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Social Strategies for Revolutionaries, Charlene Li at SXSW

charlene li at sxsw

Charlene Li, Analyst at Forrester Research, gave an excellent presentation about Social Strategies For Revolutionaries; these ideas are further developed in her upcoming book, Groundswell (Note: this is transcript, so please excuse the grammar and run on sentences):

"You know that it's essential for your company to be involved in social technologies -- but your executives are too afraid to pull the trigger. This session will give you the strategic frameworks that will appeal to the logical, analytical side of executives, while tapping into the revolutionary spirit needed to create a groundswell of support for your strategy. Based on the upcoming book, Groundswell: Winning In A World Transformed By Social Technologies, the session will layout how to think about how people are using social technologies, the business objectives that can be met, and review a quick case study of how one company transformed itself. Highlighted throughout the session will be the role of the revolutionary -- the key person inside an organization who leads the transformation. You'll learn how to channel the tradition of radicalism into a force that can transform your company."


 Example of DVD code on Digg, where users revolted when Digg suppressed the post (Digg was forced to republish the post with the code). Another example is Jericho Nuts on CBS. One day, 20 tons of peanuts showed up in the producer's office that cancelled the show. The revolutionary behind this was a talk show host, Shaun, who loved the show and didn't want to see it die. CBS brought it back.

The Groundswell is "A social trend in which people use technologies to get things they need from each other, rather than form traditional institutions like corporations." Companies now want to embrace the groundswell. When a company says "let's get a blog," it's because they feel they need to get involved and don't know how.

So, will you be a radical like Thomas Paine? He was the founding spark that led to the American revolution. After that, he went to France, and when he came back, the revolution was over and he had no more voice. His funeral was attended by 6 people.

Or a revolutionary like Thomas Jefferson: the dog days of 1776 was a tedious process to get colonies to agree on declaration of independence. He was a different type of revolutionary, because he had the process and framework to pull people together.

Making revolutions stick requires frameworks and processes.

The POST Process

People: Assess your customers' social activities, from Inactives (44% adults, 26% youth) to Specators to Joiners to Collectors to Critics to Creators (18% adults, 39% youth). Youth are always off the charts and an indication of the future. Fewer and fewer people are inactive. This is the social technographics of your website. Age is a major driver of adoption. It takes boomers longer to learn the technologies, and the content is not really geared for them. But this too is changing. They are at least engaged as spectators and are starting to comment and become critics. Soon, they will produce content as well.

Objectives: Decide what you want to accomplish. (ie. why do you want to have a blog?). From research to listening. From marketing (shouting) to talking. From sales to energizing. From Customer Support to supporting. From development to embracing customers, pulling them into the process. For example, Blendtec talks with viral videos, which became embeds. These $400 blenders have seen massive increase in sales. He spent $50 on the first video he made. George Wright, VP of Marketing, decided to use YouTube to show what Blendtec could do. He worked at a steel mill before and was not a social media guru. Another example s Dan Black, Director of Campus Recruiting at E&Y. He created a Facebook page and he took it upon himself to write back to students in a very personal tone. He is the Head of Recruitment and needs to hire 3,500 college students each year. He realized here was a forum where he could be in direct contact with potential hires, with the people E&Y most desperately want to reach. Gary Koelling and Steve Bendt at Best Buy created blueshirtnation.com as a front line support system for employees. This gave them a place to have a voice. They gave an email address for each employee, so they could now email customers back, for example. Joah Bancroft, tecnology evangelist at Intel and geek blogger. He put up an internal wiki in a day (not weeks), Intelpedia, a tool for people inside the company to support each other. Steve Fisher, VP of Platform, Salesforce.com, wanted to get a way for customers to provide feedback. They set up the SuccessForce Community, the SalesFocre IdeaExchange, a Digg style voting system for ideas. Getting input from the groundswell gave them confidence to make changes happen.

Strategy: Plan for how relationships with customers will evolve.

Lionel Menchaca, Digital Media Manager, Dell.com, is a product technologist, a product revolutionary, someone who knows everyone. Basically, Dell went from "Dell Hell" in 2005 to creating a blog resolution team to go and solve problems. Person by person, they started to change internal attitude towards things. They first started a blog, but it didn't get off to a good start. It was very discouraging, because comments were negative. And then he got a comment from Mchael Dell, who said "keep doing this, it's what we need." So a couple of days later, he made the "flaming notebook" post, where he spoke of the battery recall openly. This set the tone for the blog going forwards (ie., acknowledge that people are talking). This made a huge difference internally and externally for Dell. Dell's IdeaStorm, where Dell executives review and implement customer suggestions. For example, they set up Linux Ubuntu servers in two months, based on customer requests. Dell also uses a blog to talk to investors, DellShares, information and insight for the investor community. So Dell went from the depths of despair in 2005 to poster child of social strategies.

Find and support your revolutionaries:

- find the people most passionate about developing relationships with the groundswell.

- educate your executives.

- Put someone important in charge.

- Define "the box" with policies and process.

- Make it safe(r) to fail.

Technology: Decide which social technologies to use.

Final words of advice:

- Making revolutions stick will require frameworks and process.

- Start small but think big. Start small, fail often and iterate over and over again.

- Make social strategy the responsibility of every single employee.

- Be patient, cultural change takes time. It took Dell two years.


How to show results? The ROI of blogs depends on your objectives: is it about insights, research, talking, energize, support, and/or embracing? It's like saying, how to measure the impact of a website. There is no single way.

What about industries that are restricted in BtoC, like Pharma?
There are many companies trying to experiment with this anyway, for example, in private communities requiring registration to make it work.

Tips for startups? The flip side is also BtoB, because it's about being focused on a particular target. Start a blog and bring in experts from the company to show expertise. Also, for SEO.

What about 3D virtual worlds like SecondLife ... interesting? Actually, it's a place to be avoided for big marketing spends, because the people are not there.

Marketing departments keep things at a distance because they want to keep things pristine. But customers are messy! They internalize things, they take pictures, they make widgets. The ideal stereotype of the customer does not exist! If the marketer does not feel queasy, they're not doing enough.

Thoughts on how to convince internal stakeholders about social strategies? The challenge is getting people to let go of control, to reduce email communications, to stop the old thinking. What are you afraid of? It's inside a firewall. Why wouldn't you want free flow of information? Focus on the benefits rather than the technologies. Also, it's so low cost and you can start small. It should be quick and easy to get these things going.

Expand on benefits of SEO? Search engnes look for inbound links. You can raise the goodness of a page by getting links, putting keywords, refreshing content often to shoot the site up.

What about Twitter, Flickr? They're all good, but one of the best are forums. This is a real good robust tool. Forums and wikis have been around for a long time ... it's not about the technology, but about how they are used. Companies sometimes are scared about going into "people" spaces for fear of wrecking them. But how dare you not help a customer who's having a problem.

March 9, 2008 in Social Media & Networks | Permalink


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