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Freeing the Social Identity Agent 05/10/2010

Posted by Paul Daigle in Identity, Social Graph, Social Identity, Social Media, Uncategorized.
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“And now, here I stand because of you, Mr. Anderson. Because of you, I’m no longer an Agent of this system. Because of you, I’ve changed. I’m unplugged. A new man, so to speak. Like you, apparently, free.”


With the rapid advancements in real-time communications we’re experiencing through today’s social networking platforms, messaging systems and mobile communication devices, it’s striking how few real gains we’ve made in managing real life and identity across platforms.

The trouble with identity is the more we consolidate it, the more functional we make it, the more sensitive it becomes. This may be why so many of us treat identity as real-time construct, instead of as a long term asset. Yet the idea of consolidating life and identity management is very attractive to the mainstream user, which is helping to fuel Facebook’s rapid growth. But Facebook wasn’t designed to serve identity in a meaningful or user-driven way. Platforms like Facebook, FriendFeed and Twitter are, at their core, innovations that bring an email framework into the cloud to produce network effects through activity streaming. Our relationships and networks on these sites have little to no semantic integrity, as they were built by us to serve an experience, and not to serve our cross-platform lives and identities. Facebook will continue working to advance its offerings and value propositions towards the benefits of authenticated identity and the semantic web. These have become the obvious next steps for advancing communication platform functionality and connectivity, so any activity in these areas works to keep competitors and users believing in a FaceBook lead. But for users, managing real-time identity through multiple ID providers, mobile devices and pseudo-semantic social platforms will continue to create a lot of instability, fragmentation and insecurity.  It will also make managing relationships, data and identities for the long-haul very daunting. Until semantic identity is addressed and activated in a more “real” way we will continue to experience a volatile “real-time” social paradigm that delivers very little in “long-term” social value.

Even if a workable framework for managed ID existed today, who would users trust to carry their real lives and data across platforms? Browsers, social networks, social apps and communication devices will come and go as technology matures. Yet the relationship-based cultivation of identity is a lifelong process. Fusing aspects of managed-identity into email systems, web-browsers, computer security suites, blogging tools and social networks will only increase complexity, fragmentation and exposure over time. Our identities can’t realize their true potential until they serve as the underlying platform connecting our preferred tools, apps and devices of the moment. Extricating identity from these ancillary technologies should be our primary goal. Kim Cameron of Microsoft published a very concise and easily digestible outline of this important problem in his Laws of Identity back in 2006, and that document is still a great introduction to today’s identity challenges.

So what is the right long-term solution? I believe we need life-based identity systems geared specifically toward consolidating activity, data and relationship management. We’ve already seen some movement and innovation in this space with Social Activity Aggregators, Identity Selectors and ActivityStreams, but a new more robust class of social ID meta-system is needed; one which can act more as a Social Identity Agent than a traditional social data manager.

What is a Social ID Agent?

Identity: The collective aspect of the set of characteristics by which a thing is definitively recognizable or known.

Agent: An instrument by which a guiding intelligence achieves a result.

Today we customize and manage our presence based on the platforms where our identities reside. An Identity Agent would customize our identity across platforms base on our authenticated relationships to users and service providers. The ID Agent would act both as our identity protector and syndicator, allowing any party to find us via any platform with unfettered access to the data and communication channels that we want to share. Our ID Agent would authenticate our connection or lack of connection with an accessing agent, and provide access to real-time activities and social history based on the authenticated connection. The Identity Agent would place us everywhere at once with a customized presence, keeping every relationship connected to our appropriate real time activities and social histories, while letting us adapt these relationships overtime. Our Social ID Agent would ensure the same reliable level of connectivity, even with social relationships who choose completely different sets of communication tools,  platforms and devices.

With Social ID Agents, our data, relationships, and activities could connect semantically from across platforms, as we become identified and known not by static profiles, but by our shared interactions, collaborations, events and living histories. The Social ID Agent can turn today’s web-of-platforms into tomorrow’s web-of-people.

So how do we free our Social Identity Agents? Three words. Authenticate. Activate. Connect.

Stay tuned.

What’s the message behind the social medium? 08/05/2009

Posted by Paul Daigle in Social Media, Social Reputation.
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have a nice dayA recent post by SuzeMuse entitled Social Media-Ur Doin’ It Wrong references Marshall McLuhan’s astute 1964 observation “the medium is the message” from his book Understanding Media: the Extensions of Man.

The basic theory:

Media has characteristics that engage viewers in different ways, so the medium through which a person encounters a particular piece of content has an effect on the individual’s understanding of it.”-Wikipedia

If the medium is the message, than what is the message behind social media?  Can an understanding of the unique traits that characterize social media help companies and individuals engage in the space more confidently, gracefully and successfully?

First… let’s get a better understanding of McLuhan’s theory.

McLuhan understood “medium” in a broad sense. He identified the light bulb as a clear demonstration of the concept. A light bulb does not have content in the way that a newspaper has articles or a television has programs, yet it is a medium that has a social effect; that is, a light bulb enables people to create spaces during nighttime that would otherwise be enveloped by darkness. He describes the light bulb as a medium without any content. McLuhan states that “a light bulb creates an environment by its mere presence.” Likewise, the message of a newscast about a heinous crime may be less about the individual news story itself — the content — and more about the change in public attitude towards crime that the newscast engenders by the fact that such crimes are in effect being brought into the home to watch over dinner. -Wikipedia

Social media also creates environments with its mere presence. Like the light bulb, social media helps us carve out spaces and  open doorways. But this new medium can also connect us to every bright path and dark corner of humanity.  Each of us is able to define and manage many doors between our personal spaces and that global universe. These doors are often two-way channels… relationships. We each create and manage as many spaces and doorways as we choose, and in doing so we cultivate our social presence and manage our social world.

So what are we saying by our mere presence within this new medium. What is the message behind our participation? What distinguishes this medium from all that has come before, and how do these characteristics effect how our actions, ideas and expressions are perceived and absorbed? Can knowing the message behind the medium help us improve our daily interactions, and the value of our networks?

What’s the message behind the medium for me? My participation within social media can help communicate that I’m:

Approachable. Available. Open. Curious. Pro active. Engaged. Interested. Attentive. Helpful. Sympathetic.  Compassionate. Eager. Responsive. Agile. Involved. Generous.  Social. Friendly. Kind.

If I were a company, how could I ignore a medium that enables me to communicate such powerful characteristics by my mere presence?

What does your social presence communicate? Can we find universal messages behind the social medium? Can uncovering and understanding them improve our social uses, benefits and experiences?

Approachable.

The quest for a reliable Internet business model 06/07/2009

Posted by Paul Daigle in Social Identity, Social Media, Uncategorized.
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roundsquarehammerIn March of 1998 I joined online advertising leader DoubleClick, and spent my very first week of employment at our company sales conference in Scottsdale Arizona. The company had just gone public and the first dot com gold rush was well underway. On that first morning I got my introduction to the company CEO and VP of Sales, Kevin O’Connor and Wenda Harris Milliard. The room was filled with bright, attentive DoubleClick employees, mostly from the media sales division, and there was a buzz of excitement in the air. I’d worked with many smart people over the years, but I’d never seen an organization exude this mix of passion, intelligence, ambition and confidence.

That morning I heard what the future would hold for me and my new colleagues. The future of business and personal communication would be written online. This we all knew.  DoubleClick would power this future by facilitating the one reliable  business model that had fueled the success of every other mass media channel… advertising. The Internet’s capacity for 2-way communication would deliver a Holy Grail for advertisers. DoubleClick’s technology platform would serve the right ads to the right users at the right time. Our mission: to make advertising work online. Our goal:  world domination. We would all play a role in changing the world forever.  So began a ride that would take me through the web’s first wave… ending years later with mass layoffs, an end to DoubleClick’s role in the sale of Internet media, and the company’s eventual acquisition by Google.

Today, eleven years later, the the future that Kevin and Wenda described that morning has yet to arrive. Why DoubleClick failed in its mission is a long, complex saga, filled with faulty assumptions, miscalculations, PR missteps, consumer misconceptions, and an eventual Industry wide loss of confidence in Web1.0.  The journey from irrational exuberance to irrational despair that characterized 1997-2002 is in many ways still being felt, and in some ways relived, in the Internet of 2009. The web still feels like a place of unfulfilled promises and unrealized potential.  A business model that can reliably fuel this now essential, mass communication platform has yet to arrive.

This reality has fueled many new ideas about the future of business, marketing and communication.  Chris Anderson’s Free: The Future of a Radical Price, Charlene Li’s Groundswell: Winning in a World Transformed by Social Technologies and Thomas H. Davenport  & John C. Beck’s The Attention Economy : Understanding the New Currency of Business each stab at the beast from different angles and with different swords.  A common thread within all three perspectives is the realization that consumers are now in the driver’s seat. Value, relevance, customization and two-way relationships are how tomorrow’s companies will win.  Funny, as it was consumer fears and pressure around privacy that destroyed DoubleClick’s ability to execute on its ambitious plan to bring true consumer targeting to online advertising. Winning now requires that we win the hearts and minds of consumers. The DoubleClick story shows how even B2B companies can find it difficult to survive if they fail to bring consumers along for the ride. The game is no longer about just selling products or services.  Instead, the game is about cultivating deep relationships and building strong brand reputations through the creation of unique value, customized experiences and a culture of openness.

The Internet has become a 24/7 gauge for social reputation. Keeping consumers close and engaged and acting both responsibly and responsively is how brands are successfully  managing their reputations and relationships, especially during difficult times. Twitter, a company that has succeeded in winning the hearts and minds of  users, was able to navigate months of scaling issues and hundreds of disruptions in service without harm to it’s reputation. The iconic Fail Whale is an example of the amazing things a company can accomplish when they take consumers along for the ride.

Where are the business models capable of fueling the web’s future likely to be found?  What tools will become essential for managing social reputation and consumer loyalty? I believe the best hope for serving customers and maximizing revenues may lie with OpenID. Open social technology will help companies  build brands, services, media and experiences that both reflect and custom-serve the consumer. OpenID can help brands strengthen their relationships by maximizing user experiences, relevance, functionality and value… the keys to winning in a consumer driven world.

How can we help brands become more social? 07/16/2008

Posted by Paul Daigle in Marketing, Social Media.
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ListeningTuesdaySeems like almost once a week I find myself reading a blog or industry report that works to redefine what social media means for marketers and advertisers. It’s pretty clear that the advertising and media industries are still wrestling with how they can gain real competitive advantages from the social Internet explosion.

But I wonder if discussing advertising in the context of social media misses the point entirely? Can a company succeed socially without first assembling the assets to function as a social company? Seems the resources and talent needed to succeed with social media have less to do with traditional advertising and marketing, and more to do with customer service, customer relationship management and PR.

Wikipedia defines PR as “the practice of managing the flow of information between an organization and its public.” Customer Service is defined as “the provision of service to customers before, during and after a purchase.” These are the attributes that make companies social, as these functions are grounded in listening to customers and the market in order to better serve the needs, concerns and desires of the market. Customer relations and PR departments are better equipted to decipher and manage the constant changes in customer perception and market environments, and they know too well the importance of response. They are accomplished in the art of the 2-way conversation. Ironically, just as most businesses have given up on idea of real Customer Relationship Management (CRM), the ultimate CRM facilitator may well have just arrived.

CRM, according to Wikipedia, is “a multifaceted process, mediated by a set of information technologies that focuses on creating two-way exchanges with customers so that firms have an intimate knowledge of their needs, wants, and buying patterns. …CRM is intended to help companies understand, as well as anticipate, the needs of current and potential customers.”

Advertising, on the other hand, doesn’t know how to listen. Sure, you can run traditional ad campaigns within social settings, but the real opportunities being create here are not for traditional one-way messaging… but meaningful 2-way communication. There maybe a misalignment between the goals of marketing decision makers and opportunities provide by the social Internet, and this may explain why so many companies are moving so slowing, and acting so apprehensively towards the social media space.

Advertising, as we know it,  isn’t going to go away. Nor should it. Advertising will always be an important way to build brand and drive sales. But developing social strategies and advertising strategies may require completely different vocations. So I’m wondering whether marketing and advertising departments are where tomorrow’s corporate social strategies will reside.

In order for companies to succeed socially, many will have to restructure to become social entities. It will happen. But it will take time. Helping companies understand where their social assets lie and how to synthesize these assets to create modern CRM/Social Communication  teams maybe the answer. These teams could work to manage the ears, the face, and the personality of a company.

When we represent our companies at social events we try do so in a manner that communicates who we are, why we are there, and what we’d like to accomplish. We also know how important it is to understand who we are speaking to. We know that our success requires that we engage the room in conversation… and that we listen.

Welcome to social media.