Tag Archives: social networking

Cognos 10: what does social networking bring to business intelligence?

In my previous life as a webmaster I was called on to develop monthly web performance reports for consumption by the whole marketing organization. At one time these had been documents that were mailed around, but we decided the best approach was to build a web interface with charts and diagrams that would be updated monthly.

We showed standard metrics. Stuff like this:

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Each month I’d send out an email with a link to the latest report with my notes on site performance each month. For instance, I’d point out from looking at the graph on the left that although traffic had dropped this month, this is a seasonal variation. For the graph on the right, I’d say I wasn’t sure why our search traffic had grown: this is something I’d investigate with the various individuals running search campaigns (meaning for 90% of the people on the email distribution, the answer would end up in an Inbox far, far away).  

How much smarter we could have been if we’d have had access to a system like Cognos 10 that marries business intelligence/analytics with social networking capabilities that allow you to add that layer of insight on top of the data.

For instance, here’s a standard chart:

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and here’s the same chart with the addition of related Lotus Connections discussions:

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Going back to my examples above, if I was showing yearly traffic figures, I can use this discussion area to record what I know about seasonal variations. Now if someone receiving the report didn’t agree with my evaluation, they are free to comment on it. As for the discussion I’d need to have with my search marketing folks about why the search traffic has spiked, I can set this up from the same page:

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…with the thread of the discussion unfolding below the graphs and charts to which it relates. Anyone wishing to follow up on the status of the question can go to that page and scan the thread to see the outcome.

I should point out that the Cognos folks have taken this a step further: integrating activities as well as discussions. The data is now more ‘actionable’. Let’s say you are looking at global sales data and you notice a slump in a certain geographic region. You can use the new functionality to setup an Activity to address this, with a number of associated tasks assigned to different sales people or teams. Over time you can evaluate their actions against the performance data all from within the same interface.

And while we’re talking about the sales team, another new feature in Cognos 10 makes it easier to access reports while on the go, directly from your smart phone:

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One feature I’d love to see in future releases of Cognos is the ability to tie conversations/activities to given points on a graph, as opposed to just having these attached to the page of a report. As an example, the popular SoundCloud music hosting service has gained a lot of traction by allowing music enthusiasts to comment on a particular point in a music track:

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(each blue bar represents a separate comment)

Maybe something for a future release?

Delaney Turner has a post with more information on Cognos 10, including a link to an excellent interactive demo.

Also check out the Cognos product pages.

Tweetdeck introduces new features including Directory

Tweetdeck, one of the most popular Twitter desktop clients, has recently rolled out a new edition which now features a directory of Twitterers to follow. Topics include ‘Sports News’, ‘Environment’, ‘Technology’, ‘Business & Marketing’ amongst others.

The service is particularly useful for newer users of Twitter who are still trying to figure out the technology: the directory makes it easy to instantly follow top Tweeters in these fields. This is how the Tweetdeck team describe the service:

Think of it as a TV Guide for Twitter channels.  Simply browse the directory by topic.  You’ll find everything from music to news and sports to travel.  When you find the perfect group for you simply click ‘Add to TweetDeck’ and the column will magically appear in your TweetDeck.

There are a few pieces to this which I’m still not clear on, such as who decided which profiles are included in the directory and whether this will be updated over time. At a stretch you could say this directory gives a competitive advantage to those listed on it.

There are a bunch of other new features in this release including enhanced Facebook posting and support. So if you haven’t already, download the latest version and see why Tweetdeck is the most popular Twitter client out there.

Personal networking and branding with social media: Sandy Carter

sandy_virtualIn this session from IBM Impact 2009 I’m hoping to get some insights from Sandy Carter (Vice President, SOA & WebSphere Marketing, Strategy, and Channels), social media advocate and author of The New Language of Marketing 2.0. Thankfully, she doesn’t disappoint and she even sets us ‘homework’ to improve our social media standing.

Sandy is introduced by Carolyn Leighton (Founder of Women in Technology International, or WITI) and to put this in context Sandy says there are more women on social networking sites (Facebook, Myspace, LinkedIn) than men… generally in the region of 61-68%. This breaks down the popular notion that these sites are frequented by young mail teens. Indeed, most of the crowd at this well-attended session are women.

Much of this lively presentation concentrates on discussions around personal branding – a vital ingredient to achieving success in the world of social networking.

How exactly do you define and manage your brand?

The whole thorny subject of branding is one that is analyzed in detail in the corporate world and so Sandy uses her own experience as brand owner for Websphere, one of the top-rated brands in existence. As for definition, you need to consider the following:

  • The image of a brand and the perception of it
  • Experience of the brand: end to end, including everything from the sales person who sold the product to your ongoing experience with the product (which touches on many areas of the organization, including customer service)
  • Trust: is the brand delivering on its promise? This is of key importance because if trust falters, rebuilding it is a considerable effort
  • Relationship: the emotional connection your constituency has towards you (Sandy uses the example of her love of Diet Coke even though she’s failed taste tests with Pepsi in the past!)

So, what does that mean for us as individuals? All these principles can be applied on a personal basis and come into play the minute we interact with others, either on- or offline. In person you can ask people what they think of you. Online this can mean looking at your appearance: whether it be on Google, Technorati or your profile picture on Twitter. Do you offer total continuity across your brand? For everything you do, think whether this is consistent with the brand image you want to project.

On the subject of image, remember that this is about perception, not about reality. Therefore you really need to make the effort to find out how you are viewed by others. Sandy gives the example of how she used to curl her hair, but on questioning her peers she found that they considered it disrespectful when they were speaking to her. She didn’t mean it that way: that’s just how it was often interpreted. So, beware and look for traits that could be perceived in a negative light.

One area that is particularly relevant in the current climate is job-hunting and what Sandy calls the Resume 2.0. You need to remember that prospective employers could well Google you and see a part of your life you’d rather they didn’t. To get round this, make sure you professional-ize your image. For instance, use your own domain on which to host your online portfolio and offer a blended resume: a paper version with links to your online appearance.

Building trust

How do you maintain your personal trust? Make sure you follow through on commitments, make sure you walk the walk and act with integrity and honesty. Don’t over-promise. When it comes to mistakes, make sure you are honest and transparent. Fake profiles can be detected and you’ll attract negative press if these are discovered.

Sandy talks of the Streisand effect: where Barbara Streisand took the heavy-handed approach of issuing a legal letter to a fan who photographed her house. This incensed the online community and within days 100s of pictures of her house appeared online. The crucial point here is the way you handle a mistake is very important. If you handle a mistake in a good way, this can actually improve your brand image (although she doesn’t recommend running out and making mistakes just to improve your image!). Whatever you do, make some effort to recover from a mistake. Don’t bury your head in the sand.

Building relationships

In terms of building relationships: Sandy talks of the wheel of influence. The wheel reflects all the groups with which you interact and who you need to take into account. At a corporate level, IBM does this for each product, with the groups including employees, sales, customers, other marketers, partners, suppliers, business leaders.

You should think of your own personal wheel of influence. Sandy offers this example:

sandy_wheelofinfluence

As you build up relationships Sandy makes the point that there is no such thing as a neutral interaction with another individual. This will always be either positive or negative. Bear this in mind particularly when you interact with others on the web. Also remember that relationship is not just one way: you need to build a dialogue and you need to listen. In the online context, here are some example tools you can use for listening:

Which social networks are right for you?

There are so many networks out there, make sure you don’t fall victim to social media fatigue! Only use the networks you find value with – if you start seeing this interaction as a chore you will lose interest over time. Once you pick a network, spend some time seeking out your existing contacts on these properties. Some more in-depth tips:

Facebook/Myspace:

  • Actively manage what is posted on your wall
  • Share through groups
  • Be prepared to make mistakes

LinkedIn:

  • Leverage groups
  • Stay in touch regularly: link back to your blogs
  • Discover the connections
  • Contrast the business setting with friendliness

It’s important to interact on social networks as often the last place someone goes to look for you now is on your site.

Steps to improve your personal brand

Now we get to the homework Sandy is setting us. These are intended to look at how we are perceived and learn how we can build our own personal skills and networks.

Emphasis:
I am currently known for these: (list 2 to 4 things)
But by next year, I want to be known for these things: (2 to 4 things)

Excitement:
My public visibility program includes: (list 3 sites/areas you can concentrate on)

Extensions:
My current project is leveraging my skills, but is challenging me in the following ways: (list 4 things)

More on Sandy Carter

I’ve tried to capture some of the excellent points Sandy touched on in this presentation. You can access the full presentation on the IBM website and searching for presentations from Sandy Carter.

You can follow Sandy on Twitter, where she is highly active.

This presentation only touches the surface of many subjects that Sandy covers in more detail in The New Language of Marketing 2.0.

(In the interest of disclosure, I should point out that I am an IBM employee)

Twitter explained

Welcome to the second installment in the Slideschool Series: Twitter explained.

This presentation takes you through the basics of why Twitter is such an important communication tool and how you go about making the most of the service.

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In a nutshell, these are the main features of Twitter:

  • Stripped down blogging: no titles, categories and only 120 characters of text. Why? So it’s easy to produce and easy to read quickly, using either the web or mobile (SMS).
  • A sizeable network who you can follow, or who can choose to follow you. The short, pithy posts make it easy to scan through a thread quickly.
  • A robust API that has allowed a number of services to be built on top of Twitter

On the subject of those useful Twitter services, let me list some of the ones I find most useful:

Twitbin: A great add-on for all you Firefox users out there – view updates and post directly from your browser.

Twitterfeed: This is great if you want to further promote your blog on Twitter – your blog posts are excerpted as Twitter posts with links back to the original.

Twitter badges: Place a widget on your homepage, Facebook profile, etc. using this handy application that will list your latest messages.

Twhirl: A popular desktop app for Twitter that lets you get round that pesky browser.

Hashtags tracking: Twitter’s hashtags allow you to pull together content on a similar topic. This handy service allows you to search these topics.

If you find other services particularly useful, feel free to let me know and I’ll update this list.

Go ahead and jump in now! You can follow me at twitter.com/cagedether/.

BuddyPress: Social networks on WordPress

Unfortunately I didn’t get to attend this session, but thankfully, through the beauty of blogging, there are numerous other accounts online.

BuddyPress grew out of a series of plug-ins that added social functionality to WordPress MU (the multi-user edition). It is being touted as Facebook-in-a-box, ie. you can setup your own personal Facebook for your community.

Credit: Andrew Mager

More screenshots from Andy Peatling’s blog.

Andy graciously added his presentation to Slideshare: