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Enterprise Social Networks: The Next Big Thing in Internal Communication and Collaboration?

ESNshutterstock_11156593Corporate internal communications, heavy on endless streams of emails and one-way messaging through intranets and newsletters, are among the last hold-outs in the social media revolution.

In our personal lives, we have adopted social media as a way of connecting with friends, families, classmates and people with similar interests. Email use, in turn, is declining.

But at work, we cling to old forms of communication, particularly email. This, despite data from a McKinsey report that shows the average knowledge worker spends an estimated 28 percent of the workweek managing email.

Even more disturbing: an estimated 20 percent of our work time is spent trying to track down information or colleagues to help with specific tasks.

How is this productive?

Enterprise Social Networks: A Possible Answer to Email Overload, Silos, Duplicated Efforts, Ideas that Go Nowhere, and More

An Enterprise Social Network (ESN) is described by the Altimeter Group as “a set of technologies that creates business value by connecting members of an organization through profiles, updates, and notifications.” They are a lot like Facebook and LinkedIn, but can be set-up to just include members of an organization, so conversations are internal.

Examples of programs that have been around for a few years include Yammer, Tibbr, Jive and Chatter.

Advantages of Enterprise Social Networks

  • Ease of Use – Many of the ESNs are set-up to work similarly to Facebook, a tool most people already know and use.  The learning curve, therefore, can be short.
  • Access to Expertise – By setting up individual profiles that include job title, projects, interests and expertise, users can more quickly find the right person to contact for help with a problem.  This can be much more helpful than a typical employee directory.
  • Collaboration – Teams can work together more effectively than they can through email.  Streams are kept together in more searchable groups.   These can be open or private. If the group includes members from outside the organization, they can be added to just that group without gaining access to the organization’s entire account.  New members can quickly get up-to-speed on the background of the project.
  • Avoid Duplication – Organizations who use ESNs effectively have found they break down silos.  When staff members can see what other teams are working on, they can work together and avoid duplication of effort.
  • Encourage Innovation – The hierarchical nature of many organizations leaves many on the lower levels feeling like their ideas and voices can’t be heard.  An ESN allows those ideas to be shared.  Feedback validates their contribution and the individual can feel more engaged.

If Enterprise Social Networks Are So Great, Why Aren’t They Catching On?

One Gartner study found that although 70% of the organizations surveyed use social technologies, just 10% reported having success with it.

The most commonly cited reason was “time.” Already in information overload, those surveyed said that checking an additional source for information was something they simply didn’t have time to do. Executives, in particular, were reluctant to spend time on the networks. Their lack of engagement then trickled down through the organization and the use dropped to a small number of employees excited about the technology.

Organizations that have found success with ESNs are those who have made it a part of their workflow, not just another layer of information.

So, to wrap up, enterprise social networks have the potential to change the way we work and communicate within organizations, but the following are needed for it to not be just another technology adopted and left to wither away:

  1. A strategic business objective
  2. Freedom for teams to use it to collaborate in ways that work for them
  3. Leadership use and buy-in
  4. Training
  5. An open and trusting environment that encourages sharing of ideas from all levels


Why Enterprise Social Networks Fail
Courtesy of: Infographic Journal




How Dynamic Personalization is Changing the Web

shutterstock_125153480The days of generic websites are numbered.   The growth of social media has changed the way we use the web. It’s all about the user – their interests, content and engagement are crucial to a site’s success.

Not just for massive sites like Amazon and Neflix, websites that offer personalized content will soon be the expectation and the norm.

What Dynamic Personalization Is and Why We Should Care

Dynamic personalization is the process of generating content on a webpage that is targeted toward the individual visiting the site. Instead of everyone seeing the same information – and seeing it every time they visit – content and calls-to-action are changed to meet their interests and needs.

Done right, this customization can provide better service, improve brand preference and loyalty, and encourage the site visitor to move through your site by making content relevant to their needs more accessible.

Hubspot, a marketing software suite offering dynamic web personalization, reports that calls-to-action targeted to the user had a 42 percent higher viewed-to-submission rate than calls-to-action that were the same for all visitors.

How Dynamic Personalization Works

Some sites give visitors the option to self-identify their interests. For example, a hospital web site might ask whether the visitor is a patient, a caregiver, a medical professional or job seeker. Depending on their answer, the home page content could change to show information on parking, services, continuing education resources, or job opportunities.

Taking it a step further, the user could create an account and store information, not only on their interests, but also their medical history, doctors, and interesting articles from the site. Subsequent visits to the site could suggest content based on the interests they have indicated.

Other forms of personalization can use browsing history within the site and the search terms used to get to the site. Again using hospitals as an example, this could mean someone who searches the internet for a particular health need, such as heart care, could find heart information featured prominently on the homepage of the site.

Web developers look at the common personas of those using their websites and create taxonomies that deliver just the right content to just the right person.

Where Dynamic Personalization Gets Risky

Of course, remembering that you like particular shows on Netflix when you sign back into an account poses little risk. For organizations like hospitals, much greater sensitivity is required. Interests and concerns garnered through browsing history might prove embarrassing if served up repeatedly through later sessions, particularly when computers are shared. Calls-to-action and content delivered requires additional discretion and subtlety.


People like content that interests them and find other material to be clutter that gets in the way of their finding what they need. Dynamic personalization provides a means to provide the right content in a less cluttered format than is required to give everything to everybody. But it has to be done carefully to avoid making wrong assumptions about the user and violate feelings of privacy when privacy is required.

Please share your thoughts…

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Google Plus: Ghost Town or the Place to Be?

google_plus_2When a New York Times article declared Google Plus to be a ghost town, the reaction from Google+ fans was swift. Those who have taken the time to learn and use Google+ are passionate about its features. Google+ is not just another social media tool you have to maintain. It offers unique benefits that make it worth the effort.

Google+ and Search Engine Optimization

It stands to reason that Google+ posts would be treated favorably by the Google search engine. Posts are treated like other web pages and appear to gain ranking the more people share them or “like” them by using the “+1” feature. As people use Google+ and start posting and engaging with content, that information can then be stored in Google’s massive database to deliver more personalized search results. Businesses who want to ensure they’re getting favorable placement in Google searches should take note.

Google+ Numbers

Far from a ghost town, Google reports that Google+ has more than 540 million members. Of course, some of those are due to the fact that you need a Google+ account to access other Google products, including email or if you want to comment on a YouTube video. But, there are still 300 million active monthly users. And it seems to be catching on quickly, with a growth of 58% in a period between May and October 2013.

Who Uses Google+

A survey of Google Plus users found a high level of IT professionals, company owners, and self-described “senior decision makers”. Perhaps they see it as Facebook without the fluff and LinkedIn without the aura of a job hunter. If that’s the case, then there is certainly a market for that as Facebook gets more and more cluttered and the people who have Google+ accounts – but don’t use them – take the time to learn what it is about and what can be done to collaborate through it.

The Two Best Google+ Features

Aside from the SEO benefits, Google Plus offers some unique features that are sure to catch on with businesses, bloggers and others who want to interact with people who share their interests.

  • Hangouts – An excellent way to engage in video conferencing, live events and collaboration.
  • Shared Circles – Through the shared circles, you can set up your connections according to interests. These can be private – or not. Individuals or organizations can participate, leading to excellent opportunities to share ideas and really targeted information.


Five Tips to Make the Most of Your Mobile Advertising

Mobile AdvertisingThe best mobile ads make the best of mobile technology. Mobile ads are small, but powerful when used right. A study found that brand favorability was 14.5% higher among people who saw their best-performing mobile ads.

Follow the tips below to make the most of your mobile campaign.

  1. Use a Phone Number – Mobile’s big advantage over other advertising is its connection to a phone.  A simple click to call provides a quick and easy source of leads.
  2. Include a Strong Call to Action –  Give people a good reason to click: get a coupon, sign up for offers, download a free game or entertainment.
  3. Give a Reason to Share – A study by ShareThis shows people are twice as likely to share something through mobile than through a desktop.  Reasons for sharing include relevancy, usefulness of the offer, use of humor and entertainment.
  4. Time it Right – The immediacy of mobile makes the timing of your ad that much more important.  Make sure it serves up when you want people to take action.  A phone number that comes up when the business is closed isn’t that useful.  A coupon that shows up when geotargeting shows the customer is near the store is much more likely to get results.
  5. Place it Right – Know the audience of the site or app you are advertising on and make sure your ad speaks to them.

Please share your thoughts on other strategies for making the most of mobile advertising.




Mobile Website, App or Both?


With 58% of American adults owning smart phone and 63% of them using their phones to go online, having a mobile-friendly site is the only way to ensure you won’t be losing a lot of traffic and potential customers. But is a mobile site enough? Or do you need a mobile app?

Benefits of Mobile Site

For many, being able to find what you need by browsing the web from your phone or tablet is enough. Getting all the content sized right, loaded quickly and readily available through big, touchable buttons is quick and easy. As long as there is an internet connection, the content can be found and accessed through a regular search function. No installation is required for the user.

On the development side, a mobile site also has the advantage of being easier and less expensive to create and maintain than an app, which would need to be configured for each device.

When to Consider an App

While the gap between the functionality of mobile sites and native apps is narrowing, there are still instances in which an app is the better option. Apps function like a desktop software program, storing resources and using the device’s memory to perform operations quickly. They can also use the device’s functionality, such as the camera, GPS, and notifications. And they can function offline.

In practice, this means an app can offer the user:

  • Personalized notifications
  • Turn-by-turn driving or walking directions
  • The ability to manage and store data and preferences
  • Social sharing integration tools
  • Immediate access to resources regardless of internet access

Breadth vs. Depth

More people will find and visit a mobile site, but those who take the time to download an app will visit it more frequently than a mobile website.

The graphic below from MDG Advertising outlines the differences.





mHealth Meets Population Health

phone_steth134749508[1]Two seismic shifts in the how we communicate and how we deliver health care are coming together in what is being called mHealth: mobile healthcare.

The driver is the need to control health care costs. As hospitals and insurance companies are under pressure to bring costs down, they must look for ways to keep people healthier and reduce costly readmissions. The fee-for-service model is transitioning to accountable care, a model in which a healthcare provider or insurance company (or a partnership between them) takes responsibility for improving the health of population they serve.

In practice, this means that a hospital is not only responsible for treating a patient’s condition when they present to the hospital, they must also take responsibility for what they do once they leave. Simply giving a patient instructions and prescriptions is not enough. If a patient leaves, doesn’t take medications as prescribed, doesn’t follow up with a physician, or experiences complications that aren’t identified soon enough, they quickly can be back in the hospital. Too many readmissions and the hospital faces government-imposed penalties.

Some innovative programs are using mobile technology to help establish regular connections with participants that help them both monitor and control their health. The results, so far, appear promising.

Here are some of the ways mHealth is being used:

Wellness and Motivation

Sometimes, it seems, the nagging voice in your head isn’t enough to motivate you quit smoking, eat better or exercise more. But, apparently, a little nagging through your cell phone can be effective. Researchers in the UK conducted a study in which they found text messages that offered encouragement and reminders to pass up that cigarette doubled the likelihood a smoker would quit.

Developers at the University of Wisconsin created an app to help alcoholics who had completed a rehabilitation program stay on course.  Participants received daily messages of support and answered questions once a week.  Counselors would analyze the responses and could identify those who might be susceptible to drinking and need more support. Participants could also activate a “panic button” to receive an immediate response and offer of help.  The results? Those who took part in the program were 65 percent more likely to avoid alcohol in the year after their release from a treatment center than those who didn’t take part.

Increase Medication Adherence

The World Health Organization reports about 50% of people in developed countries do not take prescriptions as directed. This has serious consequences for those with chronic conditions like diabetes, asthma, HIV/AIDS, hypertension and cancer. To bolster prescription adherence, some organization are turning to text messaging. Patients are sent reminders to take their medications based on their prescribed schedule. It’s a non-invasive message that goes straight to their phone.

Howard Brown Health Center conducted a study in which HIV/AIDs patients, between the ages of 14 and 29 and with poor histories of following their prescription schedule, were sent a daily personalized text reminder to take their medications. One hour later, they received a follow-up message asking them whether they had taken the medication. The study found that the text reminders significantly improved adherence and 95% of the participants said the text messages helped them “very much.”

Reduce Missed Appointments

Missing medical appointments costs medical providers time and money and can have a negative impact on a patient’s long-term health. Simple and effective, text messages are being used to remind patients of appointments. One study found that it reduced the number of appointment no-shows by 30%. This was slightly less effective than staff phone call reminders (34%), but more cost-effective.

Monitor Health

According to a survey by Booz & Company, 88% of physicians want patients to monitor their health at home, including weight, blood sugar and vital signs.

Linking monitors to apps that can help patients monitor their heart rate or manage their diabetes can send early warnings of issues and provide information on what can be done to lower risk and when to call the doctor. The most advanced systems will automatically alert the doctor.

The monitoring and integration with apps and physicians will continue to evolve to be more automatic. Google is developing a contact lens that has a tiny wireless chip that measures and transmits the glucose levels in a diabetic patient’s tears.

What’s Next

As we move forward with mHealth, the Food & Drug Administration has announced it will have a role to play in monitoring any app or technology used as a medical device.

This oversight, while it has to potential to slow the speed of development and launch of new medical apps, will help provide a framework that can assure what is launched will be safe and effective, encouraging physicians to prescribe and insurers to cover, the use of mobile technology to improve patient care and control costs.

Mobile Health: Just What the Doctor Ordered

Mobile Health: Just What the Doctor Ordered