Tagsocial media

Tectonic Shifts #02: Social



Tectonic Shifts is a series of articles on the mega trends that will shape our digital future for years (if not decades) to come.

tl;dr (Executive Summary)

Social – short for Social Media, and a key part of the holy trinity of Social/Mobile/Location-based services – is what happens when users connect: They connect around topics & interest, around products, on platforms, between platforms. It’s ubiquitous conversations as popularized by the Cluetrain Manifesto (2000), and as such maybe one of the oldest (internet-based) tech trends that we still see evolving. Social includes, but goes way beyond platforms like Facebook, Youtube and Twitter, and has impacts on everything from customer relations and marketing to business models & business strategy to customer service and product design.


Social is a development of such ridiculous size that quantifying it wouldn’t get us very far. A few pointers as to just how big anyway just for good measure:

  • 74% of adults use social networking sites (Pew Internet 2014)
  • 70% of citizens in Iceland actively use social media, 57% in the UK, 35% in Germany, 64% in Taiwan, 46% in China… (Statista 2014)
  • Twitter, Whatsapp, Snapchat, and Facebook are als considered “billion dollar companies”.

More important than these numbers is the central role that Social Media has been playing for the last 10-15 years. Used almost synonymously with “the internet”, Social has been the key driver behind the massive user empowerment as well as a whole new way that groups can coordinate online to affect change – politically or in campaigns of more consumption-oriented nature.

What does this mean for society & industries?

Social touches practically all areas of an organization. Marketing & communications, sure. But also customer relationship management and customer service; strategy; product design; product development; internal processes; market research; and many more.

Products and services that smartly leverage Social have a much higher chance to succeed. Those designed without at least consideration for Social are bound to fail in the market. This doesn’t mean everything has to have a Facebook Like button on it, of course. However, not leveraging Social should be a very conscious decisions. There’s almost no internet or media related product that don’t have potential for a Social layer of some sort or another.

Social Media as well as product design with Social elements has been around for more than a decade. It’s a mature field. Don’t do it with amateurs, work with professionals – there’s a whole industry out there. However, be aware that really embracing Social will almost certainly lead to a bias towards more openness and more intense engagement with stakeholder groups inside and outside the organization. Again, set up the infrastructure and team to make and maintain the transition smoothly.

Which industries are expected to be most strongly affected?

Every. Single. One.

The most obvious and direct impact was most certainly seen around communications/marketing, publishing, music & video, as well as campaigning & politics.

If you think your organization or industry isn’t impacted, think again – you’re very likely missing something.

Risks & opportunities


  • Social creates a lot of data points both explicitly (conversations, items shared, etc.) and implicitly (usage data). This means lots of intelligence on user behavior and desires, in other words: market research.
  • New services and products: Social data and the structure associated with it allows for new business models and product ideas.
  • Stakeholder engagement: Social opens new channels and ways to engage with stakeholders (clients, customers, users, current and potential employees, collaborators, media, etc.)



  • Privacy implications are huge. Don’t be a creep.
  • Implementely haphazardly or bluntly, or without giving the project the necessary love, Social engagement can backfire and create bad publicity at large scale.
  • High costs as processes, team structures and infrastructure need to be adapted, and are likely to be in flux for a longer time.
  • Lots of snake oil out there. Proceed with care.

Resources, key players, links

  • There are too many players, agencies, platforms to name here.
  • Facebook’s own business backgrounders are quite useful.
  • Otherwise, check what’s already out there in terms of networks and tools.


To learn more, read what this series is all about and see all articles of Tectonic Shifts.

Recollecting my Instagrams & other social data


So, Instragram announced updates to their Terms of Services. Nothing unusual about it, really, only that the updates seem to be aimed at monetizing by allowing advertisers to use your photos without prior notice or consent (besides agreeing to the ToS, obviously).

Now, often times ToS changes trigger all kinds of resentment by the user base, and in many cases it’s a matter of legalese or bad communications. Say, if a service requires consent to copying and distributing your content: Copying and distributing can easily sound like selling or licensing or doing other weird things with your data, while it might just be necessary to run the service you signed up for. After all, you can’t store a digital image without making copies of it. That kinda thing.

That said, Instagram’s new ToS seem to be more directly aimed at advertisers, and as such it’s a different game altogether. Furthermore, they’re now part of Facebook, and as such – in my eyes – much less trustworthy than a year ago. Facebook has a horrible track record of abusing users’ trust, for example by changing default privacy settings and making it unnecessarily hard to opt out of new features. So personally I’m not willing to give Instagram/Facebook the benefit of the doubt on this one.


But enough with the rant. The Instagram ToS kerfuffle was as good an excuse as any to eventually try out Recollect, a service run by good former Flickr engineers, who sources closer to the matter tell me are good, trustworthy folks. Moreover, they’re building a service that charges users upfront, which seems to be to be a good model of building sustainable businesses.

So what does Recollect do? Simple – it backs up data from your social media accounts. I just had Recollect gather my Tweets, Instagram and Flickr photos as well as Foursquare check-ins. You can then proceed to download them to your local machine. (In the case of Instagram, it saves everything as HTML, so you get to keep not just your photos, but faves, comments, etc.) It’s simple, and a useful thing to do if you think that archiving your data is useful at all.

Recollecting Screenshot of the Recollect dashboard. Note the activity on the different services, and how they changed over time.


A nice side effect: The dashboard shows you your activity on these other services. In my case, as you can see in the screenshot, I saved more than 12.000 items, including 7.500+ Flickr photos and about 1.500 Foursquare check-ins.

I won’t be losing much Instagram: Since the Android app only came out this year, I have less than 400 photos there, it’s really a minor problem. (I also had them automatically cross-posted to Flickr anyway.) It’s just a bit of a bummer that Twitter introduced an API limit awhile ago, allowing only about the last 3.000 tweets to be accessed – so for me that means I’m about six years short on Twitter archives. Which is pretty bad, and another reason to back up data there as it passes through.

I’ve only been testing Recollect for a single day yet, but I’m pretty sure I’ll keep using it and will be happy to pay the monthly fee for a reliable backup and the option to export my data whenever I choose. Recommended!

Social Media in Medical Institutions


Note: These are some initial thoughts, not yet ready for prime time on the Third Wave blog. Feedback to help shape these thoughts is very welcome.

A recent issue of f&w, a German magazine for managers of medical institutions (mostly hospitals and rehabilitation clinics) had a series of articles on social media. On the one hand, it’s almost a bit depressing that this sector is only now beginning to seriously look at Social Media. On the other hand, it’s good to see some movement in this space as there is much to gain for all parties involved.

The magazine quoted plenty of studies – some of which seemed fairly small-scale, but indicative and plausible enough for me – that boiled down to this:

  1. The whole sector is only in a very early stage of embracing Social.
  2. Top level management is only beginning to see the need for and advantages of Social Media, mostly because they have no personal experience with it (ie. a generational gap).
  3. Adaption rates seem to grow quickly from a low level as the first movers gather lots of (oftentimes positive) experiences.
  4. There’s clearly a recognized need for the sector to engage with their potential patients online and through Social as patients get more and more autonomous and base their decisions on online research and peer recommendations.

It’s a tricky sector for Social. Not unlike banking, if for completely different reasons, data is highly sensitive and privacy is of the highest priority. This is also reflected in the laws regulating both sectors.

Just to be clear here: In an emergency hospital, things can already be quite sensitive. But if you or your relatives submit themselves to treatment in a clinic for psychological or psychosomatic diagnoses it’s a different ball game altogether. There’s legal issues, there’s social stigma, there’s the risk of negative impact on the treatment. Most people won’t “like” a clinic on Facebook, and that’s ok.

And yet there’s tremendous potential in using Social channels in this context. As patients get more autonomous, monitoring and reputation building grow more important. As a clinic, you’ll want to know how happy your patients are with treatment, location and service. You might want to learn how to improve their experience during the treatment. You might try and support them after treatment through regular checkups and by providing a channel for them to get advice should they need it. And of course you can always help patients with shared experiences to connect among themselves for mutual support.

That’s the Social Media part. While the details and implementation are tricky, it’s not rocket science and there are enough examples of how things work. Then there’s the part that I’d put at the intersection of where the somewhat unwieldily named Quantified Self (that we’ve been writing about for awhile) meets mobile apps and networked technology.

More concretely, imagine a kid treated for childhood obesity (the numbers in the industrialized world are staggering!). Once kids leave the clinic and head back home, they’re back in their old environment, back in their old life. This is where things get complicated, as obesity usually involves a radical change of lifestyle – often for the whole family, if there is to be a lasting effect.

Feedback loops can help keep the motivation up, as can group dynamics and regular reminders. All the big and small stuff we can do to ease the problems that might arise on a day-to-day basis. A scale that tweets your weight might sound ridiculous. A scale that helps you track your weight over time and gives you regular feedback – not quite as ridiculous. An app that lets you know what you can’t and can eat given your current situation that very day? Now we’re talking.

All these things might become unnecessary after a few months, which is fine. Once the former patient has developed new routines and a better understanding of what’s good and what isn’t and they’re ready to move on. But for the transition period this could be really useful.

The current wave of Quantified Self and lifestyle and health apps aims mostly at those with an extra healthy or active lifestyle and at early adopters. A few of these services also target very specific medical conditions.

It seems to me that there is a huge, huge demand (and thus market) in the middle here. And I’m looking forward to seeing new services developed for this market.

Disclosure: I privately hold a (very small) amount of shares in a small independent medical services provider with a focus on phychosomatic rehabilitation, and used to work with them on their online activities when I was still a freelancer.

brief intro: my two partners


meet the crew, igor schwarzmann, johannes kleske, peter bihr

Just to get everybody up to speed on the new boutique agency I’m setting up with two friends: We can now officially announce all names involved.

So besides me it’s going to be two close friends of mine:

Igor Schwarzmann (at the moment still at KetchumPleon‘s Düsseldorf office). Some links to introduce him:

Johannes Kleske is currently at Neue Digitale/Razorfish Frankfurt. Some might have seen him recently on a BrandEins cover or in the German Apple ad. Some links to introduce him:

Not only are they two close friends of mine, they are also two of the fittest people I know in the industry. Needless to say, I can tell you: I can’t wait to get this thing rollin’.

Images (not to be taken too seriously): Rajue, myself

SXSW: “Social Media: How to make it in Europe”


SXSW 2011Short version first: I’d like to present at SXSW 2011. You can help if you vote for my panel proposal. Here’s what it’s about.

Earlier this year, I went to SXSW without knowing that I’d end up giving a session myself: I was asked (and more than happy) to fill in for Robin Grant and his talk, and judging by the feedback we got I think it worked out well. (With just a few days notice I wasn’t so sure first…) Here’s a write up of my impressions: Lost in Translation: Nuances of European Social Media.

Since there was such a strong demand and the participants all got really involved in the discussion, I’d like to offer a follow-up. Same over-all topic, but a year into the discussion. There’s still a lot of ground to cover. Personally, I’d prefer to do it in the same setting like last year, which was one of the smaller rooms for interactive discussions rather than a big-ass panel. It’s just so much more productive. Like last time when Igor Schwarzmann and Kevin Dykes joined me on the panel, I’d like to

Here’s the official pitch as it is on the website:

Social Media: How to make it in Europe Description: You know how to rock Social Media back home in the US. Now what? There’s another huge market just a quick jump across the ocean. Yet, it’s a different world over there. We’ll discuss with you what strategies work in Europe, what you need to pay attention to. And we’ll share first hand experiences of working in Europe. We will bring you a panel of experts from several European key countries who report from the trenches. What are your main challenges when entering European markets? What are your opportunities? Which role do cultural differences play? Will German bloggers really hate your brand and will you get sued in the UK? We will try to dispel a few of the fears and myths often associated with European Social Media, share first-hand experience and give hands-on advice. So you can focus on taking your business to the other side of the Atlantic and rock Social Media over there, too. Questions answered:
  1. What can I expect from Social Media in Europe?
  2. How do I avoid major pitfalls when entering European markets?
  3. Your experiences with Social Media in different European markets?
  4. What are the first steps we should take when planning to go to Europe?
  5. Is Europe really an overregulated, scary place for startups? (Don’t worry!)
Tags: Europe, Localization, socialmedia

If you’d like to support me going to SXSW again, please vote here. (To vote you need an account on SXSW.com.)

That said, there is a number of other panels I’d recommend checking out (there are so many!) from a first glance: There’s Tim Hwang’s The Ecology of Awesomeness. (Tim co-founded the Awesome Foundation, so he knows a thing or two about awesome.) Ray Kurzweil talks about The Singularity. There’s a panel on innovation in Iceland which I think has quite a potential (remember, Iceland just decided to become a safe haven for journalists). There’s probably a great deal to learn in How Good Companies Go Horribly Wrong. The Sunlight Foundation‘s Jake Brewer talks about the Rise of Free Citizen Agents. Tim Bonnemann talks about Open Government through Participation: Designing Successful Online Consultations, an idea he’s been working on for a long time, and I can’t wait to see the results. Why We Frag: Propaganda and Geopolitics in Videogames sounds like a hell of a lot of fun. And of course I’d like to also point to my good friend and Cognitive Cities co-author Igor Schwarzmann‘s panel proposal How Does Scifi Influence Our Future Cities? I have an idea of what this presentation would look like, and I promise it’ll be a treat. (Heck, I even officially vowch for him.)

So, long story short: I’d appreciate any help in getting this panel off the ground. If you want to support it, please vote here.

Updates: As I get to learn about more cool proposals, I’ll list them here. Spread the love! Soundcloud‘s Dave Haynes will be talking about Love, Music & APIs.

Social Media Guidelines. Got any?


Agile Planning

After the first steps in Social Media, most organizations realize it’s time to get organized. Instead of every staff doing their own thing on the social web, organizations strive to speak with one coherent voice while preserving authenticity. This is where Social Media Guidelines (SMG) come in.

The SMG provide a framework that serves to provide direction for all social media activities. (And what on the web isn’t social these days?) They protect the company from rogue Facebookers, and they protect employees from their boss’ wrath.

Below I’ll list a few Social Media Guidelines that I find well-written, plus from a diverse set of organizations from non-profit to corporate to military. Please not that instead of “guidelines” they could also be called “social media policy”, “social computing guidelines”, “rules of engagement” or something completely different. What we’re looking at here is a document that helps define the rules for all activities regarding social media.

The list below is what I sent to a non-profit that had contacted me about drafting Social Media Guidelines – it seemed like the list might be useful for others as well:

  1. Laurel Papworth’s List of 40 Social Media Staff Guidelines. One of the classic compilations. Plenty of food for thought here.
  2. Intel Social Media Guidelines: A classic. Well written, knowledgeable, focusing on the practicalities.
  3. IBM Social Computing Guidelines: What’s great here is that there is an executive summary outlining the basic rules of engagement, but also a lengthier, in-depth discussion right below.
  4. American Red Cross Social Media Guidelines: Very detailed presentation that goes beyond just Social Media Guidelines. It’s more like a tutorial for your staff. Great stuff.
  5. Social Media Policy des österreichischen Roten Kreuz: The Austrian Red Cross have both their guidelines as well as some more background on their website. Brownie points for also covering the potential issue of private vs business engagement as well as political statements. The only one in the list that’s in German.
  6. Rochester Institute of Technology: What RIT provides here isn’t really a guideline, but rather an overview of which group inside the organization uses which social media channel. The Alumni Association? On Facebook and Twitter. The department of Software Engineering? You won’t find them on Twitter, but they’re on Facebook and YouTube. And so on. Very, very useful both internally and for external partners.
  7. LA Times Social Media Guidelines : The LA Times Social Media Guidelines provide guidance not just for external communication but also for their own reporters and how they deal with information acquired through Social Media channels.
  8. New Zealand State Services Commission: Principles for Interaction with Social Media: This document is basically a reminder that state servants have to act responsibly when engaging in Social Media just like in their offline workdays. Obviously state servants play a special role, and special rules apply. Don’t ask what your country can do for you in Social Media, but what you can do for your country’s engagement in Social Media!
  9. US Air Force: Social Media Triage: This diagram shows how the US Air Force reacts to blog comments and other social media feedback. (I stumbled over the diagram in this great presentation by Altimeter first.) A simple, yet effective diagram that can guide your staff through the process of reacting to external reactions. Very well done, like so much of the USAF’s online activities.
  10. Audible.de: Social Media Richtlinien: An example of Social Media Guidelines in German, from Audible.de. Short and sweet.

Copy & paste or write your own – just make sure they reflect your organization’s core values and you don’t over-regulate. Instead of trying to think of everything up front make sure to re-visit the guidelines regularly and, if necessary, tweak them. It’s not rocket science. It really isn’t.

Image: Agile Planning, a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial (2.0) image from 7855449@N02’s photostream

How to get started with Social Media in your organization


There are two main schools of thought when it comes to establishing Social Media in an organization: One is the more traditional (in a corporate sense) top-down, the other is the (more webby) bottom-up.

In one, a Social Media strategy is planned and implemented and handed down inside the organization. Pro: top-level support. Con: not all that organic. In the other, employees take Social Media in their own hands and just push the topic themselves. Pro: It’s agile and organic, plus the employees are invested themselves. Con: Can be messy, and there’s no management buy-in.

I’d propose a third way, where the top-level management encourages Social Media engagement and provides a framework for it. Most notably, it must be clear that employees who dabble in Social Media don’t get into trouble for doing so, and they must be given the opportunity to get more resources if needed. Employees on the other hand should feel free to experiment and learn the ropes, then pass on their knowledge and insights to their colleagues. These evangelists should be given the freedom and resources they need, and should also be taken into responsibility to document and share their learnings. It’s a two way street, really.

One aspect I’ve heard over and over again when doing workshops with clients is that often there are people in all hierarchy levels of an organization that are in favor of investing (time, resources, energy) in Social Media, but there is not enough exchange across hierarchies and departments. It’s important to identify evangelists all over the organization, from assistant level to top-level management, and connect them in some way or another. Think round tables, email lists, wikis, meetups – whatever best fits the organization’s culture.

There’s tremendous potential inside every organization, you just need to find it and foster exchange – that’s the first step. The second step, once all parties are talking to one another, you can adapt the organizational structures to reflect the needs that are now more clear. From then on it’s a matter of smart iterations.

So why not start today and ask around in your company: Who is interested in engaging in Social Media? Who’d like to take a lead, who’d like to support? Then give these folks some time to discuss their ideas and needs, and start pilot projects for the most promising ideas.