The Cluetrain to getting cosier with Your Clients

This is a column I wrote for the Institute of Directors’ Directorship magazine – Download the scanned article here: The Cluetrain to getting Cosy with your Clients. Here’s the full article.

Cluetrain ManifestoA powerful global conversation has begun. Through the Internet, people are discovering and inventing new ways to share relevant knowledge with blinding speed. As a direct result, markets are getting smarter—and getting smarter faster than most companies.” Cluetrain Manifesto

Ramon Thomas #1 online researcher in South AfricaThe term “Cluetrain” stems from a quote: “The clue train stopped there four times a day for ten years and they never took delivery” from a veteran of a firm now free-falling out of the Fortune 500. The clues are embedded in the conversations people are having in more prolific ways than ever before on the Web. And the question is – are you listening yet?

Today it is much easier to listen to your clients, and prospective clients than ever before. Thomas Friedman outlines three great eras of globalisation:

  • Globalisation 1.0: 1492-1800 a period where the world shrank from a size large to a size medium
  • Globalisation 2.0: 1800-2000 a time when multinationals were the dynamic force driving global integration
  • Globalisation 3.0: began 2000 and characterised as a time when individuals have new-found power to collaborate and compete globally.

Given this you can assume Globalisation 3.0 = Web 2.0 / Social Media. And using the tools like blogs and social networking website you can begin to monitor the online conversation that is taking place right under your nose. The real beauty is that the listening can be automated by using RSS technology to be notified whenever certain keywords of people, products, brands or company names are mentioned. You then have to respond or participate in those conversations.

You can also use services like Google Alerts to keep track of both news stories, online discussion groups and blogs. There is a growing list of companies who have shot themselves in the foot by ignoring the conversation like the Kryptonite lock fiasco from back in 2004. When online conversation are ignored you run the risk of heated debates between bloggers and readers spilling over into the mainstream media. And the authority of bloggers are growing every year vs mainstream media according the quarterly study, The State of the Live Web by Technorati, the leading blog monitoring service in the world.

In South Africa the most severe example how damaging online conversation can be is in the widely reported case of Independent Democrats’ Simon Grindrod being named on the “SA Male Prostitute” blog as an alleged client. Now if the ID party was listening to the conversation by just placing Google Alerts on all their most important people’s names, they would have found out about this – literally within minutes of the information being posted. And on the flip side you can also monitor your competition using these tools.
And so I propose a radical idea to corporate South Africa: Set-up your own blog and allow your clients to come to you and post their feedback on a platform that you control. When you do this, you start to move beyond CRM because you have entered the conversation and begun to listen. There is an old Indian proverb, “Listen or thy tongue will keep thee deaf”. The number of South African companies employing this technology for marketing and public relations purposes is growing, but the real value lies in the elusive obvious: customer relationships.

People complain about the service levels of the banks, the Post Office, Home Affairs or Telkom. And when dealing with the biggest organisations, consumers may indeed feel helpless. And yet a growing number of online vigilante’s are emerging. For example the Hellkom website, which has challenged the mighty Telkom, to the point where Telkom sued the owner. The publicity generated by this action has turned this website into a very popular advertising platform because of it’s new popularity. A better approach would have been to engage with this person in an online dialogue. Using your resources to counter all the objections or complaints raised. Bring customer testimonials and feedback to the front line to presents a positive image of Telkom. No, the mighty, needs to assert its power and show that it can stamp out a silly website. Think again.

As you gain access to the inner thoughts or true feelings of your clients you can begin to create products with their input. This is a revolutionary way of creating new products and services because you have in your clients, a testing team, unpaid, and eager to contribute to the creations, they want to own and posses in the future. Fiat, the Italian motor manufacturing giant has returned from the brink of bankruptcy by using social media to listen and take those suggestions and feedback to heart in the design of the new 5007 model.

So what do you do when you are not even sure of your boss will listen to you? Gather the research, study your competitors, and look outside your industry for ideas on how you can leapfrog your competition. It’s easier and easier to replicate and duplicate so you have to continue to differentiate yourself. It’s been said that attention has become the most valuable resources and not time for individuals. And certainly it is true for companies that clients, or prospective clients who are paying attention are the most valuable. And the easiest and simplest way is to allow them to participate in the creation of new products and services. The old top down approach is something of the past. You can die a slow death or you can begin to resurrect yourself, your company, your products and services. It all starts by being open and listening for the grasshopper at your feet.


Eben Pagan interviewed by Joe Polish about Hiring Tips

In this video series Eben Pagan is interviewed by Über-information marketer Joe Polish. I just signed up for his Genius Network Interviews and I’m blown away by the content of the interviews and the value for money.

Anyway Eben Pagan is the founder of the Altitude program and is extremely astute entrepreneur and trainer. In this interview he shares some radical ideas on hiring staff, how to ask good questions, managing teams

You can continue to watch the next 3 parts of these interviews from here: Part 2, Part 3 and Part 4.I’ve incorporated some of his advice in a 1 hour talk I do for employers and employees (job seekers) on using Social Networking for Recruitment, HR and Staffing. Here’s the presentation:


Calling for a Business Blogging Conference in South Africa

Early in September I was a speaker at the 2nd Digital Citizens Indaba. Last year this conference was immensily valuable to me because it presented an opportunity to meet many of my fellow bloggers from across the African content. This year for me I realised the greater need to teach people how to use blogging to generate income. In 2006 I spent many, many hours discussing this with Emeka Okafor, before he was selected by TED to host the first TEDAfrica conference, which may turn out to become an annual conference.

So this year I spoke with Mathew Buckland and Laurien Clemence on spoke on the Marketing & Moneytizing panel. The problem with DCI is that the bulk of discussion is about online activism and citizen jouranlism. This is not a conference about serious business blogging. So I’m making this public call for a conference that would focus on business blogging. This conference would propel blogging to a new stratosphere in South Africa and Africa as a whole. TEDGlobal’s Fellow’s who included many, many bloggers are a testament to the value we can add to business. Such a conference would appeal to large corporates to introduce them to social media, and web 2.0 business strategies, which will be an imperative by 2010.

My dream panel of speakers would include the following Technorati 100 heavy weights:

  1. Darren Rowse
  2. Steve Pavlina
  3. Guy Kawasaki
  4. Seth Godin
  5. Michael Arrington
  6. Robert Scoble
  7. Brian Clark
  8. Steve Rubel
  9. Jeniffer Jones
  10. Leonard Brody (I already know him personally)

I’m looking at doing this during September/October 2008. It would take 4/6 months to secure sponsorships for this event. And another 6 moths to do all the planning and organising with sufficient marketing and public relations building up to the event. These two activities can run in concurrently to some extent.

Who’s your international business blogger of choice for this conference? And how can you help me organise this conference? Post your feedback or contact me privately.


Self regulation by knowing who's editing Wikipedia

Virgil Griffits creator of Wiki ScannerLast Friday I was interviewed on the Midday Report with Chris Gibbons. This is a very fast paced show which addresses everything from business to politics and what lies in between. The topic was who’s editing Wikipedia which has been driving up a storm of online commentary. A Caltech graduate Virgin Griffith has developed an application Wikipedia scanner, which identifies the anonymous edits on Wikipedia pages.

Most of the articles on Wikipedia, which now has almost 2 million English language articles, are written by registered users. Yours truly included. It’s the old Pareto principle where 20% of the people produce 80% of the output. They way Wikipedia works is that even anonymous users can edit any page. That’s the classic definition of a Wiki. And so what Wikipedia does is record your IP address. There are databases on the Internet which record the distribution of IP address to large organisations, countries and ISPs. You can simply use the WHOIS function on such domain name lookup or IP address lookup databases.

As a standard practise Wikipedia records a history of edits. This becomes very useful when abuse takes place on a particular article and Wikipedia editors can roll back very within minutes of detecting the changes. Wikipedia also has a very detailed FAQ which explains it’s rules and regulations in detail. Now when you find that an article is biased in a particular direction this violates the Neutral Point of View clause.

So when you find large organisations like Diebold, Church of Scientology and the Catholic Church, removing negative comments on their entries it’s no surprise. The beauty of the Wikipedia scanner is that it reinforces the self-regulation that has made Wikipedia such a big hit. In the bigger context it’s a hark back to the Cluetrain Manifesto where conversations become smarter, the larger the network of participants.

I have for a long time been an advocate of more contribution to Wikipedia from African countries. This is one of the best ways to make our voices heard. So I encourage you to sign up as a registered user on Wikipedia and start editing and contributing more content in your language of choice.


Facebook drains attention and a mental bandwidth

Facebook social networkingThis Wednesday morning I will be interviewed on eTV Morning Edition at 6h30am likely just after the news bulletin about the impact of social networking website Facebook on business. The views I am going to express is something that needs to be taken very seriously by companies, especially small business. You see small businesses and entrepreneurs often do not have the tools like larger corporates to block access in the same way. In fact in many cases they may not even realise how much time is being wasted on Facebook or sending/forwarding and reading joke emails. This must be the curse of the knowledge worker i.e. that you can pretend to work whenever you are clicking around on your PC.

There has been several articles and comments in the South African blogosphere about the impact of Facebook. Vinny Lingham highlights how stupid outright blocking of Facebook is and Mike Stopforth gives 5 reasons why you should let your employees use it. Both refer to this News24 article about South African companies blocking Facebook.

As an Internet evangelist I will always support more Internet access. So I agree fundamentally with Vinny that companies should address it on a individual basis. So I would recommend companies write Facebook and social networking access into the Internet Usage policy. Once they have informed employees that their access is being monitored the next step should be compulsory online netiquette training to increase workplace productivity and reduce technology stress.

You see there is a problem with multitasking as reported by CNN back in 2001. And if your block the access outright people will find a way around it. Secondly you won’t be able to monitor or track their activities. Remember nobody is teaching employees basic online etiquette these days. Way back in the early days of the Web there were many people who supervised things on their own accord like your friendly neighbourhood online bodyguard. Today companies are making a lot of assumptions about people’s online behaviour, their levels of self-discipline and their ability to take the initiative in improving their productivity. So for a better understanding of the Attention Age go here.


Low-information diet and reducing workplace and technology stress

One the best resources I’ve encountered, thanks to the prolific Seth Godin, is, a website where experts publish short manifestos (ebooks) which are available at no cost to you. One of the recent ones really made an impact on how I’m using email.

The Low-Information Diet: How to Eliminate E-Mail Overload & Triple Productivity in 24 Hours by Timothy Ferriss. I want to emphasise that I am not recommending the Four-Hour Work Week book because I have read all the negative reviews on and agree with most of it. And what did it for me was how vociferously Donny Deutsch (appeared in The Apprentice) disagreed with him on a video interview posted on Four Hour Work Week blog.

What I am considering after reading this manifesto is developing a short presentation or seminar on how to reduce workplace stress and technology stress. If you have any stories or questions about this please take a moment to email me. I am excited about this because it really save companies a lot of money if they can improve workplace productivity and at the same time reduce stress. So I am looking forward to hearing your comments on technology and it’s role in workplace stress.


TEDGlobal 2007: Session 11: James Shikwati

James Shikwati economistThis is the 2nd talk on the second last session of TEDGlobal 2007. We need to commercialising enterprises or entrepreneurship in Africa. Chris Anderson, TED curator, described him as one-man think tank, a libertarian economist.

Address famine as a business opportunity. Lost $200 million due to famine in Kenya. Estimated cost 300 to 500 million people to malaria and cost billions to the GDP of Africa. Young people in a project he is running are cleaning huts and using it as a business to fight mosquitoes. Exploit urban set-up with endless opportunities and offer more variety.

What is missing in Africa is confidence – not money! Africans sometimes think it’s someone else’s problem to fix things in Africa. We need to start using passion of young people to start businesses. Create Olympic style business plan competition to get young people interested and excited about business.

Now back to the Jeffrey Sacks debate. We need to understand how the world works, how the world thinks. The Aid debate operates under the constrained position i.e. the African person is in a box, somebody else must free him. We need to focus on releasing the African mind. Everybody talks about corruption. When a foreigner meets an African the first thing they see is corruption.  One example he quotes, which I’ve heard before is that in Africa not even the most corrupt or the poorest people will deny you water. Yet million of dollars are being spent on buying water like the very popular bottled water products.

With aid it’s like foreign countries subsidising their own companies in Africa. So African companies can never compete, being paralysed and never develop to a point where they can be world class. Keep focussing on entrepreneurship with young people. They are the future and can stop Africa crying.

Chris did a short Q&A with James in which he confronted him on aid debate.

For more information on James Shikwati visit the Inter Region Economic Network.  And read this excellent interview with SPIEGEL, For God’s Sake Please STOP Aid!


TEDGlobal 2007: Session 1: Euvin Naidoo

Euvin NaidooTEDGlobal 2007: Africa the next chapter kicked off on Monday at 1h30pm in Arusha, Tanzania. The first session was called: The Africa You Don’t Know. And the first speaker was Euvin Naidoo, President of the South African chamber of Commerce, America. He started our talking about in Africa you have maybe 1000 languages and maybe as many as 2000 dialects. So you can say “invest” in over 1000 languages and it’ll be meaningless. He listed some examples of the private equity buyout of South African retail giant Edcon by Bain Capital. Nigeria exports more oil to American than Saudi Arabia. And if it’s current growth continues it’ll be one of the top 10 economies in the world by 2020. Egypt is setting up a new industrial zone. CNBC is launching in the first ever 24 hour business channel in Africa focussed on African business. Moody’s, one of the big rating agencies is setting up offices in Africa for the first time because they are expecting investment growth to continue

There is not many speakers from South Africa but it made me really proud that it opened with a South African. I really think Arthur Goldstuck should have been speaking here and maybe Herman Heunis, the founder of MXit and especially Mark Shuttleworth.


Day 1 – Futurex Conference 2007 – Jaco Viljoen on What makes Business Analysts tick?

Jaco Viljoen from Software Futures gave one of the most unusual presentations I’ve ever seen in the last 10 years. He spoke about what makes and business analyst tick? He proceeded to explore how our brain functions and also delve very deeply into personality and psychometrics.

When you try to understand what makes a car drive, you have to look underneath the bonnet of the a car – at the workhorse of a car – the engine. When trying to understand a human being and you look underneath the bonnet of an analyst you will find his brain. The key is actually to focus on one aspect, the temperament and forget about the personality. It’s the age old comparison of nature vs nurture to some extent.

With assistance from Professor Smith at University of Johannesburg Jaco has been using Smith’s Temperament Typology (STT): Temperament vs Personality, to analyse business analysts. What makes one better than the other. In terms of the whole brain person only 4% of the population has this level of balance.

Using this temperament typology other opportunities and application in recruitment, training and further development (mentoring) arise. Success as an Analyst implies more than good process and technology tools. STT is useful for understanding people, especially analysts.

Here’s my video podcast interview with Jaco Viljoen:

For more information on


Day 1 – Futurex Conference 2007 – Cavin Griffiths on Business Intelligence Analysis

Cavin Griffiths, Executive: Business Intelligence is a speaker from Telkom, one of the sponsors of the Futurex Conference. He spoke at a very high level about business intelligence the key to business success. When you realise how complex organisations have become and especially ones the size of Telkom, you understand there is no solution out of the box for business intelligence. And it is more about a culture and the people using it buying into the culture that makes it a success than anything else. Success in business intelligence depends on the right people with top management buy in. A CIO must understand he or she is running a business and is part of business team to generate sales and service customers – not to run an IT shop.

How is it done in Telkom? You can view the presentation below for more details. And you have to ask yourself truth tests. The test that measures you design framework. In Telkom the roll out of business intelligence took about 8 years to reach maturity. A big percentage of the resources have been developed internally especially in terms of report writing.

Here’s my video podcast interview with Cavin Griffiths:

And here’s Cavin’s presentation on Business Intelligence Analysis:

For more on business intelligence see this Wikipedia entry.