Tag Archives: shel israel

SMBEB: Robert Scoble and Shel Israel on the Age of Context

Robert Scoble and Shel IsraelMy smartphone knows from my email that I’m due to fly out of an airport 20 miles away later today. When I open up my phone, it will tell me that the flight is on time and that the there’s no traffic on the route but I should leave 2 hours before the flight to get there in time, all without even having to click of a button.

Welcome to the Age of Context.

Well, actually the beginning of the Age of Context. As Shel Israel and Robert Scoble explained at the Social Media Breakfast, East Bay this week, we’re only still scratching the surface. During their presentation (based on their new book, titled, yep, ‘Age of Context‘) they took us on a journey showing the huge potential for technology to meaningfully impact our lives. When everything has a sensor, when we can real-time process vast arrays of data, when we have wearable intelligent devices, a whole world of opportunity opens up.

What struck me most about the the presentation was the link between this Internet of Things/wearable tech narrative and the concept of pinpoint marketing. Less ‘spray and pray’ marketing, as Scoble put it. We’re talking marketing tailored to me given the rich body of information known about me. Maybe even marketing isn’t the best term as from the individual viewpoint, I would just interact with an assistant that helps me through my life, perhaps occasionally offering useful products/services that I’d pay for.

In a follow-up conversation with the insightful Bill Flitter of dlvr.it, he did make the excellent point that in order for this to become a reality, we really need a platform where we’re happy to collate all this data. As we see in the smartphone app world, the model is one of task-specific computing via multiple providers. Each one understands a micro-piece of me. It’s pretty siloed. We’re missing a trusted, reliable, standardized platform. Maybe Google, Amazon or another major player will provide the glue. But we will need to collectively buy-in in order to make this a reality.

All thought-provoking stuff!

Check out the slides from the presentation:

We have also posted the recording of the presentation on the Age of Context on YouTube

You can see commentary on the event from this Twitter Timeline from Bryan Person.

More on Social Media Breakfast, East Bay


Social media is no longer disruptive (Social Media Week SF Breakfast)

So, looks like I managed to bookend social media week in San Francisco catching the PeopleBrowsr event on the first day, and today, one of the final sessions with headliner Shel Israel. I’m sure there’s no need for introduction, but just in case.

An interesting takeaway for me was Shel’s statement that ‘social media is no longer disruptive… it’s in the process of normalization’. What does that normalization look like? Facebook and Twitter buttons are on the website of almost every major brand out there. It also means many companies now have a dedicated person performing some form of social media management role – generally spawned out of the marketing or comms department (although potentially covering much more than that).

Shel mentioned how brands like Dell and Best Buy are hiring journalists to come into the organization and report what they see. As the other Shel present (Holtz) emphasized to me, this is significantly different from journalists jumping over the fence and becoming PR professionals. This is journalists independently reporting about what they see within an organization (kind of like when a journalist team embed themselves in an army unit during conflict, but without the need for body armor).

Shel Israel also described how companies (including IBM) are using social media to inform product development. Upcoming features and betas are shared with users prior to general release. As Shel points out, amongst other things, there can be huge cost savings in marketing departments: no need to go out and try and convince an audience they need to buy a product they didn’t really want in the first place.

As Katy Keim, CMO for Lithium later suggested, we are moving to a paradigm where social business is just a metaphor for good business. In fact there’s no reason to call it ‘social’ business (ties up with what Charlene Li said years ago about social networks becoming like air).

I do strongly agree with the sentiment that ‘social’ is now heavily woven into the business psyche – it’s getting increasingly difficult in business circles to find individuals who will discount the importance of social media in practicing business today (which wasn’t the case two years ago). However, our business processes and organizational silos are yet to materially come up to this ideal. One example I heard this week: social media monitoring is still largely only applied to marketing campaigns, rather than building a picture of all conversations happening around an organization. Whilst the spirit of disruption may no longer be there, I think there is still some change management ahead of us before all business is truly social.

See more of the conversations around this event on Twazzup.

Attend a future Social Media Breakfast (East Bay).

Shel Israel to Twitterville: stop following me!

Working in social media around the Valley, it’s easy to fall into the trap of turning into a geek groupie. The digital glitterati are everywhere and, yes, because we live in a world of social media, they are omnipresent (regardless of what your social network of choice might be). You can spend hours on Tweetdeck watching the lives of industry pundits unfurl. It’s the virtual equivalent of a medieval court with a number of well-placed nobles (read industry pundits) throwing out scraps to the courtesans in their wake.

If you are looking at business applications of social media, you are probably familiar with one of the number of Twitter handles around which much of the readership revolves: @jowyang, @scobleizer, @guykawasaki, @mashable and of course, Mr @shelisrael. Many of us, if we’re honest, with our retweets and attempts at drawing them into the conversation, have the not-so-hidden desire to emulate them.

To a degree rightly so. This field is largely a meritocracy and most of these folks have gotten to where they are by proving their mettle. However, last night, one of the cadre voiced dissent. Shel Israel, presenting at an SNCR event promoting the launch of his new book Twitterville, proclaimed ‘we are not the influencers’. Shel made an impassioned plea to get out there and follow anyone with passion and relevance within your sphere. If you’re a company, look first at your customer base and employees (Lionel Menchaca and the Dell story of customer engagement is one of the featured case studies in the book). The core message: don’t just go after the social media influencers, ie. don’t blindly get pulled into a herd mentality.

This, however, sparked the most lively debate of the evening. The fact that the cult of celebrity transfers so well to Twitter (check out the number of followers for @britneyspears or @stephenfry if you don’t believe me) does suggest that even as we move away from a broadcast medium like TV, at heart we still need our media royalty. The masses will follow the few.

If I understand Shel correctly, he is calling for us, as social media and communications experts, to really move away from that old broadcast model and explore the small pockets of communications these new social tools open up. Unfortunately somehow the conversation got derailed and this point was not revisited before the event closed.

Shel’s point resonated with me as I know I’m as guilty as anyone of spending time analyzing the strategies industry bigwigs and analysts put forward, mesmerized by the latest technologies and trying to figure out which social media monitoring tool will give me the biggest bang for my buck. How much am I missing? That social media monitoring tool is important, but its nothing unless there is commitment to really listen and react to the conversations it uncovers.

An immediate step I’ve taken is to set up some search channels in Tweetdeck around our core brands. For those Tweets I can’t deal with, I can parcel them off in the relevant direction within the organization (mainly product marketing). Even though I’m no subject expert in the technology I market, there’s no reason why I don’t engage with this crowd, eg:

  • Explore ways to wire them closer into the organization
  • Plough them further for information on their applications and what’s working well
  • Tie them into our partner organization that offers beta versions and exclusives to the privileged few

Just to name a few ideas. A practical way to use Twitter where it works best: to engage at the personal level.

So, if Shel doesn’t mind, I can steal his mantra and say, ‘go – stop reading this blog and find your real thought leaders out there’. The unsung heroes within the company ecosystem you discover on Twitter will prove the worth of your social media efforts.