GiffGaff – A Social Business Case Study

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

–  online word of mouth marketing support



the giffgaff member community is managed by a team of 16-20 community managers, headed by Vincent Boon, who you can follow on Twitter @vincentboon where he provides updates on the giffgaff community and their interactions.

Looking at the giffgaff community, the most active threads are the peer to peer member support area with over 1.5million posts – highlighted in red above and the innovation, promotion and improvements thread with almost 116k posts, highlighted in green above.

Underlying giffgaffs online model is Lithium’s online community platform which provides the underlying technology and member activity analytics.  Follow Lithium on Twitter @lithiumtech

giffgaff encourage their members to spread the word and provide them with a range of tools to share across social networks, including facebook and twitter.  Follow @giffgaff on twitter here.     Like giffgaff on Facebook here.

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:

Lithium – giffgaff customer case study
Figaro Digital giffgaff case study
Giffgaff Manages Its Community To Deliver A Great Customer Experience, by Jonathan Browne.
Case Study: Giffgaff Uses Co-Creation To Build A Differentiated Mobile Service Business by Doug Williams
GiffGaff – a case study of customers in control by Laurance Buchanan at Ernst & Young

    Online Customer Communities, Innocent Drinks & TomTom

    Last week, I attended the European Customer Experience World conference at the Hilton T5 Heathrow, and chaired the social media stream on the first day, where we had 3 great speakers, Joe McEwan, from Innocent Drinks, Jonathan Browne from Forrester and Kenneth Refsgaard from TomTom.

    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 provides a range of communication channels for their customers, their website, a hosted customer community, facebook page, twitter feed, youtube channel, linkedin careers group and google+ page, all of which are managed by the TomTom community team.  TomToms’ hosted community partner is Lithium who provide both the hosted platform plus the expertise in growing and developing an active and vibrant community.

    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:

    Community   Strategy Innocent TomTom
    Primary Business Goal Brand Advocacy & Marketing Customer support
    Approach to growing community Organic with the business Hosted community launched on a specific date
    Strategy Evolving, learn as they go Structured strategy for hosted community
    Communication Channels Combined offline/packaging/online web and   social and live events Strategic Initiative – customer
    Contact with Brand Direct Direct
    Communication Tone 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
    Feedback Product Feedback channel – innocent respond to   customer feedback on products – altered flavour of Thai Pot Product feedback channel – used by NPD and innovation   teams
    Management Small team with access to whole company – all departments Small team – primary function is support but   can feed to others where necessary
    ROI 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.
    Geography 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.