Ready to join the cutting-edge of companies boldly tackling social media by building and participating in online communities? This is from the Get Satisfaction Community Webcast series. It's the slide presentation of "The 10 Commandments Community Management." This talk was about the intersection between community management and customer service, and why crowd-sourced communities may be the future of customer service. It shows how to quickly and easily build a customer community that will enhance traditional customer service and provide measurable value to a company and its brand.
Each Webcast = 30 minutes and are archived at http://www.getsatisfaction.tv/
You are encouraged to share this under the Creative Commons Share-Remix + Attribution licenses: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/
of Community Management
Tuesday, April 7, 2009 1
Hi. I'm Amy Muller, Chief Community Officer and co-founder at Get Satisfaction, located in San Francisco.
Behind the scenes is Eric Suesz, our community manager, who will be manning the chat room.
This is the first in a series of webcasts we're doing that is focused on enhancing your community and
getting more value out of Get Satisfaction.
Today's topic is the 10 Commandments of Community Management. We hope to give you a set of
guidelines to work with that will help you plan for, cultivate, and grow your customer community.
At Get Satisfaction we're in the middle of many thousands of communities, which gives us a unique
insight into what works and what doesn't. There are many kinds of communities and what we're going to
focus on in this series is customer communities. And specifically, how to use community to best support
the people using your products and services.
I'll be talking for about 20 minutes, and then I'll open it up for questions and answers. You can post your
questions to the chat room and even chat amongst yourselves or with Eric as we go along. As fellow
community managers, I have no doubt you'll be on your best behavior in our chat room and will stay on
Also, before the Q&A at the end of the webcast, we'll be making a couple of announcements and giving
away a free year of premium service to one registered viewer -- so be sure to stick around.
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So what IS community?
People use the term quot;communityquot; these days to mean all sorts of things.
We believe community is when people come together around a shared interest. And that conversations --
even the kind we have when we're trying to solve a problem or answer a question -- are the building
blocks for meaningful community.
Now, without further ado, I present Get Satisfaction's 10 Commandments for Community Management.
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If we could only have one commandment, what would it be? In our experience, the one that matters most
is to know your special purpose.
Zappos core values http://about.zappos.com/our-unique-culture/zappos-core-values
quot;The Tao of Timbuk2quot; http://www.timbuk2.com/wordpress_cms/customer-service/about/
What do we mean by this? We mean that you have a core set of values or even just one core value or
mission that your whole company is bought in on and that you embody so fully it emanates out to your
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It's the thing that makes you not just another widget creator or bag seller or software company or service
provider. It's your reason for existence beyond just making money.
It's from companies like this that communities emerge or are at least more easily created.
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Maybe you're just selling shoes, but you're doing it in a way that brings happiness to people's lives.
What is is about Zappos that makes them so effective at creating a passionate community of customers?
They fully embrace their core values. It starts from the top down -- the CEO embodies it, and everyone in
the organization is empowered to do what he does.
They are all encouraged to use their real names when interacting with their customers; to treat them like
Embodying the purpose
Tuesday, April 7, 2009 7
And the employees are empowered to do what needs to be done to take care of their customers, whether
it's helping them find the shoes they want on another web site when they're not available at Zappos or
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At Get Satisfaction, our special purpose is to enable companies and customers to create meaningful
relationships where before they only had transactions;
And the way we go about doing this is by creating a safe, public space for companies and customers to
come together, which breeds trust.
It also makes everyday people feel empowered and makes them more willing participants in the life of the
company whose products and services they use.
Whatever you do, do it in a way that matters -- that's what creates community. No set of tactics or
technologies can make up for the lack of having that. And it should be something that is second nature to
everyone in the business, in such a clear way that it rubs off on your customers.
And this special purpose should guide every interaction as a community manager.
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There are many different types of gathering spaces for people online. Each one has its own set of social
norms. What might be right for Digg may not be right for Flickr.
Or, take 4chan/b/, the place where bad actors who've been kicked out of every other community go to
bother each other. As you can see by the rules for their community, there basically are no rules. So what's
right for them is definitely not okay pretty much anywhere else.
In a support community, getting it wrong can be hazardous.
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At Get Satisfaction, we've worked to provide a social contract by way of our Community Guidelines and
We know that asking companies to meet their customers in a Switzerland of sorts seems like it's asking
for unilateral disarmament on the part of the companies. Which of course isn't fair when your customers
might be showing up with hand grenades and semi-automatic weapons.
So, we created the Company-Customer Pact, which calls for multilateral disarmament.
For instance, if we're going to expect companies to work hard on the customer's behalf in public, we ask
customers to cut them some slack as we know mistakes will get made along the way. It's a two-way street.
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Flickr's community guidelines are a great example of a clear and strong social contract and are a model
that many communities follow.
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For instance: quot;Don't be creepy. You know that guy. Don't be that guy.quot;
Need to write your own community guidelines? Flickr is a good place to start: http://www.flickr.com/
Define your social norms
Tuesday, April 7, 2009 14
Define your social norms in writing (slide: http://getsatisfaction.com/community_guidelines)
This is where you are explicit about your social contract. On Get Satisfaction we have provided an explicit
social contract for you. However, you are welcome to add to it for your own customer community so that
it meets your specific community's needs.
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Create a safe space by making it clear you'll enforce rules -- then actually do.
For instance, a few months after we started we banned our first user on Get Satisfaction. Then we
blogged about it. By doing this, we made it clear that we stand behind our social contract which has
helped us as we've grown.
Blog post, The Ban Hammer: http://blog.getsatisfaction.com/2008/05/20/the-ban-hammer/
Tuesday, April 7, 2009 16
This is where the implicit part of your social contract is made evident. How you respond and interact with
your customers can do a lot to diffuse anger, bad behavior, and sets the right tone. Hold yourself to your
Tuesday, April 7, 2009 17
Externally and internally. There are different ways to engage with your customer community.
For some companies, it is a core support channel; for others, it may be peripheral. Whatever the case, be
sure you set your expectations clearly for both your customers and your internal team.
Tuesday, April 7, 2009 18
Here's a company that wants a customer community, but one where customers are engaging with each
other. They've made this intent clear to their customers and have given them a way to get in touch for pure
company support issues. And this doesn't mean the company isn't involved at all, but they have made it
clear that customers shouldn't expect an immediate employee response.
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Primal Fusion http://getsatisfaction.com/primalfusion/topics/
On the other hand, you have companies who want to be actively engaged in their customer communities
and have set that expectation from the get-go. quot;Welcome, we're listening and we're eager to talk!quot;
Tuesday, April 7, 2009 20
Define your company's relationship with your community at the get-go.
Establish an internal
policy for response
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Establish an internal policy -- even an SLA -- for response.
Here I want to make the point that if you're creating a community from the ground up, it may make sense
to create a rapid-response policy at the beginning so people are more likely to participate. When they see
active employee engagement, they themselves are more engaged. If done right, you create long-term,
passionate community members.
The magic of customer communities is that you can harness their natural engagement.
And with every question you answer you're getting a broader value because this then creates a body of
content that is both an additional draw for your customers and, over time, cuts down on a significant
percentage of the more common issues and questions.
Evolve your policy as
the community grows
Tuesday, April 7, 2009 22
Evolve your policy as the community grows.
What works in the very beginning -- rapid response -- may not work later as you scale. If you've done your
work to foster community and create engagement, your customers will be more and more likely to help
but only if there’s no
malice in your heart
Tuesday, April 7, 2009 23
And when your policy is rapid response, always remember to do so only when there is no malice in your
If quot;that guyquot; is being an ass, take a breath or three. Even sleep on it. Or recuse yourself and ask someone
else who is not emotionally invested to jump in.
Cast a wide
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This isn't just about getting a volume of traffic but is about getting diversity of people. A diverse community
is a healthy community.
It's also about pulling in a wide variety of support sources to help your community.
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Weave community throughout the user experience.
If you want to engage your users, go where they're already engaged. Or where they're confused or having
This could be through embedding widgets -- not just on your help page but on your product pages, home
page, even your blog.
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This could also be through Twittering...
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The Overheard tab on Get Satisfaction is another way to pull members into your customer community.
This not only gives you the opportunity to respond to customers when they weren't even expecting it, but
to pull them into your customer community. It can result in a really productive conversation
Tuesday, April 7, 2009 31
Here, a Snapfish employee saw a tweet from a customer saying she was planning to change to another
So he turned her tweet into a Get Satisfaction topic, asking her what Snapfish could do to keep her on as a
customer. She was notified via Twitter that a Snapfish employee had responded to her. She then joined the
conversation on Get Satisfaction and gave very insightful feedback to Snapfish.
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Reach out to people in other online communities and stay involved in those communities. It's smart
networking, but it's also a way to learn how other communities approach the same situations you do.
Tuesday, April 7, 2009 33
Pull in subject matter experts inside and outside your company.
Whole Foods: inviting the water buyer into a topic: http://getsatisfaction.com/wholefoods/topics/
Here in the Whole Foods community, a customer was concerned about the quality of the plastic used in
the bottles for their private-label water. The community manager sought out the one person within Whole
Foods who is responsible for sourcing the bottles they use for their private label water, who then gave a
very comprehensive answer.
Avoid the echo chamber
by fostering diversity
Tuesday, April 7, 2009 34
Avoid the echo chamber by fostering diversity.
This can't be a silo. We know what forums look like when you put them off to the side. Or when they are so
exclusive that you end up with a gathering of power users and even bullies which, at best, is a turnoff for
anyone not already in the club and, at worst, is an invitation to an abusive experience.
Tuesday, April 7, 2009 35
You've seen these kinds of forums: quot;Mild flaming allowed. Veterans only. Duke it out in the war room.quot;
And a lot of forums encourage this, even if they don't list it explicitly, simply by the design of the space.
When you've got a broader range of people, it will be more inviting to a broader range and ultimately be
more valuable to you.
Tuesday, April 7, 2009 36
People will judge customer communities based on their ability to achieve their goal. Either they got what
they came for, a reasonable proxy, or they got nothing.
A support community is going to be a little more black and white than other kinds of communities.
At Get Satisfaction, we've slimmed outcomes down to a few core ones: Questions and Answers,
Problems and Solutions, Ideas and Implementation. These are the bread and butter of a support
People will not always be able to get what they came for, so the experience of trying to get to those
outcomes has to be satisfying in other ways.
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People are often surprised after ranting at Comcast when Frank Eliason or someone else from the
ComcastCares team shows up, apologizes, and gets their issue dealt with right away.
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Don't be afraid to say I'm sorry. And don't be defensive.
You can turn nasty conversations toward positive outcomes. This is a key moderation technique.
From a customer community standpoint, it's one of the most important.
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This is a story that I love. It starts as some customer support stories will start -- with a pissed off customer:
quot;In TEN F#%$#%ing years, I've NEVER had a program cause me this MUCH PAIN!!!quot;
Enter the CEO. In the first line of his response: quot;I am deeply sorry.quot; The conversation continues, results in
a phone call, and then winds back around to the customer apologizing for flipping out.
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quot;Help us help youquot;
Now, not every angry customer scenario is going to turn around as this one did. Sometimes you need to
come in and re-frame a conversation. Re-framing isn't saying quot;You can't criticize usquot; but rather, quot;Please do
so in a constructive way. We invite open public conversation because we want to do a better job. In return
you need to help us help you.quot;
So when you feel the temptation to censor, stop yourself and re-frame.
If the customer refuses to shift the conversation toward a productive outcome, if they are obviously a
person who can not be appeased and is not looking for a solution
but rather just a venue to rant, then different rules may apply, which we'll get to in Commandment #8.
Let your customers know
they had an impact
Tuesday, April 7, 2009 43
Letting your customers know they're having an impact is often enough of an outcome if you do it in the
How do you effectively do this? Being told quot;I hear youquot; isn't really enough as it's often just patronizing.
Being heard is when the user feels their voice has impacted the organization in some small or large way.
One of the things that will surprise customers the most is when you agree with their complaint. quot;Yes, we
know our product has that bug. We're working on it right now and hope to have it fixed soon,quot; or, quot;Thanks
for pointing that out. We'll look into right away.quot;
Also, avoid, making assumptions. If you're really listening, you're not going to assume. If you don't
understand at first, ask for more explanation or detail.
Letting customers know they're being heard is a powerful way to offset being unable to deliver on new
features or fixing bugs in a timely manner.
People will not only forgive but they'll feel a sense of commitment because now they feel like they have a
relationship with you as an individual, and with the company by extension.
Tuesday, April 7, 2009 44
Online reputation is made by countless public interactions around the web over the course of many
Remember this with every interaction you engage in -- it all adds up to a picture of who you are and what
you stand for to those who only know you virtually.
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We've seen some great ways to respond to customers. There are also ways to NOT respond.
A customer was having a problem finding their email on a Mozilla client. The rep asked for clarification
about which product. The customer responded describing some error messages they saw, and the rep
replied, saying, quot;You're obviously seeing things that don't exist.quot;
So then the customer asks the same question another way.
And the rep replies: quot;You claim to be using Firefox, and you started writing some crap,quot; etc., etc.
quot;THEREFORE, your e-mails are on whatever website you normally view them on, be it gmail, hotmail,
yahoo, or CrazyGuyWhoSeesWordsThatArentThere.whosawhatsit (which is probably your preferred
Obviously, this is an example of what NOT to do if your goal is to win friends and influence others.
Another how *not* to do it: Let Me Google that for You: http://lmgtfy.com/
Tuesday, April 7, 2009 46
Virtually all of the evils of online community can be traced back to people being anonymous. When they're
anonymous, they feel no accountability for their actions. Now this isn't to say that people should be forced
to use their real names, but some persistence of a persona makes a real difference.
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Anonymity can result in users like our friend quot;wouldn't you like to knowquot; who says quot;You Suck! I've got an
idea---why don't you take this thing and shove it. This is the worse thing we have ever dealt with on the
Lead by example by using your real name and your real voice.
Use your real
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The fact is, community management isn't for the faint of heart, but if you're using a fake identity and are
hiding from people, it doesn't breed an environment of trust.
Accept personal responsibilities for your actions. Be authentic. Be human. Don't use corporate speak.
Your customers will see right through that and you will undermine your authenticity with them.
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When PayPal first started to participate, one of their reps came in and gave the same cut-and-paste
response (borrowed from their trouble-ticketing system) in all the topics in the community. The community
called them out for it. They got the message and changed direction.
Be a bridge
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You are the bridge between the company and the community.
To each side, you represent the other. This represents challenges and opportunities. It's often a
contradiction and you must learn to embrace the contradiction.
This can be an uncomfortable place to be. But to be perfectly honest, if you're a little uncomfortable then
you're doing your job right.
(noun) An appointed ofﬁcial
whose duty is to investigate
complaints, generally on behalf
of individuals such as consumers
or taxpayers, against institutions
such as companies and
Tuesday, April 7, 2009 53
We liken your role to that of an Ombudsman.
Wikipedia: An appointed official whose duty is to investigate complaints, generally on behalf of individuals
such as consumers or taxpayers, against institutions such as companies and government departments.
Except that you are representing both sides simultaneously.
Tuesday, April 7, 2009 54
Mediate between community and company interests.
You're able to bring both sides to greater understanding of each other.
Obviously, the company has a lot to gain by understanding their customers better.
And the customers are NOT always right. They don't have all the information. The community is a way to
give them more information in a more casual, intimate way which can help them better understand the
company and ultimately become a passionate customer and even an evangelist.
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Sometimes you're a bridge within your customer community.
You will have community members who will rub each other the wrong way. Step in, remind them of their
shared purpose for being there and of the community guidelines.
Don't allow name calling or abusive behavior. Members can disagree without making it personal.
Tuesday, April 7, 2009 56
Finally, publicize your successes. Blog about them. Turn the spotlight on the community. Let the rest of
your company know its value.
Don’t feed the
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You know your community has arrived when you've attracted your first troll.
What’s a Troll,
Someone with the primary intent of
provoking other users into an
emotional response or to generally
disrupt normal on-topic discussion
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What's a troll, you may ask?
quot;An Internet troll, or simply troll in Internet slang, is someone who posts controversial, inflammatory,
irrelevant or off-topic messages in an online community, such as an online discussion forum or chat
room, with the primary intent of provoking other users into an emotional response or to generally
disrupt normal on-topic discussion.quot;
Gallery of trolls
Tuesday, April 7, 2009 59
A gallery of suspected Get Satisfaction trolls.
Every successful community will attract trolls.
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Here is a perfect example. This guy is pretty infamous online now, particularly in Twitter, which he is
ranting about in this topic.
Our community manager, Eric, has stepped in to say, quot;You are welcome to post here, but I notice that
you've posted multiple comments that clearly abuse our community guidelines. In fact, they seem to be
designed to do just that. You can read those guidelines here: http://getsatisfaction.com/
Noah replies with quot;glad you have some terms. I will look into them and be sure to find the loopholes in
case you get dogmaticquot; then goes on to post the lyrics from quot;Ya Got Trouble.quot;
The key is to know how to identify trolls, how to deal with them, and how not to deal with them.
We've talked about the social contract and your reputation and focusing on productive outcomes. This is
where all of these elements will come in to play.
Your social contract has laid the groundwork for your community environment, your focus on productive
outcomes, and your reputation should precede you. If you've got a troll egging you on, the majority of
your community will back you up. The trick is to not get pulled in to the black hole of debate with these
when “that guy”
is being an ass
Tuesday, April 7, 2009 61
As I've said before: Respond slowly when quot;that guyquot; is being an
Learn to identify trolls.
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Learn to identify trolls. Do your research.
Some helpful resources:
A surprisingly thoughtful take on the different kinds of trolls: http://www.teamtechnology.co.uk/troll-
Cory Doctorow's Troll Whisperer: http://www.informationweek.com/shared/
There are even how-to guides for trolls: http://www.urban75.com/Mag/troll.html
The black hole of debate
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Don't get sucked into their black hole of debate.
If you have done your best to appease and to steer the conversation in a productive direction and the user
continues to rant, twist your words and just seems intent on wreaking havoc it's time to leave the
Tuesday, April 7, 2009 64
What you measure changes depending on what stage you're at as well as what kind of company you are.
Yes you want scale. Yes you want measurable benefits in the form of cost savings.
And some typical ways people measure are things like unique users, page views, level of engagement,
deferred support inquiries. These are all good, but some of them make no sense to measure early on.
Don’t put the cart
before the horse
Tuesday, April 7, 2009 65
Don't put the cart before the horse.
Qualitative success precedes quantitative goals. Lots of traffic isn't going to do you any good if you
haven't created a real community connecting people around your purpose.
Obviously, a community with millions of unique users that are bashing your company and its products is
not nearly as valuable as a small community of a few thousand who are learning from one another and
developing ongoing conversations for getting the most out of your products and providing insight back
into your company.
It's so sensible, yet we so often set up metrics that measure quantity before we've achieved quality. We've
created the conditions for high volume to map to success. We need to shift this thinking.
Your most important
metrics may be those you
Tuesday, April 7, 2009 66
Your most important metrics may be those you don't even know exist yet.
While we provide all kinds of qualitative and quantitative metrics on Get Satisfaction, there are metrics that
are unique to every company but you may not know what they are until you start to work with your
community. For instance, perhaps it's internal insight. Are you measuring what you're learning from your
For instance, bag maker Timbuk2 learned that their customers talked about their products differently than
they did as a company. This led to them adjusting their marketing language to map to how their customers
thought about and used their products.
Tuesday, April 7, 2009 67
By now you have hopefully created a diverse community of engaged users. Every community has
different archetypes: enforcers, nurturers, subject matter experts.
Find representatives of the most useful archetypes for your community and recruit them.
If you choose wisely and make sure to get the right mix you can turbo boost your community.
What motivates these people? It's not pay.
The people who will work the hardest for you are the ones least likely to be motivated by money or stuff,
but by who you are as a community manager and a company, by your company's special purpose, often
by an altruistic desire to spread good will and -- sometimes, quite honestly -- by a simple desire for
Tuesday, April 7, 2009 68
SynthaSite (now Yola) is a fantastic example of a company that has done a great job of fostering a vibrant
and passionate community of customers. A couple of their most active and helpful customers have
proven themselves infinitely valuable to the community management team and so have been anointed as
As you can see, these customers are incredibly active participants
Tuesday, April 7, 2009 69
When other community members have questions, sometimes the Champs arrive there first to help out
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Peter's reply: http://getsatisfaction.com/SynthaSite/topics/needing_a_bit_of_cc#reply_915844
Know your archetypes
and be good at identifying them
Tuesday, April 7, 2009 71
Know your archetypes and get good at identifying them.
Define the right balance
for your community
Tuesday, April 7, 2009 72
Develop a strategy for what the right balance is for your community. If you have too many enforcers and
not enough nurturers, your community can become an unpleasant place. Etsy probably doesn't need as
many enforcers as it does nurturers and cheerleaders. Whereas Digg may need more enforcers.
Empower your champions
Tuesday, April 7, 2009 73
And finally, empower your champions so they provide more value to you and your entire customer
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Here's a blog post from a few years back that is still an entertaining and useful take on the various roles in
an online community. Eric will post this link in the chat room as well.
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And that brings us to the end of our 10 Commandments. I'd love your input on what you think should be
What's the 11th?
Do we have
Tuesday, April 7, 2009 76
First, the winner of today's give away is Spreadshirt. Congratulations! You will be contacted by someone
from our business team.
Some of you may have noticed some changes to our web site today. We have a new home page which
we hope you'll like, and we've also been working on new features which many of you have been asking
for. We're launching our Single Sign-On feature as well as light customization.
For more information check out http://getsatisfaction.com/home/companies
Support Costs By
Turning to the
Tuesday, April 7, 2009 77
Our next live webcast is April 8th, same bat time, same bat channel. We hope you can join us! There
should be a registration link here on the Getsatisfaction.tv page.
on twitter at amygsfn
Tuesday, April 7, 2009 78