John Akerson's Thoughts

Business, technology and life

Learning from Other People’s Social Media Mistakes: Seven Lessons

I found a useful contact via twitter. I read her blog. She was a self-styled (and certified) expert in resume-writing. She had so many examples, suggestions, ideas, guidance, recommendations and thoughts. I enjoyed her style of writing and her posts seemed to be sharp and insightful. I signed up for her email list and the first thing I got from her included a discount on her book.  I feel like I’m writing a recommendation letter, but there is a point when you’re watching a horror movie, you just know. You KNOW that when someone goes into the dark cellar and the light goes out – something bad is going to happen. You just know it. When you start reading this, since the title is Social Media Mistakes – you just know it has to go bad.  It is like a horror movie where the kill is a huge social media mistake.

Convinced that her thoughts might help me write a smarter resume, I dropped her a brief email. I was considering hiring her to help me rewrite my resume. I was going to ask her thoughts, but figured that before I would take her time, I wanted to look at her book. It wasn’t too much. Her how-to resume book was an instant purchase, and a downloadable text and PDFs. It was about $20, with the cool discount that I thought I scored in the email. The email response to my note was a bit off-center.  I felt like she was talking to me but I started to notice issues. It was kind of like in the horror movie where you start hearing the theme music. If you’re skinny dipping on a dark beach, you know that music means that something is about to take a nibble and its going to go bad.  I saw things like – quotes from her that I have seen elsewhere.   I dropped her a brief question in an email, and got a fairly instant response.  I opened the response and realized it was a form email. I recognized it as an email blast.  I was disappointed, but thought that perhaps it was pre-scheduled. Since her website is her personal name – you know, like www.JaneDoe.com. I thought that nobody would use their name and send out impersonal email blasts, auto-replies, and never actually set eyes on the incoming email.   I sent another email, and the following day I got another email. At this point, it was really obvious that her emails were form-emails, and completely unrelated to the emails that I sent her.

I also realized that she wasn’t reading her incoming email. She might not even know that ANYONE was trying to contact her. I was frustrated and certain that I have been taken in the amount of $20. My lesson has been learned. What other lessons are there?  

If she had been on her game, she probably could have sold me $500 worth of resume rewrite services. To monetize that thought, if she looked at her email she could have increased her revenue 2500%, from a single customer with a single transaction. So where are the SOCIAL MEDIA lessons?

1)      Social media is social – it is people-contacting-people.  Forget that at your peril.

2)      Some of the best future customers are past customers, but they must feel well-treated.

3)      Take the time to read incoming email, messages, tweets, etc. Extra points if you respond.

4)      Design campaigns from the customer’s perspective.

5)      Design products and services from the customer’s perspective.

6)      Try to avoid comparisons with the Shark in Jaws. He didn’t get return business.

7)      Time = Money. Trust = Money. Communication = Money. Service = Money.

From the customer’s perspective, it is understood that some things are going to go bad.  When a potential customer determines that a business is intentionally withholding time, not deserving of trust, lacking in communication and inadequate in service – that is a customer that is going to find another business to patronize.

September 21st, 2009 Posted by | Business, Life, People | no comments

Numbers That Drive Social Media Strategy

I was reading Joe Waters’ intelligent blog earlier today. He has a post titled “How My NonProfit plans to use social media”  His post was very interesting because it talked about strategy without numbers.

His thoughts on strategy were really good – but numbers can convert people to a strategy that otherwise might not make sense. I think social media provides benefits that cannot be gotten elsewhere, at a minimal cost that is extremely hard to equal with other. The difficult question is “How does that get quantified?”

I’ve thought back to points that I made more than a dozen years ago for “what a website could do for a company.” Some of the most powerful numbers I used back then to support my strategy points were from Dell.  Here are some:

1) Things you put on a website – are there 24/7/365 so essentially, they provide billable services that far exceed the time put into them.

2) By mid 1998- Dell’s internet sales exceeded $6 million per day.

3) By 2000, online sales had topped $50 million per day and 840 million page requests per quarter.

How does that relate to social media? There are parallels between those early internet days, and social media as it sits today. Because of the open API and available tools, its pretty easy to show twitter growth for some companies. Here are some numbers:

1) In December 2008, DellOutlet attributed $1m of sales DIRECTLY to their Twitter presence.
2) As of June, 2009, DellOutlet attributed $3m of sales DIRECTLY to their Twitter presence.
3) In February 2009, Dell had 15,000 followers.
4) As of September 15th, they have more than 1.1 million followers.
5) From opening the DellOutlet account in 2007 to September 15th, they’ve made 685 updates.

Why are those powerful numbers? That averages less than one update every day. Each of those updates are 140 characters or less and likely took less than 10 minutes to make. (not counting the custom URLs and coupon codes that were made to track sales)

Here is an equation that gives numbers to support social media strategy:
6850 minutes of employee time (app 114 hours) + website costs
=
$3m in directly tracked revenue + goodwill + customer responsiveness + voice of the customer input + 1.1m followers/fans/potential customers + 1.1m instant viewers of any advertisement posted for the Dell Outlet. (as of 9/15/09) 

That is 1.1 million people who are likely receptive to products, services, and Dells message because Dell connected with them in a method of their choosing. $3m of revenue and 1.1m customers is most certainly an extremely small percentage of sales for Dell, but it is significant that they built that micro-blogging micro-channel with such micro-efforts.

Do you know of other numbers to drive social media strategy?

September 15th, 2009 Posted by | Business, People, Technology | no comments

The Larger Impact of Outsourcing

Eweek has an interesting article titled “How Offshoring May Be Hurting US Technology Employees.”

Eweek’s article mainly talks about the offshoring pain in a single context. Their claim is that, although offshoring is sold as a process that moves lower paid positions overseas, in fact higher paid positions are also moving. They discuss IBM’s offshoring of personnel increase, from 6000 in 2003 to 90,000 in 2009. They also briefly mention HP’s offshoring of perhaps 12,000 former EDS jobs after their acquisition of that company. The bulk of Eweek’s article is taken from an article in the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle.  That comes from Ron Hira, Assistant Professor of Public Policy at Rochester Institute of Technology Professor Hira’s point is that the interests that drive offshoring have nowhere else to go and no other rational course of action. He points out that CEO’s must ultimately be concerned with profits, costs, delivering value to customers and maximizing shareholder returns. He points out that politicians are responsive to lobbyists, but that “There’s no group that represents the national interest in any way in Washington to counterbalance this. Which is why you see no action in Washington to address these issues. Who represents American workers in this debate? Who represents accountants? Who represents engineers? No one.”

So – the Eweek article leads to another and experts quote each other while none seem to any real ideas. The main point, and it is fairly obvious – is that the drain to the US comes because of outsourcing, and outsourcing moves jobs elsewhere. This is not a new concept. The idea that outsourcing moves high-paying jobs elsewhere is also not a new concept.

Here are two new ideas.

Outsourcing also hurts technology nationally because it eliminates career paths within US technology. Until a very recent merger, my company had a brilliant CIO who was once an IT director, formerly an IT manager, formerly a project manager, and started more than 20 years earler as a software/code developer. Given offshoring patterns, there is not a current new-hire developer who can likely follow that path. At some point, the US will pay in terms of seasoned and experienced technology leaders. That is very bad, but unlikely to sway anyone in Washington DC.

The federal government is essentially money-driven.  The fastest and most significant impact comes from refining a monetary reason to limit offshoring. Money can drive changes in government.

Here’s a suggested framework, based on the information presented in the article. IBM has 90,000 employees in India, up from 6,000 in 2003. Conservatively speaking, that perhaps represents an offshoring of 58,000 positions. It might be seen as an increase of 84,000 positions, but that would discount the possibility of offshore growth in the form of new-job creation. HP, via EDS offshored 12,000 positions. Together, two firms offshored at least 70,000 positions. If you assume the average technical worker in the US averages $60,000 annual income – and based on any standard, that is also a very conservative estimate – we have an offshoring of $4,200,000,000.00 in annual income. At a 28% rate, which again is conservative, that is an offshoring of $1,176,000,000.00 in income taxes that Washington DC is losing out on. 2 companies efforts have removed $1.1b from the tax stream. They have also removed more than $3b from churning through the monetary and economic system as spending, savings, and other consumption. Those numbers come from very conservative estimates of people, wages and taxes. To go the other direction, there may have been 96,000 positions offshored – with an average US income of $75,000, which would remove $7,200,000,000.00 from the US economy. Assuming an income tax rate of 34% suggests more than $2.44 billion dollars of tax revenue was lost. In Washington DC terms, changing the behavior of 2 companies (albeit large companies) would have funded more than half of the recent ‘cash for clunkers’ initiave.calculator

The interesting questions – that MUST to be quantified and acted on by politicians in Washington DC are: What if that standard was applied to the top 1000 companies that offshore? Here’s my follow up question: What could the US government do to make it economically advantageous to companies to “inshore”? When can we start? In an economy where unemployment is currently 9.7%, our nation is in debt, and deficit spending increases our debt every day, these are the sorts of important questions that should be asked in Washington, DC.

September 9th, 2009 Posted by | Business, Environment, Life, People | no comments

The “Rogue Admin” Case Will Be Very Expensive

I again commend Paul Venezia on his thorough, accurate, timely and thoughtful coverage of the Terry Childs Case.   Here is Paul’s latest on the case.

Paul points out that the legal precedent used to dismiss 3 of the 4 charges against Terry Childs should have also applied to the 4th charge.  He points out that this could “harm password security” because the 4th charge remains. 

If the remaining charge is convictable, then computer administrators will be much more likely to divulge passwords. Nobody wants to be jailed for denying access. Beyond the ordinary social engineering types of password requests, there might be a new level of social engineering demands. The phrase might be ”You don’t want to be jailed so give me the passwords or I will call the police.” comes to mind. That wouldn’t work everywhere, but if in the course of your job erring on the wrong side of security and access could get you jailed, you might be much more likely to err on the side of access.

That adds risk. To manage that risk and ensure security, additional Processes, policies and procedures will be needed. If Childs is convicted, those additional steps, the additional piles of policies, processes and procedures will cost everyone because it will touch every information management facet. Even if you don’t work in networking or security, you probably have online banking access, you may pay bills online, you probably access email, utility bills, magazines, and many other resources. Even if you don’t do those sorts of things online, the companies that you deal with do.

Consider the cost in the same way you might consider weight – Information Technology is ingrained in and flows through business like blood cells in blood vessels in the body. If you add an additional fraction of an ounce to every blood cell, or even every 5th blood cell, you would weigh more. Every step would require moving that additional weight.  Given the parameters of the Terry Childs case, at this point, whether he is convicted or not, ALL information technology resources will likely have additional levels of inefficiency added to protect security while simultaneously protecting the people who provide the security.   Maybe an additional $1 fee here or there won’t add up when you pay it – but across businesses that touch everyone’s live, this is going to be very, very expensive.

September 5th, 2009 Posted by | Business, Life, People | no comments

5 Ingredients of a Successful Job Relationship

Relationships and Jobs each need certain ingredients to be successful. Some of them are necessary because if they are compromised, the relationship can be broken – and if they are compromised, the relationship might never be the same. The most important 5 ingredients, in no particular order are Chemistry, Trust, Honesty Communication and Respect. Jobs and relationships can get along without these qualities, but they shouldn’t.

Chemistry: Every relationship needs chemistry and every job needs it too. There must be initial chemistry. I like you, you like me. I want you, you want me. If you don’t have any spark with your employer, your managers, your peers, and the people you manage, change your situation. Without that sweet spark, without that feeling of chemistry for your job and your employer, the job is a dull drain on your psyche. If you are in this situation, either you won’t last, or your job won’t last. Find one that will. This is the first ingredient on this list, and it is necessary for a people relationship and necessary for an employee/employer relationship, but it isn’t necessarily the most important.

Trust: Every relationship needs trust. You need to trust your employer. You need to know that the things the employer promises – things that include safety, benefits, compensation and employment conditions – those things are going to be here. If you cannot trust your employer, and if they cannot trust you – that is a good sign that you have reached the right time to end the relationship.

Honesty: Every relationship needs honesty. This is a complex simplicity. Your employer has to say what it means and mean what it says. If your employer tells the public that it will not offshore jobs, then it cannot simultaneously contract with companies who nod, wink and deliver code written by their offshore operation. If your company says that it is going to keep people, it cannot simultaneously downsize. Your company needs to honor the spirit of what it says. You must also. You must provide the expertise, experience, knowledge, and abilities that are represented by your resume. You must provide the hours that you commit to, and you must exemplify the professional under the conditions that you agreed to. You should do what you say you will do. If you cannot, you should find another company. If your company cannot, they should not make the claims. If they do, you should find another job.

Communication: Every relationship needs communication. You must communicate to your employer and your employer must communicate to you. You must hear what your employer does and does not want, and you must tell them what you do and do not want. You must hear what your employer is and is not going to do, and you must tell your employer what you are and are not going to do. Communication requirements go beyond these simple details. You must communicate with your peers, your managers, and your subordinates. They must all communicate with you. If you are doing well or poorly, you should hear it. If your managers, peers and/or subordinates are doing well, or poorly, they should hear it from you. There should be no surprise firings, no surprise promotions, no surprise demotions, and no surprise successions at the top. You should not hear about your company being sold from the media on a Monday morning after you put in a request for a vacation the previous Friday. You should not tell them on a Friday that you will be working elsewhere the following Monday.

Respect: All of these combine to form a healthy respect. Respect is a delightful collection of admiration, deference; consideration and thoughtfulness are characteristics between employer and employee. It is healthy for the employee, for the employer and for any two people in a relationship. If you have honesty, trust, communication and chemistry, respect is pretty easy. You might be able to respect a company that you have no chemistry with – but maybe not. The employer is has a right to feel the same way.

All of these ingredients make it much easier to find and feel passion for your job, for your career. All of these ingredients make it easier for your employer to have passion for you as an employee.  Do you have these in your job relationship?  Are you trying to find them in your relationship?

What do you think?

September 2nd, 2009 Posted by | Business, Life, People | one comment