Tag Archives: Enterprise 2.0 applications

The power of viral expansion loops when building robust social networks

When we build social networks we are gathering groups of like-minded people together for a reason. That reason may be that we want to monetise that social network by advertising to them, or to sell them widgets, applets or products on line. Another reason that we build social networks is to manage relationships with people around a common interest, this may be brand building for a motor vehicle brand, or employee relationship management for a large bank. Whatever the purpose, a social network will be most successful when we have the highest penetration of suitable members possible, active within the social network.

The concept of the “network effect” relates to the fact that the more members there are in a network, the more value that network has for the individual member. The quintessential example is the phone. If only two people have a phone, the phone has less value to you than if thousands of people have phones, because you can contact so many more people.

Online social networks are subject to the network effect, if there are too few people in the network it will not have any value to the individual member and they will abandon the network pretty quickly. Therefore when we build social networks, we want to populate them as rapidly as possible, so that people can derive value by networking, sharing, communicating, collaborating or conducting business.

Viral expansion is when the members of a community actively recruit new members and is an extremely effective and cost efficient way to build powerful social networks.

A “viral expansion loop” occurs when virality is incorporated into the function of the product, in other words a company grows because each user begets new users, just by using a product they spread it. This concept is explored in detail in a fantastic book by Adam Penenberg (2009), called “Viral Loop The power of pass it on”. In the book Penenberg says “What’s the sense of being on Facebook if nobody uses it?”. The value of the community is inherently incorporated in its size.

Tupperware was one of the first viral businesses. When one housewife hosted a Tupperware party for six of her friends, they were each given the opportunity to host a Tupperware party for another six friends and so on. This viral distribution network proved more effective and created more sales for Tupperware than any organised retail chain.

One of the ways to build robust social networks is to focus on the “viral coefficient”. The viral coefficient is the ratio with which community members attract new community members. In other words, on average, how many additional members does each network member recruit?

If the social network’s viral coefficient is less than one, it will be self contained and very soon will stop growing. For example if the viral coefficient is 0.5 and there are 20 people in the network, then they will invite an additional 10 people who themselves will invite another 5 people who themselves will invite 2 people who invite 1 person. We can see with a vital coefficient of less than one that the network plateaus very rapidly at 38 people.

If the viral coefficient equals one the, 20 people invite 20 people who invite 20 people and we see a linear growth pattern from 20 to 40 to 60 to 80 in total in round four.

The real secret to growing social networks is to cultivate a viral coefficient of greater than one. Let’s assume that the viral coefficient is two then 20 people invite 40 people who themselves invite 80 people who invite 160 and so forth. By the fourth round, we have 300 people on board. We see exponential growth in viral networks with viral coefficients higher than one, and the higher the coefficient the exponentially higher the growth. Just by doubling the viral coefficient from 2 to 4 we see that the social network grows by 80 to 320 to 1280 and in the fourth iteration we have 1700 members. In other words having a the viral coefficient is the equivalent of compound interest in the world of social networking.

So how do we increase our viral coefficient? Well there are basically three ways;

  • Make is useful for members to spread the message;
  • Make it easy for them to spread the message; and
  • Make them look good for spreading the message.

Making it useful for members to bring more members on board

Offline examples of this include multi-level marketing such as Amway, online you could create products where members actively encourage their friends to come on board in order for them to sell more. An example could be a charity whose members actively recruit more people to donate money to a good cause, or a political party raising funding for a campaign.

Making it easy for members to bring more members on board

There are a number of ways to do this, clearly an “invite friends” button which automatically eMails friends the link to the social network is easier than expecting the person to type in the URL.

At Digital Bridges we have a saying “The more virtual you are, the more real you need to be”. The same holds true for social networking. People still network socially in the real world, you could use a real world networking tool, such as a business card, to bring people into digital communities.

There is tool called a poken which does exactly that. It is a sort of electronic business card which looks like a memory stick with a receiver and transmitter built into it. When two pokens are touched together they exchange information which has been pre-populated onto the poken. This information includes the standard name address and contact details, but it also contains data pertaining to the social or business networks that people participate in. When the poken is plugged into a computer it automatically populates all contact details and links people within the various networks that they are members of.

Making the member look good for spreading the message

This should be the easiest part if you have bespoke special interest social networks. You need to create content and encourage your users to create content which appeals to like-minded people within the network and let them share it with their friends, peers and colleagues. So for a scientist social network you might post some provocative comments about the Hadron Collider which they can respond to and share with their friends. On a joke website they could forward the latest joke to potential members.

A word of caution

It is important to remember that particularly in South Africa, we don’t have sufficiently large, digitally literate communities to become self sustaining and that although we need to focus on maximising the digital coefficient in order to approximate saturation, we also need to have dedicated resources managing these social media networks to reduce churn at the same time as raising the viral coefficient.

About Digital Bridges

Digital Bridges creates high performance organisations by unlocking the business value of the web. We create digital strategies, user requirement and functional specifications for Intranets, websites and web applications. We also develop and implement social media strategies and create powerful digital brands using eMarketing and Communication.

Digital Bridges approaches the web from a management consulting position and relies heavily on rigorous academic thinking as well as business experience. It is headed up by Kate Elphick who has a Law degree and an MBA from GIBS. Kate has spent the last fifteen years of her career on the business side of the IT industry with companies such as Datatec, Didata, Business ConneXion and Primedia.

Digital Bridges has a broad range of experience working with significant, successful clients in the Financial, Gaming, Tourism, Pharmaceutical, ICT, Legal, Airline, Professional Services, Media and Public Sectors.

To find out more about Digital Bridges, please visit www.digitalbridges.co.za or contact Kate Elphick on katee@digitalbridges.co.za.

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Filed under Business, Digital Communities, eMarketing, Enterprise 2.0, Interactive Intranets, Web 2.0, Web Marketing

Collaboration for Business Success

The 21st century with its advances in communication and technology requires us to be more agile than ever before in responding to business challenges and business leaders realise that helping employees access greater levels of collaborative intelligence at work is key to the future success of the business. It turns out that this is a way of motivating and retaining skilled people.

In a recent article released by GIBS entitled “The Age of Participation is about getting clever – together” (Gibs Review March 2008) they mention that research has shown a direct link between the level of collaboration within organisations and employee motivation, which depends on an individual’s attitude and the quality of their relationships within the team/entity.

Stephen James Joyce says in his book Teaching an Anthill to Fetch: Developing the Collaborative Intelligence of Teams, while that customer motivation impacts the quantity of business you do, employee motivation impacts the quality of business.

High levels of collaboration within an organisation improve employee retention, because people feel more connected and are much less inclined to leave.

Collaborative Intelligence is denoted with the symbol CQ, and is defined as is the ability to create, contribute to, and harness the power within networks of people. It enables participants to coordinate their actions closely with everyone else’s.

The GIBS Review quotes James Joyce as saying high CQ organisations:

  • Attract and retain high quality team members
  • Create a sense of meaningful participation
  • Collaborate in highly effective ways
  • Connect to a strong sense of purpose
  • Balance leadership and followship

Moreover, high CQ holds many transformative advantages for organisations:

  • People pull their weight and support each other to an extraordinary degree
  • There is a vigorous pursuit for learning, at an individual and a the team level
  • There is a sense of community within collaboratively intelligent teams/ departments, which others sense as something special.
  • Teams or entities with high CQ expect challenges and meet them with one eye on the results and the other on what they can learn from each encounter.

Collaborative and collective intelligence are two distinct things

The GIBS Review warns that collaborative intelligence should not be confused with collective intelligence. They are two distinct things:

  • Collective intelligence is the emergent intelligence of a collective entity, like a group or community.
  • Collaborative intelligence is a way of exercising collective intelligence.

Co-intelligence can be used at any level of social organisation.

  • A company can use better teamwork (collaborative intelligence) to build a more collectively intelligent company so that it can become dominant in its market (non-collaborative intelligence).
  • A collectively intelligent group could use its collective intelligence in collaborative or controlling ways or use collaborative intelligence to help it compete.

Co-intelligence affects how organisations are managed. It is fundamental to our survival in the 21st century. This means we create serious problems, when we don’t use co-intelligence at the higher levels of social organisation.

Management guru, Professor Gary Hamel says few executives would argue with the traditional and outdated definition of a manager’s role: the art of getting others to do what you want them to do. In fact the Industrial Age was built on four basic principles:

  • Managers have a clear vision
  • Managers exert hierarchical power
  • Managers get things done through bureaucratic procedures
  • Managers motivate their people through extrinsic rewards.

Hamel has formulated four alternative, ‘inversed’ principles:

  • Vision is often less effective than a guiding purpose and a desire for discovery
  • Industrial Age hierarchic decisions are often less accurate than those based the wisdom of the crowd
  • Bureaucratic procedure is often slower and less effective than a market-based system for allocating resources
  • Human motivation is, in reality, built on intrinsic rewards not on money.

High CQ requires the right tools and the right attitude

Web 2.0 tools are most conducive to developing high collaboration quotients in organisations. Tools, like virtual meetings and Web-based applications and wikis –  make it possible to do things at scale without necessarily having large groups of people physically aggregated, with hierarchic structures, says Hamel.

Collaborative tools also enable business professionals to explore the true potential of the group or team to which they belong. But, as useful as they are, collaborative tools are only part of the solution. As with most IT, it is not the technology itself that enables the competitive advantage, but the people. Witness CRM, the panacea of all customer relationships in 2000. It wasn’t until we figured out that having the software and the process wasn’t enough that organisations started to incorporate people skills into the solution and we see more successful CRM applications

In the same way CQ is quantified by what employees can and will do together, rather than what a piece of software will allow them to do.

James Joyce suggests 10 ways to develop people’s collaborative intelligence at work:

1. Establish a ‘higher calling’ for the team

  • This is a common purpose that represents a higher calling and brings context to the significance of the team’s existence.
  • Providing a service to society is the simplest way that an organisation can isolate a higher calling for its existence.
  • This process must be entered with full sincerity. A ‘true’ higher calling is reflective of the culture and intentions of the organisation as a whole. It is core to what the organisation stands ‘‘for’ and how it plans to achieve that.

2. Establish a reward system for innovation and creativity

  • Ensure that rewards are equally available for ideas and innovations that don’t work as for those that do.
  • Instead of focusing on the practical results of a particular idea, focus the level of innovation, even those that don’t result in ‘success’ in the conventional sense.
  • Many ‘mistakes’ have gone on to became innovations of great value
  • When we reward attempts at innovation, we demonstrate that it is the intention that is important.

3. Plan to use all of the experience within the team

  • Think of the years of life experience represented in a room of 15 people with an average age of 35. It represents over 500 years of life experience.
  • Great team leaders and managers know how to harness and tap into those years of experience and wisdom.

4. Raise awareness of the importance of shared assumptions

  • Assumptions cause us to run on ‘autopilot’.
  • Supported by assumptions that go unchecked and unchallenged, teams continue to run the same old routines for a long time without anyone noticing.

5. Encourage team members to find out about each other’s roles

  • The more they know about others perspectives, the more likely they will be able to empathise with each other when the going gets tough.
  • Empathy is an important business skill. The ability to put ourselves in another’s shoes helps us understand what others’ needs and motivations are.

6. Intention is very important

  • Intention is just as important as attention. Intention directs attention.
  • Having the whole team form a positive intention around an objective is one of the best ways of doing this.

7. Celebrate successes along the way

  • Making celebration an integral part of the organisational life helps individuals feel more deeply connected to the entity.

8. Invest resources in learning

  • Continuous improvement is only possible when individuals and the team as a whole learn new things.
  • By publicly demonstrating support for the learning process, leaders model the importance of building ‘learning organisations’. This serves everyone in the long run.
  • Establishing learning teams’ is one of the core strategies of running an organisation that is highly adaptable and responsive to change

9. Provide opportunities for sharing ideas during the project-planning phase

  • Getting ‘buy-in’ for a project is much easier when everyone plays an active part in the planning process.

10. Balance ‘top-down’ with ‘bottom-up’ processing

  • This means that directives and guidance from the top must be balanced with feedback and ‘street-level’ information.

When we look at each of these ideas, we see that 2.0 technologies lend themselves to supporting collaboration. With careful planning it is possible to create an Internet based platform that becomes a strategic tool for facilitating collaboration and organisational growth.

About Digital Bridges

Digital Bridges creates high performance organisations by unlocking the business value of the web. We create digital strategies, user requirement and functional specifications for Intranets, websites and web applications. We also develop and implement social media strategies and create powerful digital brands using eMarketing and Communication.

Digital Bridges is technology agnostic and partners with great technology companies in order to ensure that our solutions are fit for purpose and deliver on organisational strategy.

Digital Bridges approaches the web from a management consulting position and relies heavily on rigorous academic thinking as well as business experience. It is headed up by Kate Elphick who has a Law degree and an MBA from GIBS. Kate has spent the last fifteen years of her career on the business side of the IT industry with companies such as Datatec, Didata, Business ConneXion and Primedia. Her skills include innovation and growth through marketing, communication, collaboration, knowledge management, human capital, performance management, process engineering and BI.

Digital Bridges has a broad range of experience working with significant, successful clients in the Financial, Gaming, Tourism, Pharmaceutical, ICT, Legal, Airline, Professional Services, Media and Public Sectors.

To find out more about Digital Bridges, please visit www.digitalbridges.co.za or contact Kate Elphick on katee@digitalbridges.co.za.

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Filed under Business, Digital Communities, eMarketing, Enterprise 2.0, HR Intranet, Interactive Intranets, Web 2.0

Enterprise 2.0 and the High Performance Organisation


Social networking tools can enable enterprises to tap into the collective potential of employees, partners and customers enabling better, more productive business practices. Social networking isn’t going anywhere and it’s not just a way for kids to make new friends or for those in the business world to build professional relationships either. Social networking in the business world is evolving into an organisation-wide communication and collaboration phenomenon called Enterprise 2.0

The vast benefits of Enterprise 2.0 reach into every aspect of the business – from customer driven product development and employee collaboration to community driven customer service and more.
When business is faced with mergers, restructuring, global locations and telecommuting, connecting the right people at the right time can be a challenge.

Enterprise 2.0 can address that challenge by helping people locate expertise, share information and expand their professional networks to accomplish more in less time. In fact, these applications are so effective that some employees are using external social networking sites for work related tasks, potentially putting corporate information at risk outside the firewall.

Enterprise 2.0 is designed to empower people to be more effective and innovative by building professional networks of co-worker, partners and customers. Users can find and collaborate with experts; easily locate people and information; build closer partner and customer relationships; and foster bottom up, community-based innovation.

Normal document management strategies are rarely embraced by employees, yet there is a voluntary sharing of knowledge and networking using online Enterprise 2.0 applications. The power behind Enterprise 2.0 applications is that users are able to bring this into an enterprise and capture it in a secure knowledge environment.

An integrated Enterprise 2.0 user experience can be used with the email, instant messaging and portal applications that users already deploy.

Enterprise 2.0 applications should incorporate five key components designed to work together to create an integrated, collaborative environment that is both secure and scalable:

* Profiles – enhancing the company’s directory structure creating a rich online persona of employees by adding elements like photos, interests, skills, work associates and even reporting structures;

* Blogging – a handy way for matter experts to share their project and work experience using forums frequented by other employees. Searchable blogs ensure the expert information is readily available to anyone across the enterprise. Blogging enables knowledge transfer and collaboration within the enterprise, and is a means for an enterprise to harness and archive the collective employee knowledge base;

* Social Bookmarking – provides a means for subject matter experts to share their prequalified internal and external tags, which are searchable by person or subject;

* Communities – provide a way for employees and external people to become part of a community that shares similar interests. A secure platform enables these groups/communities to collaborate around these interests. The power of this tool is that it is owned, defined and managed by the collective experience of the community members;

* Activities – During the course of a business activity, information is accrued in many forms – email, instant messaging, presentations, documents and other means. Activities is the central conduit to present, in an orderly manner, this information to the participants for their shared use.

Because Enterprise 2.0 technologies are so intuitive, they are easily adopted and can form useful portals for the adoption of other enterprise applications such as CRM or BI tools. Employee performance management gets personalised through dashboards on individuals’ portals.

The new interactive Intranet, web and extranets are changing the very fabric of our business landscape.

About Digital Bridges

Digital Bridges creates high performance organisations by unlocking the business value of the web. We create digital strategies, user requirement and functional specifications for Intranets, websites and web applications. We also develop and implement social media strategies and create powerful digital brands using eMarketing and Communication.

Digital Bridges is technology agnostic and partners with great technology companies in order to ensure that our solutions are fit for purpose and deliver on organisational strategy.

Digital Bridges approaches the web from a management consulting position and relies heavily on rigorous academic thinking as well as business experience. It is headed up by Kate Elphick who has a Law degree and an MBA from GIBS. Kate has spent the last fifteen years of her career on the business side of the IT industry with companies such as Datatec, Didata, Business ConneXion and Primedia. Her skills include innovation and growth through marketing, communication, collaboration, knowledge management, human capital, performance management, process engineering and BI.

Digital Bridges has a broad range of experience working with significant, successful clients in the Financial, Gaming, Tourism, Pharmaceutical, ICT, Legal, Airline, Professional Services, Media and Public Sectors.

To find out more about Digital Bridges, please visit www.digitalbridges.co.za or contact Kate Elphick on katee@digitalbridges.co.za.

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Filed under Enterprise 2.0, Macroeconomics 2.0