IT vs. Social Media: The Race to Chief Digital Officer Has Begun

I have an acquaintance who’s a CIO. Well by trade at least, as he’s currently unemployed. He’s bright, articulate and understands code. However as the world rapidly changed, he admittedly fell behind. As he told me the story over drinks the other night about the murmurs questioning his competence that turned into a steady rumbling, he ultimately found himself on the outside looking in when his more agile coworkers introduced his company to acronyms and terms of unfamiliarity.

“Why did I have to know what a tweet was?” He asked rhetorically.

Being informed by his employer they were going in a different direction, being rendered a commodity that simply wasn’t core to his company’s business, was a wake up call and in turn, a reinvention of his skill set of sorts. He buried himself into the new digital landscape, specifically social media – learning the platforms, the intricacies of how they worked symbiotically both internally and externally. He figured out the CMS players pretty quickly, grasped SEO and before he knew it, he had re-branded himself as a Social Media consultant. Yet he never considered himself as such.

Joking with him about his “reinvention” he turned his nose to the label. “I’m not a social media guru…I make business decisions.”

I admittedly wanted to remind him that he made business decisions since he was on the outside looking in on a job but I restrained myself. You see I was offended by his statement; I for one working in emerging channels for the majority of my career. But the more I thought about what he said and not how he said it, I realized he was kind of right.

Now before I continue I need to preface that this post is not an indictment on your company’s IT or Social Media Director. Nor am I attacking the social media profession. What I am doing though is questioning the lack of speed of which roles are evolving within corporate walls – that social media and those who steer its strategy within an organization are simply empowered to provide counsel but lack the responsibility to actually lead the business.

Conversely, twelve years ago technology spending outside of IT was 20% of total technology spending; it will become almost 90% by the end of the decade. You read that correctly: IT will lose 90% of IT spend according to Gartner. How does IT reinvent itself to stay relevant?

Social Media and the Accountability Debate

Nobody can question the value of social media. In fact Gartner predicts that in three years, 10 organizations will each spend more than $1 billion on social media. Yet the question persists, does a billion dollar spend rest in the hands of a non-executive?

“You absolutely need to have someone at the Senior Executive level who shepherds social media investments across the enterprise, who guides overall investment strategy, especially where capabilities must be shared across teams.” Said Accenture Global Technology Offering Development Lead for CRM/Social Media, and founder of Social Media Governance, Chris Boudreaux.

According to Boudreaux, “A Director level person in most cases hired into the organization,  (1) has limited knowledge of the business, and (2) does not have the relationships to influence across an organization. Those two points are far more important than knowledge of social media.”

It goes without saying then that you are extremely unlikely to find anyone who has those two items AND understands social media deeply.  But relax social media professionals, your Senior Executive’s role is not designed to cannibalize your skill-set.  The Director-level leaders need to understand social deeply and take on initiatives funded through that Senior Executive. That way your Senior Executives can keep their directors accountable to the business.

Enter The Rise of the CDO

This is why you’re finding more restlessness in social media positions today than ever before. The social media leader is being exposed to new experiences first within corporations that impact consumer behavior on a daily basis beyond a single platform such as Facebook; all of this predicated on rapid changes in the digital ecosystem that occur faster than IT can keep up with. Rhys Grossman, Managing Director of executive staffing firm Russell Reynolds & Associates lists a number of contributing factors that include:

  • In March 2011, Apple announced it had sold its 100 millionth iPhone. As of July 2011, Google’s Android Operating System was on 130 million devices.
  • In July 2011, it was reported that the Apple Retail Store is handling 24 million app downloads per day, and the Android Market is handling 17 million app downloads a day.
  • In April 2011, it was announced that more than 200 million people had signed up on Twitter, while, in September 2011, it was revealed that there were 100 million active monthly users.
  • In 2010, global revenue for the virtual goods industry was over $7 billion, according to Ted Sorom, CEO of Risty, a virtual currency platform.

So while organizations myopically consider a single purpose for their Social Media Director, the truth is that their hands are touching multiple digital platforms.

Fortunately, organizations are paying attention. The advent of the creation of the Chief Digital Officer role as part of business unit leadership will become a new seat at the executive table. Gartner predicts that by 2015, 25% of organizations will have a Chief Digital Officer.

Furthermore, according to Grossman, a spike in demand for Chief Digital Officers has been felt globally. In Europe, the number of search requests for this role has risen by almost a third in the last 24 months. The United States has seen the same growth in half that time.

All of this is good news for those who come from a non-traditional discipline such as Social Media. The industry is evolving, however it requires industry players to evolve with it. That means a greater concentration on e-commerce and expertise pertaining to conversion/revenue. It means online marketing experience across all aspects of the purchase funnel. It requires an understanding of the venn that resides between the tangible and digital landscapes.

There will be a day when a digital CEO is given the reigns to an enterprise large enough to turn heads in the press and on Wall Street. That’s inevitable. The real race however is going to be based on who can evolve faster: your IT or Social Media leaders. Make no mistakes about it, bridging the gaps between business knowledge, and cross-functional influence will be requirements to survive the next wave of demands corporations will place on their employees. Never before has the phrase “Change or Die” ever been so salient.

Yahoo Plays The Mean Girls Game With Facebook

Let’s face it, if you’re Yahoo, you’ve got to be hurting. From failed ad campaigns, to their former swear like a sailor CEO being chastised for announcing her termination…via iPad, to dusted acquisitions both as the acquirer and the acquired, the once purple people connecting behemoth has taken its fair share of lumps including a revenue slide that took out a fifth of their revenue. It’s like Wall Street and the Tech Community are the antagonists in Mean Girls and Yahoo is Lindsay Lohan (did I really just use that analogy?).  So I can only speculate based on the most uneducated opinion I could seek (mine),  but maybe this weeks announcement that Yahoo was prepared to wage war against Facebook through the wonderfully knot tying black suckubus known as the patent legal system reeks of a company willing to use any means necessary to remain a twinkle in the eye of the investment community, as some have speculated. By threatening litigation against Facebook, Yahoo could be “trying to send a signal to the deals market about the strength of its entire patent portfolio” according to a Reuters article published in TODAYonline. Mr Ron Laurie, a specialist in IP and investment banking with Inflexion Point Strategy mentioned that this tactic is a low risk way of accruing acquisition value.

Facebook Feels What It’s Like To Be Burned By Monty Burns

You’ve got to be flabbergasted if you’re Facebook right now. But what do you do? Do you go tit-for-tat and dive into the same patent locking strategy in a countersuit? Probably unwise. According to a United States government database, Yahoo has over 3,300 patents and published patent applications, while Facebook has 160.

Do you shut them out from the open graph? Now that’s interesting. You could argue that Facebook saved Yahoo’s bacon in bringing a new demographic to them, as the open graph news aggregation increases awareness of Yahoo’s content and subsequently click throughs. Yet if we bring this conversation full circle, it’s Yahoo who owns the Pay-Per-Click patent so who are we fooling here?

There are some, like Mark Cuban that want to see this end in a bloody mess. Who believe the scorch and burn fallout of the panel litigation might be a large enough sum to change the entire landscape of patent law. I for one was indifferent. Is this really a big enough issue that it’s going to impact me? Some in the tech space believe so. Fred Wilson’s post is convincing as he pretty much says that Yahoo, from this point forward, is dead to him.

But again. This is me. I’m selfish. Why do I give a flying french fry over two megalords dancing in the squared circle of patent law? Well it was pointed out to me by an acquaintance of mine – someone I’ve spoken to for years, with deep knowledge of both companies and who sits on a level that can go deep enough where his insights are 9 times out of 10 going to be correct painted an ugly picture.

Me: People aren’t going to care. Only reason is if you see immediate job loss as fallout due to patent claims. If mom and pop stores can’t use Facebook, if Facebook’s ad sales team gets canned…that’s it. Hurt needs to come on a local level for it to make it relevant.

Him: The rumors will be that Facebook will either close or have to charge everyone to use it in order to pay a Yahoo patent judgement. The news media will go NUTS over it. Legal experts will say its unlikely but possible because of treble damages.

Me: GTFO. Easy fix. Increase the cost of ad units to supplement the need to pay the piper for the patents.

Him: No. because one of the patents is for PPC. So it would have to be a settlement. And there is a slight chance the settlement could be 10B plus.

And then the money shot…

Him: But the fun part will be if they go after Google +

It hit me harder than a high school breakup on Facebook, as I read Executive Editor for CNET, Paul Sloan’s article on the whole ballyhoo and why I think he’s spot on. An end result of the strategy implemented by Yahoo could be forcing Facebook’s hands to actually buy out the patents before their IPO. This is an IP acquisition and one that could put Facebook in the driver’s seat if it were to roll out the same feet to the fire methods of patent twistedness that they’re being subjected to currently if/when it would go after Google.

Wow, that’s conniving. That’s just plain…mean…

Thinking Before Blogging: A Case Study In Bridge Burning At SXSW

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There’s never a convenient time to get sick. Quintuple the inconvenience when at a conference such as SXSW and you can imagine how difficult it is to function in 80 degree weather in Austin when you’re sweating through your dress shirt from a 100+ degree fever. Between shakes, chills and a wicked sore throat, I was in no shape to talk about social media data.

Easy way out was to call Eric Swayne, my panel moderator and tell him I couldn’t make it. I had every reason to do so and I think he would have been understanding. See I’ve earned his trust through years of camaraderie. Besides, we already had a last minute cancellation: Olivier Blanchard.

Olivier had foregone his entire trip to SXSW without giving Eric reason. As the author of the book “Social Media ROI” he was really the centerpiece of our panel in my opinion, and I for one was severely disappointed he chose not to attend. For those who have never spoken on a panel, balance is key, if not critical to the success of the discussion at hand. We had an eclectic group of marketers and communications professionals but with Olivier not participating, we were out a true SME to help steer the conversation. Thankfully Matt Ridings accepted the spot and filled in admirably.

Still, I’m of the mindset that when you commit to something you follow through with it. Eric is one of the nicest people you’ll ever meet and to see the frustration in his face was heartbreaking when told of Olivier’s no show. What bothers me about last minute panel cancellations, especially ones like SXSW, is that you have attendees who were in the audience expecting to see you, as a thoughtleader. They took time out of their day to choose your panel over others. To show blatant disregard to those in attendance who sought your opinion is quite frankly more insulting than letting down your fellow panelists. Given our panel was in the afternoon, a day trip to Austin should have been feasible. Furthermore, there was the publicity of participating. SXSW had names in their panel guides, websites, etc. There was a media investment made by SXSW to promote participants. Outside of a tragic event, the obligation of attending after making a commitment is simply the professional thing to do.

But more so, let’s talk hypotheticals for a moment and lost opportunity regarding ROI.

You’re the author of a book on the topic, have an hour to sell in your POV on how to measure it to a room that was overflowing with attendees – at least 500 were in attendance and that’s a conservative number. The moderator was more than generous to provide a platform to you to create awareness of your book with the audience as a thank you for participating as a panelist. Strategically, by working with your publisher to create a unique coupon based on the hashtag #SMROI, there was a direct opportunity to sell to both the in-attendance audience as well as the virtual one following the conversation online. Just doing a quick and dirty analysis of the #smroi hashtag, there were:

408 tweets generated, 1,609,336 impressions, reaching an audience of 779,219 followers within the past 24 hours.

So again, being assumptive, if we were to take reach x’s conversion, and let’s use a quarter of a percent interested in buying the book, and multiply $12.04 (current price of the book with a 20% discount using coupon) x’s .15 (royalty to author), you’re looking at $3500 in gross revenue. Assuming travel costs around $600, your single day ROI is 483%.

And what of missed opportunity? One of your panelists works for a Fortune 10 in social media. With over 160,000 employees in 70 countries, the chance to build a relationship that could lead to a paying opportunity was more than feasible. Just ask Chris Boudreaux, Brian Solis or C.C. Chapman how willing we are to knowledge share through investing in reading material and consulting.

In reviewing tweets from attendees it looks as though a number of concepts discussed weren’t conveyed well or misconstrued. I will shoulder my portion of the blame for that since it wasn’t our intent for attendees to walk out dissatisfied. Thematically i believe we touched on:

-Aligning business goals with social media measurement
-Horizontal/Vertical reporting
-KPI’S (I provided a brief case study on how our Ford Explorer reveal on Facebook lead 500,000-plus 2011 Explorer site visits versus daily average of 7,000 for 2010 Explorer)
-Current landscape of reporting tools and the maturity of the industry

In retrospect we should have stopped the banter And gone deeper.

I think my greatest regret was the fact it was implied I said social media isn’t measurable. This is false and if I gave that impression then again I’m sorry. What I meant to say was that the current landscape of measurement platforms are still very nascent. The calculations to derive social media ROI can be incredibly subjective. I’ve experienced what it’s like to take the same Boolean using two different tools and seeing completely different results which is why human analysis is critical. This is where Olivier’s opinion would have been welcomed.

But alas, was Olivier really missed? I’m not certain since he was tweeting throughout an event he was invited to participate in, voicing his opinion on how appalled he was over the content of our panel. Masterfully, he decided to contribute by amplifying the negative tweets in his disgust, at one point insisting he would have walked out.

Sadly he never had the opportunity because he didn’t show up in the first place.

American Express Takes Social Commerce To The Next Level

This weekend I met up with friends and colleagues downtown for a get together at Slows Bar B Q. Going through my typical habit of “checking in” on Foursquare (I’m 9 days away from becoming the mayor), I noticed a special running – if I sync my American Express card with Foursquare, I could save $5.00. It would be completely frictionless moving forward, I don’t have to show my phone at point of sale, and it would automatically deduct $5.00 from my bill in the form of a statement credit.

On March 6th, American Express announced they were offering the ability to further marry commerce and social media through the ability to sync your tweets with your American Express card. By both following and tweeting hashtags such as #amexfashion #amexsushi or #amexcoffee for example, you could find yourself saving in the form of a bill credit based on offers that are contextual to those specific hashtags.

I can’t imagine the complexities involved in managing their billing system infrastructure, but what I do know is what drives them to incorporate (and innovate) social media into the very heart of their service offerings  is a desire to stay connected to their customer’s needs and evolve.

UPDATE: Conversations in the halls at work with Scott Monty and the epiphany hit us. American Express was your father’s credit card! Has any brand changed their perception like American Express has over the last half decade? Absolutely mind blowing to think about.

You Are Here: The Confusing Landscape of Social Networks Just Got More Confusing

 

You’re out on a date when your wife asks if you want to head to the local comedy club to see her favorite comedian perform. “Sure, why not?” you say. His jokes are pretty entertaining, and his last HBO special that aired had you chuckling.

So off you go to the club, taking a table close to the stage, sitting through the opening act and without further adieu, the featured performer takes the stage!

There’s only one problem. The jokes all seem familiar. Yes, you heard them before.  In fact it’s the same act you saw on television. Annoyed, you clap politely, and force a smile when your wife exclaims, “Wait for the punch line this is a good one!”

The predictability’s killing you.

You see this is the conundrum that every social media manager faces.

Two is company, three’s a crowd…

Life was so much simpler 12 months ago. If you were overseeing content distribution across social media platforms, your focus was most likely bifurcated between twitter and Facebook. Sure you’d host your videos on Youtube, your images on Flickr, and your documents on Scribd, but they didn’t have the same internal visibility as the other two. This may be generalizing, but I’ve worked with enough CMO’s to boldly point out that they perceived the latter as curation sites and the former as relationship building ones.

So life’s good. You have your weekly editorial calendar, your humming along on interacting with your communities, and then Google drops a bomb on social media.

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Ohai +1…

Hear that? It’s the collective world both yawning and groaning concurrently. The very prospects of Google+ have left the world of social media divided. On one side of the argument are purists who believe content is federated, and as such will make for the bed of straw necessary to house the stables. “Isn’t content agnostic?” they ask.

On the other side of the argument we’ll call them the social media compartmentalists, argue that the content you share on Facebook has very little opportunity to succeed on other channels based on the fact that community personas are distinctly different even if speaking to the same person.

Let’s put it out there. Both sides of the argument are right. Yes, content is free to roam the binary plains of the internet. Conversely, optimizing content is a necessity to reach your audience in a manner that they’re most receptive to. And that starts with understanding the behaviors of each respective community you manage.

For example, there’s a ton of pressure, both internally and externally for brands to develop a Pinterest presence. In fact one of the first questions I personally received while speaking at a Cincinnati Social Media Club meeting was specifically about when not if my employer will provision a pinboard.

This is completely backwards. We, as social media strategists, shouldn’t be expected to jump in the proverbial social media pool head first without knowing how deep the water is. By rushing into the “next big thing” you run the risk of incurring more damage than actually being methodical. And speaking of methods, here’s a quick one to keep in your back pocket while facing internal pressure to evaluate new channels:

  • Observe – What is the purpose of the channel?
  • Define – What value do you bring to the community?
  • Develop – How do you plan on engaging?
  • Learn – What are the metrics you will apply to help define success?
  • Optimize – How will you use your metrics to create deeper levels of engagement through insights?

In Conclusion

New channels aren’t going away. Quite the opposite, in this era of new entrepreneurialism, we will continue to see burgeoning social networks placed squarely between the eyes of the hip and trend setting. Yesterday’s Google Plus is today’s Pinterest. Today’s Pinterest may be tomorrow’s Diaspora. And so forth…

What’s lost on our shift from one social channel to the next is how this impacts our user base. I found a great quote I wanted to share with you; a passage from a post I read on Horse Says Internet. Nothing I’ve read so succinctly defines the point of inflection (and point of view) we as social agents, consumers of content and producers of engagement face every minute, of every hour of every day.

The idea of being able to seamlessly manage different identities on different parts of the Web is a holy grail that remains practically elusive. We think that because we can do this in real life, be a different person at work, at a bar, in our photography club, with our family, etc., we should be able to do this online. But in real life we shift identities intrinsically, with very little conscious curation, as many pieces of psychology research have shown…Online, where identities are much more publicly visible and personal branding much more explicit, there is a certain “natural monopoly” that the incumbent social networks have established (Facebook for personal, LinkedIn for professional, etc), and this will make it hard for new entrants to displace them.

Keep calm my friends, and carry on.

Please Vote On My SXSW Panel

Who’s Following Me? Privacy In The Age of Social Media

It’s a title near and dear to my heart. One that I’ve bookmarked more articles on del.icio.us than I care to admit. My goal isn’t to McCarthy the audience with fear-mongering rhetoric around privacy, but to offer a fair, objective look into why privacy of data and its commoditization has become such a  hot topic for mainstream media, Hollywood, and individuals alike who get caught in the crossfire of maintaining friendships in the digital age while trying to keep their private lives off the radar of hundreds if not thousands of people.

I promise it’ll be fun and painless. Okay maybe not fun but definitely educational!

The Road To 1,200,000 Followers On Twitter

I’m on a mission. And that mission is for 1,200,000 twitter users to follow me.

There’s no logical reason for my desire to attain this goal. I’m not representing a charity or any other philanthropic organization nor am I doing this as part of a sponsored social media campaign. I’m not a celebrity, nor am I an A-List blogger. And I’m not giving away free burgers.

Though I should. Seriously I make a rad burger. The key is feta cheese…

Anyway, I’m not going to lie, this is 100% ego driven. But not for the reasons you think. See, I want to prove to the Gaga’s, Shaq’s, Ashton’s and Diddy’s that the attention economy and subsequently the commodity of followers they’ve accrued is, pardon my language, completely fucked. It’s as FUBAR and disposable as MySpace friends were in the earlier half of the decade – seems we can’t seem to learn from history when it repeats itself.

This has a ton to do with Metcalfe’s Law, but not for the virtuous reasons many a social media “guru” proclaim from the mountain tops of…wherever they proclaim things.

Let me explain, and why yes, I’m dropping mad theory on your asses. To continue…

The concept of Metcalfe’s law in my simpleton of opinions, is completely wrong when it’s applied not to expansion, but the value of twitter. Metcalfe’s Law states that the value of a network is affected by the number of nodes it has – the more users a network has, the more connections are created by each new user. But connections do not equate value. In fact as Metcalfe’s Law in my opinion, is detrimental to the entire premise of Twitter as a 1 to Some communications platform. The more attention I receive, the less time I have to engage. Are you following me?

As a broadcast platform it succeeds, albeit temporarily but I’m convinced, as my network continues to grow disproportionately that I’ll have no choice but to begin adding node:node and that’s when I’ll eventually lose control, along with any meaningful conversations I’ve had via my network.

I’ll concede of course that twitter has made it easier to stay organized. I can set up lists, or use Tweetdeck to filter through relevant topics of conversation, but ultimately, the unfiltered, surprising river of conversation that continues to excite me when I fire up twitter every morning will become so volatile, with a velocity in ever changing topics of conversation that I’ll forever be playing catch up to the conversations I’d like to be having.

And that my friends is a lot of conversation.

So to recap, I believe that size of network has little to do with its strength and I’m willing to bastardize my life on twitter to prove it. As of the time I began this social experiment I’m at 1,231 followers and I am following 71 people. This is roughly a 17:1 ratio. I believe that as the ratio continues to grow, I’ll have less control of conversations via my followers, those who I’m following, and myself.

I have a long ways to go to 1,200,000, so maybe you can help?

I’m @cdny on twitter. Feel free to follow me and I’ll probably follow you back.

P.S. This may all be a pointless diatribe which if you fall into the category of those who think so, I apologize and offer two great blog posts on Twitter and followers. First there’s Alex Schleber’s and next there’s Mathew Ingram’s brilliant post on Dunbar numbers.

P.S.S. I found the image I used for this post via Google images. The illustrator is super talented and you should check out his stuff.