Bizmeth buzzword

It sounds like a chemical, but that’s bismuth. (It’s bismuth in the image above).

Bizmeth is a portmanteau word made up of “business” and “method”. And although Collins dictionary didn’t think it was much in use in 2014 it’s now the name of a web design company, a consultant company and training company.

I heard it used by a consultant recently, I suspect it might be a part of consultant’s vocabulary since it saves a whole two syllables.

The definitions I’ve found of ‘business method’ as a term are very high level.

One site redirects to business process and cites ‘The series of activities undertaken to create a product or deliver a service.’

Wiki gives “A business method may be defined as a method of operating any aspect of an economic enterprise”. (And they’re quoting a paper from the Advisory Council on Intellectual Property).

So far so general as to be useless.

But there’s a difference in patent law, in the US it is possible to patent a business method, that is a process, rather than a tangible invention. In Europe it’s not possible unless the business method includes some technical element.  Which is why the patent troll industry is mostly in the US.

From now on when I hear “bizmeth” from a consultant I’m going to translate it as “process”.

Image:  Bismuth  |  Mathias Appel  |  CC 0 1.0

Great Summer Reading List 2017

Hurrah for summer! You’ll pack up your swimsuit, sunblock and sunglasses but what will you take to read? Here are my picks.

Leadership

(1) Weird Ideas that Work, I love the title, and I’m enjoying the combination of counter-intuitive ideas that turn out to be practical.  One chapter is devoted to “find some happy people and get them to fight”, which sounds like a recipe for disaster but it’s about building creative conflict – which is positive and useful. (This is not a new book, and the edition I have has been sitting on my bookshelf for years. )

Sustainability

(2) The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History, by Elizabeth Kolbert, is a frightening look at the real changes happening in our environment, from a fungus that is killing off frogs, to a decline in bat numbers, and our warming oceans. You can whet your appetite with an article in the New Yorker from the writer.

Business

(3) Everybody Lies: Big Data, New Data, and What the Internet Can Tell Us About Who We Really Are, explores just how well Google knows us, and is written by an ex-GooglerSeth Stephens-Davidowitz. While we might post a lot to social media we post the good news, the real story of our lives is revealed in our searches.

(4) Hit Makers: The Science of Popularity in an Age of Distraction, looks at why one artist (Monet) becomes famous, and another (Caillebotte) didn’t. Apparently luck has something to do with it.

(5) The Content Trap: A Strategist’s Guide to Digital Change, Bharat Anand examines the different strategic approaches taken by publishers in the digital world. 

Biography

(6) Not exactly a biography, but certainly a hero’s tale The Bad-Ass Librarians of Timbuktu: And Their Race to Save the World’s Most Precious Manuscripts , by Joshua Hammer, tells the story of smuggling ancient books and texts out of Timbuktu after the Al Qaeda took control.  I haven’t read it yet but the National Geographic article about it makes me hope someone’s bought the movie rights and plans to star Mahershala Ali.

(7) Part memoir, part self-help guide; I am looking forward to Shonda Rhimes’ Year of Yes: How to Dance it Out, Stand in the Sun, and Be Your Own Person. She is someone to admire, who has managed to not only be her own person but to put roles on screen that reflect ourselves.

(8) One of my favourite reads in the last year was Disrupted: My Misadventure in the Start-Up Bubble which tells the harrowing story of Dan Lyons’ year in a startup in an amusing way while explaining what might be wrong with the startup and VC ecosystem.  

Personal Effectiveness

(9) Insight by Tasha Eurich, a psychologist, who looks at whether we’re self-aware or deluding ourselves, and what we can do about it. Sounds interesting in a slightly scary way.

Fiction

Summer should be all about the serious things so here are two fiction reads;

(10) I am so happy that Arundhati Roy has returned to writing with the The Ministry of Utmost Happiness and I can’t wait to read it.

Don’t like my recommendations? Try Bill Gates’s.

Image: Summer Read  |  LWYang  |  CC BY 2.0

Leading a (Virtual) Team

Leading a team has been the most challenging, and the most fun, part of my job. At times I’ve had team members not actually in the same room as me – or even the same country, that makes it more challenging but the principles of managing a team remain the same. Here’s my take on it.

There’s a lot of discussion about working remotely particularly as Yahoo and IBM removed that option for their employees, however there’s research out there indicating that remote teams can be as productive or even more productive than co-located workers.

I’ve had remote workers in three different set-ups;

  •  remote, working from another location including one in another country (with a different time zone)
  • regular, working from home 1-2 days per week
  • occasional, working from a different location for an occasional short period, for one colleague it allowed him to be in Spain for the bachelor party and the wedding of his closest friend.

In all three cases there were good business reasons for the person’s choice of work pattern, and I always had a team who were mostly in the office together. In the case of the person working at home 1-2 days per week it saved a rather long commute.

In leading my teams I’ve always tried to provide; a clear purpose, clear work assignments, regular progress evaluations, a good relationship with me as the manager and a connection to the rest of the team.

Team in the Room Remote Team
A Clear Purpose -annual/quarterly conversation for whole team to discuss team purpose -annual/quarterly conversation for whole team to discuss team purpose
Clear Work Assignments -annual performance review sets high level deliverables
-project design sets short term deliverables
-annual performance review sets high level deliverables
-project design sets short term deliverables
-rolling email tally of tasks and progress
Evaluate Progress -1 on 1 meetings each week (or two weeks)
-publish project progress
-1 on 1 calls each week (or two weeks)
-publish project progress
Relationship with a Manager -1 on 1 meetings each week (or two weeks)  -1 on 1 call
-daily chat on messenger
Connection to Team -Bad music Friday
-Friday team lunch
-Team events
-virtual “watercooler”
-project with team
-bring remote worker into team events

As you can see it’s not much different to manage a remote worker, but as a manager, I needed to document things in more detail because I wasn’t seeing them each day, and I had to make a specific effort to have a chat for a social purpose, the chat could go into work territory but typically began with a mention of coffee.

HBR did some research into how to make virtual teams work that backs up my empirical conclusions, particularly the idea of having regular contact across the team and between team the manager and the remote colleague. Unsurprisingly communication is the key to making it work.

Personally, I like having the option of working remotely, it allows me to really focus on an assignment. It can also be convenient if I have a mid-day appointment. I know that the flexibility is appreciated by team members. I haven’t seen any change in the productivity of any individual.  As a manager I wouldn’t want to manage a team where everyone worked remotely all of the time. At some point it would be hard to maintain the connection with each team member and across the team. But with a team of motivated professionals the option to work remotely is positive for the team members and the team.

Image:  Teamwork  |  ThoroughlyReviewed  |   CC BY 2.0

Boil the Frog

boil the frog

“Poor frog” is what I always think when I hear this expression.

The theory behind it is that if you put a frog into a pot of boiling water it will jump out immediately, reacting to the heat. But if you put a frog into tepid water and then heat the water very gradually the frog won’t react to the increased temperature.

I don’t know who is boiling all all these frogs but the metaphor works; people will stay in unpleasant or unhealthy situations despite warning signs because they rationalise the warning signs or convince themselves that things will get better -somehow. It’s often used to remind you to take action when you sense things are not going well; as Henna Inam wrote in a Forbes article “Do something about it when something smells funny.  Even if it’s not on your job description, it’s your job.”

But scientists who study frogs (without boiling them I trust) say that it’s a myth.

So the science is off, but the metaphor works.

Image: Frog  | Nèg Foto  |   CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

User Generated Content

User generated content

In my last post I wrote about the Engagement Ladder, the top rung of which is user-generated content, I’ve been thinking more about this form of content and looking for some positive examples, here’s what I’ve come up with.

User generated content can be a great loyalty builder for brands, but there are some things to consider before you launch your campaign.

Is your brand ready? You’ll be giving up some control of your brand, if your marketing, legal, risk teams aren’t ready for that reality you’ll need to do more work internally.

Is your brand positively viewed? If you open up your brand for user input while your brand is in a crisis the blowback will be swift. Starbucks famously started a Christmas campaign in 2012 with the hashtag #SpreadTheCheer, a nice idea, and large screens were installed to display the messages in stores. Unfortunately the company was in the middle of a crisis around paying tax in the UK and the tweets focussed on that rather than the festive season.

Does your brand have a tribe? You need a group of your customers/clients to be engaged enough to want to build content for your brand, otherwise there’ll be no response.

Can you create a fair process? You need to respect the rights of the content creators, which may include offering fair payment, and you need to be clear on what you are promising to do with the work created.

There are three ways to elicit content from your customer groups.

Open Call

Publish a request for customers to submit content, sometimes this is done as part of a competition. It sounds generous, giving all customers a chance to contribute, and it can work, but your brand needs to be positively regarded and you need to be clear about what you’re planning to do with the work. One example of a celebrity crowdsourcing a design did generate a concept book cover, but also generated plenty of criticism from the designer community. The more open your make the call and selection process the more likely you are to get the backlash. However this may still be a good option for a shorter or local campaign. There are a number of companies using hashtag based selection on Instagram to share themed posts (#ThankYouAmsterdam for example), and the results are positive for both parties.

Selective Approach

Research who of your customers is already creating great content, or look for social media influencers whose work matches your brand. Invite them to contribute content.

Spotify are using some of their subscribers’ lists in ads, building on their existing fanbase, I’m sure they’ve researched the lists and contacted the subscriber before building the ad.

Existing Community

Your brand already has a group of committed fans, who are independently building content.

One of the best examples out there, demonstrating the loyalty and ingenuity of customers, is IKEA Hackers. Although at one point IKEA tried to close the site.  The site showcases ways that IKEA products have been repurposed; cabinets become a  bed base, vases become a bathroom wall, and a folding desk saves space. A smarter approach might have been to engage the IKEA Hackers and look for ways to support their activities to enhance the IKEA brand.

Lego have successfully built a community of super loyal fans,  their brand is based on the human needs of playing/building together and the pride of creation so their online platform Lego Ideas ties into the brand and gives their fans a chance to develop new lego sets – the best of which go into production.  They also support the robot building lego league, although it was not started by the company.

One of my favourite example of a personality doing this is the wonderful, Oscar-winning actress Lupita Nyong’o who uses #FanArtFriday on her Instagram account, the images are beautiful and reflect her career. She’s genuinely excited to share them.

user generated content

Three things to think about before you start;

  • company readiness
  • process including legal rights and payments
  • your commitment to using the final work.

Spotify and Lego show us that user-generated content can work for a company, but it takes brand commitment and a tribe.

Image:  Artist   |   M McIntyre   |   CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Engagement Ladder

Engagement Ladder

There’s a figure that gets quoted about engagement; 1, 9, 90. Which is a ratio representation of engagement.  For everyone person who contributes content, 9 might like it and 90 will see it. It’s a little simplistic, and there are more forms of engagement now so it’s helpful to think of the engagement ladder.

Engagement Ladder

Starting from the lowest rung of the ladder

Seen / Read

How many people saw your image, watched your video, read your content. This is the lowest level of engagement as it requires the least amount of effort from your visitor. It’s roughly equivalent to reach, although you might want to consider how much of your content was viewed or read.

It doesn’t tell you much about the person’s attitude to your brand, or their likelihood to purchase. We’ve all read stuff we don’t agree with, sometimes because we don’t agree with it. To compare this to a classic sales funnel it’s at least awareness.

Liked / Facebook Reaction

The next rung on the engagement ladder is a like, a G+, a Facebook reaction. It’s low commitment, a one click easy reaction, Facebook reactions tell you a more. Personally I’m pretty quick to like posts on Facebook or Instagram, much less likely to do so on Twitter.  As likes are visible to others this level of engagement does indicate that the visitor has a possible interest in your brand – but be careful. Facebook rates all reactions the same, but a thousand “angry” reactions won’t translate to sales for your company.

Commented

The third rung is comments, or reactions to your posts. If you’re posting on social issues, as Banana Republic did in the screenshot below, you’re likely to attract a lot of comments.

It takes more effort to comment on a post, positive comments are a public endorsement of your brand. It’s going to take some effort on your part to analyse the comments, or to parse the sentiment analysis provided by social listening tools.

facebook comments

Shared

If a person shares a post, retweets, embeds your video, they’re increasing your reach as your content is now (potentially) reaching a new audience.  They’ve also added your brand to their online reputation, this doesn’t map easily to a step in the sales process, but sits between evaluation and decision. They’ve added your company to a mental list for possible future purchases.

CTA

Some of your content might included a specific Call To Action, or CTA. For many companies this is exactly how they sign up more customers or subscribers, you can see some examples of great CTAs in this article from HubSpot. (And I’ve just shared content from a brand I have never been a customer of, but I’m aware of them, and they remain a potential supplier if I’m ever in a purchase decision for their services in the future).

Your CTA might be a subscribe, follow, download, or purchase option.

Created Content

The ultimate brand accolade, when users generate their own content related to your brand. But it’s a tricky area, with brands needing to pay attention to copyright and privacy issues.

Spotify have taken the step of using the real titles of subscribers’ lists in their own ads, it’s a campaign strategy that is infinite since their users will always be creating new lists. It resonates with their audience really well – seeing your own list picked up for an ad is cool, or whatever the kids are calling it these days.

When your customers take the step of creating content around your brand and sharing it you can bet you’ve got the ultimate level of engagement.

Image: Ladder | Rich Bowen  |  CC BY 2.0

World Refugee Day

World Refugee Day
Warsan Shire wrote a poem about the refugee experience which includes the frightening image

no one leaves home unless
home is the mouth of a shark

The sentiment throughout her poem reflects the words of another great poet, Shakespeare, although he wrote from the perspective of the residents and calls on the to empathise with the refugees

Why, you must needs be strangers: would you be pleased
To find a nation of such barbarous temper,
That, breaking out in hideous violence,
Would not afford you an abode on earth,

The UNHCR provides data on the current refugee numbers, there are an estimated 65 million displaced people, that is people unable to live in their own homes due to war, conflict or persecution.  This is higher than it has ever been.

refugee data

Refugee Data from the UNHCR

Please note which are the top hosting countries. Around half of the world’s refugees are hosted by ten nations, of those ten nations just one, Turkey, is an OECD nation. Much of the rhetoric in the west is fear-based, the reasons for not taking refugees is that they pose a danger to us. However, as the Huffington Post pointed out, there are a bunch of things more dangerous than a Syrian refugee.

So have the courage to support your country’s initiatives to grant refugees the right to live in your country.  Write to your MP, senator, President, King.

Donate to charities that support refugees;

There are also local ways to help refugees settle, here in the Netherlands there is an award winning volunteer organisation called Refugee Start Force , which began with the idea of connecting locals and new arrivals for a cup of coffee, but it’s led to much more, helping refugees learn Dutch, find their way around the Dutch system, furnish their homes and find work.

Search for the hash tag #refugeeswelcome to find local initiatives you can support.

Next time you hear people reacting to the settlement of refugees in fear, anger or hate recite “no one leaves home unless, home is the mouth of a shark” to yourself and be brave enough to speak up for the millions of people forced to leave their homes through war, conflict, persecution.

Image: Refugees Welcome on Seawatch 2  |  Brainbitch  |   CC BY-NC 2.0

Response Matrix

Brands building a presence in social media have to manage the comments and responses. It can seem overwhelming, indeed if your company hits a crisis it may be overwhelming. A response matrix is a simple tool that can reduce the pain of responding to social media responses. It still relies on the expertise and good judgement of your social media or webcare team, but it guides them and simplifies training.

Step 1 Analyse Types of Responses

To create your own response matrix think about all the types of responses you might get across your social media channels. There are five generic types of responses you can use as a starting point.

response matrix step 1 analyse responses

  • Positive any thank you, or kind remark from one of your customers.
  • Question it’ll have a question mark on it
  • Error a statement about your products, service or company that is factually incorrect
  • Negative a complaint about your product, service, company etc
  • Troll someone who is posting in order to stimulate a reaction from you

Step 2 Define Your Response

For each type of comment or post you receive define the way in which to respond. I’ve given generic examples below.

response matrix step 2 define your response

  • Positive thank the contributor
  • Question answer the question, even if that means sourcing an answer from another part of the company – remember the customer does not care about your organisational structure
  • Error correct the facts, acknowledge any frustration
  • Negative solve the complaint if possible, explain if not possible
  • Troll monitor and do not respond

Step 3 Detailed Actions

You will need to go into more detail on the action steps for some posts. For example if a negative post is a product complaint you will need to detail the actions to be taken to correct the issue, and the actions may depend on whether the product is under warranty or what sort product it is.

In general customers expect a fast response on social media, KLM are responding within 7 minutes on twitter today. However there may be specific “hot” issues that your web care team need to refer to other teams. Work with those teams to make sure that quick responses are possible.

If there’s a common complaint you can even create a standard text. Many years ago I worked for a Dutch company whose legal name included the word “groep”, which is Dutch for “group”. Periodically we received comments from people stating that we had spelt group incorrectly – we had a standard text to use as a response for that, it began “thank you for being so observant…”

Response matrix step 3 detailed actions

Step 4 Combine into a Flow Chart

Your final response matrix should be a decision tree, a tool to help your web care teams act on customer posts on social media. This is a massively simplified generic version, but I’ve collected real versions published on the internet on a Pinterest board shown below.

Response matrix step four combine into a matrix

Step 5 Publish and Train

Publish your social media response matrix, itTrain your web care teams on your response matrix, they need to;

  • correctly and consistently evaluate the posts
  • use the defined process to respond
  • use a consistent tone of voice, which might be more informal than your usual corporate voice

Response matrix step 5 publish and train

I recommend a regular review of actual cases handled using the response matrix to ensure that it is covering all relevant issues – a tool that is not relevant will not be used. A quarterly review as a minimum, but you might want to use a higher frequency in the first phase.

Effective response relies on the web care teams using good judgement, the response matrix can’t replace that, you can never define every possible response.

Good luck creating your response matrix, and if you publish it online give me a shout, I would love to pin it.

Tragedy of the Commons

Tragedy of the CommonsI think I first heard about the tragedy of the commons in economics class, the term dates back to the writings of William Forster Lloyd in 1833 and the commons he was referring to was the shared grazing land that might be associated with a village and could be used by all villagers or commoners to graze animals.

Shared grazing land works as long as each commoner shares fairly, as soon as one grazer adds more livestock than his/her share the resource becomes over-used and unsustainable. In an ancient village it worked through two pressures; the finite resource was enough for each commoner, and the commoners knew each other so social pressure would act to keep any greed in check.

In the modern world, and in the absence of any regulatory check, both of these pressures are absent. In this scenario individuals has a tendency to use as much of the resource, the commons, to their own advantage. The result is that the commons becomes depleted and ruined.  Each individual is incentivised to use as much of the resource as possible, meanwhile the costs are spread amongst all users.

In 1963 Harbin extended the concept to include environmental issues, positing that a finite planet can only support a finite population, and since then the term has been applied in discussion on the environmental and sustainability.

US and the Paris Agreement

It’s come up again this week in reaction to the US President’s announcement to withdraw from the Paris agreement.

Most sane people are horrified by this decision because science.  Most of the world’s scientists agree that climate change is real, and caused by human activity.

The real debate is how fast the change is happening and what we can do about it. In 2016 most of the world’s countries signed the Paris Agreement – 197 in total, with 148 ratifying it thereafter. Only two countries did not sign; Syria and Nicaragua. Syria because its leaders are under sanctions and cannot enter Europe. Nicaragua did not sign because, in their view, the agreement didn’t do enough. So although many articles are grouping Syria, Nicaragua and US into one group it’s unfair: only Trump’s America is rejecting the agreement out of a belief that they don’t need to do anything. †

The planet has become  “the commons” and we’re looking at fair exploitation of a finite resource. The Paris Agreement was an attempt to address that “fairness”. It is an agreement where states set their own targets, but since there is no supra governmental body to monitor countries’ performance they can be considered non-binding. The Paris Agreement is flawed, but not as flawed as the President of the US has claimed; his statements have been extensively checked by the Washington Post.

The Discussion on Climate Change

I’ve spent some time in discussion with online commentators, and those supporting the President’s decision do so for one of three reasons

Reason 1: God will fix it:
This screenshot is from a conversation on Instagram, the sender contacted me by DM after I asked her a question on a public post. (The sender went on to call me a stalker, if they read this no doubt they’ll find a worse epithet.)

To which Michelle Wolf had the perfect response:

Reason 2: The US is being treated unfairly, because China produces more greenhouse gas than we do.

There is some truth in this statement, on an absolute numbers bases China produces more greenhouse gases than the US. However it also has 4 times the population. In addition historically the US has produced more greenhouse gases than any other nation. Here’s a map showing the per capita use around the world from the EAA

The US has been exceeding its fair use of non-renewable energy for decades. If the Paris agreement seems unfair perhaps try thinking of it as redressing the balance.

Reason 3: The US is already a leader in sustainable energy

No, the US isn’t. There seems to be an weird belief that the US is the best at whatever is under discussion amongst some commentators.  China outstrips the US on building wind power capacity, by a factor of 3 (2015 figures).  If you think a per capita comparison is fairer, I took the data for 2016 total installed wind power capacity, divided it by the population and then the US has 205 MW per million people compared to 84 MW per million people in China. But before you exalt, 10 countries outperform the US including Uruguay.

I’m using wind power installation as a rough proxy for sustainable energy, it’s true there are other forms; Hydroelectricity where China also leads on capacity, and Solar Power, no prizes for guessing that China also leads there.

The US is not a leader in this.

Climate Change Impact

Climate change is already having an impact around the world.

Tuvalu has seen a rise in sea level of 20 cm., and with other low lying small nations has seen an increase in the number of serious storms they experience.  Mauritius has been facing this since 2013. Many African countries are vulnerable as temperatures rise and they may lack the resources to address changes. That refugee crisis we have now will be dwarfed if nations become unable to feed themselves.

But Americans don’t need to look overseas for examples, Louisiana is losing about a football field of land every hour. There several factors contributing to this but one is rising sea levels.

Alternative Explanation

Whenever big outrageous news is announced I look behind it for what else is going on. Hiding unwelcome news behind something attention-grabbing is a useful communication strategy. So what else has been going on in US politics?

The Other US Reaction

About 70% of Americans believe climate change is real, but have a harder time seeing that it will impact them. It’s the sort of risk question humans are terrible at answering,  one that has a big impact somewhere in the future.

Some extraordinary Americans have stepped up, from individuals to business leaders to civic leaders.

Michael Bloomberg, a long time activist on climate change has promised to find a way to support the operations of the the branch of the UN that coordinates the activities on the Paris Agreement.

The Governors of Washington, New York and California, which is about 20% of the US population have begun an alliance of states committed to the Paris Agreement.

Companies such as Apple, Ford, Exxon Moblie, Tesla, Disney, Microsoft, GE, IBM, Salesforce, Amazon, Intel, HP, Goldman Sachs, Google, Shell, Virgin have all stated their commitment to continue reducing greenhouse gas production.

There is also a certain amount of peer pressure in play, US companies may need to meet the regulation of their export markets. Consumer pressure also has an impact both in the US and around the world.

While we teeter on on the brink of another “tragedy of the commons” it seems that the single most powerful person in the commons has much less power than the combination of other commoners.

It turns out the president doesn’t have as much power as he thought. How about that.


† When he’s not being President of the country but merely chairman of a company that owns a golf course in Ireland that’s threatened by rising sea levels Mr Trump believes in climate change bigly.

Image:  Beef Research  |  CANFR  |  CC BY-NC 2.