Steve Grossman

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Information in the information age

Guidelines + Social Web = Corporate Success

Our company’s moving out onto the Social Web so I developed the following document to define our mission and establish guidelines. All reference to my company has been made generic for this example.

How did I do?

Online Networking, Blogging and Interactive Strategy and Guidelines

Introduction:

For quite sometime, our employees have been actively involved in the “social web” – a loosely knit collection of websites and online tools that allow 1-to-1 or 1-to-many communication and dialog. Though this activity has been personal in nature, it is not surprising to find that work and life at work has been discussed as well.

During this same period, there has been increasing corporate involvement on the web too. In addition to shifting advertising online, companies have begun to embrace the social web as a means to get closer to customers. GM and Comcast are two examples of companies that use a blog and twitter respectively to interact with customers everyday.

Because of the growth of the social web, the fact that we have employees engaged already, and our desire to grow our business, we’ve decided to get involved too. If we are to do this correctly, however, we feel it important to define our social web strategy and offer guidelines for success.

Our Social Web Mission:

Just like a company has a mission for products and services, we must have a mission for our online activities too. Whether you’re involved in an official capacity or not, please make sure that any departmental related online activity supports the following Social Web Mission without exception.

  • Feedback – our primary purpose online is to get feedback on what we’re doing. The Social Web functions best as a dialog and there is no better way for us to understand the needs of our customers – internal and external – than to interact with them 1-on-1. Seek feedback on what we’re doing and graciously accept whatever they may say.
  • Information – proactive communication about our beliefs, passions and expertise. Having a presence online affords us the opportunity to share information that will advance not only our plans, but the growth and success of our customers.
  • Subject Matter Leadership – an opportunity to direct the conversations about our industry

Guidelines for the Social Web

1. Sites:

  • • Corporate: we will establish official presence on a number of popular sites. If you wish to be involved, please talk to your manager.
  • • Personal: You are free to establish your presence anywhere you like as long as any and all work and business related information follows the rest of these guidelines.

2. Personal Responsibility: when writing/contributing work and business related information, be yourself. Use your actual name or identification that can be linked to who you are as an employee and take full responsibility for your contribution. In accordance with the Employee Handbook, please note that you will be held responsible for your contributions. We consider representing our company on the social web as an extension of our business.

3. Tone: be personal, authentic and fun – just like we are in our day-to-day work.

4. Copyrights and Fair use: respect all content related laws and give credit where credit’s due.

5. Proprietary Information: do not share any company or departmental secrets. This includes the use of client or client employee names without express permission. Everything online is searchable and permanent so when in doubt, leave it out.

6. Bring value: add to the conversations by seeking to serve our customers – inside and out – by responding appropriately and/or bringing them useful information.

7. Go beyond our business: at its core, the social web is entertainment first, business second. We will make a bad impression if all we do is tout our business. Information about things outside of our industry and business will be read and appreciated by your readers and give us a better foundation from which to accomplish our mission.

Conclusion:

We wish to support you in your online activities while ensuring the long term success of our organization. We’re hopeful that these guidelines will help. If you’re already involved, or get involved later, be sure to link up with our sites on the social web.

Filed under: Social_media, Trends

Internet + users + needs + me = random thoughts

So my mind’s full of random thoughts tonight.

That the internet and computers are far from done. We are still in the beginning phase, a phase dominated by the fact that our technology doesn’t work for us, we mold ourselves to our technology. Nothing we have is intuitive. I mean, we still shut down PCs by clicking on the start button. Yes it’s a funny line in a joke, but it holds much truth too.

And this truth means that the majority of users do not yet interact with the internet and computers. Everyone reading this is the exception. Imagine what happens when there are no exceptions.

Imagine that the internet and computers actually meet needs. Intuitively. Easily. Seamlessly. Whoa.

I imagine when I – me – will have appliances at work, home and with me that allow me to:

  • Access news that I need. And by need I mean need – information that helps me live productively, informed and aware. This means that my online world (the appliances will do nothing but access what we are starting to call “the cloud”) is set-up to deliver from sources I know AND from sources I don’t know based on my desires, responsibilities and cares. For instance, I wouldn’t knowingly subscribe to disease warnings but I’d need them when they are vital to the survival of my family.
  • Interact with family, friends, associates and acquaintances appropriately. In the same way that I have “news that I need” functionality, my writing/thoughts/posts/statuses/photos/rants will go to only those truly interested in the topic(s) being addressed.
  • A fully functional online hub: what I’ve just described won’t happen without acquisitions and mergers of what we see today. The biggest challenge to the use of the myriad of online aps is the myriad of online aps. The masses will never sign up for g-mail, Twitter, Zoho docs, WordPress, flickr, Facebook and Pandora much less some service that links them together. Web and computer development is about to enter a phase of consolidation similar to the American automotive industry over the early part of the 20th Century.
  • And the online “Big Three” (four or five) will charge a fee – real or sponsored. I know everything on the web is “free”, but this will not last. We will someday pay for a service that assists us in living our lives and we will do it one of two ways: literally paying or by merging our interests with sponsorship. Sure some will pay, but the majority will be a part of the “influence economy” we’re already seeing develop. Countless studies are showing that the number 1 factor in purchasing decisions is the opinion of a friend. Couple that with the fact that people are excited to include brand support in their personal profiles (Facebook fan pages) and I beleive we’ll soon see personal sponsorship arrangements paying for online services.

internet + users + needs + me = random thoughts = more to come.

Filed under: Life_technology, Trends

Business Design in the Information Age

I realized today that more and more of my life is moving to “the cloud.” For instance, instead of using e-mail – computer to computer communication – I’m increasingly communicating via pages online. Pages on Facebook, LinkedIn or the corporate intranet site at my company (built by Jive). I even tweeted that I’m “slowly moving to the cloud and getting excited.”

Then I read three articles that brought more clarity to where we’re headed technologically and what that means for business. The first was an exploration of the bigger picture behind “social media”. In a post entitled From Social Media to Social Business Design, David Armano asks: “Imagine if a company like GM, was at the core “social”. Not just participating in “social media”—but through every part of their business ecosystem, were connected—plugged into a collective consciousness made up of ALL their constituents, from employees to consumers to dealers, to assembly line works etc.”

It’s the right question.

While it’s certainly true that participating in social media can accomplish x, it is much more powerful when the x is an unknown that happens as a result of communication and relationship building. Both of which require listening. Active, participatory listening. Companies that can tap that will be far ahead of those that don’t. As David says: “Media has never solved…(sic) why would “social media” be any different?”

The true and revolutionary benefits of social media will come to companies that have cultures of communication driven research, problem solving and innovation empowered by the tools of social media.

Which brings me to the second article: The Role of the CTO & CIO in Cloud Computing by Renven Cohen and particularly his closing points: “I believe we are in the midst of a realtime information revolution. No longer can we sit back and analyze what happened yesterday, we must focus on what is happening now or even what will happen tomorrow. Those companies who have the most efficient access to a realtime data stream will dominate…”

And while Cohen was using his thoughts to support his ideas about the role of executives, it strikes me as relevant to every aspect of business design.

No one will argue that we live in a “happening now or even what will happen tomorrow” world. We are all feeling the pressure of streaming information and the inherent overload. And the way we most often deal with overload is to run to constants and normals. But it’s important to see the big picture. The macro economic and cultural reality of the birth of the information age.We’re not dealing with new versions of old things, we’re dealing with new versions of new things.

Twitter isn’t telegraph, e-mail, instant messaging, search, helpdesk, information desk, useless or useful. It’s all the above and far more. We aren’t simply moving what we used to do in Word to Google Docs or the corporate intranet (the cloud), we’re creating an entirely new way to collaborate, share and create.

And entirely new ways of doing things are only embraced by organizations that decide to embrace them. And that’s done by design.

Filed under: Business_models, Trends

Where I’m hoping to point

I started this blog because of my deep interest in the birth of the information age and the way it will affect business. I’m not the only one writing about these things of course, but I do offer a unique perspective combined with personal beliefs that empower my goal – that you be motivated to join this economic and societal revolution too. It is a time of great change – and great opportunity. We need you – your ideas, thoughts, passions, dreams.

As I just said though, I’m not the only one writing about the core topic of information and business. Another such writer/speaker is Gerd Leonhard who I first ran across through the blog “Future of Music” because it often pertains to my other blog, Why I Failed.

I say all this because of the post that appeared there on May 10: 8 Key Trends for the Next 5 Years. It’s one of those posts that I wish I had written. It captures much of what I too see coming and yet so much more.
It’s the so much more that’s so important. For instance, in talking about netbook-like devices he says:

“They will be touchscreen, zoom-interface enabled, cloud-computing, speech-controlled, location-aware, mobile-money equipped, socially hyper-networked, always-everywhere-on, HD-camera equipped and possibly project images and audio or even support basic holography”

And about business and marketing:

“UGC or UGDC (user-generated content or user-generated & derived content) may make up to 50% of the global content consumption by 2015. Consumers will be (co)-creators, marketers, sellers and buyers, and come in a hundred variations, from totally passive to totally active. Then, indeed, filtering, culling and curation will be the key to success.”

Please read the whole thing. No matter what you do, there are ramifications to you in this post. Enjoy and dream big.

Filed under: Business_models, Life_technology, Work_technology

Me + Vision = Future Part 1

So in my last post I spoke about my online presence – complicated – and my belief that I don’t want to sit out on something this big and “it will all come together one day.”

In the early days of the automobile industry, there were thousands of manufactures.

It reminds me of today.

At this moment in the dawn of the information age, there are hundreds of thousands, if not millions of websites, online tools, technologies and ideas vying for your attention. It is not sustainable. Just like the dawn of the industrial age – 100’s of years before cars, btw – brought tremendous upheaval to the economics, education, politics and society of it’s time. It is happening again before our eyes.

And there’s a lesson to be learned in the story of those thousands of auto companies that eventually became less than 10. A lesson that involves acquisitions, bell curves, adoption rates, consumer tastes, supply and demand, intrigue and a host of other factors. I’ll leave out the intrigue.

The lesson is that we’re about to see mass acquisitions as companies increasingly vie for attention (bell curves and adoption rates). Consumer tastes appear fickle, but look deeper. MySpace was hot, then Facebook, now Twitter. You’d be right if you think the driving factor is consumer tastes, but you’d also be wrong.

Wrong because they actually fit different needs. The driving factor for consumer migration is frustration not boredom.

I used to be on MySpace and I do still have a site. But it is very “arts” oriented as exemplified by their huge music business. It’s flashy and larger than life. It’s also very walled off and didn’t allow me to do certain things I wanted to do.

Facebook is more straightforward in design without a lot of bells and whistles. Additionally, it beat MySpace to more openess. You can bring stuff in and out of it more easily. And that’s improving everyday.

Then there’s twitter, which in my opinion, meets a different need altogether. Where MySpace and Facebook are online photo albums, journals and message boards, twitter is a megaphone. It’s a place to say “hey, check this out” or “hey, I’m over here if you’d like to meet.” It’s interactivity with mobile devices increases this power.

And to top it all off, twitter’s now going after Google’s market.

The truth of the matter is that you and I need a Mybookwittoogle. We need one site that enables a us to live online.

One site.

Enabling

Life online.

Which is of course no different than the fact that we need a car with oil pan lubrication, headlamps, windshield washers, seat belts, overhead cams, fuel injection, air conditioning and an mp3 player. All inventions of what were at one time completely different companies.

And that’s what we’ll get.

You will one day interact with a screen that will do two things very effectively:
1 – It will deseminate everything you wish to share about yourself to people that are a) people who you want to have the information and b) people who want to have the information. This will happen effortlessly and perfectly for everyone involved.
2 – you will receive the exact information you desire and need from the people that a) are people you’ve selected and b) have produced information that you are interested in (not everything they’ve produced).

This will take a radical shift in technology. A shift from people centric programming to interest centric programming.

More about that in Future Part 2

Filed under: Life_technology, Trends

My online strategy

At first glance, I may seem crazy and disorganized to have such a large presence online. Here’s where you’ll find me:

Facebook
LinkedIn
Delicious
Yahoo mail
Google mail
Flickr
Myspace
Wordpress
Yahoo wordpress
Blogger
Squidoo
Amazon
twitter
Friendfeed
YouTube
Technorati
PBwiki
Blog Catalog
Netvibes

That’s an incomplete list and I have many more I’d like to sign-up with. But no I’m not crazy, I have a strategy.

First, this is the beginning of something big.
The list above is a set of visable manifestations of society’s move from the
industrial age to the information age. This is not about Facebook vs. MySpace, this is about the latest 400+ year cycle of global socio-economic change.

Second, I don’t want to sit it out.
This is the dawn of the information age. I’m alive today. I believe there’s a
reason for that “coincidence” and I hope to find out what it is. For now I know
that it’s writing this blog, being actively involved online and tossing around
ideas that will help lead to this:

Third, it will all come together one day.
I see a day coming when that long list of websites, concepts, tools, ideas and
gimmicks will come together. When everyone will have an online “hub” from which all their digital interactions flow out and where all incoming messages are received.

If you find that idea overwhelming, I agree. But realize that this is based on
today’s experiences. Namely, having to sign-up at a long list of websites,
concepts, tools, ideas and gimmicks to get an awkward, barely working version of what I just described. But that won’t always be the case.

I can’t wait.

Filed under: Society, Trends

My three blogs

Two months ago I made a change in my online strategy. I decided to re-split one of my blogs into two and start a third. I made an announcement at the time but want to be sure to point it out again. There’s no reason to write if I don’t have readers, and no way to gain readers without an invitation. So, consider this my invitation and a bit of shameless self-promotion too.

Here’s a link to the original announcement where I give insights into the content of each blog. You can also read about them at my online hub on netvibes at http://netvibes.com/stevegrossman. In addition to quick
descriptions and links, you’ll also find an extensive bio and my friendfeed page which tracks everything I do online.

What I didn’t mention was that I have a fourth blog at work too. If you’re an employee of Manheim, take a sec to check out All Things Inspections through Mainstreet.

So I invite you to check out my blogs and be encouraged. And drop me a line if you’d like me to discuss anything specific.
Thanks for reading.

Filed under: Trends

A Foundational Post

I launched this blog about a month ago and have posted random thoughts since then. I’ve also tried different themes, configured twitter to auto-post here (and vice-versa) and thought about writing a foundational post about why I launched this blog.

It’s time to write that post:

First, I am fascinated and dissatisfied with the web. Fascinated because it is the outward and interactive manifestation of the greatest global transformation of the last 400 years: the birth of the Information Age.  Dissatisfied because I can’t wait for it to get where it’s going.

And I have ideas about that.

Second, I am fascinated with business models and in light of this global transformation fully expect them to change dramatically too.

And I have ideas about that.

Third, I am immersed in the world of Social Networking or Social Media. I have multiple blogs, web pages, wiki’s, RSS feeds, integrated services and assorted other freely available web 2.0 tools. And all of them are pieces in an as yet unfinished web that I call online me.

And what’s unique about that?

Nothing except for the fact that I’m not a Gen-Y’er, I’m a 47 year old husband/dad/businessman/boomer. And that gives me a unique perspective on all the above.

And so I have hopes for this blog. Hopes that I can have an outlet for my ideas, concepts, observations and thoughts on the Internet, business and life at the dawn of the Information Age. And hopes that I can help other non-Gen-Y folks grasp the significant and life changing opportunities that are all around us.

And so I offer a blog about ideas, concepts, observations and thoughts on the Internet, business and life at the dawn of the Information Age.

It’s time to get excited.

Filed under: Business_models, Life_technology, Smart_technology, Social_media, Trends, Work_technology

TBE and Making Cars

Over two years ago, I was part of “The Business Experiment”, aka: TBE, an online community assembled to design and launch a business. It was an experiment written about here and one that I wish I had had more time to participate in.

One of the first steps we were led to do, I’ll add expertly led by Rob May, was suggest business concepts to pursue. I don’t think I suggested it, but I was an advocate of building a car. No really. It’s been on my mind for sometime that automotive manufacturing will soon go the way of…well, go the way of this quote from a post by Seth Godin:

“One day soon there will be car companies that have 200 employees.”

He’s right. It is an industry ripe for massive, disruptive change. And it’s coming. Read more here.

I should have pushed harder.

Filed under: Business_models

The problem as I see it

In his post An Important Conversation About Conversations | chrisbrogan.com Chris Brogan asks for input about what “you (in this case, “you” equals me and you and everyone when we’re on the “customer” side of the wall) want from interactions like blog posts and the like.”

Chris is a thought leader and expert in the Social Media space and he never ceases to bring insightful ideas and questions about this evolving area of marketing. This question is no exception and I appreciate the discussion he’s starting. That’s his specialty.

What jumps out to me though, is the word interactions and my immediate thought is “what interactions?”

With the possible exception of twitter, specifically @comcastcares, BankofAmerica and others that have nailed it, I can’t classify my experience online as interactive. I’ve had some conversations and rare moments of interactions, but on the whole, I have not been able to truly interact to the level I desire and the reason is tools. Or lack there of.

Take blog posts for instance. They’re only interactive if I a) come back all the time to see where the conversation is or b) subscribe to the comments feed (another option is to get e-mail updates). But I don’t have time for either one. Add in the fact that I often follow links to sites I’ve never been to before (isn’t that the point?) and I end up leaving a comment and never knowing what transpires next.

And blogs are just one example. Social Networks are even worse and news sites are the worst.

There are two fundamental problems with the current state of affairs online. Problems that will continue to keep the internet from it’s full potential.

The first is the fact that the current explosion is being driven by geeks: people that have a lot of time on their hands and are completely and hypnotizingly fascinated with all things web. I’m ALMOST one of those people except for the fact that I’m not. I’m a middle aged, businessman who loves learning and information.

Yes I’m fascinated by the web, but only so far as it actually helps me get things done – quickly and efficiently. Visiting 100’s of blogs can’t be done realistically if I’m to keep my job and stay married. Yes, I know what an RSS feed is and I use one to track the blogs I regularly read everyday. But that doesn’t help with the aforementioned linking and commenting on sites and the resultant tracking that I don’t have time to do. And oh, did I mention a lot of comments are useless?

Which leads to the second problem: we do not yet have the tools for true web interactions. We need tools that notify us when the interactions are actually of interest to us. Our comment, our topic, our…well…tags.

So what if we had an online identity that was truly an online identity? One that, just like in real life, had attributes, characteristics and traits – the very things that make us us? And what if everywhere we went and everything we did left these attributes too?

If that were the case, these attributes could also facilitate notifications when something relevant to us occured online. Anywhere. Anytime.

Which would mean that after leaving a comment on Chris Brogan’s blog saying “loved the post, but think it misses the point that we don’t have sophisticated enough tools yet” I would automatically get a message in my online hub (e-mail, IM, txt, whatever) anytime a relevant comment was posted.

Now THAT would be cool.

And it totally relates to Chris’s question too because these tools would allow for life changing interactions with companies. I’m not being overly dramatic either. What would life be like without the need for customer support because I would simply “get” the info I needed when it became available. Nothing less. But also, nothing more.

And I know that day is coming.

Filed under: Life_technology, Social_media, Trends