Convincing the unconverted on communities

February 13, 2007 at 8:49 pm 9 comments

Convincing the unconverted on communities

One of the issues that has challenged community enthusiasts inside traditional corporate structures is over-coming the lack of understanding of the implications of the shift from the publish/browse web to a participation web.  Let’s face it, most of those that control prioritization decisions, investment decisions, risk management decisions and strategy decisions are at this point inexperienced in the “social.”  A colleague of mine even suggested they were “too old” to even get it…and by too old I think he meant over 25!!  Ok, I’m 37 (very soon) so maybe I should take some offense, but at the same time, I’ve made a big effort to understand it…the exaggeration might not be that far off. 

So, given that we can’t roll back their clocks, a common challenge is how to make it visceral for them.  You have to accept that this is not their problem, but your problem.  Realistically, no single approach is always successful, but I thought I’d share some of mine in hopes you might share some of yours – all can be effective, the edge is in knowing how and when to use each based on your audience or the type of resistance you are experiencing. 

There are several approaches I use and over the next several days, I’ll try to explain them here.  I’ll start with what I call “The Analogy.”

#1:  The Analogy:  I use this one A LOT, especially in scenarios where I know the gap is really pure understanding.  Nearly everyone has benefited from community, but we often try to talk about it so specific to our area of business interest, that it just doesn’t resonate.  I have 3 examples I use a lot.  They are each specifically designed to appeal in different ways (hobby, personal transactions, and a non-standard selection).

·          BBQing (hobby) – This was really the first example I ever used.  One of my hobbies (obsessions according to my wife) is BBQing.  I won’t get into the passions that surround debate on this subject here, but be assured they are as strong and deep as any topic I’ve ever seen.  So, here’s the story – and yes, it is 100% true (these must be for it to work).  A few years ago, my wife bought me a BBQ for Christmas, technically a smoker (www.cookshack.com).  One of the first things I did was go online to register the product.  I immediately discovered an online community hosted at the site.  By the end of the day, I was reading post after post from a guy named “smokin’ okie.”  I was lurking like crazy all the time (and slowly starting to post).  As the months went by, I didn’t really give this a lot of thought relative to my day job on communities at Microsoft.  But, one day it hit me.  I was using this BBQ WAY more frequently than the average person uses a BBQ.  I was buying accessories for it.  I was recommending it to others (I can name 5 people I recommended it to who now own one).  I was using it in non-standard ways – things you won’t read in the manual (by the way, this really builds loyalty as you’re not sure you could do it with a competitor.)  It also dawned on me that my motivations for being in that community were very diverse.  I sought recipes, trouble shooting, tips and tricks, product recommendations, social connections, and on and on – I was really forming relationships.  Since then, that cookshack has become a center piece of a full outdoor kitchen (see flickr photos in sidebar) I had built to extend my addiction to bbqing.  So, how did this relate to Microsoft for me?  Well, let me tell you, software and computers are not a lot different than BBQing.  What does every company want?  They want you to use their products more.  They want you to use a richer set of its features and capabilities.  They want you to add onto it.  They want you to recommend it and they want it to become a focal point in your life.  It’s really the dream scenario – if communities could do that for me with BBQ, couldn’t we do the same with software – another topic with massive passions!!  Now, don’t use BBQing (unless it’s true for you), but do figure out what your “bbq story” is.  What you are trying to do is create a vivid story that helps others discover their own story – then you’ve got them.

·          Buying a camera (personal transaction) – This one is simpler, but I think equally effective as most people can relate to the process.  Here’s the story.  10 years ago most people bought cameras the same way.  They went to the camera shop and the person behind the counter was an “expert” (relative to you the shopper) and that sales person held massive influence over what you bought.  Actually, many manufacturers spent lots of money on channel training, shelf placement, spiffs, etc to help move their products.  Yes, we had consumer reports, but on the whole, I think the approach above is true for the masses.  Today, how do we buy a camera?  Well, if we go into a store at all, we likely know as much or more as the person behind the counter (high quality/specialty stores not withstanding).  We already went to www.amazon.com or www.cnet.com or … and we read user reviews.  We’ve been to communities to read and listen to others.  We trust the voice of other users far more than the mfg or channel – other users are like us after all and they are unbiased (we assume).  Often time, we better understand our peers as well.  What did I hate about my last digital camera?  When I pushed the button to get the picture, the delay often meant I missed the shot.  Do I even know about shutter speed?  If I go to the camera web site, I just see performance data – no context really that I can understand.  Nothing like reading posts from other users who hated the same thing with their prior camera and now are happy with <insert product>.  In fact, it’s in this scenario where I wonder why we go to a manufacturer web site at all?  Don’t I know what it says without going (easy to use, low cost, flexible, powerful, fast, great support, etc, etc, etc)?  Isn’t that roughly what all web sites say?  What’s useful for me is the conversations with other users.  In fact, “why would anyone build a website without hosting user to user conversations” would be my close to this example? 

·          American Idol (non-standard) – I admit, I’m sucked into this show a little.  I also admit it is the first several weeks when everyone is terrible that I really like it – especially the ones who actually think they are good and are really brutal.  But, isn’t AI just another type of “community” delivered through network television (definitely managed – but none the less true I think).  It is all about user generated content and participation in the voting.  Imagine the relative cost of producing a 1 hr episode of AI vs a 1 hr episode of 24 or Lost?  What a great idea!  Not to mention, they just monetized what was once an immensely expensive process – talent discovery.

What are your favorite analogies??

Next technique: “Fear by example”

Sean

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Entry filed under: Community Development Business Case, Convincing the uncoverted, Part 1-4, General Community Discussion.

Mini “Talking Billboard” Convincing the uncoverted, Part 2

9 Comments Add your own

  • […] talking about on the virtual and viral nature of community.  If you read my initial post on Convincing the unconverted, I talked about the power of the analogy by using my own personal story of BBQing…well, a few […]

    Reply
  • 2. SmokinOkie  |  March 3, 2007 at 7:56 am

    Good blog on BBQ, it does become something of an obsession. But are you write, each of us has an obsession of some sort and the on-line communities are an interesting read (especially if you aren’t from that group).

    Glad you enjoy the forum,!

    Congrats to our forum, 6 years later.

    Smokin’ Okie
    Cookshack Forum Moderator and fellow obsessie

    Reply
  • 3. Sean ODriscoll  |  March 3, 2007 at 8:14 am

    Whoa…a legend arrives on my blog!! For some of you out there who aren’t “down with Q-ing,” Smokin’ Okie is like having Scoble (www.scobleizer.com) suddenly show up on your blog. Thanks for stopping by SO. If you are ever anywhere near Seattle, I would love to Q for you!!

    At the heart of every successful community are the passionate core who are the metaphorical heart of the community that keeps it pumping. Whether it is a BBQ community or a Software Development community – it’s the same secret sauce.

    Sean

    Reply
  • 4. Ryan  |  April 9, 2007 at 8:22 am

    Great post. The BBQ story rings so true to me–partly because I also am a serious BBQ hobbyist and partly because I do have my own story, which I’ve been telling about “how I got involved with online community.”

    I need to rethink that story again and connect it to the client side of the community equation. Thanks for the tip.

    Reply
  • […] 3rd, 2007 In my earlier series starting with convincing the unconverted on community, I wrote in part 4 about the “assumptive close”.  In it, I said the […]

    Reply
  • […] Stories:  How do you get people to act on your idea? – I loved this – I see myself often as a story teller – it’s the core of Part 1 of convincing the unconverted. […]

    Reply
  • 8. Grey  |  May 14, 2007 at 11:24 am

    The camera story really rings true for me, photography has been a passion of mine, so when i was in the market for a smal digital camera, to fit into my pocket, take video, and for the day to day, replace my digtital rebel, i spent hours reading user reviews at newegg.com or looking over review site – http://dcresource.com/ was the best i found. I loved their standard reviews and comparisions. You could actually have to windows open and compare the same shot from different cameras (check out the Mickey Mouse color test).

    The truth is – people don’t trust the seller to give them the info that they want or relate to their user experience.

    Reply
  • […] Why this blog started in the first place:  A Logical Beginning. […]

    Reply

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