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May 10, 2008

Answers to all of your Groundswell questions

by Josh Bernoff and Charlene Li

Our Webinar was a big party -- over 700 people joined us! Of course, that made it difficult to answer all of your questions, but they were so interesting we've answered them all right here. Every question here came from someone who attended the Webinar. We learned an awful lot from your questions.

In these answers, where we refer to a Forrester report, the executive summary is available to everyone, but the full report is available on to Forrester clients (or you can buy it).

In the comments, let us know if you'd like to see us do another one, and on what topic.

Strategy and the POST Method

How do YOU define social computing?

Applications in which people connect with and draw strength from each other, rather than from traditional institutions like corporations. Similar to the way we define the groundswell.

Do you think people influence each other more through opinions or through behavior (herding)? How does this impact your online media strategy?

Both. Your media has to influence important individuals a lot, and masses of people as well.

Does your POST methodology enable/secure an organization's ability to develop a 'living' and sustainable strategy that identifies, understands and applies the appropriate technologies in an environment of rapidly emerging social media tools?

That's a tall order. The POST method positions you correctly to not be sway with the breezes of rapidly developing technology. The hard part is positioning your company and its thinking. Once you do that, judging new technology opportunities is easier.

In the POST framework, why are people put before objectives? Shouldn't objectives come first?

Either way works well (but OPST is harder to remember than POST). I'd argue that if your customers aren't ready for social technologies, then your objectives will be hard to accomplish with social applications, which is why we start with People. But starting with Objectives can work just as well. It's starting with Technology that will confuse you.

How do you identify what technologies are best when you're trying to launch a new product where there is no previous audience?

We wrote a report on How To Choose The Right Social Technologies. Which ones you choose depends on your objectives.

I missed the T in the Post acronym, please explain. Do you think that by encouraging on line communications you are missing out a large proportion of customers who are not computer literate?

T is for Technology -- choose only after you have decided on People, Objectives, and Strategy. The P will help you with the question you asked -- if your customers are mostly over 65, then don't spend all your money on MySpace, for example. The Social Technographics Profile tells you how much of your audience you can reach with social technologies of various types.

The main idea behind social media is the unintended use of the platform and the unanticipated benefits, locking our vision on a certain set of objectives might limit our openness towards those, I think building social media platforms and empowering community whatever their objectives are is the most important thing, what's your take?

This is an example of what I call Purist thinking. If you don't know your objectives, you may have a community that is vibrant and active but not accomplishing anything for your company. Better to know your objectives, even as you acknowledge that the groundswell itself is in charge of where it will go.

Communities, Social Networks, and Online Video

How do you find out if there is already a community to join related to my industry versus starting a new one?

Google your industry and the word “community” and you’re likely to find it if it's out there. Or search for an answer to a common question or term in your industry. Communities rank highly on search engines.

When starting a community there is only a few users at the beginning (I mean only a few users are posting to forums, blogging...). Isn't there a risk that the new users coming will think "there are only a few users so the products or services offered by the company must not be that good). How to manage this transition period between creating the community and having a large community of users?

Jeremiah Owyang did a whole report online community best practices. He blogged about it, too. Among his suggestions are to invite key influencers in your market to join, participate a lot yourself at the beginning, and use links to drive people to the community at first. Like this one, for our community. 

Where is the line drawn between when a company should create there own social network, or join an existing, successful one?

Jeremiah wrote a report called "Online Communities: Build or Join" that covers this question, and as usual, blogged it. (I swear, I'm not making this up, your questions just happen to match his reports.) His answer is that it depends on your objectives. If the existing network is vibrant and already has a lot of the features you're looking for, better to support or join it than to compete with it. If it's small, or doesn't address what you want, start your own. But you'll have to make sure you're talking about something your customers want to talk about -- a community about your product might not be that popular unless you're making Tivos or iPods.

Do you have any insight/best practice recommendations for how community sites are being tied into companies overall web strategy?

Jeremiah Owyang covered that too. If your community is central to your strategy, make sure to have a prominent link to it on your main Web page. If not, you might want to link it from one or more subsidiary pages. Our Groundswell community is important to Groundswell, but not as much to Forrester, which is why the link is in our menu above. You might also take a look at how Constant Contact does it.

As a marketing associate for an online publication company that provides marketing and sales resources and tools for the professional services industry, how would recommend that I utilize social networking sites, like LinkedIN? What tips would you give me to promote our brand and products?

Linked In's advertising model isn't completely mature yet, but it is a good way to make connections. You may want to create a page for your brand on Facebook and let your fans develop relationships with you.

How are you seeing what companies are doing to get viewers to look at their YouTube placements... and then where are they typically driving them from there?

First you need to have a great video. Then you contact some blogs that might be interested and see if they'll embed the video. It's also good to start them off on digg.com. But it has to be something really fun, like willitblend.com

Is there a typical lifecycle for a social media community or blog? How long should I plan to keep it running? Do they fade out naturally?

If they're successful, the last a long time and naturally spread to variant applications. You need to plan for this.

Specific Examples and Industries

Do you have examples of B2B sites, where companies are successful at seeking ideas/input from business/institutional decision makers?

IT Toolbox is one. Constant Contact is another. The MIKE2.0 Wiki is a third. There are other examples in Groundswell.

Re. the brides.com example: Do you think they're (users) excited about a brand, or just want a cool widget? Does it matter?

The whole point is that it doesn't matter. Brides.com is taking good feelings about weddings and linking it back to their property.

We have heard successful case studies of companies who have leverage social technologies to achieve their goals (e.g., P&G Being Girl). In your research do you have examples of worst cases where companies totally missed the mark by not following POST methodology.

We have plenty of examples of failures in Groundswell. Unsurprisingly most aren't willing to share their names. You can go wrong by targeting the wrong people, being unclear on objectives, ignoring strategic implications, or choosing the wrong technology or technology vendor. Or you can get all those right and go wrong somewhere else.

Is there a similar site [to beinggirl.com] for boys? I have a 12 yr step-son. He would benefit from that.

Don't know of one . . . maybe you should create it! (beingboy.com isn't in use, but somebody has registered it).

Are the Dell blogs and idea storm part of Dell.com, or are they separate sites? Do you recommend linking to blogs from your main site, or making them a separate site? How do consumers find the blogs if they are separate sites?

The Dell sites are on separate domains, but linked in many cases. It depends on how you want to mvoe traffic around, and how closely allied you want your blog to appear to your company. For example, the blog you are reading is a central part of the Groundswell microsite. Forrester.com has links to it (and we have links to forrester.com) but it's not central to Forrester's purpose so those links are not prominent on forrester.com.

Jericho was picked up already by UHD and they're now showing reruns. 

No cable network has picked up the show for new episodes yet, but one of them is likely to do so.

Has Del Monte put the new product into the marketplace? How's it working?

It's out there -- I bought one in a Pet Store recently. Don't know if it's doing just ok or great.

Other than the Dell Share example do we have any examples of any FS player that has implemented programmes e.g. blog resolution programme?

There's is plenty of online activity in financial services. Wells Fargo is very active and Chase did a program with Facebook, for example.

My company works in investments, an industry selling highly intangible products in an extensively (some might say overly) regulated environment. We want to engage our clients in a social context, but it would have to be vigorously moderated/filtered. In your opinion, can this be done? What's an example of success in such an environment.

 

Both Pharma (myalli.com) and financial services companies have participated. It's all a matter of getting legal and regulatory people on your team from the beginning, and setting up guard rails so you don't need them looking in to every single post.

Hello, Do you think the use of social media for product development works for all markets. For example, do you think people would freely talk about their financial needs and desires or should this medium be used only for industries where people have a close relationship with the product? Thank you.

Not all markets, but I certainly think it work in financial services. Schwab got lots of insights from a Communispace community about Gen Xers and their financial services. They used this to create new products like a free checking account.

Within the travel industry, there are more & more social media sites being introduced. Do you foresee differentiation becoming increasingly more difficult in terms of drawing customers to one site over another?

Sure, it's hard to differentiate when everybody's doing it. But there are so many different strategies possible, so we don't expect everyone to end up the same. ;

What sites that focus on delivering branded journalistic content (e.g. NY Times, WSJ, USA Today, TIME, PEOPLE, Sports Illustrated, etc) do you think are doing a great job of using social media tools to help their visitors participate in creating content for their sites?

Check out ESPN.com, where they let readers comment on every story. And USA Today is basically a news site mixed with a social network now.

ROI/Metrics

How do you establish dollar values in the value column in the roi construct

Same as in any other business project. What is your goal, and how much would it cost to accomplish that goal by other means? Alternatively, what is the value to your business in increased sales, profit, margin, or some other financial metric? This is where metrics like cost per lead and equivalent spending on PR would come in.

Does Forrester provide help with metrics and valuation for objectives and social technologies?

Yes. I'm working on a report on that very topic right now.

Hello Josh and Charlene, Please elaborate on the best social media measurement tools, from the most simple to the more complex.

This question itself is complex. I'll be able to tell you more in a month or two -- for now we are still working on a detailed explanation of such metrics. Many of them are listed in Brian Haven's engagement report.

How did you come to determine the $ amount of the value of each of the blog categories. I.E. - Word of mouth - what did you base the value of this on.

Equivalent value of the goal accomplished by other means, for example, paying a PR firm to persuade reporters to write news stories. The details are in our report called "The ROI of Blogging," which we also blogged about.

Can you give some more info on the blog you are describing? How many writers, posts/day, engagement activities?

It's based on the GM Fastlane blog. For details you'll need to see the case study.

Do you have any numbers on how many people come to sites like the site for Dog lovers on the tampons one?

The "I Love My Dog" community was a private community set up for research purposes with only about 300 people in it. Beinggirl.com gets more than 2 million visitors a month.

Organization and Agency Relationships

Is it necessary to re-organize inside the enterprise if the company has a top down (hierarchical) approach in order to create a successful online strategy?

Quite the contrary. These applications work better as small projects out of single department. When you have a bunch of them going you may want to think about reorganizing -- that's what Dell did. ;

What do you think of as the ideal social media agency structure? Is it a consulting model with a project-based scope? Is it an agency model that helps manage a brand over a longer course of time?

Short-term thinking has driven many agencies to look like the former, but an agency that manages brands over the long term is better positioned for the valuable assets that social applications create. My colleague Peter Kim wrote a report about how Agencies Must Build Digital Skills To Survive.

To what extent are these community sites and initiatives created and developed by advertising/marketing agencies, or are they primarily developed in-house?

We've seen both. If they're built by an agency, long-term they may still end up managed by the company. 

Social Technographics

The total percentage on that slide was over 100%. Can you please explain how the percentages were generated?

That's not a mistake. People can be in more than one group -- it's not a segmentation. You could both read some blogs (Spectator), comment on others (Critic), and read others (Spectator), for example. See our explanation of Social Technographics.

How can a company persuade customers to step up the level of social engagement? Is it possible to move customers up the ladder?

That can be very difficult. They will move up, but social pressure from friends is a more likely cause than company activity. Counting on this kind of movement decreases the chances your strategy will succeed.

Competitors and Detractors

In any social network sponsored by a brand, their competitors will take note and become involved - either overtly or covertly. How do you manage them?

Their participation is inevitable in any open community. If they're not being disruptive, you have to live with that. If they start promoting themselves or disparaging you, you can kick them out, although that's easier to do if you've set a policy about it ahead of time.

Does the book talk about corporate responsibility/ethics? what's to stop a company from having an employee(s) from creating negative posts, videos, etc about competitors?

We talk about this in the book, but it's mostly an extension of existing policies. Most companies have policies that criticizing competitors is not appropriate except in certain limited settings, e.g. salespeople talking about features, or designated spokespeople with PR approval. You should extend these policies to the online world. If you're not allowed to stand up a conference and say it, you shouldn't be able to blog it, either.

There are companies that charge $1,000 a month to scour the Internet for your company's name, and 'suppress' the infavorable info with lots of new favorable copy. What are your thoughts on this new industry of 'profile management'?

We quote Grant Robertson in our book on this topic, even as he was quoting the TV show NewsRadio: "You can't take something off the Internet. That's like taking pee out of swimming pool." Better to spend your money on improving your reputation than paying somebody to shoot the messengers.

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Comments

Victoria

It'd be nice if you actually credited the real brains behind BeingGirl.com, Susan Goodman, principal owner Goodman and Company.

She proposed the idea to P&G's FemCare brand while working at Think New Ideas (bought by Answerthink and then spun back out again).

Ute Hagen was the Marketing Director at the time. Not Bob.

I know, I was the global account director.

Our agency conducted all of the primary market research to understand what we had permission to discuss in which country, led a panel of teen girls, created 500 articles of original content, the commmunity, the information architecture, you name it. We were so far ahead of our time it's ridiculous. I'm really surprised the authors didn't bother to find out the history and when/how it was created and what led to the success. Teen girls were spending 20 minutes on the community pages 8 years ago!

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