Over 40% of business technology decision-makers indicate that support forums, discussion forums, and professional social networks influence them throughout their online journey. Yet many marketers overlook the impact of the conversations that occur within these networks.
Chances are your company has an online community that requires your attention. Whether you have a support forum on your corporate website, a company page on LinkedIn, or a brand page on Facebook, somewhere there is a community of customers, partners, and influencers that is talking about your brand.
It is up to you to take advantage of this opportunity to interact with your community members, but it requires a new marketing mindset. It requires a shift from traditional media creation to social capital creation. It requires an ability to engage and motivate influencers. It also requires time, energy, and commitment from you and the stakeholders within your organization.
It is difficult to ignore the impact that community interactions have on decision-makers. But why do online communities often fail? We speak to many clients who struggle with establishing their communities and found five common mistakes:
1. Choosing the wrong approach. Communities are not a “one size fits all” strategy for customer engagement. Companies must understand how and where their customers and prospects prefer to engage online and the types of activities that will drive member participation.
The silver lining on Apple's iOS6 Maps App snafu is that it has fueled much humorous poking. My favorite so far is the photo going around Facebook of Tom Hanks in "Cast Away." There is also a blog called "The Amazing iOS 6 Maps" that includes a collection of Maps mishaps sent in by users. It seems that negative product and service experiences often turn into comedy (remember "United Breaks Guitars"?). A funny photo or link shared on Facebook is often how product issues are initially brought to our attention.
It started as a blog called Giving Back To The IT Service Management Community – a personal plea for anyone involved in IT operations, IT service delivery, IT support, etc., to “give back” to the larger community. Hopefully it highlighted (or reminded us of) the need for the creation of lower-level, more granular, and ultimately more practical best/good practice information that is freely available to IT service management (ITSM) practitioners; as a quick start mechanism and/or to prevent the continued reinvention of the wheel by organizations wishing to better themselves.
Many (OK, some) ask “Where has this gone?” or “Where is the free content?” Great questions, but ones that I will conveniently avoid (hopefully like a skilled politician); although others involved, I expect and hope, will provide updates on this in the comments section below.
To some Back2ITSM might appear yet another forum for “the usual suspects” (bagsy me be Verbal Kint) to “socialize” themselves to their ultimate downfall. However, I beg to differ. I feel that this has legs, no matter how short those legs might eventually be; which brings me to the reasons for this quickly written blog:
I still need to feedback the limited but interesting responses to the Back2ITSM survey.
I want to publicize some Back2ITSM “coming soons.”
At the start of August, I wrote a speculative blog called Giving Back To The IT Service Management Community which was somewhat of a personal plea for anyone involved in IT operations, IT service delivery, IT support, etc. to “give back” to the larger community. This highlighted (or reminded us of) the need for the creation of lower-level, more granular, and ultimately more practical best practice information that is freely available to IT service management (ITSM) practitioners; as a quick start mechanism and/or to prevent the continued reinvention of the wheel by organizations wishing to better themselves. It all looked good with over three thousand unique views on the Forrester Blog site alone.
Firstly, I need to temper my expectations: the survey was open for two months and plugged by many on Twitter and by organizations such as the itSMF UK, the SDI, and Hornbill but still only 149 people started the survey. Why did I say “started,” because only 76 completed the two “meaty” questions.
A while ago, in fact too long ago (but not in a galaxy far, far away), I wrote a blog called Giving Back To The IT Service Management Community where I surmised that IT service management (ITSM) practitioners need help beyond the ITIL books and associated training. They need real-world help; whether this is by way of guidance, quick-start templates to prevent the “reinvention of the wheel,” benchmarks, or by other means. And that, while some members of the ITSM community already offer help, what practitioners really need is to be offered targeted and focused help. A response that is practitioner “pull” rather than helper “push.”
In short, I proposed that we need to do at least five things (as a community) to help:
Recognize that we are a community and a community that often struggles with the same issues (particularly with ITIL adoption).
Offer up our time to help out others (and often ourselves).
Identify where our efforts need to be applied (for example with the creation of a set of standard (core) ITSM metrics and benchmarks).
Deliver on our promises to the ITSM community.
Never stop trying to improve our collective ITSM capabilities and the quality of delivered IT and business services.
A “bonus” blog today (and hence it is quickly constructed) and the subject area will need to be returned to at a later date. The reason for the bonus blog is that I am a little bit excited.
SysAid, a provider of IT help desk and customer service software solutions, has provided me with a subset of the service desk benchmarking information captured through its customers’ use of its software (on an opt-in basis, of course).
To me, this is the sort of stuff that the ITSM community (see my previous blog) is crying out for – information that helps them to understand where they are and what they should aspire to. More information about the SysAid benchmarking is available at http://www.ilient.com/it-performance-benchmark.htm (link is provided for more detail on the definitions for the benchmarks below).
Average Service Requests (SR) closed per Admin (Service Desk Agent)
Important note: If you follow the above link, the assumptions show that the SRs are “incidents.”
Quick comment – I am assuming that this is per day but I am seeking clarification. As with all the slides in this blog, please treat with care in the absence of sample sizes.
No, this isn’t about the returning of your ITIL books to ITIL’s makers (just think how much they would cost to post) but more of the reaping of the knowledge and experience held within the ITSM community (ITIL’s creators, publishers, trainers, consultants, software vendors, ITSM practitioners, and ancillary roles such as analysts) for the benefit of all.
This is by no means a new idea. Various conversations have taken place over the years to create lower-level, more granular, and ultimately more practical best practice information that is freely available to ITSM practitioners. Whether it is in the form of blogs, white papers, discussion threads, podcasts, special interest groups, or “free” training and events, such information is invaluable to the IT people “at the coal face” who don’t want to have to “reinvent the wheel” nor to have to read through a set of ITIL books which IMO isn’t really designed for the hectic work lives of ITSM practitioners. Practitioners just don’t have the time even if they have the inclination. They will also struggle to find really practical help and assistance from such a "sea of text."
Disqus, a SaaS commenting platform that companies can embed in any website page, just announced a funding round of $10 million yesterday. In the same announcement, they stated that they are reaching 500 million unique visitors a month across 750,000 different websites, including major media sites like both CNN and Fox News, as well as many high tech news sources, such as ReadWriteWeb (which wrote an article on the announcement).
As a B2B marketer, why does this matter to you? Because B2B sites can learn from these largely media or consumer examples. B2B sites that want to enable community and commenting on their pages, including blog posts, need to make it extremely simple to engage using whichever of your social identities (and resulting social networks) you want to bring to the site.
Requiring a unique login in order to get an IT developer to share feedback on your new server architecture, for example, makes it easier to capture information in your CRM system, but your visitors want to add value to their existing social identities. Allowing visitors to engage with you using their preferred identities creates a valuable service for them by strengthening their preferred online identity. See the screenshot below for what this looks like with Disqus. This may increase their willingness to engage on your website instead of across the Internet.
Lately, I've been working on behalf of some Forrester clients to answer the question, "How do we build a community?" Frequently, the answer is, "You don't build a community. You expand it." Few communities appear ex nihilo at the behest of a technology vendor. More commonly, successful community sites identify an existing collection of like-minded people, then entice them to your site with something of value to them.
Developer communities are a good example. Megavendors like Microsoft, Oracle, and IBM have an easy time creating a community site, since there are already a lot of developers connected to these companies, and to each other. If SAP never created its own community site, somewhere in Social Media Land there would be a collection of technical professionals talking to each other about customizing and implementing SAP applications.
Smaller vendors, of course, don't have nearly as easy a time. If you're a sales force automation (SFA) vendor, for example, there are plenty of people out there interested in sales force effectiveness, but far fewer interested in your tool. Since developers have no direct stake in managing a sales force, you can't count on them to be interested in you in the same way that a sales VP might be. Therefore, it's hard to see why developers would participate in a SFA vendor's forums, except when they have an immediate question that needs answering. (Usually in the form of, "Why doesn't this work?")
Our first application of Agile principles to the research process, which occurred during our study of thought leadership in the tech industry, was a very Agile-esque journey into the unknown. We learned a great deal that applies to future applications of Agile Research Development, so here's my retrospective.
You Can Be Agile Up To The Boundaries Of What You Control
Ultimately, you control only part of the value stream. This maxim holds true wherever you apply Agile, and software developers learn this principle right away. You can be the most disciplined developer imaginable, never checking in code that doesn't work, always building in tests, and still be at the mercy of your own QA team. And even if the larger team, including testers, works in blissful harmony, someone needs to deploy the code on a live system. (Which is why dev ops is receiving a lot of attention from within the Agile community these days. See Jez Humble's recent book for a good example.)
If a stream is an appropriate metaphor for value creation and delivery, then this stream always takes many twists and turns, frequently encountering dams and obstructions. The success of Agile, therefore, depends to a great extent on eliminating these kinks, navigating around them, or learning to accept them as part of the value stream's trajectory.