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You Can Observe A Lot By Watching.

Usability Testing at CiscoLive!

Usability testing a support mobile page at the NetVet lounge with NetVet Mike Williams.

Recently at CiscoLive!, we spent a full week with customers and partners doing in-detail usability tests of and some of our mobile sites and apps. This is one of the main methods we use to make our web and mobile easier.

What’s a usability test? Something different than you might think. While you’ve probably heard of other research techniques like focus groups and surveys, usability tests and listening labs are a way for us to learn through observing how people use our sites: We have someone sit down in front of the screen and ask them to do a task that they would in their real work day. This could be solving a support question, researching a new product, finding the right download, investigating a new API, or any number of other things.

Here’s the difference between a usability test vs. a focus group or survey: In a focus group, a facilitator often throws out an idea or scenario and gets a group of people to comment on it. The people in the room will tell you what they might like… they will build on others comments… they may give you some great ideas! But, you won’t really be learning by observing. You won’t understand the kinds of things they will actually do in real life, because you’re asking them what they think they would do. You aren’t observing.

But when we observe people using our mobile apps or web sites, we can see lots of things. For instance:

  • We can see the areas that trip them up (even if they report to us that the experience is just fine)
  • We can see the areas where they’re getting the wrong result (even if they think they’re getting the right one).
  • Or sometimes even technical problems that we see and can troubleshoot, but they can’t.

We recommend running usability tests or listening labs at multiple stages for major projects:

  • At the beginning of the project – when you want to understand current state and also look at how competitive or best practice sites and apps are doing.
  • In the middle – while you’re still developing, and direct observation and feedback can make a huge difference
  • Before release – so you can catch any last-minute problems
  • After release – because sometimes when outside factors and environments affect the app or web experience in way you can’t expect (for instance, how and whether people can find your site topic on Google or other search engines, and how they interact with the results).

Even though this sounds like a lot of testing, there are some new techniques you can use to get real user feedback very quickly – within hours or days. I’ll talk about that in a future post.

Meanwhile, keep testing. And, remember baseball legend Yogi Berra, who said:

“You can observe a lot by watching!”

Yogi Berra

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World Cup? That Aint Football, But…

There is an age-old debate on the word ‘football’ – there is world football (or ‘soccer’ to us Americans) and American football.  To me, real football is played with shoulder pads and helmets, demonstrates a wide range of skills from running to catching to strength and toughness (with no credit for bad acting to fake injury), and ends with a winner and a loser … no ties.

football helmet 1Hearing all the hype on the World Cup back in 2010, I invested 90 minutes watching a mildly entertaining spectacle of ‘keep away’ (we used to play that in grade school) which ultimately ended in a tie.  Really, you’re kidding me. That’s it?  A tie. It had exactly as much impact as if they hadn’t played the game at all – except I was 90 minutes older and (theoretically) wiser.

In the Minority, Again

When the world cup came around this year, I was already a little jaded about the whole event and, to be honest, not all that interested.  Apparently, I’m in the minority globally because I can see the social media results on a daily basis.  For example, there were 485,000 new twitter followers on the tournament’s first day, 8 million ‘likes’ on the world cup-specific Facebook page, and 2.5 billion page views across platforms in 5 days.  Over the course of the tournament one of every two people on earth will watch at least a few minutes of the games. According to CNNTEch, the World Cup is becoming the largest social media event ever.

How Do They Do It with Official Digital Coverage?

Although I don’t appreciate the game on its own merits, I am interested in the digital aspects and impacts of the massive global tournament.  What does it take to execute a digital plan for the world cup? According to Mashable it takes: world cup

  • 68+ digital FIFA team members stationed in Brazil
  • 12 FIFA editors stationed at each of the tournament’s 12 venues
  • 12 FIFA photographers fanned out across the country
  • Dozens of FIFA programmers, writers and strategists
  • A massive public audience (about half of the world’s population at some point) and some subset of those participating in social media

And what are they doing?

  • Publishing content on the 6 FIFA World Cup websites (in 6 languages: English, Spanish, French, Portuguese, German, and Arabic)
  • Monitoring the official FIFA World Cup App
  • Posting images on the FIFA World Cup Instagram account
  • Listening, commenting, and monitoring FIFA social channels
  • Posting, liking, and tweeting in many languages around the world

Variety of Video Options

And don’t forget YouTube and the over 9 million videos posted on ‘world cup 2014’.  (With 100 hours of video uploaded every minute of every day to YouTube, Vimeo, Ustream, and other platforms, I’m not surprised there are so many World Cup videos).

You can find a wide variety of videos, from the Top Best Goals, to World Cup 2014 Predictions, to the opening ceremonies, to – my favorite – fake injuries.

Top best goals:

Fake Injuries:

Cisco Colleagues Watch on our Own App

At Cisco, like everywhere, the world cup is a topic of discussion, both in the hallways and through social media networks.  Our internal Cisco TV team is running live streaming of the World Cup 2014 through our mobile app for employees to follow anywhere on any device.  You can imagine that work meetings take on a different flavor as colleagues watch the games live, chat with fellow fans, and root for favorite teams (go, USA!) through the internal Cisco TV mobile app.

2014 World Cup Sets the Stage for Rio 2016 Olympics

Of more interest to me than the actual games is how the event is driving digital change and adoption in Rio  de Janerio and creating a legacy of digital inclusion; especially with the 2016 Olympic games also to take place in Rio de Janerio.  Cisco will be central to the Olympic Games in two years, so for me, the World Cup is a warm-up event to see how digital – through the web, mobile devices, social media, and video – will play out.

We can even compare and contrast this tournament with other high-profile championships.  For example, the opening match between host country Brazil and Croatia had only 12.2 million tweets this week, while the 2014 Superbowl between the Seattle Seahawks and Denver Broncos garnered 24.9 million tweets. I suspect that Twitter and other social outlets will light-up as we approach the semi-finals and finals.

travelballGlobal Star Power vs. Local Celebrities

Far moLamorindare important to me than the World Cup or even the Superbowl is the fact that my grandson is playing in the U.S. national travel team baseball championship near Atlanta this week in the 11U category (on the #2 ranked team in the U.S.).

We’re in high anxiety mode rooting long distance for the Lamorinda Knights! This is one case where the global superstars don’t even compare to our little hometown heroes.


  • Blanket Coverage

  • Anywhere Access

  • Real-Time Updates

  • High Engagement 

Whether it’s my type of game or not (not), the kind of football being played at the 2014 World Cup is the rest of the world’s most popular game, and the World Cup itself is the world’s most popular event. My interest is piqued, however, watching how it impacts and is impacted by digital channels, devices, apps, and new ‘digital’ behaviors.

It may not be football, but is sure is interesting. Especially interesting is the rise of digital as the medium or channel by which most of us are watching, sharing, participating, or getting updates.

Just imagine how digital is already – and will continue to – transform business and life in the months and years ahead…


If You Build It, Will They Come?

So after reading my last blog, you’ve finally come to the realization that you now need to start getting serious about creating video for your organization as the return on investment is certainly a compelling one. But where do you start?  Do you immediately run out and begin building a studio and streaming infrastructure?  Probably not.  Even though the ROI on video is overwhelmingly positive, Read More »

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Social Selling in Action—Part 1: Innovation starts with Sales

As the number of users of social media continues to grow, the boundary between our personal and professional lives has begun to overlap. Unsurprisingly, the customer buying cycle is also beginning to change. By the time a prospect has reached out to a sales rep, in most cases they already know what they want because they’ve done their research on social channels, canvassed their peers on community forums and downloaded materials.  Where the customers goes, so does sales. Allison Aldridge-Saur, Project Consultant and Bernard Chiu, Project Specialist, have been leading the effort to transform traditional selling at Cisco into Social Selling. Their Social Selling strategy leverages the skills and expertise of Ciscos sales reps by giving them the tools and support they need to interact and engage with customers in this new and constantly changing environment. 

I spoke with Allison and Bernard separately to discuss the innovation that is taking place within the Social Selling program and the focus on delivering measurable ROI. This is the first installation in a 3-part series that reviews Cisco’s unique approach to  Social Selling.

Innovation starts with Sales

Jennifer Roberts (JR): In ten seconds or less what is Social Selling?

Allison Aldridge-Saur (AAS):  Social Selling is essentially leveraging social media tools to support a more efficient, more cost effective and quicker sales cycle for Cisco sales rep.

JR: How is social selling different than more traditional selling and it will it transform the sales processes as we define it today?

AAS:  The potential is definitely there to change the way reps sell but I think we have to take incremental steps. We have an existing selling cycle in place, we have systems built around it and we can’t just dismantle that. We also need to have a better understanding of where customers are with social. Not all of our customers are on social media. We do have certain set of the population that is there, but we also have a set of population that isn’t. So, we can’t immediately jump right in because we might be leaving customers behind.

Instead, we’re laying the tracks so that we’re there when our customers are ready.  We will have the discipline and processes in place.

JR: You mentioned that some of our customers have moved to social. Do you know the breakdown or the profile of these customers?

AAS: Our proof-of-concept (POC) and pilots to date have been predominately in the U.S.  So, what we have seen in the commercial arena, specifically the SMBs in the commercial region in the South, was that they were less active on social. The franchise businesses were present but others were just not there. The public sector is doing a great job throughout the US; we have not yet explored the partner space, which is obviously critical to understanding the total social footprint.

What we do know is that regardless of whether customers are there personally on social, research IS happening on line. Even where the engagement portion of social sales cycle might not work today for some customers, being present, creating proof of expertise and insight on a personal brand is still going to be helpful.

JR: How are the sales reps defining their personal brand? And is there a standard way in which social media is being used by sales?

AAS:  From the get go, Bernard and I realized that this is not a program you just roll out to sales – the sales rep have to own it.  They know their customers, their sales style and it’s only through their active involvement that are we going to find innovations that work to drive the opportunities.

JR: Have their been any examples where an individual sales rep has taken the tools and services and created something uniquely their own

AAS: I have three examples. Bradford Gibson (@Bradferd) used a combination of Outlook, SalesForce & LinkedIn to begin identifying and nurturing new contacts. He synced all his valid SalesForce contacts with LinkedIn to identify all the potential contacts he might have within his LinkedIn network. He then sent out a mass email from Outlook inviting these contacts to connect to him in LinkedIn. The response was low.   But then he followed up with a LinkedIn email asking this same group to connect with him.  The result?  His LinkedIn profile had a huge spike in views and he added 30 new contacts to his network in a matter of days and continued to add new contacts over several weeks, which contributed to $100s of thousands of opportunities.

Second example. Missy Guerin (@MissyGuerin) fully embraced LinkedIn.  She introduced herself to everyone and offered to help answer any questions.  Through those introductions she was able to derive insights into customer projects. The result? She was introduced into one of the largest ISDs in Tennessee that no one had been able to connect with for 2 years.

And finally, the third example. Chandra Heffelfinger (@ChandraAtCisco) used a combination of LinkeIn & Twitter. Using LinkedIn she looked for SMBs in her region that were trying to connect with each other for support. Sometimes smaller businesses look to each other to provide marketing or other functional help.  She was able to make connections between the SMBs looking for support.  She also invited people to join her on Twitter and let them know she was their Cisco Sales rep and if they needed anything, to reach out.  The result? She gained a sizable opportunity via Twitter.

All three sales reps demonstrated innovation and were able to drive multiple opportunities, with most tracking to $100k, which is not insignificant for this group.

It’s really the sales rep that are building social selling; we work in close partnership to get their feedback, understand the issue they’re having so we adjust the tools and processes to help them meet their needs. The only way to scale this is that Social Selling become like familiar infrastructure (like telephone and email).

JR: Thanks, Allison.  I look forward to learning more about the Social Selling POC and recently-launched pilot

AAS:  You’re welcome.

In Part 2, Bernard talks about the importance of metrics and a social attribution model that really works.

Jennifer Roberts (@rideboulderco) is a Social Media Marketing Manager and leads the Social Selling program. Allison Aldridge-Saur (@aldsaur) is the former Social Selling Program Manager.


Our Week as Video Broadcasters: 5 Insights

In mid-May, we told you about our plans to broadcast live keynotes from Cisco Live  on, specifically from our home page.

Well, we did it. For four days, May 19-22, our live video coverage on our home page included:

    • John Chambers keynote
    • Rob Lloyd keynote
    • Industry keynote — IoT
    • Guest keynote — Sal Kahn from Kahn Academy

Here are a few snapshots of what it looked like:

cisco live day 2a

cisco live home page_mobile

Now that the event is over, what did we learn — and where do we go from here?

  1. Video is engaging. Over 7,000 people clicked on the spotlights to view the live streaming videos in just four days.
  2. Video and screen size matter. The larger the screen, the longer the attention span. We delivered a fully responsive experience across PCs, tablets, smart phones and connected TVs and were able to track the attention span accordingly. It was the greatest on PCs (29 minutes), followed by tablets (12 minutes) and phones (8 minutes). There was a single view on a gaming console that lasted 28 minutes.
  3. Video needs to be purpose-built. Personalization is key to increase engagement opportunities. Video is no different. It needs to create mutual value between the viewer and the business.
  4. Video needs to be a priority. Partnerships and prioritization across IT, user experience, digital strategy, analytics and video teams are crucial to the success of your overall video strategy. The whole is greater than the sum of all parts.
  5. Video requires innovation. We plan to explore new and exciting ways to leverage video on our homepage — and pull cross-functional teams together to help us test, experiment and innovate.

 What are your discoveries around video? What have you found works and doesn’t work?



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