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For Executives, Entrepreneurs, and other Digerati who need to know about SaaS and Web 2.0.

Archive for December 24th, 2008

Social Media Haves and Have Nots

Posted by Bob Warfield on December 24, 2008

Long ago, just after the Berlin Wall came down, I visited Russia.  We went to St Petersburg and Moscow and had a great time.  It was a tremendous culture shock to see these places back then.  And, at the time, the Russians themselves were going through a tremendous culture shock in terms of their internal clash between communism and capitalism.  I’ll never forget chatting with our tour bus guide.  She was a young lady in her late 20’s, and she approached me because I was wearing a Borland Turbo C T-shirt.  She wanted me to know that she knew Borland very well and that she was a programmer who used it in her day job.  This piqued my curiousity as I wanted to know why she was acting as a tour guide then.  She told me that at that time, a lot of people had two jobs.  One was their communist job, working for the state.  The other was their capitalist job working for themselves (her words, but I sure like the sound of it).  As we continued to chat I learned that there was a big difference between these two jobs.  The tour guide job was only part time, but it paid her several times the income of her full time state programming job.  She was largely keeping the state job because of its benefits, and out of fear the state might yet swoop in and destroy the nascent capitalist economy that was growing there.  The other thing she said that really struck me was that the older people in Russia did not know how to go about getting a capitalist job.  They just didn’t understand how to look for work or really how to do the whole capitalist job thing at all.  As a result, they were at a serious disadvantage to the young, who had embraced the new ways.

As I was reading Maryanne Paskowski’s Business Week article, “What Does LinkedIn Really Get You?”, I saw a touch of that same chasm between those who know how to use Social Media to achieve some goal and those who are trying to figure it out.  Maryanne writes about the experiences of her friends using LinkedIn and not getting anything for it as though the whole Social Media world is going through the motions and not getting anything for it.  That is most emphatically not true, and there is plenty of evidence to the contrary.  She wonders why her friends don’t just pick up the phone and forget the whole Social Media thing.   Well Maryanne, thinking that the phone is a substitute for the web belies a huge lack of understanding of what the web is capable of.  Personally, I use both extensively, but they are useful in quite different ways.  I’ve used Social Media to gain access to all sorts of folks, including CEO’s of various companies whom I have interviewed on the phone for this blog.  It’s pretty easy to call these folks up and say, “Hey, I’m a reporter from Business Week and I’d like to talk.”  Try that when you aren’t a reporter from Business Week.  Try it when you aren’t really anything because you are unemployed.   

LinkedIn, in particular, has been a fabulous resource for me in making these kinds of contacts.  The world of blogging, Twitter, and Friendfeed have also helped out.  Facebook is fun, but I’ve not used it to good business purpose yet, though I keep an eye on it. 

My company, Helpstream, is founded on the notion that the web is a first class channel that companies need to address in addition to the telephone.  An extremely large number of companies totally get this.  We’re just at the beginning (literally we launched our product at the beginning of 2008), but already we have 120 customers and 90,000 participants on our service.

Maryanne, one thing I can tell you is you’re probably not going to find out how to use the web effectively over the telephone.  As a wise and somewhat diminuative old movie character once said, “There is no try.  Do or do not.”  Get off the phone and onto the web.  Go and engage.  Figure out how to make it work.  Once you do, you’ll be one of the Social Media Have’s.  It’s a much richer experience than the Have Nots.

Posted in Web 2.0 | 5 Comments »

Helpstream in the News

Posted by Bob Warfield on December 24, 2008

There’s been a lot of great blogging activity around my company, Helpstream, lately. 

The latest is Paul Greenberg’s write up on CRM 2009 where he tells what really sets Helpstream apart:

Each of them is a genuine gem – in the case of Helpstream, I can’t even find a flaw. 


This is my paradigm company for a CRM 2.0 feature set.  Para-digm.  They seem to have it all together.  They are the ones that I use as the example of the difference between CRM 2.0 and Web 2.0.  They are my numero uno for explaining the difference between CRM 2.0 and Web 2.0.

Thanks for the kind words, Paul!  This is exactly the kind of discussion we have with our partner Oracle, which is extremely interested in the whole “Social CRM” phenomenon.  Helpstream is, as Paul suggests, a really unique combination of traditional Customer Service technologies with some new Web 2.0 technologies that really rocks the house with new levels of ROI.

Also on deck are a couple of fabulous articles about Helpstream’s recent move to the Amazon Cloud.   Larry Dignan says we are “the blueprint” for how others can move to the cloud.  Thomas Foydell says Helpstream “moved up a whole other level” relative to other SaaS vendors like Salesforce and Netsuite by moving its datacenter into the cloud. 

They’re both great articles if you want to know more about the company that is my day job.

Posted in amazon, business, cloud, enterprise software, saas, Web 2.0 | Leave a Comment »

Scoble’s Twitter/Friendfeed Intervention (aka these tools are for different missions)

Posted by Bob Warfield on December 24, 2008

One of the more amusing stories in the blogosphere and Twittersphere’s is the call by Michael Arrington for an intervention on Robert Scoble’s behalf.  The concern, which Scoble himself recognizes (btw, Robert, I still take exception to your lack of trackbacks!), is that he has so monopolized his time interacting with Friendfeed and Twitter, that he has no time left to create real value, perhaps in the form of blog posts.

I think Scoble’s post does a pretty good job of explaining some of the subtle differences between blogging, Twitter, and Friendfeed.   Let me paraphrase what he has said:

Losses:  Thought Leadership, Ad Revenue, Losing Blog Audience Slowly

Scoble is less a thought leader because he isn’t blogging his thoughts in long blog posts.  So blog posts are more effective at establishing thought leadership because you can express your thoughts more fully.  Seth Godin alludes to this in a great post You Will Be Misunderstood where he says:

If you’ve got 140 characters to make your point, the odds are you are going to be misunderstood (a lot).

Scoble says Seth Godin is missing out on the value of Twitter, but I think that last post shows clearly that Godin understands the value clearly and isn’t interested in what it offers him versus the cost.  Godin is, if nothing else, very focused on not being misunderstood while remaining as pithy as possible.  It’s one of the things I love about him.  He is also very clearly a Thought Leader and not someone trying to dig up more conversations to join.

FWIW, I never really have thought of Scoble so much as a Thought Leader originating a lot of ideas (although he has certainly had a lot of great ideas), but more as the guy who knows everyone, sees everything, and acts as everyone’s lens to view what’s interesting in that incredible idea stream.  He doesn’t originate the stream, he focuses and culls it as a way of adding value.  I think he probably agrees from what I read, and so may not care so much about a loss of thought leadership.  These other tools let him do what he sees as his mission and he ignores what others may see as his mission.

It would be a good question for people like Michael Arrington to ask themselves what they think their mission ought to be.  Are they Thought Leaders?  Or are they also acting as lenses?  Which is better?  Which plays to their strengths? 

In fact, it’s interesting in this context of, “What is your mission?” to look at Scoble’s remarks about Seth Godin:

Seth Godin, for instance, only blogs and he rarely gets discussed on Twitter or friendfeed. If he were active he’d be discussed 25x more.

Compare that to the 140 character quote from Seth.  Scoble wants to be discussed.  Seth wants to be understood.  Those are much different missions.  It’s no accident that a savvy market like Seth Godin understands the difference.  I think Scoble is also extremely clever as a marketer, and would understand the difference too, I think he assumes Godin’s mission is the same as his own, which it looks to me is not at all true.  Ask yourself about these missions.  Do you want to be talked about or understood?  I’m more in the want to be understood camp.  It’s creepy to me to be talked about.


I think Scoble is dead on with these things and they are fascinating as well as very valuable.  Given my chosen mission, I am not sure I would emulate his strategy, but I want to understand how to break it down into these component parts so that the tools can be employed against other missions I may need to execute on.  Let’s look at each in a little more depth.

Reach (More people, more news)

It has always been important to Scoble to be plugged into more sources than anyone.  This guy has written about reading vast numbers of RSS feeds, for example.  I seem to recall him following something like 1000 feeds.  I strain if I get close to 200 and am sitting at 186 as I write this.  With 1000 feeds Scoble had 5x the breadth of information capture.  Now Friendfeed and Twitter have allowed him to multiply that still further.  He’s a guy who has blown up the limit on number of Friends some services will let him have.  Now he says he has 5400 people who feed him news, so that means he has 5x the bandwidth he had when he just focused on blogs.  That’s pretty cool!

He also has a huge number of followers: almost 68,000 combined on these two services.  That’s huge!  Scoble is reaching a lot of people.  He compares this to Arrington, who is much less, but who has more on his blogs and wonders what the exchange rate is between the two.  One thing he mentions peripherally got me thinking.  He says advertisers are starting to want to reach people other than geeks.  I suspect the audience on Twitter/Friendfeed is qualitatively different than the audience for blogs.  Yes, there is huge overlap, but you just have to be a different sort of person to get into Twitter/Friendfeed.  If nothing else, you are an earlier adopter.  I’m not sure how this qualitative difference plays to Scoble’s mission, but I would note it for others who want to use these tools.

Lastly, Robert makes a case (I think), that these tools are more viral and that you can grow an audience faster with them than you could blogging.  I think that’s also very interesting.  In some sense, I think you could use these tools to build an audience that you might later vector on to your blogs and other media channels.  Think of Twitter/Friendfeed as the really early part of the funnel, in other words.


It’s clear from the article that Scoble values the immediacy of Twitter/Friendfeed versus blogs, which are very delayed. 


Scoble calls out the conversation and the participation in the conversation as being very important to him.  I think Twitter and Friendfeed are more conversationally oriented than blogs, but there are some spotty aspects.  For example, I believe that Trackbacks are an important form of conversation.   Scoble, BTW, doesn’t do Trackbacks on his blog, he prefers comments.  I think that approach monopolizes the conversation.  The blogger says, in effect, that the conversation happens at his house and not at your house or it doesn’t happen at all.  Seth Godin, interestingly, is the opposite.  He does Trackbacks but not comments.  I think Seth is not interested in the conversation, but he is interested in virally spreading memes that he creates.  The Trackback does this far more effectively than comments because it incents bloggers to write about his posts.  I know I do every chance I get and Seth repays me handsomely with traffic that comes via the Trackbacks.  Arrington, BTW, has Trackback, but it is minimized so you have to look hard for it.

Wouldn’t it be fascinating to have Scoble, Seth Godin, and Michael Arrington talk about building web mindshare at a conference some time?  Each one is different and fascinating.  Let’s throw in Loic too if he’ll sit at the same table.

The other odd thing about the Scoble Omnimedia empire is it doesn’t look like he Tweets his blog posts.  His different channels are not really connected very well.  This blog is my primary mouthpiece, so I Tweet any posts, and I also send them through Friendfeed (thanks to a request by Scoble).  I noticed this because I wanted to talk to Scoble about one of his blog posts, but there was no way to Tweet him about that post as easily as replying to a Tweet he would have done about the post.


The last win Scoble mentions is also fascinating.  Scoble wants to actively use his audience to crowdsource value that he can then amplify and feed back to the same audience.  In his case, he has a network of 5400 gathering news for him.  But I can imagine other ways to use a big network like this for crowdsourcing value.


It’s a fascinating debate, but in the end, I would say Scoble may not need an intervention.  I have always seen him as “Crazy like a fox” in his antics.  He knows how to build readership.  I think he has very effectively used Twitter and Friendfeed towards that end.  What happens next will be talked about in colorful terms.  That’s part of Scoble being “Crazy like a fox.”  He may decide to accept the intervention when all it really means is he spent a year building a much bigger base that he now will feed content using other channels while reducing his investment in Twitter and Friendfeed to the crowdsourcing mode I mention above.  Time will tell, but I learned a lot about how to use these tools watching this debate!

Posted in Web 2.0 | 6 Comments »

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