Tag Archives: identity management

Social Networks for Business Tip #6: Let Your Members Be Themselves

I have found ten common themes that apply irrespective of what your enterprise does, your market is or what technology platform you are using. This is my sixth tip in this series. There will be 10 total posts; each with a particular theme. The tips are intended to be read in the order presented, as they will build upon each other…


We Already Have Far Too Many Accounts to Manage

A comment I hear almost monthly is:

“How do you find the time to maintain all these social networking accounts? I barely have time to keep my LinkedIn entry up to date.”

This is a very telling comment. It is a reminder that social networks are NOT the center of people’s lives. (For most people, technology is NOT the center of their lives; instead it is something they are required to use.) People already have more accounts than the ever wanted:


Don’t Ask Your Members to Join Y-A-N (Yet Another Network)

It is hard enough to even remember all the usernames and passwords for these—let alone keep profile information and contact lists up to date in each. (If this were not true, why would so many sites have functionality to remind you your username and password?)

ourstooThat is why I am always chagrined then I see someone setup a community (or provides a community toolset) that asks users to register for yet another network (YAN for short). What these communities are doing is asking people to make their lives just a little bit harder and more complicated.

The Altimeter Group recently published their latest Groundswell Report that quantifies this. While 82% of people actively go online, only 51% actually join the communities they visit. At a rough cut, this means only 5 in 8 people who go online actually register in online communities.

Instead Let Them Re-Use Their Existing Accounts

Real-world Example (Sanitized to Protect the Innocent)

Over the summer I was attending on of the larger Social Media conferences (one big enough for Tim O’Reilly to be a Keynote Speaker). I was sitting next to a manager of an online Business-to-Business community (built from one of the major Enterprise Social Media providers). She indicated to me that she was getting lots of visitors but was not getting many registrants (in fact she had far more Twitter followers of the community than actual members of the community ). I pointed out that to “Follow” her community on Twitter, people only had to click the “Follow” button on Twitter (whereas to join her community, they had to create a username and password). I recommended that she let her Twitter followers re-use their Twitter IDs to join her community. She indicated she would, “Ask [her vendor] if they could do that…”

I recommend that any consumer-facing community do this. Instead of asking people to register, let them re-use one of their existing accounts from any of the major consumer network providers. If you allow your members to use IDs from AIM*, AOL*, Facebook Connect, Google*, LinkedIn, Microsoft Live ID, Twitter and Yahoo!* you will let over 1 billion people register for your network without creating yet another login. (Simply enabling Open ID gives you access to users of all the asterisked services.)

This Lets You Access A Big Picture

This approach does far more than simply eliminating the registration barrier (as well as forcing your members to remember yet another username and password). It also let you see the bigger picture by tying the activities members perform in your community to those they do in the wider Web 2.0 world. Here are two scenarios:

Tying Your Community to Facebook

You create a Fan Page on Facebook that directs users to your community. When visitors click through, you allow them to use Facebook Connect to log in. This not only makes it easier to let participate in your community: you can now tie together data you collect from Facebook with activity from within your community to get a bigger picture of your customer.

Tying Your Community to Twitter

You Tweet info on your community over Twitter (with a bit.ly URL to your community). When people click on the URL, you let them join your community with their Twitter username. This makes it easier for them to join (and can even let them broadcast their activity over Twitter). It also lets you tie together their feed on Twitter with activity from within your community to get a bigger picture of your customer.

An Example of This in Action

Here is an example, albeit a demonstration community example. It is a crowdsourcing community to connect people who are experts on home improvement with people who need services.


Users do not have to sign in unless they want to contribute content (e.g., ask for a home improvement project, offer a solution or rate or comment on an existing solution). When they do, they are presented the option of using one of five consumer networks to identify themselves (AOL/AIM, Facebook Connect, Google, Microsoft Live ID or Yahoo!)


Once they sign in, they are signed into the larger consumer community as well (making sharing via social media optimization easier). You can try it out here <demo no longer available>

A Simple Reminder: Social Networking and “All Things” 2.0 are about connecting people

Social Networking and “All Things 2.0” are about more effective use of “the network” as a platform to capture knowledge, share ideas, inform and innovate. However, all networks start—and end—with people. If we do not remember this when we design, build and create these technologies we will not enable effective use of “the network.” Instead we will simply create clutter.

Social networking is not new

Social networking has been around since our ancestors combined living in groups, social hierarchy and the use of speech. In addition (as much as I hate to admit it) social networking technology is not new either: BBS systems and Usenet were social networks; Blogs, Forums, Comments use most of the same technologies we build Web 1.0 on; AOL had Community Leaders in the 1990s.

However, social networking as a business model has exploded since the high valuations of companies like Facebook. This has lead to a proliferation of companies, technologies and experts advancing the use of social networking and social networking-related concepts.

The social networking business model is now “[Your Term Here] 2.0”


Over the 12-18 months, I have been in many discussions (real and @virtual) that have advanced the point that we should not call this model “social” networking because it is about work and creating (public or business)—not about socializing. We now see more and more terms like Enterprise 2.0, Government 2.0, Mobile 2.0, Health 2.0, etc., in greater use as we move away from the “purely social” social networks.

Credit: www.McKinseyQuarterly.com
Credit: www.McKinseyQuarterly.com

However, it is STILL about connecting people

As we use these terms, the run the risk of moving away from focusing on core of what we were trying to do in the first place: improve how people connect, share information and collaborate so they accomplish whatever they are trying to do (from picking a baby-sitter to discovering a cure for cancer) more easily and efficiency. Rather than debate nomenclature and terminology, we should instead debate about what are the best ways to foster trust and innovation in whatever respective area (Business, Government, Health Care, etc.) we are trying to address.

People ARE the network

peopleAt the end of the day ideas, work and achievements come from people. As people realize success and failure they develop connections with other and learn who to go to for help or insight and who to avoid. This combination of knowledge, experience and connections is the network.

Social networking and 2.0 technology should be about making this easy

All of the technologies we are building and marketing around the concepts of Social Networking, Web 2.0, etc. should be focused on one thing: making it easier of people (the real network) to find each other and share knowledge, experiences and insight to “get something done” that is important to them. Everything else is noise and distraction.

My tips on how to achieve this

Here are my five tips on how to make it easy for people to use all of this stuff we are creating to make their lives and work easier:

  • Focus on Something That Matters to Us, Not Just Creating Yet-Another-Network. We already have our real networks in life. Don’t focus on making us re-create these in your product. Instead let us focus on using your product to make something we want to do as part of our everyday lives. (For more on this, see my post on Business Services).
  • Let Us Drive Before We Buy. Don’t make us log in as soon as we get to your product. First, we want to see if there is something there that helps us. Wait until we need to do something that requires me to identify oursevles (like add an idea) before you make us log in.
  • Don’t Make Us Create Yet-Another-ID (YAID). All of us already have our existing email accounts and user names for AIM, Facebook, Twitter, etc. Let us use these rather than creating yet another account we have to remember.
  • Fit How We Work, Don’t Make Us Fit How You Work. We are busy and do not have time to manage yet another technology. Enable your technology to integrate with or fit on top of what we use today – from our systems at work to our mobile phones. (For the techies among us, see my series on architecture principles to achieve this).
  • Protect Us. Most of us were brought up on the model of not talking to strangers. This is even truer on the Internet. Let us control the privacy of our information. Provide moderation to protect us from Internet harassment. These two items are key to creating trust—which in turn is key to fostering collaboration and sharing.