Category Archives: Social Media

Online Communities – An Interview with Francois Gossieaux

This is a cross-post from Radar:

Recently I spoke with Francois Gossieaux of Beeline Labs about the role of online communities in the enterprise.   Francois has been evangelizing the learning gained from his recent study, The Tribalization of Business (click here for the Slideshare presentation).  I am embedding the second in the three part series but you can see all of them here:

The interview is broken into three parts.  Francois is a great storyteller, bringing case studies in to support nearly every point.  Here are a few insights I took away from our conversation:


Community First:
(Note: in the original post I called this “Community for Community’s Sake” and had this to say….)

Most businesses begin planning a community with traditional objectives (lower support costs, drive innovation, increase customer loyalty etc.).  On the Social Web this is the equivalent of entering a personal relationship with an ulterior motive (which never works out quite right).   Businesses should begin with the question, “how can I satisfy the needs of this community?”– and then follow the community’s lead.   Be open to the unexpected.

In my experience this is one of the hardest things for companies to get behind and relegates this kind of “enlightened” community effort to either top-level leadership or skunk works development.  Middle management is typically the most reluctant to deviate from standard practice and place a bet on community for the community’s sake.

After a bit of reflection I think this summary is insufficient.   I didn’t ask Francois to clarify the “community first” position – leaving the viewer with an impression that community building should be an abstract leap-of-faith.  I don’t think this is the case.    Business leaders have every right to ask how allocating a significant amount of time, resources and funds are going to deliver value.   The Tribalization of Business study is an attempt to answer that very question.   Community first is an approach that allows businesses to nurture a successful community by thinking about what motivates community behavior and user contribution (after all, if you can’t get that, all your business objectives go out the window too).  So the thrust of my revision (not sure if Francois agrees) is that business objectives are important and should be part of the planning process and should be measured – yet if you aren’t dead clear about what value you are delivering to the community first you are going to have problems.  

Communities require a social framework to thrive – most companies have a mindset that reflects the legal, contractual and hierarchical underpinnings of their business and carry these behaviors with them into the community.   This informs their planning, measurement and how they encourage contribution.   These incentives and disincentives have little sway on the Social Web where the mindset is social and trust, reputation and relationship are big drivers of contribution. As Francois says, “The most successful communities occur when you tap into that social framework”


Consider stories as a success metric:
While there is a fair amount in this interview about measurement – this was my favorite: A great anectdote about how one company views the stories that emerge from their community as a key metric of success.  Great stories are inherently viral and can have a profound impact on decision making in an organization.
Think Bigger: Most large companies are satisfied to have small communities; essentially replicating a focus group model.  Doing so misses the potential of the online community to transform your business.   Consider how Intuit is now embedding live community directly into their application – allowing users to seek help and get questions answered directly.
Transformative communities blur the lines between company and customer and portend a future where retail ecommerce sites go well beyond ratings and reviews and provide problem solving, shopping mentors, product development and other services directly from the community.   Where internet sites are co-evolved (from interface to feature-sets to codebase) in cooperation with community,  where complex applications (desktop and cloud-based) meld standard functions with community functions.    Communities are certainly helpful in providing feedback on customer behavior but that is just one small part of the story.

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Filed under Marketing, Social Media, strategy, video

Moment of Truth: We are all Marketers Now

Attending the recent Forrestor Roundtable on the future of the Social Web I made an offhand comment that we are all in the business of marketing now – whether we like it or not.   Here is what I meant:  The ubiquitous, always-on nature of the Internet has turned many elements of our business inside out – exposing them to customers for review, comment, sharing and even improvement. You see it occurring in assessments of product quality delivered by customer ratings and reviews, in product roadmaps developed by customers, in brand enhancement through community idea exchanges, in marketplaces for community innovation and sharing.  On and on… Company and customers are interacting like never before.

Jan Carlzon called these “Moments of Truth”, the moment when customer and company touch.  Carlzon thought Moments of Truth consisted of ANY touchpoint – whether with a person or with a system or process (like calling an automated voice system).  The Social Web puts Carlzon’s concept on steroids because it (1) radically increases the number person-to-person interactions between company and customer and (2) it magnifies the value (good and bad) of these interactions (It only took one sleeping Comcast technician to garner 1.3 million views on YouTube).


That Means Every Moment of Truth is a Marketing Moment of Truth

Currently people speak about this phenomenon through the lens of their own business responsibility:
“Customer service is the new marketing…” right! (Look no further than Zappos)
“Product development is the new marketing…” right! (Look no further than Google)
In fact even your legal department is the new marketing if you aren’t careful… Stop us before we sue again! (Look no further than the Associated Press).
Connect the dots and you reach the conclusion that marketing is now a horizontal discipline – it cuts across nearly every business unit in the company.
I am not saying that we won’t have a CMO anymore, or people who are marketing experts – I am saying that, like it or not, marketing has become everyone’s responsibility.   “The technique of promoting, selling, and distributing a product or service” engages everyone in your organization because nearly everyone has moments of truth (if they don’t now, they will soon – trust me).    Those that factor customers into each business unit (with care) and see it as a marketing moment of truth; will be unstoppable companies.

If you aren’t allowing your business to benefit from customer input and charging everyone that does has some marketing chops (in the best – moment of truth – sense of the word)… I have a news flash; the train has left the station.   Drop your suitcase and run.  You might still make it ☺

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Pirates and Poohbahs Unite!

Yesterday I was lucky enough to attend a Forrester round table on the future of the Social Web put together by Jeremiah Owyang and hosted by SAP (thanks to both for an incredible job).  It stimulated a lot of thinking I have been doing about change – the next few posts are inspired by the rich conversations that took place there:

When talking about bringing social technologies into business I think it is helpful to address both the “bottom up”  and and the “top down” ways that it occurs.

I think of it in terms of Pirates (with a nod to Matt Mason) and Poohbahs (with a nod to Gilbert and Sullivan).

Pirates push change at the margins – Often the ones making the changes inside the organization are the Pirates – agitators for a new order.  People who operate at the margins, across borders, challenge business norms, and bring new ideas into being.  Pirates can come from every business unit: IT, Marketing, R&D, HR etc.    Pirates can sometimes even be in leadership (Poohbah) positions (Scott Cook of Intuit, Shari Ballard of Best Buy, Bob Lutz at GM).   Pirates push change at the margins.   However at some point leadership needs to get engaged to move from margin to core business.  From small payoffs to big payoffs.

Poohbahs push change from the core. Poohbahs set the vision and goals to be met .  They exemplify the cultural traits they want to see in the organization.   Poohbahs can create safe haven for their pirates (a.k.a. sponsorship and championing a cause).   Most importantly Poohbahs can help drive education around new ways of doing business – the what, why and how of social technologies.  After all, a company that speaks the same language and shares the same vision is unbeatable

False Logic of the Holy Pilot: Since social technologies are essentially bottom-up and built upon the participation of the lowest common denominator of an organization; customers or employees, the argument goes that the rollout of these technologies should be bottom up and organic;  “Let the employees (or customers) play with the tools and you will have a wildfire on your hands….”  I say think small and you stay small.

Pilots are sometimes a good start.  Often it is a necessary start before making the case to the Poohbahs.  But it is not a roadmap to transforming your business – often I have seen it become an excuse to underfund an initiative.  If you want to harness the power of social technologies to transform business get ready to tackle the harder stuff – leadership, change and culture.  This requires both Pirates and Poohbahs.

If you look at what is happening at Best Buy, Intuit, Proctor and Gamble (very different industries),  the Poohbahs are driving these changes – creating a safe haven (indeed a culture!)  where pirates can thrive.

Pirates and Poohbahs Unite!!

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Filed under Change, Insight, Social Media, strategy, Web 2.0

Interview: Customer Service is the New Marketing

During the Web 2.0 Expo in New York I filmed a series of interviews. The focus was always the same: how can traditional business look to get the benefit of social technologies? This interview is with Lane Becker of Get Satisfaction (Disclaimer: OATV, O’Reilly’s VC arm, is an investor in Get Satisfaction).   Lane’s point about “Customer Service is the New Marketing” is dead-on.   Customers now control the conversation – and companies need to understand how a powerful customer service focus can create an army of brand evangelists.  The video appears below – however Lane has agreed to answer questions to my original Radar post here: http://radar.oreilly.com/2008/10/ustomer-service-is-the-new-mar.html

The most insightful moment in my opinion comes when Lane talks about how even smaller companies and companies not structured to deliver superior customer service can use new technology to get it right.

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The Evanglist’s Toolkit – Part One

Thanks to everyone who attended the recent webinar.  Here are the slides from that presentation.  The “slideshare” icon will allow you to download the set from Slideshare.   I would love to hear any follow up questions or issues you might have.   I am going to try and take many of the questions that I had today and post responses here.

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Listening Devices: Part One

In the network economy Listening beats Talking:  Listening is another way of finding answers – and finding answers from new places – from customers, partners and employees outside of the leadership circle.    Why is this important?   Most of our companies are structured to talk.  Marketing, PR, Tradshows and events –  are all vehicles for advocacy – for talking.    Listening companies reap the benefits of reduced cycle time, open innovation and better customer intimacy and loyalty.

Ultimately, listening is a commitment to take action on the part of a company.  Because they do this so well, Starbucks is often cited in this regard.  “My Starbucks Idea” definitely gets it right.  Despite the fact that I am no fan of Starbucks they are part of the dialogue on improvement and they take action when ideas reach critical mass in the community.

But where do you start?

While there are paid services and tools for monitoring online brand conversation, I often counsel clients to begin with setting up a very basic set of listening devices;  free tools that allow you to get a sense of how your company is being represented on the Social Web.   Here is the dead simple starting kit.    I would love to hear of any additions.

Set up Google Alerts – you can track what is being said about your company quickly and easily.  Google will send you a daily email.

Set up a good RSS reader If you aren’t getting your news customized and delivered to your browser daily – you are missing out.   I use NetVibes because it is elegant and also signs me into my social networks at the same time.  In the workshops I run this alone is worth the price of admission since it will save you hours of time.

Search Facebook for groups with your company name (you may also want to check Bebo, HiFive and Ning if you are industrious).  I had a conversation yesterday with a business owner who was stunned that his one-state restaurant chain had 37 dedicated groups in Facebook.   You can also try adding adjectives to your company name (+sucks, +rules etc.)

Try this same procedure on Technorati to go back in time and see what has been said about you in the blogosphere.   A friend at a major clothing retailer built her case to fund  Social Web initiatives by collecting customer quotes/complaints gathered on Technorati.   Add worthwhile bloggers to your Netvibes page to get a sense of what else they are talking about and tracking.

Use Twhirl to eavesdrop on Twitter and other microblogging platforms.

This is a good starting place – I would love to hear of other free listening devices that people are using.

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Web 2.0 Presentation

Here is a basic Web 2.0 overview (shortened due to time constraints) that I just gave to a group in Detroit:

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