Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Web 2.0 Expo: Communities That Connect and Thrive

The first session I attended at the Web 2.0 Expo was Online Customer Communities that Connect and Thrive: Creating the Right Mix of Purpose, Passion, People, and Platforms presented by Lois Kelly (above right) and Fran├žois Gossieaux (above left) of Beeline Labs. They promised to post their Powerpoint presentation to Slideshare.net under: http://www.slideshare.net/fgossieaux. The following is my summary of the session - any mistakes are my own and should not be assumed to be that of the lecturers without verification.

Three hours in length, their session had a mix of interactive break-out sessions and lecture sessions. After a brief intro, we broke up into groups - their method was to divide attendees by month of birth, so it was a good way to get to know people and break the ice. My group was the October, from which we informally selected Chrissie Brodigan (formerly of the Huffington Post) to faciliate and be our spokesperson. We brainstormed for characteristics of (online) social communities and came up with: sharing stories, having (social) purpose, community causes, support, dependency, community interests, effecting change, shared history, open communities, outlet, safety, belonging, collaboration, personal relationships. In the pic below, Chrissie reports on our brainstorming to the rest of those assembled. (Interestingly, not all groups identified the same characteristics; some were more aggressive in their attitude towards others.)

In learning to work with each other, Kelly & Gossieaux reminded us of Clay Shirky's comment to the effect of: "A group is its own worst enemy."

Each one of the groups summarized their characterizations of social communities. It was interesting to point out that not all saw perfect harmony among participants, and that some communities were based on an ongoing debate.) They referred us to Beeline Lab's Tribalization Report (one has to register on their website to see it).

They characterized the subject as "tribalization" and quoted Wikipedia: "Tribalism is the very first social sysmte that human beings ever lived in..." They characterized the motivations for socialization as:

  • People want to connect with people
  • People want to help and be helped
  • People operate in either a social framework, or market framework.

Further, they see 4 building blocks as part of the social network: content, members, member profiles, and transactions, and posited this interrelated axiom:

  • The more content you have, the more members you will get;
  • The more members you have, the more content you will get;
  • The better you match content and members to member profiles the more members and content you will get; and
  • The easier it is to do transactions the more members you will attract.

Among their top usage scenarios were "canary in a coal mine" and long-tail sales - kind of extremities of the market.

Who's in charge? was one of their questions. Most communities wind up reporting to the head of marketing. So they discussed several takeaway points:

Takeaway #1: The community delivers game changing results (example: Ebay's support communities resulted in their bringing in 50% more customers). It's getting the community involved in the processes. A community can amplify, increase effectiveness and decrease costs.

Takeaway #2: The changing role of the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO). As example they cited Ducati which eliminated their CMO and left all marketing to be done by their online community.

Takeaway #3: The need for new management thinking. If there's a mismatch between community goals and what management invests in, things won't work. So management has to really understand what to measure. This goes against the dictum "Build it and they will come." They reject that, and suggest to start small and limited, to see how the community receives it.

The provided some case studies: first, Walmart Moms - how Walmart selected 11 mothers who epitomized use of their product. But then they spoke about Fiskars's Fisk-A-Teers - 3 "ambassadors" who serve as the generators and conduit to the rest of the community.

They spoke about the Tivo community which is entirely separate from the product Tivo, but that the product people were still listening and taking suggestings from the community about improving the product. Even Lilly in dealing (delicately) with their community chose not to refer to their drug as a cure for the disease, but rather portrayed it as a way to restore regular patterns of life while coping with the disease.

To get started use the SAM formula:
Strategize, Activate, Manage to scale
We then broke into our "monthly" groups again for about 25 minutes and each was given one of 3 projects to work on - an aerospace firm, a theater company, and a toy company. Our October group came up with the title Fundawhere - a fictional community where 8-12 year olds could share knowledge, reviews and other stuff concerning the toys their owned. It was a good exercises in trying to actualize what we just heard.

Once the lecture resumed, Lois and Fran├žois discused obstacles. (I'm not sure I them but they'll be on their Powerpoint presentation on Slideshare.net.) Some additional notes are these: One should have "more McKinsey, less McCann" (referring to market specialists' philosophies). Be simple: show the data, the trends, and examples. Be frank about the challenges and readiness. Frame the values to business function of goals and aspirations.

Lois was particularly influenced by Rob Kozinets's article E-Tribalized Marketing. The five common obstacles marketers face:
  1. What's the business value? Lack of a strategy roadmap
  2. Appealing to all of our customers and prospects
  3. Fear of failure
  4. Who's job is it anyhow?
  5. What if you build it and no one comes? and (extra):
  6. What is the right tech platform?
They made an interesting point, that companies that seek to create social communities of their workforce are doomed to fail because: the workers are being paid to work; their not being paid to form social communities. (They referred to Dan Ariely's book Predictably Irrational.)


But they summed up by saying that the social and tribal behavioral movement is part of business strategy. Content matters more than technology (well, in this context). They predicted that most companies will have community groups associated with them in just a few years.

Thereafter people asked questions for nearly 30 minues. Some of them:

Q. How to deal with trolls in the community?
A. Either a strong moderator/facilitator, or let the community cleanse itself of these disruptive people.

Q. Speak more about tribalization.
A. A focus on technology will not guide your community to success (they showed examples of communities that did not "take").

I found it a valuable session. A person I chatted with found it limited, as the speakers were speaking theoretically. She wanted to see the succcess they had with clients. Indeed, they did not mention any that they had.

1 comment:

John Andrews said...

I saw Francois present this presentation recently and thought it was well done. The Friskars example is a great study in how to activate a community of passionates for your brand.