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Last week, at GetSatisfaction’s inaugural Customer Success Summit (May 2, 2013) in San Francisco, I received my regular reminder that I live in this tech bubble called the Bay Area. I was speaking with a gentleman about why I was attending and how I understood the importance of building a brand around a community. His response? “Yeah, I’m here because I still need to be convinced.” After slyly picking my jaw up off the ground, I realized that perhaps this concept hasn’t proliferated far beyond the borders of tech savvy regions. Perhaps it hasn’t spread far beyond community managers and startup founders. Though I can’t confirm personally, I would like to think that the gentleman was thoroughly convinced by the end of the day that a community can drive your whole business. The conference was incredibly inspiring, GetSatisfaction seems to be a great company, and I look forward to next year’s event. Below, I’ll summarize my take-aways by describing the three ways you can build your brand around a community.

1. CUSTOMER SERVICE

Service is everything; just ask Jeff Bezos (Amazon) and Tony Hsieh (Zappos). By simply making service your top priority, you can build an incredible company. I could discuss this at length, but let me focus on how this pertains specifically to community management in an ecosystem such as GetSatisfaction.

The best way to summarize how building a community can maximize your customer service efforts is the age-old idiom, “give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” Most people don’t want to have to pick-up a phone to answer their questions. They prefer to self service. If you provide the venue for them to do so, you can cut your customer service efforts in half. By pushing all conversations, social media and e-mail, to the community, it makes the content more searchable and recallable.  While you will initially be responding to their inquiries in a similar fashion, the most common questions will easily begin to deflect as they will be found immediately within searches by your customers. Aside, phone support will (and should) always be necessary. While we want to minimize calls for efficiency purposes, don’t ever cut off that lifeline. Nothing is more infuriating than wanting to call a company, but not being able to find a phone number.

Using tools like GetSatisfaction also allows you to answer customer questions before they have them. Through the use of widgets, discussions can automatically be recommended pertaining to particular topics, questions, or products while your customer is on your website.

2. PRODUCT DEVELOPMENT

We can’t all be Steve Jobs. The chances of you developing the next iPod without listening to your community are fairly slim. I’d even argue that Steve Jobs listened to his customers, even if he did it in secretive manner and acted like he didn’t. Creating a community that is open to product discussion could greatly benefit your development process. Look for common threads and pain point in your customers’ requests; it will lead you in the right direction. Solve one problem and start looking to solve the next. Not only does this allow you to let your customers know you are working on their needs and that they’re being heard, when you do solve their problem, you will be building your evangelist network.

A word to the wise though, the “loudest” person doesn’t always hold the consensus. Make sure that you are looking at the data you collect and not simply responding to an emotional outcry.

3. MARKETING

I don’t think it is a secret anymore that search engine optimization (SEO) is king when it comes to marketing; and content is king to SEO. Imagine creating a discussion engine that allows your customers to create content for your website. Every time a question is asked by a customer, it is in the words of your audience, not some corporate jargon. It is likely the exact same words another customer would use if they had the same question. If they type it into Google, wouldn’t it be cool for your website to show up first in the search engine results? GetSatisfaction automatically syndicates each discussion, which allows it to easily be found in search engine results.

By creating dialogues in an open platform, you are allowing people to engage with each other. This is when you start harnessing the power beyond content creation and start turning your customers into advocates and champions. Some companies are taking this a step further and rewarding their community for engaging and helping with various questions.

In many cases, the community portion of your website will begin to show up in search results long before your homepage. This means you’ll start attracting new customers by engaging them with the community first.

CONCLUSION

Slide from David Roley's Presentation - CTO GetSatisfaction

Expectations are very high these days and customers will go where their needs are served. Communities are the engagement channel of choice and provide the best experience for your customers. The tools are out there to build a great community around your company (or vice versa), but a great community can only grow from a genuine approach. As Wendy Lea (CEO at Get Satisfaction) said, you need to be human, accountable, ready and earnest when it comes to managing your community. Do this, and you can grow a great brand around your community.

As for actual community management approach, that is a whole other post (if not book or website). If you have any questions or comments, please leave them below in the comments section.

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UPDATE:

The conference organizers indicated that all the slide decks would be available for review after the conference. I’ll let you know when I get a hold of them, but I received an e-mail today from the CEO stating the following: “Please be on the look out for one more email from us later this week with information on how to access all the presentations from the Summit. Also by next week the videos for the recorded sessions and panels will be available on the Summit’s website, so be sure to check back.” – Wendy Lea, CEO at GetSatisfaction

They were also promoting the #GetSuccess hashtag if you wanted to see what people were saying on twitter.

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A quick not about GetSatisfaction: I’m not connected to GetSatisfaction in any way beyond being a huge fan of their product and culture.  Companies using their service; such as LG, Rhapsody, and Citrix; are seeing amazing returns on their investment. Imagine over 50% reduction in support costs and gaining thousands of brand evangelists. Best of all, they “eat their own dog food”; they’ve created discussions on their website to further the discussion around each presentation.

Posted
AuthorBen Larson