E L S U A ~ A KM Blog by Luis Suarez

Travelling

Productivity Tips for the Mobile (Social) Knowledge Web Worker – TweetBot, Pocket, Evernote

Gran Canaria - Roque Bentaiga & Mount Teide in the SpringOne of my favourite activities within the Social Web realm has always been that ability to keep up that playful spirit of finding opportunities time and time again to fine tune my overall user experience using social networking tools, whether internal or external, in order to find new use cases, or productivity tips, that would help boost my performance in allowing me to get work done in a smarter way, not necessarily working harder. And since lately I keep traveling quite a bit and spend more time on the road than at my home office, I thought it would be a good time exploring how I can improve my overall knowledge Web worker experience using various social networking / productivity tools while on the road. And, after plenty of experimentation I think I may have hit a magic formula that I have grown to become rather fond of in the last few weeks and that I think I am now ready to share it across with all of you folks who may be interested in finding out what’s all the fuss I have been making about it all along: TweetBot + Pocket + Evernote = Mobile Productivity Heaven!

As you may have noticed, over the course of the last few months, I have been blogging a couple of times on how increasingly tough it’s getting for yours truly to keep up with a reliable Internet connection, while on the road, or at home, so I have learned to treasure AND maximise the time that I remain connected to the Social Web to grab all of the information that I need and eventually continue working offline trying to find new methods of improving that offline productivity. And, like I have just mentioned above, I think I may have found that brilliant combination that will certainly help me along quite nicely. 

So, I thought, why not share it across over here in this blog, for other folks to perhaps learn a new trick or two, or maybe expose that method across and see if other folks have got other, improved, methods of maximising that online exposure to continue working offline. And here I am! Thus, let’s go for it! Let’s see where it takes us …

As you may well remember, at the beginning of the year I mentioned how I was planning to stop spreading thinner out there on the Social Web and focus on what I then called The Big Three, that is, the three major social networking tools that I would be focusing on to get my work done: IBM Connections (Mostly for work related stuff), Twitter and Google Plus. 

Well, while I am eagerly awaiting for Google Plus to finally land with its own native iPad App, which I think is coming up pretty soon, perhaps even to mark its first anniversary, who knows!, and while I have been enjoying tremendously the latest version of the IBM Connections App on iOS devices (More on that one shortly, too!), I guess it was time for me to fine tune my Twitter experience, while on the move. And, boy, have I found a superb option right there?!?!

Earlier on in the year, I blogged about how Janetter is my all time favourite Twitter desktop client  on the Mac (By the way, it works in Windows, too!) and how I kept looking for a counterpart for my iOS devices, specially, for when I was travelling not bringing along the MacBook Air with me. And I found it. And I bought it. And I enjoyed it. And I started loving Twitter again while on the move! That absolutely essential Twitter App for mobile devices is called Tweetbot and I can tell you that after having tried several dozens of Twitter mobile Apps it’s just as good as it gets. For real!

Perhaps at some point in time I will create another blog post along the same lines of the one on Janetter and share Top 10 reasons why I heart Tweetbot big time as my default mobile Twitter client. But for now, I’ll go ahead and share across the main reason why I love that App: having the opportunity of going through an extended catchup of my timeline. You know, when I am on the road I am usually stuck on queues waiting for things to happen. Waiting for public transport, at airports waiting to check-in, or while boarding, waiting for meetings, at conference events, workshops, seminars, summits, etc. etc. you name it.

So I keep finding myself with plenty of time to go back in time on my timeline and catch up with my favourite source of news, insights and information on what’s happening around me, work related or not. And I try to make extensive use of it to keep up to date with what’s happening. In most cases I won’t be the kind of person who would be tweeting a lot, unless I’m live tweeting at a conference event, of course, but just reading through the tweets, diving into the Social Flow(s), trying to maximise the time I remain connected to see what’s happening and what I may need to pay attention to. And Tweetbot allows me to do that beautifully. If you haven’t tried it out I can certainly recommend it. 

Then, once I bump into those golden gems that I would want to dive into, but that I didn’t just have time to explore further there is a second feature that I truly love from Tweetbot which is just fantastic. Oh, by the way, Janetter also has it, in case you are wondering. And that is a super user friendly integration with another one of my favourite productivity tools that I have been using for a while now: Pocket (Formerly known as Read It Later). Pocket is pretty much like Instapaper, except that it is free. It’s a service that allows you to save links to Web sites to view at a later time while offline! And I must admit that I don’t know why but the overall user experience, and, specially, the flow is far more attractive than that one from Instapaper. So I stuck around with it and I am glad now that I have, because I am enjoying it big time!

Pocket has got a bookmarklet, too, that I can use from my favourite desktop browsers, so I can still continue making use of it while using the Mac, but it also has got a fantastic iOS App that provides a superb user experience of fully interacting with the app while reading all of that offline content. It allows you to both search for it, as well as tag interesting items, you can star (mark as favourites) articles, mark them as read and a whole bunch of other nifty capabilities. Like I said, highly recommended!

Essentially, the way I use it in combination with Tweetbot though, while on the road, is that I have the latter configured to save items to Pocket with just a single tap, tap, of my fingers and off it goes, so within a matter of minutes I end up with several dozens of articles to read offline for when I am no longer connected. And off I go! Just brilliant! 

Then when I am offline, which seems to be happening far too often nowadays with all of that business travelling, I fire up my third favourite productivity tool at the moment, which has become, essentially an extension of my physical memory for everything that I do and that I would want to annotate further, should I want to refer to it at a later time. Got a new idea that I have just come up with and want to write it down, there it goes. Have I got an interesting news article, blog post, Web clipping, thought, insight I would want to bring forward on to an upcoming blog post of mine, there it goes again. Have I got a quick thought I would want to jot down through audio, not a problem, there it goes one more time. Like I said, I truly meant those words that this particular productivity tool has become an extension of my memory. Of course, I am talking about Evernote

There are plenty of great use cases that I have developed for Evernote, as a personal productivity tool, over the course of time and I will perhaps detail some of the most compelling ones on another upcoming blog post, but one of my favourite ones, at the moment, when combined with Tweetbot and Pocket is that ability of creating a note where I just draft blog posts from stuff I have bumped into through Tweetbot or that I may have saved into Pocket. Then, when I am back on to a steady Internet connection, I just sync those updates into the Evernote servers, get to my MacBook Air, launch both Evernote itself and MarsEdit (My default offline blogging client that I have been using for years now!), copy and paste from one to the other, fine tune the post, proof read it, add links accordingly and voilá! Blog post will then be published! On to the next one! Yay!!

And there you have it! All set on to new productivity levels as a mobile social knowledge Web worker. It’s just too funny though, because, just the other day I was talking to one of my good friends at another event, who is also a heavy twitterer himself, and he was surprised how this year I keep taking extended breaks from Twitter and he kept wondering whether I was having enough of it all and decided to give up on it altogether or not. No, not at all. Far from that. What’s happening is that since I keep struggling with staying connected while on the move, I have made the decision to shift towards offline working, where I possibly can, and I sense I have now found that magic formula that would still allow me to remain productive, while catching up with things and then share across what I have learned, which is essentially what folks would be able to find out with these blog posts that I keep sharing across over here every so often. 

And it is thanks to that magic formula of Tweetbot + Pocket + Evernote that I have finally been capable of taming that growing pain and frustration of struggling to get work done while I am on the road, but there is still something else out there that has allowed me to improve those offline productivity bursts even more and into levels I never thought possible. This time around though nothing to do much with software, but with hardware accessories. But that would be the time for another blog post coming up next! 

Ready? It’s coming … But before we dive into it can you have a guess about what it may well be? Folks who may have seen me face to face in the last couple of weeks may have noticed already what I am referring to, since they, too, loved both of those accessories, but what do you think? Any ideas what they may well be? 🙂

Stay tuned! Coming up!

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#e2conf Highlights – Online Community Building Methodologies, SNA, Task Centric Computing, Gamification, Social Learning, Social Fatigue…

Gran Canaria - Roque Nublo and The Monk in the SpringYou may remember how on the last blog post that I put together over here a few days back, I mentioned how I was on my way to participate and attend the Enterprise 2.0 event in Boston and how, depending on the connectivity I may have had during the course of the week, there would be a good chance, or not, for me to share plenty of the highlights we experienced throughout four rather intense days, all thanks to one of my favourite online activities as of late, while attending face to face events: live tweeting. Well, the event is now over, the connectivity was good, the excitement is all intact, I am back into my regular blogging schedule for a while (Since summer just hit over here and there seems to be a bit of a conference break going on till, at least, September) and there isn’t any extended business trip in the horizon for the next couple of months, so I’m getting down to business, once again, and I’m truly delighted to be sharing with you some of the major, key learnings I went through while attending Enterprise 2.0 this year. Ready? Yes, I know, me, too! Let’s do it!

I have already got a couple of draft blog posts that I will be sharing over here over the course of the next few days on what I learned from the event itself, but before we dive into those and I begin my journey with all of you into detailing what the event of events around Enterprise 2.0 was like for this year, I would love to point you to some outstanding live blogging that took place throughout the week from a couple of my good friends who, once again, kept raising up the level of true, gifted writing skills you need to have in order to share with that level of detail around face to face conference events. If not, judge for yourselves. 

Check out the absolutely delightful blog posts that both Mary Abraham and Bill Ives shared across during the entire week on what they learned from the various different keynote and breakout sessions, along with the pre-conference workshop they attended. If you were there physically you would truly enjoy going through the various articles to get an incredibly good refresher of what was discussed and shared openly, and if you weren’t attending, going and reading through each and everyone of those entries would be just as good as having attended the sessions live! Yes, I know, I’m not exaggerating, they are that good! We are truly privileged to have folks like Mary and Bill willing to put into writing all of that insight, passion, know-how, experiences, expertise, etc. etc. around Social Business that permeated throughout the entire event. So I cannot strongly encourage you all enough to go through and read from their blog posts to get a good glimpse of what the event was like. Just brilliant!

From my own perspective, and like I mentioned on the last article I shared over here, I decided a few months back to follow a different approach and instead of keeping up with live blogging, or sharing rather lengthy blog posts with the highlights, like I used to do, I’m going to invest rather heavily on something much more immediate and far reaching in the short term – while things happening in real-time, that is, where the conversations are happening,- and share that stuff across. Of course, I am talking about Twitter and doing plenty of live tweeting on the sides while attending those sessions. Specially, now that I have found a really cool method to curate all of those live tweets without going crazy in the process. With Snap Bird

Now, it doesn’t necessarily mean that I won’t be putting together more blog posts highlighting some of the key takeaways I brought with me from the Enterprise 2.0 event; like I said, I already have got a couple of entries I would be sharing across over here in the next few days. However, what I will be doing is hoping to augment the overall experience for those folks who may not have attended, or those who had a chance to, but would want to revive what it was like, and share across those curated live tweets as a .PDF file that you can download, or watch online through Slideshare. 

Well, just like I have started doing for a good number of conference events that I have participated in this year so far, I’m now ready to go ahead and share across with you the live tweeting I did of the #e2conf event, since I have just uploaded the .PDF file into Slideshare and it is ready to go. Here’s the embedded code, if you would want to dive into it right away: 

You will notice though how, at times, there were some time lapses where I didn’t do much live tweeting at all, and I must apologise for that, since it wasn’t due to the lack of connectivity while at the event itself, which was brilliant throughout the whole four days, except perhaps for Thursday morning when it became a bit patchy. Anyway, it was all due to the continuous silly limitations that Twitter keeps imposing over itself when limiting the amount of tweets you can share into your timeline over the course of one hour. I seem to have surpassed those limits a few times and there is nothing else to do than wait for it to cool off and come back for more. Very frustrating altogether, I can tell you, specially, when you are live tweeting a rather hot session you would want to spread the message around all over the place and you just realise you are blocked and can’t do much else other than … wait!

Lucky enough, while Twitter is trying to get their act together, if ever, since that issue has been there all along, right from the start!, I was reminded how I needed to look back into something that I did nearly three years ago and quite consistently: have a dedicated Twitter ID handle just for live tweeting of face to face conference events. Indeed, for those who still remember, I will be bringing up @elsuacon to life again from here onwards for the various different face to face conference events that I will be participating in after the summer break. That way, those quiet time lapses would be reduced down to a minimum and help provide a bit more of a complete picture of what the keynotes and breakout sessions would be like. Feel free to follow that Twitter ID at your own risk of suffering from quite a bit of that live twitterrhea 😉

For now though, that would be it. While I ramp up the various different blog posts on the major key takeaways from this year’s Enterprise 2.0 event (Around subjects like Facilitating Effectively Online Communities, Community Building Methodologies, Social Network Analysis, Task Centric Computing, Gamification, Informal / Social Learning, Social Fatigue, etc. etc.) I am going to leave you all with the live tweets as a teaser of what’s to come… Hope you enjoyed them just as much as I did sharing those  annotations across and surely look forward to the next one. Although for now, I am certainly looking forward to that extended summer break from the conference scene, hoping to get back into my usual regular blogging schedule. Thanks for sticking around so far! And stay tuned! There is plenty more to come!

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Snap Bird – Experimenting with Curation of Live Tweeting at Conference Events

Gran Canaria - Roque Nublo Surroundings in the SpringOne of the many activities I keep enjoying quite a bit over the course of the years with regards to social networking is its innate ability to experiment and play with social technologies in order to figure out new use cases, proofs of concept, additional bursts of productivity, new business uses, etc. etc. You name it. All in all with the main premise behind all of that fun and play to figure out new methods to become more productive, effective and efficient at what I have been aiming all along: work smarter, not necessarily harder.

And to that extent I think it is now a good time to help introduce a new experiment I have been playing with in the last few months and which I think may be of benefit to others as well, specially, if you are into finding out about highlights from the hundreds of conference events out there, mainly, in the Social Business space that we get to attend or not. This new experiment has got to do with two different activities we all get to carry out eventually, but that I myself have grown to become rather fond of over time, since I may have just hit that perfect use case for me to continue making use of it eventually: live tweeting and curating highlights from conference events I get to attend and participate in.

Now, what do I mean with that exactly? Well, as you well know, there used to be a time where I had enough time in my hands to live blog conference events that I would be attending from all over the place. From there onwards, I moved on to putting together lengthy blog post to highlight some of the major key learnings I went through for each and everyone of those events. Things evolved further, availability of time got shorter and shorter and I moved into the next phase: live tweeting of events using the hash tag of the event itself in particular.

That method worked really well, till Twitter itself decided to play funny and not allow you to get back to those tweets after a certain period of time making them disappear into thin ether, which was rather annoying, since you new your live tweets are out there, yet, you can’t access them anymore! Not very helpful! And very frustrating over time, I can guarantee you that! Grrr

At the same time you get to notice how the vast majority of the live tweeting that goes on at conference events as of late is just a mere regurgitation of short phrases from the speakers trying to be compacted in less than 140 characters, so that other folks would be capable of retweeting the same thing over and over again. Yes, I know what you are thinking by now… That can certainly get very tiring over the course of time, as you get to bump into the same content live tweeted over and over! So what to do?

I am not sure what strategies have you folks adopted in order to keep providing value when “reporting” those live tweets (I would love to find out more about them in the comments, if you would want to share those tips across), but a little while ago I decided to try out one myself that I am starting to like quite a bit! And that is not so much to share those tweets reporting on what the speaker(s) may be sharing across, but more trying to build further upon it with my own insights on what I may have learned, may agree with or may disagree with by sharing a thought or two to help build up my highlights of the event.

Seeing how cumbersome it has become to then put together those various insights into meaningful blog posts I kept thinking what a pity that I would not be able to refer back to those tweets after a short period of time just because Twitter decided it was not helpful (to them!) keep those Twitter searches on hashtags going in the medium, long run. So I started to look out there, on the third party Twitter Apps ecosystem to see if there would be a good choice out there to help out address and solve this problem.

And it looks like I may have found something worth while exploring and playing with. Have you played with Snapbirg.org? No? Well, maybe you should! I am loving it at the moment! Snapbird is a lovely Twitter App Web site service that allows you to query Twitter to display a number of tweets, based on a particular Twitter ID and any hash tag of your liking and the free service would be able to display the last 1,000 tweets, which for one’s own tweets at a conference event is more than enough, I can imagine.

From there onwards the curation part of the experiment kicks in, because once you have captured all of your tweets, or those of the conference hash tag, depending on how many people live tweet eventually, you would be able to export them all as a very handy .PDF file (With Print as .PDF) and it is ready to share it across into much more sophisticated repositories. Not bad, eh? Indeed, not bad at all!

So that is what I have been experimenting with lately and with some pretty good results, at least, good enough for me to gt a grasp of what I keep learning at any event I may attend, specially, while on the road, because once I have got those .PDF files with the live tweets captured after the event itself, I just go ahead and I upload them into Slideshare, as if they were a presentation and right there I can share them with everyone else who may be interested in them. And voilá! Ready to go!

In order to show what it would look like I have put together already a couple of .PDF files from five different face to face events that I have participated in the recent past. To name: The Melcrum Digital Summit (In London), the brilliant Enterprise 2.0 Summit (In Paris), Congreso de Empresa 2.0 y Social Business (In Seville), the Social Business Strategy Summit (in London) and, of course, my favourite event so far this year: the Social Business Forum (In Milan). And since I have uploaded them to Slideshare already, here you have got the embedded codes for each and everyone of them, with an opportunity as well to download the along, as you may see fit:

Hopefully, from here onwards it would become a regular habit from yours truly; as a I keep getting to attend various other different events, I will continue to share them along over here for other folks out there, who may be interested in these topics, to benefit, as appropriate. And perhaps perfect timing, too!, since I am about to prepare for my next business trip, this time happening over the weekend, when I make my way to the always fascinating and insightful Enterprise 2.0 event in Boston and where I will be for the entire week, so if you fancy getting together for a drink or a meal, probably the best way to reach me would be through Twitter, at @elsua, or through my mobile number (If you have it…).

Hope you enjoy this experiment, and hope it does prove useful to you as well, just as much as it has been for myself in the last few months. I would also love to know what you think about it in the comments, please 🙂 Is it worth while pursuing it further? Are you getting any additional benefits of that live tweeting I have been doing all long, now that I can finally curate it properly and share it across with all of you? Let me know what you think.

Really looking forward now to putting it into a massive test at the event of events on Enterprise 2.0 in just a few hours from now! Boston, here we come! Ready?

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Dear Social Business Evangelist, Where Art Thou?

Gran Canaria - Roque Nublo in the SpringThere used to be a time when social business evangelists were perceived, mainly, as disruptors, to a certain degree, of any given status quo within the corporate environment out there at large. They were optimists, outrageous, somewhat heretic, true rebels at work, free radicals to some extent. Perhaps even a bit of hippie 2.0 in each and every one of them. They were, essentially, the change agents who were helping act as catalysts for that business transformation that was becoming a full socially integrated enterprise.

What happened to them though? I mean, I believe that social business evangelists, in general, are still breathing those very same traits I just mentioned above, but where are they? Have they become a bit too complacent with their own beliefs, needs and wants, and several other aspirations to want to change the way business gets done today, now that the corporate world by and large is, finally, becoming more savvy around Social Business itself? Have they moved on to something else already? I am not sure what you folks would think about, but I’m starting to see that trend more and more and it worries me. It worries me a lot! More than anything else, because we are not done at all with our Intrapreneurship efforts, as my good friend David Armano would claim, and by far! but yet again it looks like we all may seem to be content with how things are going. Is it time to bounce back?

It probably is, because, like I have mentioned above, there is still a lot of work to be done! Yet, I cannot get off my head that feeling of seeing how those social evangelists may have become a bit too complacent within their own role of becoming a disruptor and eventually fade away (into other things), because they feel their role is no longer needed. That was essentially one of the several perceptions I experienced, while attending the premier event on Social Business over here in Europe at the Social Business Forum event held in Milan, Italy. That’s why during Day One of the event itself I may have been perceived, in several conversations, as a bit too pessimistic about the state of things. Quite the opposite though. And for a good reason. We are not done, by and large; no matter what people may tell you, we are just getting started!

In a superb blog post, my good friend Cecil Dijoux, highlighted plenty of the good work that still needs to be done. Go and have a look and read through that highlights article to get a glimpse of what he perceived from the overall event as well. It will be worth while your time, I can surely guarantee you that! And as a teaser, here’s a golden quote that he reproduced from the thought provoking keynote session from another good friend, the always inspiring, mind-blowing, John Hagel, which highlights pretty much where we are today:

“Information is power. Institutions are designed to provide some people with information which is power. If knowledge flows, it is undermining the foundation of people power in organisations. How do we confront that power?”

Then allow me to be a bit too provocative as well with this particular follow-up commentary. Remember when perhaps 3 to 4 years ago we used to go to all of these social networking for business events and suit and ties were just missing from the equation? You could hardly see one or two in a large room. They were the outcasts, to a certain degree, and perhaps frown upon for no good, nor apparent, reason. But if felt good. It felt disruptive, provocative, heretic, even a bit rebellious of what you have been experiencing all along. Well, fast forward to today and it looks like in a good number of social business related events the suits and ties are back! Have we become a bit too formal and given up on our outrageous, heretic ways? We are no longer seeing ourselves, social business evangelists as disruptors? Have we, finally, been assimilated by the corporate world, before our job is done and completed? What do you think?

That’s essentially part of a reflection I went through with a good number of friends at the Social Business Forum event that then crystalized on this nearly 8 minute long conversation I had with the always knowledgeable Bjoern Negelman, which he then shared later on in YouTube:

 

In that short video interview we talked about the need to bounce back; to shake off our very own complacency with the fact that now that businesses are starting to live social our job may be done; to bring back those weird, fancy, crazy (t-)shirts we once wore vs. those lovely suits and ties we know well from all along; to essentially realise that now that we have got the right level of attention our role as social evangelists is more critical than ever not just to help early adopters make their move into getting the most out of social networking, but helping businesses understand how the whole paradigm of work is shifting into a much more open, trustworthy, collaborative, knowledge sharing prone, transparent and nimble workplace and therefore it would require a new mindset, a new set of behaviours to be lived and enjoyed by each and everyone of us. With perhaps no exceptions.

That’s where the challenge still remains. We may have prepared rather well the way for those various different waves of (early) adopters, but our job is far from done! Remember? “90 percent of transactions for customer service happen offline“, or “70% of social media complaints are ignored!“, amongst several others… That’s why we need to bounce back. That’s why we need to shake off our very own comfort zone(s) and soon enough, before it’s just too late! The fight is still on!

And this is, once again, one of those times when I am going to be rather grateful to serendipity itself, for having played its magic one more time incredibly well, by pointing me into this rather short video clip, that lasts for a bit over 90 seconds, under the suggestive title “The Branding of Culture” and which has got plenty of really interesting, insightful and relevant tag lines all over around social business. Yes, I know, I know, the usual disclaimer would apply here, once more, since it’s an IBM video clip, but you would see what I mean with what is, to me, the key message I got from the clip itself and which would be spot on for today’s reflection on the key, essential, critical role that Social Business Evangelists would still need to keep playing for many more moons to come: 

“Practice what you preach” (Always!)

 

My dear fellow Social Business Evangelists, be honest, be authentic, be open, be transparent, in short, be yourself! We are now, more than ever, very much needed by the businesses who employed us in the first place to complete that shift into realising that full socially integrated enterprise. Your business. Our business. And everyone else’s for that matter.

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Reinventing Relationships with Social Business

Gran Canaria - Roque Nublo and The Friar in the SpringIt’s been nearly two weeks already since the last time I put together a blog post over here, on purpose, and, yet again, another round of business trips is now done and dealt with. Phew! What a rush! As I have mentioned back then, this last time I participated in the Social Business Strategy Summit in London and then off to present in Milan at the quite amazingly insightful Social Business Forum event. Yet, as a surprising fact, why am I mentioning that I didn’t blog on purpose this time around, you may be wondering, right? Specially, since time and time again I kept relating how I struggle constantly getting connected, finding the time and eventually write down a blur of entries while on the road. Well, basically, because I wanted to wait and see what digital customer service was going to be like. Once again, I was not disappointed. To summarise it all in a single word I could probably use this one: non-existent.

Indeed, in my last article over here, under the heading “The Trials and Tribulations of a Mobile Knowledge Worker in a Social Business World“, I mentioned how a bunch of businesses have been providing, consistently, quite an appalling set of digital (customer) services and how, two weeks later, I am still waiting for a response from Quadriga, Swisscom, NH Hotels and my all time favourite one: Movistar (Who coincidentally has just taken things into the next level of insultingly poor customer service when, upon my return back home they have downgraded my home office ADSL connection from the 10MB I am still paying to a mere 6MB download. And all of that without asking!!) #lesigh

Things haven’t improved much, it seems, or have they? It looks like they haven’t and I guess at this point in time I’m on the brink of giving up altogether on getting some decent customer service through social digital channels, specially, for those rather expensive offerings one has got to endure in order to get work done. It looks like it’s just not happening and I guess from now onwards you would have to colour me skeptic with regards to the role of digital when providing good, solid, overall customer service. Again, so far, non-existent.

And it is just way too funny, because as we are fully immersed in the world of the Social Web, in the new, exciting era of Social Businesses, yet, plenty of companies out there keep failing on delivering. Time and time again. Not even thinking about engaging through digital channels to keep their customers happy. Brand loyalty, anyone? No wonder we bump into research studies that confirm how poor customer loyalty has been in the last couple of years and counting. In fact, I would venture to state that, if anything, it’s deteriorated big time and from a very dangerous point of view: not just from customers to vendors, but, more worryingly, from vendors themselves to their customers. And that’s just what I would not have expected to experience till today, hoping that most businesses would wake up eventually to a new era of engagement or involvement with their customer base. Or is it?

While at the Social Business Forum (#sbf12), held in Milan, Italy, a week ago exactly, there were plenty of incredibly insightful highlights that will come through over the course of time in several blog entries from yours truly, plus a nice new experiment I have been playing with that I am hoping folks out there would enjoy as well (More on that shortly…), but one of the most revealing and eye-opening ones was the absolutely stunning couple of presentations that my good friend Esteban Kolsky did on the topic of Social CRM (As in Social Customer Relationship Management) under the rather suggestive title “The way we will complain. How customer service is going to evolve over the next 10 years“, which he also covered, some of the materials, that is, at the Social Business Strategy Summit as he documented well on this article

As a starting point here are some great quotes from some of his initial, starting slides: “90 percent of transactions for customer service happen offline” or this other gem: “80 percent of organisations think their experiences are good (8% of customers agree)” or, finally, this other one that clearly blew me away when we got exposed to it: “66 percent have no defined processes for customer service over social channels“. Yes, that’s right, you are reading it correctly: 66% of businesses out there have no defined processes to engage with their customers through social channels. Whoahhh! Still think we are living on a Social Business Era? 

Ha! Absolutely!! We all are! It’s that we are just getting started! Remember, this whole thing about Social Business is not only a destination, the final frontier, but also quite an amazing journey, one where we are all embarking on it as we speak, and one where we can see how some businesses are more ready than others. But, we will all eventually get there as Esteban himself pointed out very clearly throughout the remaining of his presentations and the blog post he put together on the subject, which I would strongly encourage you all to take a look, including the slide decks!!, specially, the piece around the essence of social business which drives around three major, core concepts that I just couldn’t have agreed more with him when he explained them together in context: 

  • “Channels (Social)
  • Engagement (Connected)
  • Collaboration (Collaborative)”

Brilliant stuff altogether and clearly very thought provoking on laying down for all of us, what lies ahead, including the various different opportunities, but just as well the many challenges. Fascinating altogether, to say the least!

So I guess I shouldn’t have held my hopes too high to get some decent customer service through digital / social channels for all of those businesses when they may not have even planned accordingly for them in the first place. Perhaps I should try out the next time the offline approach and see how that works. But then again, I would still want to muse further along about the whole subject behind customer / vendor loyalty. Because it is still there, isn’t it? Or have we lost it for good altogether? What do you think?

While you, too, keep pondering about it further along, and would love to read your thoughts in the comments, please!, here’s something that I would want to throw out there on the table as well for all of us to consider… How about Reinventing Relationships with Social Business?

That’s the interesting and rather intriguing title from a recent short video clip that IBMSocialBiz has put together and which, when going through it, I am sure it will help reframe these questions about managing, or better, facilitating customer relationships, vendor relationships or even just your employees, your partners, even your competitors. All part of a giant ecosystem where there is no way back, apparently.

Now, you all know that I work for IBM, so I suppose the usual disclaimer applies in here, but must admit that the video clip itself even made me think about my own relationships as a customer, as a vendor, as an employee, as a partner, as a competitor, even as myself! to the point where it may well be rather accurate to start reinventing those business relationships into rather personal business ones where we try to apply lots of fresh thinking on how we engage with those around us, because by just thinking about reinventing those relationships we are probably considering what may be the critical success factor around them: how to make them better, that is, more beneficial for all parties involved? 

Perhaps it’s all part of that behavioural change we should ALL aim at in order to become successful social business. Perhaps it’s all about building up new, more empowering and inspiring loyalties, or learn in a different way, or maybe develop altogether a new model of trust that would work both ways, mutual and beneficial for everyone, one where the whole focus would be on providing overall exceptional experiences. Wouldn’t that be quite something? Still a utopia? Or today’s reality, perhaps?

Well, let’s make it happen then! Let’s go and Reinvent Relationships with Social Business. Together!

It’s time. The right time.

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The Trials and Tribulations of a Mobile Knowledge Worker in a Social Business World

Gran Canaria - Roque Nublo and The Friar in the SpringHere is an interesting study that I have just bumped into a couple of days ago, and which may resonate with plenty of folks out there on the relevancy of Social Business in today’s corporate world. It is not a pretty one, for sure, but rather revealing perhaps on what’s still ahead for most of us, and a clear indication we are just barely getting started with our journey to become successful social businesses: 70% of social media complaints are ignored

In the world of the Social Web who would have thought about that, right? Well, perhaps time for a wake-up call for all of us social computing evangelists… Change is not happening as fast as what we would have thought and perhaps that is ok. It will take time, we all know that, but will we be ok about it though? About the fact that we may not even be able to witness that final business transformation we have been eagerly anticipating all along after all?

That is one of the reflections that has been in my mind over the last few months and interestingly enough it keeps coming back as soon as I embark on my next round of business trips. Like today, on my way to London, to participate and present at the rather intriguing Social Business Strategy Summit and then flying to Milan over the weekend to participate on the event of events on Social Business in Europe: the Social Business Forum 2012

Why does that reflection keep coming back then every so often nowadays? Well, as you may have noticed, once again, I have failed about keeping up with my usual regular blogging schedule over here on this blog. It’s been a few weeks since the last time that I have shared an article over here and although things at work are now more hectic and buzzing than ever (Specially, as we keep seeing how more and more executives are finally diving into the world of living Social, “dragging” along their teams and own networks), the main culprit, once again, has been my traveling schedule, not because of traveling itself, but mainly because, once again, I continued to fail on staying connected to keep up with my blogging and other social networking activities.

As you may remember from my last blog post, I mentioned how I was on my way to Rotterdam, to present at the IBM / NLLUG Social Business event (Along with visiting a couple of customers in Utrecht to talk about adoption of social networking tools, networks and communities); then from there onwards to lovely Seville to participate and present at the first edition of the event “Congreso de Empresa 2.0 y Social Business – El Presente de la Gestión Empresarial“, which was, by the way, a beautiful experience, not to mention spending a few days in such a stunning city as Seville is. And, finally, make my way to Barcelona, where I took a couple of days off to unwind and recharge my batteries to finish off the business trip with conducting an IBM workshop for managers on Why Social Business, Why Now and How to get started

Phew! All in all, 7 different social business events in an 8 day long timeframe. Rather hectic, I can assure you all, but what an amazing experience! My head is still spinning, for real, with the great amount of ideas I have been munching on as a result of some wonderful conversations throughout the entire time! And I am certain over the course of the next couple of weeks plenty of those ideas would be making their way into several blog posts over here 🙂 

So, why am I becoming increasingly skeptic though about the role of social media in the corporate world, specially, when I am on the road (Although not to the point of becoming a curmudgeon per se perhaps, I can imagine some people may perceive it that way, alas), and certainly starting to question some of the motives of those “so-called” social businesses? Well, probably because of a worrying issue that keeps growing further along over time: not walking the talk when being consistently confronted with bad customer service after having had some of the worst customer user experiences

Social Business is a whole bunch of different things, indeed, perhaps far too many which may well be a bit of a problem initially as well, but one of the main key major traits is that one of businesses becoming more customer centric improving tremendously their own overall customer experiences engaging in meaningful conversations out there on the Social Web to try to address and fix their problems. Yet we bump into studies, like the one I mentioned at the beginning of this article, where 7 out of 10 complaints raised through social media are just basically ignored. Don’t you think it leaves plenty of ground to question those claims from companies stating they walk the talk when living Social, yet, time and time again they keep failing to deliver? Yes, they make me question it, too! 

And that is exactly what’s happened to me in the last couple of weeks, while I have been on the road, that, once again, both hotels and ISP providers have kept failing to deliver on their so-called promises of being successful social businesses. Starting in Rotterdam itself, where I stayed 4 days at a rather nice, cosy hotel, the Hampshire Hotel – Savoy, but with quite an appalling experience regarding their Ethernet service. Yes, I get that, as a hotel, you may not want to provide free wifi / Ethernet connectivity to those mobile workers constantly on the road, because you may not make enough profit out of it, which is something I would debate, too, specially, after the superb blog post put together by my good friend Neville Hobson on this very same subject.

But I *do* have an issue with it when you charge me 15€ per day for an Ethernet connection that doesn’t even reach 0.5 mbps download and then you claim that’s the standard service to stay “connected” after being told off by a customer support representative somewhere in India that is all I am going to get, including questioning my English skills to comprehend the situation. Welcome to the wonderful service of Quadriga, the Ethernet provider from the Hampshire Hotel – Savoy. 

Want to know more about the story? Oh, don’t worry, there isn’t much left… It just ended up right there! No further discussions to compromise on providing good quality service for 15€ per day fee. Take it or leave it. I gave up, eventually. I had a superb time while in Rotterdam, for sure, enjoying some pretty amazing offline social networking interactions, but both Quadriga and the Hampshire Hotel – Savoy are now on my growing black list of service providers to avoid and hotels to never go back to. Life is just too short to have to put up with such an utterly disgraceful and disappointing customer service on all grounds. And, don’t worry, this would be another “social media complaint” that will go by pretty much ignored, because I don’t expect any response any time soon. Why bother, right? After all, I am just a customer. #lesigh

Ok, time to see things improved, then! Off we go to Seville, to attend and present at the rather energizing and inspiring #e20Biz event, first edition of many more successful years to come, I am sure! and there we are at the conference event venue, the Hotel NH Central Convenciones, ready to get started with the event, when, once again, we all got hit by the next round of awful customer service. This time around by a rather well known ISP provider from yours truly, since I have put together a couple of blog posts about their horrendous customer service in the past. Of course, I am talking about Swisscom.

As you may well know by now, Swisscom is the provider of the wifi services to all NH Hotels, and it has been a few years since the last time I stayed at one of those hotels, after some disappointing experiences. But this time around I decided to cut them some slack, once more, and give them another chance, why not, right? Well, big mistake! Not only are they continuing to provide some rather poor service to their customers for a rather pricey fee, but this time around they were also the main providers from the conference event wifi and it was just what you might not have been expecting: non-existent!! 

And while talking to the event organizers, who did their best in addressing the issues, we found out that they payed big bucks, and I mean big bucks!!, for a wifi service that even at our very own homes is much much better! Why do we keep putting up with this? Seriously, who do they think we are? Wouldn’t you think that after having paid a rather expensive hotel room, even pricier wifi connection for what we got, we would deserve better? Apparently, we don’t, because their only response, several hours later than expected, was only a timid tweet that got through advising on what we have already done a few times earlier on in the day and the rest of the conversation died off right there! Not surprisingly, since I wasn’t already expecting much more from Swisscom in the first place. They know better, but they consistently keep failing to deliver. Go figure. 

So what did I do then? Did I give up on that one, too? Yes, I did! In fact, I gave up on both Swisscom and NH Hotels a long while ago and that experience in Seville just confirmed why those two companies are also on my black list of service providers to avoid, and for a good reason. Thus I decided to go local, since I was in Spain; I decided to rely on my 3G connection for my iPhone and iPad and on my 3G USB modem or my Mac. And while I was expecting a good, reliable connection, the results were different, much different!

There I was, struggling, once again, even with my own 3G options, but this time around a bit worse, since the 3G USB modem is not my own, but from the company that employs me, IBM. For the entire remaining of the week and even when I went to Barcelona for the following 5 days I kept failing to get consistently connected after experiencing some rather poor performance, right at the city enter from both Seville and Barcelona. How can that be? I mean, I know for sure that my company is paying big bucks, once again, to allow its mobile employee knowledge workers stay connected, while on the road, and we can barely make it, since Movistar‘s service barely provided more than 1mbps download / upload. Yet, it doesn’t happen. Time and time again we have to keep up with the frustrating experiences of staying connected and eventually give up (before we would go all go crazy to no avail).

Once again, that is exactly what I did! Over the course of the last couple of years I have learned to tame myself with the frustration, trying to stay connected reliably while I am travelling, since I have come to the conclusion it is no longer worth the fight and it is starting to become, even, rather unhealthy. So I decided to switch off completely and enjoy something that I am starting to appreciate more and more by the day: talking more to people offline and nurturing those offline social interactions. Over time, not only is it proving to be rather a healthier activity, but overall I am finding it a whole lot more refreshing and energizing altogether! 

And, for that, I would have to thank, and very much so!, plenty of my physical social networks for coming to the rescue of this poor mobile social networker, who can no longer keep up with the virtual world, while on the road, because it just dies a simple, uncomplicated death. And in the mean time 7 out of 10 social media complaints go by unanswered and pretty much ignored! There is Social Busines and customer service for you, going down on a rather dangerous spiral of no return apparently.

And you know what is the worst part of it all? One thing that I never expected it would happen in today’s rather interconnected, distributed, pervasive world, specially, in the Social Web of today: that, more and more, I am starting to feel rather disconnected from the virtual social networking world with the growing feeling of disappearing into thin air, because I keep failing to resurface into my virtual social streams, to the point where some of my closest networks are starting to question where I am and what I have been doing. So much for all of that “narrate your work”, “working out loud” and “observable work” mantras, eh? #lesigh

Well, I am right there, for sure!, it is just that while I wish I would be more active sharing openly plenty more of my knowledge, experiences, skills, abilities, know-how, and whatever else around all things social, including getting involved in multiple conversations where I feel I could add my two cents into the online dialogue, I keep finding it’s not happening as often as I would have hoped or wished for, and somehow I am starting to suspect it’s becoming rather damaging for my own online digital social presence out there. At what costs? I don’t know, probably you folks would be in a much better position to judge that than myself, but somehow I sense I may not recover from it in a long while seeing the way things are moving on, as I keep reflecting on it while putting these few words over here on my way to London, then Milan, then Boston (mid-June), then Madrid, Barcelona, Seville again till mid-July…

Finally, after such a rather lengthy reflection (Thanks much for sticking around this far!), that I needed to get out of my chest before it becomes rather unnerving and unhealthy, you may be wondering whether I am expecting to see any kind of reaction, or even a slight service improvement, from both the hotel business, as well as the ISPs, in general? Will they ever become successful social businesses? I have no doubt they will, eventually, perhaps in the next few decades, but for now please do allow me to remain skeptic about it, because I just don’t see it, despite their claims they are getting there. For as along as their social media complains remain ignored and neglected, nothing will change. Nothing. Nada. Zip. Perhaps time to move on?

Thus, my dear European Union, since those businesses aren’t doing much to change the situation, due to their ever growing monopolies, and since countries have got their hands tight up in the process, what are you going to do to empower your mobile knowledge Web workforce to remain productive and help them get you out of the disgraceful econoclypse you have been experiencing in the last 4 years and still going strong? What do we, European netizens, need to do to wake you up and help us help you get back on track by empowering us to be productive and rather effective, even while we are on the road? Tell us, we are eagerly awaiting. Please, tell do us soon. We can’t wait much longer…

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