Monthly Archives: June 2010

Going into Listening Phase

I’m going into a listening phase for a client, where I observe their customers and partners habits online.

I thought I’d write up some of my techniques. The overarching task is listed as “Set up a monitoring system for “listening” to the social media participation by customers or partners.” The deliverable for this monitoring system is in the form of a report. But I’m also thinking of ways to set up a Google account so their technical writers can continue to monitor for months and years to come.

For starters, though, I’m going with who I know as much as what I know, picking the online brains of people who are close to this type of product. First, I searched through the archives of a blog of an industry analyst. I found a great post about a set of opposing videos the company had responded to when they were called out by a larger company (my client is the small company). What a find! Definitely set the tone for what they had recently gone through on the social web.

Next, I set up Google Alerts for the company name and two or three keyword phrases that relate to their products. I found a small group of blogs and bloggers dedicated to discussions about the technology behind the products, but not the product itself. There is also some standards work related to the product, which is good to know.

I also searched on LinkedIn for people’s profiles that have this company’s products listed. Then I made a list of their job titles. This client is already providing me with personas, which is great, but I want to add on more information if needed.

I searched on for jobs in high-tech metro areas where the job description contains some of the key skills the product requires as well as the product name itself. This search also reveals job titles.

I also set up a Twitter search that summarizes keywords and the company name, mimicking the Google Alerts. This search yielded more news and marketing information than I expected, which I could interpret as users aren’t on Twitter, but the companies are on Twitter.

Finally, I want to segment the customers by demographics, such as men in the U.S. aged 35-44, to see what their tendencies are for using online information based on the latest Groundswell Social Technographics ladder and data.

I’m also going to revisit the user assistance research that Scott Deloach put together, assembling best practices for user assistance.

techpubs writing

Compact Information and Bugs (Not the Software Kind)

Bug vacuums are a big hit in our house this month. I’m such the mom of boys, huh?

I like the bug vacuums because the bugs aren’t harmed and we can see them up close. Plus, it’s not a terribly loud activity. The bug vacuum hums and the boys just have bouts of mild shouting when they’ve found a cool-looking bug.

A great instruction booklet came with this particular toy. It’s compact, informative, pocket-sized, and I haven’t seen a better quick reference in my life. I immediately thought of Tom Johnson’s nice collection of quick reference layouts and links.

Here’s the first unfold, showing 10 essential field tips.

Unfolding the interior is a real treat – it expands to about eight times the size!

Sure, you could see this as primarily a marketing or sales piece, but only one side of the interior is attempting to sell similar toys – the rest has great instructions and ideas to “Get in the field!”

Anyone else have some “field observations” to share?

Businesses and Social Media – Insights from the Door64 TechFair

Today’s Technology Tools and Social Media for Growing Business was the title, and this session was the last one for Tech Fair, and the Panelists and their company names form an impressive lineup:

Doug Whatley – Human Capital Consultant, moderator

After a development manager from Paypal gave a great inspirational talk about how the inflection point for electricity’s usefulness came after an electrical washing machine was invented, bringing the outlet from the ceiling to the wall, Doug Whatley introduced the panelists. Each panelist talked briefly about their perspectives on social business. Here are some notes from the valuable session with interesting insights. I mostly wrote down quotes that I found insightful or that offered a perspective I hadn’t heard.

Britton sums up the social technologies that enable businesses to get work done with a simple phrase: Guidance imperative – the ability to provide expertise, advice, coaching, to be a trusted authority and advisor in the marketplace. He says, social media outlets amplify our ability as authorities – helps us personally brand ourselves. Helps us target and reach prospects.

David Armistead says his perspective is that the C-suite is grid locked on what social media is and what it can do. He typically explains it as, social tech does 2 things well – lower cost of communication and lower cost of coordination. There’s a lot of work to do in comprehending the change and effecting the change – transforming the way we work. No piece of the org will not be affected. We are not “messaging’ any longer, taking a known message through the structures in place – we’re talking.

Dave Evans has been working with groups in Argentina, Netherlands, US and Canada. He observes that 15-45-year olds are doing the SAME things with social tech across all four countries. The other countries just need time to catch up. For example, in India, the 3G spectrum bidding has started, and will enable much more mobile technology. Dave also sees opportunities for businesses monitoring the Social Graph – using TweetDeck and BuzzStream in combination he can monitor microscopic conversations.

One example of business tie-ins with people’s social graph – Social Web Strategies uses the LinkedIn API to build a specific landing page on the 2020 social site that shows C-level people who visits their site a page that shows anyone in their 1st tier who has used their social site. He said later that this is their highest converting landing page. This is B2B lead generation, folks.

Dave also says, this shift affects the whole organization – not just marketing. His example – marketing can’t possibly respond directly to comparison of carbon footprint of products. Basically, consumers can take out their smart phone and scan the barcodes of products while shopping to find out carbon foot print and make your purchasing decision based on the data. That type of decision isn’t made due to marketing or sales team’s efforts.

And next, Julie Niehoff, a development manager at Constant Contact, spoke on her perspective as an email marketing and list segmentation provider. They also acquired Nutshell mail this week, which caused a bit of excitement in the room. She reminds us all that you need a strategy first. Know what your objective is, try and test, then stop doing that when it doesn’t pay off. Loved hearing this as it validates my thoughts in this area. She said, always test just 10-20% of people on your list to try something new – don’t make them all dislike a new method or approach. Later she asked, “Can you segment your lists based on ‘raving fan/brand ambassador’ vs ‘kinda maybe’ vs ‘never gonna’? Do it. Treat brand ambassadors well.”

Another speaker noted that the gaming generation has gained a lot from the mentality that it’s always okay to hit reset and restart.

Where technology turnover is higher, adoption rates are higher. The pay offs are doing business faster, easier, or cheaper.

Scott Ingram spoke from BazaarVoice’s viewpoint, where one of their clients, Sephora, garners lots of reviews, such as 17,000 reviews on a base foundation. Goodness. He noted that people are starting to “live’ in Facebook. One of their customers has 20% of traffic from Facebook. Wow.

I think it was Scott who also said that Twitter is a relationship accelerant. It allows you to stage when you personally and physically interact with others. For example, sales people don’t get on planes until they know what people are looking for. Julie noted that there are also tools that actually mask the relationship – ratings and reviews set the rhythm of the relationship, but you can screw it up with the wrong copy.

The panel session had a question about privacy as the last question, though I think discussion continued after I departed. I liked David Armistead’s assertion that we mostly format questions around privacy when what we need to discuss is security. Julie had good points that there are laws around data collection and privacy policies and companies need to be governed accordingly. She also noted that as individuals we personally need to draw our own points of privacy in what we share online, read the policies before sharing info, and prevent certain connections in order to prevent correlation of data for those people under 13, for example.

What a great session – I could tell many people in the room were learning, taking notes, and nodding in agreement. Thanks to Matt Genovese for starting Door64, to Paypal for sponsoring the session, and to the presenters for sharing their valuable insights.

What are you up to this summer?

Less talk. More do.

I’ll be blogging less this summer and trying to gain more hands-on experience with building social, community-based user experiences around documentation. I’m wrapping up some contracts this month and starting an exciting new one with a wee bit of overlap.

So let’s just say there’s lots to do besides blogging.

And, my kids are at such fun ages (well, I do think all kids ages are fun). Take a look at this Zhu-Zhu pet flying transporter my son made with pipe cleaners, wooden clothespins, rubber bands, and some paint and markers. With this kind of creativity swirling around, I want to join in at craft time!

Less bark. More wag.

I could take the bait and comment on a post about women in management roles in technical communication, but I’ve decided against it. I’ve said it before, I am who I am, and that happens to be a woman, spouse, and parent. Besides, Mark Fidelman over at MindTouch is tearing up the blogging scene with great saber-rattling, make-you-think posts about the future and present for technical communication. Complete with infographics, these are not to be missed.

How about you? Whatchadoin’ this summer? There’s a hundred and four days of summer vacation, you know. (Not really for us, but kudos if you know the song lyric reference.) I plan to make the most of some great opportunities that have come my way.