How to Use Web 2.0 in the Enterprise

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 2.0 License.

For more great cartoons about Web 2.0, check out Geek and Poke. Here are a few of my favorites:

The CEO's New Social Network Strategy – A Cautionary Tale

One of my associates in Link To Your World, Carter Smith, did a great post today on The CEO’s New Social Network Strategy. Carter very effectively skewers both the distorted perspective many corporate leaders have about social networking and even moreover, the people with absolutely no field real field experience who then try to consult with them about it.

Enjoy!

Classmates Scraps IPO Plans

United Online (Nasdaq: UNTD) is scrapping its IPO plans for Classmates Media, which includes social networking pioneer Classmates.com and the popular MyPoints consumer loyalty site. What particularly called my attention to this was the analysis of it over at Fool.com by Rick Aristotle Munarriz, which echoes some of the things I had to say about Classmates in our upcoming book, The Emergence of The Relationship Economy. Here’s what Rick had to say:

It didn’t hurt that Classmates.com is considered a social-networking pioneer, at a time when News Corp. (NYSE: NWS) is laughing its way to the bank on its MySpace purchase, and Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT) is bankrolling a suspicious investment that values Facebook at a whopping $15 billion.

Investors weren’t born yesterday. They didn’t need an Ivy League college degree to know that pioneer badges can be worthless. So what if Classmates predates MySpace, Facebook, Bebo, or Google‘s (Nasdaq: GOOG) Orkut? If rings around the bark are all that mattered, Friendster and Tribe.net would be Wall Street rock stars.

Classmates blew it long before the IPO got shelved this morning. The site was in the right place at the right time, but it was positioned the wrong way. Instead of embracing the open-ended ways of the real stars of social networking, Classmates spent too much time as a walled community with little to offer those who weren’t willing to pay for access. The site had amassed user registrations 50 million deep over the years, but just a sliver of those were paying customers and active participants.

Here’s what I wrote in The Emergence of The Relationship Economy regarding Classmates and freemium business models:

Many users have criticized Classmates’ highly restrictive free functionality, which allows members to establish profiles, search for other members, and read public message boards; posting messages or contacting other members requires a premium membership. Other sites with similar models, such as Ecademy, have garnered similar criticism. While there is nothing inherently wrong with this business model, it does generate more customer ill will than those with less restrictive free membership functionality.

We recommend that unless compelling ROI can be demonstrated in other ways, companies offer a free level of basic membership that has sufficient functionality to keep people engaged on an ongoing basis. This not only creates customer goodwill but also generally offers increased value to premium members by having a larger pool of engaged users available for search and interaction.

Here’s the ironic part… Classmates knew this was a problem — they just didn’t know what to do about it. Take a look at this excerpt from their S-1 filing:

Although we have recently experienced an increase in the number of paying subscribers, this trend may not continue. Most of our paying subscribers elect to purchase our services as a result of a limited number of features. For example, we believe that our recently introduced Classmates digital guestbook feature is responsible for a significant portion of the increase in our new pay accounts since the end of 2006. If our social networking pay features are not as compelling and we do not stay current with evolving consumer trends, our free members may not subscribe for our pay features. Any decrease in our conversion rate of free members into paying subscribers could adversely affect our business and financial results.

This is a perfect example of why understanding the marketplace and what users will and won’t accept is so critical. Not getting this right has cost Classmates millions.

Beyond Sourcing – 15 Creative Ways Recruiters Can Use Professional Networking Sites

I gave a presentation for ERE Media Tuesday entitled “Professional Networking – Beyond Sourcing”, which focused on the many ways that recruiters can use professional networking sites to support their business and their own career, not just for sourcing candidates. The way I see it, any hack can figure out how to type a few keywords and do a search — where it gets really interesting is in all the other things you can use the tools for to grow your business, attract more candidates and differentiate yourself from the thousands of other recruiters out there.

You can download the presentation at ERE, but I tend to go for a pretty minimalist presentation style, and there was a lot of information that I covered that’s not in the slides. The topic that seemed to get the most comments and questions, but I feel is kind of short-changed in the slides, was the specific ways recruiters can use networking sites for more than just sourcing. I posted the full list as a guest post at Six Degrees from Dave (Mendoza).

To see what some recruiters have had to say on the topic, or to contribute your own thoughts, check out the question I posted on LinkedIn Answers. For even more ideas, see Smart Ways to Use LinkedIn, a compilation of over 100 ways to use LinkedIn in your business and personal life.

And for ideas on sourcing in professional networking sites, check out David’s and my Fast Company article, Using Online Networks to Find Your Star Employee.

Free Webinar – "Professional Networking: Beyond Sourcing"

I’ll be giving a free webinar Tuesday, Dec. 11, 2-3pm ET, entitled Professional Networking – Beyond Sourcing, sponsored by ERE Media and LinkedIn. The event is intended for recruiters, and the gist of it is this: any hack recruiter can figure out how to search LinkedIn, Jobster, ZoomInfo and the blogosphere to source candidates, but networking is about a lot more than sourcing. We’ll look at how building relationships, not just a contact list, can support your entire business, not just sourcing.

Registration is free but required. Hope to see you there!

The Times They Are A-Changing

changingtimes.jpg

Cartoon by Peter Steiner in the July 5, 1993 issue of The New Yorker, (Vol.69 (LXIX) no. 20, p. 61).
Photo by CogDogBlog via flickr with lolcats text by Scott Allen.

The Power of Google Alerts

Today I got a nice email from Scott Meyer, President & CEO of About.com. The headline read "Great post on 5 years with About", and was thanking me for the post I wrote earlier this week to commemorate my 5th anniversary as an About.com Guide, 5 Things I’ve Learned in 5 Years at About.com. It was a brief note, but had enough specifics in it to show that he had actually read it. It also had the familiar tell-tale signs that he had probably gotten the notification via Google Alerts. I’m guessing he has an alert set on "About.com" and scans those headlines daily.

This got me thinking about a couple of things.

First of all, just think about the tremendous networking power rolled up in that one simple practice. He stays up-to-date on what people are saying about his company, and prompted by the alert, in a matter of just a couple of minutes, he was able to reach out to me in a meaningful way, show his appreciation, and just make me aware that yes, he really does care and pay attention to what us 700+ Guides are doing.

Think of the power of that in your business. Rather than getting caught up in the incestuous fishbowls that some online discussion groups can turn into, what would happen if you spent some of that time looking for new conversations going on about your business, your industry or perhaps a cause you support?

It also made me wonder… how many other CEOs do the same thing, using these freely available tools to keep up with the buzz about their company? I’m thinking probably not nearly enough.

Tom Hanks on MySpace

Great quote from Tom Hanks on Oprah:

I found that I will not be able to overtake the world and bend it to my will unless I have a MySpace page.

Here’s Tom Hanks’ MySpace page.

Of course, leave it to Julia Roberts to express the naivete of the general public upon finding out Tom has a MySpace page:

What? Are you 17?

Windows Live Writer Makes Pretty Posting Pretty Easy

I saw a lot of cool new tools for blogging this past week at BlogWorld. One of the ones that really impressed me was Windows Live Writer from Microsoft, which apparently just came out of beta.

If you were at the show and you blinked, you missed it. The Microsoft guys were in an understated little 10×10 both — I don’t even think they were wearing Microsoft shirts. I think Microsoft kind of missed the boat on the event… may have been hedging their bets.

But as Chris Keating wrote about his experience setting up the booth:

The common response:  "WOW".

In a nutshell, what WLW does is make full WYSIWYG offline editing available to bloggers without knowing a lick of HTML. As anyone who’s ever worked with the visual editor in WordPress will tell you, it has some significant shortcomings, such as:

  • The CSS styles in the editor don’t match your final output.
  • Floating images flush on the right or left side while leaving a proper margin to the text.
  • Referencing a CSS style.
  • Embedding Flash, Javascript, etc. – things like pasted code not behaving correctly because line breaks are inserted.
  • Losing your work because you wrote online and the connection went down just before you hit Save.
  • Wanting to work offline in a WYSIWYG environment, but having a better publishing method than copy/pasting your HTML from Dreamweaver or something.

Windows Live Writer solves all that. It’s a full-fledged WYSIWYG interface, but some really smart thinking went into the design of it. I found it fairly easy to configure it for my four WordPress-based blogs (I’m writing this post using it), although the part where it prompts you for the RPC URL is a bit daunting if you have no idea what they’re talking about.

I’m not going to do a lengthy review — really, the best thing to do is just try it yourself (it’s free). If you find the WordPress visual editor clumsy and highly restrictive, and either don’t know how to do the HTML or don’t like being forced to in order to get a decent-looking post, then you’ll really appreciate Windows Live Writer.

Writing the Perfect Email

 

A constant complaint we hear around the office is that emails we receive (and sometimes send) are poorly written or unclear.  According to “How to Write a Perfect Email”, when writing an email that warrants a reply, there are four key components to get a quick and valid response:

 

1. Brevity- Keep it short.

2. Context- How do you know me/where did we meet (Give information that would make a person remember you) and put it in the subject line.

3. Something to Act On- Make the request clear and ask closed ended questions.

4. Set a Deadline- Set a date when you need the information, give one follow-up email and then pick up the phone.

 

My colleague Michelle Reicher observed that the guidelines set in this blog are a good standard to follow, but, “I disagree with the blanket advice to ask closed ended questions. Keep the request and question clear and concise, but allow the responder to give as much information as is necessary to move forward. When one sends an email with questions, the goal is to solicit a response, but it is important to have a complete, comprehensive, and useful response not just a yes/no answer. Yes/No responses answer the immediate question, but do not allow farther explanation that may answer future questions or give farther insight into the matter at hand.”

 

In The Cranking Widgets Blog: “How to Construct the Perfect Email Subject Line”, the blogger observes that a good subject line is imperative for a successful email:

“There are 3 simple tips that, if implemented properly, will make your email subject (and, subsequently, your email) much easier to read.

1.      Use Keywords [to identify the purpose of your email.] All email messages fall into one or more of 4 possible categories:

o        Questions (or messages that elicit a response from the reader)

o        Responses (messages that are in response to questions or other inquiring messages)

o        Informational (or FYI – messages that are meant to inform but don’t require a response)

o        Spam (jokes, pictures of your nephew’s baseball game, etc. – as well as actual spam)

2.      Briefly describe the subject – This is best done before you start writing your message. Finding the right balance between vague and overly-specific can be tough. Personally, I think it’s like anything else – you get better at it with time.

3.      For Pete’s sake, never leave the subject blank – This is something I’ve mentioned before, and it bears repeating.”

 

The body of the email will never be read if the context of the subject line does not act as an icebreaker or a contextual reminder. If the subject line merely says, “Hi” then it is synonymous to a cold call, but if the subject line identifies the business or how you know this person it becomes analogous to a warm call or a referral, which are generally more fruitful and productive than an unsolicited call.