Double job switch…what does it mean? @maggiefox @jowyang

I had two emails in my inbox yesterday morning, both from big names in the social business space. Different people, same message — moving on to new job opportunities:

  1. Maggie Fox was leaving Social Media Group to join SAP.
  2. Jeremiah Owyang was leaving Altimeter Group to start his own firm, Crowd Companies.

I sat for a moment and thought as my coffee cooled off, “double job switch…what does it mean?” A couple months ago Rawn Shah wrote a blog post cataloging 30 personnel moves in the social business space. Does this all signal some seismic shift in the social business world?

In short, no. People change jobs all the time.

What it means, borrowing from Maggie’s post, is that there’s a group of social media old-timers who are continuing to explore industry evolution as it branches out in many different directions.

Best wishes to Jeremiah and Maggie on your new directions!



Change is changing

We talk about change management. Change as a process. We tend to think of change in business as something that needs to happen once in a while, when the need arises. It’s uncomfortable, but necessary. There is a whole industry called Change Management that has built up over the years to help people through these inflection points. Change management is big business these days, because just about every organization knows they need to change. And the bigger the org, the harder it is to change.

But change is changing…

To read the entire post, visit the Dachis Group Collaboratory.

New dogs and old tricks

Shel Israel recently wrote an elephant-identifying post titled Why SM Consultants are Coming in From the Cold.


I call it an elephant-ID post because it focuses on industry mechanics that are all around us, but no one is talking about directly. To summarize what stood out to me in Shel’s post – social media is no longer highly disruptive and consultants who made themselves famous during the normalization now need to align with larger companies to help the early ideas scale in practice.

Jevon called this a period of “social media arbitrage” where the consultants that Peter Shankman hates and Shel calls know-nothings were the Sylvester McMonkey McBeans or carpetbaggers making money in this market shift. Thankfully it’s over and we’re moving on to the era of social business.

This normalization is hard to miss. Look no further than the Taco Bell crisis earlier this year and the adept use of social media to stop the crisis dead: it’s social business as usual.

Professionals have been departing for greener pastures all around. Looking at the career path of the social business professional, stability is key with volatility increasing in the market as a good reputation and high visibility are hard to build. People seem to be in constant motion. Chuck Hemann leaves WCG while Aaron Strout and Brad Mays join. Shwen Gwee and Zena Weist join Edelman Digital, Michael Wiley and Blagica Bottigliero leave. Kira Wampler and Shauna Causey depart Ants Eye View. Jeremiah is tracking these moves on a regular basis. In case you haven’t noticed, we’re in the middle of a war for talent.

And it’s not just individuals. The economic downturn led to an inflection point roughly last fall, where you could see the capitalist tendencies everywhere signaling social media’s “Summer of Love” era was over. It must be the money.

I was employee #1 at Dachis Group and it’s energizing to see how we’ve been leading the shift to social business. Today we’re the world’s largest social business consultancy. Profitable. Have delivered over 500 social engagement experiences. And that’s tiny compared to what we’re working on now.

But we need help – as Shel identifies, individuals can’t meet the demands of today’s market and even small companies are overutilized. Dachis Group needs to run with some “new dogs” – professionals who have fresh legs, energy, and a knack for social business, who know “old tricks” – that is, have been consulting strategically, managing accounts, and designing experiences since back in the day.

If that’s you, then consider joining us.

Charlene Li on Open Leadership

Last week I discussed the updates to Groundswell and I’d be remiss if I didn’t highlight the continuing work of co-author Charlene Li.

Charlene Li

Charlene has been a trusted advisor to marketing leaders for over a decade, helping make sense of search and portals in the early days and then building awareness and understanding of social media.

After co-authoring Groundswell, Charlene followed up with Open Leadership. I asked her some questions about both books.

Q: Business books run the risk of becoming outdated before they get from concept to print. Yet Groundswell has retained its relevance after three years in print. Why?

When Josh and I wrote the book, we designed it around frameworks and stories, which can withstand the test of time. We had a three year time horizon, but for a Forrester analyst, our three years actually stretch out longer than that! But more importantly, while technology and the current business trend of social media is a foundation for Groundswell, it is not the focus. People and the relationships with them are the focus. And you can see it reflected in the very human stories that begin each and every chapter.

Q: What is the best story you’ve heard of Groundswell’s impact on a company or business professional?

Countless organizations have used the book as a foundation for how to use social media. But it’s the personal stories that stay with me. One person recently came up to me and shared that Groundswell was the reason why he changed careers, moved his entire family across the country, and became a top executive at a hot social media start-up. He and many others said that reading Groundswell was like having a new world revealed to them. As an author, there is nothing more rewarding or humbling than knowing that your words had an impact.

Q: You wrote a book after Groundswell, Open Leadership. How do those work together?

While I was speaking about the ideas in Groundswell, people started “getting it”. But they were troubled by the idea of having to give up control and asked, “How open do I need to be in these new relationships?” This is an especially tough problem for people in leadership positions, who are essential in getting support for a relationship-based social media strategy. So often, people start with either Groundswell or Open Leadership depending on what the problem is. Many executives today are pretty well read, so they will skim Groundswell for the frameworks, and then read Open Leadership for the deeper, more relevant questions. My Groundswell co-author Josh Bernoff also wrote a follow-on book, Empowered, as he saw similar questions arise around how to implement the concepts in Groundswell. 

Q: As you say early in Open Leadership, “being open is hard.” What are the best ways to get a company started down an open leadership path?

The most important thing that an open leader does is share, so companies need to create a culture of sharing. Rather than hold information close to the vest, they seek out opportunities to connect with customers, employees, and partners. The key difference is that today, it’s no longer done by walking around or sending personal notes. Social technologies allow you to share at scale. To create a more open culture, Premier Farnell CEO Harriet Green created an internal video sharing site called “OurTube” and encouraged employees to share their best practices. To support this, they placed several thousand handheld video recorders all over the company. 

One of the things I do with top executives is to get them more comfortable with sharing in the channels they already use. If it’s email, that’s fine! They have to master a mindset of openness first, rather than have to do that AND contend with juggling a new technology at the same time. 

Q: Social technologies are being adopted in many workplaces today, while their use in personal lives are impossible to ignore. Are open employees a good thing for companies?

Open employees can be a very good thing, but only if you can structure and guide that use. Being more open isn’t about throwing open the doors — in fact, I believe companies actually have to be very disciplined about defining how open employees can be. At Best Buy, they have the confidence to let 2,500 of their employees answer questions openly on Twitter. That didn’t happen overnight — it required years of the organization inching towards this point, and happened only after repeated smaller successes where employees showed they could be responsible with greater openness. The reality is that your employees can say something every day and any day about your company. And for the most part, they exercise tremendous judgement — and don’t. Imagine the power that could come if you could harness that employee good will and direct it toward a purpose and goal. The impact could be immense. 

Q: What should employees not at the top of the food chain do? Are the principles of OL different when you’re early in your career?

It’s a question of whether and when you see yourself as a leader. I define a leader as a person with followers, and the principles apply no matter where you are on the org chart. More than half the examples in Open Leadership are of people not in top executive positions specifically for that reason. The key difference is that earlier in your career, especially if you are at the front lines, your source of influence and leadership comes from the relationship you develop directly with your followers, not because of a title or designation bestowed upon you by the organization. Those followers may be inside your company or outside of it. 

For example, recognized the top users of it’s internal social sharing tool, Chatter, giving them the name “Chatterati”. CEO Marc Benioff brought the Chatterati to his leadership offsite, along with 300 of the top executives of the company because he recognized that the Chatterati had influence and power within Salesforce. In fact, he saw them as a key way for the company to move quickly by breaking down hierarchies and silos. 

Q: Groundswell, then Open Leadership. Any hints on what’s next?

My favorite chapter in Open Leadership is Chapter 9 which discusses how organizations deal with Failure. As we work deeply with organizations at Altimeter Group, I see a lack of resilience in companies ability to incorporating new, disruptive technologies. It’s one of the reasons I’m developing a framework to assess new technologies. The goal: to help companies figure out which technologies they should move quickly to adopt — and which ones they can safely ignore. My hypothesis is that disruptive technologies are like the canary in the coal mine — if your organization can be resilient in the face of technologies that you can see coming from far away, you’ll have a better ability to respond quickly to other disruptive threats such as economic downturns. 

Many thanks to Charlene for sharing!

When and when not to speak

Black and white: everyone should participate in social media

Shades of grey: not everything should be discussed and in many cases, people should consider participation carefully to avoid difficult situations. For example:

There's nothing new in venting about one's job. The problem lies in experimental use of new communications channels. Discretion used to be default; conversations were limited to the examination room, teacher's lounge, and water cooler. We kept them out of the elevator, hallways, and bullpen.

Policy is your safety net, but an organization needs training to teach people when and when not to speak.

People-Powered Louisville

For more Louisville pictures click here

It's Derby Day tomorrow, which reminds me of the times I've inhabited the infield on the first Saturday in May, along with all of the wonderful people one meets there.  Things have changed a lot since I was first there 20 years ago and with lots of interesting things going on there today, driven by talented individuals.

In no particular order, but in #followfriday style, here are some of the locals worth finding out more about:
I've also got my eye on the Idea Festival in September, which looks like a great event and good reason to visit Louisville.  And if you're from out of town, a nice place to stay is the 21c Museum Hotel attached to Proof On Main.

Personal branding as asset allocation

We’ve all been impacted by the global financial crisis in some shape or form.  As we uncover the reasons behind the current chaos (this is the one of the best related posts I’ve read), one theme that keeps repeating is investment in risky vehicles.  Many seemed solid at the time, based on constructs like the Gaussian copula function.  Or at a personal level, carrying a manageable balance from month-to-month on a couple credit cards (perhaps in addition to an adjustable-rate mortgage).  Now we know better…right?

Well, how are your personal brand investments doing?  Pretty well, I hope.

Let’s pause for a second – you are tracking the activity of your personal brand, right? As Lord Kelvin said, if you want to manage it, you must be able to measure it. You can get started with this framework for measuring social media.

Where are you investing to grow your personal brand?  (Normally this would be a rather gauche question to ask, but with personal branding it’s all out in the open anyway.)  Time equals money.  How are you spending yours?

Here’s a brief description of personal brand investment classes:
  • Aggressive. Sites that are hardly known, but offer a chance for you to reap big gains by being an early adopter.  People who were early on Twitter and FriendFeed have been able to make a name for themselves as guides.  On the downside, your investment may disappear if the site goes bankrupt, e.g. ma.gnolia or Pownce.
  • Growth. Sites that have reached critical mass and close to mainstream adoption.  For example, LinkedIn, MySpace, and Facebook.  These are closer to dividend plays – they offer value from the existing network and connections going forward.  On the downside, these assets can fall out of favor and lose value rapidly, e.g. Friendster.
  • Conservative.  Tactics that don’t benefit from network leverage, but generate solid returns.  For example, having your own domain and mapping it to your blog’s URL.  On the downside, it takes a lot of hard work to build these positions.
What would you do if Twitter suddenly shut down? Or Facebook and LinkedIn?  Or Six Apart, WordPress, Blogger?  “Hey, remember me?  I had that Typepad blog.”  or “You might not remember, but I was following you on Twitter.”  To mitigate this risk, it’s important to reinforce the strength of your connections with direct personal contact.  That’s doesn’t mean sending auto-DMs; it means actually connecting.

Allocation is key and will be driven by your personal goals and objectives.  Only you can determine your personal branding asset allocation and at minimum you should review where you’re invested.  If you’re concentrating your efforts into a single area, you may be overexposed to risk or not allowing your brand to grow fast enough.

Ego Trap: Social Media Ranking Tools

It seems like a new ego trap gets sprung every month.  This time, it's social media ranking tools.

What's an ego trap? In a nutshell, social technologies use game mechanics to get users hooked on participation.  People often get addicted to ego-stroking system feedback, until they can temper their usage (addiction?) in terms of utility vs. serendipity.  Self-promotion lies at the root of ego traps.

I don't think ego traps are inherently "bad."  However, I believe that individuals should be fully aware of the implications when participating – particularly what they're trying to accomplish and why.  Honesty with one's own ego is the key.

Some people are panicking after submitting their Twitter username and password to a site called Twitterank, which will "determine how worthy of a person you are in Twitterverse," while potentially stealing your password in the process.  Clearly an ego trap in action.  Why?

  • There's no practical use of the service except for stroking one's ego. 

[Okay, I know the other posts had longer lists, but this one is just too obvious.]

Similar social media ranking tools include egoSurf, Twitter Grader, twInfluence, and [the now defunct] TweeterBoard.

Ranking tools are great when they're used for fun.  Be smart and don't give out your password to random sites.

BTW if you want to see if your favorite Tweeter got caught in the Twitterank ego trap, visit[username]


influence influenza

After the discussion last week here regarding influence, I asked my colleague Kate Niederhoffer for a more detailed opinion on the topic.  So she's cross-posting here and on her blog.  I'm turning off comments and trackbacks here so the conversation can happen at the source – click here to visit the original post.

Whether Influencer Listers are egoists or not, the comments on Peter Kim’s post
last week questioning the self-promoting nature of said lists raised
some interesting assumptions about what we expect from the construct of

To sum up the commentary:
Influencer lists provide no value because they’re simply popularity lists.
Influence is undefined and ambiguous.
Influencer marketing is ineffective, or diluted because of size and the ambiguity of lists

blogged before about my dislike of measuring something for the sake of
measurement. Specifically, I’ve been pretty harsh when people make
magic formulas combining a hodgepodge of variables then call it
Influence. In my opinion, these approaches go wrong for 3 reasons.

The formulas:
• Lack objectivity
— arbitrarily involve variables simply because they’re available (e.g. # friends)
Lack reliability
– incorporate variables that measure the same thing multiple times
(e.g. friends on Facebook + followers on Twitter + connections on
Lack Validity – fail to show that they predict a meaningful behavior (e.g. “real influence,” sales, good content, etc.)

going into detail on psychometrics, I think others would agree there’s
an abundance of digital breadcrumbs available to us… we have to start
to show how they relate to meaningful constructs; influence, arguably,
being one of them.

I think the call to arms today is mainly about validity: we need evidence that people are measuring what they’re trying to measure—that “influence” algorithms predict something meaningful (e.g. widget adoption?).

be clear, our expectations for influence, influencers and influencer
lists probably vary as widely as the ways they are being measured.
Transparency will be key.

All this, and I still haven’t come down on the practice of influencer marketing…

Ego Trap: Influencer Lists

I’ve been thinking about how ego traps operate in social media – which could also be called hero marketing (credit Seth Godin for suggesting the term).  Social media focuses on individuals.  Self-promotion lies at the root of ego traps, usually inclusive of helping and promoting others.

I don’t think ego traps are inherently "bad."  However, I believe that individuals should be fully aware of the implications when participating in a hero marketing scheme – particularly what they’re trying to accomplish and why.  Honesty with one’s own ego is the key.

There’s some chatter going on about "50 of the most powerful and influential women in social media."

Influencer lists are ego traps in action.  Why?

  • The list host seeks credibility as an authority, in order to win more business.
  • Those included on the list legitimize the host by linking back to the list.
  • Those left off the list (and/or their friends) legitimize the list by linking to it.

(To Ron Hudson’s credit, he comments on the digg story, "…digg this story so that they are discovered by more people. Keep in mind, you will also be contributing to my own popularity as well. With that in mind, digg or digg not.")  Other influencer lists include people on Twitter, marketing bloggers, or the Silicon Alley 100.

Influencer lists are great for discovering new voices and recognizing well-done work.  Let’s just be aware of and honest about what everyone seeks in the process.

Previously – Ego Trap: Industry Awards