Interview mit Dave Evans, VP of Social Strategy, Lithium
Why does it still make sense to build Online-Communities in the Facebook age?
DAVE EVANS: From a business perspective, Facebook is a media property, not an engagement channel: yes, Facebook members certainly engage with each other, however only a tiny fraction (between 0.5% and 2%) of the members who „like“ a brand on Facebook will ever mention that brand in their own Facebook conversations, or, return to that business page that they „liked“. Community by comparison provides significant engagement between community members (as Facebook does) *however* community provides this engagement on a platform that the brand/business controls directly.
What is the remedy to dramatic sinking organic traffic and low engagement rates on social media channels?
DAVE EVANS: Simply, build an engagement and attraction platform. By this I mean build a platform that captures customer requests expressed as a general question (search) *and* as well those requests that are posted directly to the brand (e.g., via Twitter.) Combining the ability to capture specific search („Why is my new AT&T Samsung phone not working?“) in community — community has well-documented and significant search (SEO) value — along with the ability to capture and engage based on direct requests („@ATTCares I just bought new Samsung S6 and it won’t connect…pls help“) is a the next logical step in ensuring strong search performance and high direct engagement in service to your customers.
Which business objectives can be reached with community projects anyway?
DAVE EVANS: Community, and in particular when defined as encompassing the total community (customers, suppliers, employees, industry analysts,…) is a core component of strategic process relevant to cost reduction, new sales, and innovation/Customer Satisfaction. Each of these is a primary driver of fundamental business objectives ties to measurable ROI.
How do I discover the „real world“ community of my customers?
DAVE EVANS: Finding the „real world“ customer community is easy: join it. Use it. Participate. It absolutely amazes me that, some twenty years on, people younger than me (note that essentially everyone is younger than me…) are surprised when they find out that I got my flight changed or my phone fixed or my TV subscription changed with a single post to Twitter. Or, that I rebuilt my Mercedes E300D driveline by reading a post in the BenzWorld forum, or that I have contributed detailed repair articles to this forum. Community —both physical and online— is all around us.
What do you mean by „addressing the whole community“?
DAVE EVANS: „Addressing the whole community“ means simply (now focusing my reply to this question to a business perspective) that we integrate and consider the activities, needs, capabilities, and dependencies of our customers along with our employees (many of whom have deep process knowledge that is useful to high-value customers with very specific questions), our community superusers (who very definitely have such knowledge), the supply chain, etc. All of these constituents operate together to define and govern what we call „social customer experience“. And of course, customer experience is key to being recommend (think NPS/CSAT).
Could you please give us an example of how to encompass the „total community“?
DAVE EVANS: As an example of „Total Community“, AT&T recently held an event in its online community where Samsung subject matter experts were present to answer questions specific to AT&T’s Samsung phone customers. This kind of innovative use of community gets not only at „total community“ — recognizing that AT&T, Samsung, and superuser/subject matter experts, and customers are all part of AT&T’s online community — but also at the point made earlier about silos: not only do silos exist within organizations, but businesses also sometimes see themselves as a silo of their own.
In this case, AT&T recognized and took advantage of the fact that Samsung — even though a separate organization — had subject matter expertise that would be useful to AT&T’s customers. Instead of the more typical „not invented here“, AT&T invited Samsung into the AT&T community to improve the experience for AT&T customers, a smart move reinforced by the customers themselves who show up in significant numbers for these events.
What are the critical factors in community life cycle management from concept to critical mass until continuous growth in reach and engagement?
DAVE EVANS: In a word, vibrancy. No one wants to go to a boring party, and no one wants to stand around waiting for an answer. A key process in developing a community initially is seeding the community: identifying early superusers, building starting, common questions and answers … in other words making sure that when doors do open, the first people to arrive have a great experience.
Second, once up and running, the key is moderation and clear, consistently applied policies. No bullies, no flames, no unanswered or ignored members etc. This puts everyone on the same footing, and encourages people to ask questions. Finally, gamification.
Lithium began its journey as a gaming company, and one of the things we have learned is that people love games, they love a challenge. So, building a strong vibrant community also involves a defined, sequential escalation of status: rank ascension, to be specific.
One joins as a newbie, is guided through the completion of a couple of easy things (e.g., completing a member profile) and moves up in rank. Very quickly members catch on to this pattern: they have more fun, they learn more, they contribute more, and as a result they develop bonds with each other and with the community as a whole. Take these three together and you have a great success formula.
With social media a new silo has been created in many companies. How should companies address the organizational change for connecting every dot in the customer journey?
DAVE EVANS: „Silo“ is a deadly word. It’s absolute paralysis at a deep level. The entire notion of „total community“ is about breaking silos, getting people to talk with each other, to share in the development of great solutions. Marketing and Operations (specifically, customer care) are moving together, and this needs to continue, to pull HR, Legal, R&D … into the total community mix.
This sets up organizational change management as the next big challenge for business: siloed, command and control org structures are beginning to break in favor of connected, organic enterprises. Lithium’s „Experts“ platform toolset — tools and processes that facilitate interaction across the organization in response to questions posted directly to the brand via social channels like Twitter or raised in the community forum — is provided to enable organizations making this transition toward internal connectedness.
How does Lithium’s „Experts“ platform actually facilitate interaction across the organization in response to questions wherever they occur?
DAVE EVANS: The Lithium Experts platform enables the Lithium Total Community vision by facilitating collaboration between agents, who are typically in customer care, and true subject matter experts elsewhere in the organization, for example in engineering, sales, or research. Combined with an open, shared view of critical metrics the result is an embrace of social interaction that bonds customers more strongly with the brand while helping break down silos inside the organization.
Content marketing is the next big shit – what is the specific role of Online Community in content marketing strategies?
DAVE EVANS: Content marketing is, rightly, a big focus for marketers. In addition to broad/semi-targeted campaigns, Lithium’s community and social channel content publishing enables the placement of content at the exact point where relevant conversations are occurring. The result is higher engagement in the immediate context, and, the opportunity for future engagement when this content is rediscovered later through search.
Dave Evans is the VP of Social Strategy at Lithium. He is also the author of best-selling book „Social Media Marketing: An Hour a Day,“ as well as „Social Customer Experience: Engage and Retain Customers Using Social Media.“ Dave is a regular columnist for ClickZ and a frequent speaker at industry conferences.
Dave has worked in social technology consulting and development around the world, including HP, SkyTV, Yahoo!, Swisscom, DISH and Time Warner as well as Canada’s Telus International, India’s Publicis|2020media and its clients including the Bengaluru International Airport, Intel, Dell, United Brands, and Pepsico and with Austin’s GSD&M| IdeaCity and clients including PGi, Southwest Airlines, AARP, Wal-Mart, and the PGA TOUR. He serves on the advisory boards for social technology startups including Palo Alto-based Friend2Friend and Mountain View-based Netbase.
Prior to joining Lithium, Dave was a product manager with Progressive Insurance and a systems analyst with NASA| Jet Propulsion Labs. Dave co-founded Social Dynamx, acquired by Lithium in 2012, and Digital Voodoo, a web technology consultancy, in 1994.
Dave holds a BS in physics and mathematics from the State University of New York/ Brockport and has served on the Advisory Board for ad:tech and the Measurement and Metrics Council with WOMMA.