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Leveraging the Power of B2B Social Communities
 

Leveraging the Power of B2B Social Communities

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Kellie Parker, leader of a four-person community team for SEGA of America, gives the inside scoop on setting up a B2B social community and discusses best practices. Included: choosing which tools ...

Kellie Parker, leader of a four-person community team for SEGA of America, gives the inside scoop on setting up a B2B social community and discusses best practices. Included: choosing which tools you’ll need, understanding how to leverage reader-generated content and how much editorial involvement is needed for different types of social sites.

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  • Any community will naturally form its own culture. We here have already formed some light culture just in the time that we’ve been here. There’s a culture in any group you belong to, whether it’s online or offline, professional or personal. A culture will form in your community even with no intervention from you. It just might not be the culture you want. To see some examples of this, let’s look at different cultures in communities around the web.
  • Linked In, as most of you know, is a very business and professional culture. It’s for professional networking. People put up their resumes, look for jobs, and look for candidates to hire. It’s all about work. Because of this, you are unlikely to find someone posting photos of their children, let alone those wild drunken photos from last Friday night here. You’re unlikely to find profanity, gossip, hateful statements. It is a very buttoned-up, professional atmosphere.
  • Facebook is the mass crowd. There are more than 500 million active users of Facebook.50% of the active users log on to Facebook in any given day. People spend over 700 billion minutes per month on Facebook. There are over 900 million objects that people interact with (pages, groups, events and community pages).More than 30 billion pieces of content (web links, news stories, blog posts, notes, photo albums, etc.) shared each month. The average user has 130 friends, is connected to 80 community pages, groups and events, and creates 90 pieces of content each month. Simply put, Facebook is everywhere, for everyone, to share everything.
  • I know that some people are afraid of clowns, so I tried to find the least threatening clown I could for this slide. I also like this particular one because it’s a child’s toy, and that’s a great way to describe YouTube commenters. They are clownish children. There is a lot of profane, explicit, hateful language in the comments on YouTube. They are often inane, childish, and mind-numbing. Google and YouTube have no active moderation on this site, and over time, this became normal and acceptable on the site.
  • I Can Has Cheezburger has a culture all its own. Many of you are familiar with these LOLcats. There are two parts to this culture that work hand-in-hand – what goes in the images, and what goes in the comments. There are several themes running through these images, and I’ve shown examples of both above. The one on the left is the original “happycat” image, and many images that followed reference cats wanting cheeseburgers. The image on the right shows “ceiling cat” (generally white and in reference to God) and “basement cat” (generally black and in reference to Satan). There is an entire language of alternate spellings and meanings associated with these images. This culture and nomenclature carries from the photos into the comments, which are also posted in this way. The moderators embrace and encourage this, posting their official updates in this alternate nomenclature and calling themselves “burgers”. They have carried this out to several other sites, including a similar site for photos of dogs and “fail blog” which chronicles both “fails” and “wins” in photo and video.
  • The best and most basic way to form your culture is to have a set of community rules or standards that all users must follow. Every community needs them, regardless of type. Although they are most needed in public-facing communities, I think that internal communities and B2B communities also really should have them.Your rules should be in plain language that everyone can understand. Leave the legalese to the TOS. This is about the people using your community. They can’t follow the rules if they can’t understand them.Your rules should be clear – lay out specifically what is okay and what is not.Your rules should be tailored to your community. You probably have at least a few things that are specific to your company or industry that you need to address. For example, at SEGA, we need to address game emulators. Take these into account as you work on the rules for your community.Your users should agree to follow the rules at registration, and the link to the rules should be easy to find in your community.Your content moderators should use these rules as the guide to what is acceptable and what is not. When all moderators use the same set of guidelines, it increases consistency in enforcing the rules. If you’re not consistent, you’ll frustrate and alienate your users.If you don’t know where to get started, look at what other sites have done. It’s a great place to pull some ideas for what you want your rules to cover.You will need to refine your rules over time. Situations will come up that are not fully addressed by your rules, and you’ll need to change them. Be prepared to change them over time as your community grows and needs change.
  • Here are some of the common rules for communities. Just because they are common doesn’t mean you have to have these rules. As we saw earlier, some communities don’t have or don’t enforce these rules. But most communities do have these rules on their books somewhere.
  • Culture is more than rules, though. The rules are a good foundation, but there’s so much more to culture than that. Here are some questions you need to think about in trying to decide what kind of culture you want. Do you want a positive, cheerful, helpful place? Or do you want a darker, edgier place? Do you want users to tell their friends that your community is friendly, fun, funny, snarky, or crazy? The answers to these questions will help you define the kind of space you want to create.
  • If you have not set up your community yet, you have a great opportunity to get it right, right from the beginning. Even if you already have a community though, it’s not too late. You need to make sure that your infrastructure – the software you use, how your discussions are arranged, how staff and moderators are identified – is set up to promote the culture you want.Everyone in a position of authority (or perceived authority) needs to model the culture at all times. “Do as I say, not as I do” does not work here. Everyone needs to lead by example.You need to enforce your rules fairly and consistently. If you don’t, nobody will bother to follow the rules and help build the culture you want. People get confused and angry, and often leave.When a user is really demonstrating the culture you want, recognize them in some way. Make them a moderator, or just say a heartfelt thank you. Motivate them to keep doing what they are doing, and motivate others to do the same.
  • I know that a lot of blogs and sites out there don’t require registration. But I am a firm believer that for a professional site, registration is very important. If you want to leave your personal blog open, that’s fine. But having registration really is a must for a brand-oriented or professionally-oriented site. You may already have your own user registration database for your publication that you can hook into, and that’s great. If not, the software that you are using should contain a registration feature that you can use. If you don’t want to use that, or you want to give additional options to the user, consider OpenID or Facebook Connect.Without registration, comments can turn into Lord of the Flies. You won’t be able to effectively stop spam and harassment. It makes life a lot harder for your moderators. Yes, you’ll probably get more comments, but the quality rarely makes it worth the quantity.
  • The community is not just for the readers. Editors and writers need to participate as well. Their job is not done when the story goes up! People read articles and want to share comments, questions, clarifications, and more. By participating in these comments, you can build loyalty to yourself and to your publication. People are usually thrilled when a writer or editor takes the time to respond to their comment. You can even help facilitate discussion among readers to keep the conversation going. Everyone benefits!
  • When you participate, be yourself! I was once asked if there should be one username that all the editors use collectively, and if I could provide guidelines on tone, word usage, and more to ensure that all the writers and editors sounded the same. No! It’s important that everyone model the guidelines that all community members must abide, but other than that, let your personality shine through! Community is all about individual people, and that includes people of authority. You have to be authentic to be respected. People will stay and come back to the community because of the people in it. Differentiating yourself through personality also leads to a cool side effect I call “I know that guy!”. When you participate and are authentically you, people start to feel that they know you. Whether they do or not is irrelevant, but they feel like they do. So when they see your byline, they feel loyalty toward you because they have the inside track – they know you. That’s something that benefits you and your publication now, and can benefit you for years to come no matter what publication you’re working for.
  • Another thing you gain from participation is reader-generated ideas. Not only does this help take some of the work off of you to come up with ideas all the time, people love participating in the process and feeling like they are a part of something. Even if you don’t use that particular user’s idea or quote, they love the idea that you are listening and maybe someday you will!It’s not just story ideas, though. Sometimes you can find follow-up story ideas by reading the comments. One example of this is a story that’s done annually at PC World – the 100 best products of the year. Inevitably, the comments are full of products that our readers thought should have been included. So we started doing a follow-up story – the products that our readers said we missed. It’s a second story for little additional effort. We can just pick the products to feature and use quotes from the reader comments as the story text. One of the other things we started doing when I was at PC World was turning the Letters to the Editor section into a reader feedback page, that included comments from our forums. This was a page that I edited and put together myself. Our community went nuts over it. They loved seeing themselves and their friends featured in the magazine. Every month, there was huge anticipation over who would be quoted. It’s a great way to bring online back into print.Reader tips and tricks were also huge for us at PC World. I’m sure you can translate that to your publication, too. Everyone has an “I’ve been there, I did that” story.If you are publishing articles online before they go to print, consider printing user comments alongside the story in print. This can help get the conversation started again online for the print version, and perhaps bring print readers into the community.Finally, you can have community projects. This can be raising money for a cause, or simply collaborating on a community t-shirt design. You just never know what your community will come up with, and what could turn into a story.
  • I want to move from the strategy portion to the actual tools. All the strategy is great and necessary, but if your tools don’t support your strategy goals, what’s the point?
  • There are a LOT of vendors in this space. And it’s growing all the time. Some companies have been around for a while, and some are very new. Some have always been community platform companies, and some just changed their product offering to get in the game. Some are open-source and some are proprietary. Some offer hosted solutions, and some are SAAS. And they all have different feature sets – the permutations can be mind boggling.
  • It may feel like a total jumble of information that you will never untangle. And indeed, I think if you try to approach it by starting with looking at different vendors and what they offer, you’re really likely to make the wrong choice. Slick sales pitches, nice sales people, and big promises are more likely to confuse you than help you if you start there. If you base your decision on this, or even allow them to sway your thoughts on what you need, you’ll probably end up with something that’s not right for you.
  • The key is to get a strategy first, and then stick to it. You need to know what you want and need in a platform, and use that to evaluate potential suitors. Once you have a strategy mapped out, it’s just a question of finding the right fit for that strategy.
  • Before we start talking about the different tools you’re likely to encounter, let’s talk basics.Make sure that you’re using the right tool for the job. Don’t pick up a wrench if you need a hammer. It might work, it just won’t be as effective.This means you need to know the tools available to you. You need to understand them, how they work, and what they won’t work for.Once you know what tools you need, find the vendor that has those tools. It’s okay if they have more than you need, but don’t compromise on the tools you need to be effective. Get to know the people who work at the vendor, and who you’ll be working with. This is not all about the tools. You will be spending a lot of time and money with these people, so be sure that you’re comfortable working with them and you trust their expertise. Community is about relationships, and your relationship with your vendor is no exception.
  • Here are the basic lineup of tools you are likely to encounter. Some are internal to the platform, some are external. More and more companies are starting to use Facebook and Twitter, and more and more platforms are starting to integrate with them.
  • Forums are great for user-to-user support. If you want to start a support community around a product, forums are a great place to start. They foster open discussions, and put users in control of the conversation. You should participate, but you can take a back seat and let the users run the show. You don’t need heavy participation from company reps to make forums be great.Forums are not good for posting information like press releases, though. Press releases can be cold and impersonal, and forums are all about the personal. If you want to reiterate your press release on your forums, that’s fine, but write it in a more personal language and link to the release. And expect to answer lots of questions.Forums are not great for collaboration on an item, such as a presentation or a how-to guide. Because the discussions are so linear, it’s easy to lose changes and ideas in the forward roll of the forums. As you’ll see, a wiki is much better for this purpose.Real-time Q&A doesn’t work well on the forums, due to their asynchronus nature. People “slip” each other in fast-moving forums. They just weren’t built for real-time events.
  • Chat, on the other hand, was built for real-time events. It excels at real-time Q&A. For individuals, this is a customer service role. Having online chat with a customer service rep is a quick and cost-effective way to provide support for customers. For groups, a moderated chat with a guest expert is just the thing. You can take questions from the audience, and everyone can see what the guest says. Use the transcript later on to feed your community content. It’s also great for real-time events, like watching a TV show together. If your community was American Idol, it’s natural to have a real-time chat happening during the show to provide minute-by-minute critiques.Chat is not good for big, complicated conversations. Chat is very much like Twitter in that it works best for short bursts of information. If you need to write more than a paragraph, you probably need a different tool for the job.Chat is also bad for collaboration, as it’s very ephemeral. Yes, you can often get a transcript, but they are a real pain to sort through, even for short chats.
  • Blogs are what you need for those paragraphs-long thoughts. If you want to explain something, share links, and give thought-out messages, a blog is the best tool for the job.Blogs do have comments, but if you want the best user-to-user action, you need to make the comments more like forums. In fact, many news organizations use forums for their comments. Comments, especially anonymous comments, make it very difficult to form relationships with people.Blogs are bad at collaboration on an item because of their one-to-many dynamic. With blogs, one person speaks, then many respond. In a collaboration setting, everyone needs to have equal weight. Same with a discussion – it’s not an equal setting, and therefore not suited for this purpose.
  • Wikis, like Wikipedia, are best for collaboration on a central item. Knowledge bases are often based on wikis, and they are great for anything knowledge or procedural based. But because of their focus on the central item, they aren’t good at user-to-user interaction. They are generally for facts, not opinions. Some wikis may have “discussion” or “talk” pages, but they are not best for discussions.
  • Groups are great for segmenting users within your community. You may choose to segment them (paid subscribers vs. free users) or they may choose to segment themselves (joining the “fans of Madworld” group within the SEGA community). They are great for identifying pockets of loyalty among users, and for sharing interest that is more niche than the focus of your community.Groups can have lots of the other tools we’ve discussed in them. There may be a group-specific forum, chat room, blog or wiki. What tools you need within the groups will be determined by what you want to do with the groups.
  • Facebook is becoming very attractive to businesses, and many platforms are starting to integrate with it. But there are some pitfalls here.It’s great for reaching large groups of people, especially people who may not already be in your community. As I said before, you can use this to funnel people into your community. So it’s great for identifying loyal customers. It’s also great for pushing out information updates to those people. New videos, short messages, photos, etc are all a great way to represent your brand on Facebook. You can interact with users on a light basis, but not as in-depth as you could in your own forum.But Facebook is not great for heavy user interaction or real-time discussion. It’s also not great for the main hub of your community, for these reasons. It’s worked for a few, but not many.
  • Finally, Twitter. This is a big up-and-comer, and more companies are getting involved now. Unfortunately, a lot of companies are doing it wrong. They are stuck in this broadcast-only mode, and they aren’t interacting with or following the people that follow them.Twitter is great for short updates that share quick, up-to-the-minute news. It’s great for interacting with users in a light way, but the 140 character restriction prevents heavy in-depth discussions. And again, it’s a great way to identify and create evangelists.
  • Those are just the ones you are likely to encounter. But there are more tools out there, and even more than the ones listed here. If you have more questions about specific tools, I’m happy to address them later.
  • At this point, you might be thinking that you could bypass the search for a vendor entirely and just build an internal platform. It may seem really tempting – you know and trust the people that will build it, you can get exactly the features you want, exactly the look you want, and nothing you don’t want or need. Sounds great, but it’s not sunshine and roses.A lot of what you’ll build has already been done by someone else. Reinventing the wheel can be expensive and risky. Unless what you need is truly not out there, or there are way too many barriers to entry, reinventing the wheel will just cost you extra time and resources.What happens after it’s built? What you need today may not be what you need tomorrow. You may be able to get budget and resources to get an initial build, but who is going to maintain it? Who is going to add new features? Who is going to fix it when it breaks? When you buy a platform, you’ve got someone else working on that for you. Yes, you’re at the mercy of their update schedule and product roadmap, but it all happens while you’re spending your resources elsewhere.Tools can only get you so far, though. I think it’s important to have the right tool for the job, but if you don’t know how to use the tool to do the job, a great tool is not that much help. Do you have experts in your company that can help you design and implement a platform? Even if you build the perfect platform, without guidance and knowledge of what to do with it, your community won’t be successful.There are exceptions, but in most cases, buying is better than building. Go down the build road thoughtfully and cautiously.
  • No matter what you choose, here’s a strategy to find the right path. It all comes down to your users.Who are they? What do they want to do when they get to your site? Think about that, find the tools that correspond to that, then find the vendor with those tools.Think about your technical needs and resources. Do you have the technical capabilities and resources to host a community yourself? How much of a resource investment are you willing to make?Start small, but be ready for rapid growth. It’s okay to get a platform and only use half the features. They’ll be there when you need them later.After you launch, re-evaluate as your community grows. Maybe they aren’t who you thought they would be, or they want to do different stuff than you thought. You’re probably going to get a few things wrong, and it’s okay. But this is is a work in progress always. Your community is always changing, and you need to always change with it.

Leveraging the Power of B2B Social Communities Leveraging the Power of B2B Social Communities Presentation Transcript

  • Leveraging the Power of B2B Social Communities
    Kellie Parker (@kellieparker)
    Community Manager
    SEGA of America (@Sega)
    ASBPE Webinar – February 23, 2011
  • What is Community?
    Virtual communities are social aggregations that emerge from the Net when enough people carry on those public discussions long enough, with sufficient human feeling, to form webs of personal relationships in cyberspace.
    - Howard Rheingold, “The Virtual Community”
  • Put Another Way…
    "When you think of a title for a book, you are forced to think of something short and evocative, like, well, 'The Virtual Community,' even though a more accurate title might be: 'People who use computers to communicate, form friendships that sometimes form the basis of communities, but you have to be careful to not mistake the tool for the task and think that just writing words on a screen is the same thing as real community.'"
    - Howard Rheingold
  • Community Forms Culture
  • Linked In
    =
  • Facebook
    =
  • YouTube
    =
  • I Can HazCheezeburger
    =
  • Rules and Standards
    Every community needs them
    Should be in plain “layman” language
    Should clearly state what is and is not ok
    Should be tailored to your community
    All users should agree at registration
    Moderators should use them as a guide
    Look at other sites’ rules to get started
    Refine over time
  • Common Rules
    No profane, sexist, or racist language
    No personal attacks
    No profane or pornographic images
    No discussion of illegal activities
    No copyright infringement
    No spam
    No viruses, trojans, or malicious files
  • Culture is More than Rules
    What tone of conversation do you want?
    What kind of “energy” do you want there?
    What do you want users to tell their friends about your community?
    What do you want to be known for?
    What do you want to discourage? How will you do that while reinforcing culture?
  • Setting Culture from the Beginning
    Set up infrastructure to promote culture
    Mods & staff model culture at all times
    Enforce rules fairly and consistently
    Recognize users who demonstrate culture
  • Registration
    User registration is important!
    Your own database/system
    OpenID
    Facebook Connect
    Without registration, comments can quickly get out of control with no way to take more permanent action beyond deletion
  • Participation is Important
    Editor’s job is NOT done once the story is up!
    Participate in the comments – answer questions, provide clarifications, and more
    Connect directly with readers to build loyalty to you personally and your publication
    Facilitate discussion among readers
    EVERYONE benefits when you participate!
  • Be Yourself!
    No one “right” way to act
    Community is about people and personalities
    Be authentic – fakes are spotted quickly
    Readers come for information, stay because of people and relationships
    “I know that guy!” – insider loyalty
  • Reader Generated Ideas
    Story Ideas
    Follow-up Stories
    Letters to the Editor
    Reader Contributed Tips & Tricks
    Print comments alongside stories
    Community Projects
  • From Strategy to Tools
    A big part of community is proper support systems – moderation, culture, registration, participation, authenticity. But equally important is the support system of your community platform. If you don’t provide your community the proper tools to do what you want, all the other stuff can quickly fall apart.
  • There are Lots of Options
    … and many more!
  • It May Feel Like a Jumble…
  • The Key: Get a Strategy and Stick to It
  • The Community Toolbox
    Don’t use a wrench if you need a hammer
    Use each tool to its best advantage
    Know your available tools
    Know what each tool is good for
    Figure out what tools you need
    Select the toolbox (vendor) with those tools
    Select a vendor whose people you like & trust
  • Meet the Tools
    Forums
    Chat
    Blogs
    Wiki
    Groups
    Facebook
    Twitter
    And many more…
  • Forums
    Good For:
    • User-to-user support
    • Open discussions
    • Putting users in control of discussion
    • Light participation from writers & editors
    Not Good For:
    • Press releases
    • Collaboration on a central item
    • Real-time Q&A
  • Chat
    Good For:
    • Real-time Q&A
    • Customer Service
    • Special Occasions (ask the expert, etc)
    • Real-time events (watching an event together on TV)
    Not Good For:
    • Big conversations
    • Collaboration on a central item
  • Blogs
    Good For:
    • Composed thoughts
    • Explaining things
    • Sharing web links and media
    • Keeping customers updated
    Not Good For:
    • User-to-user interaction
    • Collaboration on a central item
    • Real-time discussion
  • Wiki
    Good For:
    • User collaboration on a central item
    • Knowledge Sharing
    • How-To documents
    Not Good For:
    • User-to-user interaction
    • Opinion pieces
    • Real-time discussion
  • Groups
    Good For:
    • User segmentation
    • Loyalty
    • Niche interest sharing
    Can contain many of the other tools within the group structure
  • Facebook
    Not Good For:
    • Heavy user interaction
    • Real-time discussion
    • Community home
    Good For:
    • Loyalty (“fan of”)
    • Information updates
    • Asset spreading
    • Light user interaction
    • Bringing people to your site or community
  • Twitter
    Good For:
    • Short updates
    • Quick sharing of info
    • Light user interaction
    • Bringing people to your site or community
    Not Good For:
    • Heavy user interaction
    • Long bits of content
    • Community home
  • … and More
    Photo galleries
    Video galleries
    Status updates
    Comments
    Favorites
    YouTube
    Flickr
    MySpace
  • Buy vs. Build
    Building may seem tempting
    Don’t re-invent the wheel
    Think about future updates and maintenance
    Tools are only half the battle
    In most cases, buying is better than building
  • Platform Strategy
    Determine who your users are, what they need/want to do when they get there
    Find a platform with tools and options that best fit your needs
    Determine your technical needs and resources
    Start small, build for future growth
    After launch, re-evaluate as your community grows
  • Questions?
    Ask away!
    I can also be reached at :
    Email: kellie.parker@sega.com
    Twitter: @kellieparker
    Blog: http://www.kellieparker.com
    SEGA –
    Twitter: @Sega
    Facebook: facebook.com/sega
    Facebook: facebook.com/sonic
    Blog: blogs.sega.com/usa
    YouTube: youtube.com/segaamerica