Tag Archives: social

peoples_oil

Why being frictionless is good business

Being social takes work. Communicating across any social network brings with it a level of overhead, both in terms of time and learning. It doesn’t matter if that social network involves flying across the country to meet with somebody or sending out an “I’ve arrived” ping on FourSquare when you land half a world away. They all have overhead. You need to learn how to use the medium efficiently. And you need to learn how to deal with the increased number of social contacts that increased “efficiency” will bring with it.

While social communications channels can greatly expand our ability to reach an ever-increasing number of people, they can also, through their added overhead, bring with them the wrong type of friction and limit the number of networks that we can actually leverage to our advantage. In fact, it can become a very limiting factor in the number of social communications channels that we participate in at any given time.

OVERHEAD EQUALS FRICTION

Consider this. If I use a single social channel to regularly interact with 5 people (assuming they don’t know each other), the level of “channel” overhead is relatively low. I learn how to use the channel and I communicate.

But if those 5 people are all on different communications channels, I have to learn – and keep up with – 5 different channels to keep up with them. That’s overhead – especially if each of those 5 different communications channels has their own social conventions, unique “media-rich” value or medium-based communications limitations.

At the end of the day, the more social communications channels that I utilize (and I’ll toss in email, SMS, my mobile phone and even that occasional hand-written letter – yes, I still write those), the fewer true intimate and personal relationships I can maintain. Overhead equates to unwanted friction.

FRICTION CAN BECOME MORE FRICTIONLESS

As social communications channels grow in number and user adoption (yes, I know, I’m avoiding using the phrase “social media” because this isn’t about “social media”), my ability to reach an ever-expanding number of diverse people increases. And I consider this a good thing.

With reduced friction, I can reach out more fluidly

to a larger number of people

But to make it a great thing, I must overcome the learning curve of a new communications channel and decrease its overhead. Less overhead means the channel becomes increasingly frictionless. With reduced friction, I can reach out more fluidly to a larger number of people. Reducing friction requires one of two things: a user experience that is fundamentally intuitive (with an equally compelling/intuitive use case) or time to figure out how a system works. I prefer the former, but usually settle for the latter. I’m willing to do that because the more I can make a communications channel frictionless, the more likely I am to use it to explore the worlds around me.

FRICTIONLESS COMMUNICATIONS OPENS NEW WORLDS

As I reach out to a larger number of people, the number of diverse perspectives I have access to is amazing. With each perspective comes a unique experience and story. And with each unique story comes a new world of ideas and concepts upon which I can build, and expand, my own world. Over time, my world begins to look a lot less like my world, and a lot more like a melding of those that I touch. In return, the worlds that I touch begin to look a bit like me.

Every world that I look into won’t necessarily fit my perspective, or the rules which define it. There are many that don’t. But for each world that doesn’t mesh, I still learn a bit, and there are an almost endless (well, 7B and counting) number of perspectives that I can look at. And many of those will mesh, or connect, in some way with mine.

“The less friction there is to a communications channel into these worlds,

the greater the exchange of ideas”

The melding of perspectives, experiences, stories and ideas from these worlds is mutually beneficial. The less friction there is to a communications channel into these worlds, the greater the exchange of ideas. In fact, some of my best conversations are not only frictionless within a communications channel, they transcend multiple channels in a single conversation.

It’s not uncommon for a conversation to start with a text message, move to a call on my mobile, shift to a video session (with a few other people tossed in for fun), then shift from a continuous form of communications to a discontinuous form (such as email) only to revive up again on yet another channel. I often respond to a text message with a Skype message, which is frequently responded to by a Direct Message on Twitter which leads to a shared post on Facebook.

THE VALUE OF FRICTIONLESS

Let’s shift our perspective here just a bit. Nothing today is truly frictionless. Friction and overhead still exist, and there is, in fact, value in a certain amount of friction as a filtering mechanism. But friction caused by overhead is usually a negative. Now, let’s apply that to you, your business, your professional life. Have you eliminated unnecessary friction in your communications? Do you even have a strategy to become as close to a frictionless state as possible? Some key steps to consider:

  • Don’t be afraid to use a variety of social channels to meet new people or new customers. You can’t afford to ignore the chance to at least sample what new social channels have to offer.
  • Not only seek out channels with inherently low friction (overhead), but take the time to learn about, and respect, new communications channels, and find ways to deal with their overhead/friction. If the overhead friction is too high, take a step back and move on. If the friction doesn’t decrease on its own, it probably won’t be a viable channel for others either.
  • Open your world to others, in exchange for a view into their world. Remember to accept their ideas and needs as readily as you are willing to push your ideas and products to them – being frictionless in your sharing and communications is a two-way street.
  • Be willing to take the conversation, be it collaboration, sales or customer support, from one social channel to another, as your mutual relationship grows, or your need to communicate changes, and
  • Be willing to take the effort to move from relationships to friendships, from customers to trusted clients.

While we always need a bit of good friction in our lives, seeking to eliminate bad friction, and being as frictionless as possible – especially in our social communications – can be very rewarding.

Image “Peoples Special Motor Oil” by Steve Snodgrass, Licensed under Creative Commons

ManOnBenchbyTravisNepSmith

Are We Ready to Add Cause to Social Check-Ins?

There was a time when the phrase “check-in” was associated with things like the front desk of a hotel, the ticket counter at an airport or the main entrance to a conference center (“gotta go check-in and pickup up my badge to show that I’m a speaker and didn’t actually have to pay to get in like everyone else…”).

But with the advent of social media and location-aware applications, the phrase “check-in” took on a totally new, and much simpler meaning: “I’m here”. And now, I believe, it’s meaning might be about to change yet again, from “I’m here” to “here’s why”.

The evolution of the social check-in

The social check-in has been around since before the days of the pony express – we used the available media to tell our friends and loved ones that we had arrived at a particular destination. We were not only there, but we wanted them to know we were safe. It was a basic, and necessary, part of life as the world expanded around us. But with the arrival of social media, businesses began to realize that the check-in could be something more – it could be entertaining, it could be fun, it could be competitive and it could drive business.

Companies like Foursquare, Shopkick and Facebook gamified it, made it competitive and engaging, turning it into something that they hoped would drive their business, or the business of others (check out my post on Gamification and the Gaming of Foursquare for some background on that topic). And to an extent, they were right. Checking-in was Fun! You could check-in to your favorite coffee shop, broadcast it to the world and even get points, perhaps a discount on a cup of coffee or become the Mayor of Anywhere.

But what really is the value of being the Mayor of some local hangout? Not much, except perhaps the bragging rights within your own social graph (example: I have a couple of friends who are on a mission to see who can check-in to the most Starbucks).

I’m not sure people care about social check-in points or likes as much as they used to.

Most of the people I know check-in to engage with their friends, or to simply let them know what they are doing or where they can be found. Businesses assume that a check-in to their location is an endorsement, that they’ve captured another “potential customer” (a concept that my friend Alan Berkson, @berkson0 of the Intelligist Group, would argue is “so last century”).

In fact, I’ve seen more than a few people check-in with comments like “worst service ever” – so perhaps that endorsement isn’t quite as real as many people think (ironically, with Foursquare you can check-in, add a negative comment and still get your points – an interesting way of making YOUR point, especially if you rebroadcast that check-in through other, much larger, social media networks).

And it is here, where people are starting to use the social check-in as a statement, as a way to question what they see around them, that I think we are approaching the point where the check-in can become so much more than it is today.

The 4 components of the new social check-in

The emerging social check-in has four basic components (let’s toss aside points, likes, mayorships, etc. for a moment). They are:

  1. The personal check-in itself (somebody deciding that they want to check-in to a particular place/event/etc. and share it with their friends),
  2. The place/event/etc. where the check-in occurs (which could be a fixed location or a time-sensitive event),
  3. The people within (or in some cases peripheral to) the social graph of the person who will see the check-in, and (most importantly)
  4. The statement or comment that the check-in conveys to those who see it (the *influence factor* of the check-in).

With those four points in mind, let’s consider two different check-ins:

“It’s about me”

The all-too-common “Hanging with my friends at the Corner Bistro” – simple, to the point and letting people know not only who you are with but where you can be found. It’s an invitation (and yes, I made this one up).

“It’s about the world”

Now let’s consider another, this one via Twitter/Foursquare (that was an actual Foursquare check-in by a friend): “He’s here everyday not begging, just …dying? What do to? (@ Old Guy In bench)” – this isn’t a here I am, come find me check-in, it’s an observation, i t’s a social comment, it’s non-judgmental and it has both a purpose and meaning far deeper than Foursquare ever envisioned. This is what I consider a social check-in “with cause.”

Let’s check-in to social causes

A couple of months ago, I had the opportunity to chat with a few people inside the social check-in space. It was an informal chat that got me thinking about the value of being able to check-in to “social events”, not just businesses. When I came across the “Old Guy” Foursquare check-in, it sparked an interesting thought – we have the opportunity put real meaning behind check-ins. Consider the following:

  • Checking into “certified” Social Events would be a good thing. With most check-in tools, you can create your own locations, so setting up a location for a charity event is possible, but it isn’t necessarily time sensitive and doesn’t necessarily mean that the event is an actual charity (social good) event. I think we can improve on this.
  • Checking into a Social Event *remotely* (to show support for the cause) would be an even better thing. Call it a “like” or a “support” – but letting people express their backing for an event – while it is taking place – is something I consider worthwhile.
  • Checking into a Social Event (either on site or remotely) and being able to *donate via PayPal* would be a great thing. You’ve got my attention, you’ve got my support, why not give me the opportunity to contribute?

The ramifications of such a strategy could be a great boost for both charitable causes/events as well as business sponsors, looking to both give back to the social community and improve their image/position within their consumer community. In this light, the check-in could become a powerful tool of influence.

Can this be done? I believe so. But I’m just one voice. What do you think?

Would you as a business representative support or find value in supporting or sponsoring such a program? Would you as a consumer or individual be willing to check-in to show your support or give a donation to a cause or an event?

I know I would.

For an out-of-the-box insight on the whole notion of generational check-ins and the impact of pervasive social connectivity, check out Alan Berkson’s excellent post Turn On, Check In, Hang Out!

Photo courtesy of Travis Nep Smith