David Bankston, "Neighborhood America" chief technology officer: Mr. Media Interview, Pt. 1
It’s very likely, though, that you may have already encountered a Neighborhood America program and not even realized it. The Naples, Florida, based company does enterprise-social networks for CBS, Fox, the Scripps Network, and HDTV, among others, and David Bankston is the co-founder and chief technology officer for Neighborhood America, a leading provider of solutions for online engagement and interaction via all forms of content.
Specializing in software integration and technical innovation, David has devoted much of his career to creating next-generation technologies specifically designed to solve real-world business problems.
Under his leadership, Neighborhood America’s solutions have been successfully adopted nationwide by various organizations, and media companies are turning to Neighborhood America in order to harness the power of the Web to effectively engage audiences. Prior to Neighborhood America, David’s technology career included fifteen years at Lexis/Nexis, where he was responsible for many innovations that are still in use today.
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DAVID BANKSTON: Basically, an enterprise social network is a network that is really focused to the enterprise. Now, let’s break that “social network” apart. I think people have pretty well got that figured out. It’s the MySpaces, it’s the YouTubes, even some of the photo-sharing sites, like Flickr and so forth. The term social network now has become, it’s almost ubiquitous. It’s almost anything that lets you get together and share content and start to meet others and have profiles and discuss your issues. It’s a way to bring together people who are interested in a specific community, and it’s a community of interest. We’ve really been working at this over seven years, we have taken that social network premise and focused it and built a platform, a net made of software as a service solution that tailors a social network to the enterprise, the enterprise being a business in the public sector, a government organization or an agency, and of course, in the media sector, a network. We have many networks, some of which you’ve mentioned, so these are communities that are purpose-built to create a new source of revenue for these individual businesses. Then specifically in the case of the public, it may be to be engage the public in a conversation, the equivalent of the old public comment ways. This is the new way to do public comment. So that is what an enterprise social network is.
ANDELMAN: So one example of what you’re doing might be Springboard, which you are doing for CBS, right?
ANDELMAN: The difference here, I want to point this out, because I have actually given this some thought, you tell me if I’m wrong here. MySpace is a social network, and people think of it as they are going in and they are having fun. It’s not enterprise-specific. However, it is certainly generating revenue for Rupert Murdoch and the Fox companies.
BANKSTON: Yes, but how could it generate revenue for CBS, for Johnson & Johnson, or some other brand? The problem with today’s social networks is that they are very much like the Wild West in that you really don’t know what you’re going to see from click to click or from page to page. There is no regulation, there is no moderation, very little, if any, and so when you are a business and you are looking for an ROI, you are looking a way to tap into your customer base, which then equals your social network, so you want to improve on things such as your R&D process, your product release process, your customer loyalty programs, etc., those are things that you want to have control over as you communicate with the social network or with your stakeholders in that social network.
ANDELMAN: It all sounds positive for the enterprise, for the company, but where does the independent user benefit from being part of an enterprise network as opposed to a social network?
BANKSTON: The consumer.
ANDELMAN: The consumer.
BANKSTON: Yes. Well, let’s take the example of like the Chrysler Corporation. Chrysler is looking to build or would love to have a social network built around their products and services, so what are the problems that they are trying to solve? Well, they are trying to improve their market share, they are trying to understand why they keep having so many misses in the market. Today, whatever they are doing isn’t quite working to tap into the new generation of car buyers. By using a social network, they can engage on a very personal level with these individuals who have bought their products in the past, who have an affinity for a Chrysler product, and who desperately want to provide that feedback to Chrysler in a way that it will be constructively listened to and acted upon, and then to have the full circle to actually see that that comment and that feedback was indeed incorporated into the next generation of product. So imagine you are a Chrysler 300 owner, and you are saying, “I really wish this armrest just was a little lower, because I keep bumping into it.” Well, you give that feedback and others like you then potentially give that feedback to Chrysler. The next generation car has a redesigned armrest because the people are then helping the corporation, who has done this in a vacuum in the past, to improve their products and services. Then I’m the consumer, I’m going to go buy another one because Chrysler heard me, and they did something about it, and they care about me, and that’s something I’ve gotten out of it. So that’s just one example.
ANDELMAN: I kind of sidetracked us there, but let’s talk about CBS and Springboard. First of all, what is Springboard?
BANKSTON: Springboard - it was actually a specific initiative. It was a contest, so in the case of CBS, they were looking to find an intern for Katie Couric this summer. They sent out a request to all of the main journalism schools saying, “Go to CBS.com, and you can submit a video of some of your work or a document, a white paper if that’s all you have, and you can have the chance of being considered for Katie Couric’s intern.” That may include on-air spots, that may include all sorts of really career-making opportunity for that individual. Using our social network and platform, they created this place where these journalism students then were able to create an account, submit their own media, and also comment, rate, and rank others’ content, and all of that feedback, then, is managed by our back-end solution again, which is software as a service. We were able to provide very comprehensive reports and actually, using the software you generate your own reports, and so from the data that they got, Katie was able to pick her intern, and they haven’t announced that yet, but they have picked an intern from that particular program.
ANDELMAN: And how many videos were contributed? How many people participated?
BANKSTON: You know, I can’t release that, because it’s CBS’s information.
ANDELMAN: All right, but was there advertising put on these pages?
ANDELMAN: No advertising?
BANKSTON: Well, there was advertising on the first login page, and then on some of the subsequent pages, there was less advertising until one of the upload pages had no advertising. So that’s a combo answer there.
ANDELMAN: This was not necessarily an effort to earn revenue as to maybe….
ANDELMAN: Were they more interested in testing it as a medium?
BANKSTON: They were testing it as a medium, number one. Number two, they were putting their toe in for just building social networks around the concept of journalism, and so it was a way to “Hey, can we just sort of put our toe in the water here and look at this concept?”
ANDELMAN: Interesting. Now, you guys did something else with Katie Couric, right?
BANKSTON: Yeah, we’ve done a couple things in the past. When she first took over the “CBS Evening News,” she actually sent out a request on the first evening of her program, she said to America, “I’m looking to figure out what my sign-off should be. Should it be, good night, good luck? Should it be, that’s all, folks?” Whatever it may be. And she played some famous sign-offs from other anchors, and so she asked America, “Well, what should it be?” Well, within really about, it was actually about twenty-four hours, we had over 50,000 responses on what your sign-off should be. Now, that’s one little simple question, and we had 50,000 people giving their comments on what that should be. And what was really interesting is all that was broken up by time zones, so you could see geographic locations of where people were listening and where they were commenting from or watching, and it was very interesting data that was obtained from that.
© 2007 by Bob Andelman. All rights reserved.