Sunday, 25 September 2011
I despair when I hear people trying to “schedule a viral marketing campaign” into their marketing calendar, “build a community site in order to deflect calls from the contact center” or “do a bit of co-creation” to improve their products. Of course, marketing campaigns can go viral and of course online support forums can reduce customer service costs; but you can’t take the company benefits without giving customers the benefits that they want. You can’t have your social media and community cake and eat it.
The most dangerous use of social media & community is that which tries to apply old thinking to a new technology. It’s very easy to look at the benefits of social media and community from the company’s perspective and try and implement product reviews and ratings to generate “positive buzz” or an ideas site to generate customer-driven ideas. The temptation is to then believe that somehow implementing these capabilities alone makes the organization social, customer-centric and capable of driving long-term relationships.
Implementing social and community capabilities comes at a price. If you give customers the ability to review your products (which, by the way, they will do anyway on another platform) then you must allow them to say both positive and negative things about you. If they say negative things, you must listen, acknowledge and respond. Similarly, if you expect customers to spend time creating product or service ideas for you, then you must at a minimum acknowledge and respond to those ideas in a transparent way.
Better still you should provide customers with the tools then need to create value for themselves. Customers, after all, do not visit your site to try and help you cut costs from your call centre! They visit you site to do a do a job – whether that be fixing a problem, finding information or building up their own profile or status within a community – their community.
Gamification is often presented as an easy fix and a short cut to creating a healthy community. Let me be clear, I do view gamification as proven technique that can produce amazing results (I would encourage anyone to watch Jane McGonigal’s TED talk, read any of Michael Wu’s posts or read Gabe Zichermann’s book “Gamification by design”). But, viewing points, badges and leaderboards as an easy shortcut to creating long-term relationships is at best a dangerous strategy. As many Groupon merchants have found, one off bribes produce one off customers. When the points, vouchers or one off deals disappear, so do the customers.
If you’re looking to social media and community for quick fixes and short cuts, the chances are you will find many different options but none that actually work long term without a corresponding investment in complimentary capabilities and a fundamental mindset change. There can be no half measures or insincere tactics; change needs to be embraced both at the top and at the front line. Take a look at the terrific presentation from Angela Ahrendts, CEO of Burberry (disclosure – Burberry are a client), speaking at Dreamforce a few weeks ago. I was amazed to see a large enterprise CEO speak so enthusiastically and knowledgably about the social enterprise, its importance and more importantly its challenges.