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Why European companies must
participate in the groundswell
¸ 12.04.2010 ! By Josh Bernoff
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Based on this level of participation, we’ve seen some amazing business-to-business
applications. For example, National Instruments, a company that makes technology for
monitoring and controlling devices, starts and ends its marketing with its online community. Its community now has 110,000 members, mostly engineers, who answer each
others’ questions, and contribute articles on how to use the company’s products in sophisticated and innovative ways. National Instruments takes its cues for everything,
from new product features to marketing, from its own customers.
Or consider Sonic Foundry, a company that delivers corporate Webcasts. The organization holds its annual user conference in Madison, Wisconsin, far from the major population centers in the USA In this era of declining travel budgets, Sonic Foundry attracted
more customers with online video and social networks like LinkedIn and Twitter to
draw people into the content they were planning. At the event itself, they reached out to
both attendees and those who weren’t present with on-site videos of customers inter-
Best Practice 02 l 2010
June 9-11, 2010
Forrester IT Forum EMEA, Lisbon, Portugal
JUNE 24, 2010
Engaging Your Customer In The Mobile
Environment – Forrester workshop,
Paris, France
JUNE 29-30, 2010
Forrester Customer Experience Forum,
New York, USA
About the
Josh Bernoff, Senior Vice President of
Idea Development at Forrester Research,
writes regularly for the “Wall Street Journal”
and the “New York Times”. The USA-based
Society for New Communications
Research (SNCR) named Bernoff and
Charlene Li Visionaries of the Year in 2008.
Foto: XXX xxx
As of mid-2009, more than half of online Europeans were consuming social content of
some kind. One in seven Europeans were creating social content on blogs, uploading
to YouTube , or contributing in a similar way. Three out of 10 are in social networks
like Facebook . The numbers are slightly lower in Germany, with 38 percent of online
Germans consuming social content. Levels of social participation have been rising for
the last three years, with Asia moving a little faster and Europe a little slower, but the
trend is clear – social is on its way to near-universal acceptance. Do business buyers
use these channels? Actually, they are even more likely to participate. 96 percent
of the business decision makers we survey consume social content, and 75 percent say they do so for their jobs.
PHotos : PR (2)
Since our book “Groundswell” appeared in 2008, I’ve gone all over the world to talk
to companies about their customers’ use of social technologies and applications like
blogs, Twitter , YouTube , and Xing , in which people connect with and draw
strength from each other. These environments intrigue companies; they have a lot of
potential, but an environment where customers are in control can be terrifying for
traditional marketers. Here’s why you should put your doubts aside and participate:
your customers are there.
viewing each other, posts featuring more clips, and a live Webcast of the sessions, all
promoted by social media. Result: a 15 percent rise in paying conference attendees, and
a five-fold increase in the fans for the company’s Facebook page.
I see these efforts succeed all the time. And I also see them fail. The most common
reason for failure is a lack of discipline in approaching this new way of communicating.
No one would implement a new accounting system because they thought it was “cool,”
and yet corporate marketers often take this approach to social applications. The results,
as with any “dive in now, ask questions later” effort, tends to be poor. Instead of plunging forward based on what’s fashionable, we recommend a disciplined four-step
approach to social applications, using the acronym POST (for People, Objectives,
Strategy, Technology).
the book
Let’s start with people. Before you start, you must find out what sorts of social activities
your customers engage in online. For example, younger peole tend to contribute frequently to online social content – the problem with these customers is getting their attention among all the other social applications and tools they use. Older customers are
often more willing to read social content than to create it, so any effort aimed at them
is more likely to succeed if a lot of the “starter” content comes from the company and
people can react to it. For a look at participation of different age groups in different
European, North American, and Asian countries, see Forrester’s online tool at
Once you’ve analyzed your people, move on to objectives. A clear objective makes
it far more likely your social application will succeed. The five main social objectives
are listening (research), talking (marketing), energizing (word of mouth), supporting
(customer service), and embracing (product development). Pick one, and design your
application to tap into it. For example, the Sonic Foundry application we’ve described
is a great energizing application.
Having analyzed people, and objectives, move on to strategy. Social applications aren’t
like a marketing campaign you can launch, run, and complete. Once engaged, customers expect you to support them in their continuing social activity. Communities, blog
audience, and social network sites tend to grow over time, creating a long-term asset.
So what is your long-term plan for your application?
Josh Bernoff and co-author Charlene Li
published “Groundswell: Winning in a World
Transformed by Social Technologies”
in 2008 (Harvard Business Press). It was
released in Germany in 2009 as “Facebook,
YouTube, Xing & Co.” (Hanser) and became
one of Amazon’s top ten business publications
that year. The duo’s next book, “Empowered”,
due out this fall, explores the management
challenges that come from empowering
employees to engage in the groundswell.
Foto: XXX xxx
Finally, choose the right technology. Based on your plan, you might decide to wade
into Xing , set up a blog, or build an online community. Starting with a technology
choice is nearly always a mistake. Instead, start with people, objectives, and strategy,
and your technology choice will be far easier.
Best Practice 02 l 2010