Archive for March, 2007

Get to Give, New Startup

I was recently at a Keiretsu Forum (International Angel Group) of which I am a member and saw Aaron Saddock, President, of a new startup, Get To Give. Interesting company with an interesting objective. They have created a new kind of loyalty program that has a three-way win. They work with consumers, charities and merchants to create a way for a consumer to give have money donated to their favorite charities when shopping at stores who’s owners have agreed to support those charities. The consumer gets a loyalty card, signs up at Get to Give’s web site and selects up to five charities they would like to support. They then look through a list of local merchants who Get to Give has signed up and when the consumer makes a purchase and shows their card, they get a discount on their purchase and the merchant send a donation off the charity.  Charities can also have cards created with their brand on them.

As I said in the beginning, this is a very interesting concept. I talked with Aaron and have a Podcast of the conversation.  If you have few minutes, check it out. I think it is great when a team of young entrepreneurs get together and focus on ways to make things better while still building a technology focused business.

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Let’s Get Started!

Ok, so you read my earlier post and watched the part of the video. You’re convinced that you should be involved and want to know what you need to download or buy to get started. Well, not so fast!

Hopefully, you picked up on the conversation in the video about how you need to think about the what, where, why, who and how of blogging and social media before you just throw something up. Remember Chris Pirillo saying companies were saying they want to be “Web 2.0 compliant, Like it is a standard”.

I like to think of this as the proverbial three legged stool where one leg is “Concepts”, another is “Strategy” and the third is “Tools”. You should work this through in that order. You should take some time and understand the basic concepts starting with blogging. Follow a couple of Blogs and get or use an RSS reader (RSS another concept to understand).

Listen to some Podcasts; you don’t need an iPod or mp3 player to listen to them. You can use your computer to listen. If you have iTunes, look at what they have available as Podcasts. If you don’t have iTunes, download it; it’s free as are the vast majority Podcasts (Ricky Gervais, the comedian, has put a charge on his newer casts). Listen to how businesses are using Podcasts and think about how they may or may not fit into your business.

Check out a few companies to see what they are doing. One business site that is a must see is Cisco. They have gone full bore into social networking and building communities on their site. There are other technology oriented companies like HP, IBM and Microsoft who have a large number of the technical staff blogging about their products.

Once you have the concepts down, you need to develop a strategy around the what, where, why, who and how.

  • What is it that you want to accomplish?
  • How do you expect to fit this into your current operations and how might it change the way your functional organizations work?
  • What is your corporate policy regarding blogging and what is allowed and what should remain sensitive or proprietary?
  • Who in your organization do you think will be good representatives to be online talking about the business?
    • Start with your engineering and product managment teams.
    • Will the CEO participate? Customers really like the idea of having access to the business leader.
    • What about Customer Service, are you thinking about changing the way you communicate with customers using social network tools? Maybe you can replace static FAQ’s with a blog where everyone can see the questions, all the answers and even ask new questions?
    • Should you put up a Wiki (a collaborative workspace) where customers, distribution partners, industry experts can help you build your next generation products? You can controll access if you need to.
  • Where will this new tools/applications exist?
    • Do you put up a new, complementary web site that sits behind your firewall or use a hosted solution?
    • Do you add capabilities to your current web site?
    • What about access to your current documentation? Do you already have some Content Management System or will you need to build one?
  • What metrics will we use to see how effective this is in meeting our goals?

Hopefully, as you  read through this list you begin to see what you just don’t throw something together and get it up without thinking through the above issues.

Once you have your strategy, you will know what you you need to accomplish and you can begin to look at tools and systems that will meet your needs. Luckily, a number of companies have developed suites of applications/tools that were created with the idea that they will be used in businesses and there are more coming to market every month.

In the next few posts, I will cover some of the tools. If you have any questions, make sure to ask them using Comments. A good source of learning the concepts is Wikipedia. This is lots of content and descriptions tools and applications. You can also leave me some contact information and I can send you some papers my company has developed on the subject.

Great Roundtable – Scoble, Broback, Edwards and Pirillo on Business Blogging

In my last post, I covered some historical aspects of business blogging. Well, I have come across a video roundtable discussion between some of the most respected bloggers in the field where they are talking about blogging moving into business and why business leaders need to pay attention to this. You get to hear Robert Scoble talk about how blogging developed or Chris Pirillo commenting on why business leaders need to pay attention to how this is changing the way businesses operate and compete. Steve Broback, who has been working with Fortune 50 companies and his experiences. Andru Edwards starts as the interviewer but then joins in the conversation.

Rounding out the group is Teresa Valdez-Klein who works with Steve over at Blog Business Summit and Brandon Paddock a developer at Microsoft.

If you decide to download the video, understand that it is a very big file, about 250MB. It lasts about an hour. So, if you are pressed for time, at least catch the first 20 minutes.

My thanks go out to Teresa, I came across it while going through her posts at Blog Business Summit.

Business Blogging, Some Background

A couple of my 2007 predictions involve blogging, podcasting and other social networking tools moving into the enterprise. I thought it might be useful to post about how this whole phenomena started and follow with a few posts to lay the ground work for business leaders to understand what it means (or doesn’t mean) to be Web 2.0 compliant.

When you look at the sheer number of bloggers and the amount of ink that has been used to talk about blogs, bloggers, and social networking, you might guess that it has been around for the past 10 or 20 years. Well, when the Internet bubble burst in 2000/2001, there were only about 400 bloggers in existence and there were no tools for creating, managing and following blogs.

What did exist was a number of very technical people in the Silicon Valley area who had been laid off, were bored and wanted very much to communicate with each other, if for no other reason than, to talk about the companies and leaders who had just fired them. Take self proclaimed “geeks”, have them involved in something they are passionate about, and they will develop tools to make things easier. More importantly, they were a pool of technical knowledge to test new things and provide feedback to the developers.

Among the universe at the time were Ben and Mena Trott who created blogging tools and turned them into Six Apart one of the leading blogging suites in the market. Robert Scoble who eventually went to work for Microsoft and became one the leading blogger/video bloggers on the planet. Also around at the time, although I don’t think unemployed, was Dave Winer who is credited for being one of the creators of code to simplify the distribution and syndication of content known as RSS (Really Simple Syndication). He also created a capability called an “enclosure”,which facilitated the distribution of audio (podcast) and video (vlogging) files by passing the address of a media file to an RSS aggregator.

The end result, the number of bloggers has been doubling about every six or seven months. Sites like MySpace and Facebook have developed with millions of users and turned into businesses that were acquired or sought after by companies who would like access to the eyeballs who use/visit the site.

Some of the tools were joined together with other new web development capabilities (commonly referred to as Web 2.0) and new communities were built. MySpace and Facebook were created as communities. Flickr was created for exchanging photos and Diggwhere users vote on the best news of the day along with hundreds of other community related sites.

Bottom line is that the tools were created and used to communicate, socialize and connect with like minded individuals who formed communities. So it makes sense that the subject area is referred to as “Social Networking”.

I have provided some hot links to reference pages in Wikipedia for anyone who wants to read a little more about the people and sites mentioned above. From there, Wikipedia provides further links to specific sites.


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