Perspectives on Connected Innovation and Collaboration

Don Smith’s Sabbatical Insights

Archive for March 2009

Interview with Josh Bernoff of Groundswell

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photoGroundswell is my playbook for understanding social media and how it integrates with people and business. In it, co-Author Josh Bernoff, provides frameworks for understanding social media and best practices from proven exercises, like Best Buy’s Blue Shirt Nation. Groundswell defines the POST method, introduces the concept of technographics, and outlines the varying levels of social media complexity, from listening to co-creation. Groundswell transformed my perspectives on social media and inspired me to move ahead in my sabbatical quest. I am a big fan of Josh’s. When I found out that I had a chance to meet him, I was charmed.

On March 18th, I had the delight of lunching with Josh and his colleague Jocelyn Walters, both of Forrester Research. We met at the Cambridge Legal Sea Foods and shared stories and insights collected from our professional and personal experiences. Here is a snapshot of the insights I collected from our conversation.

We talked a bit about social media analytics. I asked Josh what the key indicators or metrics are for managing on-line communities or sentiment flows, like Twitter. Josh was straightforward. He commented that social media analytics only tell part of the story, that off-line research is still required to validate new methods. Josh also added, that when using social media analytics, two things are highly usable – trends and inflections (spikes). When listening to a sentiment flow over time, one should be able to parse out trends from conversations. Spikes or inflection points require action. During a spike, something materially changes to the conversation and requires attention. Was there a product recall or significant event of similar nature? Spikes should trigger response.

I asked Josh using a baseball metaphor, “What inning is social media in?” He commented “It’s early.”

I also asked Josh about how an organization with a diverse brand portfolio could work across silos. Josh commented that “it’s all about best practices.” And that simple, portable frameworks allow for custom tailored applications per  brand. Finally, Josh added that social media isn’t for every brand. You need audience scale or the right mix of technographics.

Josh warned against offering health professionals “widgets” to add to their professional websites. Something about “You’re nuts if you think that will work.”

We talked about the effect of time. What happens to Mom when her kids grow up? If Mom joins a community when her child is 6 months, does she move on to a new community during the toddler years? Pre-school years? We agreed that social media, specifically branded communities,  have not done a good enough job of addressing time factors in their design and utility. How should a brand plan for such consumers movements in and out of communities over a lifetime? People change. More research is required.

Classic Josh – “Social media investment is growing. My phone won’t stop ringing. Different industry groups by the week.”

Finally, we chatted about Twitter and Twitter search. Josh gave me a live demo using certain branded kewords. Very cool. It led to this video, my first Flip Mino recording.


Written by Donald Smith

March 25, 2009 at 10:00 pm

The race to the top- Information Arbitrage

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Talked through this concepts with some of my colleagues today. It goes like this:

In today’s economy, folks are looking for ways to save money in business. More and more, social media emerges as a solution. Take, for example, the corporate conference. On average, it costs about $1,000 per head to fly attendees in and put them up for a 2 day conference. Businesses are now uncomfortable with the $250,000 spend and are looking for alternatives. Social media fills the void. Why not host a virtual conference at more modest cost, say $5,000?

This business activity defines the race to the bottom.

Similarly, businesses and its employees are looking for an “edge” in the workplace. Historically valuable conversations like “what is our market share?” are being replaced by a thirst for information. More importantly, to be the first to find hot information and report it throughout the organization. To the prospector come the riches. Today, value comes from the following statements:

  • “Did you see?”
  • “I found…”
  • “Check this out…”

Information is driving a “race to the top” in terms of value. Each newly discovered tweet, story, or theory could be the nugget that wins recognition, fame, or accomplishment. So we mine Twitter and read RSS dumps trying to identify the tidbit that will be most valued by the organization. Through information control, the boss used to be the best informed person in the group. Now, the employees have equal access to information via the web. The equation shifts and the organization flattens.

This activity defines the race to the top.

The spread between top and bottom is information arbitrage. No longer do I need to spend hundreds of dollars on professional groups to network in my industry or thousands of dollars to bring in consultants. The web makes this information more accessible and in most cases free. The challenge for employees is to make the information palatable for the organization to devour.

The role of corporate web editor is born. Take in tons of web based information, edit, re-package, and route within the organization.

I need to think this through a bit more but wanted to get initial thoughts out there. I also realize I’m not the first to think of “Information Arbitrage” as a concept but I like the handle. What do you think?

Written by Donald Smith

March 23, 2009 at 1:18 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Interview with OptumHealth

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unhOptumHealth, a subsidiary of UnitedHealth Group, provides personalized health management solutions and makes health care more accessible for its consumers. One of Optum’s main communication channels with consumers is via its core websites,  like OptumHealth actively engages users in conversations and provides digital spaces that help them connect with other users, experts, and professionals.

OptumHealth’s interactive team, builds collaborative websites that are flexible, scalable, and versatile. It’s important for consumers to not only have a rich experience on sites  like MyCancerHub, but an easy to use community that facilitates connection during challenging times. Similar to Caring Bridge, MyCancerHub provides multiple resources for those individuals just diagnosed with cancer, living with cancer, and caregivers. The site also provides an “Ask a Nurse” feature which connects users with health professionals. MyCancerHub encourages patients and caregivers to share stories, learn more about their condition, and exchange emotional support with each other.

Optum also provides digital services for professional communities. In one example. a 6,000 member nursing community had a business objective to build a culture of retention. By building a on-line nursing community, Optum was able to improve retention for this nursing community by allowing nurses to make valuable connections with each other, thereby upping sentiment and retention.

OptumHealth’s successes and best practices are now being considered by its parent company for use in other areas of United Health, including possible internal applications behind the firewall.

Written by Donald Smith

March 17, 2009 at 1:42 pm

Posted in Benchmarks

Don Smith’s Twitter 101 – Twitter as the Daily Read

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I’ve had a few colleagues and friends start or try to start using Twitter in the last few months. Since the first few weeks can be tough for Twitter newcomers, they asked me for tips on how I started using Twitter. So here’s my approach:

1. Twitter is not easy at first

a. It takes time, patience, and routine to integrate the news flow into your personal flow

b. Start by using Twitter as a daily read. Don’t worry about posting until you have a habit of returning to Twitter

c. You have to post a picture or avatar. Otherwise Tweeters won’t take you seriously.

2. Find a hook outside of work

a. For me, it was the stock market. I found people I knew from old blogs and communities and followed them. Then I followed who they followed. The nature of the market kept me coming back daily, if not hourly. The discussion during the crash last fall was epic.

b. What are your hobbies? Cooking? Wine? Running? Chances are, you can find a like-minded person or brand on twitter.

3. Use

a. Going to a conference? Search it to find attendees.

b. Search brand names, places. Twitter only allows 140 characters, so nouns dominate.

4. Probably most important to early adoption – Follow lots of people right away

a. You need 50 at least to keep you coming back

b. At 100 you’ll start to see your follower bucket grow

c. Make sure you follow people who post often. Otherwise you won’t get a good news flow

5. Use power users as editors of Twitter traffic

a. Not sure who to follow? Find someone you like/trust and cherry pick who they follow

b. Rinse and repeat

6. Finally, don’t worry about “missing a day’s worth of news”

a. I pick up the stream whenever I can

b. If I miss something, that’s ok. It sometimes gets recycled and kicked back via ReTweet by someone else

c. Search fills the holes.

At the end of the day, Twitter is a news stream. Read Twitter just like you would read a newspaper. The twist is that you can eventually publish yourself. I’ll save publishing for Twitter 201.

The following Fast Foward Blog post has the most in depth review of Twitter that I have come across. It’s extremely helpful, especially when getting off the ground. FF Blog Twitter Basics

Written by Donald Smith

March 11, 2009 at 7:05 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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Bigger Ideas. Faster.

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This week’s blog post is a contribution to Minnov8. In it, I explain the concept of Connected Innovation and provide an overview of my sabbatical research.

You can connect to the Minnov8 post here:

Bigger Ideas. Faster.

Written by Donald Smith

March 3, 2009 at 1:51 pm

Posted in Uncategorized