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Twitter, SAP, pull, polymaths and John Hagel

In one of our frequent transatlantic calls last evening, my friend Vinnie Mirchandani and I were talking about the Twitter Promoted Tweets thing. Vinnie is getting towards the end of a marathon run as he puts the finishing touches to his book The New Polymath.
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Written by Dennis Howlett on

In one of our frequent transatlantic calls last evening, my friend Vinnie Mirchandani and I were talking about the Twitter Promoted Tweets thing. Vinnie is getting towards the end of a marathon run as he puts the finishing touches to his book The New Polymath. Anyone who has been through that process knows it's tough and an occasional bit of therapy is required to get you through that 22 mile pain barrier. I've had the benefit of reading a pre-proof copy and it is stuffed to bursting with glittering examples of innovation that makes a breakthrough difference. I won't spoil the surprise. You have to buy the book -- or read upcoming reviews.

Part of Vinnie's genius is his ability to connect the dots across seemingly disparate threads and make them become a coherent whole where you go: 'Aaaah - got it.' This morning's blog post which in part is a reflection on our conversation contextualizes Twitter's current business model with another book: John Hagel III and John Seely Brown's: The Power of Pull: How Small Moves, Smartly Made, Can Set Big Things in Motion:

In a ferociously dynamic world, what happens if we can’t plan but can only adapt? We must move, say the authors, from push to pull. At the center of the pull strategy is an individual (not a corporation) who has access to knowledge flows, takes advantage of porous boundaries and serendipitous interactions, and occupies new creative spaces to achieve a novel order of performance.

I've had the privilege of listening to John Hagel talk on this topic. A short video from that session is at the top of this post. Oliver Marks has more. It's invigorating stuff. Vinnie goes on to argue that both SAP and Twitter are kicking back against 'pull' in favor of old 'push' models. In Twitter's case:

As Jeremiah blogged “Brands can now purchase CPM based ads to promote these popular tweets at the top of a Twitter search term –even in categories they aren’t well known in, influencing awareness”.

More push which vastly undermines the pull gold mine that Twitter should be...Twitter is this generation’s much more expanded version of Nielsen ratings. It should be helping companies understand how world events, competitor and their own moves affect customer perceptions. It is a critical barometer of “pull” and yet they have come out with a revenue model meant to pander to the old marketer’s version of push.

In our conversation last evening, Vinnie said: "What's the matter with these companies [like Twitter] that they can only think of either advertising or a paywall as monetization models?" Why indeed. My hunch is because advertising is the Pavlov Dog response that VCs mostly 'get' whereas more exotic thinking requires a degree of business maturity these companies don't possess. And that despite being given all the clues a company could wish. These are not the disgruntled whinings of two gray haired old farts but the observations of close to a combined 100 years on this planet. For Vinnie, Promoted Tweets is a lost opportunity. For me it is a wasted opportunity. To our colleague James Governor:

@monkchips: lovely. @mikeG1 calls them "blocked items". and @dealarchitect reminds us twitter is ducking the chance to be the global stethoscope

To SAP, Vinnie renders this indictment:

John [Hagel] cites SAP as an example of benefitting from “pull” by leveraging its social networks and communities. No question, in its outreach to bloggers and “mentors” and SDN and other communities SAP has been a pioneer. I have complimented them several times for that. I would suggest, though, that SAP has primarily used these assets for marketing advantage – old school push thinking. There are so many ideas and recommendations SAP has heard from these groups – for years now - about how its ecosystem has been out of control, how low value its maintenance pricing is, how little of the innovation in its labs is making out to the field etc. Very little of that has been acted upon. We will get a chance to listen to the new management team at Sapphire next month, but I am betting it will be a sugar coated version of longing for the good old days – of push.

As someone involved with the SAP Community Network, I can vouch for everything he says though this member of the jury is out about Vinnie's SAPPHIRE prediction. I go further albeit in a different direction. In a conversation between myself and Susan Scrupski (download) during Craig Cmehil's personal marathon, I argued that SAP will never really understand the social space as a business enabler. They had their chance with ESME and blew it. That space is now owned by Marc Benioff and Salesforce.com's Chatter. In contrast, SAP's 12Sprints feels like pre-Berlin Wall collapse communism. SAP prides itself on having two million members in its community. How long before the hard core innovators slide away and do their own thing as they realize the value exchange is hopelessly uneven? Will they act like those at the center of Hagel's pull strategy? Probably.

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