A Business Technology Place

Moving from Webinars to Hangouts

Hanging out isn’t just for youths anymore.
It was perhaps, your favorite thing to do in high school. You left home to meet a group friends. Your mom asks “what are you going to do?”, and you reply “Oh, nothing really, just hangout.” Now, years later you’re reading, hearing, watching, or even participating in a new kind of hangout. A Google+ digital Hangout.Google+ Hangouts

This hangout spans social and business boundaries.
What’s nice about the Google+ Hangouts is they are taking on meaningful business roles. The media uses them to discuss current news topics. Google uses them for interviews to draw fans closer to book authors and musicians. Politicians are using them for town hall meetings. Musicians use Hangouts to announce new albums.

When will business webinars change?
This week I ran a business webinar for some colleagues. We used the Cisco Webex service to show a slide deck and had a conference call dial-in. That’s been the norm for many years. The format is main-stream and provides comfort for presenter and audience. Presenters can have some level of disorganization and error correction without a visual to the audience, while the audience can multi-task without anyone else knowing. This format provides safety because participants can’t see each other.

But how much more powerful could a video hangout be with closer interactivity with participants? Just imagine seeing the speaker and a few of the participants and creating more of an environment of dialogue rather than presenting. So much of communication is with body language and facial expression, that this type of format is ripe with opportunity.

But change means barriers and most people resist change. Here are a few barriers to Google+ Hangout adoption that I have noticed.

  1. It’s a different mindset and people react differently when you tell them you want to put them on camera. For the participant it means they have to pay attention (no multi-tasking). For the speaker it means keeping a professional appearance and focus on the participants as well as the the content.
  2. With the accessibility and relatively low cost of high bandwidth today video streaming should not present a problem for most. It’s more likely a business participant will be blocked by some social media firewall policy. That’s too bad and it’s time for business policies to catch-up on how people and businesses are using social media sites to make relevant connections.
  3. Google+. I’m a user and fan of the social platform. But many people still are not. Unfortunately, when I’ve tried to talk to others about it they have never even seen or used the site. What that means is if you tell them that Google+ is hosting a webcast event it makes them less likely to even try to view it. I think this will change over time and Google continues to report increased usage of the Google+ platform.

How can businesses overcome these barriers and take advantage of this tool for business interactions that create conversation, create leads, and show industry knowledge?

  1. Look at how other businesses are using Hangouts. A few examples:

a. Google Play hangs with Steven Spielberg and Joseph Gordon-Levitt about their movie Lincoln.

b. The New York Times chats with an olympic athlete.

c. NASA discusses innovation with the public.

  1. This post from Fraser Cain with tips and tricks for Google+ Hangouts has become a living post. Interested parties continue to add comments to the post. It gives a great overview of things to consider when providing live broadcasts.
  2. Sell employees on the value of live video interactivity and dialogue with customers. Can it create more qualified sales leads? Does it show an added level of subject matter involvement? Is it more engaging?
  3. Use the Hangout for live and recorded information distribution. The great thing about Hangouts is you can use them live with an audience that wants to participate in the topic at-hand. But then you can also use them as a recorded playback for others to see. Interaction is still possible for recorded play back in the comments section of a blog post, YouTube video, Google+ post, etc.

I’m interested to know if you have started experimenting with Hangouts. What uses have you found within the business world.

How marketing technology, agile marketing, and Marissa Mayer are influencing the future org chart

An engineer turned CEO is a story that attracts attention.
The recent news that former Google engineer Marissa Mayer is filling the role of CEO at Yahoo! is a great example that traditional career paths in a functional silo are becoming a thing of the past. It should come as no surprise that company leaders today need to be well versed in both business and technical principles. It’s the result of the role of advancing technology and the digital world. Logically, it makes sense too. The most diverse leaders will be those with experience in multiple areas of the business.

But every career path doesn’t have to end with CEO.
The Real Story Group recognized the Rise of the Enterprise Marketing Technologist from recent research on the growing trend of digital marketing tool sets. A marketing technologist is a growing role in organizations even though they may have different titles the point is that the boundaries between marketing and technology continue to blur. Even my title is currently composed of “marketing technology”.

As I look back at the eCommerce organization mind map that I created, I can see the same concept there. Ecommerce management leaders have responsibility in software development, content management, merchandising, demand management, etc. Ecommerce is truly a melting pot of technology, sales, marketing, and operations.

Agile principles will further influence this trend.
Scott Brinker created a nifty diagram showing the Renaissance Career. The term may be a good description of the change that I believe will start to grow in the business world regarding career paths. That’s because the idea of agile development methodologies for software development is spreading to agile marketing methodologies.  Agile thinking values responsiveness over planning and focuses on interactions between functional areas more than passing large documents between them. Yeah, that means you might have the marketer and IT programmer at the same table. Lingos, language, and understanding will blend and blur.

This is good news for all of us. But what does it mean for “functional” departments in the company?
This means opportunity. It means rewards for those who seek to understand how technology solves business problems. For some it means advancing to an executive leadership role with more knowledge of how the enterprise operates. For others it means finding opportunities to serve in areas where they would not have ever imagined themselves.

Do you think this will lead to removal of functional groups in the enterprise such as marketing, IT, and sales? Will the future corporate department be organized around products and services more than the functional groups we know today? This means a more customer centric alignment rather than work type alignment. It allows the blending of our current functional roles into roles such as a marketing technologist.

Hmm. That would be a renaissance. What do you think?

The next paradigm shift in news delivery

Let’s stop using Facebook as the measuring stick for other social sites.
Say what you will about Google+, but Google continues to support and promote the platform as a connection tool. This week they announced improvements in the mobile application that makes it more visual, easier to use, and creates mobile inter-connectivity with video hangouts.

I don’t think we’ll ever see another social platform with the same number of eye-balls as Facebook. But it is with Facebook that Google+ is most often compared. That’s unfortunate, because only measuring a social platform by the number of users and the time spent on the site is short sighted. We really need to look at the social site in context of what it offers, the connections it makes, and ultimately if it fits into a revenue model for sustained viability and relevance.

This post isn’t about Google+, but it supports a feature that is creating some important changes.
Hangouts. In simple terms it’s a multi-point video chat that supports up to nine people. That’s pretty cool for friends looking to converse or families looking to connect. It’s a feature right now that separates Google+ from other social platforms.

But there are other uses for Hangouts as well. Here’s a discussion with Google product managers about features in a software application. Mitt Romney was the first US presidential candidate to use a Hangout for a town hall session and President Obama has used hangouts as well. So politicians and businesses from multiple industries are starting to use hangouts for touch points.

The news media continues to adapt and evolve with digital media as well.
I’m intrigued by the changes in the news media industry to connect more with readers/viewers in the information age. Earlier this year I wrote about how social media is affecting the news media, But now I’m noticing that media outlets are beginning to use live interactive video with viewers to create a new level of engagement.

The New York Times is experimenting with Google+ hangouts to discuss global issues and other news topics and Patch.com is experimenting with live chats and uStream channels. This is the beginning of another paradigm shift in the news media industry as the readers and viewers of the media become part of the news story by participating in discussions and offering their opinions and observations on topics.

Proactive news agencies are already starting to adapt and experiment as “readers” become “viewers” online. It’s those viewers now that won’t just receive the news, they’ll take part in delivering the news. Think about that and go get familiar with a digital hangout.

Disclaimer: I freelance for Patch.com although a different patch site mentioned in this article.

Your social media footprint is your history

We are fascinated with history.
Maybe History wasn’t your favorite subject in school, but I suspect that certain aspects of history get your attention now. There’s the History Channel on cable television with popular shows like Pawn Stars, American Pickers, and American Restoration. In fact Pawn Stars scores at the top of some cable TV ratings for certain age groups. There are books, documentaries, investigative reporting, etc. that all touch-on our fascination with history.

Historical information appeals to us because it’s about about how people and objects interacted to create a moment in time. They create a story and a connection for us to relate. We say life is all about relationships today and it was all about relationships back then also. Relationships are part of the fabric that makes us. So why wouldn’t we have a fascination with history.

We are fascinated with our own history.
There comes a time in the life of most people where they want to know more about their family lineage. For me, it hit during my college years. I spent some time at the local archives digging through census records and got back as far as my great great grandfather. Then just when I thought was picking up steam my grandmother told me she believed he was adopted. So it became complicated to proceed and I had school work to do and dropped my research.

Today, sites like Ancestry.com pull together information and provide tools to aid in historical research. I love the phrase I see when I pull-up the Ancestry.com site: “Ready to discover your family story?” That’s the connection with people. It’s not just a history of people and names. It’s a story about who your family was during a moment or a passage in time. It’s a story about what made you.

Social media is creating a historical record of our lives.
Now think about what digital media sites are creating. We are creating historical time lines of events in our lives. No longer will people piece together bits and pieces of their history by a photo album with names and dates on the back of the photographs. We are creating a digital footprint of our lives by our status updates.

Facebook has captured this the best with their new timeline feature. Facebook says “Tell your life story with a new kind of profile.” In essence they’ll sort your posts, status updates, blogs, photographs, etc. by date so that you can create the sequential story of your life. Just imagine if you had that for your great-great grandparents. You’d be interested to read that right?

Other social sites such as Google+, Twitter, and Pinterest are building and keeping this type of information as well. Blogging is great for this too and whether you are recording events in your life or expressing opinions on a subject, you are creating a sequential series of content.

The social sites are like our digital diaries.

The good and the bad of it.
I know when the Facebook timeline feature was first announced there was a flurry of activity and blog post recommendations to look at your timeline and remove posts that you didn’t want to be public. So for example, all the things you said about your-then “significant other” you might remove. Or maybe it was the things you wrote as an impulsive youth and you’ve grown wiser with your words now and want to remove them from the record. Whatever the reason, the idea is to make sure your history is clean. Then there are the privacy concerns. Do we want to have all this information exposed to stalkers and criminals?

But I think the idea is more good than bad. What’s really happening is that we are creating a life journal just by populating our social spaces with content. At some point in the future we can go-back and see our thoughts, our pictures, our conversations, etc. It’s our history. It’s what we have made.

Go make history.
So value your history, your story, your life. Keep a copy of it for yourself and future family members. (Google+ and Facebook have options to download a copy of all your content.) It’s your history. Go make it.

Making sense of your social media life

Should we be overwhelmed with our social media life?
Quite a few people think so. A quick search on “social media overload” returns several articles and posts on how to avoid social media burnout. There are even self-help books out to help us manage information overload from social media sites..

But the question is not so much about “social media” as it is about the volume of information within it.

How did we get here?
In the 90s, the internet became more accessible and brought us connectivity to a collection of places (web sites) for information share. Browsers became a tool for turning computer code into graphical interfaces that we could view and click. What the browser really did was remove the requirement for the average person to know how to program. Most people could now read information written by a few content suppliers. Businesses quickly made their way to the internet to get information to their customers. It was the like the wild west land grab.

Then in the 2000s social media sites and blogging brought people together with other people. Suddenly, more people became content creators. They were creating posts, adding photos, and videos. Individual sites and profiles shot up like weeds in a spring lawn.

Then, in more recent years, all became accessible on our phones. Now we are connected digitally to our social networks no matter where we are. It’s no wonder many people feel overwhelmed.

We have our limits.
It doesn’t take many active Facebook friends, Twitter follows, or LinkedIn connections to have digital dashboards that are flowing with information faster than we can process. Oh and I’m not even counting SMS text messages (smile).

The situation is ripe for new businesses and some smart people have created tools such as HootSuite and TweetDeck to help us manage multiple social media sites in one interface. But these are just tools. They don’t make the choices of which sites you use, what content you create, what content you consume, or where your audience is.

It’s all about the audience.
To begin to make sense of this we have to focus on the audience. Who are your friends on Facebook and what do you have in common with them? Who are your connections on LinkedIn and what are their interests? What circles do you have on Google+?

My friends on Facebook don’t care about content on my blog. My followers on Twitter don’t care about the pictures of my friends. As I think about this, it’s like a Marketing 101 class and studying target audiences.

So while it would be nice to have all our digital life in one place, that’s not really how it works. Which is the way real life works too. We have different groups of friends at work, the neighborhood, interest group, etc.

Our social media life is really an extension of our real life groups.
Google+ launched with this in mind talking about our people circles. The concept is pretty simple. Just create a circle that mirrors your real life connections, friends, family, etc. So the idea is to keep information segmented by the appropriate life group so that it stays relevant to your audience. That works great if everyone uses the same program. But not everyone uses Google+. Or for that matter, not everyone uses Twitter or Facebook or any other social media site.

Is the answer to avoid them all or pick just one?
I know some people would sayto avoid the problem completely, just don’t participate in social networks. I guess that’s the isolationist strategy for digital livelihood and it’s certainly an available choice.

Another option is to pick just one place. I know for many that place is Facebook. It was the first social media site to really go “mainstream” and I think many people are happy just having that one profile because that is where most of their friends share information. Oh, and I’ll be honest, I really am a little jealous of this approach because it’s simple. Simplifying life and business is another topic to itself, but is so rewarding for those who can find it.

But for many of us, it’s not an option to use just one tool. Maybe it’s because we are a marketer or business person that needs to connect with people and customers wherever they are. Maybe it’s because we are digital savvy and just want to be in more than one place to keep up with technology. I’m in this group and at the end of the day there is more than one social media tool to manage.

Making sense of the chaos.
Do I dare say that the simple solution is to use each tool for it’s intended purpose? Twitter is not like Facebook. It was created for short bursts of information. It’s evolved to a real-time stream of thoughts and news information that sometimes provides links to more content rich thoughts. Facebook was setup to allow a larger amount of content in posts along with digital attachments. Facebook has been focused more on personal relationships whereas LinkedIn is focused more on professional relationships.

But part of the problem is it appears that so many of the social media sites are competing with each other for the same audience instead of trying to assert their unique value and attributes in the market place. So in some cases the audience is blending across the sites.

You can’t read and process it all.
There is too much information. Part of the “overload” in our lives is self inflicted. We can’t keep up with every bit of information that is published. What we can do is segment the information by group or source into areas that fit our life groups. We can make our digital life an extension of our real life. That will bring some order to the chaos.