A couple of days ago, I wrote about mystarbucksidea and our thoughts at FreshNetworks about the need to close the feedback loop and move the conversation on from just free coffee and free Wi-Fi (see post here). There has been a fair bit of discussion about the benefits of what Starbucks is doing, and as specialists in online communities and customer engagement, it’s something the team has been following quite closely. Some of the more interesting comments are below.
Brazen Careerist thinks that the Starbucks site is struggling because it is not showing customers that it is really listening. This highlights one of the difficulties of setting up an online community or social network for customers – it is not as simple as setting up a site, sitting back and waiting for the magic to happen. It takes close, expert and dedicated management to make it a success.
Charline Li at Groundswell is more enthusiastic and highlightsone significant benefits of such online communities. She has been able to find other Starbucks customers with similar concerns and ideas to her, realising she’s not alone but rathe is a regular member of the Starbucks communitiy.
Netbanker thinks that the Starbucks site could be emulated by the financial services industry. This crosover is particularly interesting as Starbucks (and the Dell predecessor) are both product based offers – banks and the like offer services and it would be interesting to see how a similar online engagement tool could work in this domain.
Finally, Bob Poole comments on Starbucks claim to now be listening to customers through the site: “What were they doing before? Not listening?”. As with all successful online activitie, in needs to run alongside your offline efforts; not cannibalise them.
What’s the future of Advertising? There is none.
So starts a great set of slides from Paul Isakson, about the future of marketing and advertising. Isakson’s thesis is that advertising is dead and that the future is about marketing and in particular ‘new marketing’ – where the customer is at the centre and not the brand.
This approach is one that we follow at FreshNetworks – the future of marketing is about creating brand fans, having an impact on their lives so that thye remember you. You create loyal advocates of your brand who are willing to do your marketing for you through word of mouth. To acheive this is not easy but digital methods make it easier to both engage with customers in this way, but critically also to understand what customers need and want – to gain insight.
We’re about advocacy and insight at FreshNetworks, and use new digital methods to acheive this and to explore innovations in both products and services. If you want to know more let me know. In the meantime, see Isakson’s excellent slides below.
I signed up for mystarbucksidea this weekend – a new customer feedback and engagement site launched by Starbucks this week. In the vein of Dell’s Ideastorm, the new Starbucks site is an online customer opinions box. As with Dell’s site, customers can sign up and then leave comments or suggestions. Other users can ‘vote’ for a suggestion or leave another comment on it. See here for a quick comparison of these two sites.
At their best, sites like this can be really poawerful for brands. They provide a controlled mechanism for customer feedback, allow all points of view to be heard but only those that have mass popularity (and so higher votes) to emerge as ones that a brand might take forward. By addiding comments, customers and contributors can cocreate rounded ideas. And at their most powerful, the brands themselves will feedback what has happened with, at least, the most popular ideas.
Closing the feedback loop is critical to the success of sites such as these. At the moment, most of the comments are suggesting (perhaps unsurprisingly) either free coffees for regulars (on their birthday, after buying nine cups etc) or free Wi-Fi. To move the conversation on from this and to get some real and innovative cocreation of ideas, Starbucks needs to respond to and close repetitive threads such as this. It’s why at FreshNetworks we think that Community Management is critical to making any online customer engagement tool a success. We need to close the Starbucks feedback loop, explain why customers can (or why they cannot) get free coffee / Wi-Fi and then point any future comments such as this to the same response. This shows that you are listening, but also lets other, more creative comments and ideas shine through.
There’s a great set of slides from Andy Hanselman on how to turn delighted customers into devoted ones. Andy is right that your best customers and best brand advocates are those who have high expectations of your brand and a great experience when they use it.
I was thinking about my experiences last year flying to the States – first with Continental and then with Virgin Atlantic. I had heard bad things about Continental and frankly my expectations were low. In the end the flights were quite good but I still wouldn’t count myself as an advocate – they made me doubt my preconceptions but didn’t turn me into an advocate. With Virgin, on the other hand, I had very high expectations – I’ve flown with them quite a few times and always had good experiences. They didn’t disappoint – the experience was great too – and now I’m a Virgin advocate. I tell everybody who’d listen that they’re a godo airline.
None of this means that Virgin is better than Continental – in fact I had good experiences with both. But whilst with Continental I left the flights delighted with the brand; with Virgin I left feeling devoted to the brand.
Andy’s slides are below and and interesting read!
At FreshNetworks we distinguish between Online Networks, which are centred on a ‘me’, and Online Communities, which are centred on an ‘us’. Whilst the two types of site may have similar features, the simple way to distinguish between them is that Networks tend to be organised by person – photos, messages etc (think of Facebook), whereas Communities are organised on issues, common themes or interests (think of Tripdvisor). Until today, LinkedIn fell firmly in the Network camp. It was a business social networking site that was very much about the ‘me’ – with profiles as virtual CVs and contacts as your virtual roledex.
But, today, LinkedIn took all the data and information it gathers and helped it to restructure how you use the site. It made it more of a community (see TechCrunch for the breaking news). The breakthrough is to structure LinkedIn by company and not individual. I can now search for company profiles. Based on data that individuals contribute to their own pages, but presented to me not as individuals but as the company as a whole.
On one hand this allows us to know data on the company’s employees. For instance I can tell you that the company I work for (FreshMinds) has employees with an average age of 26 and is 61% female (see our LinkedIn Company profile here). Of course I could probably have told you this by looking around the office. Of more interest might be to do the kind of analysis that the San Francisco Chronical has done (reported in the Social Media blog here), letting us know things such as the average age of Facebook employees (27) and the most popular destination for people who leave Yahoo! (Google).
Undoubtedly, this is a mine of useful information for researchers and recruiters alike (although it is only as accurate as the number of people from a particular company on LinkedIn allows) and Dan York explains his thoughts on this as a data mining tool here. I agree with this, but think it is a significant shift for LinkedIn in a different way. It is the start of a shift from the profile-based, personal-detail reliant Network style of navigation to one based on common interests. It is making LinkedIn more of a Community. It should make it easier to find and relate to colleagues (old and new). Companies can use the data to benchmark themselves against their peers, or indeed to find data on their own employees in a quick and easy fashion (how many keep accurate and detailed statistics on career routes after people leave). And recruiters can keep track of hires and promotions across their industry.
From a useful individual site; LinkedIn is developing into a powerful group tool.