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new marketing summit – community platforms panel

October 15, 2008

Aaron Strout – Head of Social Media at Mzinga

Karen Orton – Lithium Technologies

Alan Lepofsky – Socialtext

Scott Deutsch – Orbius

You don’t end up doing work with communities by accident, most of the leaders in this space really believe in its importance. How do you start turning that evangelism into real marketing value? How do you go from saying you understand community deeply and telling people and businesses how it can help them? 

Aaron – We have a lot of folks in marketing that understand the value and then they go from there to try to educate others. We try to educate, have our employees read Groundswell and other important books. We also find that numbers don’t lie, if you can go in and talk hard talk not soft, show how the community can benefit the company, and talk goals and numbers, then we can get buy in from senior management. We can give names and examples of other big companies we’ve worked with as well to demonstrate how we can help in building a valuable community. 

Alan – One of the things I’ve done to take the value of communities and spread that to customers is finding that one defined goal. We’ve had a lot of talk around reaching out to customers and defining a brand. But I like to start around business partners. You partners are integral to your success so starting with that audience and allowing employees to use communities to communicate with partners is a great and easy way for employess to start seeing value, finding a way that the people inside your company can see value in communities.  

Karen – We believe that one of the first things to do is to research, see what peers are doing, if you don’t have an exact example in your space look to similar kinds of audiences. Communities are not new, many companies have been doing it for a really long time. There are tried and true ways of doing this, and we have seen a lot of these projects, so you need to think really carefully about what you can do. You need to have numbers. We believe you also have to have some scale and traffic to your website, otherwise you have to go back to driving traffic. 

Scott – I hear about great successes of big brands, but how many of you have budgets of over a hundred thousand dollars to get started? Thats the problem in this industry. Social media has failed to reach the masses, and the first step is to make this affordable. There are a lot of marketing folks that would love to get involved, but they don’t have the budget for it. How does a biz to biz smal company move into this space pragmatically?

Cost is an issue, but many companies that help you create communities also help manage them. There is practice behind these tools. Let’s talk about services, how do you help people manage their communities?

Aaron – Some of the smartest people in the community space, Jeremiah Owyang for example, keep hitting on the idea that it’s not about the technology tools, it’s about community management, understanding technology  in terms of what your goals are. We have people come and say they just want to buy our platform, but we’re big believers that you only get one shot with your partners, employees and customers and we’ve been doing this for many years, so we insist on measurement, value and management and help you figure out getting people engaged, senior management on board, get people in. This primarily requires good content, good programming, etc. We are big believers in the know-how behind the plagtform. One good tip – if you want people to give you content, you need a rewards system so people are recognized. 

Alan – Seeding info in the community and then providing a goal or reason for people to go to the community is important. This info has to be useful within the flow of what people are already doing. Having the people, pics, tags etc all integrated together is key. One of the most successful things I’ve seen is not trying to get people to stop using email but creating a bridge instead. Wikis can have email addresses associated with them. Let people send an email to the wiki and it posts automatically. Scavenger hunt within the wiki, taught people how to use it, this becomes a training seminar without the boring training aspect.

Karen – Community management in itself is about rewards and recognition, you can give them a badge, but there are specific ways to reward members for diverse behaviors, not simply quantity of posts, but formulas of tagging, quality of content, ambassadors that are most trusted etc. 

Scott – Watching the success and failure of other companies shows us what many community creators have done wrong. Community success is driven by value. Adults are in it for value, and they are not in it for reward. If you start by creating value, you will be able to create a strong community. 

How are people using these tools in a way that is not ‘gee i love x product’?

Aaron – For example Dell. They’ve turned this into an innovation engine. Community knows what it does and does not like about their machines, so tapping into this base allows Dell to get feedback. Tap into that pent up desire in their customers to give feedback and then make it actionable. 

Alan – Your internal communities are very important. If you don’t build a culture internally to help your employees become ambassadors to the community, you won’t be able to build a strong external community. 

Karen – Gives the example of Future Shop (like BestBuy) Some people don’t want to jump into a community conversation. They created a little video avatar. You can ask the avatar a question, and it will go back and search the community and bring back answers. He will also ask question anonymously in the community and e-mail user the answer. 

Scott – trust in the environment is key. Adults in the wider community are very nervous about this environment and do not feel protected. 

Alan – Security has always been a big thing, and it extends beyond our online IDs and onto our devices. The problem is everyone wants to own the data so they’re not willing to give extended data portability. 

Karen – Most companies allow you to reveal as much or as little as you want. You should have control where you are and your identity within that community. 

Scott- If I can get 200 people who love my brand that join my community and talk about my brand to their wider community, that’s perfect. You don’t need tens of thousands of members, and you should bring value to those who are there.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. October 15, 2008 11:33 pm

    Anya – great post. Thanks for capturing the essence of the panel. I look forward to continuing the conversation online (following you on Twitter now).

    Aaron | @astrout


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