Web as Service Platform. Marketing with an SD-logic?

stuck in the spider's web by looking at the web as a marcomm channel.

stuck in the spider's web by looking at the web as a marcomm channel.

Social media: marketing’s new wonder channel?

I often hear and read marketers about the opportunities brought along by social media. Now, I don’t want to dismiss these opportunities. Those are certainly there. The type of opportunities however are often misunderstood by marketers. They tend to see this as nothing more than a new marketing and communication channel. Consequently, social platforms are tools to push messages towards potential customers. Of course, social can be used for the purpose of lead generation or just mind-blowing advertising, but it won’t bring the benefits expected by marketers. My point here is that the ‘Web’ and the ‘social web’ in particular ought to be looked at from a Service-Design logic instead of a Good-Design logic. I believe it will help marketers realize there goals by deploying the web and social platforms in the correct manner.

SD-logic versus GD-logic: basic principle

In the industrial age, the dominant logic about economic exchange was based on the exchange of “goods”. As a result, a GD-logic focuses on tangible resources, added value and (monetary) transactions. Over time however new perspectives emerged. Those new visions look at intangible resources, co-created value and relationships. This new perspective is commonly known as a SD-logic or service design. I believe that marketing should start thinking from this perspective. A perspective in which service provision is fundamental to economic exchange rather than goods.

Marketing logic: SD-logic versus GD-logic

A GD marketing logic limits marketers in creativity for seeing opportunities in value co-creation with customers and other stakeholders. What’s more, this focus on transactional exchange ignores aspects like customer loyalty and puts constraints on developing the lifetime value of the customer for the company at stake. The S-D logic on the other hand broadens the logic of exchange – both socially and economically.

Web as Service Platform

Web as Service Platform

The Web and The Social Web from an SD-Logic

The internet and the web are well-known and mostly deployed as a mean to share information. Or: the web is seen as just another marketing communication channel.

That’s actually a pity because the web also brings along loads of opportunities for process optimization. And process optimization is often about service design thinking, which I believe is at the core about ‘servicing a.k.a. making things easier’.

Improving a business process is making things easier. And what’s more, it often means that you build strategic competitive advantages – as you’re able to get the same (better) result at lower costs.

To overcome overlooking the options when developing a digital-enabled enterprise and/or marketing strategy, one better investigates and lists down the options for process integration.

Who’s in for an exercise on process optimization through the web and the social web?

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Future Role of Social Media for Belgian Railway Company NMBS.

Unofficial Twitter Accounts NMBS demonstrate the need

Unofficial Twitter Accounts for NMBS demonstrate the need

As a result of my latest ‘interim project’, I’ve been travelling to Brussels by train every single day for about 3 months. The choice for taking the train is rather logic. Belgium is world-leader in ‘urban sprawl’. One cannot expect to reach Brussels easily by car. Hence the choice of taking a one-and-a-half hour train ride. And as railway services are still a public service in Belgium, all journeys are organized by the same company: NMBS.

NMBS is going through hard times these days. They cope with a genuine structural issue. Trains are cancelled and delayed daily. And what’s even more striking: customers are often not properly informed about cancellations and delays.

My three months proved enough to realize NMBS can’t undo all timetable issues. After all, much has to do with the inability to expand some key railway stations (like Brussels). There’s simply no room for growth anymore. It’s a mobility and infrastructure problem. Let’s leave that to spatial planners, shall we? Those same three months however also proved sufficient to see that the NMBS could do much more with regards to customer service. And that’s an issue marketers and business people can tackle without spatial planners. So here we go.

Social media can and should play a key role for customer service by railway companies like NMBS. But before we explain the future role of social media for the NMBS, let’s ask ourselves two simple questions:

  • Do our customers want support through social media?
  • Do we have employees willing to provide that service?
  • Need for customer service on social media?

    Customers definitely want to be informed about delays and cancellations through social media. After all those platforms allow to give real-time personalized information. What’s more: with the ever-increasing adoption of smartphones, most travellers are constantly connected while on the train.

    It’s very interesting to see the artefacts of this need: the numerous unofficial NMBS Twitter accounts. Those accounts are basically bottom-up initiatives by real travellers who do not work for the company but do engage with a community of ‘train travelers”. No way you can ignore the need if you look at those accounts.

    NMBS employees want to officialize their activities on social media - conversation on Twitter

    NMBS employees want to officialize their activities on social media - conversation on Twitter

    Do we have resources to provide customer service via social networks?

    Yes! The NMBS most definitely has those resources. The image on the right depicts an image of a Twitter conversation between NMBS employees and a traveler.

    The Dutch conversation states: “we are pleading for this service! Correct, fast and clear information”.

    The above sentence points to an interesting aspect. The NMBS employees are actually aware of the situation and want to help. On the other hand, the corporation, hasn’t set up official structures to manage this.

    So in fact, NMBS is in a very strong position. They have employees who love their job and organization and want to speak about it publicly on social networks. That’s something most companies can only dream about. NMBS should take advantage of this high level of employee engagement. They should stimulate the current people to grow and contribute to overall customer satisfaction.

    Why should NMBS empower all employees on social?
    First of all, it’s quite unthinkable that railway services will remain a public service. As Belgium is a part of the European Union who always favors liberal, free and open markets, one can expect future guidelines and/or demands to liberalize the railway services market. We’ve seen those demands before within other industries like Telco, Energy and Postal services. Those industries are now typically known for their fierce competition and new customer focus (vs. customer service to bring value). If NMBS manages to set-up customer service through social media, it will have a competitive edge in a deregulated market.

    But then again, the question remains the same: Will the liberalization result in on-time services and consequently improve the customer’s quality of life? Frankly I don’t know. One should ask an Englishman to know whether private railway services are better than public railway services.

    Second, because of my experience which made me happy and willing to travel with NMBS for future endeavours. The story is detailed below.

    Employee engagement - NMBS unofficially provides me Customer Service

    Employee engagement - NMBS unofficially provides me Customer Service

    My experience: train driver @RikiU2 helps me out

    December 14 2011. I had a rather intense day at work. I was incredibly looking forward to a lazy evening with my girlfriend while traveling home by train. When suddenly the train came to stop in the middle of nowhere. That sometimes happens, but this time it took a lot of time. After 15 minutes, my co-travelers started to get worried and frustrated. After all, they were once again to be later at home than foreseen and – what seemed even worse – there was no information whatsoever about why we did not continue our journey anymore. At one moment however, after about half an hour, the intercom of the train informed us about “a prior train in need will cause a delay of this trip”. Hooray! We were informed. Nobody, including myself, however knew what a “train in need” exactly was. It was some sort of tipping point for most of the travelers, including myself. It triggered me to shoot the question “what is a train in need?” on Twitter. It was more a helpless act than that I expected to have an answer to the question. Nothing was less true however. One clever train driver was at home and followed the #nmbs hashtag. As that hashtag was mentioned in my tweet, my demand came on the radar. I received an answer on my question and was consequently informed about the exact time delay, etc.

    Result: I could inform the people waiting for me, was happy again and was willing to continue traveling with NMBS in the future.

    What does all above teach us about the future role of social media for customer service?

    The above teaches us that social is truly a synonym for change. Things have changed and will continue to change. It would not be very intelligent to ‘ban’ social media platforms to employees. After all, they can act as a customer service representative or contribute to WOM advertising efforts, etc. For this reason companies should stimulate their employees to go online and speak in the name of the company. All companies should strive to realize this “superstar company state”. One great example of a superstar company is Dell – who transforms all employees into brand embassadors and certified customer service reps by providing them the necessary tools and training.

Pleading for the Elimination of Social Media from our Dictionary.

Social Media is a hot topic nowadays. Maybe it’s even too hot. Every single one is talking about it: from marketer over IT manager to adolescents. And yes, sometimes people ask me: “what do you think about social media?”. As from today, I will reply those people by saying something like: “well, actually, I don’t know what you’re talking about. Social Media is not in my dictionary. I can say a thing or two about social. Or even about media. But I don’t speak about social media.” Below is why.

Social Media as a term is framing the whole thing in a false matter.

Toffler, Third Wave, 1980.

Toffler, Third Wave, 1980.

Social Media is an all-encompassing term. It points to digital platforms in which the users are responsible for the content – without any or minimal intervention of an editorial team.

Looking at the very concept from this media-centric perspective results in a very narrow view on the nature of what we are experiencing. Social media are a lot more than a bunch of media. It’s a profound change in society. The drastic impact is brilliantly envisioned by a guy named Alvin Toffler. And he already forecasted this back in 1980. Waw!

Toffler, Third Wave, 1980.

Toffler, Third Wave, 1980.

Social is change.

As Toffler’s quotes made clear: Social isn’t just an innovative medium that continues along the lines of previous “old” ones. When Toffler speaks about an altered info-sphere and a “Source” organizing people around shared interests in communities, one instantly thinks about the so-called social media we know today.

My Twitter account is a very good example of this altered info-sphere. It’s constructed as the best-in-class virtual professor. It’s build for personal development. It’s constructed to learn. It also acts as a networking platform but that’s beyond the scope of this article.

Structural Change on Multiple Levels

Social brings along structural change on several levels of society: personal, business, Ngo’s, governments, etc. all are to transform into something social. The position of the (social) media (platforms) is just to ease this change. It’s not about technology. It’s more about change and (re-)integrate social into the world.

How and where is “social change”? And what are its main challenges for “adoption”?

Social Media is Change.

Social Media is Change. Change has a challenge.

3 C’s of Social Media Marketing Automation. On Cool, Cute and Crap.

Twitter Status 6 achievement - empireavenue.com

Twitter Status 6 achievement - empireavenue.com

I recently received a “Twitter Status 6 achievement” on empireavenue.com.
It means I posted 750 tweets in my life. This merely indicates that I’ve been active on Twitter for a short period. During this short period however, I noticed a little annoying aspect of the social media phenomenon.

That little annoying aspect I want to talk about is what I call “the deployment of social media marketing automation tools” or even “twitter marketing automation”.

Social media has a human aspect

Social media doesn’t bear the word “social” in it just for fun. It’s all about engagement and connecting with people. As a result I recommend to listen before you define your social media strategy – and especially before you start automating. This will improve your overall social media campaign…

Oh wait! Stop thinking campaign-wise! It’s social, not campaigns. It’s people. It’s connecting. It’s engaging. It’s conversations. It’s for once and forever. It is marriage.

The Machine - painting as spotted in Museum of Modern Art Brussels.

The Machine - painting as spotted in Museum of Modern Art Brussels.

Social media’s machine aspect: automation

Let’s say social relates to human and let’s assume automation relates to machines. How can you then appropriately deploy automation within a social sphere? I believe the answer ought to be found in the 3 C’s of Social Media Marketing Automation.

The 3 C’s of Social Media Marketing Automation: Cool, Cute, Crap.

As I’ve been around and active in social media for about 750 tweets now, I’ve distilled some of the do’s and don’ts of social media automation.

It turned out however that it’s not that easy to define an automation aspect as “do” or “don’t”. Sometimes it can be used in a “good” way but it can easily glimpse into a “bad” one. That’s why I introduce a third class into this debate, the “consider wisely” category.

Bringing sexiness: category labels and infographics – Cool, Cute, Crap.

So to turn my entire theory / philosophy about social media marketing automation into a sex bomb, I’ve relabeled the categories into something more compelling (at least I believe, and please allow me to do so) and spice it up with an infographic.

The categories / labels are:

  • Cool (do): social media automation that’s recommended. A do. A Cool thing.
  • Cute (do with care): social media automation that might be beneficial. There’s the danger to glimpse into the don’t category.
  • Crap (don’t): absolute don’ts of social media marketing automation.

Cut the crap – what exactly is Cool, Cute or Crap?

Well, read the below overview or scroll down to the infographic below. Please realize that this is not an exact science and only a personal interpretation of what I’ve encountered. Of course, the list also doesn’t claim to be complete. I would highly appreciate your suggestions to include in this list – whether under Cool, Cute or Crap.

Infographic - 3 Cs

Infographic - 3Cs

  1. COOL
    • Multiple account management tools. If you need more than one account / profile / personality in the social realms, it might be cool to automate the management of the different personas. One could think of e.g. a professional and a private account or a consultant managing multiple company accounts, etc.
    • Multiple contributors to one account (professional environments).
    • Url shorteners. One of the key social aspects is to share things. Most of the time this includes sharing a link. It’s very cool to use Url shorteners. And it’s supercool to deploy personalized url shorteners…
    • Monitoring. It’s cool to monitor what people say about you or your themes. But please don’t push it.
  2. CRAP
    • Auto creation of users so to have a higher follower rate. There are tools who promise you a high amount of followers. In fact, the software creates fake people that follow you. Big fail.
    • Extensive retweet scheduling: automatically scream the same message over and over.
    • Bulk tweet sending. If you see a person able to tweet 10 messages in less than a minute than you know it’s automated, than you know it ain’t human.
    • Auto message to new followers “look forward to your tweets”. Yeah right, you follow over 20K people, as if you’re really interested in me.
    • Auto follow followers. It doesn’t make sense to follow somebody just merely because they follow you.
    • Picked keywords that are automatically (re)tweeted. This is very annoying. Yes it’s cool to monitor to stay informed but automatic re-spread of a message is crap.
    • Constant retweet of your marketing hero without any input. If I like those tweets, I will follow the source, your hero. After all it’s your hero who’s cool, not you.
    • Feed tweets from other sources that don’t have a 140 chars limit. Facebook has a 420 character limit, so if you push this to Twitter, your message is lost.
  3. CUTE:
    • Feed it from a different source. Linking your blog to other social networks is cool but tends to be cute when you don’t pay enough attention. It’s completely crap when you don’t pay any attention at all. Make sure you can modify your message for the different platforms’ characteristics.
    • Tweet scheduling can be very cute. Especially if you have a follower base in different time zones. But don’t spam it.
    • Automated tweeting when there’s a new comment on your blog is cute. But what about auto tweeting spammy a-like messages?
    • Social Media Monitoring and auto-follow anyone who mentions you without any interaction or further engagement. I personally had that experience with big brands as Adobe, Audi and RedBull. Of course I was flattered they followed me but without any engagement or interaction, it was only cute, not cool.

An infographic – that makes things sexy these days

Infographics are very hot these days. And yes, it makes facts and figures sexier to read. That’s probably why some even call it infoporn. OK, mine isn’t that sexy but it’ll be only by trying that I’ll make good once later, much later.

Infographic - 3 C's of Social Media Marketing Automation

Infographic - 3 C's of Social Media Marketing Automation

Facebook's history of innovations. What's next?

Facebook - online social network

Facebook - online social network

Facebook is pushing its latest product innovations hard these days. Only within the last three months we have seen the launch of Facebook places, Facebook Groups and Facebook Messaging.

The history of the enterprise seems a history of innovations. What is the next innovation and where will this end?

Facebook: a history of innovations

  • Facebook as a platform is innovative by nature: it redefined our social experiences. Hence, this technology had a tremendous impact on how people construct their identity. From time to time we tend to note a “I publish, so I am-trend”, meaning that if it didn’t happen on Facebook (or there are no traces on Facebook) it didn’t happen.
  • Secondly, with their “connect to facebook” technology, the social sharing experience was opened up to third-party apps.
  • The third innovation that we wish to bring forward is the implementation of the like button across the web. This might seem an easy trick but has loads of consequences. And it’s extremely nice for a savvy marketer! Why? Guess this is food for another blog post…
  • Finally, the innovative new messaging system which is rumored for bringing together text messaging, instant messaging and e-mail messaging. It seems as the Facebook Messaging Innovation took a classic “melt-to-innovate” approach.

Will the next innovation be mobile?

The question for us is: what will be next? What could be Facebook’s next big innovation? Let’s have some ideas flow on that …

Facebook Places @ Olympia London

Facebook Places @ Olympia London

  • Would a photo book app on top of Facebook be innovative? And what if you could collaborate with your friends on the creation of that photo book?
  • Would an e-newspaper based on posted articles by friends be innovative? In this manner you can leaf through a digital newspaper that contains all news shared by your network.
  • What are the chances they further develop an “office suite” on top of it? Would that be innovative? Would that impact the way employees work? Would it mean the definitive break-through of enterprise 2.0? After all Facebook obtained Docs from Fuse Labs that will allow to co-create and share text documents, spreadsheets and PDF directly within Facebook with all friends, family and (especially) colleagues.
  • Is the next big thing in the mobile sphere with Facebook Places? Shall we get suggestions to drink a beer with a friend in the bar behind the corner? Will it embrace AR technology?
  • Or will Facebook evolve into the basis for artificial intelligence, as one of the main (Russian) investors believes?

Framing innovation

Innovation is about adaptation! We don’t want to bother you with theoretical facts about the adaption of technological innovations, but please realize that in the end, it are always the people who decide whether an innovation becomes a mainstream success or not. For those interested in the theory on innovation & adaptation: it follows the statistical distribution known as Gauss.

Gauss graph - diffusion of innovation

Gauss graph - diffusion of innovation

Towards an augmented social reality? MediaPro review.

big brand speakers at mediapro

big brand speakers at mediapro

On November 2-3 we were among many others at Olympia London to attend mediaPro. The event is rather unique in its kind but brings real value to the people within the “marketing and media industry”. Or as the organizers describe it their-selves:

“Things are changing in the world of media and marketing. Marketers, agencies and media owners now know all about email marketing and websites. They tell us that what they want now is a next generation event that helps them take their marketing and communications to the next level: and that means integrating channels including offline, online and all the exciting new stuff in mobile, social media etc. And that means mediaPro!”

Mix of exhibitors and keynote speakers

Visitors enjoyed a nice mixture of keynotes and classic trade fair exhibition stands.

Our final impression after the event coincides into the question “are we heading towards an augmented social reality?”.

Let’s try to unravel what this means… and how we stumbled upon this thought…

Augmented reality … an interesting technology!

We were fascinated by the maturity of AR technology shown at mediaPro.
Have a look in the below video and be astonished about the possibilities this technology brings along!

Social media

How many times a day do you log on to Facebook, Twitter or similar “social media”?

At the show “social media” was a central theme: two theatres were specifically devoted to topics within the realms of “social media” and a lot of exhibitors (suppliers to marketing agencies, corporates, brands, media, …) stressed their social media technology (in one way or another).

What if you combine augmented reality with social media? Augmented social reality! Hooray! Tagwhat!

How to make money with Social Media? A new business in "global village"?

Every young marketer probably has met a C-level executive that made him end up in the same situation as depicted in the cartoons below. (Credits for the cartoons go to this linked website.)

Anyway, it was a starting point for me to come up with a concept of how you can generate revenue with Social Media. As far as my thinking is concerned I came to the conclusion that social media cannot make money for you if you consider, deploy and use it solely as a communication channel. To state it very simply: a Facebook fan page or a netlog advert probably won’t do the trick.

We see a remarkable resemblance with the “status” of marketing within an organization. To unleash the power of marketing you cannot reduce them to channel communication and sales support, just as you cannot simplify social media solely into a communication channel for your business.

To make money with social media stop considering it as a communication channel

To make money with social media stop considering it as a communication channel

Don’t consider social media solely as a marketing channel.

The opportunities of social media should be explored in a far more extensive way then as it being a highly targeted communication channel for marketing messages. The image below demonstrates why this approach won’t result in you generating money with social media.

Why only perceive social media as a marketing (communication) channel?

Why only perceive social media as a marketing (communication) channel?

Create a new value on top of Social Media

If you create new value on top of social media networks, you might create a new market. If you are smart enough to keep your “new value” open for multiple social networks, you have a potential 700+ million euro business ahead of you.

Social Media Photo applications

I came to realize that one important aspect about the usage of social media is to share photographs with its friends, connections, peers, … (you name it). What if you could provide additional value to this “photo sharing experience” in such a way that people actually would want to pay for it? Wouldn’t it be better than “spending money on social media advertising”?

Connect the virtual photo sharing experience with the physical one

Social media profiles mostly contain a section where the user can upload images. In this manner users share their real-life experiences with their peers in the virtual domain. If there was an application that could gain access to all the images of the user and offer the user a user-friendly interface to create and consequently order photo books, postcards, calendars or slide show movies from their social media-assets, one could generate a business from selling those goods.

social media apps request for permission to access photo data

social media apps request for permission to access photo data

Dirty sketch of the value chain for a social media web app

Dirty sketch of the value chain for a social media web app

Social Media Web app specs

  • I would make the web app open enough. This means it should be able to access data from multiple platforms: facebook, netlog, hi5 and flickr seem quite appropriate platforms for the app I have in mind.
  • The application presents multiple templates to the user: select a photo book template, select a card template, select a calendar template or select to generate a slide show movie. At the start templates and slide show movies are rather limited since they are created by the app developer. The goal is to come up with a business model that encourages people to supply templates to the platform. If another user selects the uploaded template in order to make and purchase a photo book, the creator of the template receives a margin on the order. Templates are created in such a way that there occurs no resolution problem (since the platforms mostly resize the uploaded images, I suppose).
  • The user selects a template and consequently selects photos from his social media album.
  • The user gets a preview of the template with his photos.
  • The user sees a price for his creation and can order and pay it online.
  • The user receives his physical good at home. He can now have a physical photo sharing experience as well. What’s more he can use the social media to “testify” about the usage of the photo book application. In fact, you can imagine that one takes a picture of its physical experience (receiving the photo book) and sharing this experience virtually again (indeed, upload a picture of the photo book to the social media platform!).

How could a business model look like for this type of product?

There is a lot to say about a business model and its components, difference with a business plan, etc. Instead of going into an academic discussion about that topic, I will make use of the Business Model Canvas as developed by Alex Osterwalder. I believe his canvas provides a valid framework to design “a business”. The business model canvas is defined by the following building blocks: partners, activities, resources, value proposition, customer relations, channels, customer segments, cost structure and revenue stream.

The image below depicts a thinking exercise on a possible business model of the Social Media Photo Application. It is based on Osterwalder’s business model canvas. It might prove fruitful for reading purposes to download the business model canvas for the social media photo book application as a PDF. (yes click here, this is a link!)

Business model generation by using the BM canvas

Business model generation by using the BM canvas

Just one more thing, how should one call this type of solution: Social-to-Print?

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