Friday, November 6, 2009

Social Apps--Equal Opportunity for All!

I saw Josh Bernoff’s article in Ad Age last week announcing the winners of Forrester’s Groundswell Awards. Here’s a link to the same article on Josh’s blog. When I scrolled through the list of winners, I was struck by the number of companies I’d never heard of or small companies on the list. There were relatively few large corporations in the finalists—take a look for yourself; I think you’ll find it enlightening. You can access all the submissions with reviews here.

I’m interested in the small business aspect. Before I take a look at that, it’s worth being explicit about their Groundswell model (see chapter 4, Strategies for Tapping the Groundswell). They added some categories for the contest, but the model provided the framework.
In the B2C sector:

Talking – Lion Brand Yarn

According to Forrester:

Lion Brand Yarn initially set out to build relationships with the online knitting community by talking with their customers via a corporate blog and podcast. As a result of an investment in people rather than products, they found themselves with a passionate and brand loyal group of knitters, who not only engage with the brand but impact the bottom line by buying and using products as a result of social media engagement.

Embracing – Scholastic Book Club

Scholastic (remember them from primary school?) set out to improve their already-successful classroom flyer promotion. According to Forrester:

Together with a private online community of 200 teachers and 100 moms, created with their partner Communispace, Scholastic went through each step of the product development process in 10 weeks. They developed not only a new flyer, but a new opportunity for Scholastic Book Clubs to connect with parents, kids, and teachers . . . The initial test phase of the new flyer resulted in a 3% lift in sales, which, if borne out in the national rollout, will mean millions in new revenue for Scholastic Book Clubs.

In the B2B sector:

Listening – CDW

Ok, CDW isn’t a small business. However, I submit that small retailers or distributors can follow their lead. This is Forrester’s capture of a page in the Large Companies community. Looking at their website, I’m willing to bet that CDW has communities for at least the five basic segments they list on their website, ranging from small business to health care, maybe more.

According to Forrester:
CDW continuously taps members of its private online communities for all kinds of indispensible advice on its products and services, marketing ideas, and innovation. The communities also have inspired new approaches to sales both in terms of generating leads and relationship building with prospects early in the sales process.

Spreading – MetricStream

MetricStream is a privately-held startup that provides regulatory compliance solutions. According to Forrester:
ComplianceOnline was built to serve as the premier destination for content, training, and advisory services dedicated to regulatory compliance, IT governance, and corporate risk management. Today, it attracts more than two million visitors annually, 500,000 registered member-base, and is now a strong lead engine for its parent company - MetricStream.

This is a non-random sample and it doesn’t do justice to all the information about the awards. My only regret is how few non-profits are represented. An award was given to a gutsy Australian town, Flowerdale, which was destroyed by wildfire and raised money online to rebuild.

Spend some time either on the winners page or the submissions page. I guarantee you’ll learn a lot and get some ideas. Small businesses can reach out to their customers and engage them in mutually beneficial activities. Larger businesses can show that they value the individual customer’s ideas and opinions. It's a win-win for both!

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