This week’s social media blog posts:
Monday: Seven ways to doom a Social Media program.
Tuesday: Co-Creating with Social Media.
Wednesday: Building Brand Evangelism through Social Media.
Thursday: Social Media and Reputation Management.
Friday: Now that you’ve engaged, it’s time to re-engage.
(This is the nineteenth in our series of Social Media posts for the month of October. We look forward to your feedback on this series.)
Mars Candy Company let customers decide the newest color for M&M’s. VitaminWater is soliciting recommendations for new flavors from customers. Budweiser allowed web site visitors to vote for the commercials they wanted to see in the Super Bowl. And recently, Netflix offered $1 million to any engineers or scientists who could develop an algorithm to improve Netflix’s ability to predict what movies users would like by a modest 10 percent.
These are all well-promoted examples of companies co-creating with their customers.
We’ve talked about how the target of a Social Media campaign is not just acting as a receiver of information, but also how that audience becomes the medium through which information is passed to others, and how members have the ability to edit, comment on or add to the communication. That “add to” characteristic of Social Media serves as the basis (and the opportunity) for co-creation with customers.
Co-creation is exactly what it sounds like: the marketer is soliciting input, ideas and viewpoints from customers, with the intent of integrating some of this input into a new, improved product or service, or to provide more lifetime value to customers. It is the customers’ “seal of approval.”
The benefits of a co-creation effort are many fold. For one, you are talking with real customers who feel a connection with you. The fact that you are actively listening to them and considering their input is the ideal way to strengthen the bond between you and your customers. And because the final product has a part of “them” involved, the customers involved in co-creation are more likely to be loyal to you and evangelize on your behalf.
Another benefit is the opportunity to “get outside the ivory tower.” Talking to real customers is a perspective that’s often missed in many organizations. Focus groups or voice of the customer studies offer insights on customer behavior and attitudes, but are more of a “snapshot in time.” True co-creation is an opportunity to keep a line of communication open 24/7 with customers.
How have other companies done this? One example is a greeting card company that set up an online community where customers could share opinions on greeting card design, messaging and pricing. And Kodak created a customer blog called “A Thousand Words.” This blog allows users to contribute their own photos and the stories behind them, and each week Kodak’s team selects one for inclusion in its “Picture Wednesday” series. Over time, Kodak’s fan contributions have created a very impressive gallery.
So how do you start a co-creation plan? The first step is to identify those customers you wish to co-create with. These are primarily the high-value users of your product or service, the ones who know your products, have stuck with you for the long term and have remained “opted in” for your communications. It is imperative that you are transparent with them and tell them exactly what you have in mind. You may wish to incentivize them with special offers, the opportunity to beta test products or get the offerings before they hit the general market.
Once you’ve found your co-creators, you’ll need to create the infrastructure of a community. This can be a special web site they can log into to find information and post comments, a message board you post strictly for co-creation, a Facebook page or even an occasional email from you with a question of the day. To amplify the effectiveness of a co-creation program, consider allowing all participants to see the responses from all other participants and partake in “side conversations.”
The key thing to remember is that this is not a forum to sell or up-sell a customer. It is for feedback on how the customer feels about various elements of your product or service, insights as to what can be improved, pain points that are experienced, and what the customer is trying to accomplish when she uses your product. It is your opportunity to observe your best customers in the wild. Your role here is to enable the conversation, moderate and listen. Even at this stage, customers tend to trust one another more than they trust your company.
Don’t limit encounters with your co-creator to your marketing team. This is an opportunity to bring the full insight, knowledge and expertise of your entire organization to the creation process. Customers want to talk to the people who design products. They want to interface with customer service personnel. They are even interested on management’s perspective—as long as all these points of view are authentic and aren’t presented just to put a good face on the company or in an attempt to sell more.
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Posted by Mickey