First rule of community building

July 26th, 2011 § 0 comments § permalink

First rule – Community building is about the community, not you, not your product, not your business.

This means community builders must leave their egos back at the log in page, and stake-holders need to empower them to do so.

The simplest strategy – be human

October 18th, 2010 § 1 comment § permalink

I got to chatting with Chris, one of the lovely Red Rock Coffee people, just now. In the course of conversation, I asked him if they collected more tips on a busy day. His answer was something I didn’t expect. He said no. He then said that they get tipped more on pay day, and then the other major factor in amount of tips collected depended on who manned the till and how they interacted with customers. I thought about my own tipping habits generally, and I realised that I do the same thing. I am more likely to tip when I’ve had a positive experience at the point of sale. Chris said that he does the same as a customer.

He started telling me about how he treats his customers. A smile, an effort to remember their names, asking them about how their day has been…. Small things, but lemme tell ya, it’s a skill, and Chris is great at what he does. I always enjoy chatting with him, and he always has a warm smile for me. Sometimes, his is the only conversation I get in a day, and that counts for a whole lot.

As he was telling me his secrets, I realised I do the same in my online profession, and commented that he does what I do – build a community. We both came to the agreement that ultimately community is what it’s all about.

And that’s the thing – whether you’re running an online or offline business, the one common factor that determines if your customer returns to you is how they felt at the point of contact. Make that a pleasant experience, and the customer becomes part of your community. And, importantly, you of theirs.

I’m often asked ‘How do I form a community around my business’? After listening to Chris and thinking about what I do, I think I’ve finally reduced it to the simplest answer possible – be human.
It’s not rocket science, but don’t be fooled. It is VERY hard work. Being human at scale is a skill. If you come across such a person, do whatever you can to make them part of your organisation. Someone like Chris might just be the best investment you could make for your online or offline business.

Saying NO to your customers

October 5th, 2010 § 4 comments § permalink

A friend brought my attention to this article this morning – Frito-Lay Trashes SunChips Bag After Biodegradable Packaging Criticized For Being Too Noisy. Quick summary – Company brings out new biodegradable packaging, customers think it’s too noisy and start making noise on social networks, company caves and reverts to old-bad-for-the-environment packaging.

Now, I’m a big proponent of listening to your community and feeding its responses back into product development. But here’s the catch. This process only works when you, the company or product manager, are willing and ready to say “NO”. Which is what I think Frito-Lay should’ve done in this case. I’ve thought about it, and it’s what my response to the outcry would have been.

I should explain myself. Listening to your community is a great way to get insight into how they use your product, what they want from it, what would make the product ‘something-they-use’ to ‘something-they-can’t-imagine-life-without’. It’s a way to be there for and give back to them and have them come back to you.

That’s what I see as an organisation’s responsibility to their community. But it also has a responsibility to its product (and by extension its stakeholders).
First thing to recognise about community feedback is that it isn’t necessarily the majority viewpoint. In my experience, a majority viewpoint usually consists of the majority of ‘noisy’ members in a community. (Note: I use ‘noisy’ as a term of endearment.)
Second thing to recognise about community feedback is that it can be wrong. It can be wrong for the product, it can be wrong for the company’s strategy, it can be wrong for the greater good.

And so it’s okay to say no to your community. “No” doesn’t have to be a confrontation. Do your research, get a handle on how big an issue it is for what percentage of your customers. Use that when you explain your decision and how you came to it. State in no uncertain terms why one path is better than the other. (In this case, Frito-Lay have a trump card – “We’re saving the planet!!” Tell me that won’t guilt the most noise-sensitive person into agreement ;P) Suggest alternatives to make a transition smoother. (Use a bowl for your chips?)
Above all, be human. Allow your community to connect with you on that level.

Best ‘Come back and visit us’ email ever – Hollrr

August 12th, 2010 § 0 comments § permalink

I found this waiting for me in my inbox this morning:

Seriously, how cute is that?! First it made me laugh, then I read it again and went Awwwwwww. And now I’m sharing it. Compare this to most ‘come back’ emails which I open and barely read past the subject line. This not only got my full attention, it compels me to go back to and use it again.

So yes hollrr, I guess your flirting did get you somewhere… see ya back at the web app! 😉

Audi's A7 live launch – a fan's perspective

July 27th, 2010 § 1 comment § permalink

I was hanging around the interwebs this morning, and I saw a tweet from @Audi about a live unveiling of the A7. Awesome! Finally, the manufacturer would be bypassing the media and giving me access to a launch! And I don’t even have to physically be there!

Side note: I like the @Audi people. They’re pretty engaging, and have even responded to me to clear up come confusion on my part before. The only criticism I have is that I expected an account called @Audi to be the official global account. This one is US based.

The Facebook A7 Premier page was pretty darn cool too. I didn’t understand why they were sending me to Facebook, until I got there and realised the live stream was embedded there. Finally, a purpose to Facebook pages 😛
As luck would have it, I missed the launch. Got my time zones mixed up. I got to the Premier page about an hour late, and the live stream was gone. I kept checking back hoping they’d put up a recording of the event, but there wasn’t any. So, my first suggestion Audi – please put recordings of live events up. That way I can watch it, share it, embed it, and that’d be spreading awareness fer ya. 😉

A little while later, I saw @Audi tweet “Check out the sexy #AudiA7 rear …warning: maybe NSFW” with a link to their flickr page. (original tweet deleted) Great! I thought. Moar sexy Audi pics! I was all ready to follow em on flickr too. Unfortunately, the images just look like standard brochure fare, and that was disappointing. The brilliant thing about social media – I immediately replied to them on Twitter and let em know what I thought. (No response yet.)
And in case you’re wondering, final check back at the Facebook page shows the same flickr pictures. No event recording. 🙁

Which brings me to my second suggestion Audi – When you ask for and get my attention, please don’t let me down. I like your cars. I follow Audi groups on flickr, I share Audi content on Twitter and Facebook via Posterous. I was willing to invest my attention further in your flickr images. But your content let you down.

Don’t feel too bad Audi. I see this time and time again with brands. They run a social media campaign, vying for a small slice of interwebbers’ already limited attentions, and they forget that hype can get them attention, but it’s content that leads to engagement.
It’s also not your fault Audi that there’s some awesome content out there related to your brand and therefore fighting for my attention. Your ace is that you have original content which makes me feel special when you release it to me directly. Use the moments when you release original content wisely, and make sure it blows my mind. That way I’ll happily stalk you on all social networks. You will have my permission to talk directly to me. You might have influence on my future (purchase) decisions. You will HAVE my attention *and* engagement.

Free advice for companies

June 30th, 2010 § 1 comment § permalink

Yo listen up.
There’s 2 things you need to know

1) I’m a fair person.

2) Don’t argue with me when I’m right.

That’s all you need to know. To deal with me and pretty much everyone I know. 

Now all you need to do is empower your employees to deal with that. When I’m rightfully making a point, they should listen. (See point 2) IF they contradict me, they will get raised hackles. (See point 1) If they acknowledge my point, you get my business again.

When I’m wrongfully making a point, they can (cordially) set me straight, and I’ll take that. (See point 1) And you’ll keep getting my business.

Makes my life easy, and believe it or not, yours too.

Study: Twitter Is Not a Very Social Network

May 12th, 2010 § 0 comments § permalink

Given that Twitter was set up for these kinds of non-reciprocal follower/following relationships, it doesn’t come as a surprise that many users would use Twitter to follow breaking news channels and celebrities. The fact that almost 80% of these relationships are one-way relationships, however, does come as a surprise and hints at how Twitter’s mainstream users use the service more as a news medium than as a social network.

I looked at the slides, and I think the one thing they’re missing is @ replies. From the few celeb profiles I follow and have looked at, they don’t follow all followers back, which is understandable, but many engage with their followers. There is a second level of reciprocity that needs to be taken into account.

Would also be interested in seeing how the big accounts (profiles with a gazillion followers) and small accounts (people who have signed up, looked around and buggered off) skew the stats.

Posted via web from dekrazee1’s posterous

Yo Twitter, does the phrase 'eating one's own dog food' mean anything?

April 23rd, 2010 § 2 comments § permalink

Some weeks ago I had what to me was a serious issue. The two Twitter clients I use, Digsby and Mahtweets, weren’t connecting to Twitter. After troubleshooting for a bit, I got a bit paranoid and went into to change my password – just in case.

So I go through the change password steps, click on ‘Change’ and get an error. Something about an error with my profile. Try again, same error. Wait a while and return to it, still borked. Ok, now I’m really worried.

Hit up Twitter’s help link, prominently placed in the menu bar at the top and the bottom of the pages. It took me to a Googlesque search page. Tried a few queries, none that addressed my issue. Browsed their knowledge base for a bit, and got to the Known Issues page. Nope, nothing there.

Now, the thing about having a Known Issues page is that it signifies to me that I can submit an issue. That and the fact that there is a ‘Check your Existing Requests’ tab on the page. So now I search intently for a way to submit a request, and I can’t find one. Thinking I must be going blind – surely, SURELY there’s a place somewhere to do it – I spend about 1/2 an hour just looking for that. I even manage to find a past request I submitted last year listed under ‘Solved and closed requests’. No idea how I managed to do that – it was either a miracle, or they have made massive changes to the support system.

On to the final step – when all avenues have been exhausted, send the company an e-mail. Hit up the contact page, and the Customer Support link takes you back to their Help section. E-mail addresses listed there for Partners, Press and Law Enforcement, nothing for the pesky user with issues.

If this were ANY other product, I woulda ranted about it on Twitter upon exhausting all avenues. So I did, thinking, hoping, someone at Twitter would see it and get back to me. Nothing, nada, no response. Not that day, not in the following days.

What of the issue? I tried to change my password more than a week later, and the process worked.

So why am I bitching about it now?
Well, I’ve been thinking about it a lot. And I can’t let it go. It bugs me. It bugs me that I spent SOOOO much time trying to get help and I couldn’t find a single piece of information to aid the situation. It bugs me that I could see Troubleshooting topics started recently, but I couldn’t find an obvious way to start one. It bugs me that there might be people out there new to Twitter or long-time users slightly more n00b than I having issues and not getting the help they need. I understand their frustration.

And most of all, it bugs me that these days it’s almost a requirement for other companies to monitor Twitter as part of their customer support/care strategy. We call companies out who aren’t up to date with customer feedback coming in on Twitter, or those who don’t respond adequately. And Twitter seems to get away with not doing exactly that.

I was at Evan Williams’ SXSW keynote, where he spoke about being as open and transparent as possible both within and without the company. In my line of work, that means listening and responding to customers. In this context, it means monitoring Twitter for cries of help and reaching out. Not an easy task by any means, but one that needs to be done nevertheless.

So Twitter, hows about that dog food?

Community management is a thankless job no more! #CMAD

January 27th, 2010 § 0 comments § permalink

I saw it two days late, but still the declaration by Jeremiah Owyang to make the fourth Monday of January Community Manager Appreciation Day warmed my cockles. Someone out there cares!! *fist pump*

Okay, so I’m exaggerating a bit… 😛 It isn’t entirely thankless. There are times when you address an issue for someone, and they’re so happy they’d jump on you and kiss ya if you were both in the same physical location. But it is a tough gig. Community managers are the ones who get yelled at in CAPS LOCK IN SUPPORT E-MAILS, the ones who have to face the Twitter-blog-comment wielding mob, the ones who have forgotten what after-hours and weekends are because issues and interactions wait for no CM.

They also happen to have a very misunderstood gig. How many Community Managers out there have had to explain “No, banning people and deleting posts are a just a tiny part of what I do… there’s much more to it…”? C’mon, don’t be shy, put them hands up! Many people I meet in the industry still dismiss it as ‘lower’ or non-technical and therefore a ‘soft’ job. Attitudes to the role are changing, but slowly.

So to all Community Managers out there – I appreciate you. Respekt! *bows* And if ya ever need some backup or just someone to listen to you rant, drop me a line! It doesn’t have to be a lonely job 😉 Finally, a big THANKS to Mr Owyang for advocating this. You are appreciated too!

Join your troops on the front line

December 7th, 2009 § 2 comments § permalink

At the inaugural Product Mavens’ Meetup (#pmm) the conversation turned to support and the challenges we face in that area.

What really warmed my heart was the general consensus within the discussion that everyone in a company, large or starting up, should have a go at fielding support queries. On a personal level, attending to support calls is the single biggest stresser for me. I deeply dislike it when something isn’t working for someone trying to use our products. Usually, unless it is a major issue affecting a big population of your base, it is hard to convey a sense of urgency to the rest of the team. It’s always been my thinking that the process from receiving a support ticket to resolving it would be much improved if only everyone involved had a sense of exactly what is involved in responding to someone facing issues. Not only would everyone have a handle on the bits that are broken, but it supports your support people. And trust me on this – support peeps need all the backup they can get on the front lines. Things can get hairy out there.

Having a grasp of the issues one’s customers are having isn’t only about fixing bugs in the system. It is imperative for a good understanding of who is using your product, why they’re using it, how it fits into their lives, and consequently the direction your product should go in. Let’s be frank here, if your business based on a product, what can be more important? Knowing these things forces you to look at your product with different perspectives. For some, it is the reason they look at their product at all.

Which brings me to another point I think everyone in an organisation should do. Use your product. Simple, no? Yet I have observed a definite lack of practise of this. [I once had a conversation with a CEO of a startup about one of their features, and he had this blank look on his face. He had NO idea what I was talking about. He lost a few competency points in my eyes ;)] If you don’t know what you have, how can you possibly build upon it?

Now, my position is definitely coloured by my community management background. Using the product and answering support calls are part of what I do. I’ll admit that the reshuffle required in large companies for every cog to have a go at customer service is a huge task. There are ways to get around this. I remember someone at #pmm mentioning that there’s a company which makes all new employees serve a support stint before taking up their permanent roles. (Anyone got a name?) For startups, it could be as simple as getting everyone to check in on Jira or ~insert issue management tool of choice~. The point isn’t that everyone needs to be doing my job. The point is that everyone should have a handle on what’s actually going on with your product and customers.

What do you think? Am I off my idealistic rocker?

Oh, and before I end, heads up to the product peeps out there – there’s another mavens’ meetup on the 16th of Dec at the Trinity Bar. Big thanks to @mishymash and @schmediachick for organising!

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