Tag Archives: Men’s Health

Social Networks for Business Tip #2: Put your finger on the problem

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


Do not jump on the bandwagon

About three years ago, when Facebook got that huge valuation from a mainstream company known as Microsoft, we all began to hear comments like, “we are going to create company blog,” and “we are going to create a social networking community for our customers.” This was not a surprise; this bandwagon effect always happens when new, trendy technologies begin to emerge from the “Early Adopter” phase.

Unfortunately, when this occurs people often focus primarily on implementing the hot, new technology. The belief is that simply implementing the technology in vogue will create the same success that caused the technology to become hot in the first place. As a result, we see many solutions that “work” from a technology perspective, but do not move the needle from a business one. This can leads to disillusionment with the technology itself (something Gartner calls the Technology Hype Cycle). According to Gartner, this has begun with many enterprise social media technologies

The problem Is not with the technology, it is relying solely on technology

I teach a class on scope management. When I teach it, I start with the same exercise. I ask everyone to define Scope. I almost always get the same answer; that scope is all the features and specifications the technology must provide. For some reason, too many people think “Scope = Technology.”

Many sources (including the Project Management Institute) define scope as the combination of: 1) all the capabilities needed to meet a business objective, plus 2) all the resource required to obtain this. Essentially, scope is everything you need to do to solve a business problem or meet a business objective. (Notice this is not a technology-based definition)

If the scope of your initiative is only “to create a blog,” you will simply do just that: enable someone to in your company to blog. However, if your scope is “to enable your CEO to demonstrate s/he is listening to your customers” you will need to provide a lot more—namely the processes, roles and technologies to—

  • Detect and analyze areas of customer concern
  • Author, edit and publish essays (Blog Post) eliciting customer feedback
  • Analyze and aggregate customer feedback into actions
  • Implement these actions within your business
  • Track, measure, summarize, review and publish these results to your customers

Simple delivery of technology is not enough. You need to combine it with process and role changes with the explicit focus on creating business value.

The easiest way to focus on business results: Put your finger on the ‘problem’

So now it looks like I am calling for a larger scoping exercise (vs. something simple like “just create a corporate blog.”) Won’t this lead to long meetings and longer scope documents that no one reads and never get fully executed? Not if you use the Problem Statement Approach

Over the past two decades key initiative and process improvement methodologies like Six Sigma, Lean, and the Rational Unified Process (RUP) use structured problem statements to define scope. Structured problems statements use a simple, repeatable approach to determine:

  • What problem you trying to solve
  • Who is affected by this (and how this affects the enterprise at large)
  • What you need to provide to fully address the problem

It does this very quickly–in one PowerPoint slide. This gives you a 30-second “elevator speech” to easily communicate your scope, enabling you to gain support and keep everyone focused “on the same page.” It also avoids ugly scope creep fights. If you are doubt whether something is in scope, ask, “Is this required to solve the business problem?” If the answer is “Yes,” it is in scope; if “No” it is “gold plating” that should be omitted.

Examples of companies who have applied this well

It is always easiest to understand how to apply this by looking at good examples. Here are three. (Click on the logo to visit the community that demonstrates this concept)

Men’s Health

Rodale wanted to boost revenue and brand loyalty in a way that fully aligned with their mission. They created the Belly-off Community and liked it to online and in-print promotions. Men read about tips to lose weigh online and Men’s Health magazine, then go online to upload their photo, compete to lose weight, get ideas from others and simply get moral support. The result was a hugely popular community that generated brand loyalty, increases subscriptions and increased online advertising.

HGTV’s Rate My Space

Scripps  wanted to boost their online revenue and become the place for people to think about home improvement. They created on online community to let people share their improvements, ask questions and provide feedback to others. Scripps combined this with processes and roles that helped people get ideas (and more value) from the community. The site was so popular and valuable that it led to the creation of a TV show.

Dell IdeaStorm

Dell pioneered online sales. It wanted to harness online communities to provide customer service, get input from their customers and share how they were listening. Dell pursued a variety of combined initiatives, from CEO Blogs, to online forums, to crowd-sourcing ideas for product improvement. This not only required technology; it required integration of new processes, roles and technologies with Dell’s existing technology and business infrastructure.

If you focus on building communities that solve business problem, you will have a much greater chance of creating business value and generated large returns on your investment.

Social Networks for Business Tip #1: Treat social as a channel not a destination

More and more of late, I have been asked to share advice as to how to build effective communities to advance the needs of businesses and government agencies. As I reviewed my notes and lessons learned I have found ten common themes that apply irrespective of what your enterprise does, your market is or what technology platform you are using.

Today, I am beginning a series of posts to share this advice. There will be 10 Tips; each with a particular theme. These are intended to be read in the order presented, as they will build upon each other…


Social media brings new channels to manage

Just like ten years ago, when we heard that the Internet was going to “change everything” and that “old models” like bricks-and-mortar were gone, we have now heard that social media is going to change everything (you can see my prior post on this). It is not.

Before the rise of the World Wide Web, enterprises had five primary channels to reach out their stakeholders:

  1. In-person Meetings (e.g., focus groups)
  2. Telephone (outbound telemarketing and inbound call centers)
  3. Direct Mail (direct response marketing and inbound requests)
  4. Facsimile (similar use to direct mail—just faster)
  5. Media advertisements (TV, newspaper and radio)

The broad adoption by enterprise of the Internet via the World Wide Web added five new channels:

  1. Online information queries (enabling real-time checks of prices and transaction)
  2. Internet-based commerce (a truly transformational change)
  3. Interactive chat (similar use to telephone)
  4. Email (similar use to direct mail—but faster, cheaper, and more interactive)
  5. Interactive media advertisements (pop-ups, online advertising)

Initially, these channels were “new and experimental.” However, organizations learned very quickly to manage these like more traditional channels (achieving greater revenue, efficiency and methods of interaction).

Communities (and “all things social”) add a new set of channels:

  1. Content sharing (wholly new way to get ideas and information from stakeholders)
  2. Commenting (the new version of the focus group)
  3. Forum discussions (brings back the old party line from the early days of telephony)
  4. Micro-blogging (similar to forums but less focused on any particular topic)
  5. Ratings (quantified capture of interest and satisfaction)

The big difference is that social media brings much more public and open channel that stretches out over time and geography. (However, you can manage how open this is)


You need to manage these just like your other channels

You simply need to manage your social media channels just like you manage all of your other channels:

  1. Determine what message(s) you want to share
  2. Determine where and with whom you want to share it
  3. Design how you want the interaction to work
  4. Follow your standard processes to create content, obtain approval of it, and share it through these channels
  5. Incorporate the results of this channel into the management of your enterprise (just like you do with every other channel).

Yes, you do have to take the extra steps to manage what happens in this channel. (I will get into this on two later posts.) However, you have already tackled similar challenges when you setup extra steps to monitor what your Customer Service Representatives say in call centers or what emails are forwarded around the world or what poor customer interaction stories are shared through pre-Web 2.0 channels like news outlets, better business bureaus and web sites.

Who does this well?

It is easiest to learn by example. Here are three organizations that leverage social media as an effective channel to enhance their businesses (click on links to see examples):

  • Men’s Health (Rodalle) Belly-Off (website, community, diet subscriptions, magazines, etc.)
  • CNN (Time Warner) iReport (website, community, TV, etc.)
  • American Express OPEN Forum (website, community, TV campaign, call centers, etc.)