A Guide To Community Management

Just a few short months ago, I was an implementer of community and social media products and programs.  The success I had in those roles, and the knowledge I carry with me now, is thanks in part to the Forrester research reports that helped guide me along the way — so I’m especially excited to now be the author of one of those documents.

My first Forrester report is called the Community Management Checklist (Forrester clients can click the link to read it.)  It’s an overview of the process marketers need to follow and the important-but-sometimes-overlooked concepts and ideas to keep in mind as they work towards launching or engaging with their community.  

Through my research, I identified four phases of the process that can be handily summarized by the acronym PALM:

Planning: Laying the groundwork, setting objectives, exploring existing conversations, making necessary early decisions.

Alignment: Building internal consensus and processes.

Launch: Attracting and retaining members.

Maintenance: Cultivating relationships with your members and turning them into loyalists.

In the document, I’ve covered many issues that marketers have told me they’ve struggled with, so I hope you’ll find that it gives you actionable advice to help you during your own planning process. If it sparks other thoughts or questions, let me know in the comments here or on Twitter — a quick comment from you might turn into an important research topic for me.  

A Fifth PC Form Factor: Computing Wallpaper?

I spoke last week at The Big Money’s Untethered 2010 conference in NYC. I couldn’t stay for the whole event, but I really enjoyed seeing Phil McKinney, CTO of the Personal Systems Group at HP, interviewed by James Ledbetter. He wowed the audience with a little show-and-tell: a flexible screen display printed on a mylar scroll that’s bi-stable (meaning that, like an E Ink screen, it can use very little power to display text) but can also display video at 60 hertz.

Phil McKinney shows mylar flexible display

[Photo courtesy of ZDNet UK (not from Untethered, but it’s the same demo)]

According to McKinney, we’re about 24 to 36 months away from seeing this display make it into products on the market. Imagine walls papered with the stuff, furniture covered with it. Your “device” would be your portable connectivity, which would trigger your data to appear on one of these screens in your home, office, or public space as you approach. I’m envisioning something that looks like the world in “Splinter Cell,” which my gamer husband has been playing on our Xbox 360:

Splinter Cell projected display

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Help Us Benchmark "Mobile Maturity" — Take Part In Our Survey And Get A Free Executive Summary

Like my colleagues who serve Interactive Marketing professionals and are working on a study to benchmark social media maturity in organizations, we’re also conducting a new research project to benchmark how companies define and implement their mobile consumer approach.

Taking a step back, mobile phones have changed the way we live and communicate in the past 10 years. They’ve had a deep effect on society. At Forrester, we believe they’ll change the way companies do business in the next 10 years. Back in 2007, the iPhone created a market catalyst, not only in the way consumers use and perceive mobile phones but also in the way companies engage with their customers in the mobile environment. Since then, a growing number of companies have launched a mobile consumer presence and started to define a road map for their mobile products and services. Some of them are still testing and learning, while many companies are starting to integrate mobile in their corporate strategies, and others have already created dedicated mobile business units and plan to generate millions of €/$ per month in direct revenues. They follow different objectives — whether building brand loyalty, delivering added-value services in a multichannel experience, reducing costs, or acquiring new customers. 

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Steve Ballmer Is Right: The PC Market Is Getting Bigger

At The Wall Street Journal’s D8 conference in June, Apple CEO Steve Jobs compared the PC to a farm truck, saying that when America was an agrarian economy: “All cars were trucks because that’s what you needed on the farm. Now trucks are one in 25 to 30 vehicles sold.” Whether you think PCs will shrink or grow in importance seems to depend partly on semantics. During the same conference, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer countered: “I think people are going to be using PCs in greater and greater numbers for years to come. . . . The PC as we know it will continue to morph form factor. The real question is, what are you going to push.” 

Jobs may not view the iPad as a PC, but we do.

Our view is that the consumer PC market in the US is indeed getting bigger: Over the next five years, PC unit sales across all form factors will increase by 52%. In fact, desktops are the only type of PC whose numbers will be fewer in 2015 than they are today — and even desktops will benefit from innovation in gaming and 3D. We detail our findings in a new report, The US Consumer PC Market In 2015. Clients can read the full report on our Web site, but here are a few key takeaways:

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Help Us Benchmark "Social Maturity"

We recently embarked on a Forrester-wide research project to benchmark the use of social technologies across enterprise organizations. Why is this important? Well, as you may know, we cover social technologies from a wide range of perspectives — from roles in marketing to IT to technology professionals. We find each of these roles differs in its general “social maturity” and that most companies are experiencing pockets of success, but few, if any, are successfully implementing it across the board. In fact, full maturity in this space could take years, but there are clear differences in how some ahead-of-the-curve companies are using social technologies for business results. In fact, at this point it has been clearly established by many people (including us many times over) that social technologies as transformative tools that are changing the way companies do business. So we’re not talking as much about the opportunity social presents, but rather we are trying to determine the current reality of practitioners. It’s also clear that many companies have made tremendous strides in planning and organizing for the use of social technologies. However, the one question we consistently get is: “where is my organization compared to others in the use of social media?” We want to benchmark these companies to see if we can answer questions like:

  • How do you define “social maturity” and why is it important to get there?
  • Which companies are ahead of the curve in implementing social technologies for both external use (i.e., for customers/consumers) and/or internal use (i.e., for employees/partners)?
  • What have been the biggest drivers of success?
  • What are the biggest challenges?
  • What steps do most organizations need to take and why?

Here’s how you can help:

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Back From Italy

I spent some time last week in Italy, where I regularly visit clients to discuss mobile opportunities.

I always try to spend a few hours visiting operators' shops and getting hold of some brochures. The ones below from Telecom Italia are very typical of a certain type of Italian ad...

Beyond this, however Italy is a very interesting market to study. It is wrongly perceived as leading in Europe because of its huge penetration rate — more than 140% — which doesn’t mean much, per se. Put simply, it links to the high ratio of prepay phones and to the multi-SIM phenomenon, in which Italian consumers take advantage of the most attractive tariffs. For example, handset subsidies are not common and were introduced by Tre (greenfield operator Hutchison Whampoa), the operator with the highest postpay market share.

However, Italian consumers are starting to demonstrate sophisticated mobile usage. An example: At the end of 2009, 15% of Italian online users accessed the mobile Internet on a weekly basis and more than 10% were interested in receiving contextualized mobile coupons. I see numerous examples of mobile innovation, and many companies (from media groups to banks) are starting to integrate mobile into their corporate strategies. I am, however, surprised by the lack of a cohesive and consistent approach. Few companies have a clear understanding of how their own customers use mobile services and what their attitudes toward mobile are. That's the first step in assessing mobile opportunities. For example, does it make sense to launch an Android application if you don't know how many of your customers own an Android device? Few companies have defined clear and measurable objectives or have a vision of how they want to integrate mobile as part of a multichannel and multimedia approach moving forward.

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Foursquare’s Starbucks Mistake: Five Ways Foursquare Advertising Is Getting Less Interesting

Foursquare screenshotFoursquare, the geolocation social tool, has been a media darling as of late.  Not only is it growing, but people innately understand the monetization model, which is not something you can say about every social site and tool.  As people “check in,” or report where they are to their networks, Foursquare serves them offers from nearby businesses.  It’s a win-win-win situation: Businesses can market to people who are able to immediately take action; Foursquare earns revenue; and users get valuable offers they can use.

But Starbucks’ current program on Foursquare may kill the goose that lays the golden eggs (or at least demonstrate how that goose may die a slow, lingering death of neglect).  I believe (and I’m curious if you agree) that Starbucks’ ubiquity combined with the offer’s difficult redemption is decreasing attention for Foursquare’s other offers.  If other large chains follow suit with similar promotions, those “Special Nearby” tabs within Foursquare’s mobile apps won’t get as much notice, and that means problems for advertisers on the Foursquare platform.

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The End Of "All-You-Can-Eat" Mobile Data Plans?

Following AT&T's decision in the US ten days ago (see my colleague Charles Golvin's take here), there's a hot debate as to whether European operators will follow suite and stop their unlimited mobile Internet pricing schemes.

O2 UK announced no later than last Friday that it will stop it and introduce various caps: from 500MB for the cheapest one (GBP25 with 100 minutes and unlimited texts) up to 1GB for the most expensive (GBP60 for unlimited voice/SMS and 1GB of mobile Internet).

According to the press release, 97% of O2 smartphone customers would not need to buy additional data allowances, as the lowest bundle (500MB) provides at least 2.5 times the average O2 customer’s current use. In short, just 3% of customers will have to pay extra.

Other UK operators as well as KPN in the Netherlands and Orange France have shared indications that they will follow suite and that this pricing scheme is outdated. Here are a couple of thoughts:

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Does Google's 'Sitelinks' Feature Improve Or Hurt Conversion Rates?

I don't know about you, but I like the 'extended' search results I sometimes see on Google. I mean the ones where Google, instead of just offering a single link for the top search result, provides you with several deep links into a site. It makes navigation faster, and that's a good thing.

Those extra links almost always show up in organic results, so you may not have known that marketers can actually buy this feature in their paid listings as well. Google calls them 'AdWords Ad Sitelinks.' But -- I'm starting to wonder how well these actually work for marketers. I noticed today that in Google's case study about how Nationwide Insurance used Sitelinks [pdf], Google says the clickthrough rate went up 73% but conversions only rose 60%. The case study isn't clear on whether that's conversions per click or overall conversions -- but it certainly sounds like overall conversions. In which case, the clicks Nationwide got from Sitelinks actually converted at a lower rate than the clicks they got from traditional paid listings.

Now, this is just one example -- and as I said, it's based on my reading of the case study. But if Sitelinks really did drive conversion rates down rather than up, surely that'd be a concern.

I'm curious -- have you used Sitelinks? If so, what did you think of the program's performance -- especially the conversion rates? Let us know in the comments below.

Crowd Factory Launches New Social Campaign Product

Crowd Factory announced today a new product for marketers: CrowdWorks Social Campaign -- which it describes as a way for marketers “to acquire new customers through simple social sharing and custom social marketing campaigns while easily tracking ROI.”

The key word there is simple.  What Social Campaign offers marketers is not complex end-to-end community/social/conversational/engagement marketing functionality and services.  It’s a curated set of light social applications (like sharing and ratings) -- which it refers to as social gestures -- that marketers can use to impact the business goals they’ve already established for their campaigns.

The interface is as simple as the feature set too, which may be a welcome change of pace for marketers who are used to requesting design and coding work from already tapped development resources.  Crowd Factory says it takes 10 minutes, and no technical skills, to customize and deploy a social gesture, and having seen the dashboard, I can believe it.  Of course, that 10-minute time-to-launch comes only after the platform has been approved by whatever internal departments need to sign off on technology platforms, but once that step is completed, the dashboard is in fact a platform that can be used over and over to customize and deploy new social gestures without additional help from tech resources.

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