Starting a Movement is Social Leadership

I wrote recently that about the next important step for organizations to learn on the social web is leadership. I had characterized it as cultural leadership inspired in many ways by Reed Hastings (the Netflix CEO) presentation on “Freedom and Responsibility in Culture” (my post on that Culture as Competitive Advantage).

This idea of social leadership keeps bringing me back to the How To Start a Movement TED talk that I keep coming across. What I think Derek Sivers really describes here is a tacit element critical community leadership or social leadership and that is how early followers are as a critical part of creating a movement as the initial leader. Think about this as an organization trying to create a movement online, it means the early followers are integral to the creation of that movement. In my opinion organizations are not generally differentiating between the small number that help them create a movement earlier and the late majority.

Some companies understand this, and certainly any blogger who’s been around the block will know this intuitively. I think for many this community building skill is just a tacit human skill that we don’t tend to identify as important in business.

There are of course many people out there who understand and describe this concept in many different ways like open leadership by Charline Lee, tummeling by Debs, Heathr, & KevinMarks, and I think it overlaps with the concept of social capital ( or Whuffie whuffie coined by Cory Doctorow and interpreted extensively by Tara Hunt).

I think people are learning these skills much faster than organizations are and in many ways that’s understandable, people learn tacit skills through and from each other and i think it’s yet to be quantified for organizations.

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OpenFeint Launches Group Buying Model for Games

OpenFeint has just launched a Group Buying model for mobile games built on the back of their multiplayer infrastructure. It’s interesting how they have flown under the radar but have established a very valuable asset, a single sign on and points/leaderboard for a lot of iPhone games. It was started by a couple of incredibly young game designers so they could run their multiplayer infrastructure. They look like a wonderful acquisition target for Nokia or Microsoft.

They were part of the mobile game panel at SXSW in 09 and it’s interesting to hear their back story, but also hear about what the mobile game market was like for developers in ’09.

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WordLens – Maybe The Most Useful Augmented Reality Application Yet

I’ve been enamored with Augmented Reality for a long time but this may be one of the most useful applications of it I’ve seen for consumers. Essentially word lens is an instant translator, you point the camera at some text and the camera shows the translated text. It’s simply brilliant and will no doubt become the must have app for travelers. Found this via @juergenhoebarth.

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The Market for Things and Ideas Not Being Talked About

Many people and organizations have identified “listening” to the chatter on social media as an enormous business opportunity. Listening to customers, voice of the customer, sentiment analysis and even semantic technologies designed to understand the meaning in what people are saying. With the proliferation of tools that enable people to express themselves is creating an enormous amount of data to munge that many hope will lead to more successful products, features that align with needs, and marketing messages that resonate.

It occurs to me though that the biggest opportunity for organizations on the web is in the things and ideas not being talked about. Anyone who’s done ethnographic research and compared interview questions with observation knows that there is often an enormous gap between what people say and what they actually do. In the world of social media conversations are filtered through the unique cultural norms that emerge on those networks, in addition to the more engraved cultural norms at a national or organizational level.

Identifying things not being talked about in the context of the social web may sound like a zen koan but the opportunities are there to be discovered through participation and critical thinking about the cultural norms that keep possibly important topics out of the spotlight. It’s certainly my experience that there is a high degree of political correctness in a lot of these public conversations and a active avoidance of real controversy. I experienced some quite significant chilling effects from my community when I posted links to the Wikileaks video of reuters photographers being murdered which to me was an important issue, but appeared to be outside of many people’s comfort zone.

Have you experienced this chilling effect from communities you participate in? Are there taboo’s that discuss with friends that you don’t see as part of the discorse online?

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Become Part of The Twitter Metagame

I’m working with a small group in the process of developing a multiplayer metagame that runs on top of the activity on twitter. It’s easy to be part of the game and in fact many people will be playing it without even knowing. If you’d like to be part of the early tests or are even interested in collaborating on an aspect of the game specific for your organization please leave a comment or just follow @future games on twitter.

I’m particularly interested in talking to twitter users and startups using twitter as their platform because I think there are emerging games and social norms on twitter that can become part of the game.

Part of the design will be the ability to create your own “levels” and also participate in shaping the game through participation. I will be posting some example games in the near future. Needless to the primary goal is to create really fun games and I am already talking to some leaders in the gaming space with the aim to create fun, deep, compelling and meaningful game experiences.

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Social Product Management

Product management is a very important discipline in a lot of technology companies, they are the glue between business strategy and the engineering team. In many organizations they are also closest to the customers and help strike a balance between demand for features and profitability to the business. In really good organizations product management decentralizes the execution of the strategy rather like Napoleon did with the French Army when he radically decentralizing his command.

The concept of social product management is having a design and prioritization process that is guided by the needs, demands but also capabilities of your customers. I would really like to hear from other product managers that are working on making social part of their process.

Here’s a presentation on how to include social media in product management from an Ad Agency :)

I started this google group for further discussion and connections with others in the PM community.

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Game Mechanics and Social Game Mechanics

There is a great deal of conversation in the business and startup world about Game Mechanics and applying them to various business and creative endeavors. Game mechanics have been part of the internet for a long time and the use of them in social networks has been well documented by Amy Jo Kim in her great presentation Putting the Fun in Functional. There’s of course a great deal of thought leadership from the game design community as well including this great presentation Design Outside the Box by @jesseschell.

Game mechanics in most cases are based upon rules, do x and y happens, or more tantalizingly do x and y might happen :) (see reward schedules and operant conditioning). It occurred to me that many of the game mechanics in what are emerging as social games are social game mechanics, in that they are not emerging from rules as much as emerging from other players behavior. It’s going to be pretty important in the future to understand how social game mechanics shape emerging games especially if you want to create a sustainable game that creates positive outcomes. SCVNGR recently created what they call a social play deck with various game mechanics described, Adrian Chan provides a pretty thorough critique of the deck concluding that it’s not very social.

Social game mechanics describe the emerging dynamics between players that shape behavior and outcomes over the long run. It may be that social game mechanics are the mechanics that make up the metagame (I particularly like the urban dictionary definition of this as “The highest level of strategy in many complex games”). Social game mechanics are often tacit and built through shared game play so can be hard to identify if you’re not immersed in the social system. It also means they exist in many social networks and can often work against the goals of the organization running the network.

Some examples of social game mechanics would be:

  • Strategies: The player formulated path to a “win” scenario. Win scenarios in social systems often emerge from community norms by what is valued by the community. There also might not be a win scenario
  • Competition: systems that provide comparative feedback to players
  • Co-operation: shared tasks, goals, items, teams
  • Helping: a more altruistic form of co-operation. Like an old school quake player showing a newbie how to rocket jump.
  • Gifts and exchanges: things that are exchanged between players
  • Visible actions: hard to quantify this one, but any action taken by a player that can be observed by other participants

That’s just a strawman so please add any additional thoughts or feedback. Thanks.

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Is Groupon is a Good Fit For Google?

There has been some speculation in the community about whether the upcoming deal between Groupon and Google is a good fit for Google. Tom Foremski points out that it is not a good cultural fit because Groupon is a people culture and Google is an algorithm culture.

Groupon’s “secret sauce” is not its technology … but its massive sales force and how that sales force is organized. It’s not Google’s usual cup of tea, but it’s one of Google’s own weak spots.

Historically acquisitions go ary due to lack of understanding of the difficulty in changing culture or merging culture. That being said if you look at Google as a company with a lot of advertising inventory and Groupon as a local ad sales force it could be a beautiful partnership. Google is notoriously bad at dealing with people and maybe they are just buying something that they couldn’t build?

I think there is potentially a successful partnership between the two if Google allows Groupon do what they’re good at, sell deals to local businesses. Additionally Google could bring some of it’s algorithmic prowess to start mining their vast store of consumer search information to uncover opportunities for Groupon to build deals around.

In the end there is a potentially beautiful partnership here if Google can treat Groupon as a partner an independent part of it’s ecosystem.

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Why Are Social Networks Addictive and Compelling?

The short answer is operant conditioning and reward schedule. Essentially social networks provide a “fruit machine” type reward schedule that is very compelling. This video talks about operant conditioning in the context of games but there is a lot that can be applied when thinking about activity in social networks.

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Next Step for Organizations in Social is Leadership

In the current landscape lots of companies are listening to their communities, and some are participating but few are providing the leadership required to cultivate, nurture and shape that community over the long term. The “2010 Social Media Benchmarking Study” from Ketchum and FedEx documents that only 10% of companies are providing real leadership (by their definition).

Understanding how to lead communities will be a key skill that companies need to develop if they want to be successful in the long term with any social strategies. Most companies have the skills and knowledge to lead communities because in the end a successful company is an internal community with leadership, but internal communities or corporate cultures have much more explicit carrots and sticks to shape activity and reward behavior. To lead an external community requires softer skills and a more in depth understanding of what shapes an external communities culture. The word culture is useful here in the context of community because it is short hand for “the way we do things round here”, which interestingly is different for every social network out there. This is one of the shortfalls in how companies approach social media because they view social media as a homogeneous internet culture without understanding the unique cultures and ways of doing things that emerge from social networks.

Participation is the first step in gaining a deeper understanding of the particular community culture. Participation must be done thought with a critical eye on what are the tacit underpinnings of what drives peoples behaviors in the community, if not you will just be another goldfish swept along in the water without seeing the cultural forces that are driving the overarching community culture. This is important for enterprises trying to enter existing social networks as well as startups who’s companies are community driven.

Some things to look at when trying to understand the culture of an emerging community or network are:

Rewards and Recognition: what is rewarded in the community and what does the community support or subvert.
Storys, Myths and Heros: what are the success stories, the myths, and who are the hero’s. What values do they communicate how will they influence behavior.
Games and Metagames: what are the explicit games and what are the tacit games.
Motivation: what are the different motivation factors for participation, creativity and leadership within the community

One of the best way to start being a leader in a community is to begin by identifying and recognizing positive leaders that are emerging within the community. Empowering leaders from the community itself provides strong signals about what you value in the community and provides opportunities for deeper more meaningful participation for members that want to step up.

Are there any examples of social network culture led to failure or success? I think Digg is a good example of culture failure as popularity and timeliness became more important than quality and meaning. Yelp is an example of an organization that led it’s culture as opposed to being led by it.

I’d be interested in any others.

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