The Culture of Content Creation is a video series about people who make their own digital content to share with the world — such as blogs, podcasts, wiki entries, online product reviews or videos — to learn why they do it, what they find rewarding, and how they view their role in the world. Started in early 2008, this cultural media project from Elastic Lab continues today, reflecting changes in technology, knowledge and the social fabric of the Internet.
A very interesting article from Econsultancy on the importance of multi-channel support. Over 15bn is lost from the UK every year due to poor customer service and 73% of UK consumers say that they have ended their relationship with a company due to poor customer service.
In recent months a crop of companies have moved towards Facebook, Twitter, Youtube and now Google+ for their community solutions in some case abandoning their own communities in favor of these social forums. Generally I applaud any company’s attempt to be part of the conversation that surrounds their products but I wonder whether they have the correct motivation.
Bilal Jaffrey addressed this in part yesterday in a great article entitled “Why you Shouldn’t Send Your Traffic to Facebook” where he mentions the term “sharecropping” that refers to one person getting all the profit from other people’s labors. However there is more to this than simply ownership of content.
Let’s look at the main reasons why a company has a consumer facing community site. In part it’s so they can see the discussions surrounding their products and services and here the interest in Twitter, Facebook and other social networks is well founded. These media can act as an early warning mechanism for a company allowing skillful handling of problems to avert public relations disasters. They can also be useful in building the kudos of a company and subsequently it’s brand equity with the customer base. The rules are simple, listen to your customer base and react in a positive pro-active way.
However, this is only part of the story. The majority of companies also implement communities to allow them to deliver a cheap alternative to their own phone help desk and here is where Twitter and Facebook leave me cold. They are horrible media for providing support.
They are hard to assess, provide few tools for providing advanced support (auto-search, automated data collection, problem categorization) and worst of all, they aren’t perceived as a destination for support so sorting problems from general chit-chat or plain hate-mail can be a nightmare. Add this to the fact that as Mr Jaffrey so rightly says, you’re giving away the crown jewels, your content belongs to other people, and the large social media networks start to look less attractive.
There’s yet another reason for my skepticism at the current corporate rush to Twitter and Facebook. At the moment it’s trendy for companies to be engaged with social networks, the money is there because there is a general feeling that “everyone’s doing it” so shouldn’t we be doing it. To be fair there are obvious marketing benefits if you’re skilled or perhaps lucky enough to create something truly viral. However, when some of the noise dies down and social media is no longer “the latest thing” the bean counters are going to start asking “So what was the financial benefit of our social media strategy this year?” These steely eyed individuals, and I’ve known a few in my time, have little patience for fuzzy KPIs like “we engaged with our community” or “everyone’s talking about our great Twitter strategy”; they want to know how it impacted costs or revenue, can you tell them?
I recently talked to a company who have a dedicated team for providing Twitter feedback, their presentations on customer feedback look fantastic, customers love the service and why wouldn’t they with a team of six people dedicated to answering Twitter. However, step back from the hype for a minute and look at the finances, six people? Answering a few thousand problems? Pro-active, exciting, trendy, yes. Positive ROI, not a hope.
If you’ve been running your own community with some of the latest community software then you’ll be able to tell your financial director exactly how much interaction you’ve had with your customer base, whether it’s increasing or decreasing, and how many problems you’ve solved and possibly how many calls you’ve prevented to the call center. In other words you can put a direct value on the benefit of your community. As most in house communities run with a minimum of moderation and company interaction your overheads are likely to be small. With the ability to crowdsource problems with the large social networks built into new community solutions, this method of running a support community can have most of the benefits of Facebook and Twitter with none of the disadvantages. If you integrate rich media then it’s *your* rich media, not YouTube’s and you’re perceived as delivering that extra value to the customer.
Facebook and Twitter doubtless have a part to play in your social media strategy but it’s not as large a part as many companies have chosen. In the long run the community projects with longevity within a company are going to be the ones that have a solid financial model behind them. Whether it’s at the next budget or in two or three year’s time, are you prepared to show that your social media strategy is bearing financial fruits? Ironically perhaps now’s the time to stop following the crowd.
Ertughrul, O., September 2011, “ The Fatal Attraction of Facebook and Twitter” . Social Media Today . http://socialmediatoday.com/orhan-ertughrul/356558/fatal-attraction-facebook-and-twitter
The channel strategy around phone and online support has fascinated me ever since I entered the industry. We often hear quoted the strategic goal that we want to “switch more people to using online support in order to lower costs”. Indeed, if the analysts are to be believed this is a gradual trend in the industry. I’m going to veer away from the discussion as to whether or not we want to stop customers calling the call center. That particular puppy requires another entire article to do it justice.
Specifically I’m going to concentrate on persuading customers to use community support. So what’s the first step in engaging your community online? Bizarre as this may sound it’s actually having a community site. Recently I was conducing a bit of research into UK consumer facing companies, only 15% of the companies I studied had community sites. I found this stunning, social media is now a main stream phenomena with Facebook alone having over 750 million users. Customers want to engage socially, so the conclusion one must draw is that many organisations either don’t see the immediate value of engaging their community or don’t know how to approach building a community. So why should a company build a community site?
1. Cost to Serve - A significant portion of the cost to serve (CTS) a customer is built up of support costs. Creating a great support community is a little like building a second call center. The beauty of the solution is that you’re not paying for it. At least not for the people providing the solutions. Don’t think this means that you’re off the hook for resources though! A good community solution requires marketing, call center resources (more initially to get your community off the ground) and a community manager. All this means that you will need to commit a budget to the project if you want it to be successful.
2. Customer Engagement - You often hear these words trotted out but what do they actually mean and what is the corporate benefit? Simply stated it’s revenue, a great community helps you build better products, supports your customers when they have problems and nips PR disasters in the bud. This all impacts your brand equity and relevance of your products to your customers.
So is a community site really necessary, I mean, after all, we have Facebook, Twitter and Google+ right? Whilst all of these are useful media and I’d encourage any company to follow the conversations surrounding their brand and their product, none of these mediums are particularly good when used in isolation for support. The great thing about next generation community support solutions is that they are designed for supporting your customers and the better ones integrate with social media.
So other than actually having a community site, what is important in persuading your customers to use community support? Communities can be frightening places for the uninitiated so:
1. Keep is simple and friendly - Your community solution should be easy to use and encourage a friendly community. Functionality that aids this includes auto-response, structured data collection and rich media integration. Auto response ensures that new customers get answers to commonly asked questions without having to post their query. Structured data collection means that more information is available to answer a problem in the first instance. Rich media integration means that a more audio-visual experience can be provided for customers, often a more effective approach than a textual answer.
2. Seed your community - If a customer comes to your community and doesn’t get an answer to their problem, or receives a brusque or incorrect answer they’ll come once and never return. Seeding your community with two or three of your own support engineers and having some good starter content will help get your community off to a great start and avoid these problems. Having a community manager who can watch for customers having initial difficulties or negative comments will also be very beneficial.
3. Marketing - Often overlooked in community launches, marketing is essential. Some companies have what I call a “Field of Dreams” strategy “Build it and they will come!” (Apologies to anyone who hasn’t seen this ancient Kevin Costner film). You can have the best community site in the world but if people don’t know about it they won’t come. Tell them, and tell them how friendly it is. Add the URL to the bottom of postal bills, run competitions, maybe even tell people during “call waiting” on your IVR.
There’s more to running a great community than I really have space for in this article but the above blue print will get you off to a great start and help you realize the potential benefits.
If you want to learn more then drop in and see us at http://www.enjenta.com/ and take a look at Jemini, our enterprise community solution.
The term meme was first coined back in 1976 by Richard Dawkins in his book “The Selfish Gene”. He defined a meme as “a unit of cultural transmission, or a unit of immitation”. As a scientific theory it’s had a bit of a rocky road with many prominent scientists opposing it as “pseudoscience”, but in recent years the meme has made it into popular culture to describe certain types of internet trend.
So what is a meme? People have been arguing over the definition ever since Richard Dawkins first proposed the idea. To understand more fully we need to take a look at content types.
Shared content - Many pieces of content are created every day that are intended to be shared. News articles, forum posts, You-tube videos, tweets, manuals, training guides, the list is almost endless. Typically the majority of shared content gets anything from a few reads to thousands of reads depending on the subject area and the distribution.
Viral Content - Every now and then a piece of shared content captures people’s imagination and goes viral. This means that it’s not just read as a primary source but it’s recommended by people to their peers. It spreads like a virus. The “Hey, you’ve *got* to see this!” factor. Some great examples of viral content include the German Coast Guard video (~2,000,000 views) on YouTube or Maria Aragon’s cover of “I was Born This Way” (37,000,000 views). Viral content is characterised by a sudden explosive growth of interest that fairly rapidly dies out. The ideas have the *wow* factor and capture our collective imagination but don’t have an explosive lifespan beyond a few days although they can be referred to for years afterwards.
Memes - Memes are the content equivalent of a pandemic. Massively viral they enter our collective consciousness and resist attempts to be forgotten or dismissed. They typically have tens if not hundreds of millions of views. They last for a significant length of time, months to weeks and perhaps most importantly, they spawn a huge amount of content all of which refers back to the original. A great examples of a meme is Star Wars Kid which although it was posted back in 2006 still has over 22 million views. Admitedly this is less than Maria Aragon’s video but bear in mind that this was five years ago, almost ancient social media history and more importantly it spawned an explosion of modified Star Wars Kid videos over several months. Star Wars Kid Drunken Jedi had 11,000,000 views; half as many as the original video. More recently Rebecca Black’s “Friday Friday” generated over 160,000,000 views before it was eventually removed from you tube. It spawned a landslide of content over several months with celebrities such as Katy Perry getting in on the act.
The Holy Grail of pretty much every Internet marketer is to actually create a meme, but is that a realistic goal? I think that the very nature of memes means that they’re not something that is easily crafted artificially. However it is possible as we’ll see a little later. So what makes something a meme?
The “You’ve Got to See This *Lulz*” Factor - Just like with a piece of viral content there has to be something that captures our imagination. With Star Wars Kid it’s the rather unkind humour of watching an ungainly teenager making a fool of himself in front of his friends. With Rebecca Black it’s how shockingly dreadful the song is but that it still has enough musicality in it for the words to stick in your head somehow. Ultimately, they’re entertaining and almost always funny.
Spin Off Content - The original piece of content is crying out for modification. It screams “take me and do something funny with me!” The plethora of content spawning from both the meme’s mentioned previously pays testament to this. It’s the spin off content that gives the meme its longevity.
Ordinary People - I think we like to see ordinary people with very ordinary skills, or even laughably inept skills, become popular. It’s a form of catharsis, we can believe that anybody has in them the ability to be a star but we’re glad it isn’t us, even if we secretly envy them some measure of their success.
Placement - Just like with ordinary content meme popularity is down in part to initial placement. There are many bizarre things on the Internet but only certain pieces of content become memes. Rebbeca Black’s video only had 1,000 views in the first month, then suddenly it went massively viral mostly thanks to tweeters and bloggers. A number of influencers almost certainly gave their probably very negative views on the song and before anyone knew it #rebbecaBlack was one of the most tweeted tags in Twitter history.
Media Coverage - The mainstream media tend to catch memes rather late in their viral growth stage just due to the nature of mainstream media. This being said, their late involvement is certainly another factor in the longevity of a meme.
Global Interest - Although not essential I think it always helps if a meme can cross cultural boundaries. Take a look at Star Wars Kid. Not a word is spoken in the original video but Star Wars is culturally pervasive enough so that anyone watching the video from almost any culture having access to media would immediately recognise why it’s funny.
Dumb Luck? - I think this certainly plays a part. For something to go meme it has to be in the right place at the right time.
So is it possible to craft a meme? Possible, yes. Easy, no. Marketing agencies have been crafting television memes for years. One of the latest in the UK has been The “Compare the Meerkat” campaign from the Internet cost comparison site ComparetheMarket.com. Although all the YouTube videos have probably only had a couple of million views on YouTube the meerkats have entered the collective conscience in the UK.
It’s unlikely that if you ended an explanatory sentence with the word “Simples” that people wouldn’t get the reference. Interestingly it was the advertising company responsible for Sergei the Meerkat that made most of the spin off content. They’ve effectively built the meme’s longevity.
Building a meme is always going to be a hit and miss affair but hopefully this article has at least provided some food for thought.
Ertughrul, O., July 2011, “ The Social Media Grail: Are You Building a ‘Meme’?” . Social Media Today . http://socialmediatoday.com/orhan-ertughrul/314690/social-media-grail-building-meme