training

Training tomorrow’s Marketers on Big Data

Big Data Boot Camp for Marketers

Big Data is rock’n the Marketer’s world. It is signalling a wake-up call that marketers need to be more metrics driven, more technically savvy and more process oriented. At the top of the food chain, CMOs are taking on responsibilities that traditionally belonged to CIOs. And at the middle management level, marketers are being required to be more technical and metrics oriented.

The days of just fishing for eyeballs or operating based on one’s gut instinct are long gone. It is no longer acceptable to just look at demographics or psychographics or just count eyeballs. Instead, marketers need to focus on the numbers — people’s tribes, their behaviors, their interests, their online behavior — both in terms of surfing the website or a mobile app or transacting with a page or shopping cart..

Most marketers would agree, however, that they are not prepared for the incoming Big Data wave: they lack resources, lack data know-how, and they don’t know how to get started.

According to a study from The Economist Intelligence Unit, only 24% of marketers use data for actionable marketing insight. Furthermore, in that same study almost 50% of marketers cited a lack of capacity to analyze big data. Some companies are increasing their budgets for Big Data analytics. The problem is that there’s no road map for getting these marketers up to speed.

Rather than focus on the bells and whistles (the technology) of big data, here’s are 7 steps a marketer a marketer can take to get out of their comfort zone and jump into the Big Data World:

  1. Understand the definition of Big Data, which is usually defined by the 3Vs:

    1. Volume or the amount of data involved

    2. Variety or to how the data is structured

    3. Velocity or the rate at which it is generated and analysed

  2. Subscribe to and learn from few key bloggers, who can teach you the ropes:

    1. SemAngel Blog by Gary Angel: Gary brings over twenty years of experience in decision support, CRM, and software development. Gary co-founded Semphonic and is the President and Chief Technology Officer.  But don’t let the CTO title fool you. Gary is the the brightest consultant I have worked with and can take complex techn issues and break them down into easily digestible and understandable. chunks for markets

    2. Analytics Blog by Justin Cutron: Justin is currently the Analytics Advocate at Google, so he has a boatload of knowledge. In his blog, he breaks down digital analytics for businesses.

    3. Customer Analytics blog by the SAS’ companies – This blog is for anyone who is looking for ways to improve the business of marketing and communicating with customers, which includes everything from multi-level marketing to social media campaigns.

    4. Big Data Hub by IBM: This blog is filled with case studies, videos, etc. from key players at IBM and beyond.

    5. Business Analytics Blog by Tim Elliot: Tom is an Innovation Evangelist for SAP. This blog contains his personal views, thoughts, and opinions on business analytics.

  3. Get your organization big data ready:

    1. Tear down your organization’s silos and engage multiple departments

    2. Give team members homework — tell them to read the blogs mentioned above.

    3. Think about how you will link your current data infrastructure to your project (that means a business analyst, and IT guy, etc. should be involved in the meeting)

    4. Know and recognize that Big Data is a team sport

  4. Work with  framework your organization agrees on, such as:

    1. Define Your Goal

    2. Understand your resources

    3. Review key segment’s Journey

    4. Confirm you are capturing data during each phase

    5. Establish benchmark

    6. Create a small measurable deliverable (test)

    7. Track over time

    8. Establish toll gate reviews

    9. Expand program

    10. Tweak your programs as needed

  5. Define the desired outcome and the one question you want to answer

    1. Yes, narrow it down to one (primary) question

    2. Answer the question and move on

  6. Understand your inputs by breaking down your customer(s) journey

    1. Identify the different sources of data, such as social network behavior, information from third party lists, mobile usage, downloads, etc.

  7. List out different types of potential metrics you could track:

    1. Information related specifically to the customers transactions (or actions)

    2. Information related to a segment’s usage patterns

    3. Information related to the overall marketing program

In some respects Big Data is just an extension of database marketing, a popular term in the 1980s and 1990s because it focuses on leveraging customer information to segment an audience and develop personalized campaigns. The biggest difference now is that we can leverage unstructured data (video for example) and implement just-in-time programs.

I am a big believer in learning by doing. If a Marketer really wants to be figure out how to integrate big data into their business processes, they need to have on-the-job training. (And to that point, I actually believe this is important for the CMO as well as the Business Analyst, although the latter might get more in the proverbial data weeds!). If marketers don’t do this, they will lose their admission ticket to be in the marketing world.

Personalization with Big Data

database

Back in the 1900s (1991 to be precise), I trained in a database marketing type of boot camp. I worked on American Express (AMEX), managing it’s Gold Card direct marketing efforts. Amex, a leader in personalizing printed communications, had created its most successful program when it highlighted in the direct mail pieces that someone was a “Member since XXXX.” Yes, membership had it’s privileges. But also, for American Express, this personalization triggered a lift.

Show me what you got

Now it’s 20+ years later. And while 2013 was the year of Big Data in the back office where companies tried to set up the proper infrastructure and human resources to be part of this phenomenon, 2014 will be the year to personalize Big Data on the screen.

Of course, the term personalization has many meanings to many people. For the purposes of this blog, I am focusing on ‘the content on the screen.’ Customizing what the user reads and sees will be the challenge, especially because a responsive design approach still requires careful consideration about what is personalized on a tablet versus an iphone.

Big Data will be operationalized

With personalization being a key theme in 2014, marketers will need to get their hands dirty and truly understand the different categories in their customer database. They need to design their digital platforms with their database in mind, knowing that different areas of the screen can pull in content from both the customer and product database. For example, Amazon pulls in two different types of data based on my purchase behavior: books on digital marketing, which I am interested in, and children’s videos, which I access every night via their Instant Video. Their customer database might carry just the title name, the author and the price. The assets for that information would be in a product database. The two need to work closely together on the screen.

Every day, Netflix and Amazon demonstrate their ability to leverage this kind of data to talk to their customers on an individual and personal level. Sometimes, I think they could go a step further in personalizing info on the page, especially because one of the big battle grounds in 2014 will be same day delivery. Amazon and Wal-Mart can incorporate GPS data to determine potential offline purchases or product drop off points.

Intuit’s 2013 Turbo Tax product offers a nice personalized solutions for its loyal members. It automatically transfers returning customer’s personal information and prior year tax return data, including wage and salary information from their employer, and then adapts itself based on that information to splash screens and questions that are not relevant to their specific tax situation. The company leverages all the valuable preexisting info that sits in its databases.

Size doesn’t matter

Smaller and medium size companies need to take their old school ‘face-to-face’ approach to the next level and personalize more than just ads or emails. They need to personalize at all touch points, including customer service, Skype, Hangouts, etc.

It’s important to remember that having the largest dataset or most sophisticated database will not guarantee an effective personalization program. It requires testing out and knowing what data elements will motivate a customer or partner to take an action.

Getting under the hood

Here are simple steps to get you started:

  1. Assume any data element in your customer or product database can be used to personalize information on the screen.

  2. Identify the type of tribes/segments who will visit your site or your app (or even call customer service).

  3. Prioritize a list of 3 CTAs (call to action) you want each of these segments to take when they use your product/site.

  4. List out the information you want to display on screen.

  5. Map out these info elements for multiple screens (Tablets, Smartphones, etc.) because you can’t share the same information on a smartphone as you can on a PC.

  6. Confirm these data elements are stored in your database(s) and if not, plan on capturing and storing them.

  7. Work with your designers and programmers to determine how many characters, picture size, etc. you can fit on the page.

  8. Work with your analytics team to set up the proper tracking

  9.  Remember: Start simple. You don’t need to personalize each area on the screen.

  10. Also remember, give your marketing team a basic course in database marketing.

Training Marketers on how to leverage their customer and product databases will take time. The more they can understand about how data can be pulled from a system and displayed on a screen, the more effective they will be in selling their products and services. This will take time. This will require marketers to get their hands dirty, get under the hood, and understand more than the fundamentals of big database marketing. This is true even if they work outside Silicon Valley or Silicon Alley.

The question is: Do they have the desire to acquire this skill set?

The Human Channel

Today, I am sitting in the Starbucks on Fillmore Street in San Francisco. I am watching everyone ear-plugged in and laptop ready. This is what I call the Starbucks Generation – Gen Y or millenials who work from anywhere there is an internet connection.To successfully reach this Starbucks Generation, it’s important to leverage the various Digital Channels, especially The Human Channel.

The Human Channel enables face-to-face interaction via the internet – either on a one on one basis or in a group setting. This is especially true on collaborative projects, such as demoing a complex product, troubleshooting a customer issue, or reaching influencers.

With more personal technologies, such as Google+ Hangouts and Skype, online human interaction is moving to the next level. Google Hangouts, for example, will fuse together best practices of call centers and digital marketing to create one type of Human Channel. Sarah Hill, a woman who has mastered the art of human media and is making a name for herself by being one of the most popular users on Google Plus, believes this technology will take customer service to the next level. She’s right. To learn more about Sarah Hill

Even Amazon, which once stated ‘the best service is no service’ offers personal human interaction on their Kindle. Their new feature Mayday, which is a single-click, that lets users work with a remote tech support representative to solve problems with their tablets: As Techcrunch recently pointed out “The service allows you to see a remote tech support person in a small window on your screen and also displays your screen on the support person’s computer where they can watch what you’re doing online, annotate the screen, and even tap through the interface”. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos said it’s like “actually very similar to having someone standing next to you” and offering tech support. Imagine a company like Amazon moving in this direction. See their video about the service:

I recently did a Follow-Me-Home, Intuit’s term for watching customers use your product in their office environment, and played the role of a customer service rep at a client’s office. While on the phone, a customer couldn’t interpret or implement my suggestions for solving his problem. It wasn’t his fault. The client’s product is complex and requires creative problem solving to decipher the sites features.

I suggested to the customer that we get on a Google Hangout so I could watch how he used my clients application. The result was magical. I could see where he was clicking. I could listen to him describe how he used the program (it’s always valuable to hear the words a customer uses to describe their problem). But most importantly, I could record our interaction (yes, I asked for his permission to do this), so I could share everything I learned with the product development team.

Being face-to-face online improved our communication and our understanding of each other. It also opened up the opportunity to upsell or cross-sell additional services because I had his visual trust. I repeat: I had his visual trust. While there is a real and substantial opportunity to use Google+ Hangouts as a next generation customer service tool, it should also be thought of as a new sales channel.

One caveat: You need margin to spare if you are going to integrate this platform into your daily customer service, training or product demo operations. It might be costly to do one on one support using Hangouts. However, having a tutorial for many participants at once might not be as costly for a company. It’s expensive to do one-to-one training.

Despite this, the Human Channel will increasingly become important as companies begin to explore the digital space. In time, it will not only been an asset but a necessity for companies to  leverage the human channel. As tech savvy millennials get older, the need to reach this them through technology will become greater and greater. The Human Channel will enable companies to continue in their quest to humanize their offerings and get closer to their customers. It will also serve as a tool to reach a targeted audience.

Be like Disney

disney

Recently, one of my favorite clients told me they wanted his community to be like Disney. What did he mean by Community? Today, this tends to be reference for a branded, company managed online community or a Facebook Page or a G+ Page. I like to extend the definition a bit to other online gatherings, such as all the ‘reviews’ about an Amazon book or an offline engagement, such as a MeetUp.

Since I really respect this person, I took his request on as a personal challenge to figure out what this meant and what it would take to accomplish it. Originally, his creativity kicked in and he had some great ideas for center stage. However, Disney creates the magic because it not only focuses on the Center Stage, but also on the Back Stage. Great ideas come to life on center stage but it all depends on the operations that happen behind the scenes.

disneybackstage

According to the Disney Institute, there are four key areas Backstage:

  • Guestology (which I call SMBography), which means that every employee (who touches a partner or a customer) should know and understand what that customer wants. One way to do this is to have employees active on in our online communities and social networks. To do this, you also need to treat each social network as a listening outpost so that you can better understand your ‘guests’ (members). Actions and decisions should also be data-driven so that you are not aiming in the dark. We should be prepared to invest in a pair of Big Ears, in the form of tools, resources, manpower.
  • Quality, which means we white glove (like Mickey Mouse) everything. This requires training our employees, our call center folks, and anyone who interacts with a user to go the extra mile and provide an unforettable experience. You need a road map of enhancements that consists of all touch-points, from the service desk to the boardroom, from your ecommerce store to the your customer service team.
  • Delivery, which means that your platforms, people and processes need to run efficiently. Decisions need to be data driven and constantly benchmarked against your previous results and your competitors track record.
  • Integration, which means that you need to take a more holistic approach in how you manage customer service, community, and commerce. You need to map out the Customer Journey and your Guests interactions — Map out while individuals from different parts of the company are in one room with laptops and cell phones off.

For more about these topics, read Be Our Guest (Revised and Updated Edition): Perfecting the Art of Customer Service by The Disney Institute and Theodore Kinni

For most companies, implementing the above requires a significant cultural change. However, it is necessary if you want to be successful in the digital and social world. It’s important to make sure your backstage operations are a well-oiled and managed machine. Otherwise, your inefficiencies will be apparent on center stage.

Implementing these changes is also crucial to be able to compete competitively. As more and more

companies perfect “the art of customer service”, users will not only expect quality from you but demand it. In the long term, these practice will be required to make your business sustainable.

If you have chance to visit Disney — online or at a theme park., take a moment to notice the little things that make the experience what it is. That magic doesn’t just happen. It’s built, cultivated, and perfected.

Employee Engagement: What’s the ROI

Clock is ticking for Small Businesses to leverage Social Media. Can they speed up time.

Clock is ticking for Small Businesses to leverage Social Media.
Can they speed up time.

A few years ago, I was called into my supervisor’s office because of her “concern” about my commitment to the company. When I asked what triggered this concern, she said I did not have any “pictures of my family or plants” in my cubical. Instead of telling her that she was looking at me an old-school corporate  lens different than her own (my last two years at Intuit, I worked out of a locker and didn’t even have an office), I uploaded some pictures of people from Google Images and put them on my iPad, which I displayed by my desk. Ironically, that seemed to do the trick.

When it comes to engaging employees, the biggest ROI is to think of your staff just like you would a customer: seek to understand their interests, their rituals, and their ways of communicating as well as how they want to be treated.

Your employees are key stakeholders in your company’s success. Several studies show that an engaged and happy worker can reduce a company’s overall health insurance costs and take less vacation time (not sure that’s a good thing). There’s an even more important impact, though. As a recent Tempkin Employee Engagement Study showed, high employee engagement impacts the bottom line:

  • Companies with strong financial results report employees to be engaged 75% of the time —compared to organizations with weak financial results, which report an employee engagement rate of 47%.
  • Engaged employees are more than twice as likely to go the “extra mile” at work. These folks stay late, collaborate with colleagues, and recommend organizational improvements.
  • 96% of engaged employees responded that they “always or almost always” try their hardest on the job (while 79% of non-engaged workers responded similarly).
  • 75% of employees at companies who report better-than-average customer experience levels are highly or moderately engaged, while only 34% of employees in companies with lesser customer experience levels are highly or moderately engaged.

Last year, I was hired by a major software company to help them use social media in their recruitment of college graduates. Like a good consultant, I convinced the company to expand its focus and concentrate on understanding their potential employees as a unique tribe (audience) and to reconsider how the company treated them. I pointed out that even if we did great job-recruiting candidates, the biggest challenge is engaging them in their work (a Gallup poll reports that 70% of first year employees do not feel invested/engaged at work).

Based on my recommendation, the company realized that to achieve a higher level of employee engagement, it needed to think of its staff as a human beings or ‘tribes’ of humans, who have specific and diverse needs, desires, and wants.  The company understood that employee engagement starts during the recruiting process, continues through training, on board, and even after the employee leaves the company. Yes, there is even a possible ‘reincarnation’ phase when an employee returns for a second tour of duty. Schwab calls these “Boomerangers.”

Besides looking at the employee through a realistic life cycle lens, there are several factors that improve employee engagement, a few of which I learned during my tenure at Intuit:

  • Create a Learning Environment. Today, when older employees have to reinvent themselves and learn new skills and younger employees have a desire to absorb information and learn new technology, it’s important to give employees the room to do this. Intuit had a great approach called “Learn-Teach-Learn.” It was a modified version of Noel Tichy’s virtuous teaching cycle. While Tichy and others focus on management playing this role, Intuit was able to bring this philosophy to the front line workers, meeting one of the key needs of its employees.
  • Believe in Voice of the Employee: After working with more than 10 Fortune 1000 companies in the last two years, it’s clear that very few of them allow their employees to have a voice at the table. Although corporate business decision-making is not always a democratic process, it’s important to let every group be heard, otherwise, you could find yourself in the middle of an Arab Spring. (OK, maybe that’s a slight exaggeration : )
  • Create a creative environment: Employees from any department at Intuit, for example, could sign up for ad-hoc problem-solving pow-wows called “Idea Jams” that lasted a couple of hours. This “unstructured time” ultimately proved productive, enabling workers to apply their brainpower to any challenge that interests them.
  • Reward does always require money : While everyone loves to make an extra buck, sometimes symbols and rituals can go a long way. Intuit created custom imprinted poker chips that were small, easy to carry, and colorful, with each one highlighting one of its 10 company “core values.” When employees witnessed a co-worker living an intuit core value, they awarded them a poker chip. According to Brand Alliance , employee engagement scores increased 10% after their introduction.
  • Identify their personal goals. First time employees on my teams are always shocked when I ask them: “What are your career goals, and what skills sets do you want to learn for a future job at our company or somewhere else?” Google attempts this with their 20% time, but I try to get the employee to be more specific about what skill sets they want to acquire.
  • Allow Social Media participation. Years ago, I presented a How-To-Blog workshop at Dell to a large group of employees. Afterwards, the VP of Marketing stood up and reminded everyone that they could blog “only if corporate reviewed their content first.” When I heard that I felt sorry for Dell’s staff, especially because I came from a corporate culture that encouraged employees to participate in social networks. It is important to trust your employees (after all, why did you hire them in the first place?) and to know that whether you like it or not, they, like everyone else, are social media ambassadors for the company. For better or worse, many people spend a great part of their day expressing their views on social networks. So instead of constraining them, provide guidelines, guardrails, and guidance so they know the implications of posting online.

High employee engagement scores will reduce the potential employees’ misbehavior in social networks. After all, you don’t want your staff bad mouthing you on Facebook or Twitter. Imagine how a happy and engaged employee might represent the company on social networks. At Intuit, we provided an opt-in training program for employees that focused on how to participate in the latest and greatest social network as well as information on the legal and privacy implications of their online activities.

I hope old-school managers, like the one I referred into the first paragraph, reads this blog post, and realizes they need to wake up to the needs of today’s employee.

Future of Work Interview: Robert Brownstone, Technology, eDiscovery and Computer Forensics, Fenwick and West LLP

This interview was written up while drinking a Soy Latte at the Swank Bar in San Francisco’s Pacific Heights neighborhood.

A “Make Your Own Major” Type of Job

For the last 18 months, I have become interested in the emerging fields of Digital Risk, Crisis Management and Cyber Security. So, I decided to reach out to Robert Brownstone (@ediscoveryguru) from Fenwick and West, LLP. I know Robert from when I sought his advice on the Internet and the Law. Normally, we share stories and exchange ideas while eating Chinese food on Castro Street in downtown, Mountain View.  Our meetings remind me of George Costanza and Jerry Seinfeld, engaged in this intense conversations at Monk’s Cafe. Today, however, I telephoned him from the Human 1.0 office in Cambridge, MA, where there is only one restaurant (Italian, not Chinese) within walking distance.

Brownstone started his career on Wall Street as a white-collar crime litigator in fraud cases. He then became law school professor and program director while working as a part-time lawyer. For the last thirteen years, Brownstone has been working out of Fenwick’s Silicon Valley office where he has his hand on the pulse of legal and technical issues impacting, some which impact of the most innovative companies in America.

Bill Fenwick, the firm’s founder, originally hired Brownstone as his “experiment” and gave him the title Knowledge Manager.  He wanted to take a law teacher and litigator, and as Brownstone describes it, “pump my head with as much computer knowledge as possible in hopes that I would continue to spark some new developments and opportunities for the firm.” Fenwick asked Brownstone to focus on electronic discovery, IT, Data Security, and Legal issues with the intention of sharing these learnings in two ways: “in house” with Fenwick attorneys and “out-house” (really called “outsiders”) with Fenwick clients.

Brownstone characterizes his role at Fenwick as a “make your own major type of job,” where he has often finds himself immersed in issues such as intellectual property, the protection of trade secrets, data security strategies, and employer-employee disputes over data. To make all this new information useful, he says, “the secret sauce is understanding  (our) clients’ business and how their internal information systems work.”

Digital Law: Riding the River

In representing many high-tech and life science companies, Brownstone has found that his main challenge is in the area of Digital Law, which is in flux right now with the Courts wrestling with some major issues, such as:

  • How to protect data secrets and information and what to do when their use is in dispute
  • How to handle electronic information over a lifetime –from creation to usage to destruction
  • How to handle electronic information issues when a company gets sued or when there’s an electronic discovery (e-discovery) request 

Clog That Drain: Prevent Data Leakage and Cut Your Losses 

According to Brownstone, there are essentially three ways information can leak from a company:

  1. An employee or some other insider is intentionally trying to harm the company and puts information in front of the public (sometimes via the Internet). The most highly publicized examples would be from the Wikileaks site. Basically, someone is trying to harm an organization through disclosure or an accusation.
  2. An intentional disclosure becomes unintentionally harmful.  An employee, executive, or other insider posts something (i.e. a photo or a tweet) but he or she does not know the FTC prohibits specific kinds of disclosures under certain circumstances. [Having managed online communities and social networks since my AOL days in the mid-1990s, I would say this happens at lease once or twice a year for many companies.]
  3. An unintentional disclosure. Confidential Information gets out via a smart phone, laptop, device, or paper when the item is stolen, hacked or lost. There is no malice or intent on the part of the employee or client, but the information still gets leaked.

Even if the law does not require it, companies can reduce their risk and exposure when it comes to data leakage. Two ways to reduce a company’s risk exposure are:

  1. Role-Based Access Control or what IT folks call RBAC, which essentially means that not everything within the virtual or physical world is open to everyone in the company. For example, different permissions granted to folks who need to access databases, etc. Brownstone calls this approach “narrowing the risk of leakage.”
  2. Encryption, particularly for company-issued devices (laptops, phones, etc.) to the extent the data can be encrypted. Two purposes are served. One: companies can prevent someone who steals or finds a lost laptop “from sucking out, bit by bit, the data on that drive and booting it up in another machine.”  This measure is important.  First, companies want to protect their employees and their data. Second, companies will not have to take a hit financially or in the court of public opinion by having to announcing a data breach. (Note: some States handle this differently and for customer-relations reasons, many companies choose to voluntarily disclose breaches to their users).

The Mobile Horse Has Already Left the Barn

The ubiquitous usage of mobile devices makes controlling a company’s data even more complicated and gives Information Technology (IT) leaders multiple headaches. Brownstone advises companies to consider issuing a second phone and to officially notify, educate, and remind employees that “Anything which involves your company device” is the company’s property.

Brownstone states “this is the cleanest way under the law to handle data on a mobile device – it is a clean way to deal with a complex issue.” He points out, however, “It gets tricky because most organizations, especially hi-tech companies, are in the mode of not wanting to stifle employees from being able to hook as much as possible into the network at any time wirelessly or otherwise” and from their devices of choice.” 

Leaving employees to (literally) their own (mobile) devices exposes the company to multiple security issues. If a company decides to follow this route, it can be difficult to change how employees operate. Brownstone points out though “If the horse is already out of the barn in a data security situation, then it is a lot trickier in advance to establish good practices.” In most cases, employees are already using their own phones for work so it’s a challenge for a company to regain control. 

Warning: You Have The Whole World In Your Hands

Other significant mobile-related considerations involve location services:

  1. Due to GPS technology, employers can potentially track where their staff is and has been and has been at all times.
  2. The frictionless sharing of Facebook, for example, means that employees download an app and opt in to sharing, or when they log-in to a site that uses Facebook credentials, their personal information gets shared.
  3. The Fourth Amendment has not prevented courts from allowing law enforcement to seize an individual’s mobile device.  In some instances, officers practice computer forensics and carry a tool that can do bit-by-bit capture of certain types of data off of a mobile device, e.g. employee data, and by logical extension, employer data. This significant information becomes not just mobile, but able to be seized by law enforcement.
  4. Remember: Not everything stored on a mobile device is encrypted!

Potential Disasters and Detours

I ask Brownstone about some of the more organizational challenges his clients face. He mentions:

  1. Sales people negotiate and close business deals by sending instant messages. If there were ever a dispute about a contract, one General Counsel feared she might not have an actual copy of the final terms of the contract. She asked Brownstone to write her a new policy, forbidding negotiations over IM.
  2. General Counsel and the CIOs/CTOs are not alwasy on the same page (or even in the same meeting). Brownstone illustrates this concern with a story about how he witnessed an IT leader telling his executive team that he had thought he was following Legal Department orders when he had captured, stored, and logged all employees’ instant messages for the prior three years. This turned General Counsel red in the face and feared all of the information would be available if the company were ever subpoenaed and had to collect, process and review all the information. The discovery process alone could cost more than any lawsuit.
  3. Brownstone cites an article that says “Lawyers are from Mars and ITs are from Venus, so you need a translator.” Both groups are infamous for their acronyms and jargon. Getting them to work together during discovery can mean interplanetary mayhem. (You can find the article here as well as some material Brownstone-co-authored on that theme).
  4. Anticipate all the potential data leaks and make a prioritized list. Brownstone recommends working through them over time. Don’t try and conquer the law in one day.

Your Employees’ Own Personal Pages 

Since I am conducting a social media-training program for a Fortune 500 company, I ask about employee-owned Facebook and LinkedIn pages. Brownstone states that it’s more challenging to establish rules for company-sponsored pages than address what employees might be doing with their own pages on their own time:

“The law is really unsettled…and there are some issues that cut across both arenas of company-sponsored and individual pages. For a company of a substantial size, if someone anonymously posts praise or an endorsement of (that) product, the FTC calls it a testimonial, and if they don’t disclose that they work at the company or are a spouse of someone that works at the company that actually runs afoul of the long-standing FTC guidelines for online product endorsements“. [Disclosure: I worked with the FTC on this in an advisory capacity while serving on the board of the Word of Mouth Marketing Association in 2008.]

Brownstone points out that even in the age of disclosure and transparency, publicly traded companies need to be alert: “It is very dangerous for someone to post anonymously even if they are praising the company. In some instances this is called ‘sock puppeting.’ (Read the Wall Street Journal’s article about a famous example of this involving the CEO of Wholefoods)

Brownstone recommends that companies focus on “narrowing the risk” by:

  1. Providing training for employees
  2. Implementing a Rules Based Access Control approach
  3. Using encryption as much as possible (and don’t just depend on the Cloud)
  4. Communicating with your legal advisors as soon as possible so they can advise and reroute rather than react or put out a fire
  5. Cleaning all devices before and after international travel
  6. Having a clearly identified owner for company branded social media pages. 

Note: the law is more stringent overseas, e.g. a company cannot just say they can confiscate an employees device because it is presumed that personal information exists on it.

For More Information

Brownstone speaks at conferences often, offers webinars, and publishes quite a bit. He is also an avid online reader of law and technology items, especially of what lawyers used to call “Advance Sheets.” His favorites include Law Technology News, the New York Times (especially the Business and Technology sections), Compliance Week and beSpacific. He also relies on his mentors including:

  • Bill Fenwick, whom we discussed above
  • Matt Kesner, Fenwick’s CTO
  • Browning Marean of DLA Piper, a large business international firm
  • Kevin Moore, Fenwick’s IT Director
  • Patrick Premo, a Fenwick litigation partner championing efficiency and alternative fees
  • Delos Putz, Professor Emeritus of USF School of Law

(Brownstone provided a bibliography below about eDiscovery, Computer Forensics and Technology).

Brownstone loves eDiscovery and all things “e”.  As he explains, “My wife and friends of mine say it puts them to sleep when I start talking about eDiscovery. But, I have to say as a technologist, I have seen his passion first hand. Our one-hour scheduled Chinese food lunch hours often turn into a two and half hour discussion. Fortunately, he doesn’t bill me by the hour for these talks but freely exchanges ideas as he does in his many presentations around the hemisphere.

Thank you for visiting.

Don’t learn social media on the fly

Employees can handle the truth, but management can’t

A recent Human 1.0 research study showed that only half of employees feel as if they receive the proper training to successfully participate in social networks. Contrary to what Jack Nicolson says in A Few Good Men, employees can handle the truth and senior management should as well. After all, how can you address your customers’ needs if you give them a chance to speak, even if its online.

Social Media Training: available at Human 1.0 or Wildervoices.com

After working with some of the largest companies in the country, it’s clear that most employees desperately want to learn how to properly conduct themselves online as well as to reach out to unhappy customers. They want to blog well, tweet responsibly, and not break any Facebook laws so they can turn their “detractors” into Net Promoters, where they will change from stating negative comments about the company to recommending it to their peers and friends. This should not be surprising considering 40% of companies hesitate to let their staff engage with customers online for fear that someone might say something negative about their organization. Amazing, considering a survey just released of 870 employers and employees from recruitment company Hays found 19.7 per cent would reject a job offer if they did not have reasonable access to social media sites such as Facebook. (source: Herald Sun Australia)

Most companies want employees to learn social media on the fly

This highlights the need to provide the proper guidelines, guardrails, and guidance to help workers engage more effectively on Twitter, Linkedin and other networks. The problem, however, is that employees usually have to learn social media on the fly and learn how to properly engage with customers through trial and error. This is not the way to run a business.  Social Media Training can help you and your coworkers engage in more constructive conversations online.

Why Is Training Important?

  • The Broken Window Theory:  I was first introduced to this theory in 1990 when William Bratton cleaned up the streets of New York City by significantly reducing crime rates. He believed that without law enforcement, people would damage things, and if they know they could commit these crimes without any repercussions, they would continue to break the law (and not just windows). The same is true for un-moderated communities and social networks. So, its important to have well-trained moderators working in your online communities and reading your blog comments. After all, it’s human nature to test authority figures
  • You’ve Got the Whole World in your Hands:  While everyone knows that mobile devices are increasing in popularity, people often forget that these are, what Peter Mass ProPublica reporter calls, “potentially a gold mine of data-mining information for companies.”
  • The Internet Never Forgets:  All you have to do is go to Waybackmachine.org and look up your company’s home page from the 1990s. If you work at Fortune 1000 company, it’s probably there; or you can start looking at your Facebook Timeline and see some pictures of yourself.

Those are just three reasons why it’s imperative for companies to develop well-thought out social media policies and training programs.

Line Between Work and Pleasure is Fuzzy

The line between online work and personal life and the content (text, photos, video) is increasingly becoming fuzzy. There are also important legal implications concerning the fact that your staff often spends time on social media platforms at work. This has raised a number of legal issues, for example, about who owns a company-branded social media account. Before explaining how to handle online engagement (the subject of my next post), it’s important to focus on clearly defining who owns a company’s Facebook page or Twitter account and how employees should handle themselves on these sorts of networks. Companies need to be “old-schoolish” about setting up their branded social media channels and about establishing clear online policies. Rarely do these agreements explicitly address the following:

  • Policy and process for what happens to a social media after its adminstrator leaves the leaves the company.
  • How much personal information should be on a social media page; even though it’s good to list out your company moderators on a Twitter page, it might not make sense to include the employees name in the sub-branding, such as WilderWidgets, brought to you by Stan Smith.
  • Who has access to edit and change an account (I also recommend having more than one administrative owner of a page) Employees’ online behavior during and after their tenure at a company is becoming a major topic of corporate law.
  • The company’s right to access confidential information on their own social networks; Nearly 20% of companies report that they have investigated the posting of confidential, sensitive, or private information to a social network (source: Proofpoint)
  • The company’s right to terminate an employee who violates company policy; Approximately 8% of companies have terminated employees for organizational violations using social media. (source: Proofpoint)

When to Re-Tweet at a Moment’s Notice

Even though most employees want to do the right thing and post responsibility online, they are sometimes a bit too Twitter trigger-happy and re-tweet without thinking through the original source of the info or who was the original poster. Often we don’t realize that a re-tweet by an individual can be interpreted as their company’s endorsement of the original sites policy. Therefore, it’s important to provide a link to the content-owner’s site. With this, it could potentially violate copyright law, and give the content-owner publisher the rightful opportunity to pay their bills by generating another unique visitor to their site, serving up a banner add, and/or getting a chance to sign up a new registered user.

Develop your Crap Detector

While some this might seem like common sense, every day we find well-educated and street smart, savvy people making mistakes with their online posts, videos, or audio recordings.  Howard Rheingold in his excellent new book, NetSmart, recommends that we use good crap detectors to help us find information we need to know and determine if it is true or not. This is something Ernest Hemmingway talked about in the 1950s.  “Every man should have a built-in automatic crap detector operating inside him.”