Creativity and Collaboration

Creative Commons Attribution by flickr user

There is an unseemly hubris in content and collaboration software.

It is the assumption that knowledge and innovation can come out of them.  As if our companies were some sort of orange to be squeezed into a pitcher and served up as a healthy and tasty accompaniment to breakfast.  The trend has a long history that is still being played out today though we see some hints of change.  ERP, MRP & Supply Chain systems took the principles of the assembly line and applied them to business processes – from how things are made to how they’re transported from here to there.  These gave rise to HCM systems which took the same fundamental approach and applied it to how people – human beings – are managed and placed and categorized and “quality assured” in an organization (that last part being your annual review).

The fundamental assumption and fatal flaw in all of these software “systems” is that process – those recipes of business – are actually what make the product, bring in the revenue, and service the customer.  They rely on a terribly thin lie; that the process is understood, the recipe is known and all that is left to do is find more efficient ways of executing it.  It is shake and bake business.  If we just automate our phone help desk with push-button easiness and route exception calls overseas we’ll increase success in business.

In many ways we’re the victims of our own technological success.   We’ve succumbed to “Small Earth Syndrome”.  The industrial and information revolutions are said to have shrunk the planet.  That’s a lie.  They extended our reach but they did not shrink and they did not simplify.

Complexity has increased magnificently and terribly in order to access our large planet.  Sophistication of our systems increased to handle the complexity.  Each new permutation of observer-induced cybernetic feedback was identified as the last bug to fix, rolled into our software systems and re-re-re-released with great fanfare.  And all the while the information was coming in – a tsunami made of 8 billion individual spigots left running and our collective sinks overflowing.  We see huge potential in this ocean of information.  Our flaw is in thinking that our old assembly-line thinking and linear systems can classify, index and handle it if only it gets just a bit more efficient.

This is not what brought us the revolutions in industry and information.  Intentional collaboration – directed, focused and goal oriented – gave us superior suspension in horse buggies, line-cook short-order restaurants and enterprise content management software systems. Accidental collaboration – interaction with information and insight regardless of original intent – gave us the GPS system from people listening to Sputnik and doodling calculations that determined its location in the sky, then reversing those to calculate positions on earth.  Accidental collaboration gave us Big Data, Big Insight and will drive the next phase of innovation.

This article originally appeared on on July 11

10 Steps for Social Competitive Intelligence

10StepsToSocialCompetitiveIntelligenceHere is a quick, real life example for how to estimate your competitor’s event marketing budget and get a hint as to when they’re going to launch a new product or service in 10 steps:

1)      List your key competitors. You know your market and the main players in your space so make a list.

2)      List key industry events.  You also know your industry has several “main events” each year.  These might be conferences, meet-ups, or trade shows. List those events.

3)      Most big events from the past several years have their own Twitter hashtag, Facebook page, Pinterest Page and even conversation threads in relevant LinkedIn Groups.  Make a note of those.

4)      Search, Scribd and other presentation / document sharing sites for presentations from your competitors at those events.  See our list of “sources and signals” for a great starter of places to visit for social competitive intelligence research.

5)      Make a note of how many presentations your competitors had at each event and the number of different presenters they had delivering those keynote and breakout sessions.

6)      Make a note of whether or not there is a “visit booth #12345” in the presentations.

7)      Now you’ve got your data, start the synthesis.

  • Estimate a cost of $500 – $1000 per presenter per conference.
  • Estimate a cost of $10,000 per small booth at a trade show and up to $100,000 for large conference sponsorship.
  • Remember that you’re not trying to re-create your competitor’s budget, rather you’re trying to determine if they’re ramping up to a big announcement or simply staying in maintenance mode or struggling to stay above water.
  • Did they have more presentations, more staff, bigger booth, new sponsorships this year than they have in years past?
  • Who is tweeting with the event hashtag from your competitor?  Who is re-tweeting them?  Who are they re-tweeting?  What are they saying on their Facebook Page?  What are they saying on the event’s Facebook page?

8)      Combine the data you’ve overlaid to produce the intelligence.  Is your competitor ramping up their spending?  Is the increased spending significant for them?  If they’re a small or medium sized company or a large company that has been struggling recently, a big marketing spend is a significant flag for upcoming activity.  Remember that employees will tweet, post and blog about items they know and that they think will help the company.  So a competitor’s retweet of a keynote speaker’s point may hold much more competitive significance than mere interest.

9)      What should you do about it?  Is there a way you can pre-empt your competitor’s announcements?  Is there a bandwagon that you should be on as well?  Do you need to take a legal action?  Speed up your own R&D? Or maybe just continue to pay attention?

10)   Compile the key points, synthesis and recommendations into an easy to digest report, dashboard or brief.  Make sure that every point you make is backed up by hard data that you found.  If you say your competitor is ramping up for a big product launch because of increased budget spends on conferences and increased chatter then make sure you can show that there was actually an increase over previous years. Strive for Actionable Intelligence and you will bring traditional CI into the new reality of social business.

Social Competitive Intelligence

BloomThink does Social Competitive Intelligence
Creative Commons Attribution by Flickr user kortunov

Traditional Competitive Intelligence is in a rut.  Books, websites, whitepapers and presentations all echo the same techniques and priorities that defined the practice 10 years ago.  Research public filings, read credentialed analyst reports, talk to employees and former employees if you can, be careful of blogs they might not be trustworthy.  Social media?  Be extra careful of that too.

Traditional CI process and practice has largely missed out on more than a decade of change in the way businesses and employees communicate. The reality is that we are producing more information more quickly than at any other time in history.  According to Google we produce as much information every two days as we did in all of history up to 2003!  Some of this information is machine data and metadata.  Much of it is user generated content.  These are things like Tweets, Instagram photo uploads, Facebook or LinkedIn status updates as well as blogs, web pages and shared presentations.

The problem is not that the traditional CI focus on interviewing employees and reading web pages was wrong.  Rather, the venue has changed.  Instead of needing to track down employees to get juicy details, the CI professional simply needs to listen to the public conversations that are already going on through social media channels like LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Glassdoor and numerous other socially enabled sites.  This is called Social Competitive Intelligence.

Of course there is an art to the practice as well.  Where in years past the traditional CI pro needed skills in finding and persuading employees to talk, the new Social CI pro requires superpowers to filter and categorize the flood of information we’re all producing.  The new CI pro requires less sleuthing ability and more synthesis power; the ability to bring different facts together to form a complete picture.

Part of this synthesis means combining social competitive intelligence with traditional CI as well as traditional business intelligence.  Both traditional CI and traditional BI do an amazing job of helping organizations understand what is happening. But it is Social Competitive Intelligence that provides the market, competitive and social media context in which business operates. When you correlate BI, traditional CI and Social CI insights, you understand the “why” of performance along with the “what” of your BI analytics.

Understanding the “why” is vital if you’re going to ever achieve the end of any CI or BI practice: figuring out what to do next.  Data is not insight.   Getting more data has never been the goal.  Deriving insight from data is what makes intelligence actionable.  The goal of any all CI practice is Actionable Intelligence.

Actionable Intelligence spots trends before they take you by surprise. Actionable Intelligence spots gaps in the market that mean opportunity for new products and offerings.  Actionable Intelligence gets you out front of competition and moves your business from a reactionary to a proactive starting point.

Thinking of Going Independent? Here is How To Put a Value on You

BloomThink Tells You How to value yourself when going independent
Creative Commons Attribution by Flickr user Evil Erin

Work is increasingly something we DO and less someplace we GO.  Combine employment trends with the ability to deliver expertise from anywhere with a phone and internet connection and we have a trend in independent contracting.  Organizations like FIELD NATION are leading the way when it comes to combining a jobs marketplace with a business management platform.  I suspect strongly that we’ll continue to see growth in this area.  So you’ve got expertise and experience and are thinking about going independent.  Congratulations!  It is rewarding and challenging all at the same time.  One of the biggest struggles is figuring out how much you’re worth. This post will give you a starting point for your efforts.  It is drawn from personal experience and the experiences of others with whom I’m close.  As with everything, your mileage may vary so do your own research for your industry.

Here we go!

When you’re an independent consultant or contractor it is often difficult to place a dollar value on your service and expertise. Prospective clients want the best deal they can get and will often change the scope of a project or lowball an initial offer to try and get that deal.  It can all be confusing and a little bit daunting if you’re just starting out, even if you’re already an expert in your field.

First, realize that there is almost always some guidance on rates and fees and expectations from your chosen industry.  This guidance might not be explicit, as in published rate cards or standard union fees.  But peers in your industry are often willing to give you a ball park of what they do and what they charge.  Still, at best you’re left with a range that is often too wide to really help you nail down *your* value.  After all, you’re special and your unique combination of experience and approach is why you decided to go independent in the first place.

Step one is brutal honesty and self-reflection. Nail down what are you actually doing.  Are you creating strategy or executing someone else’s strategy?  Are you creating custom solutions that deal with the non-standard environments of your customers where innovation and agility are required? Or are you implementing cookie-cutter solutions where efficiency and quantity are critical? When you leave the client, what do you leave behind?  What is that actual deliverable?  Identify it.  Quantify it.

Step two is to figure out an estimated cost of the client’s self-service. If the clients were to do what you do by themselves, what would it take?  Tally the cost of materials, hardware, software, tools, prerequisites (e.g. security clearance), training and certification (if required). Don’t forget to add in the personnel time the client would have spent.  Figure out what the cost of their time would be.  To do that, get an idea of their hourly wage and multiply it by the number of hours it would take them to do what you do.  Realize that those numbers are likely larger than the amount of time it takes you since you have more expertise and skill in your specific area.  If your clients are salary employees, get that salary (if you cannot get it directly, get a general idea from a site like,,’s salary search or any number of other sites that publish salary info). Take that salary and add 20% (average cost of benefits), divide by 52 weeks in a year and then divide that number by 40 hours in a week to get a rough hourly wage.

The formula looks a bit like this:

(Salary + (Salary*20%))/52/40

So a person making $60,000 a year costs the organization approximately $34.62 per hour while a person making $100,000 a year cost the organization approximately $57.69 per hour.

Now you have a baseline understanding of the cost per hour for the client to take care of the problem themselves.  Now multiply the client’s estimated per hour cost by the number of hours it would take them to become skilled enough to do the job you want to do and then to actually do it.  Add in any capital expenses they would have to incur by *not* hiring you – this means purchase of tools or software that you bring to the table that they don’t have available.

Step three is to demonstrate the difference in value by bringing you on to help with or do the job.  This is where you can demonstrate ROI or convenience or efficiency.  This is where you demonstrate your value.  Now you have an idea of what their cost would be.  How are you going to deliver value to them?  Is it by speeding up the timeline thereby saving them cost in doing the job themselves?  Is it by providing a higher quality result that will break less and require less attention thereby saving them administrative costs?  Is it by providing a unique and one-of-a-kind capability that they cannot get anywhere else?  Is it by simply making their lives easier thereby removing worry and distraction from this area and allowing them to focus on their core passions?

The answers to each of these questions are all important because they all contain the core of why someone should want to pay for your time and expertise rather than someone else’s time and expertise.  That is value.  That carries a dollar amount.  Too high, and your value is not “worth” it.  Too low and you’re leaving money on the table and prospects will question if your claimed value is really true.  After all, if you don’t know the value that the market places on your skills and expertise, why should the client believe you’re really capable in the areas you claim?

So now match up your value with what you want.  This is the fun part.  Figure out the hourly rate you *want* and then project how many hours a month you think you’ll actually deliver.  For example, if you want to make $50,000 a year and have a 2 week vacation, you will have 50 weeks in which to bill.  Assume each week has 4 working days and 1 administration day where you pay bills, do invoicing and sell your services to land your next project.  That means you’ll need to charge at least $37.50 per hour to reach your goal (this accounts for 20% additional cost to pay for your own benefits).  Want to bring in $100,000 a year and pay for your benefits?  You’ll need to charge $75.00 per hour.  Now that number might be high for your industry or incredibly low.  The key is to find your baseline.  Remember also that independent work is often feast or famine.  The numbers above assume you’re actually billing 32 hours a week (or about 128 hours a month) for 50 weeks a year.  If you hit a famine, you’ll need to up your rates to hit your target.  They’re not making more hours in the day.

Let’s look at an example, if you are monitoring a social media account for a business you might have a calculation like this:

30 minutes a day x 7 days a week = 3.5 hours a week = 14 hours a month per client

You would need 9-10 clients to hit your mark.

Now figure out your industry average hourly consulting cost.  This will vary industry to industry and may be a wide range.  Realize that this is your hourly rate and does not include items like software, subscriptions, tools or materials you may use for the client.  Those need to be added separately or rolled into a single flat hourly price.

Many clients like to pay a single fee or “flat rate”.  This is convenient for them as it lumps in all costs into one bill.  It’s easier for them to budget for that.  They key is to break that flat fee down into an hourly cost so you have an apples-to-apples comparison.  If you were going to charge $500.00 a month, realize that, working 30 minutes a day (as in our example above) that comes out to about $35 an hour.

Now we’re ready for Step Four.  Once you have figured out your value and situated yourself within industry guidelines and figured out how many clients, jobs or contracts per month you’ll need to hit your revenue targets, it is time to do some subtraction.

Hopefully, the client’s do-it-themselves cost is higher than the cost to hire you.  If so, subtract your number from theirs.  This is the money you are saving your client simply by them contracting with you.  If that number is low, multiply it out for a year and see what the annualized savings would be. For example, if you’re saving your client only $3.12 a week from their actual internal cost, realize that this translates to about $100 a week and about $5200 a year.  That is a number worth considering.

If your cost is higher than the client’s do-it-themselves cost don’t fret.  Before you go lowering your rates, make sure you have properly accounted for what they would have to do themselves but for your being there. Most often we, as experts, overlook items that have become second nature to us that are more difficult for others.  Are you authoring content for them (e.g. blog posts, press releases etc?) did you account for that on their side?  Did you know that ghost writers for websites can make anywhere from $25 – $80 a page, and that technical writers make more?  Are you taking photos to document your work that could be used as training materials or marketing collateral?  Did you know that professional photographers are expensive?  Did you account for the time that it would take someone else to photo that same work product (even with their cell phone), transfer it to their computer, tag it, lightly edit it and upload it into a DAM (digital asset management) system? The point is that even “easy” tasks take time to do well.  Make sure that everything you do is accounted for in the calculation of their do-it-themselves cost.

Remember, the client has already decided that the problem needs to be solved so you’re painting a picture of the future with you vs the future without you.  Many prospective clients will erroneously paint a picture of the present without you vs the future with you.  In that case, you’ll always be more expensive and they’ll be left scratching their heads as to why fixing the problem without you took so long and cost so much.  Don’t let them get down that path and think, regretfully, “we should have hired that independent contractor!”  You’ll be vindicated but still poor.

Step five is to help the client see you not just as a warm body able to fill a seat.  Help the client see that you’re worth your fee since you’re doing daily engagement, content creation, listening and collection.  You’re akin to a museum curator building the brand and awareness of the client through your skills as a communicator, marketer and your availability.  Don’t be afraid to put some metrics around your performance like increased engagement, satisfaction, speed and awareness.  This is not the job of an intern, you’re a strategist.

Realize that business has its currents. Seek to sign a 6 month contract initially rather than month to month. It is easier to prove velocity and impact over the longer term as it normalizes the ebbs and flows of events and seasons.

Have fun and keep your passion.  Remember you’re an independent contractor because you love doing what you do and you’re good at it.  Others are interested in you because you’re good at it.  Go ahead and value yourself for what you’re worth.

And take this for what it’s worth.

14 Social Recommendations for Travel Destinations

BloomThink Can Help travel destinations must do better with social media
Creative Commons: Attribution by Flickr user apparena

Travel website Tnooz and the European Travel Commission recently ran an article with a laundry list of social media recommendations for travel destinations.  They scored the top travel locations and found that, in aggregate, they stink at social media.  This is surprising since most people love to holiday in exotic and exciting locations, have a good time when they’re there, and like to tell others how great their vacation was.  The list is a good start, but provides nothing in the way of how to do it.  So BloomThink has picked up the ball and has the recommendations AND some ideas of how travel destinations, boards of tourism, chambers of commerce and attractions can get started today.

There are some examples of companies doing it right.  Carnival Cruises is one example.  They are very engaged with their customers (and wanna-be-customers).  BloomThink has outlined what they have done right in our report “Wish You Were Here: Social Consumer Engagement in the Cruise Industry” (Free PDF Download)


1) Concentrate on the inspire-before-during-after phases of travel for consumers

People love to share their positive experiences.  We love to share photos of ourselves in amazing locations.  These inspire and recommend locations to others in our social networks.  So if all that content is out there and already being created, tap into it!  If travelers are already posting photos at your locations, help them connect that content to your social presence while they’re there!  We are people who are willing to take an action if it is immediate and convenient.  So  Invite them to upload their photos on your Pinterest board while they’re at the beach.   Tell them the Twitter hash tag to use and invite them to post or tag you on Facebook while at your hotel or restaurant or city!  This focus on the easy transaction during travel builds up content that will inspire others before they travel.  Additional capabilities like searching for and repinning/reposting/retweeting photos and videos of others at your location help to amplify the experiences of your customers.  For some additional investment, create time bound microsites where visitors (especially leisure travelers) can view professional photos your staff takes of them.  This brings them back to your social “properties” and adds another opportunity for engagement and maybe purchase.

2) Create more interactivity

Interactivity is vital.  Each opportunity to interact is also an opportunity to transact.  Invite people at your location to comment, rate, upload funny photos of themselves, vote on the photos of others.  Gamify experiences at locations by providing items like badges or coupons or collectibles at each room or area on a property.  Don’t tie everything to a purchase.  Deliver some value and fun just for being there.

3) Include trip planners and itineraries and make them more visible for users

If you want people to explore everything your destination has to offer, create a trip planner for your travelers.  You know your location the best so you know what kinds of food, drinks, entertainment and conveniences go together.  Invite people to explore and participate by creating lists of items that go together.  These can be as simple as downloadable PDFs or as sophisticated as apps.  But definitely keep it mobile.  People will keep their phones and tablets with them, not their laptops. Plus it creates more opportunity for interactivity and that all-important engagement during their stay with you.

4) Support SMEs and “manage by jealousy” by encouraging the best to do better.

Do you have “regulars”?  Promote them.  Ask them to create some of those trip planner lists.  Get their testimonials and views.  If they’re regular, they like your location, brand and experience.  Help them spread their own word.  New customers and travelers are more likely to believe and trust them than you.

5) Create clusters of innovative users and support them

Similar to number 4 above, tap into groups of super users for insight and advocacy.  Host a “regulars only” event.  Give them specials and thank-yous over and above loyalty points or a free drink.  Make their experience remarkable and they will remark about it.  But don’t pander.  If users feel you are pandering to them their good will can quickly change into displeasure in a group setting.  People don’t like being manipulated.  They like feeling important and having their needs and desires met.  So do it.  Create a custom Twitter hashtag for groups at your location.  Encourage them to tweet about it with their own hash tag.  Then aggregate the tweets for them on a custom micro-site.  You deliver a special value to them for almost no cost.  They get a memorable experience that is tied to you.  Does your destination have a special family section or event?  Make sure families know about it and then ensure that their entire experience is tailored to that need.  Remember, businesses look at line items.  Groups look at the whole experience.  Adjust your perspective accordingly.

6) Produce themed microsites and use social media to address niche markets

We’ve already talked about social media.  Microsites are one page sites that are about one topic.  There are a ton of free micro site creation utilities available.  It’s also not difficult to create and host one yourself.  From and check this to tumblr to wordpress and blogger there are many ways to quickly and easily set up one-topic sites that are easy-up, easy-down.  Just like a restaurant has a “specials” menu to showcase seasonal, special occasion or promoted items, your destination’s social and web presence can do the same.

7) Implement news feed of social media channels

The importance of social “listening” is huge.  Social listening is the intentional paying attention to the constant stream of updates, status reports, images and feedback that is happening all around you.  Key listening techniques include looking for your brand name, hash tags (even the <your name>FAIL tag!) and location.  But it also means listening to items related to your destination.  Cruise companies need to be looking not just for their brand name but also for people talking about sailing, cruising or even vacation.  Got a club in downtown?  Look for people tweeting about going out tonight in your town area.  Tweet them back with an incentive to come to your club.   When people do talk about your location, make sure that you amplify their message.  If it is positive, include it in an automatic feed on your website, or on a big screen at your location.  If it’s negative, respond with a “we’re on it!” style message and then make sure you get on it!  There are a ton of free and pay tools that can help automate this process.  But remember that automation alone is not the answer.

8) Integrate strategic marketing/online marketing/social media/PR

Too many organizations think that social marketing and traditional marketing are separate entities.  Not only must social practice be coordinated with traditional MarCom but when done intentionally, they can mutually reinforce each other.  Nothing is worse than a social marketing group completely missing the boat when it comes to traditional marketing.  From disasters like the Quantas PR Twitter nightmare not too long ago to the tragic social media missteps during the Aurora shootings, your destination cannot afford to mess this up.

9) Utilize user generated content as a major strategy to inspire prospective travelers

We’ve already mentioned how to make it easier for current travelers to share their experiences of your destination via images, instagram, videos, ratings and reviews.  But the reason this is so important doesn’t stop at creating a memorable experience for your traveler.  Prospective travelers are researching your destination (and competitive ones like it).  Study after study shows that people trust the comments and ratings and images of other customers much more than they trust the word of your brand.  They even trust the word of a stranger over your word.  This is because of the perception that, no matter what, you’re going to spin and airbrush everything to your favor.  Other consumers, they reason, would be a bit more honest if something isn’t quite up to par.  So when you enable and empower current users to tweet, like, check in, explore, collect and share you are providing more and more credible evidence of your desirability.

10) Take advantage of geo-tagging and prepare for location based services

Honestly, it’s to late to “prepare for location based services.”  They’re here.  Nearly all cell phone cameras (and certainly all higher end digital cameras) embed geo tagging information into photos.  The ubiquity of cell phone navigation means that whether through GPS or tower triangulation, consumers can tell where they are and where they want to go and how to get there  at any given moment.  If your destination is not listed, then your customers are missing out on your location.  If there is one area for investment it is interpretation and understanding of location based content.  It can be as simple as “where is the nearest bathroom” in your giant arena or “how to get back to the exact place on the beach in Cancun where you first proposed”.  At least start by listing your destination  – at an appropriate level of detail – in popular services like Google, Foursquare and Yelp.

11) Develop video and multimedia content and drive websites with visually attractive multimedia

Multimedia is where the interaction is at.  Right now pictures are prime.  According to Factbrowser, “people are most likely to engage with branded content on social media that contains pictures (44%), status updates (40%) and videos (37%) source”  The hyper ubiquity of cell phone cameras means not only does everyone have a digital camera / video recorder, but also they probably have one with them right now.  The popularity of YouTube (nearly 20% of allhttp traffic) means that we simply love to look.  We love pictures and videos that show WINs as much as FAILs.  The extreme popularity of Pinterest demonstrates the power of the picture.  So spend some of that marketing budget on some professionally produced but whimsical photo and video collateral.  Many good pros charge about $1000 per finished minute of video.  Think of that as 2 high quality video spots.  Then amplify this rich content through social and traditional channels.  Listen to the social feedback.  Ask people what they think.  Track their feelings then use that as input for your next rich media spend.

12) Integrate virtual reality applications, 360-degree tours or webcams to increase transparency of tourism product

This is a corollary of number 11 above.  While VR applications are in their infancy, you can go a long way to answer the “What Would It Be Like If I Was There” question with applications like these.  360 degree tours are important because they are more honest than a one shot picture.  They show all the corners rather than only the best angle.  Augment traditional marketing collateral with QR codes.  These codes are scanned by mobile devices and augment the current experience.  They show the beach at sunset, or during a party.  They bring up a picture of the item on the menu with wine pairing ideas as well.  In all, these kinds of applications will take a little more time and money to develop but not much.  But they will deliver a much deeper and richer experience for your current and prospective customers.

13) Improve current technologies and applications constantly to maintain standard

Technology is always changing and developing.  It is true that in order to achieve an ROI on one technology investment, you must stick with that platform for  a little while.  But also realize that the market and the consumer doesn’t care about your ROI.  They don’t care at all. So if you have 1 year left on your Garmin platform before it pays for itself, but you’re losing audience and market share because they’ve all moved to iPhones and Android phones with their free mapping.  It simply doesn’t matter.  You must be where your audience is.  Don’t let IT forget that all important point.  Make the best out of what you have but do not try and force your audience into an old or clunky interaction simply because you’re too tight.  It will be much harder to rebuild your audience after they’ve left you than it is to maintain and grow your audience because you’re meeting their expectations.

14) Develop consumers as advocates/ambassadors of a destination brand

Remember that customers and travelers are all interested in positive experiences.  When an experience is positive they like to share it.  But make it easy to share.  Sure, we’ll all share our experiences with our immediate family and maybe friends.  But if you want them to really get out there and share it, do some of the work for them!  Make it click button easy.  To this extent, a must have book is The Conversation Company by Steven Van Belleghem.  I’m still reviewing it but so far it is the best, most practical guide to building advocates and ambassadors of a brand that I have ever read.

So there you have it.  14 social recommendations with practical how-to steps to achieve them.  Engage BloomThink in the form here for help creating this strategy for YOUR business.

Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.

SWIFT Source and Signal Table – Updated

Competitive Intelligence and Business Intelligence Professionals Must Learn to Incorporate Deep web and Social media data into their evaluation and findings.  BloomThink’s SWIFT – social web intelligence framework and tactics – program helps companies do just that.

Take a look at our Source and Signal table below.  This is just a few of the sites and tools that can be used by the SWIFT practitioner or any savvy CI or BI professional to help bring meaning and context to the flood of data that is out there.  This is how you create actionable intelligence rather than simply another data report!

Source Signal
Feed Stitcher Site, blog and PR aggregation.
Yahoo Pipes Graphical tool for combining web sources.
SpyFu Competitor Keyword Analysis
Search Monitor monitor competitors, affiliates and trade markets
Google Trends Traffic and GEO trends
FeedCompare Compare numbers (strength) of your subscribers vs your competitors
GroupHigh Monitoring and tracking for your market. Turned around it can deliver keen insight on the competitive marketplace
MySiteGrader website grader Grade your website against your competitor’s sites for the keywords you select.
socialmention Social media, sentiment, top users, top keywords, top hashtags, top sources.
Addict-o-matic 25 sources for aggregation including RSS feeds, Bing, Google, Google Blog, Flickr, WordPress, YouTube, Technorati
NetVibes Fee based dashboard
Northern Light Search Research aggregator and dashboard
Wildfire Social Monitor Corporate & Market ComparisonsOverall sentiment analysis – trending market perspectives and background context on whether your market views you positively, negatively or ambivalently
LinkedIn Network & Relationships– degrees of separation, network reach, geography, work history, education, competitor connections in network

Competitor Projects – competitor staff areas of responsibility
Competitor Roadmap – job openings and hiring trends as leading indicatorsIP Tips, Drips & FUD – group participation, interaction, surveys & polls participation, publications & patents on profiles.

SlideShare IP Tips, Drips & FUD – marketing focus, roadmap, conference participation, travel & marketing budget (e.g. booth # listed in presentation –> 10K minimum spend), viewing / reach stats, best practices, trends
Facebook Profile Development – targeted likes, hobbies etc of specific person and/or his/her network.  Photos, places, apps, travel conferences etc.
Network & Relationships –
 Degrees of separation, network reach, connections

Competitor Strength  – Likes, Engagement Level, Sentiment, Content Strategy, Effective vs ineffective messaging

Twitter via tools like follwerwonk, NexaMe, Twiangulate, etc. Profile Development – targeted likes, hobbies etc of specific person and/or his/her network.  Photos, places, apps, travel conferences etc.
Geographic Trends Mapping – for overall market awareness in specific countries and cities (e.g. popular & breaking twitter trends in Shenzhen, Beijing or Nanjing)
Network & Relationships –
RT’s, favorites,travel, interests, influencers,
IP Tips, Drips & FUD – find followers of competitors and co-opt them for counter intelligence or feed FUD
Fierce Medical Devices News Feed – tagged with St. Jude Medical, tagged with Boston Scientific, tagged with Medtronic, tagged with X,
Google Alerts News Feed – tailored alerts for anything Google crawlers pick up.  Dial in sensitivity based on scope of query.
Klout, PeerIndex, EmpireAvenue Marketing & Product – reveal competitor buzz building efforts, enable rapid response.
Profile Development – identify Industry influencers and gravity wells
Google Keywords + Trends Marketing & Product – Trends & Buzz Building.  Keywords & related terms collected then entered into google trends Market Trends – Research library, primary research, consumer insights
Advanced Search Engine Work
Using Copernic Agent or similar
Profile Development –  [“full target name” +GeographicLocation:website ] narrows in on specific name at specific geography on specific website
IP Tips, Drips & FUD – filetype: search for PDFs and PPTs, allintitle:,allinurl:
Published Journal Search Marketing & product- current trends & focus areas tailored to industry audiences

Profile Development – track authorship and citation trail of published works by targets Market Trends – hiring as a leading indicator of focus and industry movement
Scribd IP Tips, Drips & FUD – published and available research, papers & presentations
Competition Blogs, Forums & Community Profile DevelopmentIP Tips, Drips & FUDMarketing & Product
Deep Email Miner IP Tips, Drips & FUD – internal email social network mapping to explore nascent social connections buried in an email corpus.
Deep Web Analysis using Maltego, Casefile, Social Network Visualizer, AutoMap,, brightplanet or similar Marketing & IT Ecosystem – discover associated IP addresses and TLDs (top level domains), discovery and association engine. WebClipping manual aggregation dashboard tool
OutWit Technologies – Web Scraper programmatic human triggered web scraper for larger data volume collection.  Can export collections to files or SQL Human Data Feed Aggregator – follow users who are in a network to see what they’re up to.
Pinterest Analysis Tools: PinAlerts Pinpuff Pinerly is good for tracking analytics data on Pinterest

Repinly helps you find influencers

Pinterest is powerful, lots of traffic. Average time on Pinterest approx: 10 minutes, far more than other social sites.These allow you to get a message when someone pins something from your website. You can set up for alerts on competitor sites, too. 
Rapportive search for information online
Disruption Analysis Sources: Crunchbase www.whogotfunded.comSeekingAlpha CORI Business & disruptor informationis a good tool to find information.SEC and other money-related findingsPublic Company Data

Contract Database Copyright and IP search product information on manufactured goods. Paid service.  Alerts based on domain registrations.  See competitor domains Hire/Fire/Openings  – overarching jobs trend analysis.  Find out who is staffing up –Find out who competes with whom Find out what people are talking about. Also searches LinkedIn groups.  –set up alerts when a competitor’s site changes

People as a Service

People are more than just service at Field Nation
Creative Commons Attribution by Flickr user Alex E. Proimos

These days everything, it seems, is something-as-a-service.  Software as a service has become familiar.  We use web mail like Gmail, online CRM like and tools like Quickbooks to mange accounting.  Platform as a Service with tools like Amazon AWS, Windows Azure and Rackspace have gained speed.

But what about people as a service?
People as a service actually has a long history.  Temp and staffing firms are the old legacy model of people-as-a-service.  They provided skilled labor on demand, usually for prolonged periods of time.  Often the goal of the temp was to get hired permanently. More recently, offshore, rapid prototyping and consulting shops provided people-as-a-service.  These engagements were governed by large SOWs (statements of work), multiple, waterfall-style project management and long development and production cycles.
But now the situation has changed.  People are more highly skilled with deeper expertise and narrower areas of focus.  Skilled contractors are not mere staff-augmentation where any warm-body will do.  They are entrepreneurs unto themselves.  On the flip side, businesses large and small are increasingly favoring focus over full value-chain control.  That means they’re shedding jobs, departments and products once a vital part of their business.  The advance of technology – from value chain management, to just-in-time inventory to the opportunities of remote workforce has changed the ecosystem of work.
The advance of technology, connectivity, expertise, telecommuting and big data all mean that people-as-a-service is a reality today.
Companies like Field Nation are making people-as-a-service personable.  They are doing a good job of humanizing human resources and ensuring that the social is kept as part of social business.   Field Nation encourages contractors and the businesses hiring those expert services to connect – even if remotely – and share experiences, recommendations and ideas for ways to make business better.
With so much focus on how businesses can leverage the cloud to save on operating costs, it is important that we never lose sight of the people that make people-as-a-service a cornerstone of our new cloud economy.