes University hosts lectures form some of the best higher education institutions in the world and is a great place to find great courses on a whole range of fascinating topics, such as “Principles of Nutrition”, “Playwriting” or even “Exploring the Hobbit”.
- TED.com is a global set of conferences and lectures that was formed to disseminate “ideas worth spreading” and can be watched on smart phone apps or from the comfort of your own desktop. There are many interesting lectures from the some of the world’s most innovative thinkers and this is definitely a place to go if you are looking for something new to inspire you.
- Lynda.com is an online training library that trains users to use a variety of software title, scripting languages, graphics design and web development platforms and also provides a handy section of videos to improve your business skills.
With all these wonderful learning opportunities, it is going to be amazing to see what benefits we will see from people grasping the many learning opportunities that are emerging online.