Seeing How You Work, Changes How You Work – What’s Your Online Persona?

Our SWOOP Personas are having a much bigger impact than I expected. For a quick summary of the five personas see our previous posts: Observer, Broadcaster, Responder, Catalyst and Engager. In summary, these personas provide you with insights into your online behaviour on your enterprise social network.

I recently spoke to a community manager about this, and he told me this wonderful story about the impact the personas has had in his organisation. One of his colleagues, a senior manager, had been receiving help from a communications specialist to write updates on the Enterprise Social Network.

However, when the community manager showed the senior manager how little she had used the ‘Like’ feature, she realised two important things. Firstly, she was missing out on the positive recognition a ‘Like’ can provide the recipient, especially in her role as a senior manager. Secondly, she realised that she couldn’t outsource posting, replying and liking to her communication specialist. Interacting on an enterprise social network is a deeply personal thing, and as ex-CEO of Telstra David Thodey told us in a recent interview, he found the most important thing in generating transformational chance was to have authentic conversations with staff. The senior manager now does her on posting, replying and liking, and for me this really shows that:

Seeing how you work, changes how you work.

In CUA, an Australian bank piloting SWOOP to drive adoption of their Enterprise Social Network, they also saw the power of these simple personas in creating a common language so you can think about what you do, and what collaborative profile would be most effective for you. For instance, a communications specialist might operate best as a Broadcaster and a technical expert as a Responder. We generally consider the Engager to be the persona that all people managers would want to be, but a lot of the real value lies in reflecting over what you are, and what you ideally should be.

What is your SWOOP Persona?

By now you might be wondering what your own persona is. Answer the following questions to get started. Please note that your persona is not dependent on volume of your online activities, but the relative spread of what you do (post/reply/like) and what you get back.

When I am using my Enterprise Social Network… Not like me Some-times like me Like me
1. I post links to, or attach, interesting content I think people want to know about
2. I post updates to my team/colleagues about things they need to know
3. I call out colleagues for a job well done
4. I ask people for help with problems/challenges
5. I reply to requests for input/assistance where I can add value
6. I often prompt people to participate (@mention/notify others)
7. I hit ‘Like’ whenever I see a post/reply that I like, or something I want to show support for
8. My posts always get replies and/or likes
9. I am often encouraged by others to add input (am being @mentioned/notified)
10. I read posts, but don’t participate myself

Now, review your answers and determine which persona you think you are. Is that what you’d like to be?

SWOOP Personas

If you are with an organisation that has SWOOP running, then you should jump in and have a look at if your self-perception mirror reality. I’ve always thought of myself as an Engager, and must admit to you that I was pretty guttered when I saw that I was a Broadcaster on our network. My knee-jerk reaction was “Why aren’t you responding or liking the stuff I post!”, but my wonderful co-founder Laurie Lock Lee calmly said “Well – maybe you need to think about what you’re posting.”. I, of all people, should know this. I mean, we actually created the SWOOP persons to provoke this exact conversation, but it still hit me pretty hard as it was suddenly about what I was doing and not about what other people weren’t doing. It got very personal. I started to reflect over the posts, and replies that I had been making, and thinking about ways to make it more engaging. I tried to ask for more feedback by @ mentioning people, and also started to think more about what actually generates value for others rather than just focusing on things I think they need to know.

By seeing how I worked, I managed to change how I work. For the time being I am an Engager, but I know I’ve got to keep an eye on my persona to ensure that my changed behavior is locked in. This is not set and forget just yet!

Not on SWOOP yet? Try our 2 week free trial to check it out and get your SWOOP persona.

Identifying Key Connectors/Informal Leaders at Scale

Informal Leaders Blog Image

This recent article by Reid Carpenter  on uncovering the authentic informal leaders reminds us again that in a post industrial economy, the powerbrokers are less likely to be identified by their C-Level formal titles, and more likely to be identified through word of mouth. New emerging organisational forms like Holocracies  and Business Networks  will live and die by the strength of their informal leaders. The importance of the connector is nothing new. Seth Godin wrote a book about ‘linchpins’; we have also blogged about the Quiet Achiever. There are now many sources of advice on how to recognise a genuine connector/informal leader. The challenge exists however, on how we identify these new informal leaders at scale?

Business and stock exchange directories can still provide us with those that occupy the formal power roles. In today’s economy however, it is often the next layer of powerful connectors and invisible leaders that dictate success or failure; the equivalent of the industrial age ‘middle management’. Let’s consider the world’s largest business network Linkedin. How would one identify a ranked list of informal leaders from this massive network? Is it the ones with the most connections? the most followers? the most read posts? the most diverse suite of connections? the ones who are most regularly asked to broker a connection? Perhaps it’s a combination of all of these, or perhaps none at all. What is problematic is that we don’t have a simple directory to look up. We are therefore left to explore the ‘word of mouth’ network. As effective as this can be, is there an alternative that can work at scale?

While we don’t yet have the answer, it is certainly something that consistently exercises our minds and ongoing research activities. Let’s take for instance, Microsoft’s Yammer network as a source of data for identifying informal leaders. By this we mean those that don’t have an acknowledged or formal role as a connector/leader e.g. a general manager, community leader, business coach, business improvement leader etc.. On first thought we could look at who gets ‘mentioned’ or ‘notified’ a lot. The ‘mention’ function is a ‘word of mouth’ proxy. The ‘notify’ function we have observed can be used by formal line management to direct the attention of their staff, but is also used to direct attention up the formal lines of management. It tends to work like an email ‘cc’ equivalent. The question is whether these message ‘tags’ can be used to profile connectors and informal leaders i.e. are the people that use the ‘mention’ and/or ‘notify’ functions really representative of connectors or informal leadership? Are the people who are the subject of these functions the real informal leaders? Perhaps those doing the mentioning and notifying are the ‘connectors’ and the subjects are the ‘informal leaders’? i.e. connectors are separable from informal leaders.

Taking these thoughts further, a connection is not a connection unless it is acknowledged by the parties being connected. For example, a Linkedin connection has to be formally acknowledged by both parties. A twitter follow is therefore not a connection, unless of course it is reciprocated. Therefore, simply mentioning or notifying someone is not a connection unless it is acknowledged by the subject.

While a ‘connector’ is often seen as an informal leader, is just connecting enough? This is where I start to qualify my earlier assertions  that activity measures are no indication of collaborative performance. If we adopt a ‘connections before activity’ perspective, then activity rates between connections becomes a useful proxy for connection strength and even relationship strength. It’s not hard to accept that if two connected people are conversing a lot i.e. have a highly active connection; then it is likely that they are more strongly related (even if the relationship is argumentative). And those individuals who sustain many highly active and diverse connections, are more likely to be the authentic informal leaders that Reid Carpenter describes.

Using our Yammer benchmarking data  we are able to make the measurements described above, at scale using reciprocated interactions and activity counts within connections. That said, we will still need to validate these indicators against some of the more qualitative attributes identified by Carpenter and other commentators, to be sure. So watch this space!

A final comment on Linkedin. While this network provides authenticated connections, it is missing a ‘strength of connection’ capability. Hence in most cases our Linkedin networks would be what is called a ‘weak tie’ network. Without a reliable way of measuring a strength of connection/relationship, I believe we have no reliable way of identifying authentic informal leaders in this network. The same could be said for other public networks like Twitter and Facebook. There is hope however in the Enterprise Social Networks, where interactions are more focused and the audience more constrained.

Image citation: How to Find and Engage Authentic Informal Leaders – Illustration by Shutterstock/alphaspirit

AirBnB vs….your preference?


Having spent the last week immersed in ‘Platfirms’ (platform businesses) I now have some time to reflect as we leisurely wind our way through the French Pyrenees. In preparing for this trip I drew on my favourite accommodation platforms Airbnb and I’ll be up front and say I do have a preference for Airbnb. However, tends to come into its own when looking for more affordable accommodation in the larger cities or towns. Putting this aside however, and reflecting on one of the key messages I have been making around relationship centred measures over simple activity measures, I can see a subtle but clear difference between the two platforms when it comes to relationships. Both sites are B2C businesses looking to facilitate strong relationships between their suppliers (properties) and customers (consumers) through the social media they enable. I recently published this diagram to identify potential relationship connections being facilitated by platform businesses.

Social Analytics

In this age of social, all of us are potential critics, and our comments form a major part of the buying decision for our fellow consumers. The relationship between ourselves and our fellow consumers is however only passing. We mostly care about the content. We don’t tend look to build a real relationship with those making the comments. While I don’t have any experience on the supplier side of these platforms, I suspect the property owners aren’t necessarily looking to build strong relationships with fellow property owners, other than to perhaps learn how to best represent their properties to prospective customers, by viewing competitive properties. In other words, for the most part, social media B2C platforms are really only building quite shallow relationships, centred around the media provided, with the express goal of closing transactions. Nothing wrong with that. In fact, this is exactly why the platform approach has proved so stunningly successful in this B2C marketplace.

Now let’s go back to my personal preference for AirBnB over I can talk about the variety of properties and situations; sometimes the attractive pricing, but I want to focus in this case on the relationship I can form with the property owners. For many of us, the biggest risk we take in booking accommodation in far flung, previously unseen places, is the unknown of things that might go wrong. That’s why we tend to look more closely at the negative comments a property might receive. What differentiates AirBnB from in my experience is the way it encourages you to connect and converse with prospective hosts i.e. build a personal relationship. I tend to do this, if only to provide assurance that the pricing and availability is up to date. AirBnb measures host responsiveness to encourage these interactions. It also gives the host the opportunity to ‘personalise’ the ‘transaction’. And the more you converse before arriving, the more likely it is that your stay will feel more like staying with a new friend, than simply a property owner. It is these experiences I tend to remember and recommend to my friends. Of course you can use AirBnb, just like, as a booking service; and I have done this too. Most of the times it works out fine. But certainly the times when things have not worked out so well are when we have relied solely on the ‘media messages’.

To be fair to, it does target commercial properties, where your contact is more likely a staff member, than the owner. That said, it wouldn’t do any harm if commercial property owners encouraged their staff to converse online with prospective customers, as if they were the owners. And when this is encouraged and even facilitated by the platform, it is less likely that the supply side would feel exploited. In fact we can see now that Uber is acknowledging driver groups banding together in a union style arrangement. Perhaps the addition of relationship centred metrics may also be able to predict platform performance in the B2C world as well?

We would be interested in hearing your relationship experiences with ‘platfirms’ like Airbnb and Uber.

Hong KongOn a lighter note on this trip we had a long day stopover in Hong Kong, so we were looking for an inexpensive hotel to freshen up during the day. We did use, which duly provided us with many options along with many comments about the compact sizes of the rooms and the mode of access, usually through a hawker’s market. All I can say is that if anyone were to come up with an innovation around ‘stand-up’ hotels, it will likely happen in Hong Kong!





The Age of the ‘Platfirm’

Platfirm? Is this a made up word? Well actually yes. It’s the term Open Knowledge have coined to describe businesses whose core business model is the platform. The ‘Platfirm Age’ is the theme of this year’s social business forum (#SBF16) held in Milan, Italy each year. Essentially a ‘platfirm’ is a firm that facilitates exchanges within a business ecosystem of suppliers and consumers. The popular examples of ebay, Airbnb, Uber and Amazon are regularly talked about in platform conversations. In opening the forum, Open Knowledge Co-founder Rosario Sica provided some compelling statistics to demonstrate that we are indeed in a new age of platform enabled business models. In Apple, Google, Amazon and Facebook we now have 4 of the top 5 companies in the world, by market capitalisation, being ‘Platfirms’. The issue of ‘Platfirm immigrants’ (as opposed to ‘platfirm natives’) was highlighted as a continuing challenge for traditional businesses wanting to get on the ‘from foot’, in either protecting or enhancing their businesses though platform thinking.

Platfirm blog

Keynote speaker Sangeet Paul Choudary was an excellent choice to lead the discussion. He and his co-author’s recent book on the ‘Platform Revolution’ provided the deepest coverage yet on just what makes platform businesses tick. Having read both this book and his first book Platform Scale I was pleased Sangeet was able to offer some new insights. One statement “What is good for the platform is bad for the ecosystem” brings to mind the power of a platform like Uber to be able to at times exploit both its suppliers (drivers) and customers with its pricing policies. One could appreciate now that powerful platforms relying purely on market forces could have the same negative impacts as a monopoly provider. On this point Sangeet was in favour of some regulation to guard against inappropriate use of market power. The other plea from Sangeet was his desire to see platform business opportunities in ‘public good’ applications, especially in developing countries. I think I would summarise Sangeet’s speech as ‘do good, not evil’, a refreshing perspective from a genuinely nice guy.

Sangeet was followed by several others developing ‘platfirms’, too much to report here (not the least because many of the speeches were in Italian, and my Italian is limited to food choices!). One interesting application worth reporting on and I think addresses Sangeet’s ‘do good, not evil’ maxim was from Michele Casucci, founder of Certilogo. Certilogo’s mission is to drive fake products out of the market. Now we have all probably bought fake Italian products in low cost market places before; well at least I have. But I was fully aware I was buying fake products at a very low price. And isn’t imitation the best form of flattery? More insidious though are the fake products sold at genuine prices. And on reflection it’s probably a good idea not to buy any fake product, as I suspect that those manufacturing even the cheap imitations are being exploited for their efforts. So I think Certilogo certainly meets the ‘do good, not evil’ maxim. How does it work? Certilogo crowdsources information from people who have purchased, or are about to purchase from expensive brands like Versace, Moschino, Paul & Shark etc. and then matches that information with supply chain data sourced from the brands that they support. In this way they can authenticate a product as genuine or fake in a matter of seconds. Like a classic platform, there is value exchanged on both sides. The brands get to find out where fake imitations of their product are being sold. The customers can find out whether they are buying, or have bought a genuine product or not. And perhaps by driving the producers of fake product out of the market, they are helping remove less scrupulous manufacturers, who are potentially exploiting workers in developing countries, to develop their goods.

The HBR Italia supplement published in support of the forum is certainly worth a read and is available here in English.

If Europe had an Enterprise Social Network would we still have Brexit?


Whether you are pro or con #Brexit there is much that we can learn from this result regarding the effects of social networking and social media. The early headline was that social media failed to predict the result.  Well actually there are several other social media analysts claiming otherwise. Perhaps the biggest criticism of social media analytics is that the sample is biased toward those more comfortable with it. Given that those most comfortable with social media are the younger generation, and that this demographic overwhelmingly wanted to stay, might explain the erroneous prediction. For those social media analysts who correctly predicted the result, the basis was essentially the size of the social media audience that they were able to attract. However, critics would say that this result is biased by the proponents for a change from the status quo, are naturally going to be noisier. Using social media trends to make predictions about an issue that is nearly equally divided is a perilous task. But what about the more actively engaging Enterprise Social networks?

For global corporations it is common for some groups or teams to span national boundaries. In fact there are many corporations that would span the breadth currently covered by the EU and more. Nowadays this is facilitated by collaboration technologies that include Enterprise Social Networks (ESN). If the European Union was an Enterprise with its own ESN would Brexit have happened as it did?

Of course we can only speculate, as Enterprises tend not to hold referendums amongst their staff.  What the British referendum did expose is that there were a large number of constituents that were virtually invisible to the British leadership, until they cast their votes at the ballot box. The same could be said for Enterprises. Despite the availability of digital collaboration tools our analyses of ESN installations across many organisations, found there is still a large proportion of staff that are nearly invisible to the senior leadership. As corporations continue to flatten their structures, we are seeing the span of control of line management grow substantially.  It is therefore now easier for a large proportion of staff to have views and attitudes that are unknown to their senior leadership.

Dark socialThe term ‘Dark Social’ is used to describe social sharing of content that occurs outside of what can be measured by web analytics programs. The term could be extended to cover those that may even be beyond management attention, in terms of their attitudes to the organisation. Hence the importance of the Employee Engagement programmes that look to leverage ESNs to provide a platform for anyone to voice their opinions and engage in discussion and debate amongst their peers. Like the British referendum, participation is voluntary. However ESN participation rates are still not high enough to avoid ‘Dark Social holes’ in the Enterprise. In the absence of a referendum that could impact key decisions, Enterprise staff may simply jeopardize strategic initiatives through passive resistance.

A more positive aspect of ESNs over consumer social media is the focus on active engagement around collaboration. ESN’s actively support common interest groups, where members can share and collaborate on topics of common interest. We know that when people actively collaborate, they are able to build stronger, more trustful relationships. A significant change like #Brexit can be discussed, debated and contextualised amongst peers. Attitudes and positions can therefore me built from an informed, rather than media manipulated base.

Despite increased levels of ‘democratisation’ in Enterprises today, staff do not have the same level of influence over significant de-merger decisions. It is therefore unlikely that we would see a ‘Leave’ position activated without leadership endorsement.

While this ‘flight of fantasy’ is unlikely to ever play out in reality, there are some important lessons that we can draw from it:

‘Dark Social’ can exist in both public and private organisations. While the nature of the impact of ignoring a potential silent majority may differ, the result is the same; a dysfunctional organisation.

  • Reliance on media alone to facilitate change can be problematic. The traditional use of ‘focus groups’ to contextualise a major change for different stakeholder groups, can be amplified through the use of ESNs.
  • Public organisations can learn from multi-national corporations on how to facilitate productive endeavours across national boundaries. Successful multi-nationals have learnt how to balance local national needs and customs with the overall Enterprise mission.
  • Private Enterprises can learn from the #Brexit result. Employee engagement is critical if one wants to run an organisation devoid of unpleasant surprises like unwelcomed union activities, or the more insidious passive staff resistance to strategic change initiatives.

Image citation: 1

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