Recently, Steven Walden, Director, Customer Experience, Ericsson and author, and I discussed how online conversations can deliver value to organisations. Online conversations are similar to the conversations we have everyday either with new people we meet or people that we have known or been friends with for a period of time:
conversations identify common interests
common interests are the foundation of communities
communities develop a sense of purpose
a sense of purpose is a catalyst for change
change creates opportunity and can deliver growth
Online conversations give organisations the opportunity to gain unique insights into different stakeholder groups through both listening to and engaging in online conversations be that in online communities and social channels owned and managed by an organisations or through partnering with other organisations that bring together individuals with a common interest online.
improve customer experience
identify new product ideas and improvements
measure the impact of a product launch
engage customers in the product development life cycle
develop relevant and valuable online content strategies
You can hear our conversation and our discussion about different strategy frameworks which I have developed and used with clients to help them gain insights and demonstrate Return of Investment from listening to and learning from online conversations
As customers, brands, topic enthusiasts and activists engage in online conversations across social networks, public and private online communities, we all have the opportunity to grow our knowledge understanding and appreciation of others.
From an organisations point of view, the ability to understand the relevance of these conversations and to be able to harness and develop them in order to grow and develop their people, products and services, requires a cultural shift which embraces conversation and collaboration underpinned by a model which reflects where these conversations are taking place.
The employee-customer conversation matrix offers a model to map customer conversations which are taking place today with the areas your employees are working on delivering and improving…
Which conversations are your employees and customers engaged in today and where could you be working in partnership with your customers in the future?
giffgaff is a sim only mobile network which provides a range of pay as you mobile services, wholly owned by Telefonica/02, and operated as a separate limited company.
giffgaff is widely recognised as a social business pioneer having developed, implemented and running a member(customer) centric social business model, partnering with their member (customer) community) to develop and build their business.
giffgaff members are at the centre of the business model, providing
– peer to peer member support, reducing on-going customer support costs
– feedback on product features, pricing and support
– ideas for new product development and innovation
Members are rewarded twice a year, based on their level of member support activity, involvement in product testing and contribution to product ideas and other feedback. Earlier this month, June 2012, giffgaff paid back £1.1m to the giffgaff community, a massive increase over 2 years from the first payback of £27k, demonstrating the increasing involvement and support of their member community. Read giffgaffs update here.
In recognition of their success, giffgaff has featured in a number of case studies:
Each of our speakers provided insights into how different companies are creating connections with their customers through online communities, what struck me was the difference between Innocent Drinks and TomTom in their approach to creating and connecting with their customer communities.
From the start, Innocent Drinks have had a close connection with their customers, from the sale of the first bottle of their crushed fruit drinks at a Music Festival to today, where they engage with them across multiple channels, online, on their packaging and through their events like this years innocent fruit sports day in regents park.
The culture of innocent drinks is fun, collaborative and enthusiastic and it is their ability to communicate this to their customers and create emotional connections with them creating ongoing dialogue and include them in their various initiatives with great success. The primary channels used by innocent drinks are their website, blog, facebook page, twitter feed, youtube channel, flickr and Instagram.
On the other hand TomTom is a different type of company, selling technology based products, which attracts a different kind of enthusiast and advocate than innocent drinks. innocent drinks, have brand advocates who identify with the culture of the company, the fun lifestyle reflected in their communication, packaging and events where TomTom advocates have a keen interest in technology, what it does, how it works, the problems it solves and share their technical knowledge with each other helping to resolve product support issues.
TomTom use their social channels to communicate with and facilitate conversations between their customers as well as informing prospective employees about current opportunities and life at TomTom.
Both organisations have successfully created an engaged customer community, however both their initial approach and on-going conversations are different. The following table highlights some of the key areas and the differences between the 2 companies:
Primary Business Goal
Brand Advocacy & Marketing
Approach to growing community
Organic with the business
Hosted community launched on a specific date
Evolving, learn as they go
Structured strategy for hosted community
Combined offline/packaging/online web and social and live events
Strategic Initiative – customer
Contact with Brand
Responsive and reflective of consumer conversations
Responsive – allow community to solve each other’s problems, with TomTom support where necessary or if community slow to respond
Primary communication direction
Brand to consumer and consumer to Brand
Peer to Peer – facilitate customer to customer with internal brand support and knowledge
Product Feedback channel – innocent respond to customer feedback on products – altered flavour of Thai Pot
Product feedback channel – used by NPD and innovation teams
Small team with access to whole company – all departments
Small team – primary function is support but can feed to others where necessary
Not primary focus, as customer conversations and accessibility of internal teams is part of company DNA
ROI is related to customer support cost savings, which are measured and reported.
International site with international communication
International site with international communication
It would be good to hear your feedback on these observations or your own experiences of creating and developing online communities, please leave a comment or contact me directly.
Over the last couple of years, I have worked with a social media monitoring and online community management and market research companies and each one advocates the value of their access and ability to interpret social conversation data, however very few, if any can position themselves in the overall social conversation space. In order to highlight the different layers of social conversations which offer organisations the opportunity to filter and mine social data with the goal of extracting consumer and market insights I have developed the social conversation sphere.
The social conversation sphere highlights 6 layers of online conversations which take place across all social channels including, websites, forums, blogs, social networks, public hosted communities and private communities:
All Online Social Conversations
The largest sphere contains all online social conversations on all subjects across all channels and provides access to the broadest levels of conversation. This area can be used by an organisation to answer a broad question about their company, products, customers, and competitors, current and potential new markets.
For example an organisation may launch a new brand, product or website and after a period of time, they can carry out some broad analysis of conversations to find out customer and market perceptions based on the key themes which emerge from any and all conversation around a particular word or phrase. They may find the key messages have got across successfully and the target customer group are using the product/service as intended or they could find that a different group is using the product in a different way. All findings provide feedback and understanding for an organisation.
Social Media Monitoring tools can be used to filter conversations to narrow down the social data sets. See below for how to select social media monitoring tools.
The subject ecosystem contains all social data from all social channels filtered by a particular subject area, for example you may be interested in coffee, alcohol, fast food, travel or some other broad subject area. This layer of social data is refined and narrowed down by key search terms which restrict the data set to one which is relevant to this key subject area.
This is where social media monitoring and filtering tools kick in and help you identify subject, segment and market social data sets. See below for how to select social media monitoring tools.
The company, product, brand or service ecosystem contains all social data from all public social channels, both third party sites and earned ecosystems, which is filtered by a particular company, product, brand or service name. This layer of social data is refined and narrowed down by key search terms relating to your company/brand/product or service, providing the opportunity to extract insight from relevant conversations.
This is where social media monitoring and filtering tools kick in and help you identify data sets relating to your company/brand/product or service. See below for how to select social media monitoring tools.
Earned Company/Product/Brand Ecosystem
An earned ecosystem is one where a company/product/brand or service has garnered public support/engagement across third party public social networks owned and managed by organisations and individuals not associated to the company/brand/product or service. Conversations which take place on an earned ecosystem provide different types of insight to those on hosted or own public and private social networks, as many of these sites offer a level of anonymity and may have different guidelines and moderation services to those managed and hosted by a company.
An earned ecosystem property may be an industry publication or website, an independent blogger, a forum or social network run by a fan or customer, a competitor’s site or a comment on a news of blog item.
This is where social media monitoring and filtering tools kick in and help you identify data sets relating to your company/brand/product or service which take place within the earned ecosystem. See below for how to select social media monitoring tools.
Hosted, Managed and Owned Ecosystem
As more and more current and potential customers use online resources as a means to research companies, brands, products, services and individuals, there are more and more social channels to access both independent information and also platforms for more direct access to a company, brand, product, service or an individual. Companies can and do monitoring conversations across all channels, but may not respond across each and every one, but use their own platforms both on public social networks like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn and also public hosted customer communities on their own websites like Dell’s ideastorm.com, Starbucks, mystarbucksidea.com and skys help forum.
This ecosystem provides the opportunity for a company, brand, brand, product, service or individual to have the opportunity to invest more time and resources into facilitating conversations between and with existing and future customers; provide a platform to extract ideas about new products and enhancements to existing products and services and opportunity to reflect back to the community about the actions taken based on feedback in these communities.
This provides a deeper level of insight and provides a test bed for product development ideas, market and campaign messages. There are a number of companies who provide hosted online communities and forums, these include:
At the heart of the social conversation sphere is private online customer communities, which provide a platform to create in depth on-going conversations with a small group of engaged customers over an extended period of time, this may be anything from a few months around a particular project or over a number of years. These communities bring together customers who are happy to participate in a range of market research activities, the output from which is fed back into an organisations market research, insight and new product development teams, influencing business, marketing and new product development decisions, de-risking innovation and accelerating the success of new product launches.
There are a number of companies who provide Private Online Customer Communities, these include:
There are a range of Social Media Monitoring Tools and service providers, each of which has its own strengths and weaknesses, some being more suitable for some work than others, a selection of providers include: