Thursday, August 23, 2012

'Tweet me maybe' - The death of marketing?

The popularity of the summer (Olympic) hit, 'Call Me Maybe' by Carly Rae Jepsen was driven by Twitter and social media mania, according to the New York Times story, 'The new summer hit: Tweet it maybe.'   See also YouTube creates stars.

My friend, Mark Bixby, got his job at Facebook when the young company discovered his blog.  My nephew, Jeff Francoeur, uses social media to create marketing buzz around his company's line of high performance sporting lights.

Building a personal brand on-line has allows lots of folks to compete against others with higher formal degrees in marketing and communication.  Why?  Because, popularity on the net is becoming a proxy for quality.

On a Harvard Business Review blog, Bll Lee suggests: 'Marketing is dead'

Long live marketing!

Friday, August 17, 2012

Not to worry...Networks are good!

In his recent keynote address to the Academy of Management, Barry Wellman was very excited about his latest book, with Lee Rainie, called Networked: The new social operating system.  Rainie is Director of the Pew Research Center's Internet and American Life Project and former Editor of US News and World Report.  Barry Wellman is the S. D. Clark Professor of Sociology at the University of Toronto, where he directs their NetLab.  Wellman's distinguished career has long been focused on social networks--no, not the Facebook kind.  In fact, Rainie and Wellman argue that Facebook is not really based on social networks at all, but a reflection of a phenomenon they call 'networked individualism,' which is becoming the new social 'operating system.' Another famous sociologist, Manual Castells, has suggested a similar thesis in his two editions of The Rise of the Network Society.  The concept of networked individualism is, nonetheless, a new and important development in the way we think about social systems in a world of pervasive connectivity.

So, how do networks relate to connectivity?  Indeed, Wellman and colleague Anabel Quan-Haase were some of the first scholars to use the term 'hyperconnectivity.'  But when they--and Rainie and Wellman still do--use the term hyperconnectivity, what they are referring to is merely 'a lot' of connectivity, not 'too much,' as my colleagues and I use the term.  They refer to hyperconnected individuals as those who are almost constantly connected, usually using multiple media. We focus on the problems associated with performance and/or loss of personal well-being when that connectivity is considered by the individual to be excessive.

More fundamentally, networks are a 'given' (social structure), whereas connectivity is 'contingent' (within social systems).  For example, we are part of a family network regardless of whether or not we can reach family members by cell phone.  Connectivity comes and goes.

Networks, of course, do change.  In particular, they are extensible by their very nature.  And networks are a useful way to describe social relationships.  By contrast, connectivity is the interactive dynamic that both constrains and enables those social relationships.  If networks are social maps, connectivity is the traffic report.

Rainie and Wellman and I do agree, as I suggested in the iCrazy post in July, that the hand wringing over levels of connectivity can be over-stated and that we must be careful to clarify our sources when we make conjectures about the information and communication overloads some are feeling.  Hyper-connectivity (too much connectivity) is real, but it is difficult to say how many of us feel it, how much of the time, and to what effect.  More research is needed.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Co-creating great service at Gate 38

Flying out of Boston the other day, I encountered Virgin America and Gate 38 at Login Airport.  I had flown Virgin Atlantic before and have found their service to be consistently excellent.  Not only that, they are one of those airlines that is still 'fun' to fly!  From the first encounter at the desk, every passenger gets treated as well as a Premium passenger on other airlines.

What surprised me even more was my experience at Gate 38, which seems to only serve Virgin customers.  At Gate 38, I was greeted by friendly--not just smiling friendly--outwardly engaging friendly TSA agents.  At first I thought they worked for Virgin, but as they were wearing standard TSA uniforms, I figure they were 'normal' agents, just acting differently.  It was as if the Virgin customer culture was contagious and the TSA had 'caught the spirit' of Virgin.  The Gate 38 phenomenon would be interesting to study.  For instance, are these same agents less friendly when they are at other airlines' gates?  And, does Virgin do anything to make the TSA's job any easier or more pleasant, which is passed on to the flying public?

One digital approach to making airports more friendly is the introduction of avatars at La Guardia and Newark airports, with one coming soon to Kennedy airport, all in the New York city area.  Will virtual friendliness work?  For a glimpse of the digital future, see the Flight of the Conchords hit, 'The humans are dead.'

I am not a service science expert, but my former student and now colleague Christoph Breidbach has taught me that service is 'co-created' by both the service provider and the customer.  If I think about some of the fun approaches (antics) the Virgin staff used to board the plane and make announcements, it seems to me that we, as passengers, were also 'playing our part' in making the service experience 'work.'  We all smiled or laughed when things were done differently. We did not push ahead at the gate impatiently.  We were better 'campers' and our good behavior made the Virgin staff's job easier and more fun, which helped us have more fun, and so on.

If we think of service delivery as an eco-system, every part makes or breaks the service experience, including our own behavior as customers.  A great airline with grumpy TSA agents and bad airport design makes any airplane trip a drag.  Great service from counter to seat, including passengers' not hogging space in overhead compartments, could make air travel pleasant again.  Well, at least that is my dream, now that I have seen it happen at Gate 38.

What is the connectivity connection here you might say?  Well, Christoph's PhD thesis explored connectivity in IT-enabled service systems. Specifically, he looked at the social and technical connections between service firms and service providers.  He identified key roles and gaps in such systems and the impact they have on value co-creation.  Dr. Breidbach will soon take up a post as Research Scientist at the University of California, Merced.

Happy trails!

Friday, August 3, 2012

Go, (connected) Teams, Go!

My colleague, Paul Collins (University of Washington) and I will be presenting some findings from our recent empirical study of distributed work teams at a Showcase Symposium (HR and OB Divisions) of the annual conference of the American Academy of Management in Boston (7 August).

The Symposium is called: 'Connectivites and Disconnectivities in Contemporary Work' and is Chaired by Clare Kelliher (Cranfield) and Julia Richardson (York).

Kristine Dery (University of Sydney) presented 'Permission to disconnect: Lessons learned from from a study of mobile connectivity in financial services' (co-authored with Judi MacCormick, UNSW).

Pascale Peters (Radboud University, Nijmegen, Netherlands) presented work conducted with Lisa van den Berg (Hay Group) and Beatrice Van der Heijden, also of Radboud University Nijmegen, entitled: 'Shaping boundaries between work and private life to maintain higher levels of work engagement.'

Connects and disconnects interact as a 'duality,' like group norms and individual free will, or like individuals and groups, where the each exists in a perpetual dynamic with the other.  No connection is perfectly permanent, nor is anything or anyone totally disconnected.

In work contexts, the more connected we are, the more disconnects matter.  According to the findings  we will present next week, getting the right balance of connectivity makes a big difference for team performance.  Copies of our presentation available upon request from Paul Collins.