In my April 2009 Reality Check column, I invited you to join me in a three-part journey to implement a large social media initiative – CRM’s newest front – at one of our long-term customers. This customer, who I’m calling Front Runner, is a well know brand that provides services to consumers on a global basis. This column builds on how we moved from Front Runner’s social media multi-step plan that I explained in my April column to the implementation of the social media pilot at one of the four Front Runner subsidiaries.
Community Engagement Plan
Developing the Community Engagement Plan was the next step in the development of the pilot at this Front Runner subsidiary. The pilot’s Community Engagement Plan describes:
- An overview of the pilot
- The pilot’s business goals, objectives and metrics
- The target audience
- The social media tools that will be used
- How users will access the Community homepage
- What communication vehicles – including local media — will be used to promote the community, and what messaging will be utilized
- How business partners will contribute during the pilot
- Who will fill the various pilot roles including project owner/project manager/community manager/ partner manager/technical lead/moderator/administrator
- A timeline containing action items for the pilot
Here is a brief summary of the Community Engagement Plan that Front Runner created for the pilot:
Overview: Engage in a conversation with customers around how they can save using Front Runner’s unique monthly “special deals”
Audience: Members and prospects of all ages in one region of the US that this subsidiary serves, particularly people with a strong focus on savings
Goals: Expand relationship with customers, increase the perceived value of working with Front Runner, and support Front Runner sales goals
Tools: – Multiple blogs by Subject Matter Experts
– A contest around who is saving the most, or has the best savings story
– Forums around customer experiences while participating in
the “special deals” program, and suggestions on new deals for the program
Lessons Learned To Date
Launching the Front Runner pilot has been an interesting journey. Here are the top lessons we want to share with you to date:
1) To secure support from Front Runner executives, the social media community had to tightly support the organization’s business goals and objectives.
2) Unlike most consumer social media sites that are still searching for a business model that generates revenue, from the outset Front Runner’s corporate social media community focused on establishing both standard community metrics (e.g., participation, growth in content, etc.) and more importantly business benefit metrics that included deepened penetration within key segments of their customer base and new customer revenues.
3) Front Runner’s social media community was not launched as a stand-alone island. Instead, the community was designed to seamlessly integrate with existing Front Runner customer/prospect outreach programs and draw on existing organizational resources/initiatives. This helped secure needed backing from the executive team at this Front Runner subsidiary.
4) Front Runner decided to invite partners and distribution channel members to participate in their community. These third parties have been invited to write blogs, participate in forums, and sponsor contests within the social media community. By leveraging external resources, Front Runner was has been able to add diversity and additional horsepower to their community efforts.
5) On behalf of Front Runner, we spent months reviewing the best social media platform vendors for all 4 of their pilots. Along the way, we learned that the majority of social media platform vendors are still ‘feeling their way’ in an industry that is truly in the introductory stage of its life cycle. Said differently, it’s a bit like the Wild West out there so one needs to be extra careful to conduct due diligence when choosing a vendor partner.
6) Front Runner spent a lot of time pondering how best to monitor and moderate their social media community. While social media platform tools allow organizations to filter comments for appropriateness, you’ve also want to monitor your community for accuracy and civility. We share monitoring responsibilities with Front Runner during the pilot, and together we are still learning about how to implement the many, effective ways to counter self-promotion or inflammatory statements without taking away from the spontaneity of the community.
7) Front Runner’s social media community puts them in a position to create a two-way dialogue with their customers and prospects. This in turn implies that Front Runner must be prepared to respond to community input in a timely manner. To address this need, many Front Runner employees have agreed to actively participate in the community at the outset to ensure this successful two-way dialogue.
8) Lastly, and after a few false starts, Front Runner has learned that it is critical to design and launch a social media community around a topic that the organization is passionate about.
In my final column in this three-part series (October 2009), I’ll be describing the impact that Front Runner’s social media communities have had on customer loyalty, retention and sales.