Category Archives: Social Networks

Social Networks

Social Listening, Integration Into The Cloud

Social Listening, Integration Into The Cloud

Social Listening In The Cloud

Yes, you still have work to do…

There’s a great Eddie Izzard routine from the 90s where he’s got a new printer. It’s going to change my life, he declares. It’s going to do everything for me. Even the creative stuff. But of course, it didn’t work (it wasn’t plugged in).

There’s a temptation with anything new that it’s going to revolutionise your life. A new social network? Life-changing. A new mobile phone? This is the one-stop shop for everything that is me. But three hours later, you’re still there trying unsuccessfully to plug in every number, social network and calendar entry that wouldn’t sync properly.

You still have work to do.

There’s an unfortunate temptation with the cloud to think along the same lines. I was talking to a former colleague about social listening projects and he told me that it’s fantastic – if you spend the time setting it up, and if you know what you want out of it in the first place. It doesn’t work out of the box. It doesn’t revolutionise your life at the click of your fingers.

You still have work to do.

shutterstock_241967758

(Image Source: Shutterstock)

Social listening is a good example, and covers many of the issues that cloud integration experts have encountered. Indeed, without that initial hard graft, you find engagement in such projects wanes quickly. Microsoft recently invested heavily in social listening – to the extent that you can integrate Twitter & Facebook accounts, and alert sales & marketing teams, measure sentiment & analyse topics, etc. etc. etc.

It’s a great sell – but someone has to set this up. Before they start setting it up, there’s a significant amount of planning to be done.

1 – How are you going to acquire these Twitter & Facebook profile names?

Do you ask people when they first get in touch with you? Do you phone them up individually? Do you employ someone to scour the web looking for their profile links and entering them into the system?

2 – Who is going to integrate this data into the system?

Can it be done automatically? Or do you have to have somebody sitting there all day? Your investment has just doubled.

3 – Why do you actually want these profile names?

I used to collect bottle tops as a child. I didn’t do anything with them, I probably never looked at them. If you don’t use these profiles, then you’re doing the same as me. What are they for? If you don’t know, don’t collect.

4 – What are you going to track?

All of these social channels carry masses of data. Are you going to track every tweet? Every brand mention? Specific topics? Interactions? How are you going to distinguish between them?

5 – Who are you going to tell?

Moreover, how are you going to tell them? Daily reports? Instant alerts? Or not at all – rely on them to log in and check the data themselves?

6 – What are they going to do about this data? Why should they care?

The big sell. You’ve invested, you’ve set it up – but then why should anyone care? What is actionable here?

That’s just six questions, there are many more. Understanding what you’re going to do with all of this data, how you’re going to implement it within a system, and who you’re going to inform is the first hurdle to overcome.

Disengagement with integrated cloud services doesn’t come because people are lazy, or because people can’t be bothered with them. It comes because those initial stages of understanding why – how – who are not carried out properly. Sometimes, not at all.

These are incredibly powerful solutions. I’m no fan of social media, but I’m a huge fan of social listening as a tool for understanding how your brand is perceived. And this is a great example of an integrated tool bridging multiple cloud services – and a great example of why we need to roll up our sleeves.

If you want engagement – and indeed, any return on your investment in any cloud service, you still have work to do.

By Gareth Cartman

The Multi-Faceted ERP (Enterprise Resources Planning) Business

The Multi-Faceted ERP (Enterprise Resources Planning) Business

ERP (Enterprise Resources Planning) Business

Business agility and responsiveness to changing market dynamics has become a crucial factor in remaining abreast of competition and sustaining profits in the long run. To become agile, business must be able to monitor, track, and evaluate core business processes in real-time and hence make informed strategic changes.

This is where Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software come to fore. Currently a $30 billion industry, the ERP industry is expected to gain further momentum as organizations rely ever more on Disruptive-4 Technologies (big data, cloud, mobile, and social).

Understanding ERP — What is ERP?

Cloud ERP

Enterprise resource planning (ERP) is a type of business management software. It allows the business to collect, store, organize, and interpret data from core business activities and processes. These activities and processes range from product/service planning, manufacturing, and delivery, to inventory management, marketing and sales, and shipping.

ERP plays a crucial role in systemizing, automating, and centralizing diverse business activities on a single dashboard. Maintained by database management systems, ERP systems track resources and status of business commitment (both strategic and day-to-operations). The applications that become part of the ERP system differ from organization to organization, depending on their needs and understanding with the software vendor/developer. However, the core function of all the applications is to share data across various data–generating departments of the organization (from sales and purchasing to manufacturing and supply chain) and to display this data in insightful and actionable format.

The applications that make up the system share data across the various departments (manufacturing, purchasing, sales, accounting, etc.) that provide the data. ERP facilitates information flow between all business functions, and manages connections to outside stakeholders.

The Benefits of ERP for Business

With complete integration of ERP into the business, the business gains the following benefits:

  • Enhanced Productivity — ERP automates business processes, making them faster, less prone to error, and hence more efficient. Furthermore, it frees skilled resources from performing mundane tasks.
  • Improved Performance — ERP integrates diverse business processes, hence avoiding duplication and discontinuity, ensuring coherence and allowing people to work at cross purposes, across different parts of the organization.
  • Strategic Reporting and Analysis — ERP leverages robust backend data management systems, bringing data from across the organization into one database. This allows C-suite executives and line managers alike to generate Quality Reports and conduct Performance Analysis.
  • Establishes an integrated Supply Chain — Robust ERP systems extend integration beyond the organization, connecting customer and supplier handling systems to ensure further transparency, complete visibility, and boosting efficiency across your supply chain.

Breaking Down the Components of an ERP Implementation

ERP-Enterprise-resource-systems

How an ERP solution is implemented for a business differs from enterprise to enterprise. ERP vendors maximize chances of project success by offering variety of implementation services. These can best be understood in a breakdown of ERP implementation components.

Pre-Deployment Consultation

An ERP solution must encompass as much of the business processes and allow the solution to remain scalable in the foreseeable future. However, many companies are not apt in gathering the requirements and developing the project scope for the solution. The requirements gathering process is pivotal to the success of the solution. Therefore, established vendors and Netsuite partners often take the lead and offer sophisticated GAP analysis (and similar services) to identify opportunities that can improve business processes within budget.

ERP Implementation and Configuration

An ERP solution is not simply software package that needs to be installed across the organization. Every piece of hardware where the software will become functional effectively becomes a node that needs to be configured, monitored, and managed. This requires unique system configurations to map software functionality to specific corporate processes. Hence vendors often manage user setup, define user-based permissions, and establish reporting structures by configuring common document templates.

System-Wide Integrations

ERP can no longer work as standalone enterprise level solutions. There is some level of system integration with existing business systems, e.g. moving sales data from eCommerce to core financial modules or integrating your customer emails to a CRM package, among others. This requires integrating the ERP’s API with the business systems.

Business to ERP Data Migration

To centralize data, it is impertinent that existing organizational data be transferred to the new software. Given that the existing data structures are likely to vary with the ERP’s, and hence become a source of data loss, migrating data becomes a time-consuming challenge. Established ERP vendors often take data structures into account during the consultation phase and leverage their understanding of their software and experience in moving databases to ensure a seamless and efficient migration.

ERP Customizations

ERP solutions are often basic, initially addressing the core functionality of the business (and hence becoming firmly embedded into the enterprise’s operations). It is only later that additional features and functionalities are added through add-ons and task specific functions.

Change Management and User Training

ERP solutions deliver a new and a highly sophisticated software solution. It is often incorporated as an enabling initiative in change management and hence requires extensive training so that the users are able to effectively leverage all its capabilities. This training differs from stakeholder to stakeholder: C-Suite executives will require a different type of training, where as managers, administrators, and others will require different ones to match their job description and level of access to the system.

Training is both mobile and on-job, offering flexibility to employees. It can incorporate a varied types of training resources, ranging from webinars, videos, online learning, hand-on job trainings and more.

In Conclusion — ERP Trends

Trends

The Enterprise Resource Planning solutions business has evolved over the decades, from the point where a hand few organizations were willing to implement it, to become an essential component for every SME and larger organizations. Over time, ERP software has been affected by new trends, primarily the following:

  • Mobile ERP — With the rise of smartphones employee mobility has taken to the fore of organizational change management. Executives and employees want real-time access to information, regardless of where they are. Hence, ERP systems will become increasingly mobile, allowing personnel to access it through mobile dashboards.
  • Cloud ERP — The cloud has been advancing steadily into the enterprise for some time, but many ERP users have been reluctant to place data cloud. Those reservations have been fading away with the passing time, however, as the cloud’s advantages become perceptible.
  • Social ERP — Social learning is fast becoming an important consideration in increasing communication and collaboration within the organization. To increase social learning within the organization, vendors offer social packages for ERP.
  • Multi-Tiered ERP — The ultimate task of ERP is considered to take care of every aspect of organizational systems. However, so far such attempts have been expensive and prone to failure. Hence, a new strategy is being adopted, of creating multi-tiered ERP systems.

The one best suited to a business will always depend on the initial assessments when organizational requirements and ERP project scopes are defined.

(Image Source: Shutterstock)

By Simon Reed

Cloud Computing and Social Networks

Cloud Computing and Social Networks

Pushing Innovation With Social Networks

There was a time when storage space was a precious commodity. A few videos and photographs and the system would be gasping for breath in old PCs’ limited storage space. 10 Years ago, today’s top social networking sites would have broken down under the burden of the heavily visual traffic they see today. Increased storage space and internet speeds are not the only cause of this shift in capability, however. Cloud computing plays a large part in pushing social networks to innovate and improve (Infographic).

What Exactly is the Cloud?

Some argue that “the cloud” is an evocative term to describe the internet itself. Originally every service (websites, web apps, etc.) had its own servers and storage space. The implications of this were that every time they had to retrieve data from that central location when someone requested it. Nowadays, shared internet real estate is utilized as a way to streamline data storage from the heavily server-dominated past. This is because it is much faster to retrieve something from a physically closer shared space instead of getting it from a faraway server at the other end of the world. Almost every major commercial website is using this idea to an extent.

How Social Media Uses Cloud?

social-media-cloud

(Image Source: scyther5 / Shutterstock)

Social media sites have large number of user scattered across the globe. This makes them ideal candidates for cloud adaptation. Many have been quick to adapt this technology.

Social networks help boost internet usability by storing heavy multimedia content in cloud storage systems. Videos and photographs are the most popular content on social media, which essentially use up the maximum space allotted to them. They have the capacity to slow down entire websites with their sheer weight. Cloud computing vendors such as Salesforce and Amazon nowadays provide varied services including from Customer Relationship Management (CRM) and Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP). As they deliver these things through cloud servers, clients can use the flexibility and scalability of the system without purchasing standalone software or hardware.

Apart from data storage, the social networks are now also using clouds for various other tasks. For example, this can be ideal for big data analytics. One of the benefits of using cloud systems is that users can access vast amount of structured and even non-structured data easily. You must have noticed the much-improved analytics provided by sites like Facebook, especially for its business users.

Another way cloud computing becomes helpful is by reducing the cost of data backup and recovery in case of a disaster. If the data is only stored in one central location, it becomes much riskier. If something happens there, it is almost impossible to recover the data. But through cloud they remain accessible through shared resources across the globe. This is especially useful for social networks as the store personal data of its users and so cannot afford to lose even one bit of it no matter how trivial they are.

Conclusion

Overall, it can be said that cloud computing has several usages, and some of them are still being discovered. For instance, in the near future, personal secure clouds are likely to gain ground. New age social networks and messaging apps such as Snapchat thrive on privacy and they will eventually utilize such resources to offer a more secure and faster service to users. It may take a couple of years more before we see widespread adoption of such ideas but make no mistake: cloud is a reality now and will remain the most prominent technological breakthrough that is expected to transform the way business is done.

By Owen Andrew

Takin’ It To The Tweet: TwitterOffers

Takin’ It To The Tweet: TwitterOffers

TwitterOffers

One new twist on this year’s Black Friday madness will involve purchases that include Twitter-enabled discounts. Twitter has recently announced a new feature called TwitterOffers, which seeks to bring customers and retailers together more easily, through the use of “discount tweets” that can be applied to real purchases in-store or online.

TwitterOffers is not direct ecommerce. It operates more like a loyalty card or coupon book than a debit terminal. On its blog, Twitter describes the process as having three steps: Once a viewer sees a promotional tweet from a participating vendor, s/he can apply the discount or promotion to their credit card, and once they use the same card to complete the main transaction at the vendor’s store or site, the discount is applied to their credit card balance.

Twitter

In order to make this happen, and to make future transactions a simple one-click affair, customers will need to enter their credit card information with Twitter, where it will be “encrypted and safely stored.

Twitter is rolling this out in a test phase, with some early adopters such as AMC Theatres. The goal, they say, is to make it easier for merchants to make special offers to customers, without the need for employee retraining or any delays at the cash. The discount is effectively logged and applied prior to the purchase being made.

Twitter also points out that this program will allow merchants to better track their ROI on Twitter-based promotions.

This is the second major inroad that Twitter has made in the ecommerce realm; they had earlier worked with American Express, where cardholders whose Amex cards were registered with Twitter could obtain a discount at Best Buy simplyby tweeting the hashtag #AmexBestBuy.

With their July 2014 acquisition of ecommerce processor CardSpring, Twitter is now poised to make a more direct connection between its millions of users and the merchants that seek to sell to them.

Currently TwitterOffers is available only in the US.

(Image Source: Twin Design / Shutterstock)

By Steve Prentice

Facebook: Your At-work Social Network

Facebook: Your At-work Social Network

Social Network

The unofficial divide between LinkedIn and FaceBook is about to get a whole lot fuzzier, with the January 2015 soft release of “Facebook at Work,” a social platform for the workplace. According to an entry in the Wall Street Journal’s Tech Blog, “the product is being tested in fewer than a dozen companies and the details are still being finalized. At first, Facebook will offer the product for free and without ads, [and] will only be available to workers at companies that sign up for the service.

office-space-social

(Image Source: pcruciatti / Shutterstock)

The Facebook At Work application will offer chat, collaboration and connection opportunities, which puts it in direct competition with a number of already established collaborative applications such as Microsoft SharePoint, as well as the grandfather of professional networking apps, LinkedIn.

Alastair Mitchell, writing in Wired, states that the odds of warm acceptance are small, with most organizations already wary of Facebook’s reputation for supposed time wastage. He adds, “Facebook would then have to convince IT departments globally that its security measures met their stringent requirements.” He points out that Facebook is already famous for collecting customer data for its own advertising and experimental purposes, and that many of the existing competing collaboration and communication platforms were purpose-built for the corporate environment. Facebook was not, and hence this same insecure reputation will hover over any “at-work” platform that it seeks to put forth.

As for LinkedIn, ZNet’s Charlie Osborne points out that its existing professional edge will win out. LinkedIn has always been the place for a person’s professional side, and “even if [Facebook] does set up a stand-alone ecosystem…when you’re in the office, you’re less likely to be suspected of procrastinating when you have a professional service on tab rather than open conversations with friends or the Facebook icon in evidence.

Facebook joins a crowded market in which established collaborative tools such as Google Drive and Zoho compete not only with each other, but with the continued aversion shared by many companies to place data in any cloudspace that is not entirely private. The very public face of Facebook will have a great deal of convincing to do to break through a wall of mistrust regarding both its physical and social credibility in the workplace.

By Steve Prentice

Twitter Responds To Slowing Growth With Dramatic Redesign

Twitter Responds To Slowing Growth With Dramatic Redesign

Twitter has responded to its recent disappointing news by testing a major design overhaul of its site.

Last week the company released its first earnings report as a public company, with results that were considerably worse than analysts’ predictions. The report showed 39% slowdown in user growth and a net loss of $511.5 million, leading to a 19 percent drop in share price in the immediate aftermath of the announcement. Worryingly for Twitter, the results undoubtedly give credence to the opinion that it is finding it increasingly difficult to justify its £37.4 billion market capitalisation.

twitter-headquarters

It is against this backdrop that Twitter has started to roll out its first major redesign in several years. The news is not unexpected. Upon the release of last week’s results their CEO Dick Costolo outlined plans to improve the site’s topic-based discovery and further integrate Twitter’s cloud-based photos, videos and other rich media elements into the user experience. Costello said, “We know from our research that these are the kinds of things that cause users to become more engaged and to stick with the product. We don’t need to change anything about the characteristics of our platform. We just need to make Twitter a better Twitter”.

What is more unexpected is the actual design itself. Twitter appears to be moving away from its famous and simplistic text-orientated layout, instead moving towards a more engaging profile-centric style. The redesign has an emphasis on photos and videos that is highly reminiscent of Facebook, Instagram and Google Plus. The design sees a user’s header photo and profile photos increase in size, a card design approach applied to the ‘followers’ and ‘following’ screens, and more prominence given to the cloud content that each individual user will be interested in.

The racial overhaul of the site’s design is almost certainly an attempt to make Twitter’s vast catalogue of user-generated media more accessible. While power-users are known to love the minimalist look, its style is believed to be off-putting to new users who Twitter believes want quick access to the profile and photos of celebrities and sports personalities.

The new layout is not yet available to everyone. Historically Twitter test new features and designs on a small number of users before rolling them out to its full user-base. The company is also known to A/B test features that it is considering, therefore, it’s unclear if this redesign will eventually be available to all users or will be abandoned by its engineers.

Twitter declined to specifically comment on the redesign, merely saying that it is constantly testing changes to its website on select groups of users.

By Daniel Price

Cloud Infographic: Social Gaming Statistics & Trends

Cloud Infographic: Social Gaming Statistics & Trends

Cloud Infographic: Social Gaming Statistics & Trends

With the continued growth of social games and the volume of new Facebook users growing, it is time that marketers update engagement strategies to leverage the power of social gaming. Learn more in this best practices guide: called “How Brands Should Use Social Gaming” and how to drive higher engagement and gain deeper insight into this powerful medium.  Sign In for Free Download

Included is an informative infographic by http://www.go-gulf.com which provides some interesting statistics related to the growth of social gaming.

Gaming

Infographic Source: Go-Gulf.com

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