Archive for September, 2011
You know that there’s been a seismic shift in the US Government’s communications strategy when guidelines are published by the government for agencies about how they can adopt social networks to deliver a better customer experience.
We can all applaud the good – when the magnitude 5.8 earthquake shook the East Coast in August, the Department of Homeland security was quick to tweet advice on getting in touch with loved ones via social networks, eschewing phone lines which were getting clogged.
But before we get carried away, we need to put this success in perspective.
Just last week, news was released that Air Force One’s flight plans were inadvertently leaked when a Japanese air traffic controller decided to post them on his blog to show off to his friends.
Who needs Wikileaks when you have to contend with the foibles of your own staff?
The threat of malware infection continues to loom large, as our own Jae found out to his chagrin.
There is no time to be complacent. This is why we’ve knuckled down and begun the process of testing our platform for federal government usage. We’ve kicked of with subjecting Vantage and Unified Security Gateway (USG) to the rigorous tests conducted by Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC) Labs.
It is with a mixture of post-exam relief, pleasure and pride that we can reveal that (drumroll please…) we have met the initial requirements for Common Criteria IA SL2 and The Federal Information Processing Standard (FIPS) 140-2.
The process is by no means over, but we’re certainly well on the way, but it’s another confirmation that Federal Agencies can rest assured that our solutions are robust, enterprise-ready and will do what they say on the ‘can’.
Regardless of media – it could be Jabber, Microsoft Lync or Facebook – we can monitor, track and archive content to protect against unsanctioned disclosures and security threats.
What is YOUR federal agency doing with regard to new communications modalities?
Wow, for you naysayers out there that think the government is slow, archaic, and behind-the-times, you may have to reconsider your position. The House of Representatives has OK’d the use of Skype and ooVoo within its hallowed halls. Up to now, security concerns had impeded adoption of these popular Internet phone and video conferencing tools, respectively, but now that those concerns have been addressed, the House is ready to move forward on its plan to improve communications and transparency with its constituents.
In these tough economic times where government budgets are strapped, leveraging technology solutions that tout cost efficiencies are gaining traction. Moreover, technological enhancements and plentiful bandwidth are driving the government to look at other real-time alternatives. Applications like Skype and ooVoo allow for virtual town hall meetings, facilitate responding to constituent inquiries, and obviate the need for travel in many instances. The net effect is a fluid, cost-effective communications channel between representatives and their constituents.
Now, the House had every right to take its time in blessing the use of Skype and ooVoo. Security concerns are justified, given the abundance of horror stories involving security breaches in government and other industries as well. The problem with social media and other Web 2.0 applications is that their ubiquity opens whole new vectors for malware and other types of evil to infiltrate the corporate or government network. The proliferation of content on these types of sites is mind-boggling – photos, videos, wikis, blogs, tweets, and the list goes on and on. But, each one of these types of content can be a springboard for malware.
Given the viral nature of social media and the breadth of the social graph, it doesn’t take much for a virus to spread. A simple, innocent click on a link to your friend’s supposed Morocco vacation pictures may not yield camel pictures, but rather, expletives flowing out of your mouth when you see the Blue Screen of Death.
That’s why you see so many security software and hardware vendors in the marketplace. They’re there for a reason. Not the sexiest technology, but definitely critical to your sanity and to the long-run viability of your company, or in the case of this blog entry, the House of Representatives. Having security systems and policies in place to control the glut of Web 2.0-type applications out there (Skype and ooVoo are just two of the thousands) is downright essential.
Without granular controls of social media, instant messaging, video conferencing, and the like, safely managing that fluid communications channel between government and the constituents becomes that much more difficult. Throw into the mix potential national security implications and one can see why security breaches aren’t taken lightly in government circles.
So, bravo to the House for giving the green light to Skype and ooVoo. Now, I can Skype my congresswoman to fix that pothole in front of my driveway.
I was lucky enough to be invited to speak on a panel hosted by @JulianaKenny of @tmcnet at the ITEXPO West conference and exhibition being hosted in Austin this week. Actually, the exhibition is just kicking off now. Juliana hosted a great panel, and I was seated alongside @gunnr (Greg Gunn), VP of Business Development for Hootsuite and @ronankeane, Ronan Keane of XO Communications.
Our Topic? Securing Social Media for Compliance Collaboration. The mission? Talk to the specific security and compliance requirements of social media that organizations must consider.
Well, we certainly wandered all over the education, regulation, legislation, education, personal vs.professional, education, ethics, controls, education – wait, you see where I’m going with this? I have to say thank you to the audience, who pretty much led us all the way on this one – with insightful comments, killer questions, and input (ah, it certainly makes it easier when that happens). There’ll be more on this later, but where you wonder, does the blog title come from?
Well, the title speaks to a retort that I made to fellow panelist Greg Gunn of Hootsuite – when we were discussing the tribal nature of social networks and a user’s natural instinct to trust the content that a user that he or she connected with (and therefore trusts) sends them. Greg will no doubt correct me if I have this slightly wrong, but I recall a comment along the lines of “trusting users to use social appropriately and comment in the same fashion.” It was in good humor that I offered him a cloth to wipe his rose-tinted glasses, and it was in good humor that he took it.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m a social networking user. I trust me, but I’m fallible. I’m also sarcastic, which is what kicked off my comment and this blog title… and I’m naturally untrusting (it comes from a background in the UK IT security industry). Back to my fallibility. It’s the fact that I’m human that makes me fallible.
We trust every other part of our electronic life to technology. There’s rarely spam on email, rarely viruses, since the “Melissa” and “I love you” viruses we’ve been protected against. We’re protected from websites that we visit by our Web filtering technology.
So why is social any different?
Not long ago we blogged about the proliferation of mobile devices being used by the next generation of consumers to access the new Internet and its impact on financial services. This was the topic of a recent webinar and accompanying white paper from Forrester Research, and it’s a growing concern for all businesses – how to create safe, effective marketing programs using the latest social media platforms that drive business in a measureable way.
I recently chatted with Erin Traudt, Research Director at IDC and their resident guru on all things social (Michael Fauscette , you’ll have to forgive me, I’m not lessening your guruness with that comment ) , about the marketing capabilities we recently introduced in Socialite Engage. Erin pointed us to two public Insight reports on the IDC web site that define a new kind of Social Business Framework:
“The democratization and socialization of media through the social web has turned anyone into a publisher, reporter and/or critic – subsequently redefining influence. The social customer, employee, supplier and partner each have a voice and the means to use that voice at scale. And people are listening.”
IDC’s definition of social business is companies using emerging technologies (like Web 2.0 and social media) to make cultural and organizational changes to drive business. According to the IDC report, “Social Business Framework: Using People as a Platform to Enable Transformation,” there are four steps to implementing a social business:
- Identify the market factors driving the need for change to social business. Market factors can include such things as competition, brand awareness, customer behavior, and the economy,
- Recognize social objectives you want to accomplish and why they matter. Social objectives are linked to business goals and include such elements as customer engagement, employee empowerment, partner enablement, and supplier engagement.
- Establish social outputs to support those social objectives. These are the mechanisms you use to share, such as tweets and Facebook posts. Content creation democratizes the process so customers and partners can join the conversation, and you have to consider your community as part of social output, i.e. those individuals who are connected in some way, ideally around your brand.
- Determine the platforms and applications you need to achieve your desired social outputs. These are the software tools that you need to build, deploy, and manage social applications, such as Jive, Lotus Connections, and Facebook, and, of course, tools like Socialite Engage.
As part of your social business strategy, you need to adopt business tools that measure the impact of social output and social media platforms. According to the IDC Insight report Determining the Value of Social Business ROI: Myths Facts and Potentially High Returns, most organizations don’t even know how to calculate ROI for traditional projects, let alone for social business. Identifying metrics to monitor social media engagement allows companies to optimize customer acquisition, decrease customer churn, and create upsell and cross sell opportunities. But to do that, you need to be able to gain control of your social media program and measure the effectiveness and ROI of social media programs.
According to the latest Social Business Survey from IDC, there are five primary reasons that end users use social media as part of social business:
- Acquire knowledge and ask questions;
- Share knowledge and contribute ideas;
- Communicate with customers;
- Create awareness about company product or service; and
- Communicate with internal colleagues.
As part of your social business strategy, you need to think of the impact your social business program has on your social media audience in terms of:
- Reach: How extensive is your online footprint and are you being effective at building an online following?
- Impact: What part of your online community is active, pay attention to your products and messages, and influencing others?
- Yield: How much revenue or new business can you link to active members of your social media community?
These are all factors we took into consideration in when we designed Socialite Engage. We understand that for certain industries it’s essential to not only promote conversation with preapproved content, but to understand how that content performs in achieving social business goals, and which channels are yielding the desired results.
As a firm, as a business, to gauge the effectiveness of a social business initiative, you have to be able to track aggregated engagement across different social media platforms, determine who your key influencers are, and how those influencers are affecting your bottom line. And that’s what we’ve done with Socialite Engage. We’ve designed the means to identify and track key connections into Socialite Engage, and ways to track their influence. We’ve also built in analytics to determine how those connections are affecting business, which channels and messages are having the greatest impact on sales, lead generation, or whatever initiative you have determined will drive your social business.
Embracing social business isn’t just about improving customer relations and increasing sales, it’s about changing the very DNA of your people and the organization. Developing a social business strategy means empowering your people, your customers, your partners, and your suppliers with new tools that can impact your brand and reputation, as well as your bottom line. As a result, you need new tools to monitor the conversations and measure their impact. That’s what our next generation of social business engagement tools is all about.
Follow my experiences in beta testing Socialite Engage – as I endeavor to change the social behavior and the results of social collaboration of Actiance team members, partners and customers. You can watch it all here – at blog.actiance.com (or follow us on Twitter @SarahActiance and @Actiance)
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