Social Business Builds Brand Equity

27 06 2012

Social business has mainly been discussed in terms of what it can do for the company in terms of efficiency of Knowledge Management and Sharing and the impact it has on the organization and culture. One of the aspects of Social Business that so far is under-exposed is the positive (or negative…) impact on the way customers perceive the brand and thus the influence it has on their buying behavior. In this post I will briefly outline how Social Business and Brand Equity are related and help to reframe your thinking about Social Business and why it can be a sound market approach for your organization.

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Social CRM and Social Business

18 02 2010

Last week had the privilege of attending the CRM Seminar on “Social CRM for Business” organised by BPT Partners, where Paul Greenberg managed to attract a large number the world’s thought leaders on Social CRM and market players during a two-day event in a snowed-in Westin Hotel in Washington DC. To the members of the #SCRM Accidental Community it felt like the culmination point (hence the term #scrmsummit 😉 ) after many, many months of tweet conversation, blogging and commenting, skype chatting that have helped us shape our ideas of what a Social CRM Strategy could look like as well as the promise it holds concerning how business can be changed for the benefit of all parties involved. It was great to meet in person finally!

I won’t go and repeat the ideas that have already been put forward by other participants (you can find the links below), but I’ll cut through the chase and give you my takeaway.

The Social Customer is now a given (even though I believe the degree of which she is may vary per country…), and basically always has been around. Contrary to the past, these customers now have the ability to find, reach out and converse with like-minded souls from around the globe, it has exploded. They’re abe to join and leave such tribes and communities provides them with great flexibility to create firm or loose ties as they so please. They are starting to become more and more aware of their power they can bring to bear when they act as a group and are able to bear more pressure as a group, leaving many companies in disarray.

Stop shouting

Rather than turn to your company for their information needs about your product or services, they now turn to their peers who they overwhelmingly trust more than they do you. It is the End of Business As Usual (cf The Cluetrain), no more only Outbound Marketing (some would say “shouting”…), you now have to pay closer attention to what is being said about you, where it is being said, why it being said and strive to anticipate where the conversation is going: The new Marketing Logic is Customer centricity through engagement and collaboration, but on the customers’ terms. Authenticity and trust is what matters – more than even the “consistency” of the message.

What really stuck with me was the idea about the Collaborative Value Chain which extends the Enterprise Value Chain of Company, partners/channel, vendors/suppliers, external agencies to include the Customers. The Customer Experience is central, and the whole ecosystem contributes to providing one that is superb, and that includes “knowing what the customer thinks and involving her in your thinking on a systematic, ongoing basis”.

The main question for me following Paul’s seminar is how to organise our companies for Social CRM. As I’ve stated in my Twitter bio since I opened the account, I am excited about Social CRM as an organisational change agent. I believe it is the compelling reason for Enterprise 2.0 implementation whose mantra is to get people to collaborate across the width and breadth of the company. But all to often I get the feeling that the pitch has been about the tools and that people are asked to collaborate for the mantra’s sake (I will follow up on this in a later post).

Social CRM makes Enterprise 2.0 a necessity for “responding to the customer’s control of the conversation” (P.Greenberg) and extends it to include the whole Collaborative Value Chain. This brings me to Social Business, on which Esteban Kolsky tried to explain in this post on The Social Customer I commented that my idea is as follows : “Social Business is the optimisation of the Collaborative Value Chain for customer-centric business.”. Esteban said that there were too many fancy words, so we settled on it being when Customers, Organizations, Suppliers, and Partners work together to optimize the value of doing business together”.

This leads me to the last bit, the why of going down the Social CRM / Social Business Strategy route. If there is only compelling reason it is to ultimately to run your business more efficiently, leverage the customer experience to increase your customer base and ensuring that everyone involved is able to optimize the value they extract and exchange so they will continue to want to collaborate.

Products can be built in the World’s Factory at short notice. Services are easily imitated. Your competitive advantage will be your Customer Base and their ability to advocate your company and persuade their peers to do business with you.

So what do you think, is the idea of Social Business disruptive on the organisation, or a natural evolution?

Once again, thank you to Paul Greenberg for providing us with a platform that has finally allowed us to meet and exchange. It really felt like it was a defining moment for Social CRM as a Practice. Merci!

If you would like some additional points of view on the event, I suggest you take a look at the posts byattendees  Mitch Lieberman,  Michael Krigsman, Brent Leary, Kevin Paschuck, Mike Fauscette, Dr Natalie Petouhoff, Prem Kumar, Brian Vellmure, Kathy Herrmann, Mike Boysen

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What I’ve discovered about Twitter

21 12 2009

Twitter has become quite centtral in the way that I go out and research subjects that interest me, and to exchange with people that have knowledge and insight about these. Before I used to turn to Google, but it was very difficult to find the nuggets of knowledge you’re looking for when you get 36 million search results (most of them irrelevant). Twitter has turned out to be an extremely effective tool as a community-based knowledge transfer tool.

I used to be a sceptic – proudly saying I did not tweet – as I did not see the value of telling the whole world that I was having double-twisted latté macchiato cappucino coffee or whatever at a Starbuck’s. Boy was I wrong! Twitter has been the most effective tool that I have found yet. I set up Tweetdeck and did one column that filters on the #scrm hashtag (my main interest), and another on #e20 (these are linked as Social Business, hopefully Esteban Kolsky and I can tell you more about it during the Enterprise 2.0 Conference in Paris and Boston). Soon I found out who the most interesting tweeters to follow were (or is it twits? lol) and reached out.

Visually I represent Twitter to myself as a hub. People come together in the center to exchange bite-sized nuggets, links, comments of whatever, and provide links to information that allows you to dig deeper. Follow the spoke  to the rim of the wheel (usually blogposts) where someone provides their point of view and relies on others to comment in more detail to deepen collective knowledge even further.

Twitter is also a great way of arranging face to face meetings (tweetups), as there is so much more information that is passed as visual and behavioural cues, tones and variations in tones that you just cannot fit into 140 characters. Content is there, but context and intent can be missing (read Prem Kumar’s post on the Triumvirate). So far I’ve been lucky and honoured  to meet Paul Greenberg, Wim Rampen, Bertrand Duperrin, Ian Hendry, Nigel Walsh, Yadu Tekale in person, and in order to cross the divide I’ve been skyping with many others such as Mitch Liebermann, Kathy Hermann. Great people from whom I learn every day that I would have never known without tools such as Twitter!

Like for Wim, Twitter has brought me new friends, connections, thoughts, insights and ideas at a pace I could not have thought possible as little as one year ago, and I hope to meet with even more people in 2010. I feel like a whole new world has opened up to me 🙂

Social Media Communities

20 09 2009

About a week ago John Moore @JohnFMoore put his stake in the ground on what Social Support Communities are in the arena of Social CRM. His definition centres around their purpose of conversation around dealing Support questions, for example the Dell Support Site. This got me thinking about what Lithium and Helpstream o.a. actually do, and I believe they cover can a far wider purpose.

A couple of days ago I stumbled on an excellent piece of out-of-the-box thinking (and rant) called ‘the hughtrain’, first started in 2004 in response to ‘the cluetrain’. What stuck was what Hugh MacLeod described as ‘Social Objects’. (The Guardian’s Kevin Anderson has a nice synopsis of Jaiku Founder, Jyri Engstrom’s “Social Objects” idea).

The main idea is that people use Social Objects (not necessarily limited to physical object, but they can be ideas, faith, culture, events, activities such as bowling etc…) as a way to socialize, which is an ingrained basic human need. Quote: “The interesting thing about the Social Object is the not the object itself, but the conversations that happen around them”.

 To take this back to our Social Media Communities discussion, we can find some excellent examples such as iRobot and Barnes & Noble Review. The brand provides a convenient platform where people passionate about their Social Objects can gather and exchange (and salivate) over them. Think of the Star Wars franchise – every guy in the world would probably want to be Luke Skywalker. Put a plastic Light Sabre in his  hands and there is a good chance he will start swashbuckling whilst making the characteristic ‘zoom-zoom’ sounds ;). Star Wars is a shared Social Object to which people can relate and start conversing about.

By implementing Social Objects Communities and offering incentives for people to gather there – such as exclusive content, or just lively discussions – around which they can socialize, the brand has an opportunities to exchange with a captive, passionate audience and better understand their needs.

Below I will quote John Moore’s definitions, and add my comments on Social Objects Communities. Many points overlap of course but there is one main difference, one that offers a tremedous opportunity for improving brand equity.

Social Support Communities are not Social CRM [and neither are Social Objects Communities (SOC)…]

  • SSC is a discussion group, a forum, on steroids.So is SOC
  • SSC incorporates social networks as additional channels through which customer conversations can occur. Same goes for SOC
  • SSC enables customers to directly converse with other customers.  Companies and partners can also be equal participants in this conversation, but are often playing the role of moderators in the examples provided by the webinar participants. Again, same thing
  • SSC is a small subset of Social CRM, a very small subset. Ditto
  • SSC focuses on the customer almost exclusively, ignoring in large part, other participants in the marketplace including the company, partners, and competitors. Same thing
  • SSC focuses on customer support services.  It fails to provide value in marketing, sales, finance, or other aspects where CRM is utilized. Hold on, this is the main differentiator!

 Barnes & Noble Review is a great  example where Social Objects Communities provides value in marketing and sales. The content is rich, it has a very positive effect on B&N’s image, and average customer spend is increased for participants in the Review as compared to visitors that only go to the webstore. Nike+ is another example where add-on sales are generated by selling enabling gadgets that allow you to share and compare your ‘Nike’ experience with others.

The other ‘pierre à l’édifice’ that I would like to add is the notion of Hosted and Non-Hosted Social Media Communities. Hosted implies that the brand manages the platform on which the community they can hang out (. The advantage to a non-hosted community is that it is easier to monitor and analyse behaviour and provide for the needs of the community (define the respone). In theory this monitoring could be done on non-hosted communities as well, but the data gathered will be less rich and less useful for understanding the customers.

Whilst SSC focuses on dealing with the ‘unpleasant’ side of unmet expectations (‘I have a problem, how do I get it fixed without wasting too much of my time’),  Social Objects Communities have a whole different purpose and can be a tremendous opportunity for engaging with and responding to the community – for Brand Marketing in particular. Help people express their passion, understand what makes them tick and add value to the conversation as an equal.

Think Global, Act Local – International Peer Community Contributions

3 09 2009

The very promising field of Social CRM has been using english as its lingua franca to discuss and exchange ideas. I for example  am Dutch, live in Paris and but I use English to express myself in this blog. Likewise,  the #scrm discussions seem to take it for granted that online customer communities will use english, and thus these communities run the risk of missing out on solutions found in peer communities hosted in other languages. 

In the perfect online customer community the best-of-breed solutions are selected, localised and transposed for the benefit of all the customers wherever they may be. China for example now has more internet users (est.338 million) than the USA has inhabitants – imagine the potential for crowd sourcing!

Some  Social CRM platforms already have mechanism to flag the best solutions, the most innovative ideas and bring these to the attention of other community members. What would be interesting to add is the ability to provide this as syndicated content in a localised format to other international communites that deal with the same preoccupations.

A couple of months ago I was trying to hack my new Satellite receiver, so I scoured the net for information. I am lucky in the sense that I am able to go use forums in German, English, Dutch, French and Spanish, so I have a lot more information sources available to me (you could argue that you can use Google Translate – but this doesn’t do a good enough job in my opinion). What I noticed was that many of these forums dealt with the same issues. I would have loved to have flagged some of the solutions found in one country and share them in a rapid, transparent way with the users in the other countries! 

In this area of cross-seeding solutions to peer communities the moderators or workflow mechanisms could play an important role . When an issue bubbles up in one country and not dealt with within a predefined timespan, they consult an international  knowledge base of solutions flagged and suitably tagged in peer communities in other languages, and contribute a translated version (maybe autotranslated, cleaned up and submitted through a superuser). 

The “Think Global, Act Local” adage still holds true in Social CRM, and I would even say especially in Social CRM.