Wednesday, October 23, 2013

What Can We Do in The Testing Stage of Social Maturity?

The reading of this week focus on the groundswell transforms. In Chapter 11, it shows the way to transform a company with groundswell. This chapter use the transformation of Dell as an example, and list five macro steps of this process: start small, educate the executives, get the right people to run the strategy, get the agency and technology partners in sync, plan for the next step and for the long term. Chapter 12 talks about the importance of internal groundswell, it uses the Blue Shirt Nation of Best Buy to illustrate the meaning of internal groundswell, and emphasizes the company should concern more about culture and rebels in the transforming process. Chapter 13 explain the social maturity specifically, it talks the common challenges companies face, and the five stages of social maturity. The last chapter looks ahead the ubiquitous groundswell, it is a good end of this book.

An Overview - What Is Social Maturity: 

I would like to talk more about the testing stage of social maturity. First of all, what is social maturity? How to understand social maturity with organizational behaviors?
I think social maturity means the whole process of the groundswell transforming in an organization, and it also means a specific level of the groundswell transforming for an organization. Social maturity include five stages: dormant, testing, coordinating, scaling and optimizing, empowering. The earlier an organization adopts groundswell transforming, the higher level stage it would attain now. So we can divide the organizations into five levels: laggards, late majority, early majority, early adopters and innovators.

Today, we can see the power of groundswell in the market, and the innovators and early adopters would get more benefits from it. However, these organizations would take risks before social media became popular in several years ago. So that early insightful plan is always important for social maturity of an organization, and this plan should be existed in the early stage of social maturity - testing stage:
It's never too late to launch a groundswell transforming! Start to work on the right elements of testing stage, by the right way, and then you will enjoy the benefits of groundswell in the future!

Base on the table of "elements of the stages of social maturity" on page 259 in Groundswell, I would like to analyse the testing stage on 6 perspectives.

Start Groundswell Transforming From Current Experience

In the testing stage, experience is typically in customer applications or employee applications limited to collaboration. These applications are the basic communication tools which can provide the functions for advertising, branding, promotion or internal communication. In most cases, the applications allow people post or comment message on the index of organization. There are 81% of organizations would like to use the applications to listening, and 73% of them would like to use applications to talking. For example, this is the Facebook page of Best Buy, it can be the early application for external communication.

Figure Out How to Use The Resources

Resources are mostly individuals using applications part-time to help do their current jobs in this stage. The using of social media is non-united in this stage, it includes the non-united kinds of application, non-united using objective, and the non-united time to use. After a period of time, the using of application would be coordinated. Recent years, there is a new social media which name is "Wechat" is popular in China, it allow people interact by both text and voice message, for free. In some Chinese organizations (include roommates), people would like to use it to communicate with each other, and to build talking groups to share information in sometime. 

The Nature of Processes 

In this stage, processes are strictly task-oriented. Actually, social media is just a tool for PR and marketing in this stage, but not an indispensable part of organizational communication. If we can feel the benefits of social media in tasks, we should try to promote and integrate it into the general operating, then it would be more stable in our organization.

Talk About Measurement
In the testing stage, measurement is limited to "collecting" activities. For now, measurement is in the basic level, we are "looking at the performance", but we do not implement statistic research about the social media. For example, we are interesting in these information now: the number of likes, viewers, sharing and comments. The right way of measurement helps organization social maturity grows up healthily, it is necessary to hire professionals for measurement jobs, and start to build systemic methods of measurement.

Commitment: We Need The Support form Management!

Support from management is limited, and there is no long-term plan or philosophy in testing stage. The support form management is important, because it provide political power to build completed new social system in an organization. Once we find the opportunity to launch a groundswell transforming in our organization, the allowance of management should come together with the building plan.

The Last Thing, Consider The Culture

In the testing stage, social makes little impact on most employees' day-to-day business. This is the most difficult one to launch groundswell transforming, because the organizational culture is the common value of the members of organization, it is hard to be changed. Groundswell gives us a good advice: let the creative and critical employee to launch groundswell transforming in the organization, but not the senior employees. When the members of the organization can feel the benefits or groundswell, they are ready to over the testing stage of social maturity. 

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

SMMP: Staples Inc. 2013 Back to School - Part I

Staples Inc. is one of the largest office supply chain store in 22 countries. I like the products of Staples a lot, because its products are high quality. We can buy its products online, or in more than 2,000 retail stores in the world.

Staples have been done a good job on public praise, we can get abundant information about Staples form the groundswell. Especially in the period of back to school, Staples becomes much more popular than usual, and that is what I would like to concentrate in.

The History of Staples Inc.

In 1985, the founder of Staples - Thomas Stemberg got the original idea of this company. Thomas needed a unit of printer, but his local dealer was closed because that day was Independence day. He felt that the reliance of small business is unstable, that was why Thomas Stemberg would like to start his business on office supplies superstore.

In 1986, Staples opened its first store in Brighton, Massachusetts; In 1996, Staples had 500 stores; The 1,000th store opened in 1999; In 2007, Staples opened its 2,000th store.

The slogan of Staples is "That Was Easy". Today, it is so easy to find a Staples retail store around your location, and to buy the products from Staples is also easy! 


On the website of Staples Back to School, we can see that their target audiences are both students and teachers. Students can choose their goods by grades. On the bottom of this website, we can find the social media connections: Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn and community. 

Where are The Talkers?

In this part, I choose to use Addictomatic. The following picture shows the results of searching "staples back to school". These results show that there is no people talk about it on Twitter and Flickr. Most of the talking are the promotion information about staples in Addictomatic, especially a lot of YouTube ads.

How About The Trends?

Google Trends is used to show the trends of specific talks. When we are searching "Staples Back to School", we can see the following trends: 

Since 2005-2013, more and more people talk about "Staples Back to School", the peaks appear on the late summers and the early falls. The ratios comparison in 2004 and 2013 are 33: 100. That is mean in the back to school period in every year, Staples are doing better and better in groundswell.

This picture shows the micro trend of Staples Back to School in a year. In 2013, the talks started on June 9th. After July 7th, the talks grew very fast, until these talks reached the beginning of the peak on July 28th. Since Aug 24th, the trends became down, and most of the talks stopped on Sept 28th. This trend means the activeness of the talks of Staples Back to School, it shows the talks are popular in public in this period.

I also checked IceRocket, which is also an outstanding tool for trend analysis. IceRocket shows the trends that people talk "Staples back to school" in recent months, the overview result is consistent with the result of google trends.

What Are Changing in Groundswell?

In social mention, we can see on the two pictures below. After the time period of back to school, the passion and reach became lower and lower, these two values can match the Google Trends of Staples Back to School in 2013. 
Although the activeness of the talks becomes lower, but the sentiment become better and better. The negative talks decreased very fast. 

                        10-31-2013                                         11-5-2013

What are They Talking About?

Base on the searching results of Google Trends, I would like to separate the 2013 back to school period into three stages: raising stage (June 9th - July 28th), peak stage (July 28th - Aug 24th) and decreasing stage (Aug 24th - Sept 28th). 
I will monitor the talks by Trendistic in each stage, and to know the thinking of talkers in the time period of back to school by this way.

In the raising stage, there are many Twitter users were talking about "to buy Staples gift card on Groupon", and the "Staples Back to School Saving Pass for 15% off". Obviously, Staples are attracting customers for this period of sales in this stage. I believe these promotions made customers feel exciting, and they would like to share the promotions with others.

In the peak stage, the talks of gift card and saving pass were disappeared, and Deals of Staples became popular topic in Twitter. In this stage, people started to consider shopping in Staples, and the cheap price become the topics which they were cared about. 

In the decreasing stage, people realized the Period of Back to School is almost done in Staples. In the late of decreasing stage, people started to pay more attentions on the other deals, which has no related with back to school. In the same time, the new deals were becoming the new topics in Twitter.

Conclusions and Recommendations

C 1: Staples Back to School are popular in this period in every year, but the relevance between back to school and the following time period is low in groundswell.
R 1: Staples should bring the following new deals forward more, give the customers enough time to keep talking "Back to School" and "New Deals" in the same time period.

C 2: Most of the blogs and videos are created by Staple. Customers would like to share the good deals with others, but have low passion to create the original talks about Staples.
R 2: Staples should try to encourage customers talk more about their thinking about Staples. For example, Staples can organize its interesting activities, and the participants would mention Staples more in their social medias.

C 3: Now, Staples sales many different kinds of products about back to school, like notebook, pencil and school bag. In this period, the major target audiences are student parents or students themselves. But Staples' public image - office supplies, it makes a small gap between the young people and its brand.
R 3: Before the time period of back to school is coming, Staples should keep to mention "back to school" in sometimes, don not let people forget this topic in the whole following year. Let the young people know, they are always the customers of Staples, but not only in the late summer.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

YouTube and Public Focus

As the most famous video social media, YouTube carries thousands of videos to people in the world. People can upload, view, share and comment videos on YouTube. Every unique style video has potential to be popular on YouTube: people like it, so it gets a lot of views.

YouTube = Online Video?

When people would like to watch some videos, YouTube is their first choice. The statistics of YouTube show that "100 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute ". That is mean the rate of new video uploading is 6,000 times faster than your watching ability - if you can watch YouTube 24 hours per day continuously.

We also use the "YouTube views" to define the popularity level of a video: The most popular YouTube video in history "Gangnam Style" by artist Psy (1,793,150,452 views on 10-15-2013), if you wiki it, you can see this description: "On December 21, 2012, "Gangnam Style" became the first YouTube video to reach a billion views. As of September 21, 2013, the music video has been viewed over 1.787 billion times on YouTube, and it is the site's most watched video after surpassing Justin Bieber's single "Baby"."

You see, although YouTube and Online Video are the different concepts, but we think that YouTube represents Online Video. 

And that is why when you are writing a new blog on this Blogger website, if you click "Insert a video", you can only use YouTube links directly but not the links from other video websites. Try it! :)

How Does YouTube Lead Public Focus?
The nature of YouTube is a video social media. The slogan YouTube is "Broadcast Yourself", every one can upload video to it, and share other's video. 

For a video on YouTube, there are several elements would contribute to leading public focus. To understand the elements, you can watch this video "Proof Your Senses Are Lying To You": 

This video illustrates three psychological effects in our lives. People who are interesting in this field would focus on this topic, and share this one. In the end of this video, you can see "Subscribe" graphic link, if you click it, you will jump into the index of its publisher "BuzzFeedVideo". When this play is over, you will see several recommended videos, these videos include the relevant content with this one.

Then, if you open the video page, you can see the following elements: 

Under the title of this video, we can see how many people have subscribed the publisher of it; We can evaluate this video by like or unlike button; We can also see how many people have viewed this video, and how many people like or unlike it. This group of elements shows the objective rating of this video, the huge number of viewer increases its appearance frequency on YouTube, and makes more people want to watch it.

The following elements are About, Share, Add to, Statistics and Report. In the Share area, we can share this video onto different social medias, embed it into html page, or email it to others. This group of elements allow us to work on this video by our own ways, it is a flexible way to expand the effect of this video in public.

If you look down this page, you will find the comments of this video. People are sharing their feeling in this area. View the comments of others would make us understand more about this video, and lead to more thinking around this topic. We can also write down our comments. This is the most flexible part of YouTube, because we can share our subjective opinions with others in here.

On the right side of this video, there are recommended videos. People can find the relevant topics in this area; In another word, if we are watching the other videos, this video would appear in this area too.

All of these elements contribute to lead public focus. The public focus would make more and more people pay attention on this video (or topic), and it would derive different performances in society. It is a great opportunity for PR industry and marketing.

How Can We Use This Opportunity on PR and Marketing?

First of all, we can analyze the participants of YouTube by their watching histories: Young people are more likely to watch pop MV; university students and scholars would watch more social, political, and tech videos; female would like to watch more emotional content than male... Base on these analysis, we can segment the participants into different target PR/marketing audience groups.

Once we know the segmentation, we can start to send information to target audiences:  the Ads on the video, E-mail Ads, relevant video recommendations and so on. 

Not only we can increase PR and marketing on YouTube participants, the participants themselves could also help to achieve our goals. When people are designing the video, they can start to implant advertising or branding elements into the video, it always works because these elements will be spread with the video sharing behaviors. If the video is sparkling but hard to be understood, or it has a rich philosophical topic, so more people would like to comment on this video, and more people would search the meaning of this video in these comments. Because the interactive of the participants, the relevant PR and Marketing elements will also be considered again and again.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Groundswell Support - Optimizing Benefits with Interactive Forums

Groundswell is illustrated in energizing, self-supporting, embracing and using twitter  aspects in chapter 7-10. In energizing part, it shows that why does word of mouth succeeds, the three basic techniques for energizing enthusiasts, the benefits of ratings and reviews and five tips for energizer. Then in chapter 8, there is the comparison between traditional support and groundswell support, the benefits of community support forum and how does company participate in this activity. Chapter 9 and 10 told us the importance of innovating faster, and the way to use groundswell with twitter.

In all of these parts, there is an interesting topic "traditional support versus groundswell support". Comparing with the traditional telephone customer service, it illustrates a visible, chapter and more comfortable way to solve the problems of customers - to build a community support forum.

Click here to know what is an internet forum.

Here is the beginning:

Before we have the community support forum, most companies choose to provide telephone customer service. But there are several disadvantages of the telephone customer service: 1) It leads to huge cost in your company. 2) The solutions cannot be shared widely in your customers. 3) Voice only, you can not provide visual supports to you customers...

In this condition, some companies choose the new ways to provide better supports, like Bank of America has good online chat service, users can consult with the experts of BOA directly online. Some companies outsource their customer services to the professional companies, this video shows HP's technical supports outsourcing:

Actually, these ways are also using the resources within your companies only, how can we use the external resource on the customer services? Now, groundswell gives us a chance to do a revolution.

In groundswell, base on the new computer technologies and huge online population, more and more people would like to share their experiences and knowledge on the internet forum about a specific topic, and there are many expert would like to help others without payment. The case study "dell: answering questions with support forums" is a good example of the self-supporting in groundswell.

Dell has a great online community support forum. Actually, this community includes many different forum by the product classification. Users can choose a topic as their wants:

Then, users will see the relevant posts. If they can find a similar problem which they are experiencing, they might also find the solutions in the comments; If there is no similar problems, they can post a new one; If they know how to solve an existing problem in this forum, they can try to help the poster:

You can see this interface after you click one of these topics. In this topic, the poster got an organized support by someone:

In the community support forum, there are three beneficiaries: company, questioner and answerer. 

For the company, community support forum can reduce the salary cost of customer service employees; it provides the comfortable and reliable interactive experiences to customers; potential customer could be motivated to buy company's product after they have viewed this community.

Questioners could get the multi-view solutions by the comments of different people; they could also get the high-level supports from the specialists whom like Jeff Stenski.

For answerers, they could get the similar feeling like Jeff's: "That's what got me hooked: when you help people and they say "thank you"; and they could also get the technical promotion in their interacting with other specialists in the community.

Online community support forum provides huge helps to all of its participants. For the serious or emergent technical questions, the users might still need the help of specialists in the companies. If the companies would like to combine these two ways for their customer service, I believe they will have the low-cost and high-quality customer services.