Community: a group of people sharing common characteristics, common history or common social, economic, or political interests, often located in close physical proximity to other members; interactions are usually face-to-face. 1
Online Community: Same as above, with two big caveats, the proximity is virtual and interactions are digital. The small caveat is that online the commonality among members might not be as significant, but are just as real (like shared product, service or technical interest).
It is not New, but it is Different
What should be evident is that the idea of a community is not a new concept. What is new, however, is the transition from physical proximity to virtual proximity. In the purest of context, virtual communities began about as quickly as the Internet itself, predating the Web or fancy graphical interfaces. Virtual communities progressed from bulletin boards to forums and now we have something even better. What we have now are enhanced graphical capabilities and multiple device support; the user experience is better. One problem remains; integrating communities with the rest of the business. Too often, communities are sets of isolated conversations lost in the vastness of the web.
Communities should be used to bridge the gap from social media conversation to digital interactions with a purpose? Today many organization are trying to figure out how to leverage social conversations and these new connections to deliver a better customer experience. Customer communities are great way to accomplish this goal. As much as we would like to do it, taking the online conversations people are having about your company in Facebook and Twitter and dumping them into a CRM system just does not provide a whole lot of value. As you have learned with forums, your customers really do want to connect with you and while the basics have not changed, customers expect more as does your business.
But. In order to really leverage the benefits from social, you have to bring together people, processes, and technology necessary to listen, guide, and engage your customers in the digital world. That means paying attention, understanding who your customers are, and providing them with relevant information for the appropriate stage in the customer lifecycle. In that way, you can truly leverage the capabilities of social media to deliver the kinds of customer experiences that will keep them bringing their business back again and again.
Communities provide a smart way to build engagement in a way that provides your customers with navigable issue resolution, as well as to provide feedback and insights to you and your team.
A customer community allows you to collect and analyze data, derive insights about your customers that will then allow you to provide them with relevant, appropriate information at key points along the journey. Today’s forums, or customer communities, can be strongly linked to social networks in order to maximize insight, streamline campaigns, and drive organizational shift to bring your company into the social age. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves.
This post is a collaborative effort, not interview style, nor highlighting individual perspectives. While attending the VRM+CRM conference, we decided that if we were really going to build a bridge, it needed to be done together. Lauren Vargas and Mitch Lieberman
There has been a lot of talk, ‘he said she said’ unproductive sort of talk with respect to the different perspectives people take when talking about new technologies, buzzwords or business themes. There have even been some attempts to try and show people the other side, their perspective, the dark side (nope, not saying which is which!). We had the opportunity to spend a few days in Boston, at the VRM + CRM summit and decided we would try and do our part. The image below speaks so well to the issue at hand. The Flipper Bridge (part of the in-construction Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge, link below) connects Hong Kong; where they drive on the left, with mainland China; where they drive on the right. Our goal here is not to talk about the differences, left or right, right or wrong, but what it will take to reach business harmony. We are not expecting people to join hands and join in singing a rendition of kumbaya, but different departments (sales, marketing, support) along with vendors, consultants and partners working together to understand each other and place the needs of the customers above petty in-fighting.
When you go to a meeting to state your position about a product, are you carefully listening your own words from the perspective audience? Are you considering what others could bring to the table, how they might approach the situation, problem, objective? What is great about the picture above, is that it not only needs to help drivers get across; pragmatism, but the bridge needs to put the drivers on the correct side of the road, safety. If the architects and designers did not consider the perspective of the drivers on the other side, this project would have failed. We know that seems obvious, but we believe in your daily work lives, the issues are equally obvious.
VRM + CRM Taught Us a Few Things
We each had the opportunity to attend the VRM+CRM conference hosted by Doc Searls and a few others at the Berkman Center. Our attendance was an explicit gesture by the VRM leaders to reach out to the CRM side of the house and implicitly state ‘we can try to solve this on our own, or we can do it together.’ CRM is Customer Relationship Management, while VRM is Vendor Relationship Management. To some, they are mirror images, to others, they are hand-in-glove. One thing became clear, to move forward they need eachother.
VRM + CRM illustrated that this is not a problem unique to CRMers, marketers, PR folks and technologists. Having the opportunity to be a part of the work that is happening in the social business space is extremely invigorating. However, as hard and as much we push for faster development and evolution, we need to juggle the hats of a historian and an anthropologist. It is important to know where we have been, the mistakes made and lessons learned that have occurred over time, before we can progress to successful future. And in this future, it is essential we progress with caution and learn about the new developments and behaviors that have become reality in this online dimension. Bottom line, we need to understand the basics of history and current business functions before we can rush full speed ahead. Without such perspective, we risk jumping the shark and the maturity growth of our own industry and customers.
Can you put yourself in their shoes? Are the buzzwords, acronyms and terms helping or getting in the way? Acronyms and industry lingo were established to define processes within our specific business functions, but when carried to the extreme, such terms box us in and limit growth. We become so caught up in the term we have coined, we are oblivious to the walls we have build up around us and exclude others from experiencing the term as we do or exploring it in depths we could not. Throughout history there has not been one word or function that all people have agreed upon or experienced the same way. Diversity in thought and definition is how we evolve. This should be no different in business evolution. We are not advocating the extreme abolishment of acronyms and industry lingo, but encouraging all to be open and accepting of other interpretations, as well as, stepping outside our own comfort zone and learning the terminology and context surrounding other business functions within the organization and industry.
Let’s Lead By Example
We are all trying to accomplish the same thing. Goals and Objectives are the same (or they should be). You (company) cannot solve this problem in the best way possible without help and input from all sides. Your customers come in all shapes, sizes, gender. They have different needs, and they offer different perspectives, shouldn’t you do the same? We need to keep in mind each department within our organization, just as our customers, will adopt social business functions at different speeds. Sniping at each other about definitions and roles of responsibility will not replace the need to put theory into practice. A culture shift is evident, but it does not occur overnight. It is essential we each support the discovery process of our sister departments or industries. It is only in this collaborative approach we can truly see what will succeed and fail without being at the expense of our customers or community.
The dynamic of Twitter has changed, it is different, and I am struggling to put my finger on exactly what that change is about. It is possible that I am different, or that my needs and wants from Twitter are different. But, Twitter must be more to people than just a place to whine, or vent, unfortunately, that seems that is what makes the news. Twitter is an acquired taste. You cannot tell someone to like it, they just have to figure it out for themselves, find their own best use. This does need to be an active decision. Twitter is the bridge between Social Media and Social Networking and the recent change, the new dynamic, seems to have made that chasm wider, and that bridge harder to cross.
Twitter was my introduction to Social Media. I joined and starting using it about the same time as Facebook and the time I started blogging. Yes, I watched and maybe created a few YouTube videos, participated in instant messaging, but this was the real start. On Twitter, I started slow, asked me wife to look at my Tweets, just to be sure someone was watching, isn’t that how everyone starts? I was not an early adopter, by any stretch, but I think I was an early adopter from a collaboration perspective, eh, maybe.
Is Twitter for Sales, Support or Marketing?
There is no really good answer here, ask 4 people and you will get 5 opinions. There is certainly value for sales people to leverage Twitter. Specifically, it can be a valuable intelligence tool even research tool. But, it could also be a monumental waste of time. A sales person will not close a deal on Twitter, not in the B to B space anyway. It must be part of a broader strategy, and caution is advised. I believe sales people need as much, or more guidance than others to use it effectively.
Talk to Frank Ellison (@comcastcares) and Twitter is good for customer support. Or at least for customer complaints, there is a subtle difference. Is Twitter really good for Customer Support, or do companies simply tolerate it? There was a good discussion on the Social Pioneers Google Group, feel free to peruse the discussion there. If your customers are not likely to be on Twitter or using Twitter for support type issues, no reason to encourage them to move here. Martin Schneider wrote an interesting post about whiners on Twitter, Jacob Morgan talked about the issue as well. but, at a higher level, Social CRM not just Twitter. Support needs to solve this problem, of the whiners, and not reward them. But, if you really want to solve problems, you need to take the conversation somewhere else.
Marketing, of course, loves Twitter. It is a way to broadcast messages, first and foremost. The ones that are doing it right, are using it as part of a multi-channel strategy, to engage with the ecosystem and participate in conversations – listening more and talking less. If they are talking, then the hope is that they are talking about something else other than themselves. People are doing this, brands not so much. I am not going to go deep on the marketing use, hundreds of articles have been written and read. Twitter is a place where Marketing can begin the conversation, but is not the place where a relationship can be built.
Twitter is for Collaboration, and it is where things begin
I asked my Tweeps (Friends on Twitter) what they thought, and the answers support my thesis (statistical sample is small and skewed, but work with me). Collaboration is my favorite use for Twitter, it is very powerful. I have met fascinating people, and have continued collaborative relationships which extended much beyond Twitter. Brent Leary had a great way to put it. “@mjayliebs I like 2.0 and what it allows us to do, but 1.0 is still where relationships began w/ 2.0 become 3D – richer, more meaningful…”
- Allen Bonde, a management consultant and marketer said: “Twitter is great for alerts, listening and offers for followers. It’s a good discussion starter – but a poor discussion finisher”,
- Jason Falls, a thinker, blogger and consultant in the media relations domain said “Twitter is for Conversations”,
- Esteban Kolsky, an analyst and consultant, said:”twitter was the blueprint to evolve collaboration platforms… can it continue to be relevant now? time will tell – gut says meh”,
- Venessa Miemis, a futurist, philosopher, thought architect, metacog said:”Connecting, sharing resources, network weaving, learning, expanding consciousness, growing, discovery”,
- Heather Margolis, a Channel Management and Marketing Maven using social media in a B2B world said: “Connecting with those in your industry/eco-system but maybe not in your direct circle of contacts”,
- Brian Vellmure, a Customer focused strategist said ” 1) People Sampler 2) Learning Tool 3) Relationship/Conversation On ramp 4) Info distribution channel”,
- Ann Hadley head content, editor Marketing Profs, said “Twitter is for connecting. Also, whiter teeth.”
- Mark Frazier – President, Openworld – said “a) scans of torrential innovation, w/links to dive in b) sense of ‘whole person’ via their tweet traces c) map of influence nets”,
- Mike Boysen, a CRM purist, said “Twitter is a novelty. I found new friends. We quickly moved to another medium. Nothing left to say”,
- Mark Tamis – with a Enterprise 2.0 and BPM background a said “finding and exchanging information and insights relevant to my interests and further the thinking around them”,
I might be hanging with the wrong crowd, or the right crowd, my preference of course. But no one said “whining”, why is that? Is it because the people who responded actually listen, as well as talk? Of course Esteban Kolsky wrote a great post just yesterday, helping me to formulate my own thoughts:
“Twitter is a microcosm. Twitter is a world in itself, and it has dramatic representations of what happens in the real world as well.” He then goes on to say “Twitter is a representation of the real world, no more and no less, and it requires the same commitment to get value out of it as you do from the real world.”
This is crucial to those of you out there that just love to yell and scream when something happens. Just ask yourself, if you were at a cocktail party, or at a neighborhood BBQ, would you broadcast as loudly? Has it changed for you? Are your teeth whiter? Just asking….
If Social CRM, Social Networking, Social Media or Social Business had the sponsor of a letter, it would be the letter ‘C‘. The reason however is not what you think, of course you need to be Customer Centric, but this post goes beyond that. This post aggregates and builds upon the work of others, who highlight this wonderful letter, as you should as well.
(note, this is my first post since starting Comity Technology Advisors)
Generation C (your customer, now or in the very near future)
Generation C – Cross-generation (source: Springwise and Paul Greenberg) Generation C spans from Boomers through Gen X and Gen Y right up to Millennial. From a customer perspective, this represents change, highlights peer influence and alters who I trust. Generation C is:
- Content-driven – We are producers; blogs, text, images, audio and video, etc.,…
- Connected – Phone, Email, Messaging, Twitter, Linkedin, Facebook, RSS
- Creative – We are able to choose the form of Content that allows us to express our thoughts
- Collaborative – We like working with Friends, Peers, Mentors, Partners…Oh, and Customers
- Contextual – What we say, do and think is highly dependent upon where and when we are
- Communicative – Sometimes without a filter, we say what we say
Organizations need to act, react or just prepare
In his book, (RE)(ORGANIZE) FOR RESILIENCE, Author Ranjay Gulati uses the following to describe the “resilience tool kit”. The book is a worthwhile read, an important theme is centered around why organizations are having trouble keeping up with the pace of change displayed by their customers. The following is my interpretation of the author’s “5 Cs”:
- Coordination – The alignment of people, process and technology within the organization
- Cooperation – Focus on breaking down silos, addressing cultural and behavioral issues
- Clout – Decentralizing power and allowing front facing individuals to act
- Capabilities – Education and training of all individuals to be, or become customer facing
- Connections – Create internal social networks which extend outward to partners and customers alike
My own additions to the list
During the course of my reading, implementations, discussions and writing, there are few more which you might want to add to the list. These do not represent a strategy, maybe not even an objective or goal, but focusing your time and energy around what these points mean to you, is time well spent.
- Conversation – Make sure you having conversations, not one directional monologues
- Co-Creation – Involve your customers in the process of creating value for each other
- Consistent – The message and approach should be as similar as possible with all customers
- Committed – Once you begin to involve the ecosystem, stick with it!
- Community – The creation of place where your ecosystem feels comfortable enough to hang-out and chat
- Cross-Channel – Engage with your customers when, where and how they want (and it may change mid-conversation)
Some words which require more thought
There are some words which begin with the letter ‘C‘ which are words to pay attention to, but be cautious about. I am not going to say they are right or wrong, they simply need some paying attention to, to make sure you are aware of their power.
- Command – no matter what the goal, an approach will likely have unwanted consequences
- Control – Just think through what it means to you and your organization, and be cautious
- Conversion – Many people focus on this metric, what does it mean to you and at what cost
- Convince – Work to create buyers, not convince people to buy your products or services
- Change – The only constant is change – be ready for it
What would you like to add to the list? Did I leave anything out? (Aside from the most obvious, Customer of course)
This might be one of my more esoteric posts, but it has been bugging me for a couple weeks. Putting my thoughts down may help me get past it. Possibly, a couple of my online friends have some advice. It started with this Tweet
and sent it back into the ether that is Twitter. As an aside, apparently this phrase was also stated last night at OOW09.
Most who might come along this blog likely understand what the Long Tail theory espouses, but I will not assume. You can check Wikipedia for details, but the summary version is a businesses strategy that works to sell a large number of unique items, each in relatively small quantities. If you think about this, it goes against the mass production model, and it is not easy to accomplish.
What is bothering me is a concern that as a culture, especially with the likes of Twitter, we seem to be ‘skin deep’ on too many topics. What does the Long Tail principle do to knowledge systems? Is that a good thing or not? Do you agree with the statement, “The more you know, the less you understand” ? Do we get caught up in proving what we know (ie Blogs) and not spending enough time really digging in and making sure that we think through that which we are saying? It is possible that this is really two issues; the first what we know, the second what we are willing to state that we know.
This does play into the topics we are all discussing, the leap is not too big. There may be a difference between speaking or writing beyond what we truly understand and thinking out loud, but that difference is subtle. I am personally cautious as are many of us…sorry if this was a bit of a ramble, but I do feel better now 🙂
Anyone willing to offer some advice? Give an opinion even…
We have all pushed; each other, as much the world around us, to try and wrap our head around the changing nature of a customer’s relationship with a company. We discuss what they want, changing expectations, immediacy, co-creation, loyalty….there are many opinions, not what I would call agreement. The one topic where there is some level of consensus, is that CRM in its current form is simply not equipped to handle the change. With respect, I am personally, not ready to throw in the towel on what we have called Social CRM.
The Best Defense, is a Good Offense
As I suggested a few weeks ago, Enabling Social CRM is a convergence of Enterprise 2.0 and CRM, Prem also made some compelling arguments in his post – SocialCRM v Enterprise 2.0 Fight or Tango – While the arguments made do have validity, we need to go one level deeper. We need to lay of the foundation that supports the premise of my thinking: Social CRM within an organization can not be fully realized until the core principles of Enterprise 2.0 are realized. Yes, I am hedging a bit because not all businesses are large enough to fully realize ‘true’ Enterprise 2.0. In smaller organizations, I believe it is acceptable to ‘get it done’ however it needs to get done. Many small businesses are in fact MORE social, with respect to their relationships.
Enterprise 2.0 is the use of emergent social software platforms within companies, or between companies and their partners or customers.
In the context of Social CRM, Enterprise 2.0 meets the specific technology needs which not only enable a company, but mobilize the workforce and facilitate information sharing (ie no more silos) required to support Social CRM. In my previous post, Social CRM is a Journey, as well as Esteban Kolsky’s the Slow Path to SocialCRM, we both suggest that this is not an overnight occurrence, and companies must take baby steps in order to get there. Many tried to extend the metaphor, and asked what vehicle – I am not sure, but maybe paving the road is the first step?
I will repeat my rallying cry “It is not about technology, but about the best use of technology. It is not about the platform, but about the people who are the platform.” If tools and technology can be used to leverage the knowledge within and across the Enterprise, if the Enterprise is able to adapt and communicate efficiently, then meeting the needs of the customer will be that much easier; Then SocialCRM can be realized.
I believe that we need to figure this out, from the inside out. Therefore, In order to realize Social CRM, get your Enterprise 2.0 in order.
In the weeks to come, I look forward to exploring just how to accomplish this large task? What are your thoughts?
OK, a slight embellishment, I did learn a few things in Kindergarten.
So, that is 2 for 2, call it a home run and and a double (Paul Greenberg will like that) for Brent Leary. He originally created the Social CRM hashtag, #scrm on Twitter, and he also gets credit for the “accidental community” description. Brent tweeted this, this morning in response to a question regarding what he gained from DestinationCRM (I think I have that right).
What is interesting here, is that it was really not an accident at all. The #scrm ‘community’ had all of the correct ingredients to make it a success. I bet some of my peer group could review history a bit (Prem), but the more interesting topic here are what can we learn from the evolution and pass on to the Social CRM community – outside of this small peer group.
In the beginning, we had/have a few champions (Brent and Prem Kumar, followed by John Moore and Josh Weinberger), some true thought leaders in the space (Paul, Brent, Graham Hill) – Some additional thought leaders joining later – Like Natalie Petouff Jesus Hoyas, Esteban Kolsky, Brian Vellmure and Wim Rampen. I am sure the community will grow, it already has!
What is really interesting is that all the roles I described above, switch on a weekly basis (or so). If people do not have time to blog, or write, there is absolutely no issues with people playing the championing role and pointing out the great content of others. This is Social CRM in action – the product is knowledge and payment is time. Members reach out beyond this smaller group and learn from others, sharing links, information and knowledge.
Equality, Trust and Value – sounds like a great community to me.
Michael Krigsman made a great statement this morning “Folks have yet to realize that Social #CRM is not a “tool.” It’s a focus point for a constellation of actions.” I am sure that we all have some thoughts on what those activities are, or should be, no? My hope is that the future conversations will focus on the actions, and proper execution of those actions.
Brent, there is plenty of time in game, looking for a single (that should be easy for you) but as I am sure Paul would say, the tripe is probably more impressive than a home run, so the bar is set! It was great to meet many of you at DestinationCRM – turning the accidental community into a real-live face-to-face meeting of peers. For those not in attendance, I am sure we will meet soon, talk on the phone or have a video chat (highly recommended)
++++++++++++++Updated March 30, 2010 to add some important members of the community ++++++++++++++
Friends Mark Tamis and Mike Boysen have added a tremendous amount to the conversation, and their earlier omission is nothing more than me going back and adding people. I have learned a lot from both Mark and Mike. Further, Kathy Herrman and Michael Fauscette have pushed the thinking forward as well!
My lists above were done in haste, if I missed anyone (lots and lots of people could be added I am sure), no intent meant. look forward to the future conversations on the execution steps we all learn and are willing to share.
- There is a Big Difference Between Can’t and Won’t
- Stop Thinking in Two Dimensions
- No Beginning, No Middle and No End
- Rethinking the Customer Journey
- The Simplest Thing I Ever Had to Write
- Context Integration, the Future of System to System Interactions
- The Evolution of Customer Community
- The Fine Line Between Personalization and Creepy
- Experience Innovation
- Maybe We are Using the Wrong Words to Describe Collaboration
- The latest The Artificial intelligence Daily! paper.li/mjayliebs/1490… #artificialintelligence 19 hours ago
- The latest The Artificial intelligence Daily! paper.li/mjayliebs/1490… Thanks to @joel_precision @BigData_LDN @sandeepbhat #ai 23 hours ago
- The latest The Artificial intelligence Daily! paper.li/mjayliebs/1490… #artificialintelligence 1 day ago
- @wimrampen @prem_k SMS is also part of the program - love to talk more. 1 day ago
- @wimrampen @prem_k That is the point, I am in Messenger, I do not want to go to the website. 1 day ago
- An error has occurred; the feed is probably down. Try again later.