Note: This post was originally posted on my personal blog “Chitchating about Information Delivery” on April 18th, 2012.
This week’s FirstRain’s announcement of FirstTweets a solution for B2B users delivering “business-quality Twitter intelligence on thousands of global companies, industries and topics relevant to the specific business lines of your customers, industry and competitors”- was an exciting one for our team and our customers.
I have been on a couple of client calls where we previewed this new content stream and across the board the enthusiasm and spark of ideas around FirstTweets from them has been very inspiring. These are companies of all sizes across various industries- some that have been extremely active supporters of using Social Media as part of their strategies (e.g. Customer Care centers, tech support, brand monitoring etc) and others that are just starting out.
For example, some of these companies have tried to use their existing social media monitoring and measuring tools to ‘push’ relevant business content to their sales team, but none have been able to crack the code using their existing systems that are great for monitoring their own brands and customers using keywords- but can not deliver precise business focused content on thousands of companies and industries that their salesforce covers or their market intelligence teams needs to keep track of competitors and new business trends. Some have tried other ‘sales intelligence’ solutions that push social media buzz into their CRM systems- all based on keywords with low hit business relevancy results- turning off most users.
Now i have been an active user of Twitter for a bit over 5 years, just when the little twitter bird began chirping. i use Twitter outbound and to listen quite a bit. I would estimate that i have spent hundreds of hours, curating content, selecting people to follow (and unfollow!) , creating lists, monitoring client issues, company employees and general news. i am one of those 9% of digital news consumers that sees the news Break on Twitter.
I use Twitter effectively and teach others how to at any chance i get- but hundreds of hours of my time has been invested, and will continue to be since Twitter is not a set it and leave it information flow.
Is that the level of time investment that most companies want for their employees that are not responsible for monitoring and measuring social media??? Do companies want staff especially Sales who can benefit greatly from business intelligence found in Twitter- spending the same amount of time i have over the years??
I would venture to say no.
Now, i think that EVERY employee should consider using Twitter to engage with their peers in their industry, their customers and of course their friends and family- but i don’t think the processes that i have developed over the years is sustainable for most sales and marketing people- especially as your markets become more competitive and the budget dollars to spend on the solutions you sell decrease.
And that is where i see the biggest promise for FirstTweets- delivering intelligence to better understand your customers’ end-markets, strengthen relationships and improve overall sales strategy.
The customers i have talked to agree.
Note: Today April 18th is the official launch to existing FirstRain customers, i have been using FirstTweets in our Sandbox environment for about two weeks- and have found many gems that i would never have found using the various tools i use in my Twitter day to day use- so it wasn’t built for “me”- but i sure will benefit from it!
We’ve had an amazing year here at FirstRain. Over the course of just the last year, we’ve launched an intuitive new Web app interface, elegant iPad and mobile apps, and then our powerful new Enterprise Customer Intelligence System for end-to-end, company-wide intelligence integration.
And now today is another big day at FirstRain—but it’s also a big day for the social enterprise platforms like Chatter, Yammer and Jive because now, for the very first time, Twitter is useful for B2B professionals.
For some time now, media and brand monitoring solutions like Radian6 have been tapping into Twitter so that companies can see what their customers are saying. If United Airlines loses your luggage and you gripe about it on Twitter, United can see that. But solutions that provide consumer tweet monitoring are hopeless if you are a B2B professional trying to find useful and breaking industry news in Twitter about specific companies, products or business lines.
We’ve now solved that problem, and are announcing FirstTweets today. This is the world’s first solution for extracting business-relevant Twitter Intelligence. FirstTweets™ is a part of our FirstRain Enterprise Customer Intelligence System. It is a technology breakthrough that solves the Twitter problem for business executives: how to get business value and intelligence out of the 250 million tweets that Twitter produces daily.
Our analysis shows that more than 99.9% of all Twitter is non-relevant to business professionals, making it effectively impossible to get to the still more than 200,000 tweets per day of daily business intelligence buried inside.
Now, by using FirstRain’s patented semantic analytics, our system provides the ability to easily and effectively access the business intelligence hidden within the Twitter stream. FirstTweets™ collects and organizes real time industry and customer-specific information to uncover revenue opportunities, including customer developments, industry trends, news, market analysis, emerging themes and so much more.
This intelligence is then be easily integrated into different workflows, including iPads and other mobile devices, CRM systems,social enterprise platforms like Chatter, Jive, Yammer and SharePoint, or any workflow that works best for sales and marketing teams.
FirstTweets™ will be available to all users this Wednesday and will be included for FirstRain subscribers. It’s another exciting innovation by FirstRain, and I look forward to hearing what you think.
Charm as a leadership currency seems to change with every wave of silicon valley engineering companies.
In the old days of the early semiconductor firms the CEOs were often gruff white men. Most came up through the ranks of real products, dirty products, chemicals in the manufacturing process, union labor forces… and charm was not a necessary part of the job. Like the famously paranoid Andy Grove of Intel and the crusty Wilf Corrigan of LSI Logic. They didn’t have to be charming — they had to be in with their boards and drive global market growth for their products. They barely even worked the customers after the first few because it was an engineering and distribution driven business.
Then we had the wave of computer companies like Sun Microsystems and HP and large enterprise software firms like Oracle. Now the CEO’s had a bit more charm but it was B2B charm of the likes of Scott McNealy and John Chambers. Stay focused on the major customers and charm the sell-side analysts that covered them. Build a world class team, set high goals for your sales team (give rousing speeches at Quota Club meetings in Hawaii), pay well and drive global growth to large customers.
But now we have the wave of internet and media companies where charm on a global scale matters. This new wave of leadership focuses on accessibility, charming the media, long on user-experience and number of users, shorter on hard engineering. Old school style back fires as Carol Bartz found out at Yahoo. Open communications like Larry Page’s recent letter, mea culpa as Reed Hastings did at Netflix, charm on a global scale as Arianna Huffington did for the HuffPo and the relentless visibility of the very charming Sheryl Sandberg of Facebook fame are part of the global marketing machine.
The first group of CEOs were often engineering based and visible only in print — rough was OK. The second group was often sales based — smoother but customer focused and sometime visible on CNBC. Now we live in the era of the media-savvy CEO who is visible everywhere, all the time. Still technical, but the darlings of the tech press are the ones who know how to work the media, and social media, to their advantage.
But wait. Even today charm only goes so far. You still have to produce top line and net income growth for your investors. Charm and modern communication skills are essential in the media and internet world which is so over covered today, but they are a necessary but not sufficient condition for B2B success (unless, of course, you can get bought for technology before you figure out your revenue model).
So if you are in a B2B engineering-based product business focus on the fundamentals of your technology and your customers, but don’t forget to hone your charm skills for this new era.
We try to capture everything – we really do. But the reality is so much of our wisdom is in our heads and it’s never more apparent than when trying to train someone new.
At FirstRain we have a new executive – the fabulous Daniela Barbosa who just joined us from Dow Jones. She’s smart and experienced and I want to bring her up to speed as fast as possible but pointing her to our systems is, I know, simply insufficient. We think we capture everything about our users and workflow in our salesforce CRM system. We think we capture our contracts in Netsuite and our central wiki. But of course so much of the deep knowledge is tribal – to quote Wikipedia “Tribal knowledge is any unwritten information that is known within a tribe but often unknown outside of it.”
The reality is that the really interesting stuff about your customers, your technology, why people truly buy is in people’s heads. Our customer facing technical team knows the customer’s workflow, the nuances of why they want one choice over another, what internal projects – and opposition – they are facing and need our system to help them solve. It’s impossible to write it all down, and so it’s crucial to share as much verbally as possible.
And it’s one of the reasons that turnover can be so damaging to companies.
Sometimes turnover is good. If you want to change the culture of a company you typically will have to change 50% of the leadership — or more as when Cadence fired it’s entire executive team. If you want to dramatically change your strategy and go-to-market you have to change your business team — as Dell is now bravely doing.
But short of dramatic change, turnover is expensive simply because you lose and have to re-learn so much tribal knowledge. Especially with your R&D team and with customer support. The R&D team knows where the bodies are buried in the code; the customer support team knows the truth about customer use and where they find value.
It is, of course, important to document the knowledge you have, but when you are growing and moving fast it is also important to value, and protect tribal knowledge and bring your team together frequently and efficiently to talk through and share what’s in people’s heads.