Thursday, December 18, 2014

“Tacit Knowledge” – What is it?

When I first learned how to drive in Cincinnati, there were no gadget gizmos like Google Map or OnStar. This was back in the mid-1990s’ and if you wanted to get somewhere unknown, you had to plot it on a map—which I found on the back of a phone book—and figure out the major streets and a sense of direction. From there, you just have to get on the road, and test it out. Cincinnati is also a bit strange. Streets will cut off in one part of the city and pick up in another. Most often, streets will change names as you proceed through from one part of the city to another. This made driving fun and difficult, but it forced me to learn landmarks and develop a topographic understanding of the city’s throughways.

More than ten years later, my wife and I moved back to Cincinnati and now it’s her turn to figure out the streets. She, of course, has the handy-dandy smart phone with the not so helpful Siri. She also has OnStar and those people will bend over backwards to do your bidding. My wife heavily relies on the technology and plotted routs. I get very frustrated when I try to tell her not to go a certain way because instinctively I knew that would be a bad way to go. She often refuses to listen and trusts the formal institutional knowledge Google and OnStar has put together on their servers. Sure, my brain may have less memory and horse-power; but I am much better at predicting the traffic flow and knowing just how long it will take the car to get from point A to point B. My wife, on the other hand, refuses to acknowledge my intimate familiarity with this city’s landscape.

What I have in my brain about the city’s driving ecosystem is a sort of “tacit knowledge” It’s earned through driving countless times and being lost in the city’s maze . . . again, and again, and again. It’s tacit in the sense that I don’t know the street names or which street connects to which. Instead, I know the feel of the neighborhoods, the old buildings that has been there for decades, the empty parking lot that once was a dwindling shopping center. This is not really knowledge in a formal sense since I don’t categorize it by north vs. south, left-turns vs. right turns. Instead, I rely on a judgment on how far I’ve gone in which direction and what’s around that seems right and what seems wrong. The details are voluminous and often mundane; I taken them for granted.

This phenomenon also occurs in organizations and companies. Often referred to as “organizational knowledge”, most people think it can be categorized and transferred. But in part I believe it should not if the objective is organizational growth. Instead of transferring it, your organization or company should really think about permeating it into your organizational culture and innovate with it.

Think about it, "tacit knowledge" resides with the people who live and breathe your organization or company. They are information or practices that would make a difference in an stakeholder collaborative innovation process because they give you a sense or feel of what’s right and what’s wrong. That’s why when companies innovate, they should rarely rely on outsiders to do the job. Leave to strangers to create means leaving them with a map and letting them find the formal path that you would’ve found anyway if you weren’t so lazy. Internal innovation means stakeholders involved and getting comfortable with the way things will come together in a group setting. When tacit knowledge of a group of internal stakeholders is put together, you will find they inherently find a pattern and a path forward.

This is an intuitive way of moving forward. It's much better than the institutionalized methods of paying for a boxed thinking. Out of the box I say.

Friday, December 5, 2014

the 3D Manifesto

I followed a cookie trail today to PDIA (Problem Driven Iterative Adaptation). At its core, it’s a process based governance development theory that’s also focused on engagement and influence. Intrinsically it recognizes the bifurcation between people and society, the fact that complexity demands systematically factored and analyzed steps or iterations, and encourages learning from positive deviance or good disruptive thinking in an attempt to get people to think and “do development differently.”

It is the exact same thing my wife and I have been doing for a while now. We just don’t have the fancy acronyms and the prestige of “Harvard” to stand behind. We call our little project “BrainBox.”Although our work is slow to gain traction, but at this exciting discovery of the 3D Manifesto we are validated. Yup, that makes a pretty good day

The DDD Manifesto – the BrainBox abridged version.

“Ask, think, create and do; with your ecosystem of empowered stakeholders.” 

 Developments with real results usually involve many players – governments, civil society, international agencies and the private sector – working together to deliver real progress in complex situations and despite strong resistance. In practice, successful initiatives reflect common principles. 
 • They focus on solving local problems that are debated, defined and refined by local people in an ongoing process. 
• They are legitimised at all levels (political, managerial and social), building ownership and momentum throughout the process to be ‘locally owned’ in reality (not just on paper).

• They work through local conveners who mobilise all those with a stake in progress (in both formal and informal coalitions and teams) to tackle common problems and introduce relevant change.

• They blend design and implementation through rapid cycles of planning, action, reflection and revision (drawing on local knowledge, feedback and energy) to foster learning from both success and failure.

• They manage risks by making ‘small bets’: pursuing activities with promise and dropping others.

• They foster real results – real solutions to real problems that have real impact: they build trust, empower people and promote sustainability. 

You can look at the 3D Manifesto here.There’s a pretty impressive list of people who have signed on to the Manifesto and as of today, we have also signed.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Sustainability Index for Non-profits.

A little company in town called P&G recently updated its Sustainability Guidelines. It sent a reminder to its external business partners and their suppliers to comply with its Sustainability Guideline or face audits and possible discontinuation of future businesses for failure of compliance. P&G’s Sustainability Guidelines is an impressive list of actionable items including strict legal compliance, respecting human rights, respecting child labor and anti-force labor standards, health and safety, wage and hours standards, anti-discrimination practices, environmental standards, collective bargaining standards, anti-corruption standards, privacy standards, and personnel security standards.

 P&G’s Sustainability Guidelines seem to be directed at for-profit entities primarily doing business in other countries but for a non-profit local to P&G’s footprint and receiving annual grants from P&G’s philanthropy efforts, it is worthwhile to think how this will impact the value proposition during the annual grant writing process. Intrinsically, the question of whether the non-profit can measure its own sustainability index and performance intrigued me. Naturally, when the question was presented to me by a non-profit’s board member I jumped at the change to think this one through.

First, you have to define the measuring criteria in each of the three (3) sustainability categories – social, environmental and economical performance. P&G has done this with its own operations and ecosystem of stakeholders in mind. Their Guidelines are unique to P&G, but the premise is replicable. You just have to follow a process of define, measure, analyze and improve for the relevant factors identified in each of the three categories. It's a bit of work, but it's nothing too complicated.

I.     Social Performance.

The social performance of non-profits is often neglected because most non-profits are mission driven. They are already socially orientated so its leadership and those evaluating these non-profits aren’t looking outside the mission box. But sustainability is more than that, and stopping at the non-profit’s social mission neglects the wider ecosystem in which the non-profit exist. Can the non-profit do more? Can it easily cooperate with another and find synergy? These are often questions not asked. Interestingly, this mentality sets in at later stages of a non-profit’s operation when it has paid staff who are very silo-ed and have accustomed to the “it’s not my job” mentality. For the younger and budding non-profits, this isn’t so much of a problem and I find some of the less established non-profits are more flexible in their ability to collaborate and there are less barriers since they are not so much economically incentivized.

This adaptability often yields interesting results in new venture formations.

So how do you measure a non-profit’s mission in the context of sustainability? Well, you have to look at what that mission is and if it is a durable or an end-goal mission. For example, a charity for curing cancer will cease to exist (likely) when cancer is cured; but a charity that is focused on leadership development will never have an expiration date on its operations. So long as there are people, leaders are to be developed.

You also have to look at its flexibility, in terms of adaptability not only in budgeting but also with respect to innovation—does the non-profit have a process for creating value out of its original ideas and not just fundraising efforts? I find a non-profit with older constituents and larger operation size are less flexible and a non-profit with younger constituents and small operation size are more flexible and tends to be more creative. They ca capture new value and can grow very quickly. However, the x-factor in this analysis is whether the non-profit has heart. How passionate is its stakeholders? I find that a lot of passion will transform perceived demographic barriers and make older people creative and adaptable.

Another way to look at a non-profit is through its focus on diversity and inclusion. There are many ways to define diversity and inclusion, but I believe it’s more about diversity of experiences and thoughts, and giving that diversity a voice that really creates value for any organization. Of course skin color or cultural differences naturally manifest into diversity of thoughts and experience, but the really good organizations look beyond skin deep and try to do something about empowering its minority and often neglected constituents.

It is also a good idea to look out for the lack of diversity and inclusiveness that manifest in unexpected ways. Take organizational structure for example. Most organizations love org-charts and love to tell its staff where they fit-in in the grand scheme of things. This leads to exclusion of thoughts in the same way discrimination works against skin color or gender or cultural background. Think about it, your idea is not valued simply because you are working as an administrative assistance and everyone assume you have nothing to contribute to the new fund raising campaign initiative even though they are targeting exactly your demographic. How does that make you feel?

So there are a number of questions a non-profit, or any organization, can ask: is it diverse and inclusive not just for the sake of appearances, but because the organization really values what everyone has to contribute? Is it putting this to practice and really allow opportunities for the diverse and often minority voice? And finally is it implicitly exclusive (for example, is its mission to serve a particular political party)?

Finally, you can also measure the social performance of a non-profit by the educational impact it has on its stakeholders. Here, you want to examine whether the organization is systematically following a script (donate to disabled veterans) and not really inspiring its stakeholders to be creative and really think of solutions to the social problems it is trying to address; or is it finding a new way of looking at the root problems and finding holistic sensible solutions to really alleviate the problem? Here, you have to think a bit counterintuitively. If you are really just raising funds, then you want the problem to exist so you can sustain your fundraising campaigns. On the other hand, if you are really looking at how to solve a problem then you should be working yourself out of a job. Because by the end of the day, you have solved the problem and your charitable work is no longer needed. But this is only applicable to those non-profits without a durable pro-active mission. A non-durable passive mission is one that aims to solve a problem. Once the problem goes away, then the mission is no longer applicable. It is reactionary. It’s good that we are solving problems, but sustainability is more about anticipating what’s ahead. A durable active mission is one that aims to empower a particular good thing in society. The arts for example; or developing today’s leaders and tomorrow’s communities as one non-profits has it. After all, you will probably never run out of good leaders to develop and good communities to build; I hope we never run out of good art to promote. 

To recap, the social performance of a non-profit can be evaluated by its mission and purpose, by its adaptability and innovative capacity, by its diversity and inclusion, and by its educational and inspirational impact. Under each of the four factors, benefits and barriers can be assigned scores based on subjectivity and although not an entirely accurate science, it does provide a good gauge of how well the non-profit is performing beyond just a mere assessment of its ability to perform its mission.

II.     Environmental Performance.

Following a lazy-man’s assessment, our non-profit isn’t about the environment so this is not applicable to us. Right? Or, we aren’t subject to any environmental laws, so we don’t have to be assessed in this category. Okay? No. Everyone has an environmental impact and any organization can do something about it.

To start, there are three categories under environmental performance we can use to assess a non-profit’s environmental performance standard: conservation, protection, and impact. First, conservation is about reduce, reuse, up-cycle and recycle. All organizations can be mindful of how they are reusing their material, how they are reducing their carbon footprint, and how they are creatively recycling things they were throwing away. How well does your non-profit manage its resources? How well does your organization communicate needs and surplus?

Protection is about being mindful of making the right choices. If you can order 100 t-shirts from a company overseas (high transportation cost and carbon footprint) and that company uses environmentally unfriendly processes (using harsh chemicals to dye), then do you really need to save that five dollars per t-shirt? A even better question, why are you buying the t-shirt in the first place? Is it because your constituents really need it or is it because that’s just what everyone else is doing?

Finally, let’s talk about impact. Your non-profit has a lot of brand power for your own advocacy work. But are you leveraging that brand power to co-brand environmental initiatives? Are you making the connection of your brand recognition with any environmental problems that you’ve turned a blind eye? For example, if your mission is to alleviate poverty are you also looking at how the poorest are often living next to the most polluted places and have higher health care costs because of this? After you have connected the dots and recognized how closely connected you are to the environmental impact you can make, are you leveraging your organization’s social diffusion power to really make a stink about your new found knowledge?

III.     Economic Performance.

This is a small category because non-profits by definition are not focused on just making the single profitable bottom line. Non-profits are mission driven to begin with and is at a lower risk level for lack of good governance and corporate social responsibility.

What does need to be addressed with non-profits are often their cost of inefficiencies both in terms of its operations and its administrations. It’s also important to look at its budgeting (how good is the organization at predicting fluctuations in its revenue cycles and how good is it at reducing ineffective cost items and protocols). Additionally, it’s important to examine whether the non-profit is looking at opportunities and stakeholder involvement. Is it getting its constituents involved in the innovation process to capture new value that has otherwise been neglected?

These are just the starting points. I can go on for days. . .

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

The Value of Conservation - benefit that flows from nature to us.

Fairness is a fundamental component of a well functioning economy. Buyer and seller have to believe the transaction is fair in order for the transaction to work. But in the early years of our industrial process, the buyers did not understand the economics of nature being transformed for the sake of human consumption. We did not realize the cost of a new shiny cell phone meant labor disputes, social unrest, environmental pollution, climate change, and so on. But today's market place is much smarter than before. Stakeholders have the knowledge and they are incrementally measuring and demanding back the cost that was previously uncaptured. They still want their new shiny cell phone, but they want to know it's made sensibly and in the best way possible. The crowd is also more connected than ever and their reinforcing the good ideas and collectively rejecting the bad ones.   

If economics is really the currency of policy, this new demand of economic accountancy for natural resources and social and environmental impacts should shape policies around the world. But the changes are already happening. We are already seeing more stringent social and environmental standards and reporting requirements. We are also seeing the connected web becoming more exposed and responsive to any violations.    

Well, that's the price you pay for playing this game, right?

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

The Creative Collective

Big Data is all the rage these days. It’s probably the first time in human history that we have gathered so much information about our individual and collective habits that we can actually do something meaningful with the information. Many marketers jump to the chance to better segment demographics and develop archetypical consumption habits to encourage selling more junk we don’t need.

Yes, let’s all catch the mad gold rush to Mt. Spendmore.

But there are better ways to use big data, isn’t there? Many industries are challenged to enhance reliability, reduce costs, and stimulate revenue while using materials and energy more efficiently with big data. This is a step in the right direction, but often overlooked is the ability for these industries to embrace information technology even further to leverage dynamic real-time demand response to optimize process—the whole process of consumption from producers to consumers. While some are using big data this way in small increments, they have not yet fully actualized the social tech’s offering of multi-stakeholder collaboration; and by definition they neglect the bigger picture of why it is important to achieve efficiency, reduce cost, and promote reliability. In my opinion, the end goal is to work our way to less dependency on the more scarce resources and turn our attention to utilizing more of the abundance we already have through collective efforts (trash recycling anyone?).

 So while the smart industries are sorting through mountains of information to figure out just how to be more efficient, they are turning a blind eye to combining information to form a dynamic communication method for a new way of thinking about the economy. This I find troubling. Perhaps it’s a mere symptom of linear static thinking that is prevalent in western metaphysics—where Americans seem to believe things are penultimate of the Monadology, Eastern thoughts often resolve to know things are in constant flux, that perfection is impossible because there is always room for improvement; and therefore, things are not as what they seem.

Where does this leave us in terms of innovation? If you really think about creativity and innovation, the components include originality and value creation. But to limit creativity and innovation to individuals is short changing the human race. While a degree of freedom is necessary for the exercise of creativity and innovation, but collective mentality and innovation are not mutually exclusive. I like to think we are somewhat capable of collaborating and creating common core solutions that are, well, ORIGINAL. So when we begin to think of the constant flux of things and the potential that big data offers us in terms of running into the next new big thing (Google for example), we see that the conundrum isn’t in why we can’t think in better ways. Rather it’s more about why we have not yet picked the better pack to believe in better outcomes.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

This Is About Philosophy and Culture

Corporate social responsibility (CSR) is a simple and contagious idea, but its operation is extremely complex. It involves both technical factors relevant to your business operation and human factors of your stakeholders. It is one thing to improve your technical process efficiency, but it is entirely another to encourage your people to make the right decisions and be empowered to fully incorporate sustainability into their routines.

You can probably hire process improvement consultants to help you find more efficient equipment and protocols, but how do you inject the right kind of company culture and philosophy to prevent the kind of greenwashing that will end up costing you in the long run?

I will venture to bet that any consultant will not know your organizational core better than you do, better than your stakeholders do. Then why would you hire someone else to come in and help you “brand” and market that brand? That’s nonsense.

What you need is someone to come in and help you map your existing ecosystem of stakeholders and better define their core value to discover your existing brand. You need a restatement of your company philosophy and you need to empower your constituents to actively change your corporate culture to become more sustainable. Your consultants should provide you with sustainability index and guidelines to rail that process to success. If you come across a consultant that offers to design a sustainability program for your company, our advice is RUN!

You want your consultant to tell you that they know how to educate and empower your human factor and coincide that with a technical process improvement to be more sustainable. At the same time, we remind you that this is easily done via social media technology and you can easily capture some marketing opportunities if you allow the organic process of empowering your stakeholders.

Of course we run into naysayers who will allege these lofty thoughts are too high-level and not practical. what would you have us do? continue without a set of good sustainable principles? Keep going without a culture that matters and a philosophy that makes sense? 

Use your available resources to make a sustainable transition. This is about innovation from the depth of your own corporate philosophy. Anything else is simply uncivilized.

Remember: “ask, think, create, and do.”

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Outside the Box Content Marketing Solutions

- by Lauren Campbell-Kong

We are all aware of the issues with content marketing (especially in the B2B realm). Here are the reported 2014/2015 top 3:
  • Producing Engaging Content
  • Producing Content Consistently
  • Measuring Content Effectiveness
In my last post I addressed the lack of outside the box thinking with these problems; how most content marketing strategists use the metaphorical  "social media blanket" to throw your company and process underneath in hopes for a decent outcome.

Here at BrainBox, we strive to change the "throw shit against the wall and see what sticks" mentality. And I'm going to offer up some outside the box thinking solutions to your problems.

I'm going to start with Producing Content Consistently because it seems the most straight forward.

Yes, it is important to produce content and to do so consistently, but publishing content for the sake of publishing is a big no no. In the world of digital media and social media interaction, individuals recognize when you are not whole-heartedly committed to something, whether that with engagement or content,  and it will affect your credibility in the sphere of the interwebs (the Millennials love transparency after all). Social media cred is just as important as street cred these days and once you've lost it, it is almost impossible to get back. So before you hit 'publish' on your company blog, make sure that the writers had real purpose for why they wrote it. This is where the 'why' part of content is crucial and must be answered prior to hitting that button; are you providing solutions to answers; are you sharing your outside the box thinking of mainstream ideas (we do that here a lot, it's our M.O.); are you sharing something expressive to your employees and your audience?

This brings me to my next topic: Producing Engaging Content.

Engaging with an audience, developing a following, having brand champions are all the by-product of  high quality and engaging content (even saying this is like beating my head against a wall). However, most content marketing consultants will tell you to only publish content that means something to your audience. Then they reference the almighty 'funnel' through which you should pull your potential clients down so that once they're at the bottom they will purchase something; it's actually really messed up to think of social interaction this way. That type of thinking is where issues begin. What about content you think is meaningful or content your employees want to share? To have the expectation that every time you put something out on the web it is supposed to only benefit potential leads, you are missing out on many other opportunities. Showing people that you care about more than what is only happening in your industry, gives insight into your 'humaness,' if you will. It sheds light on what you're passionate about, not only your business, but other aspects.

This is where I begin advocating for allowing your employees to share things that are meaningful to them; building a rapport with the audience along the way. Allowing your employees' different personalities shine through is the best way to get them, not only committed to your company, but committed to you. Through high engagement on topics outside of your company, you build trust and credibility; engaging on a human level is imperative though.

It is common practice these days for companies and organizations to set up a social media engagement outline for employees to follow; to ensure uniformity throughout the different platforms. But what if someone in your audience doesn't like the way you interact, doesn't like the personality you've put forth? That means you've lost a potential champion for your cause. Personalities are different, people are different, and allowing your employees' personalities to shine through helps create a diverse internet presence, providing connection opportunities exponentially greater than if you went the 'single personality' route. Not to mention that different social platforms have different engagement expectations and online cultures; but I will get back to that.

In addition to utilizing employee differences and personality types, it is important to utilize outside organizations, companies, and brands. This issue is more apparent in the for-profit sector. Non-profits tend to work with other organizations, companies, and educational systems and utilize the networking opportunity to give recognition and appreciation to all parties involved, especially through social media; working with lower budgets and needing as much free advertising as possible. For-profit entities tend to only promote non-profits they work with, typically just 1 or 2 and rarely promote other businesses; but I'm sure would appreciate free advertising too! Positively encourage and lift other businesses around you, it doesn't have to be a direct competitor by any means, but when you champion for other entities and lift them up, then you get to begin moving away from that 'dragging someone down a tunnel' model.

Through the practice of embracing other entities you will begin to see your online interaction increase. It is important to note that this is no easy feat and will not happen over night. Once this model is adopted, you must begin thinking of your process as a cultural one, and any anthropologist will tell you changing culture does not happen overnight (well, unless there is immediate and impending doom but this is not that). This is why it is important to recognize the time that will be needed to dedicate to this and the empowerment that you must grow in  your employees. Companies like Infusionsoft and Hubspot help you streamline this process and while what they do helps a small few, this isn't a process that should be streamlined for long-term use and for the largest ROI.

Measuring Content Effectiveness is directly related to ROI; that after all is how businesses measure themselves right? The problem with this thought process is the necessity to put quantifiable constraints on a qualifiable measurement. I know that you can measure the ROI of content marketing: Google Analytics, Hubspot, AdWords, Marketo, are all programs that help do that, but what about when a non-profit thanks you for the work you did for free? How do you measure the ROI of that? Or when an employee connects with someone over a cat video and that person decides to donate money to a feline cause in your name?  Or when a local coffee shop sees you promoting their coffee and decides to give you a free coffee the next time you come in?

These aren't the easiest numbers to quantify and assign a profit or loss to, but they're helping you in the long-run and hopefully you're helping someone else in the process.

These 'outside the box' points will hopefully help many of you begin to stop drinking the kool-aid if you will and start empowering you to think for yourselves. 

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

3 Is Where You Start

- by Jin Kong

GDP is the typical standard we use to judge an economy’s health, but most economist would apply only a single bottom-line to conduct assessments.

That's right, the mighty "$".

Sustainability advocates often cite to the triple bottom-line: people, planet and profit. Capturing these, consultants often use an Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) performance matrix to judge the long term performance of a company and make recommendations accordingly.

The long term ESG assessments, when appropriately used, should be catered to the specific industry sector to make the analysis meaningful enough to be useful. But there are common considerations across the industry spectrum and these include:
  1. resource efficiency, 
  2. business model resilience, 
  3. innovative capacity and mentality, 
  4. brand strength, and 
  5. overall corporate culture. 
These factors can give a company a good starting point in incorporating its financial metrics in the broader sustainable demand trend to actualize a new value proposition. Implementing the method effectively with a continuous improvement control process is the key to this exercise. This is not just about an assessment and empty promise to be better. Otherwise the effort would be nothing more than a marketing ploy. You can only sell so much of those and probably less than the bottles of snake oil you can sell these days.

No, marketing is about showing a slice of what you do and true sustainability oriented changes require you to connect the slices of your operation to make sense of its eventual outcome. To really make the ESG analysis model itself sustainable and impactful, stakeholders have to agree together to pursuit a common mission in a long term frame of mind to think differently about the world around them. The company stakeholders will have to come to agree on a very aggressive public disclosure plan and the managers who will have to lead point on this initiative and should be equipped with the right tools and consistent support to implement changes. Additionally, your stakeholders must learn to share a common core vision for a strategy to identify new value drivers continuously from the moving targets of stakeholder interests, the changing competitive environment, and evolving organizational marching orders.

Perhaps more important than anything else in this modern 2.0 social digital age is the trust you must have in making full disclosure of all of this and intertwine educational material for your stakeholders to ask them for help with your on-coming challenges. A company must learn to use transparency and big data as hammer and nails to empower stakeholders to leverage organic growth. This, after all, is better than keeping them in the dark and slowly alienating them into your competitors’ shops.        

Friday, October 31, 2014

Tired of the Same Old Content Marketing Discussion? Me too!

- by Lauren Campbell-Kong

There has been some big news recently in the social media sphere: In the month of October alone Infusionsoft announced a new $55 million round of funding (spearheaded by Bain Capital and Goldman Sachs) and Hubspot went public, raising $125 million during their IPO. These are both huge developments in the world of digital marketing, specifically content marketing.

Inbound/Content marketing has taken the sector by storm, creating entirely new ways to attract potential consumers, clients, and leads. In the past, marketing functioned as "bring the ads to the people" through advertising in magazines, trade shows, etc. but when Inbound marketing revolutionized the industry with the "bring people to the ads" mentality, the ground underneath many advertising and marketing agencies shook; to be honest, I don't know if it is done shaking.

The idea behind this "bring people to the ads" is to produce high quality, highly informative content (blogposts, white papers, articles, etc.) to show potential purchasers that "you know what you're doing," building credibility and developing trust, increasing SEO in the process. The theory is the more content you generate, the more you increase your odds of showing up in search engine results (after you've optimized your site, your blog, your content of course). This coupled with the idea that you then promote your message on social media is supposedly the 'holy grail' to marketing in the digital age.

But is it?

With all the articles out there on "how to generate content" and the conferences surrounding "Inbound Methodology" and the multiple Google hangouts I get invited to weekly to help "Make Sense of Google Analytics", I honestly wonder if this is the 'Holy Grail' or if marketing is lost, wondering in a sea of digital misinformation and trendy band-aids (you know, like the Spider Man Band-aids that are available after a movie launch, but can't be found anywhere 6 months later).

Hell, I read an article today from a well reputable and highly credible social media online community discussing the issues that B2B marketers have. The top 3 issues were: Measuring Content Effectiveness, Producing Content Consistently, and Producing Engaging Content; cornerstones of the 'Holy Grail' approach. Doesn't sound like a 'Holy Grail' to me.

Never once in the article did the author truly dig down deep into the meat of the problem to offer up good, well worn advice. Instead, band-aids were handed out: Make sure you promote an interoffice culture that embraces social media, have a meeting that tells everyone how to properly engage and interact on behalf of the business, think like your customer etc. The issue with these 'tips' is they don't actually look at an individual company's situation and attempt to help, they throw a large blanket to the social media wind and hope your company falls under it.

I guess that's why many companies pay an organization like Hubspot or Infusionsoft to help them. Infusionsoft offers automated marketing software that is supposed to decrease time spent marketing on social media platforms, allowing you to schedule posts and not worry about getting them out in the interwebs. Hubspot, prides itself on the one-on-one customer service you receive with your membership payment, to help address your content marketing issues, but even the service reps regurgitate the same information that has been pushed their way; "be sure to provide quality content, post 3-4 blogs a week," etc. They also offer many Webinars, newsletters, and emails to educate you on Inbound Methodology, but again, they apply a broad overview of this methodology and think it applies to everyone's process. In a world of target marketing, with big data to back it up, I thought the 'throw it against the wall and see what sticks' mentality was gone.

But it isn't, it is just disguised as something else right now.

Quality of engagement is the crux of all of this. How can we measure quality of engagement? How do we know the value of allowing your consumers contact you in real time via social media or the value of sharing a video that can inspire others. We don't know how far this reach can be, let alone how to measure it. Especially in different industries where the culture of engagement is different throughout.

The point is, you can't measure quality of engagement in Google Analytics (Google offers some really neat measuring capabilities though). In an industry that sees the never ending opportunity that the digital age has provided us, the process in how to interact and engage is only half of it, the other half requires a shift in the measurement process and moving away from "three sheets to the wind" mentality. After all, no one wants to rely solely on the wind to spread your message: that's why we developed technology.

To learn about how BrainBox navigates through these issues, please read my solution oriented post.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

The Future of Social Business

Properly marketing on social media platforms is difficult. The current tide is moving toward quality over quantity and everyone seems to be advocating for social engagement these days. But the essence of engagement has yet to be mastered (with the exception of a few) and because most companies expect a quick ROI on their social media experience, they are not so concerned with actually engaging their audience.

This leads people down the path of ‘doing what everyone else is doing’ and inundates platforms with low quality posts that don’t create quality engagement and don’t produce any profit for the companies that use these platforms.

It is important to keep in mind social media ROI doesn’t have parameters nor is it confined to a single definition. You have to conduct an in-depth analysis of your social media presence, process, and parameters to identify expectations of your social media audience and make sure those align with the quality of information and engagement that is being posted, tweeted, and shared on platforms. 

You have to remember that social media is a catalyst for sharing information and for users to see a side of your company that they may not have been aware. Engagement must be personified. Humanizing your social media presence is the key. You cannot dismiss how you interact with your potential brand advocates.

We leave you with the opening Keynote discussion from the 2014 Social Shake-up, one of the largest social media conferences in the United States. Staying up to date on emerging trends in the realm of social media is important to your success. We hope you enjoy learning about this as much as we do.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

How Does Your Employee Get to Work?

Today, only 5% of Americans use public transit. 77% of us drive to work and only 10% share rides. According to the US Census Bureau, we were doing a lot better in the 20's when 20% of us shared rides.

On average, commuters loses 34 hours to traffic congestion each year. Deloitte reports that we waste 4.76 billion hours per year. Translating that into dollar value, that's $429 million per day. It's about $160 billion worth of productivity each year cycled through the exhaust pipe and turned into polluted air.

That cost is only on the individuals. The government pays a certain amount as part of its public service obligations. We, in turn, pay for that through our taxes.

Companies offering a transportation solution to their workers encourages a pattern of consequences improving their bottom lines. Google, for example, found by providing shuttle services to its employees it lowered worker stress, increased talent pool, and eliminated some cost of building parking infrastructures. This also help reduce the fuel demand, emissions, and vehicle traffic.   

Friday, October 17, 2014

Cultivate Your Crowd

In a recent survey conducted by the European Commission on financial and security markets, a majority of respondents felt that crowdfunding campaigns with social objectives merit special treatment from the regulators.

The consensus is that social ventures and those behind the ventures should not be limited to the donation or lending based funding opportunities. Equity crowdfunding should be a viable option. However, a need to define social enterprise and the kinds of social objectives are critical and respondents agree that transparency is a must if social ventures are to get special treatment. Most suggested ex post verifications (e.g., audits, social impact assessments, or periodic reporting). Some respondents call for a favorable tax treatment for these social ventures, some prefer lighter regulations, and few mentioned the need to harmonizes impact measures and warned against any sort of regulatory interventions in this sector. The commission stated that it will explore this in more detail in future efforts.