Posts filed under ‘Why Community Matters’

Convincing the Unconverted…BBQ Forum update…

I almost couldn’t have a better example of what I’m 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 days later, the following email showed up in my inbox (names changed for privacy).

Good morning, Sean,

I’m Joe BBQ, the Marketing Coordinator for Cookshack, Inc. I came upon your blog post (http://communitygrouptherapy.com/2007/02/13/convincing-the-unconverted-on-communities/), in which you mention the Cookshack Barbecue Forum. Thank you for the kind words about the forum, it was great to read. I hope that you are still visiting the forum often.

March is the 6 year anniversary of the Barbecue Forum, I would love to quote from, and link to, your blog post about the Cookshack Barbecue Forum in our e-mail newsletter The Backyard Barbecue News. Would that be alright with you?

Thanks,

Joe

Marketing Coordinator

Cookshack, Inc.

www.cookshack.com

1-800-423-0698

I couldn’t have scripted this better if I tried.  I love my Cookshack BBQ and the fact that someone at Cookshack somehow got my post and took this action is a really cool acknowledgement of their commitment to realizing the value of communities to their user base.  Bravo Cookshack…you got me again!!  See you in “Q-ing” forums!

Sean

March 2, 2007 at 8:24 am 3 comments

A little discussion on "Corporate Transparency"…

In Convincing the Unconverted, Part 3, I shared a list of reasons, or motivations, for businesses to engage in community development.  One of the topics I mentioned was Image or the “humanization” of your company.  I thought this topic deserved a bit more exploration. 

To me, we reached this point through natural evolution (The Evolution of Consumer Empowerment) aided by a cocktail of recent catalysts driving corporate transparency.

  • A new generation (Gen “Y”)
  • Sarbanes-Oxley
  • Web 2.0

A New Generation:

Let’s start with a short discussion on Generation Y (roughly those born between 1981 and 1999) and “why” I think this is important.  A quick review of Gen Y is helpful and wikipedia provides a good baseline.   

Note:  There is considerable controversy on the naming of this generation, including “net gen, millenials, google gen (I hate this one – oops, bias slipped in), gen next,” etc. 

The point of this post is not to dive into these inherently controversial topics, but to talk about how these generational differences are leading to Corporate Transparency.  I think anyone who has ever had parents or children (I’m hoping that gets everyone here) can agree that there are significant differences between the generations.  While our parents might look at us and think we should behave more like them and we look at them thinking they should behave like us, the reality is neither will happen – the same will be true for our children.  The example that brought this home for me in a business context was a colleague who said the following: 

Today’s 22 year old coming out of college into the workforce will have the expectation that they can just walk into the CEO’s office and present and defend their ideas.

It was a simple anecdote, but it struck me that I think it’s generally true.  Now, I’m not judging this as good or bad, right or wrong, only substantially different than the way most traditional companies function today – you “earn the right” vs “expect the right,” so to speak.  This is the generation of interaction.  Not the gen that watched TV as much as they played online.  Not the gen that watched the evening news, but the gen that created the news in the blogosphere.  The traditional company will think these “kids” should behave like their “parents” and these new “kids” will not understand why their “parents” aren’t behaving like them.  (In a future post I will explore this further in the context of how communities could impact the traditional corporate HR functions.)  In the end, businesses are people-driven and will need to evolve to learn from and leverage these generational changes, or you can be sure they will suffer from talent retention.  This new generation will bring with it a fundamental shift in how knowledge within companies, with users and across partners is shared.  Strap on your seatbelt, they may well know something you don’t.

Sarbanes-Oxley:

I look at Sarbanes-Oxley as another catalyst driving corporate transparency (albeit the stick vs the carrot..).  This legislation was passed in response to several scandals involving accounting irregularities – most notably with Enron, Tyco and Worldcom. These scandals ushered in a new era of corporate distrust.  Suddenly, we not only wanted increase corporate accountability and transparency, but we wanted it for much more basic reasons.  Enter Maslow’s Hierarchy on needs.  We didn’t want this transparency for reasons of belonging, esteem, or self-actualization (strong drivers I would associate deeply with Gen Y), but for very fundamental reasons of Safety.  People, a lot of people, got hurt in what can only be describes as outrageously offensive corporate acts. 

Read/Write Web:

Enter Web 2.0.  A new, highly engaged and interactive generation born in the age of online gaming, facebook, myspace and youtube is driving a wave of participative-culture change, fueled by an environment of corporate distrust.  A great cocktail for re-inventing how business gets done in the social web.  In this new business reality, static or non-interactive web pages offer little value to a generation looking for interaction and discussion.  This is where your company, or more specifically your employees (who, by the way, are more and more represented by Gen Y) come in.  I may not know what your company does, but I know what most of your web pages say without ever visiting them.  What I want is a relationship and I can’t have a relationship with a Web 1.0 portal.  I want to interact with your employees through employee blogs.  I want to connect with and read content written by other users.  I want to participate in product feedback and discussions.  I want to help myself and I’d rather not talk to you on the phone (in your call center).  These are my new expectations.   How you as a company choose to engage in this new openness is your opportunity for transparency and your opportunity to re-invent your image and humanize your company through personal connections.  Remember, it’s easy to dislike a company – it is harder to dislike the people, once you know and relate with them.

Sure, there are lots of other catalysts contributing to this evolution, including Moore’s law, broadband proliferation, mobile phone penetration, etc – but I see these more as enablers of change vs agents of change. 

Any thoughts on this?

Sean

 

February 26, 2007 at 4:09 pm 12 comments

Online Discussions – Insights you could use!

In the series I wrote on Convincing the unconverted, Part 3, I talked about using the data/evidence approach to convincing your business of the value of communities.  It often feels to me like many of the investments being made in communities by businesses are first and foremost about brand and brand marketing.  That is not inherently wrong, but I do feel it is too limited a purpose for communities and in fact if done in isolation to other motivations may be perceived as insincere by your users – (and, they might be right!).  I guess I tend the see marketing benefits as a good by-product of why you do communities, not the reason you do it.  I thought in this post I’d talk a little more about “insights.”  This can be broken down into a number of areas:

1.     Product feedback (both current and future) – Important:  Don’t assume you know everything you need to know from your call centers!!  That is a “going out of business feedback model.”

2.     Policy, program or content feedback

3.     Demographic insights – better understanding who uses your products

4.     Preference information – Why people use your products or why not

5.     Companion information – people who use your product also use _____?

6.     Competitive insights – whose products do they use instead of yours

7.     Unexpected insights – users often do what you didn’t intend with your products – this might indicate new markets or avenues of sales/development

8.     <insert your additions here>  

Now, realistically, it would be difficult, if not impossible, to do all of this – particularly in a short time frame.   Just collecting all these insights is non-trivial to say the least – it could be a massive amount of data (unstructured data)!  And taking action on it, which your users expect, is even more challenging.  Not all of it is actionable and you can’t be all things to everyone.  So deciding how to manage this is a complex, but important task. 

Perhaps, together we can share some thoughts on who we think is doing this particularly well and what we think about the approach is effective.

I’ll start with a couple of examples:

http://connect.microsoft.com/: Now, I’m not hiding that I work at Microsoft, but I don’t work on this project and either way, I still think this is very good.  The concept of connect is to provide an engagement, feedback and voting mechanism on Microsoft products.  On the splash screen, you can see connect has over 800,000 members who have registered over 225,000 bugs and over 30,000 product suggestions.  You can quickly view a list of connection opportunities, manage your participation and join others in publicly contributing and/or voting on others contributions.  Imagine, a public database of everything that is wrong with your products – this would be heresy for many companies.  But communities are all about transparency. 

http://www.dellideastorm.com/: This is pretty new, but is another interesting engine for gathering insights.  After registering, you get a quick idea of the size of the community and some light reputation based on top participants.  More importantly, you can quickly navigate user provided insights and either add to the insights or vote on existing.  As a company that brands itself on user customization, this is an interesting way to extend their customer research process.

http://suggestions.yahoo.com/:  Just so I’m not accused of any Microsoft biasJ  The level of activity here doesn’t seem very high yet (I think this is fairly new), but the idea is quite similar to those mentioned above.

As the collector of insights, knowing how to think about the thresholds for when you take actions and how you close the loop back will be an important part of your planning process…but the first step toward collection and transparency seems to have some obvious long term benefits.  A big challenge of feedback systems is that they can add so much noise to the system that you don’t know what to do.  That’s what I love about these examples with voting models implementing.  With nuturing, the community will manage the noise out by voting for what is good and marginalizing what isn’t most important. 

Imaging how your users will feel when they “see” their feedback in your product!!  This ain’t easy!!  But, that should be the core principle. 

Now, who do YOU think is doing this well!  (yes you, this means now you post a comment) 

Feeling informed? Digg it!

Sean 

 

February 19, 2007 at 9:59 am 9 comments

More on Metrics and Community Measurement…

I stumbled across this today and thought I’d share the link as it related to my most recent post.  Have a look, tell me what you think.

http://www.onlinecommunityreport.com/archives/134-Community-Metrics.html

Sean

February 15, 2007 at 9:12 pm Leave a comment


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