Must-Read Weekend Reading

I’ve been so busy synthesizing 10 years of thinking on Social Business Models, and writing up these ideas for an upcoming HBR magazine article that I have been remarkably behind on posts, and engaging the Yes & Know dialogue. (I’ll catch up soon.) Coming up from this heads-down focus to share a few ideas spurred by things I’ve read this week.

Whatever-We-Call-It Revolution

I’ve loved business for as long as I can remember. I was a member of the FBLA in high-school, and had my first job running a neighbor’s MLM business at age 13. This last week, two key stories (here, here) of companies I admire — Amazon and Apple — allowing a form of modern-day slavery make me deeply question the basic values of business. I’m all for economic incentives for the leadership that fuels business, but we seem to be neglectfully undervaluing the people that do good work in that value-cycle. We have left people behind. We’ve had the scientific revolution, which gave us reason and knowledge. Then the industrial revolution gave us efficiency and scale. We now have more, faster, cheap, etc nailed. But we need a qualitative measure of our lives also. Seems like we’re missing something big in the current success equation: the “revolution” that defines the belief that all humans matter. What would we call that? Would it be Human revolution, or a Humanitarian revolution? Maybe even the Heart revolution? Well, I’ve never been good at naming things (Proof: the name of my first book, The New How, which everyone imagined was actually about a whiz-bang new idea, when what I meant to imply was “this is how work will get done to be more nimble”.) We need one big what-ever-we-call-it revolution. Now. Rather than taking away from economic value creation, this kind of shift will engender the generosity that Sasha Dichter spoke of on, creating more bottom-line contributions (not less). Goodness towards each other is a virus. Let’s spread it — on purpose — in business.

World’s Latest Cache

There are 4 technology companies that embody and embrace what modern Social Business Models- that is, companies who make money from many people creating and sharing information. They are: Apple does it by its mobile distribution platform, Amazon does its marketplace, Google by indexing all that information, and Facebook by what you share about yourself. 3 of those on the list are more beloved than the other. Some people in Silicon Valley dismissed the platform business Amazon started a few years ago (now with 800 employees based here in SV). Some still sneer when they talk of Amazon. This week, the multi-step forward plays that Bezos is known for are making more visible this truth: Amazon is set up to play big in ecommerce through data. Chris Espinosa (an early employee of Apple, and an all-n-out no-bullshit kind of guy) did an analysis that is dead-on about Amazon’s latest news.

“Amazon will use its EC2 back end to pre-cache user web browsing, using its fat back-end pipes to grab all the web content at once so the lightweight Fire-based browser has to only download one simple stream from Amazon’s servers. But what this means is that Amazon will capture and control every Web transaction performed by Fire users. Every page they see, every link they follow, every click they make, every ad they see is going to be intermediated by one of the largest server farms on the planet. People who cringe at the privacy and data-mining implications of the FaceBook Timeline ought to be just floored by the magnitude of Amazon’s opportunity here. Amazon now has what every storefront lusts for: the knowledge of what other stores your customers are shopping in and what prices they’re being offered there. What’s more, Amazon is getting this not by expensive, proactive scraping the Web, like Google has to do; they’re getting it passively by offering a simple caching service, and letting Fire users do the hard work of crawling the Web. In essence, the Fire user base is Amazon’s Mechanical Turk, scraping the Web for free and providing Amazon with the most valuable cache of user behavior in existence.”

More here. Just think about what Amazon can know about commerce in general, purchase intent, purchase behavior, etc. Just imagine where this takes ecommerce …


Nike Gets It. Do You?

Image via Wikipedia

So many companies get stuck on “social”, confusing the technology with the behavior. Humans have been social since the beginning of time, such as when we talk about raising our kids over dinner party chatter. When we’re standing in a room talking, it’s social. Many convolute the social era by entangling it by the piece-part technologies that enable it. Too many companies think about it programmatically rather than strategically. The social era is not about Web 2.0, or Twitter and Facebook, or Crowdsourcing, or SaaS or any other fancy buzzword you might hear at the latest conferences or in some topical “hot” article.

The online world simply amplifies what we do in person, so when I saw that Nike’s social media’s goal is the same as their broad company goal “connect with athletes to inspire/enable them to do better”, I knew they got it.

“The goal hasn’t changed since the beginning of Nike — we want to connect with athletes to inspire and enable them to be better. The rise of social media [simply] provides new ways to do this. The future will have new tools and methods and Nike will continue to push the edges.  This intersection between the physical and the digital is where we see the future and that intersection will be game-changing.”

More here on Nike.

Social is about how we connect with one another, as we go about our own goals. The object of social therefore is not the product or the service. People do not like “Nike” because they value a particular shoe. Consumers “like” Nike because Nike has come to represent a fitness and an attitude of personal responsibility. Consumers “like” Apple because they care about design and the idea that “thinking differently” is okay. Our “likes” are a reflection of our personal goals/values. Take that example of talking about raising kids – if it is just about YOUR kid, after a while I will tune out. When what I care about and what you care about are not a shared bubble, it’s not shared purpose. Creating a shared bubble about raising kids in general makes me an eager participant in the conversation because we have a shared purpose. For companies then, social media work must start with identifying your shared purpose with your consumers, and then suddenly, it’ll become easier to be social, online.

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