Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Nexternal relations: Train your strategic binoculars on these up-and-comers

You're not an early adopter (actually, almost no one is--and those who are tend to try new social media tools, dump them and move on).  But there are loads of opportunities to find the up-and-comers sooner, to beta test new features or prodcuts, and to learn which are the startups and promising grant recipients on which your strategic binoculars should be trained. Here are sightlines, opportunities and the promising part of the horizon to scan:
  • Facebook questions:  Not too grandly, Facebook invites you to "help us build the future of Facebook" by submitting three "provocative" questions and the "detailed, authoritative" answers to go with them, in what seems like a mashup between LinkedIn Answers and Wikipedia, a mix of crowdsourcing and trusted agents.  That's your application, and if you're approved, you can participate in the beta phase.  If you're in the business of supplying experts or expertise to the world, this may be for you.
  • What does "social maturity" look like?  (And they don't mean 55-year-olds on Facebook, either)  Forrester is trying to benchmark social technology use across enterprise organizations. Since most of them use social media inconsistently, what would social technologies look like if their adoption in an organization was mature? What would drive that change? What challenges would they face?  They want the benchmarks to reflect reality, which is where you come in. There's a survey, as well as a community site to which you can contribute.
  • When the list is 50 top startups worth watching, and it comes from Silicon Valley blogger and strategic adviser Louis Gray, the title is true.  He describes it this way: "With the understanding that being a private company does not always mean you are a startup, I looked below the uber-players such as Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Groupon, Craigslist, Tesla, and others, with a focus primarily on Web services, with a tendency toward social, and apps I am using frequently."  Dive in.
  • Work in draft:  I use Blogger for this blog and The Eloquent Woman, but I use Blogger in Draft, a test version that lets me preview and put into use real new features under development.  So when Blogger announced recently that its new template designer was now available to everyone, you'd been seeing it live on my blog for a couple of months.  I also follow and share information with Blogger staff members on Twitter, which helps for quick questions and feedback.  Similarly, I responded to a call from Widgetbox last year about beta testing a ramped-up version of its widgets, and got to try it for free in return for offering feedback.  (You can see the widgets in the right margin for The Eloquent Woman blog and for my Twitter feed.)
  • Knight Foundation News Challenge grant recipients -- the latest batch of 12 was announced this afternoon -- aren't even ready to test, but they're well worth keeping your eye on. Many focus on local or regional communities or particular sectors (there's one focused on courtrooms this year, for example), so you may find a project related to your topic, location or product.  This is the fourth year of the five-year challenge, and the foundation offers a wide range of data on its previous grant recipients. Start digging.

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