Friday, May 30, 2008

SmallBizAmerica Radio Podcast interview

Smallbiz America is an integrated new-media platform created to help entrepreneurs profit in business and prosper in life.

Ron Sukenick has been called many things, including one of America’s leading authorities on networking and business relationship strategies. He is the author of “Networking Your Way to Success” and the co-author of “The Power is in the Connection: Taking Your Personal and Professional Relationships to the Next Level.”

This is Ron's interview of two of the four authors of The Emergence of the Relationship Economy -- Jay T. Deragon and Carter F Smith -- by Ron Sukenick at SmallBizAmerica.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

How do you find the right people? Recruiting Socialutions!

The economy doesn't seem to be improving and housing prices are dropping (though interest rates are, too). Common sense would say there wouldn't be too many folks looking to trade-in their current jobs for one that you are offering. The position is still vacant, and the Director is getting impatient.

So what's a recruiter to do?

Previously, we discussed fit for work. Perhaps the first thing to do is determine whether you are a fit with your present position. Surely you and your employer felt you were when you entered into the employment agreement.

So what has changed?

As we engage The Relationship Economy, we find many opportunities to improve how we do what we do. We also see a lot of opportunities for innovation.
But can we really innovate when we are working at the same place, doing the same thing for the same people over and over again? Can we tolerate innovation from people who want to work at our company when we know that the people we refer to aren't interested in all that newfangled technology? perhaps, but in the meantime, why not just innovate with what's out there and not worry about something with a bunch of bells and whistles?

Imagine this.

You are looking for people who do a certain job. Where do they hang out? Go there. Make friends with them now.

Don't offer them employment, just make friends with them.

Don't hide where you work or what you do, but do everything in your power to avoid selling anyone on anything. You are making friends, not finding applicants! This isn't your traditional socialution, but how's that been working for you?

Make connections with old friends, meet new friends, and simply talk with all of them to find things in common and build relationships with them. They'll find out (they may even ask) what you do. When that happens, tell them, don't sell them.

And for job seekers, how 'bout this (Dan Schawbel addresses the idea here in more detail, but I have a twist to add to the technology Dan addressed) . . . A virtual resume. Yes, it's bells and whistles, but if that's who you are, would you really be happy working somewhere that didn't appreciate your style?

Imagine the cover letter (e-mail) to the employer of your choice . . .

Dear Ms. Jones,

I was excited to learn about the availability of a position with your company that appears to have been designed specifically for me. Here's a link to my e-resume where I can better show you why I got that impression.


Bob Smith

(The technology demo is coming)

What do you think?

Allen, S., Deragon, J. T., Orem, M. G., & Smith, C. F. (2008). The Emergence of The Relationship Economy: The New Order of Things to Come. Cupertino, CA: Happy About

Friday, May 23, 2008

Customers can get Satisfaction - with Sunshine Socialutions

Meetings for government at all levels are covered by sunshine laws, which require opening to public view and access meetings and records regarding those meetings for public officials and organizations in a variety of scenarios.

In a previous post, we identified the term Customer Powered Service as service that is shaped by the customer . . . driven from outside the business to inside and designed to make the customer successful, not just to make support staff more efficient.

We suggested that Customer Powered Service should be seen as a return to the mindset of the marketplace . . . the empowering of the customer. We noted that Customer Powered Service was not just about the customer -- it's also about the service!

Get Satisfaction has been promoted recently in the blogworld as a direct connection between people and companies that fosters problem-solving, promotes sharing, and builds up relationships.

That sounds a whole lot like a Socialution!

Let's take a random look at the 1st and 10th ranked companies on the Fortune 100 - Wal-Mart and ATT.

Wal-Mart on Get Satisfaction had one active topic (7 months old at the time of this post). ATT, on the other hand, had 37 posts on Get Satisfaction, with the newest one 3 days before this post.

So what's that mean?

Is there a better customer service plan for Wal-Mart on the Internet than there is for ATT? Are more of ATT's customers likely to have Internet access? Perhaps Wal-Mart has better customer service, or maybe their customer's don't expect as much as ATT's customers do?

We'll leave those questions in the rhetorical category for now - check out the Get Satisfaction blog for updates. If you want to see what we've been doing, check out the Business Week article entitled “Consumer Vigilantes“, which looks at creative ways "we the people" are using social media to address the issues. Or, check out Jay Deragon's recent post, where he observed that businesses are spending time and money trying to figure out how to engage customers.

Otherwise, please permit me to change the conversation from what has been to what could be.

In the social web we see today, the problem with getting in touch with someone from customer service is inexcusable. There are a variety of ways that we can contact each other -- phone, text message, email, snail mail, fax, and . . . oh yeah . . . meeting in person. But once companies cross that Rubicon, then what?

Here's a novel idea . . .

Customer Service can be provided by joint-venturing with the customers, in real time, out in the open.

Imagine a strategy session broadcast live over the Internet where customers could engage (perhaps in chat, initially, monitored and verbally reported by someone present in the meeting). While the face-to-face discussion is under way, a parallel discussion is going on in the chat, and the C2M (Customer Communications Monitor) stops the live meeting to draw attention to the chat conversation.

The strategizers are intrigued, so they offer the virtual podium to the customers by way of Skyping them in?

Too far-fetched, you say?

That's the Relationship Economy!

What do you think?

Monday, May 19, 2008

Who does Social Networking better -- guys or gals?

According to a recent Rapleaf study, while both sexes still use social networking sites in huge numbers, women are the ones holding down the fort. I have known that the ladies "get" the social part of social networking (and online learning interaction) a heckuva lot better than us guys. Auren Hoffman will help convince you . . .

He suggests we should expect social networks of the future to cater to women and alienate men.

Rapleaf conducted a study of over 30 million people to see how they're using social media. While the trends indicate both sexes are using social media in huge numbers, their findings show that women far outpace the men. They predict that this gender gap on social networks (and increasingly in all of social media) will only widen with the next wave of innovation.

The study included mostly what was referred to as Social Networkers (those with 1-100 friends), about 13 million in all, or 80% of the sample. They found that in this group

  • Women have on average 62 friends.
  • Men have on average 57 friends.
  • Women are more likely to be "Social Networkers."
Do these findings support those of Schler, Koppel, Argamon & Pennebaker - Effects of Age and Gender on Blogging, which found that male bloggers write more about politics, technology and money, while female bloggers discuss their personal lives – and use more personal writing style?

It appears that they do.

As we noted in The Emergence of The Relationship Economy, there is good reason to think that networking comes naturally for women. Traits that are considered feminine in our culture , like cooperating, building relationships, helping, and developing others, are not surprisingly also those necessary in (effective) networking. Traditional male traits like directing and controlling get nowhere in networking, and may get you blacklisted in social networking (Forret and Dougherty, 2001).

For both men and women, success in networking depends on understanding and capitalizing on our individual strengths, and supplementing individual strengths with the strengths of those in our networks. The connectivity afforded by online social networking provides many opportunities for improved relations.

In The Relationship Economy, everyone has the opportunity to win, but maybe the guys will have to ask for help.

What do you think?

Responses here are always welcome (actually requested), and if you have a LinkedIn account, please take a look at the responses of others there.


Forret, M. L. and Dougherty, T. W. (2001). Correlates of networking behavior for managerial and professional employees. Group & Organization Management, 26(3), 283-311.

Hoffman, A. (2008). The Social Media Gender Gap. Business Week, available at

Schler, Koppel, Argamon & Pennebaker (2005). Effects of Age and Gender on Blogging. Available at

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Cabling together the Social Web -- that's Plaxtastic

Whenever technology advances to the point of usefulness, it's usually because someone found a great fit between two or more previously independent offerings. In techspeak, this has been referred to as a Mashup (adapted from the music industry).

Well, join me in welcoming the latest Mashup -- between Internet delivery, Telecommunications, Television, Videos, and the social web (and much more, I suspect).

TechCrunch just confirmed the acquisition of Plaxo, a six year old company, by Comcast, a 45 year old company.

Comcast will announce their acquisition of social contact list Plaxo today. Financial terms are not being disclosed, but the rumored purchase price is in the $175 million range.
I'm thinking the next Mashup announcement will be that Open Social (Plaxo is in) will be incorporated into next-generation set-top boxes . . . and we'll be surfing the social web (again -- remember WebTV, it looks to be a Microsoft product now) with a remote (and that's only the beginning).

Imagine yourself in the couch potato position with your remote and in the corner of your wide screen you get a transparent pop up message from one of your Plaxo contacts wishing you happy birthday. You respond with a thank you, and he notes that you recently posted your status indicating you were en route to a celebration dinner.

He confirms the open invite, and while you are on the way, you get a text message on your mobile that indicates the room you had reserved has been upgraded due to an additional twelve guests (pending your approval). You confirm, and hit the record video button on the dash of your car (probably a Ford, using Microsoft Sync and a Live Mesh application) and record a video greeting that your guests see as they arrive.

I honestly didn't expect The Emergence of The Relationship Economy would be this imminent . . . (you can download the e-book for free here)

What do you think!

(added - more here from NYT)

Bring on the Ratings (we already have them here)

In a recent post, Garett Rogers reported:

Some blogger users may have noticed their blog suddenly started showing star ratings — a feature that appears to be in the works, and according to Blogger, was given by accident to some unsuspecting bloggers. The feature hasn’t been released yet, and they have “fixed” the problem.
The Blogspot Known Issues Blog noted this is an experimental feature that was accidentally enabled on some users' blogs. Jmnlman suggests removing them when they do get here.

I disagree, with a caveat.

As we observed, in Anonymous blog ratings should not be used like a digital sniper rifle, ratings are important when we try to wade through the massive amounts of information as we engage the semantic web. These ratings will allow us to see what others thought about a certain author or product, and will likely allow us to filter the ratings by group, allowing us to see what all people, people in our profession, people in our country, and people in our social group thought.

But in the hands of some, anonymous ratings can be misused.

There are some who will act like snipers, usually for personal reasons, crouching on the rooftops of the Internet to pick off bloggers who spend (way too much) time posting their thoughts and ideas.

Here's a suggestion for Google on the Blogger site: Make commenting mandatory for ratings! If you don't like the post, say so! If it contains things you don't agree with, say so! If you haven't the intestinal fortitude to openly post your opinion . . .

What do you think?


Collaborative Socialutions . . . Where Does Collaboration Fit In?

The social web seems to attract a lot of definitional redefining, whether by adding numbers after a term like Collaboration 2.0, Business 3.0, or Office 4.0, or by combining two previously independent words into one as we have with Socialutions. These attempts at redefining can be useful, but they have a tendency to confuse.

Collaboration intuitively has a place in Socialutions, but where exactly does it fit?

Socialutions, which is not yet listed in, is defined as people, communities and organizations leveraging technology to interact with people for the purpose of solving problems; the act of working together with others to create new solutions to old paradigms of communications and interaction without boundaries and with limitless reach.

Collaboration, which does appear in, is defined as the act or process of working, one with another; cooperating, colluding, joining, assisting, or abetting.

Collaboration then, fits with Socialutions in the implementation – when we are working together with others to create new solutions, we are collaborating!

Tapscott and Williams, in their book Wikinomics, identified four steps to developing a collaborative culture.

• Encourage and reward openness in networking for all members of the organization.

• Create peering environments that foster self-organizing human connections for collaboration and innovation.

• Allow radical sharing to expand markets and create new opportunities.

• Think and Act globally as an individual, team and organization.

To achieve Openness means ensuring a culture of candor, flexibility, transparency and access. How many of today’s workplaces can accurately be described by these words?

Peering is also important in the establishment of a collaborative culture. Peering succeeds because it leverages self-organization.

As any business model demonstrates, expanding markets create new opportunities. These opportunities are beneficial, and often require insight into the local business culture.

Thomas Friedman was right - The World Is Flat. The only way that today’s companies will be able to maintain a healthy balance sheet tomorrow is if they focus on staying globally competitive. That means they need to devote time to monitoring international developments. They will have to begin (or continue) tapping the global talent pool. They will have to get to know the world.

In Collaboration 2.0, Coleman & Levine (2008) identified 10 Principles of Resolutionary (note, they are not saying Revolutionary, though it is) Thinking (p. 176):

1. Abundance

2. Efficiently Creating and Sustaining Collaborations

3. Creativity

4. Fostering Resolution

5. Becoming Open

6. Long-Term Collaboration

7. Honoring Logic, Feelings & Intuition

8. Disclosing Information & Feelings

9. Learning

10. Becoming Response Able

Note that each of these fits with the Socialutions paradigm, in the furtherance of our engagement of The Relationship Economy. Each of these contributes to a collaborate culture – even if the principles are implemented in pockets of the organization. And each of these principles can be learned, as long as the intended result is a positive change in the corporate culture.

In order to implement Socialutions, collaboration is essential. Today’s individuals and organizations are ready for a change. The time is right.

Ready, set . . . collaborate!

What do you think?


Coleman, D. & Levine, S. (2008). Collaboration 2.0: Technology and Best Practices for Successful Collaboration in a Web 2.0 World. Cupertino, CA: Happy About.

Tapscott, D. & Williams, A. D. (2006). Wikinomics: How mass collaboration changes everything. New York: Portfolio

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Socialutions Implementation Strategy: Taking your company from zero to hero on the social web

Many of today’s companies recognize the urgency of converting to a customer-centric, social web-based, operation. The excuses and faulty logic brought on by global prosperity have been replaced by an honest examination of internal operations and external market share. As the various departments search for collaborative ways to maintain profitability in uncertain economic times, we will see more and more arrive at the duh! moment of realization that the customer comes first.

We haven’t exactly reached the Utopia that Adriana Lukas describes:

Imagine having your customers share with you what they like, want and think of you. . . Interaction with them is modular, intuitive and user-driven freeing much of your resources spent on marketing and transaction cost.

. . . nor have we seen more than a few examples of big, giant companies who give more than lip service to the process Doc Searls detailed almost five years ago (and Eve Maler recently simplified for those who love simple graphics).

But there are some unpredicted catalysts on the horizon, and in the spirit of making right decisions, we see that adoption of a Socialutions paradigm is going mainstream.

Our proposal for Socialutions involves problem solving and finding innovative solutions through social exchanges. We are suggesting that organizations can capitalize on the relationships and relationship connections of the people connected to them in some way, whether these connections come from employees, vendors, customers, or wherever. But we maintain that the customer comes first. Not to the point of turning major strategic decisions over to crowdsourcing perhaps, but first nonetheless.

Tom Peters has a rather unique (not a shock if you know Tom Peters) perspective on where to put the customer. He says, “to put the marketplace customer first, I must put the person serving the customer "more first.”Peters (admittedly selfishly) proclaims:

To give a high-impact, well-regarded, occasionally life-changing speech "to customers" I first & second & third have to focus all my restless energy on "satisfying" ... myself. I must be ... physically & emotionally & intellectually agitated & excited & desperate beyond measure ... to communicate & connect & compel & grab by the collar & say my piece about a small number of things, often contentious and not "crowd-pleasers," that, at the moment, are literally a matter of personal ... life and death.

As Jay Deragon noted previously, the drive of tomorrow's successful organizations will be a new method and philosophy proclaiming "We the Peoples are all aimed at Socialutions" that creates perpetual value. We the people are aimed in that direction, but do the companies who serve us (even if we are after their employees) get it yet?

Here are some Socialution suggestions for getting from where you are to where you need to be in a hurry:

1) Make the cluetrain manifesto (especially the 95 Theses) mandatory reading for all your employees

2) Have your company intranet feature a link to Cluetrain @ 10 (a revisiting and revising after ten years) and recent posts on the Clueship.

3) On your company-wide strategy wiki (get one if you don’t have one), start a “top ten clues” list and allow anonymous voting.

4) Allow time off (5% of the workday would be a good start) for your people (all of them, not just sales and HR) to Twitter, blog, Facebook and MySpace for the company.

5) Run from traditional (old school) marketing as a source of “what works.” If it really worked, you would not have taken the time to read this.

And finally, if you click on this link, you can contribute to our efforts to get Socialutions into

What do you think?

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Anonymous blog ratings should not be used like a digital sniper rifle


There's something to the feeling of anonymity we get by connecting to the Internet to engage in some form of dialog. I've seen it empower a lot of students, teachers, bloggers, and others who feel better about taking often unlimited time to process their thoughts before responding to a question.

And ratings are important when we try to wade through the massive amounts of information generated by writers (like me) who would never have considered being so prolific if technology had not made publication so simple. As we engage the semantic web, ratings (like those found for sellers at eBay and books at Amazon) will be invaluable. These ratings will allow us to see what others thought about a certain author or product, and will likely allow us to filter the ratings by group, allowing us to see what all people, people in our profession, people in our country, and people in our social group thought.

But ratings that are completely anonymous add a troubling degree of uncertainty to the mix.

Anonymous ratings are good for a group of students who rate a professor. They have a place in the rating of supervisors by their subordinates. But they have no place in an open community of thinkers who allegedly form for the purpose of discussion and collaboration.

Anonymous ratings should not take the place of comments in response to a blog. Comments are there to provide an open forum for discussion -- whether in agreement or disagreement -- about a posted topic. They provide the reader with a place to ask questions. They provide the writer with a place to answer and clarify. And they provide both with an opportunity to agree to disagree. They serve well in this role . . . unless, of course, the reader/commenter conceals their real identity . . .

But in the hands of some, anonymous ratings can be misused. If we read a post that we don't agree with, what could possibly cause us to rate it negatively without exploring the intent of the author? How do we justify the hit-and-run activity by those who act as ratings snipers without challenging the thought process of the author? Why do we tolerate this cowardly activity?

I'm not talking about the kind of disruption caused by a disgruntled employee who writes an anonymous blog. I'm not talking about Net Neutrality, the premise of which is the absence of restrictions by those providing access on those for whom the access is provided.

I'm talking about the people who choose to unfavorably rate the post someone took the time to write with the intent to engage others in dialog.

If you don't like the post, say so! If it contains things you don't agree with, say so! If you aren't interested in the post, do like most do at the grocery store, sitting at the television, or reading the newspaper . . . move along.

What do you think?

Collaborating with co-workers and customers: Socialutions as a management strategy

We are, of course, social creatures, and many marketers understand that. Telecom companies have long encouraged us to connect with our friends & family (or Unity), call our network for free, and purchase family plans. Starbucks has built a business around a unique mixture of offline connections accessing online content “together.” Many email newsletters have the “forward to a friend feature.” And, a growing number of communities are using a mixed-use design that allows us to work, live and shop in one area.

We are naturally drawn to places where people we know congregate. As social networking sites have demonstrated, we go where our friends are, and we connect to people with whom we have something in common. So it’s pretty natural to think that managing an organization would include understanding the relationship dynamics of those who contribute in some way to the bottom line, right?

Not necessarily.

Many large organizations operate with a directed-association model. Departments are set up in hierarchical fashion, and we learn to work with or for people with whom we may never have come in contact but for our employment. Some enterprising organizations make attempts to capitalize on our personality styles, but how many try to capitalize on our networking styles? Do we examine the “fit” that new members to the team demonstrate in relation to those already established?

Not very often.

Caldwell, et. al., in studies of perceptions of “fit” found that as organizational change becomes the norm, adaptations by individuals is expected, though the ready embrace of change often eludes the observer. The change itself may be the variable, and many organizations are finding that change strategies should include possible reactions to change. So, if people initially deemed “a good fit” for the organization are suddenly experiencing major challenges, was the hiring process faulty?

Tomorrow’s employees are engaging in the social space now, and they are bringing this tradition to the workplace. They may adapt to the directed-association model, but they may also rebel. These are not members of the complacent generation(s) that took what they got and kept silent. These are the “kids” who have been asking why and what’s in it for me since they could talk.
So how do we incorporate them into our management strategies?

A recent example of the technology-enhanced ability to have everyone manage processes was described by Denis Pombriant in his look at Right90, which captures and tracks changes to the business forecast (all the things that can and should be forecasted in addition to revenue, so that a company can keep its supply chain informed of coming changes) in real time. With Right90, if a salesperson reports that a customer is doubling an order for 32-inch HDTVs, managers in sales and operations get alerted, and the full implications of the change in the forecast get thoroughly reviewed.

Pombriant observed that this kind of attention to detail gives every relevant person and department a seat at the table, and makes them accountable for bringing in the forecasted revenue in the forecasted product lines. Imagine this strategy being implemented in your organization!

Many small businesses have the idea of this kind of collaboration built in to their initial organizational cultures. Have you ever been to a diner where one person tells the other, “I’m going to the freezer, do you need anything?” The ensuing dialog is likely to result in an informal report of the number of a certain product remaining in stock, followed by a quickly calculated mental note by the person who orders these things. As the business grows, however, each position becomes more intense and focused, and it becomes decreasingly natural to see the operation as a system.

And that’s where the problem lies.

When all the participants in a system fail to see it as a system, each facet of the operation becomes disjointed. If not integrally connected, much additional effort is needed to catch up to at least temporarily unify the thought process for actions such as logistics, personnel, finance, and the like.

By implementing Socialutions as a management strategy, organizations can capitalize on the relationships and relationship connections of the people connected to them in some way. This naturally includes the employees and the organization’s leadership, and should include customers, clients, vendors, and others served by and serving the organization. These people all represent the company in some way, so why not acknowledge and try to affect the way they represent? As we engage The Relationship Economy, we need to find new ways to leverage technology to interact with people to solve real problems. Only those people, communities, and organizations who use this type of collaborative problem-solving model will emerge successfully. Those who choose to go it alone and use long-antiquated systems and applications will look back and wonder why they didn’t.

If these suggestions look familiar, perhaps you are seeing a similarity to team-building, which the social web appears to be well suited for. Team building in Asia has been part of the culture since long before W. Edwards Deming traveled to Japan to implement Quality (and plan-do-check-act) in the post-war rebuilding effort. Global team building has enjoyed mostly steady growth as organizations expand an a variety of travel opportunities contract. Socialutions as a management strategy requires using a group (team) of people (stakeholders) to be accountable for the process.

What do you think?

Caldwell, S.D., Herold, D.M. and Fedor, D. B. (2004). Toward an Understanding of the Relationships Among Organizational Change, Individual Differences, and Changes in Person-Environment Fit: A Cross-Level Study. Journal of Applied Psychology, 89(5), 868. Available at

Pombriant, D. (2008, May 7). The Dawn of Social Networking 2.0., ECT News Network – Tech News World. Available at

Monday, May 05, 2008

Cultural Socialutions – Oxymoron or Logical Thought Process?

The marketplace is buzzing with the new way of solving problems.

Though is hasn’t been posted at or (yet) “Socialutionsis defined as people, communities and organizations leveraging technology to interact with people for the purpose of solving problems; the act of working together with others to create new solutions to old paradigms of communications and interaction without boundaries and with limitless reach.

The irony of starting with a definition lies in our use of contemporary tools. In order to provide an easy way to use their product for more searches, Google has a relatively simple code that allows us to type in “define: the word you want to define.” So I typed in “define: socialutions.” Though this may change by the time you read this, here’s what I got.

Note that Google, as they often do, tries to be helpful when they find nothing based on your typing . . . and they relate socialutions with associations!

So how is Associations defined? has a head start on this one, where they have the definition as: An organized body of people who have an interest, activity, or purpose in common. Coincidentally, that’s exactly what it will take to implement solutions . . . an organized body who have interests and purposes in common.

Does that define today’s organizations?

In the proposed definition, we identify the need for organizations working together with others to create new solutions. What could possibly stop this from happening?

Personal agendas, political grievances, a lack of agreement . . . all wrapped up in the culture of the organization, that’s what!

Why is the culture a problem when it comes to implementing socialutions? Inherent in the suggestion that a solution is in order is the implication that there is a problem. Most of us, organizational leadership included, want to hear anything but that. The existence of a problem rarely means that everything has been done well. It often means someone has missed something, and that someone may be us or someone who works for us. Usually, problems mean added costs, and that can’t be good.

But socialutions doesn’t need to indicate the existence of a problem. It can be used to define a paradigm. The suggested paradigm is one of problem solving and finding innovative solutions through social exchanges. Many leaders understand the problem solving part, it’s the innovation part there’s difficulty with. As has been noted already, the paradigm means: Engaging the organization’s employees, customers and suppliers for innovation, problem solving and breakthrough ideas, changing the marketing focus, removing barriers, and leveraging technology and social media to increase response time by listening and learning. The end result can only be a changed paradigm, with a cultural transformation where everyone is engaged.

So, look around your organization . . . envision a Corporate Socialution!

What do you think?