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A year into my job at SAP, supporting the Business Process Expert (BPX) community with my marketing know-how, I am still trying to fully get my head around “living with Web 2.0”.

 

While the community concept of peer-to-peer collaboration is a no-brainer to me – what’s not to like about Q&A forums, blogs and project wikis – it is those other tools like Twitter, Facebook, Blackberry… that keep me wondering.

 

Am I, maybe, not enough of an exhibitionist for Twitter? Or do I just not get it? Or am I simply becoming one of those “older generation” people who struggle to catch on to new technologies?

 

I simply don’t feel that a Twitter on “What am I doing right now” really is that interesting to the heterogeneous group of people that are following me. When I follow the conversations myself, I often find them disjointed, and it seems to take a bit of luck to actually be there when something interesting for me is being mentioned. Why do I need to know that “X” is on their way to dinner with “Y”?

 

Last week, I attended an online seminar called “Twitter like you mean it” by the MarketingProfs organization. They said one secret of Twitter was to create “Ambient Intimacy”, i.e. “become attuned to rhythms and patters of someone else’s life”. I got some great tips on how to shorten my URLs (to maximize the Twitter word count) through sites like tinyurl.com and bit.ly, and how to finally stop having to check the Twitter site all the time by signing up for twhirl.org (although, it seems I picked up a virus when installing). All great, but, I still don’t have anything phenomenal to broadcast. Does my particular following really want to know what is happening in the BPX community? Is there a way to segment my following into a group of people who might care for this type of information more than others?

 

My well-informed colleague, Audrey Weinland, recently shared this article with me from FT.com: “Twitter – another road to ruin?” which provides more food for thought.

 

Let’s move on to Facebook. I regularly survey my friend about the social online tools they use, and everybody seems to agree that Facebook is a great tool to get back in touch with old friends. “Old friends find me”, is what I hear the most. Then there are others who spend a lot of time on Facebook, communicating to their friends what they are doing right now, and posting the most minute details about their lives and personas (am I the only one concerned about identity theft? Do you really want the world to know when you are on vacation (welcome burglars)?) Whatever happened to having personal social interactions? Are we really too busy to meet people in person? Do we enjoy meeting people online more now? (Which makes me wonder: “What would that mean for our society going forward?”)

 

Having said all of that, I am the first one to admit that it can be addictive and is easy to get sucked into sites like Facebook. Once you start checking out your friends’ pictures and their friends lists, you find yourself saying “hello” to old friends and getting lost browsing around… you end up joining some groups (I am not sure why)…hours passing unnoticed.  And then there are the joys of watching movies on YouTube, and texting on your phone…when do we do all of this and have a “real” life? (I did try Second Life once, but did not get that either). Or is part of our lives simply online now? How much of it? Do most people participate in these activities during work hours or really in their private time? I find myself struggling to find the time to accommodate all of this.

 

Which brings me back to the question “Is Web 2.0 driving us crazy”? In April 2008, the New York Times reported on the deaths of two well-known bloggers, who – it seemed – had been blogging 24/7 and then died of heart attacks: “In Web World of 24/7 Stress, Writers Blog Till They Drop“. How do we control this Web 2.0 animal? How do we keep sane and healthy?

 

Working as a community marketing person, it is important to me to keep up-to-date on the latest Web 2.0 tools (or Web 3.0, whatever the latest term is) and find out how I can use them to enrich my communication with the community and potential new members. But, how do I choose which tools to use? Which ones are essential? How to divvy up my time between them? I am not even going to get started on the question of what the tangible business benefits are. (MIT Technology Review wrote in their August edition that “Social Networks Don’t Make Money (but they could)”.) Attempts to measure business impact seem limited to measuring “exposure”, e.g. socialmonitor.com let’s you track where your Web 2.0 efforts get picked up. What I want to see as a result of my marketing efforts are hard numbers, based on clear metrics.

 

To close, I have to admit that while I am struggling to find my own Web 2.0 work/life strategy, I see our top community contributors EVERYWHERE. I am in awe and don’t know how they do it. I would also like to hear your advice and comments on how you are using the Web 2.0 tools and if, at least sometimes, Web 2.0 is driving you crazy as well.

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  1. Testuser zSAPping
    Hi Natascha,

    I should have shared one of the secrets to Twitter with you in Berlin, but it seems I missed it: Twitter works best with a group of like minded people because it is all about conversations and about sharing information but it of course makes only sense if the information is of any value to you.

    One problem with Twitter is to find the right people in the network. the was a people search as a part of Twitter but they removed it recently and now this task has become even harder.

    Because I’ve seen people struggling with this problem for quite some time now, I’ve created a page in my personal wiki, where everybody with a Twitter account that has a connection to SAP (employees, consultant,partners, etc.) can put their name in a list so they it becomes easier to find people on Twitter related to SAP and also to be found by new members.

    Dear Natascha, see this as an invitation to put your name into this list and get connected with other SAP affiniados. I haven’t counted lately but there should be about 40-50 people already in the list and you probably already know a couple of them.

    Here is you second chance. See you on the other side.

    Regards,
      Oliver (Kohl) – Sorry, my account is currently in the hand of SDN support 🙁

    PS: Not much to say about Facebook. I have an account but don’t use it that much. AFAIK the conversations happen on Twitter.

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  2. Jon Reed
    Natascha,

    great post!

    I have one easy answer and one question I can’t answer easily.

    The easy answer to me, is: use the web 2.0 solutions that help you professionally even if that varies from what others use or don’t use. We all have different approaches to our professional lives so we can expect to be using different tools. For example, I think Twitter is particularly helpful for folks like myself who are independent and don’t work in office settings. It can bring a sense of community and dialogue to a day. Others in an office setting might not have such a pressing desire for more community at work.  I have been very impressed with how much Twitter has helped me professionally and how much I have learned from the great SAP folks and analysts on Twitter, and Oliver’s list of those on Twitter is a great resource!
    (I’m @jonerp by the way on Twitter).

    However, I am developing my own Twitter strategy and don’t necessarily do the same things others do on there. We have to make these tools work for us! I’ve also used Twitter as a way for clients and business partners to know how to reach me quickly. This way I don’t have to be on email all the time, which I find to be exhausting personally. 🙂  That’s been a nice takeaway from Twitter so far. On the other hand, some folks swear by FriendFeed and that hasn’t really done much for me. I say if it doesn’t empower you to do your job better, then be skeptical, even if others really like it.

    Facebook has a nice interactive interface and I enjoy it but I don’t see it as a good business platform for myself. Too personal. Friends can write things on your wall that you can’t really control easily for example, or tag you in pictures that might be pretty informal, so you are always needing to manage that. Also, Facebook has an automatic instant message client that makes it very easy for anyone on your friends list to find you and chat in real time – not always perfect for business users in deadline mode. 🙂 I do know folks who use Facebook more for business but not many, and those that do are in entertainment fields, like stand up comedians for example.

    I see LinkedIn as a better for personal networking site for business, with an impressive collection of SAP folks and a more business type environment than Facebook. Not to mention that with SAP Ventures investing in LinkedIn, we can expect to see an SAP-friendly environment on LinkedIn as well as more collaborative features which LinkedIn is rolling out to make the site more dynamic than it has been.

    I’ve experimented with other sites but those are the main ones I have been happy with, as well as SCN of course. I would agree with you that maintaining a presence on multiple places can be exhausting, which is the second question – how do you manage all these commitments?

    I don’t have an easy answer to that except that I do think that once you experiment with those sites that work for you, it is good to pare them down to the ones that really fit into the flow of your day. I think it’s better to participate significantly in two/three social media sites than to be spread thin with occasional participation in many more.

    Well, you raised a great topic and I’m just one person making my way through this new world so I only have two cents to offer. 🙂

    – Jon Reed –

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  3. Gretchen Lindquist
    I read your post with a huge sigh of relief; I wondered if I was the only one left not Tweeting. I just don’t feel the compulsion to keep my contacts informed of my every thought and activity; periodic blogs is enough sharing for me. When I see some of my SCN colleagues only a few times a year, I enjoying catching up with what they have been doing the old fashioned way, over glasses of cold beverages. I don’t know how some of these people hold down full time jobs and stay so active on Twitter, LinkedIn, and various and sundry blogs and discussion forums. My strategy is based in part on the fact that my employer blocks some of those sites; since I can’t keep up while I am in the office, I limit where I participate, and I lurk, moving on quickly, where I don’t have anything more to say than “Me,too.”

    Gretchen

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  4. Natascha Thomson Post author
    Thanks for all the comments so far. This is obviously a controversial topic, with people who have embraced all the tools vs. those who are still trying to figure out how to make best use of them. Thanks also for all the tips and links, and I hope we get more folks to chime in.
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  5. Vijay Vijayasankar
    I joined linked-in first, followed by facebook and finally twitter. I only use the first one seriously. I have friends who follow the latter two sites religiously, and know what song their friends heard while planning thanks giving meals.
    To each, their own.

    Web 2.0 got a great deal of hype, that caused a lot of people to jump in without realizing what it is, or how to use them. I think eventually this will be the vehicle of choice for marketers.
    Like telemarketing,  direct mails etc – social media will become a mainstream media vehicle ( a day I dread – I already dread telemarketing). So my advice is to not join groups that you don’t necessarily have to – or else one day soon, they will pump you with sales pitches and drive you up a wall.

    That being said, I see other good business uses. Consider open source development projects, or for that matter any product development. Social media provides a great platform for the business to listen to the customers in real time, and usually for free. If it is a sensitive product, probably it won’t be open to the world like facebook, but with some credential checking etc.

    I would patiently wait on the sidelines, and keep watching the game 🙂

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  6. Sascha Wenninger
    Hi Natasha,

    seeing as you asked about success stories, I thought I’d share a recent one with you. Lately I spent half a day playing around with the NetWeaver Business Client (ex-Muse) and managed to connect it to an ERP 6.0 system. Being part of the stereotypical Gen-Y, Web2.0 buzzword-driven generation, I naturally posted something about this on Twitter 😉

    A few days ago, I was contacted by someone from the US (I live in Australia) with a question on NWBC – it turns out that person had somehow found my tweet and emailed me as a result.

    To me, this is definitely one of the success stories attributable to twitter and all of the other Web 2.0 technologies. However, the benefits (and even use cases) of many of these tools won’t be immediately obvious and sometime require a paradigm shift which changes the way we do things.

    I often liken the change from phone/SMS/email-based communication to twitter/plurk/facebook to the evolutionary shift from point-to-point interfaces to a publish/subscribe model in the EAI domain. Rather than knowing who my audience is at the time of initiating some communication (e.g. email, phone call), I simply broadcast interesting tidbits in 140 character chunks on twitter. People can then chose to subscribe (i.e. follow) me on twitter or use Google to find tweets which are of interest to them.

    This kind of disintermediation is the biggest shift here and with most other Web 2.0 technologies, but as with most other new inventions it will probably take some time before someone finds a ‘killer application’ in this new domain…

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  7. Richard Hirsch
    I think each Web 2.0 user has his/own collaboration style. For some, twitter is on all the time and every time a message comes, they stop what they are doing and take a look at what someone has tweeted.  For me, this would very distracting and always forced me to stop whatever work I was doing to look at what my social network was saying. I’ve turned off all my Web 2.0 notifications, so that I can decide when to collaborate. This “philosophy” isn’t just restricted to Web 2.0 technologies -I’ve done the same with my email.

    I really get a lot of the social networking and the resulting exchange of ideas that such tools allow but I like having the control to jump in when I decide rather than the tool.

    D.

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