Information Technology, Innovation, Social business, Social Technologies, User Experience

Thanks to the social media, businesses are now relying on the social channels besides the mainstream media. Apart from having a web presence, companies are now having their presence on social and professional networks. Because of this, there are more networks, more people and more content getting shared. As highlighted in my earlier posts, social business is not an option for organisations now. Businesses have now acquired thousands of followers, friends and fans on the social networks. But these numbers fail to indicate the true success of a social business. What then are the true indicators for the progress in a social business journey? Our Social Business Maturity Model helps! With the Key Progress Indicators (KPIs), you can easily assess the progress and measure your success. In this post, let us look at these KPIs and how they offer insights into the social business performance.

Measures and metrics in mainstream media

I would prefer to call traditional, digital and online media together as mainstream media. These incude print channels such as magazines,newspapers, electronic media including television and radio, web channels like web sites and web applications. As the saying goes, “measure it to manage it”, people have been measuring the progress of the effectiveness using these mainstream media. Measures and metrics like sales per region and ROI have become standard across industries. However, going by the current trends, their usage is limited and cannot be relied upon to judge the impact across all channels of the business. The following are some of the popular numbers, which are still helpful to get some understanding about the performance on the specific channels.

  • Sales per region – all
  • Number of impressions – newspapers and magazines
  • Number of footfalls – Physical stores and shops
  • TRPs – Television
  • Conversion rates – Web sites
  • Page views – Web sites

Social media brings new measures for businesses

Besides the above, social businesses now have newer measures added to manage, track and measure the social efforts. Since social networks are mainly focused on people and content aspects, businesses are engaged in connecting and following people and viewing, sharing and creating content. Alongside these activities, advertisements in Facebook, YouTube etc., help businesses generate leads and enable online transactions, smoothly. In line with the activities and social engagements, the newer social measures and metrics emerged that would help track these activities. These ranged from the simple measures like number of followers to more complex metrics like influence score and engagement score. However, these numbers alone are not helpful to see the activities on social networks and the results therefrom, in silos. They are not of much use in getting the big picture for social business. Our Social Business Maturity Model and the associated KPIs surely give a better visibility on the activities and results.

Social measures, metrics and analytics

According to the Social Business Maturity Model, there are 3 key areas that offer insight into how the social efforts are performing. These are the people, content and business. Within each of these 3 areas, there are measures, analytics and social business insights. The measures add up to the metrics and they in turn contribute to generate the usable insights.

  • Social measures
  • Metrics and analytics
  • Social business insights

Social Metrics - FocusAreas -SBMM - Texavi

Social measures are pure numbers that are straightforward and do not depend on other measures. These are expressed typically in numbers, averages and time taken to perform an action. Examples for social measures are number of followers, views, likes, shares, votes etc. Metrics and analytics, on the other hand are derived from the social measures.  For instance, influence score, engagement score and network reach are some of the popular analytics that we track and analyse for understanding the user behaviours, content quality and campaign’s performance. Social business insight is the overarching measure that would help understand the effectiveness of a campaign or series of activities on the social networks. Total value per action, for example is one such social business insight that is derived from the metrics and analytics.

Social Business KPIs

In the Social Business Maturity Model, the Social Business KPIs offer the true insights about the performance, progress and success of the social business efforts. While most of them are quantitative, a few of them are based on the qualitative aspects. These are derived from the social metrics and analytics. And metrics in turn, are computed based the social measures. A case in point is the analytic ‘network reach’ is dependent on the social measures – no. of followers in the networks, no. of new followers added in the last week, no. of FoF (friends of friends) etc. This analytic network reach however is not complete in itself and cannot be a great business value. So, we have a KPI called Total Value per Action (TVA) which is derived from other related analytics like the influence score, engagement score, number of leads generated from the advertisement, number of transactions triggered etc.

The following diagram shows how an insight, total value per action, is derived from the associated metrics and social measures.

TVA - Social business insight -SBMM -Texavi

 

Hope you find this post on the social business insights helpful. Please feel free to drop your comments and feedback. Until next post, ciao!

 

Behavior Modeling & Design, Business Analysis, Information Technology, Innovation, Social business, Social Technologies, User Experience

Businesses, like individuals grow over time, adjusting themselves to the changes, situations, market demands and business drivers. Organisations mature in their processes, improving continually their products, services and operations. Often the maturity happens by doing, learning and unlearning from their own experiences. However, some other times, maturity could come in through vicarious learning i.e., looking and observing at others and their ways of working. This applies equally well to the social businesses which undergo different stages of progression. Social businesses join networks, identify their goals, create and innovate content and engage people. As they mature, the focus shifts from selling their products and services to building their brand. In this post, I will first touch upon the criteria for defining a successful social business and then discuss how you can drive your social efforts with the social business engine.

Maturity levels show progress towards goals_SBMM_Texavi

1. First define the goals and success criteria  

In order to become successful, the first step is to identify and define in clear terms, what success means. The definition of “done” and the success criteria have to be specified and agreed upon well in advance. These will help the organisation, team members and also the stakeholders to understand the progress. To be able to understand whether you have reached your goals, you must first define what the goals are. For social businesses, as I mentioned in my previous posts, the goal is to become a people-focused business. This goal translates into the organisation delivering experiences instead of products and services. Success also depends on how well businesses help change the behaviours of their customers and users.

I think social businesses must focus on the following areas, to become successful.

  • Brands, not just products and services
  • People, not just customers and users
  • Experiences, not just engagement and influence
  • Habits, not just one time actions
  • Insights, not just metrics and analytics

Goals for Social Business_SBMM_Texavi

2. Identify the key drivers – People, content and business

There is no doubt that the social business engine powers your social initiative providing the direction and fuel for your social efforts. I view this engine as comprising three main components- people, content and business. The social business hinges on these 3 key components, and they are inter-related among themselves. People contribute and create engaging content, and this content leads conversations to transactions. Yes, its true that social networks are about conversations. But merely engaging people with interactive content does not help businesses become successful at social business. So, a combination of people, content and business working in tandem would help build successful social businesses. No wonder most successful social businesses have got it right with these three components of the social business engine.

Power with Social Business Engine_SBMM_Texavi

3. Invest in people, the true asset to social business

The way organisations manage their relationships with people shift from one level to another, as they get matured in the social business. The maturity on this component of the social business engine varies from being a novice at identifying the right people within their networks to actively engaging them. In the initial levels, you put the efforts in finding and connecting with the right people in the target networks. You slowly start to follow them and their activities, interact with them in different ways to create some value in the process. But as you reach higher levels of maturity, you go beyond conversations and engage them with innovative content, and encouraging them to conduct commercial transactions. This happens as there is increased level of trust and also there is a sense of give-and-take between the people and you. At the highest level is the goal to influence and delight the people, coercing them to make or break habits, to the advantage of all involved.

Here are some top tips for getting it right with people-focus. Some of these are aligned with our Unified Experience Framework.

  • Look beyond customers. Focus on People {customers, users, stakeholders, followers}
  • Follow and be followed by the right people on your networks
  • Enable people to change their behaviours
  • Synchronise people’s online and offline behaviours
  • Deliver unified experiences across multiple platforms and channels
  • Cut out the noise and care for people’s voices and heartbeats

4. Create meaningful and engaging content 

Curating, creating and innovating content is critical for the success of any social business. Curation of the content can happen when there is a value-add done by means of sharing it to relevant people and making changes to it. Social businesses can succeed when they could enhance the content and also innovate. Innovation with content can be done in many ways, based on the industry, size and nature of business. Essentially, businesses innovate when they create different types of content altogether. For instance, Apple created iBooks and gave power to small time authors who want to publish their books, quickly, easily and in a cost-effective manner. Many companies who have been traditionally printing books, started with digital publications. The content is still the same, but these companies innovated with different way of delivering it.

5. Social business goes beyond conversations

Engaging people on the networks with interesting content is key for social businesses, to start with. Also, encouraging people to be involved in meaningful conversations aligned to the business interests of the organisation is critical too. However, as the business matures, the focus needs to be to interactions leading to commercial transactions. Otherwise there is not much of a value-add for the business to be on the social networks. You should start to motivate people to do online transactions, review your products, recommend of their friends so that they become your customers too.

Hope you find the above points helpful in building your social business. As always, please feel free to drop in with your comments and suggestions. Until next post, ciao!

 

Business Analysis, Information Technology, Product Development, Social business, Social Technologies, User Experience

“Markets are conversations” – this saying is absolutely relevant to the current times. No wonder social media nowadays is not optional for businesses anymore. Increasingly, more small and medium enterprises have been embracing social networks albeit a bit coerced by competition than willingly. However, not all of them who adopt the social business route are successful. A handful of them have found the right path, stuck to it and achieved success. That brings a valid question in our minds – how would you measure the success of the efforts in building a social business? Like the well-established SEI-CMM model, success in social business too depends on the capability and  the maturity of the organisation. I came up with the Social Business Maturity Model, akin to the SEI’s CMM, but contextually aligned to social business’s focus areas and processes. This post touches upon the key aspects in assessing the efforts of the business, internally and the resulting output, externally.

Why to assess and measure the social efforts

It is evident that organisations are investing their efforts, resources, people and money into making their businesses socially successful. Irrespective of industry, size and domain, these companies have taken the social business journey. They have put in place various processes and are actively undertaking various activities towards the social initiative. There should be a way of assessing and measuring where an organisation is in the context of this social efforts and processes. Texavi’s Social Business Maturity Model(SBMM) would help you to assess how mature an organisation is in the continuum from Level 1 being an initial phase to Level 5, being the Optimising phase. The SBMM enables the small and medium businesses primarily, to understand what it takes at each phase of the Social Business journey and invest their resources and efforts accordingly.

Texavi’s Social Business Maturity Model – Overview

I thought about this SBMM framework, considering the internal and external facets of any organisation. These two perspectives are helpful to assess and analyse the resources,processes and efforts required internally to generate the desired results, externally. This SBMM framework, the levels, key focus areas and the maturity matrix are based purely on my understanding and views and I did not refer to any industry or academic source, for similarity or differences. Within each of the focus areas, the organisation’s  is divided across 5 levels starting from Level1 : Start-up through to Level 5:Tune-up.The 5 Maturity Levels - Texavi's SBMM

 

Social Business internal focus – What you can do

There is no doubt that companies have to focus on selling and marketing their products and services to improve their bottom lines. However, social businesses have to do much more than this. The focus has to shift from their products and services to enhancing their brand equity, which is a larger goal to accomplish. However this cannot be achieved overnight or with a magic wand, but done gradually. So, an organisation matures across the 5 levels in the SBMM to reach the stage where the focus is clearly on building their brand. In the same way, businesses traditionally focus on selling and advertising to their customers and they extend this behaviour to social media as well. On the social and professional networks too, companies use the tone of selling to customers. However, this needs to change to a tone of engaging people in meaningful conversations.

The key focus areas for the internal focus of the social businesses, as per the SBMM are:

  • Business Focus
  • Processes
  • Delivery platforms & channels
  • Activity on social media

The following diagram illustrates these points highlighting the key focus areas for an organisation to take care of, internally:

Key Focus Areas - Internal View - Texavi SBMM

 

Social Business external focus – how you do

Marketing and communications are like the face of the organisation, presenting their view to the external world. Customers and users have always been the focus of organisations traditionally. However, with social media businesses now need to extend their reach beyond the customers to followers, friends and fans on the social networks. Also, for successful social businesses, content becomes a key strategic tool. As the organisation matures in its social business approach, they move from consuming and sharing the content to curating and creating engaging content. Messaging too gradually shifts from being interruptive to highly-contextual and personalised to the users.

The key focus areas for the external focus of the social businesses, as per the SBMM are:

  • People
  • Content
  • Business Focus
  • Messaging

The diagram given below presents the key focus areas that an organisation should take care of, externally:

Key Focus Areas - External View - Texavi's SBMM

I will try and continue my thought process on the Social Business Maturity Model in the next few posts. Also, on Texavi’s web site and White Papers, you can find more details on Texavi’s SBMM such as the Maturity Matrix and focus areas. Feel free to share your views and feedback on this post. Until next post, ciao!

Behavior Modeling & Design, Business Analysis, Information Technology, Innovation, Product Development, Social business, Social Technologies, User Experience

A few days ago, I was thinking about what separates the great organisations from the good ones.  I tried to connect a few successful companies with the secrets behind their success. Here is a small question for you to get thinking on this..what is common to Google, Apple and simple? Of course the letters LE, but the prize goes to the correct answer, “their commitment to make people happy”. Google and Apple have positioned themselves as people-focused firms, creating innovative products and services that not only work for people but also delight them. They have established a clear differentiation based on delighting their customers, stakeholders and followers with simple and easy to use products and services. In this post, let us learn how any organisation which aims to become a social business, needs to focus on ‘the people’ to be successful.

Focus on people – Make them happy

Businesses traditionally have been focusing on people  in one form or the other. Every organisation works hard to keep their customers happy as that would guarantee their existence. Some businesses focus on keeping their employees satisfied with good facilities, pay and perks.These companies think that happy employees lead to higher productivity and thereby better results. A few large organisations with deep pockets can afford to keep not only their customers and employees  happy, but also extend their reach to the stakeholders like shareholders and suppliers.  However, a social business needs to do all the above and a bit extra as well. Let us see in the next section what social businesses need to do to get it right.

Social Businesses focus on People

Social business – Internal and external people

Social businesses have to optimise their business strategies, operations and resources towards the ‘people’. The people here means those who are both ‘internal’ as well as ‘external’ to the organisation. Internal people are the employees and other key stakeholders such as the management, sponsors and the shareholders. They are critical to the success of any initiative as everything starts with them, from the business vision to strategy, from planning to execution and delivery. External people refers to the customers and suppliers. However, in the context of social business, the list doesn’t end here. These external people include the followers, friends and fans on social and professional networks. Social businesses succeed by putting the people’s interests first beyond anything. Their business objectives and bottom lines are all dependent on their people-focus. Social businesses have to ensure that both the internal and external people are happy.Here is how they can achieve this. :

  • Involve, encourage and empower the right teams
  • Find, connect and follow the right people
  • Educate, influence and engage your followers

In the following sections, let us see how the organisations can become effective following the above rules.

Involve, encourage and empower the right teams

Teams make or break your organisations initiatives and attempts for successful campaigns. Great teams often are one of the biggest success factors behind great social businesses. You need to involve the team members from the very beginning so that they none of the team members feel left out. Also, this would help build ownership in them and increases their responsibility. Encourage and motivate the team members to start delivering towards the goals of social business. Empower them to take decisions on their own, try new things and implement their ideas. No matter if the ideas are bad or good, let the team work on those ideas and realise the efficacy of these ideas, on their own. Empowering the teams enables the team to own up the social business initiative and deliver activities and succeed, all by themselves.

For successful social business, empower the team and allow them to:

  1. Estimate the efforts and timelines
  2. Come up with the plan
  3. Commit and agree upon the plans
  4. Deliver on the plans
  5. Bring out the problems, if any, during the execution

Find, Connect and follow the right people

Whereas the teams working on your social business are internal to your organisation, you also need to look outside of your business. These are customers, suppliers and others, speaking of traditional businesses. Often in the context of social business, this extends to those people in your social and professional networks. Follow these simple rules to follow the right people on your social and professional networks.
  1. Define the profiles of the people who fit your business requirements
  2. Create a persona with the demographics and psychographics
  3. Search, browse and look out for the people fitting in the persona
  4. Connect to these people and follow their activities on networks
  5. Interact with them by liking and favouriting their content
  6. Engage with the people by sharing their content across networks
FindConnectFollowandInteractWithTheRightPeople

Educate, engage and influence your followers

Following people on the social and professional networks, interacting with with them and sharing their content is one thing. It is quite another level to get people to follow you. Even harder is to engage people consistently with content that they are interested in. Of course, the most difficult step in the social engagement is to be able to influence your followers, friends and fans positively and increase their trust in you and your brand. The starting point for all of these accomplishments is to start sharing content which aligns with the interests of your followers. Make it worthy of their likes, and encourage them to comment upon and share it with others in their network. Influence your followers

Given below are some useful tips to help you with engaging your audience and influencing them.

  1. Identify the target audience from amongst your followers, friends and fans on networks
  2. Understand their interests and focus areas
  3. Align your campaigns and content to be aligned with their interests
  4. Interact with them, encourage people to like your content and share it
  5. Reach out to friends of friends (FoF) and widen your network reach
  6. Influence your followers to trust your brand and make them your ambassadors

Hope you find the above suggestions helpful in your social business efforts. As always, please let me know your views for improving this blog. Until next post, Ciao!

 

 

Information Technology, Product Development, Social business, Social Technologies

Are you still relying only on the static web site that was updated 5 years ago, a few printed marketing materials like flyers, and an external agency that handles your email marketing? These alone may not work anymore for the benefit of your business. No matter how large or small, old or new your organisation is, social business has proved to be the order of the day. The good old ways of marketing using the traditional media planning and advertising in conventional channels and the emerging newer ways of using social media are not the same. In the same way, optimising your content and applications for the customary search engines is not enough, as increasingly they need to be optimised for social media as well. However, being a social business does not refer to tweeting a few times per week and collecting Likes on your Facebook page, though these are good starting points. In this post, we will look at what it takes for a business to become a successful social business.

1. Go beyond a single web presence

Having a web presence with a web site, which rarely gets updated  is not a great step towards becoming a social business. You must increase your channels and distribute the effort, time and cost. Large organisations today have dedicated departments catering to social media and managing the campaigns around these networks. Increasingly these companies have people with the titles such as ‘Community Manager’, and ‘Social Scientist’. However, it might be an overkill for some smaller organisations to spend their resources on the social media marketing, at the cost of their core business. Bear in mind that there is no one-size-fits-all solution that works the same way for all businesses in the same way. To decide what you should have in your arsenal, you need to think about the following:

  • What is your core business?
  • What is the size of your organisation?
  • Who are your target customers?
  • Where do you operate?
  • What resources do you have?
UXF_Social Business Focus_Texavi

2. Conversations could be positive or negative

The focal point of the social and professional networks is enabling people to connect  and indulge in conversations. Often these conversations could be negative as well, which is quite expected considering that people do have different experiences with brands. Although, the motive behind these interactions could be not just the  brands, but also people’s encounters with products, services, solutions or most importantly other people representing any of these . Don’t expect people to always talk positively about you or your brand. Often they are influenced by their previous experiences with the which were not-so positive. Natural Language Programming and Sentiment analysis are a few of the tools that you can use to unravel the moods from among numerous conversations.

3. Conversion is the holy grail

Make no mistake, all that matters to a business in any industry of any size large or small, local or global, is conversion. Businesses since ages have been focusing on converting a prorspect to a customer and a customer to a loyal customer and then to a lifetime customer. The web came in and  along with helping businesses achieve the above aspiration, also added another dimension. That of converting visitors to registered users and then to the customers. With the advent of Social media, the fundamentals and business models did not change. These social networks enabled visitors who follow your organisation or brand, to become friends and fans. The conversion from visitors to friends and then to customers has become an easier and quicker process, though the numbers are low.

Conversion_Social Business Enablement_Texavi

4. Cut out your noise, care for people’s voice

Companies have been promoting their products and services vociferously as a ‘push mechanism’, using advertisements and branding campaigns. For these, they were using the traditional media such as Newspapers, Television, Radio and other print media. However, increasingly people are getting frustrated with the  noise generated by these brands. The trust on these companies and brands and customers’ belief in what they say is dwindling. One of the key factors why social media have become popular is this decreasing trust in brands and increased confidence in what other people say and do. This is what I call the ‘Pull mechanism’. In order to make your social initiative a success, the pull has to be given an equal, if not more, importance than the push channels. Focus on listening to the voices of the customers and those people who matter to your business. Observe, respond and resolve the complaints, problems and service requests from the people on these social media. large organisations like British Gas, AT & T and Apple already are actively using social media like Twitter and Facebook to listen, respond and resolve customer complaints and issues.

 

5. Deliver congruent “experiences” consistently

The key to success for any business is to deliver delightful experiences to their customers. Whether you have products or services, instead of focusing too much on features and functionality, focus on the experience offered by them to your customers and users. These experiences too have to be consistent and unified across different channels, media, platforms and devices that you use to reach your customers.  Inconsistent experiences lead to customers feeling dissonance and they are left confused with too may messages in too many forms. To offer this unified experience to your customers, you must balance the various channels such as traditional, digital,online, mobile and social media. Read this post on how you could achieve this integrated, congruent experience across multiple channels and platforms.

Hope you find this post helpful. As always, do drop in with your feedback, suggestions and critiques to help improve the quality of our blogposts. Until next post, Ciao!

 

Business Analysis, Information Technology, Product Development, Social business, Social Technologies, User Experience

A recent report on social media by ACSI, American Customer Satisfaction Index puts Facebook behind other social networks such as Google+ and Pinterest on user satisfaction. Yes, going social is not enough anymore, nor is creating a Facebook page for your business, tweeting on a regular basis or having a LinkedIn profile. Successful businesses are no longer just about being active on social media, and collecting analytics on engagement and influence. Time has come to move beyond the fads and integrate your brand and reputation management activities to deliver congruent and unified experiences to customers and users. In this post, we will have a look at the various channels available for businesses and how these can be leveraged to successfully manage reputation in an increasingly competitive market.

1. ORM is not just managing ‘Online’ reputation

There are many different ways in which you can reach out to your customers and users. The evolution of the various channels and media can be considered as a continuum over the past decades or even centuries. From the times businesses have been used to traditional channels like print and word of mouth to today’s social media, communication and reputation/brand management channels championed the cause of businesses. Texavi created a framework that traces the various channels and also maps how easy or hard it is to implement each of these channels. The infographic given below provide a perspective on various channels such as traditional, digital, web, mobile and social platforms that contribute to the organisation’s reputation.

Texavi's ORM model - evolution and ease of implementation

 

2. All channels are not the same

All channels don’t have the same flavour and they don’t behave in the same way. They vary in the way they are created, maintained and delivered through. For instance the traditional channels such as the print media might require initial installation and setup. On the other hand, the social channels such as social media networks like Facebook, Twitter accounts etc., need to be created, connected and integrated. These media differ on various aspects, each having its own set of characteristics and behaving in its own way. However, the real trick lies in how well you identify the right channels for your business and use them smartly. The following sections will help you in selecting this so that you will succeed at managing your organisation’s reputation.

3. Mix and match the channels for balance

Relying only on one channel at the expense of the other will only give negative results. That is why businesses need to focus on choosing the right mix of the channels and resources to manage their brand and reputation in a holistic manner. The above infographic also charts the evolution of these various channels/media and the ease of their implementation. Success in managing reputation in today’s world lies in identifying and using all the possible channels, based on the organisation’s expectations and experience. Also, note from the above infographic that the ease or difficulty in implementation could vary depending on industry, product, market dynamics and the specific organisation which is implementing it.

4. Get to know the critical factors

While some channels say, the print media could take longer time to implement whereas its comparatively quicker to create some others like web sites. Besides, other factors such as cost, resources required etc., could vary from one channel to another. You need to compare and contrast these various factors across the channels. I give below a list of some key factors that must be considered before you take any decision:

  • Cost of implementation
  • Speed of implementation
  • Manpower required
  • Materials and physical resources
The following framework provides maps the various channels on the cost vs. speed of implementation. You can see that there is a tradeoff and it is wise to choose the right channel(s) suitable for your industry, products and customers.

Cost vs. Speed of implementation - Texavi's ORM 4Q model

 5. Don’t go by fads and trends

Just because everyone has a Facebook page, you don’t have to create one, unless your business really need one. Following latest fads will only leads you into frustration and confusion, as you don’t see the expected results coming out of them. Before adopting and implementing a programme, it is important that you carefully consider the past experiences, resources available and the expectations of your organisation. Also, keep in mind the critical factors like cost and time for the implementation of the selected channels. For an integrated, well-oiled reputation management initiative, I suggest that you should aim for a perfect balance by choosing the best among the available channels and media and using them in a unified manner.

Hope these tips help you in getting it right with your ORM initiatives. Please drop in your feedback and inputs for making our blog better. Until the next post, ciao!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Business Analysis, Business Case, Social business, User Experience

For any business in this world, these words hold true
Yes, your customers look for fresh and new
All you need is to give them a small cue
To find the best solution among their preferred few!

Realise that your customers look very much like ‘you’
When they get products/services that give value
And those that delight them in whatever they do
I promise, they will stick to your brand for life, like glue :)

Unified Experience, not just user experience anymore
Unified Experience, not just user experience anymore
Business Analysis, Business Case, Social business, Social Technologies, User Experience

Last week, Cadbury UK launched its new product Bubbly through their Google+ brand pages.  I think this is a brave new attempt that augurs well for the social networks and the businesses, in general. Social media are fast becoming the mainstay digital platform and are eagerly waiting to get alongside the traditional marketing channels. Not just the consumers and media, but technologies and businesses too are drifting towards the ‘social’ side, thanks to success and reach of Facebook, Twitter and Google. No wonder that we have social networks, social technologies, social business…everything has a ‘social’ touch today. But what are the effects of this socialification (I don’t want to use the word socialization, for obvious reasons) on your products and services? How can you leverage these social trends to your advantage and bring about the positive changes in the way you operate & deliver? In this post, I give you some tips addressing these questions and also touch upon some key aspects of our Social Experience Framework.

1.Get social – The emergence of ‘social’ everything

There is little doubt that the buzz word today is social and the whole world is now geared towards a ‘social revolution’ of sorts. From the revolution in Egypt to the ‘Occupy…’ movements, social platforms are aiding the way people connect, unite and demonstrate for a cause. The revolution is not just restricted to mass protests and demonstrations. It is expanding its reach and making inroads into our lives and work. Just a few days ago, Google began including the content from their social platform, Google+, when searching and showing the search results. This is yet another example of how ‘social’ content and interactions are  getting into the mainstream content. There are more people now who, before buying a product, read the reviews of “other people”.  Before saying anything good or bad about anything, some people “google it” or when in doubt, check it out on the “Wikipedia”. The growing emphasis on the relevance of big data and open source technologies and tools, is only adding more ammunition to this social revolution.

2. Focus on people and their social interactions

Yes, they are all people. You once used to call them  customers, users, partners and vendors. Your sphere of influence was restricted only to these stakeholders and perhaps extended to prospective customers. But now with social media and technologies, the reach has increased and the scope is broadened to cover more number of people. This includes not only prospective customers and product reviewers but also potentially  friends and family members as well. Now is the time to make your business, and technology, products and services more people-centric, for real and reap the rewards. Listen, observe and understand the various ways people interact online and offline too. Make these interactions more meaningful by providing context-sensitive information which they can use readily and easily. Simplify their interactions and enrich them by offering value-add through seamless channels and platforms.

3.Make it work on multiple platforms, devices & channels

The developers and testers among you will agree with me that its a real nightmare to design, develop and test applications on the ever-increasing number of channels, platforms and devices. However, this is great news for all the customers and users as they have a plethora of options (often to the extent of getting spoilt for choice). With newer technologies coming into the fore to help you, it might not be as complicated as it might sound. HTML5, CSS3, JavaScript, XML and other technologies, accompanied by the all-powerful bowsers, offer great ways to develop and deliver rich, interactive applications to your users.

4.Deliver social experience, not just user experience

As you have seen in the recent past, there has been a  proliferation of computers, laptops, mobile phones and Tablets. Also, there has been a significant raise in the Internet usage for education, work and entertainment. All along you have been focusing on delivering great customer and user experiences through your products, services and solutions. With the advancement of social context, it is just not enough if you try and look only at your customers and users only. The experiences have to be broad based, reaching out to friends, prospects, family members and ‘people’. I call it the ‘social experience’, covering all these. Our SoX Framework is an integrated experience delivered via multiple channels, devices, platforms and media. SoX is a pervasive, personalized and persuasive experience, delivered in context-rich, yet simple way.

5. Not just quantitative, but qualitative

There is a plethora of online analytics services that measure the social media usage. From Klout to PeerIndex and recently PeekAnalytics, these have been serving up measures and metrics on the engagement, influence and network reach based on the activities you do online and especially on the social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+. All of these provide the scores, ranks and numbers. While analytics are good, they can only be useful, if applied to the right cause. As business leaders and product owners, one needs to balance the quantitative measures with the qualitative aspects. How do you get to the qualitative information? Be open and actively participate in the social networks and reach out to the audiences. For instance, Dell appointed CLO (Chief Listening Officer) whose role is to follow and listen to the noise and voice of customers on the social networks. British Gas resolves customer issues on Twitter, using it as a platform for understanding, tracking and closing people’s complaints.

To summarize, social businesses, technologies are already in and we are left with no choice, but to embrace them and use them to our advantage. Delivering social experiences require today’s businesses to broadbase  their focus to ‘people’, listen to them constantly and help them instantly. Let me know if you have a suggestion, question or comment. Until next post, ciao!

Information Technology, Product Development, Usability Testing, User Experience, User Testing, User-centered Design

Google recently announced the official withdrawal (or some would say the unfortunate death) of  a few products which could not deliver their promise. These include but are not limited to Google Wave and Google Buzz, which failed to create the waves and the buzz in the market. Remember, these came from the stable of none other than Google, which is a leading product vendor renowned for innovation, simplicity and user experience. Why then, do you think they could not measure up and survive? I think one of the main reasons is that they failed the litmus test. And the real litmus test for your products is when they reach the real users who use them to address their needs. Popularly called as usability testing, the user testing of your product reveals a lot of insights into the success or failure of the features you have created newly or changed in your products. In this post, I wish to touch upon a few key aspects of Usability testing that you must know, but that is difficult to know!

       

Why usability testing

Usability tests help the product owners and developers to understand the performance of the product from the user’s needs, goals and tasks. It helps validate and verify the structure, layout, navigation,interaction and overall experience. Also, they help in identifying the task related details:

  • User’s goals
  • Tasks to achieve their goals
  • Time taken to perform the tasks
  • Challenges in completing the tasks
  • Breakdown areas/points in the performance tasks
  • Confusing or ambiguous areas on the interface of product
For more details on usability testing, refer to the write-up on Usability Testing at Texavi’s web site.

User testing methods – Similarities & differences

I often hear people referring the terms usability testing, user acceptance testing (aka UAT) and accessibility testing in the same vein. While all of these may be related to product, and most often involve users and/or customers, they are different in their objectives, scope, and target audience as well. In this post, I wish to dwell upon the user testing which is also known as usability testing, and bring to fore its importance and the key differences between user testing, user acceptance testing and also market testing. Usability testing is often confused and compared with UAT( User Acceptance Testing). Sometimes people do compare with several marketing related activities. I give below a table comparing and contrasting among these various methodologies. I am sure this will be a handy reference for you, when in doubt.

Engage and test with users early

Defects and mistakes are like cubs, the younger you catch them, the better and quicker, you are at taming them. The later they are identified and closed in the product life cycle, they will turn into wild tigers and pounce upon the functionality, resulting in the failure of the products.  Same with usability testing as well. UT can be done at various phases, across the development cycle of the product. Most product companies do realize the importance of involving users in the product development, but often this realization dawns upon them much later  than required. There is not much use in testing the product with users, after it is all set to be delivered in a few days. You really cannot do much to rectify the defects identified, as the time to fix is less and the pressure to deliver is more.

So, a smarter step is to start testing the product earlier in the cycle for the user experience. This would help immensely with ample time to fix the defects and ensuring that they don’t grow too  big  to solve, much like taming the younger cubs. There is  a second advantage to testing early, and that is to enable users to have a go at the product early on and this gives them a feeling of getting engaged with the product development. This in turn makes them feel that they do have a stake in the product and that they are being cared for and listened to. Another big advantage with the early testing is to do with the development team’s readiness to accept the changes and make them quickly. This is because they did not put in a great effort to churn out the artefact and so, they are far more willing to accept changes and rework, as compared to the later stages.

Secret of success – test more!

Testing early does help in identifying and resolving the defects to settle down, but it does not mean that there will be absolutely no defects coming later into the product. Well, the fact remains that the numbers might be minimized thanks due to the early testing, but still defects and erratic decisions do seep in due to various other factors. The only way to ensure that these are identified and resolved asap is by testing more of the product with the users.  Most people have this question hovering in their mind as to how much of the product really needs to be tested with users. Well, the more the merrier. The more areas, functionality, modules and dimensions you test in your product, the better for you and your product.

Note that what you are going to test for, differ from time to time, and the level of completeness of the artefact. For instance during the early stages when you test the wireframes with your users, you might be looking for an assessment of the broad level concepts. As you move on into the product life cycle and test a complete, fully functional module of the product,  you might be looking up to users for validating the interaction, information architecture etc. I give below the  the areas you can focus on while testing the product at various stages in the life cycle.

Hope this post helped you in getting the facts right about usability testing. Don’t hesitate to write back your comments/queries. Until next post, ciao!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Agile Development, Behavior Modeling & Design, Business Analysis, Innovation, Product Development, User Analysis, User Experience, User-centered Design

There is one news item that I have been following very keenly in the evening newspaper , going back home from work, daily. It caught my attention a week ago and ever since, it has been on my radar. The news is not  related to the bad state of economy, nor  connected with  sports , movies or  music. It is the ‘Get London Reading’  news story  published on the front page of  London Evening Standard newspaper.  This caught my attention because of the very title of the campaign and the positive vibes being generated and the potential impact and change it would create. The very title of this initiative is a great example of a behavior  definition, nevertheless if it is a tad bit broad and ambitious, if not ambiguous.

Behavior change is possible

In my last post, we looked at what behaviors are and the main types of behaviors. Some people actually asked me the difference between a behavior, goal and task. When I have seen the ‘Get London Reading’  campaign, it instantly occurred to me as an example to help clarify this. A quick look at the campaign page hosted online will give you an indication why I refer to this as an exemplary behavior change programme.  Well, in this post , let us take the next step and understand the Behavior Model touching upon the relationship between motivation, ability and triggers.  I wish to draw some insights from Fogg Behavior Model (aka FBM)  proposed by Prof. B.J.Fogg, using my examples.

The Poppy Appeal – Persuasion success story

A couple weeks ago, people in the UK observed Remembrance Sunday paying tributes to the armed forces personnel who sacrificed their lives in the line of  service.  People from all walks of life came forward to commemorate the bravery of  soldiers  in various ways. There were  donations collected in different forms , the most visible of them being the Web site making the ‘poppy appeal’  and of  course, the sale of poppies on the roads. You would have seen  many people in London and other cities wearing and flaunting these poppies proudly, to show their support to the Royal British Legion. The poppy appeal  program is a massive hit, garnering generous amounts of funds, besides all the attention. I wish to take the poppy appeal case as a success s story to elaborate my case about persuasion and behavior change.

    

Will do -> Want to do + can do

Let us consider a case when somebody comes and asks you to donate funds for the cause of soldiers. How many people will  donate  the money? Notice that some people do want  to donate, because it is serving the noble  cause  of  helping the defence services personnel, albeit  in a small way. But not always do you find that all these motivated people can actually give.  So, it is not enough to want to give funds, but  most importantly, people should also have the ability to donate amounts. Great, so you found some people who want to and also who can donate. Is the job done? Not exactly. They need to be asked, reminded and provided with ways to  donate . These are all the various triggers  used to facilitate these motivated and able people to take the step and donate the amounts. Then and only then, would the motivated and able people come forward to donate.

Fogg Behavior Model (FBM)

So, from the above example, let us try and generalize this  using the Behavior Model proposed by Prof. B.J.Fogg, Director of Persuasive Technologies Lab, Stanford University. You would have understood that people will do a task, not only when they  are motivated but also when they have the  ability.  In other words, the first step in the process of behavior change is to identify those people who have high motivation.  The next step is to simplify the task or  process, or to increase their ability to do the task.

However, it does not always happen that these people actually do the tasks, until they are triggered with the right call to action. These triggers have to be placed on the journeys or paths of these people,  at the right time, in the right place and with the right visibility. That’s the secret  behind many successful products and services, which have been able to bring about a behavior change  in their users.

Change is in the air – Lean & agile

You  would have seen that this persuasion and behavior modeling is all about change, but change of a different kind.  Organizations and products have been trying to induce the behavior change in the people.  The beauty of this model is that it perfectly aligns with the spirit of other successful contemporary models for change management . These include  but not limited to Agile product development and lean startup. All these models and schools of thought have an almost similar ideology. Agile product development is about identifying and responding and managing changes with the right people, tools and techniques. Lean startup embraces the philosophy of doing something in a small way leading up to a gradual and sustainable growth model.  The behavior model encompassing behavior  modeling, behavior change and persuasive design combines the best practices from psychology, change management, design and product  engineering areas.

Mantras for changing behaviors

FBM is a powerful model which is applicable across different industries, product lines and market segments. It is very apt in the scenarios where you wish to make a long term behavior change, with an aim to make a positive habit among your customers and users. Here are some tips and guidelines, given by Prof. Fogg, based on the points discussed in this post.

  • Behavior depends on how motivated users are, their  ability and response to the right triggers for action
  • People’s behaviors can be changed by motivating them, making it simple and/or  inciting them to act
  • Place triggers on the paths of motivated people who are able to do the behaviors
  • Habits can be formed in people through behavior change
  • Focus on increasing ability by making tasks easier for users
  • Help people  do what  they already want to do

Hope you enjoyed reading this post and it is as helpful to you as the previous ones. Until next post, ciao!