13 Trends in Online Communities

A_full_house_at_the__vibewire_board_meeting

In July 2014, the folks over at GetSatisfaction surveyed professionals working in marketing, product development and support to understand their use of online communities. With more than 800 responses, the report reveals that, in many instances, companies are in the early stages of community building. Sixty-one percent of respondents have a customer community, and 33% of those had only been running for a year or less. An additional 25% had only been running their community less than two years.

Over the last 2-3 years, there has been a growing awareness of the value of customer communities, but as the report also reveals, many don’t know where or how to start. There are always staff and resourcing challenges, questions of quality and know-how and cost. There will even be some who don’t see the value. But the value of building a community of passionate customers is certainly not lost on brands like Apple whose recent iPhone 6 launch announcements flooded the internet for days.

Not all brands are going to have the instant appeal and fanboi cache of Apple. But even unsexy brands can rock social media. After all, we are all drawn to someone or something that makes our life just a little better or easier. And that is exactly what customer commuities do – they help our customers help other customers. Amazing concept.

Why Do People Leave Jobs?

infographic-feature

When I begin working with clients I work to understand what their ambassadors think about them. I look to their customers and suppliers to get a sense of what is working and what is not. But there is no better source of insight than a company’s employees. These are the people who are actively engaging and promoting the company every day. They are the face of the brand and are – in many instances – the custodian of customer experience. If an employee is having a bad day, your brand is likely to feel the impact.

This infographic from Bamboo HR is based on interviews with over 1000 US-based employees. And they look not just at the reasons that people leave, but the conditions that make people unhappy. Because unhappy employees perform worse than happy ones. No surprises there, right? But there is a substantial difference between an employee who is unhappy and a company culture that MAKES people unhappy. And far too often, the reasons that people are unhappy is not to do with the people that they work with, but the conditions that they work under.

Take a look at the statistics in this infographic. Do these situations worry you? Do some of these apply to your business? Do you even know?

There are ways to fix this and it may be easier than you imagine. Let’s chat!

 

Workplace-Deal-Breakers-Infographic

Kickstart Your Campaign with Video

kickstartervideoinfographic.jpg

The crowdfunding platform, Kickstarter, is a fascinating microcosm – it brings together all the elements and challenges of a business often before that business exists. So in many ways, a Kickstarter project is a pre-startup startup – and accordingly it faces many of the same immediate challenges. But where startups sprint towards product, Kickstarter forces a path towards market development. Those who can’t market, don’t win. And like current marketing trends indicate, video plays an increasingly important role in that process.

Research from MWP Digital Media shows that Kickstarter projects that have a video are 85% more likely to achieve their funding goals. This tends to match some of the trends we are seeing in broader marketing circles – with YouTube and Vimeo consumption continuing to rise – impacting not just brand and engagement metrics but also working at crucial junctures in the path to purchase.

Video, however, is a steep learning curve – so there are obvious benefits to outsourcing. But new features in familiar apps/platforms like Instagram and Twitter (via Vine) make it easy to experiment. And I have a feeling that the role of user (or brand) generated video content is only going to accelerate in the next 12-18 months. I have already begun testing this out for myself and with clients.

These days marketing never sleeps. I hope this shift isn’t catching you napping.

kickstarter-video-infographic

Yammer’s Community Management Playbook

IMG_0086

As a boy I can remember my Nanna holding court at a friend’s house. We were sitting at a 50s laminex kitchen table (you know the kind with the fake marbling and the shiny metal edging) and there were copious cups of tea, home made cakes, scones and biscuits carefully laid out. But no one was eating. The conversation was coming thick and fast – with this coterie of grandmothers exchanging tips, sharing stories and laughing at each others’ family stories. It was a community gathering firmly held together by the will of these formidable women.

Even as a child I could sense the power of connection that was taking place. I could feel the energy. And I knew, almost instinctively, that there were rules to be followed.

Many years later, when I began to get involved in corporate “communities of practice”, I noticed many of these same rules applied. Well, not necessarily applied – but were vital for the health of a community.

With the massive shift to digital and social media, online communities – and community management – has emerged as a discipline in its own right. And while it is largely viewed by business as a “fluffy” or “touchy feely” role, organisations such as Yammerare connecting communities to hard numbers and strategic outcomes. In many cases, having an active and engaged community manager is becoming a strategic advantage.

But for those organisations who remain skeptical of the business benefit of social media, concepts such as community management can feel as removed from business reality as fairy stories. This is where the Yammer Community Management Playbook comes in handy. It’s a step by step primer on the establishment and maintenance of communities. Take a read. It may just save the future of your business.

 

Why a Facebook Only Strategy is Doomed to Fail

strategicprinciples Facebook’s recent decision to shut down The Cool Hunter’s Facebook page should have sent shivers down the spine of every marketer. For years the vast scale of Facebook has attracted brands like a moth to the social media flame. Promising TVC-like reach with the added benefits of interactivity, community building and interest-graph targeting, it seemed that Facebook was the answer to the prayers of digital marketers the world over.

But a Facebook only strategy is doomed to fail:

  • Facebook is well-known for changing their terms and conditions without consultation. If you are not on top of those changes you can find yourself in breach and at risk of being shut down
  • Many brands run competitions on their Facebook pages without understanding the restrictive rules for doing so – see particularly Item E (iv) about the use of the Facebook “Like” button as a competition entry mechanism. Again, transgression could see your page shut down
  • Facebook is a walled garden designed to keep interaction and activity firmly on the inside. If you are going to the trouble of engaging your connected consumers, building your community and deepening the brand relationship, you run the risk of being “Cool Hunted” and losing that entire investment if you are shut down
  • Facebook, while large in scale, is only one social network. Digital marketers should be aiming for quality of engagement and deep next gen customer experience over “reach”

Three steps to reclaim your digital strategy

Facebook can still be a useful (and powerful) platform – but it should be part of your strategy to drive marketing and business outcomes. For example, it should not BE your strategy. There are three steps you can take to reclaim your digital strategy:

  • Use a continuous digital strategy. In a digital world, strategy is not “set and forget”. Following a proven approach to set, refine and extend your digital strategy provides deep resilience in the planning and execution of your strategy
  • Strategy drives decisions. You must have a clearly articulated and documented strategy. It should provide a guiding principle. “Share the Message, Own the Destination” will not only drive the content and conversational approach, but will also inform your technology choices
  • Use technology to scale. While social media offers one-to-one communications, this cannot scale in a business context. There are a range of technologies that can assist you to scale the execution of your strategy. This topic is the focus of my future research, be sure to subscribe for updates.

Sydney Cycleways Changing the Way We Experience Sydney

Years ago I did some work in Munich. Our office was in the centre of town and my hotel (if you could call it that) was just outside the central business district – but rather than catching a can each day, I thought I’d try cycling.

At the front of the hotel was a bike rack with bikes that could be hired by the day, hour or week. Once you had setup an online account, the bikes could be unlocked remotely via text message. And the best thing was that you could stop “renting” the bike just by relocking it into one of the many racks scattered throughout the city. It was brilliant and supremely convenient.

But most importantly, it changed the nature of the relationship that I had with the city. Rather than rushing from point A to point B, I was able to breathe in the architecture and style of the city. I could see the people and the way they lived. I felt part of a living landscape – and years later I still feel an affinity with the city.

This is partly why I am so excited to see Sydney’s cycleways threading through the CBD. Sure there are great, environmental reasons why they are a good idea – but beyond this, it is about reimagining and recasting the way we relate to the city. It’s about what it means to live, work and thrive in a city like Sydney.

Over on the SBS Cycling Central site is a great interview with City of Sydney Lord Mayor, Clover Moore. She talks about a grander vision – of a larger cycleway network within the City of Sydney, connecting with other shires across Sydney. But she also talks about what it means to live in a city and how we need to own and design the city that we want to live in. And that is something that we should all share in.

You Owe the Companies Nothing

Stan Johnson shares this great rant from Banksy on advertising and advertisers in our society. It’s a little Cluetrain-esq with a more activist angle.

Take a read.

Does he make a fair point? I’m interested to know your point of view … not because it’s inflammatory or because I have a vested interest. How does it make you feel as a CREATOR of content and a CONSUMER of advertising? How do you reconcile this spectrum – or is there even a need? Do we owe companies nothing – or is there some silent, complicit contract or is is a fabrication?

banksy

Joining the Customer Collective Advisory Panel

The Customer Collective is an independent, moderated blogging community focused on sales and marketing executives. Its sister site, The Social Customer focuses on customer service practitioners. Both of these sites operate under the SocialMediaToday umbrella and take contributions from bloggers, writers, thought leaders and practitioners from all around the world. You can automatically share your blog posts via RSS or write exclusive articles directly for the community. It is a great way of sharing your knowledge with a broad, yet business focused audience.

I was recently invited to join the advisory board of The Customer Collective/ The Social Customer and am excited to be joining a respected group of marketing and sales practitioners. Be sure to check out their blogs and Twitter channels for razor sharp insight and quality conversation!

Ardath Albee
Ardath Albee

http://www.marketinginteractions.com
@ardath421 on Twitter
Ardath Albee is CEO and B2B Marketing Strategist for her firm Marketing Interactions. She is an expert at creating contagious content and e-marketing strategies that engage prospects-from initial attention until they’re sales ready. She has a unique ability to develop content strategies that work hand-in-glove with overall corporate and product positioning to deliver hard hitting e-marketing programs and tools that compel customers to buy. Ardath is the author of the popular book, eMarketing Strategies for the Complex Sale, recently released by McGraw-Hill.
Connect with Ardath »

Dave Brock
Dave Brock

http://partnersinexcellenceblog.com
@davidabrock on Twitter
Dave Brock is President and CEO of Partners In EXCELLENCE, a global consulting company focused on helping organizations achieve the highest levels of performance in sales, marketing, customer service and business strategy. He helps individuals and organizations develop and execute strategies to outPerform, outSell, and outCompete their competition. Dave is an internationally recognized speaker, writer, and thought leader in leadership, sales, value propositions, marketing, strategic alliances and partnering, business strategy and management.
Connect with Dave »

Charles Green
Charles Green

http://www.trustedadvisor.com
@charleshgreen on Twitter
Author, speaker, teacher, blogger. Founder/CEO of Trusted Advisor Associates co-author The Trusted Advisor author Trust-based Selling MBA, ex-general management consultant Helping build trusted business advisors.
Connect with Charles »

Paul Greenberg
Paul Greenberg

http://the56group.typepad.com/
@pgreenbe on Twitter
In addition to being the author of the best-selling CRM at the Speed of Light, Paul Greenberg is President of The 56 Group, LLC, a customer strategy consulting firm, and BPT Partners, LLC, a training and consulting venture that has quickly become the certification authority for the CRM industry. His book, CRM at the Speed of Light: Social CRM Strategy, Tools, and Techniques for Engaging Your Customers, now in its fourth edition, is in 9 languages and been called "the bible of the CRM industry". Paul is also the co-chairman of Rutgers University’s CRM Research Center and the Executive Vice President of the CRM Association. He is a Board of Advisors member of the Baylor University MBA Program for CRM majors, a unique national program. He is a core member of the Board of Advisors for the Center for American Progress, the leading policy thinktank in Washington D.C.
Connect with Paul »

Gavin Heaton
Gavin Heaton

http://www.sap.com/communities/pcn
@servantofchaos on Twitter
Gavin is the author of Servant of Chaos, one of Australia’s leading marketing blogs and is the co-publisher (with Drew McLellan) of the ground-breaking collaborative marketing book series, Age of Conversation. Gavin has worked in agencies (leading the global digital strategy for McDonald’s), but is currently holed up on the client side where he is the Director of Social Media for the SAP Premier Customer Network, North America. In what little spare time is left to him, he works with young people as president of local non-profit organisation, Vibewire.
Connect with Gavin »

Jill Konrath
Jill Konrath

http://sellingtobigcompanies.blogs.com
@jillkonrath on Twitter
Jill Konrath is an internationally recognized author and B2B sales strategist. She’s a popular speaker at sales meetings, conferences and kick-off events where she shares fresh sales strategies that actually work in today’s business environment. SNAP Selling, her newest book, soared to #1 Amazon sales book within hours of its release. Her 1st book, Selling to Big Companies, was named a “must read” by Fortune Magazine and has been an Amazon’s Top 20 Sales Books since 2006.
Connect with Jill »

Mike Merriman
Mike Merriman

@MerrimanMzinga on Twitter
Mike Merriman has a varied background in product development, product management, customer service, strategic consulting, and industry research with over 20 years of leadership experience. As Mzinga’s Director of Strategic Services, Mike applies this broad background to assist our clients in mapping their business goals to specific community and social media initiatives to maintain competitive advantage.
Connect with Mike »

Natalie Petouhoff
Natalie Petouhoff

http://www.drnatalienews.com/
@drnatalie on Twitter
Dr. Natalie serves as the Chief Strategist for Social Media, Digital Communications and Measurement at Weber Shandwick, with a world-wide practice role spanning client work, practice development and thought leadership. Dr. Natalie’s focus is to consult with clients on their strategy for social media, marketing, PR, customer service and integrating them using organizational change management, new technology deployment and social media analytics, measurement and ROI.
Connect with Natalie »

Anneke Seley
Anneke Seley

http://www.sales20book.com/wp
@annekeseley on Twitter
Anneke was the twelfth employee at Oracle, the designer of OracleDirect, the company’s revolutionary inside sales operation, and one of four people recognized as an early innovator in Oracle’s Innovation Showcase. She is currently the CEO and founder of Phone Works, a sales strategy and implementation consultancy that has helped over 350 large and small businesses across industries increase sales productivity and results. Anneke is the coauthor of the best-selling book on the new culture of selling, Sales 2.0: Improve Business Results Using Innovative Sales Practices and Technology.
Connect with Anneke »

Don’t Target Your Fans, Target their Friends

sap-esmeDuring a presentation recently by Steve Sammartino, I was reminded of one of the most simple human behaviours – the short cut. Put simply, Steve told us, with no inducement humans will seek a short cut, a loophole, or way around a roadblock. We’ll look to “game” the system.

I think this is, in part, why we sometimes struggle with social media.

You see, social media is a great complex beast. It appears easy on the surface – setup one or more free accounts and go! But we all soon learn that growing a Twitter following is hard graft. We learn that our customers don’t always want to be our Fans. And that “being social” as a person doesn’t always translate to “being social” as a brand.

But I think this is largely due to our narrow focus – to our desire to take a short cut. Think about Facebook. We think – in our marketing world view – that the best approach to grow a community or fan base is to target our customers. BUT that isn’t social – that’s broadcast. That is assumption writ large. The underlying assumption is “I’ve got something for you”.

Perhaps, instead, we need to think about giving, pushing or delivering. We need to think about SERVING. How do we serve our customers needs?

And taking a purely social mindset, clearly the answer is to serve our customers friends.

Facebook and ComScore have teamed up to provide a new service called Social Essentials. If only 16% of branded messages reach Facebook users in a given week, we clearly need a different approach – and Social Essentials aims to bring the network scale to bear on this problem. For example, Starbucks has 23 million Facebook fans. Sounds big, right? But those 23 million fans have 670 million friends. Now that is what I call reach! But more importantly, it explains and commoditises what we too often call “influence” (and no, influence isn’t your Klout score). 

For the moment, Social Essentials seems to be about the measurement of campaigns, but there are big plans afoot. As FastCompany reports:

The service will, in the future, be able to track what kinds of products users are purchasing, what they were doing before and after seeing messages, and even what type of credit card was used–making it easier to conjure up savvy promotions that scintillate the particular pressure points of Facebook users.

Nike has called Facebook the “new TV” – and this new service sounds like it may just start delivering the digitally-verifiable reach that TV has claimed for decades. But it will become really interesting when this data is turned inside out and becomes available for real time targeting. I bet that’s what Google will be doing with Google+.

Organise Your Peeps with Groundcrew

Communities can be notoriously difficult to organise – there are always competing priorities, egos and agendas. The same can apply to teams of any type. But what if you could organise your efforts around location and interest? What if you could corral like-minded folk who just happened to be in the right place at the right time?

Well, with this funky service, now you can.

GroundCrew offers some seriously good coordination tools that can apply to many situations. It’s perfect for non-profit or membership based organisations. It’s a perfect solution for companies with dispersed workforces needing to connect their experts to local problems. And it could radically transform the way that we look at responding to natural disasters.

Oh, and for those of us looking for brilliant tools to manage our online/offline communities from a marketing and branding point of view, it’s a no-brainer. And it gives new teeth to the tired notion of “crowdsourcing”. Sign up today. You’ll find a use for it in seconds.

Via @RachelBotsman.