Keeping online discussions valuable with peer based rating

If you want to encourage a community to collaborate, you can’t expect to control it. Let them control themselves and each other.

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A long time ago when we were considering adding forum-like functionality to WeCanDo.Biz I asked the opinion of the head honcho of one ofthe UK’s largest business forums.  His opinion: “Don’t do it!”

We had a long discussion about his view and the conclusion I drew fits with this metaphor: starting a communiy, a forum or whatever, is like trying to move a boulder — it takes all your efforts to get it going and once it is you risk getting squashed by it at any time!

We decided not to add a traditional forum, because loads of those exist already  And as much as I like the community collaboration and support you see within forums, I dislike the way that simple questions or discussions develop into long and tedious threads of convoluted answers and other contributions, with the true experts inputs becoming overwhelmed by those who have an opinion but no knowledge.  They get messy and it requires too much time and effort to get value from them as a user.  So, as an alternative, we decided to put Discussion areas in each one of our Network ‘spurs’ so people could share information and pick the brains of business people with a common interest, be that working in the same industry, or location or whatever.

It was different and it took a time for people to get how our Discussions worked.  But now they are widely used.  However, they also get misused by some who seen an open forum to use it to shamelessly self promote — serving their own purposes but annoying everyone else who’s reading the Discussion, including all of those they are attempting to try and influence.

With hundreds of discussions on our site it can be difficult to keep on top of people misusing them.  And should we?  There are a few business communities online which have developed a reputation for over-zealous moderation and people don’t like it.  But people don’t like spam either.

Here’s our solution.

We are all getting used to being able to “like” pages or articles we find acoss the web.  As of today we’ve introduced Likes to Discussion posts in The Network.  You can Like anyone else’s posts — but you can also Dislike the ones you don’t like.

What we are hoping will happen is that we don’t have to intervene and the people who are reading the Discussion posts, who are already making their minds up about posts they see, will click the button to share their feelings.  It’s all anonymous and their rating gets added to all others received for that post.  So a post can pick up Likes and/or Dislikes and we showhow it rates on both.

Anyone can look at a post to see how many Likes it has and how many Dislikes, including those who posted it.  We’ll send you an alert to let you know when a post you submit has received its first rating.  Is your post getting Likes?  Well done!  People like what you have to contribute to the Discussion.  Picking up Dislikes?  Then they probably see you as spammy, adding self serving posts which aren’t of interest to anyone other than you.

We can’t wait to see how people use it and how it influences people’s use of this community collaboration feature!

You can see how it looks at the top of the page.  Why not try rating some existing posts now:

Location Networks
Business Networks
Business Interests
Business Categories
Private Networks

And let us have your feedback on this feature by adding a comment below or posting on our Website Help and Feedback Network.  We can’t wait to read what you think!

09/06/2011 at 11:21 am Leave a comment

New Twitter photo-sharing feature could shift your social media strategy

Rumor has it that Twitter CEO Dick Costolo will announce a new photo-sharing feature for the microblogging service tomorrow at the D9 conference.

Currently, Twitter users who wish to post photos in their tweets must host them elsewhere, using services like Twitpic, Yfrog, Instagram and Flickr. In these cases, users include links to the photos within their tweets.

In March, Twitter’s director of platform Ryan Sarver issued a message to developers saying they should no longer “build client apps that mimic or reproduce the mainstream Twitter consumer client experience.” Twitter then announced in May it would purchase the Twitter management platform TweetDeck, in a combination of stock and cash for $40 million.

Twitter Photo-sharing Could Shift Your Social Media Strategy

Whether the new Twitter sharing application will service similarly to existing third-party applications is yet to be seen. But even if Twitter doesn’t reinvent the wheel, the advent of native photo-sharing functionality could go a long way toward normalizing image sharing across the platform, especially for small and medium sized (SMBs) business owners who don’t have the time or desire to dabble in third-party applications.

For SMBs, the new service could make posting and sharing images via Twitter more simple and streamlined. While Twitter has yet to announce any details on the service, SMB owners should begin considering how they might better integrate an image-sharing strategy into their Twitter campaigns.

  • Use high-quality pictures. This doesn’t mean high-resolution photos (smartphone pics are okay), but post images of your business, employees, or products that you would be proud showing off the anyone–because they might just reach anyone.
  • Don’t spam. Snapping a pic of every product the company offers and pushing it onto your followers is a good way to get unfollowed.
  • Get everyone involved. Let’s face it, communicating on Twitter can take up the whole day. Lighten the load by setting clear guidelines for images and other communication, and let employees snap and share pictures on your company’s behalf. But stay involved and make sure both the images and pictures seeping out of your Twitter account are in line with your company’s values.
  • Have a conversation with your images. Designing a new shoe? Snap a pic of the prototype and ask your community to weigh in. Take their input seriously. Chances are, they’ll be the folks buying the product.
  • Tell your story. Don’t have a fancy product to capture and share? Don’t worry, share your company’s story. Twitter is a place where the traditional rules of business dialog have been blown open. So stop worrying about “promoting” your business through Twitter, and begin sharing what you find inspiring, challenging or compelling about your organization. Maybe an employee left you an encouraging note, or you took everyone to an impromptu happy hour. Snap and share.
  • Respond. Because many SMB owners have limited time to spend on social media sites like Twitter or Facebook, there is a tendency to share, but not respond. This is a wasted opportunity. Even for SMB owners with limited time, responding to inquiries or concerns is an incredibly powerful way to strengthen existing relationships and broaden your appeal. Snapping a picture to address concerns or answer questions about your products will demonstrate that you’re willing to make the extra effort to engage.

In short, just because you’ll be taking a picture and sharing it on Twitter doesn’t mean the norms of the community are thrown out the window. Share, be personal, and respond.

Some interesting news courtesy of PCWorld and a great article which gives some practical uses for SMBs of how to use this new feature, expected to be launched later today. Full article linked above.

At first I wondered how businesses might use it, but the article provides some answers. But what about service based industries in the B2B sector? Well I guess it needn’t be tough to show your staff cleaning an office, if that’s what they do, or examples of your work as a grahic designer — if you are an accountant though…?

What pictures would you Tweet that are relevant to your business and that your customers might be interested in?

01/06/2011 at 7:21 am Leave a comment

Get your daily Kick Up The A*** to keep your business moving

No matter how successful you may be, it is easy to neglect certain aspects of your business whilst you focus elsewhere and that’s when you need Kuta.

What is Kuta???

Kuta are daily reminders send directly to your phone or inbox promting you to spend a few minutes on those little jobs you often forget about or put off for another day.

How can I get Kuta???

Simply use the below form to sign up, just tell us which channels you require Kuta for and how you would like to receive Kuta.
 

KUTA will be free until 1 July 2011, give it a go right now!!!

I don’t often promote services other companies offer, but I’ve just spent some time on the phone speaking with entrepreneur Lara Morgan and not only do I find her really engaging, but she has some neat ideas too.

Kuta is one of them. We know we all need a nudge sometimes to keep on top of what we need to do to keep our businesses moving in the right direction — and that’s exactly what Kuta offers.

I’ve signed up and I sugest you take a look. Link above. Let us know what you think of it by adding a comment below.

26/05/2011 at 12:39 pm Leave a comment

MyCustomer.com: WeCanDo.Biz launches new sales leads tool for Twitter‎

twitter_logo_black.jpg

WeCanDo.Biz has created a tool to pinpoint and present Twitter-based sales leads on a single web page in order to make it easy for small businesses to follow them up.

The Sales Leads tool works by automatically filtering out tweets that contain a specific request for a product or service or express a given requirement in order to identify potential customers. Examples might include ‘we need a local accountant’ or ‘can anyone recommend someone that prints brochures?’

Ian Hendry, WeCanDo.Biz’s chief executive, said that Twitter was producing sales leads every day, but the current challenge was finding them amongst all of the noise.

“Our Sales Leads tool pinpoints the opportunities and presents them all on one page so they can be easily progressed and tracked. It takes small businesses straight to the person with the need for what they offer. We expect small companies to use it as an alternative to expensive advertising or cold-calling,” he added.

Hendry also claimed that the offering had discovered more than a quarter of a million sales leads for customers while it was in beta testing. It is able to undertake location filtering, includes reply and connect options and is free to use. An enhanced version, which incorporates more lead discovery options, costs about £60 plus VAT for 12-month’s use.

The company has also re-launched its website to enable small businesses to create their own social profile in order to act as a business card for potential customers and to join location- and industry-specific online communities in order to communicate with peers.

The site is likewise offering member benefits such as free and discounted banking, insurance and other services.

Some nice coverage from the great guys at MyCustomer.com of our version 2 launch with, unsurprisingly, quite a lot of focus on our Twitter Sales Leads tool.

I was at Business Scene’s London Connections event last night near Liverpool Street and got to speak to some interesting people, but what struck me most was the interest in what we are doing to help identify leads on Twitter. There seemed to be universal agreement that it can be tough making sense of some social media platforms for business, but our new tool really helps!

It’s free to use so come and get stuck in at <a href="http://www.wecando.biz/sales_leads.php.

http://www.wecando.biz/sales_leads.php.</p&gt;

26/05/2011 at 9:55 am Leave a comment

SYSTEM UPDATE: Check your newsletter sign up forms if they link to WeCanDo.Biz Social CRM

WeCanDo.Biz Social CRM changes mean that some email newsletter sign-up forms may no longer be working.

Binb_sign_up_form

If you use WeCanDo.Biz Social CRM you may be using the forms we provide you to put on your own website which collect details from visitors and sign them up to email newsletters.

As we have been moving our site from the original version to the new Version 2, so it would seem that some of the forms may no longer be working.

They’re easily fixed, so we suggest you try the forms on your website immediately and if you’re getting a 404 error to download NEW code from Setting section of WeCanDo.Biz Social CRM:

New sign up form code
New Data Capture code

If you get stuck with either then just raise a support ticket

25/05/2011 at 7:25 am Leave a comment

XING kills applications — so what for OpenSocial, LinkedIn and Facebook apps?

Germany’s XING won’t be supporting existing OpenSocial based application in its forthcoming redesign. Have applications on social networks failed?

Xing_applications

It feels like a long time ago that I last wrote about OpenSocial, an Open Standards based approach to embedding applications within other websites.  So long ago that I can no longer find the blog article, but if I recall correctly I was commenting on how OpenSocial, backed by Google as it did its bit to support technology that could be widely used across the Social Web, didn’t seem to be getting much adoption.  Certainly from Facebook (itself a lot smaller and less significant a player back then than now) and the many thousands of applications developers writing to its proprietary platform.

There were a few exceptions and XING, Germany’s answer to LinkedIn, was one of them.  It leapt on the applications bandwagon but made a thing of how it was supporting OpenSocial and Open Standards.  Well, a couple of years further on it looks like it’s had enough.  With the new site redesign coming June 2011, applications will be discountinued: “Unfortunately the demand for applications within a business context has not developed as promising as we had hoped, so we have decided to stop offering applications on XING” explains the XING team in a news update to users.

Goodbye Slideshare, Huddle and a few other applications.  Well, if you want to use them on the XING site anyway.  Access will still be available on the vendors own sites, but the point of putting them into XING was that so you share and collaborate with your network of contacts.  Which people don’t seem that interested in doing.

This announcement got me wondering when it was I last heard anything about OpenSocial, a standard that was all about easily sharing applications and associated data between Social Web sites and users.  Er, not recently.  So I did a Google News check and found not many recent articles, with few vendors talking about OpenSocial other than SAP (which is far from leading edge when it comes to the Social Web).  Is it dead?  Well, if it’s not dead, it’s resting…

But this comes as no suprise because when we started looking at embedding applications to our own WeCanDo.Biz website, OpenSocial seemed like a lot of hard work with dubious benefits, other than tthe ability to say we’d be doing our bit for Open Standards on the Web.  That wasn’t good enough so we built in WeCanDo.Biz Social CRM using proprietary APIs.  I don’t think uptake amongst our users would have been any greater if we’d gone the OpenSocial route.

No, it would seem people may not be quite as interested in integrated applications as we all thought.  Ask youself, when was the last time you saw someone sharing a presentation through Slideshare on LinkedIn?  Or inviting you into a Huddle workspace there?  OK, I use LinkedIn’s Twitter and WordPress integrations to include my latest tweets and blog articles on my profile, but I set them up once and have never touched them since, so you can’t say I actually use those integrated applications.  How long will LinkedIn continue to support applications for as they develop their site with the fresh cash injection a recent IPO has brough them?

Does Facebook buck the trend?  Well, a bit.  Apps have been all the rage there since they were first introduced, especially gaming apps.  But people grow tired of games and amongst my friends, at least, the craze of adding a new This or new That seems to have waned.  With FBML now retired, Facebook is seeing more and more companies just embed pages from their own websites into iframes in Facebook pages.  This is a much simpler approach than developing applications which have to meet complex Open Standards or — as has been more typical on Facebook — specific to only Facebook and which could stop working at any time as Facebook changes its core code without telling anyone.

So we may be witnessing the death of social applications as we knew them.  But does that make us any less keen to share or collaborate?  Is the actual issue that we don’t want to do as much with our social contacts as vendors believed we would?

What do you think?  Share your thoughts below.

24/05/2011 at 4:58 pm Leave a comment

LinkedIn share price nearly doubles on debut — and even drags Germany’s Xing up with it

First US social networking company to test market’s appetite sees suggestion of magic Dot Com Boom days.

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Image credit: Adriano Gasparri on Flickr

Reuters is reporting that business focused social nertworking site LinkedIn has seen its shares surge 90% on its debut on the New York Stock Exchange today, with scenes that are “reminiscent of the heyday of investors’ love affair with Internet stocks in the late 1990s,” the news agency notes.

The shares rose to $85.18 during the day, up from a starting price of $45 in a floatation that values the US company at $8 billion.  No, that’s not a typo.

Now, I have written on this before when the IPO was first mooted — was LinkedIn really worth $2.5 billion (as suggested at the time) when Germany’s Xing couldn’t even scrape $300 million in public trading?

Well now that valuation seems even crazier, although it is interesting to note that Xing’s share price has also increased today by about 8%.  Xing was one of the first so-called “Web 2.0” companies to go public.  Is it riding on LinkedIn’s coat tails as the markets appreciate its value now there is something else to compare it to?

Who knows.  This does all feel like the magical days of the Dot Com Boom, which I was very much involved in as I sold a company I started with £5000 for $6 million just 18 months later (I don’t have that now by the way… it was never real).  No-one knew the rules because they were made up as we went along.  But in almost all instances, the party didn’t last and reality set in for some investors the following day after debut; for the rest when people realised that there were no New Rules and that the maths had to stack up just like they do with any valuation.  The boom turned to bust as the whole market took a kicking in 2000 and sanity returned.

And so it prevailed until people started going loopy about Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn and silly amounts of money got poured into the companies before they had even turned a penny.  Facebook worth $30 billion?  I see only straight faces all round.  And some might be considering that a bargain now the appetite for social networking shares has been tested by LinkedIn, which in users is only an eighth of Facebook’s size.

What are your thoughs: are we seeing history repeating itself?  Or do social networking companies really represent the future?  Just add your comment below.

19/05/2011 at 4:19 pm Leave a comment

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