Posts Tagged ‘online community’

Hand coming out of the computer with mail.I’m a massive advocate of Linkedin. What a great way to connect with relevant communities, self promote and check out the merits of potential clients, recruits and colleagues. As a ‘social media’ platform, it’s by far my favourite. Want to gauge the health of a competitor or industry? You can find out by checking employee turnover on Linkedin. Need someone who knows about printing? Up pop two or three colleagues of old who now work in printing. Need a professional network but too shy to invest in a £60k MBA or 5 years at Oxbridge? Join Linkedin. The list goes on, and I haven’t even got started on the nosey factor! Matt Owen from Econsultancy looks at businesses attempting to drive engagement across social networks like Linkedin in this blog post Who owns your social media?

Embracing this amazing new business tool, like many I duly signed up, filled in my profile (100% no less) and even got a few ‘would recommend him in a heartbeat’ recommendations, in exchange for a few ‘what an amazing guy’ recommendations from myself. “No you’re the best, No you are …!”

Believing my latest recommendation to be entirely true, and not being the type to feel like he’s missing out I also signed up to a few of those ‘must connect’ groups, calculating that anything with ‘email’ or ‘lead generation’ in the title is probably a good place to start, and for investigative purposes only selected the top ten busiest looking groups relevant to me. I ascertained that this way I will be better informed who the industry movers and shakers are, what the topics of conversation are and best of all forever be seen as on the pulse of my industry. Ergo, I am therefore a progressive, game changing industry mover and shaker and will have to request more recommendations from my new found industry connections first thing tomorrow.

It did seem a bit too good to be true, and somewhat unsurprisingly, I arrived the following morning to an overloaded Linkedin group folder in my outlook. That’s ok (tolerance threshold mildly irritated), I signed up to a few after all. But to my dismay (tolerance now blown), following 20 minutes of spam sifting in that oh-so-familiar way seen with the establishment of email, Linkedin has become a haven for unsolicited trash being sent without proper control or respect for recipients. The vast majority of email alerts I checked within groups took the form of;

  • I’m selling some product or service
  • I’m spamming you in an indirect effort to sell some product or service
  • I’m writing to enter discussion whilst thinly disguising my product or service, which I’m actually selling in an unsolicited, spammy way

None of these were what I signed up for, which led to a sinking feeling of déjà vous. This then led to the dejected conclusion that it was highly unlikely that anyone was actually engaging in discussion for the benefit of the groups as I’d hoped. In fact, silly me, with the inevitability that night follows day, this form of communication has followed much the same path we’ve seen with many online media channels. The gold rush of an exciting new media platform created by a few early winners, snowballs into the subsequent come-one-come-all mushroom of exuberance, leading to the eventual incessant dilution of any value to all save the most spam tolerant. A new channel is a fertile ground for all players and what follows is the painful process of learning how to harness healthy practises fuelled by diminishing protagonist value and the backlash of the brow-beaten exploited.

So although I still remain a fan of social media platforms like Linkedin, this exercise re-emphasised the cyclical effects seen in all media channels, the extremes of which are no better illustrated than in digital media. Just as in the email industry, natural selection hastens the removal of poor contributors either through legislation/cultural rejection (also seen recently in Twitter where self promoters are increasingly snubbed) allowing for the emergence of better practices which are more palatable to the consumer. As we have seen within email, consumer acceptance re-emerges when the trust is rebuilt and the unscrupulous are shackled.  This is what we should all be focusing on take Stephanie Miller tips on how to connect email, social and eCRM. So email marketing can be the template for Social media platforms like Linkedin to follow. Ben and Jerry’s take note.

Stephanie Miller highlights how to connect Email, Social and eCRM

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Going socialForget going green: it’s all about going social. Everyone’s talking about their social media efforts – or lack thereof – and it seems that social commerce (or the business of monetising social media) seems to be scaring the hell out of many marketers who feel they’re missing the boat because they’re simply overwhelmed by the options. People are talking to their networks about how to live, eat, socialise, date, shop, vote etc.  This dialogue, otherwise known as User Generated Content (UGC), is going on right now, but opening up your brand to potentially negative feedback is pant-wettingly worrying…unless you open your arms wide to embrace and deal with it.

‘Tis the season for conferences (or Summits, as our American cousins more inspirationally name them) which are a great way to catch up with suppliers and clients on what’s hot and what’s not. I attended two in the last couple of weeks that had a seriously social slant: Bazaarvoice Social Commerce Summit 2009 (on Twitter: #scs 09) and Webtrends Engage Online (#wtel09).

Here’s just some of the assertions I jotted down: we’re living in an ‘enormously transformative age’ of ‘accelerated digital development’, living in an ‘Always On’ culture of ‘SO-SO’-ing (we all ‘switch on[line] to switch off’ from work) or indulging in ‘Bleisure, staying constantly connected via smartphones and doing business during leisure time (thanks to the very cool Tom Savigar, Trends Director at Future Laboratory, for those ellipses).

Taking stock of the new interactive world we live in, there are some equally bald statistics giving weight to the commercial potential for social media:

  • 70% of the digital universe will be generated by individuals by 2010 (Source: TechCrunch 2009)
  • Facebook is now the 4th most-visited website, with more than 300 million active users of which 50+% are logging in every single day. The fastest growing demographic is 35+ yrs old, people have 130 friends on average and the most prolific users are on Facebook for mobile (Source: Facebook)
  • It’s not just the under 30s who are constantly connected: 33% of 45-54 yr-olds and 23% of 55-65 yr olds are always online, a hugely lucrative demographic segment (Source: Future Laboratory + Virgin Media 2009)
  • Bazaarvoice clients using Ratings & Reviews or Ask & Answer UGC products report big increases in conversion (>10% increase for top-rated products on Argos.co.uk; 40% increase for mistergooddeal.com)

 Putting personality into your brand to create a real, human, emotional connection with consumers, is the first step to a serious social strategy.

 At the Bazaarvoice Summit, the keynote opening talk was Feel and be Felt’ Ze Frank, a frankly bonkers video blogger-cum-social-guru. He advises us to always strive to connect with consumers in an implicitly personal way to provoke a response. Achieving a truly emotional connection is tricky, but if you’re listening to what people are saying – what moves/upsets/amuses/annoys them – there should be common themes upon which to build ‘projects’ or viral campaigns which will strike a chord in your collective customer consciousness.

Take this YouTube clip of an epic water slide off the side of a house that some kids in America made,  which was picked up by Microsoft Germany for the launch of their ‘megawoosh’ website for Microsoft office 2007,…and is surely not far away from the hugely popular Barclaycard water slide ad,  which has in turn been spoofed by Specsavers, my point being of course that these companies seized on water slides because they resonate with everyone.

Creating a community for your brand of online conversations has worked for many early-adopters, either on the website itself or on a network such as Facebook or Twitter:  Topshop has nearly 500k fans who can clickthrough for the latest Kate Moss or Christopher Kane launch, and the  ASOS Community has nearly 700k profiles. Of course, as cool of-the-moment fashion brands, they have a clear identity and loyal/instant user base, but a more unlikely community success story is eSpares (spare parts) – their reviews have become a way for customers to interact and advise others how to fit spare parts properly.

Once the floodgates are open, there’s no going back, so, as Argos, EPSON and eSpares all advised during the Bazaarvoice Panel Q&A, it’s critical to have response plans in place for both negative and positive feedback, with customer service teams, suppliers and manufacturers. Respond to feedback quickly and personally – there have been examples of ‘turnarounds’ where furious customers, tweeting their spleen about a recent purchase or service issue, are spotted by an astute and nimble company representative monitoring their #tags closely, and offer a swift free replacement or discount vouchers – unsurprisingly there’s a tweet volte face and the astonished customer can’t praise the company enough.

To keep the conversation about your brand going, encourage multi-network dialogue and multi-channel distribution of content: share website UGC with your Facebook page and encourage tweets and re-tweets: keep the conversation going! Bazaarvoice also unveiled their Social Network Accelerators, similar to Social Fusion  or share-to-social email products, which ‘close the loop’ to automatically post email content to social sites. Spread the word across other online/offline channels: feature reviews in email, brochures and instore – ‘social syndication’. The Body Shop share reviews and suggestions in email campaigns to drive sales of their star products.

I spoke to one conference delegate last week who was angry with the term ‘social media’, saying social conversations and interactions are entirely organic and cannot be commercialised. But that’s not the point: it’s more a case of capturing their hearts, then their minds and wallets will naturally follow. Instead of focusing on direct returns, through really listening and interacting online, companies have a huge opportunity to use all the multitudinous digital tools at their fingertips to create a real relationship with customers. The Them&Us divide of Corporation&Consumer is blending – a natural convergence of rapid digital growth, a timeless public appetite to interact and a dissatisfaction with the previous unaccountability of Big Corporates in a recession.

Another term I’ve been hearing a lot of in the last few weeks is ‘Building Brand DNA’ (or personality). Thanks again to Tom Savigar at Future Laboratory for summing it up with the latent identities of these global brands: Virgin + British Airways, Apple + Dell. I like to think my company, eCircle, has a very different ‘DNA’ to our more American Corporate competitors too! But if social media is integral to building brand DNA, and brands now reach far into the digital stratosphere, how on earth are we to measure and optimise, as all good marketers ought?

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