It’s still about connecting people

The Web 2.0 song

A serendipitous moment last evening on Twitter when Charlotte Beckett tweeted “Do you remember that great video explaining Web 2.0?”

I knew immediately what video she was asking about as I’d referenced it recently in a client presentation – it was “the Web 2.0 song” created by Nokia in 2007 when the term “Web 2.0” was at the height of widespread use as an effective method of explaining the rapidly-evolving online landscape of connected services that enabled people to talk and share things in new and interesting ways.

It was a landscape that was nowhere near mainstream. It was still the time of early adopters and experimenters.

How different we are today when everything to be known about the social tools and channels that form a big part of what we now call “social media” seems to be known by everyone (which is not the same thing as knowing how to be really effective in using them).

So for old times’ sake, here is that video from Nokia, “the Web 2.0 song“:


La chanson du web 2.0 par NOKIA by buzzynote

Tools and channels may change but one thing is constant – it’s still about connecting people.

How up-to-speed are you about mobile?

If you use social web services like Instagram, Vine or Snapchat, you’re probably aware that these particular services are very much designed for use on mobile devices. By 98 percent, 99 percent and 100 percent of users, respectively, to be precise.

How clear are you on other popular services? Twitter, for instance? Facebook, Pinterest, Tumblr or LinkedIn? What’s the primary way in which people use those?

A handy chart by Statista offers some clarity.

Mobile first

86 percent of Twitter users are mobile-first in their use of the platform. I’d say one reason the percentage isn’t higher still is because many people (like me, for instance) use the service on multiple platforms depending on where they are, what they’re doing and what device they happen to be using. The “Twitter experience” is pretty good across all devices.

In contrast, LinkedIn is still largely a fixed-location-first type of usage, with only 26 percent on mobile. Maybe that reflects its user demographic (business people) as well as its less-than-stellar experience via mobile devices.

This snapshot view from December 2013 illustrating how most social networks are now mobile-first in their usage is yet another pointer to the bigger picture on what’s happening across the online world. It’s a picture of the US but it is a credible indicator of much of the global online world.

That’s borne out in a detailed sharing of metrics from Forrester Research in 2014 Mobile Trends, a 43-slide deck posted on Slideshare in February that offers credible perspectives in three key areas:

  1. How will mobile transform business?
  2. What will happen in 2014?
  3. What won’t happen in 2014?

The “What will happen…” section includes a really interesting prediction:

  • New mobile-centric ad formats will emerge
  • More mobile ad network will shift to the exchanges
  • Short videos (5 to 10 seconds) will make a greater impact on consumers, taking advantage of higher engagement levels with video on mobile

Look at that Statista chart, above, again.

In the “What won’t happen…” section, Forrester says wearable technology won’t move past a niche market: it’s still experiment time. (I’m looking forward to seeing what the 2014 hype cycle on emerging technologies from Gartner, due within the next month or so, shows about wearable tech.)

2014 Mobile Trends from Forrester Research

Insights worth understanding.

(Statista chart via Paul Fabretti)

Putting wearable tech in the business context

Google Glass

A quick search on Google for the term “wearable technology” will produce some 162,000 results, about what you might expect for two very broad key words on such a topic.

The focus of course is very much a consumer one, where there is plenty to find about products like Google Glass, fitness bands, smartwatches, wearable cameras, healthcare devices… the range and scale of products is almost breath-taking.

In the US, online retailer Amazon just launched the Wearable Technology Store, offering consumers all of the above and more.

Amongst all the consumer and media excitement such products generate, I find my focus shifting more and more to the utility aspect of these shiny new objects as they come into the business realm and, inevitably, into our workplaces.

Where such technology gets interesting in this context is precisely that – the context in business.

Shel Israel and Robert Scoble zero in on context in their best-selling book, Age of Context, published last year that speaks of five technology forces that will have a profound effect on individuals, businesses and society as a whole in the next decade – social media, mobile, data, sensors and location-based technology. I see ‘sensors’ equating to ‘wearables’ to a huge extent.

This week, the BBC reports on an academic study that addresses wearable tech in the workplace. Among its positive findings – wearable devices designed to help improve posture and concentration could boost productivity by eight percent in an office.

So we can already see some of those effects Israel and Scoble talk about through the devices we’re becoming more familiar with, such as the examples above, and how and where we use them. And I believe we will see more – and faster – acceptance and adoption in business of wearable tech when multiple tipping points converge:

  1. New or evolved devices come to market that match more closely what people wish to use in a business context.
  2. The functionality of a given device offers the user an easier, simpler, faster, more effective, more convenient and/or cheaper way to get something done or gain access to valuable and useful content.
  3. Above all, a device offers its wearer (a deliberately-chosen word: not ‘user’) a compelling experience that satisfies singular or multiple desires that form a key part of the overall experience.

Om Malik‘s description of wearable tech as “intimate computing” could be close to the mark. And that does make ‘wearer’ a far more apt choice of word than ‘user’ whatever the context, business or otherwise.

It will make you think of ‘wearable’ in a new way. For instance, if you drive a new car a lot – especially a car crammed with tech – is it just a car, or an intimate computing device aka wearable technology?

Which brings me to good old ERP, the backbone of many businesses – and the last place you’d expect to see cool tech such as this in use, right?

Wrong! Just as the cool tech of only four years ago – iPads, iPhones, the emerging smartphone landscape, and an embryonic mobile-device ecosystem that’s today hugely focused on apps – was unlikely to be seen in the corporate workplace or the factory floor, now you can’t move for tablets and other devices of all shapes and sizes, connected to networks – private and public, wired and wireless – and used universally and ubiquitously for business in ways we wouldn’t have imagined at that time.

So the idea of a smartwatch that lets you engage with content from your enterprise systems to not only read messages but also actually make transactions is one whose time is almost upon us.

IFS on Gear 2

Take  a look at what IFS Labs has developed – IFS’ business applications that run on a new Samsung Gear 2 smartwatch:

The fully working proof-of-concept demonstrates how notifications from IFS’s business applications can be delivered to wearable technology. Using Samsung’s APIs for notification alerts, IFS connected components of its Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) and Enterprise Asset Management (EAM) systems to send alerts in line with updates to certain processes.

For example, field service operatives could be alerted when important items are shipped, key projects are started or completed, or be notified when invoices are paid.

This is just the tip of an iceberg and you can expect to read, see and hear reports, opinions and other content about this topic in the coming weeks.

Powerful context.

(I wrote this post for first publication in the corporate blog of IFS, a global enterprise software vendor, on May 1, 2014. IFS is a client.)

Imagine what the Bank of England could have done with its QR code ad

A quarter-page ad by the Bank of England in yesterday’s Telegraph caught my eye primarily because it contained a QR code.

The print ad informs you that the £50 note featuring an engraved portrait of Sir John Houblon on the reverse side will be withdrawn from circulation at the end of April.

The ad also includes a phone number, email and website addresses, plus a QR code that you’d typically scan with a barcode scanning app on your smartphone to bring you something – further information, for instance.

Ad: withdrawal of £50 'Houblon' banknote

So I scanned the QR code with a sense of anticipation, wondering what useful and interesting information I’d get.

More details about the withdrawal, certainly. Why it was happening, perhaps, and what to do if I have any such £50 notes in my wallet. Could I still use them on the High Street? If so, for how long?

When you scan a QR code, you’ll usually get a screen asking you for permission to proceed and take the action suggested, eg, load up the browser on your device and retrieve the information linked to from the QR code.

Barcode scan result

I tapped ‘Open browser’ and the result was indeed further information presented in a web page.

The trouble is, that web page is a page designed for use on a large screen such as you have when using  a desktop computer or a laptop, or even the ten inches or so on a full-size tablet.

Certainly not what you’d find useful (usable, even) on a five-inch smartphone like my Galaxy S4 when the browser tries to render the complete page on the comparatively tiny screen.

Web page: Withdrawal of the Houblon £50 Note

Even if you have perfect vision, that’s nigh-on impossible to read.

With a bit of pinch-zooming in and out, though, I could see some very useful information on this page:

  • Details about the why and when of the note’s withdrawal from circulation: amplified information of the concise text in the print ad
  • A link to “What to do with old ‘Houblon’ £50 notes,” an informative video published last January where Victoria Cleland, head of the Bank’s Notes Division, tells you the basics of what you need to know and what to do.
  • Links to two PDF posters, one in English the other in Welsh.

There’s reference to an FAQ list but no link to it that I could see.

Given the clear trend to increasing use of mobile devices, what I wish the Bank had done was something like this:

  1. Present everything anyone would need to know about the note’s withdrawal from circulation in a manner designed for use on a mobile device.
  2. Engage the visitor on a mobile device with content that brings that person into the story you tell – far more than simply dry information about the withdrawal of a £50 banknote.
  3. Tell me about Sir John Houblon. I’d not heard of him (I don’t see many £50 notes). I didn’t know he was the first governor of the Bank of England, for instance, from 1694 to 1697 according to the Wikipedia entry. Or the story about the engraved image of him on the £50 note.
  4. Use this as an opportunity to educate people and raise awareness about currency, reinforcing key messages about legitimacy, counterfeiting, etc.
  5. And an opportunity to restate key facts about the Bank, it’s role in the economy and in society in general.

Capture people’s imaginations, in other words.

Instead, an opportunity gone missing.

Twitter eight years on

Public. Real-Time. Conversational. Distributed.

Today marks the eighth anniversary of Twitter, the communication platform that is globally ubiquitous today, the eleventh most-visited website in the world.

From co-founder Jack Dorsey‘s first tweet on this day, March 21, in 2006, the number of active users of the service now exceed 240 million per month worldwide who tweet in more than 35 languages, with over three-quarters of people now using Twitter on a mobile device. Users range from the average Joe to celebrities, big brands, the mainstream media, presidents and PRs.

Who would have imagined Twitter would become such an integral part of the way in which a lot of people connect with others and with things that interest them?

Twitter monthly active users

The platform (for that is what Twitter is) has changed in these eight years from the cosy curiosity of public and private text messaging between geeky early adopters in a little social network out of San Francisco to a sophisticated service from a publicly-listed company that reported annual revenues of over $660 million in 2013, and that now lets you record and share short videos and lets governments and other organizations alert you to emergencies.

I first heard about Twitter in early summer of 2006 and joined in December 2006, mainly because I wanted to see for myself what others I knew were increasingly talking about. The service really began to take off after SXSW Interactive in March 2007.

From the communicator’s perspective, there’s no doubting the value of this tool today as a method of listening to what people are talking about – a foundational step in communication planning, something you do before you start talking. It also offers you terrific opportunities to engage with others once you do start talking.

In my view, there’s no right or wrong way to use Twitter from the business communication perspective, only effective or ineffective ways. And like all online communication tools and channels, Twitter is a mirror on the behaviours of people, reflecting what they say and do.

Just like the real world.

To mark this milestone, Twitter posted #FirstTweet, a nifty tool that lets you find your first tweet.

#FirstTweet

Mark your milestone.

New research shows what drives consumers in the collaborative economy

The world of sharing

If you want to know about the collaborative economy and what it may mean for businesses large and small, the man to pay close attention to is Jeremiah Owyang.

The collaborative economy – also variously referred to as the sharing economy, the maker movement, and co-innovation – is a concept that is gaining attention as a viable business method to be considered seriously.

In its simplest form, the collaborative economy is about a consumer using a good or service rather than owning it: you buy access to the good or service for the time when you need it. When you don’t, others make use of it.

Of course, there is far more to the collaborative economy than such a simplistic description, as Owyang makes clear in Sharing Is The New Buying, a new report published today that offers a wealth of credible perspectives on the rise of the collaborative economy in the US, Canada and the UK from 90,000 people questioned to find out how they partake in digital sharing services related to goods, services, transportation, space and money.

The report contains the following sections:

  • Introduction and Executive Summary
  • Breakdown of the three groups of sharing customers
  • Market adoption rates, forecast and growth rates
  • Taxonomy of the market
  • Breakdown by demographic: age, location, political party, marriage status and more
  • Satisfaction rates of sharing services
  • Forecast of future behaviours
  • Recommendations for corporations: market opportunities, and specific departmental impacts

An ex-Forrester and -Altimeter analyst, now founder of and Chief Catalyst at Crowd Companies, Owyang says his latest research has uncovered three distinct types of people who participate in the collaborative economy:

  1. Re-sharers: Those who buy and/or sell pre-owned goods online (for example, on Craigslist or eBay), but have not yet ventured into other kinds of sharing.
  2. Neo-sharers: People who use the newer generation of sharing sites and apps, like Etsy, TaskRabbit, Uber, Airbnb and KickStarter.
  3. Non-sharers: People who have yet to engage in the collaborative economy, although many of these non-sharers intend to try sharing services (in particular, re-sharing sites like eBay) in the next twelve months.

In a world where people can get what they need from each other, how can big brands survive and succeed?

Owyang believes that is the question every business should be asking as the collaborative economy becomes more established and is set to grow, as evidenced in the report.

Like social media before it, Owyang says, sharing will be rapidly adopted because the same technologies that make it easy to share also make it easy to spread the word about the benefits of sharing.

The Collaborative Economy at a glance

While the collaborative economy could disrupt many industries – and, says Owyang, is poised to do so – there is little data available on how many people participate in sharing, who they are, and, most importantly, why they do it.

This report – produced in collaboration with Vision Critical – fills a significant gap in knowledge leading to understanding, offering a picture of the sharers in the collaborative economy and provides important recommendations for businesses that want to win in this new economy.

Sharing Is the New Buying, a 31-page PDF, is available on free download: read it at Slideshare or in the embed below.