Archive for November 2008

How to build an online research community: a podcast

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The first podcast I’ve recorded is available from today. Brought to you from the guys at ResearchTalk, I’m talking with them and Tom Ewing from Kantar Operations about how to build an online research community. You can get the podcast over on the ResearchTalk blog (and on iTunes), or listen here:

In the podcast we discuss how brands can use online communities and how they can use this for research. We compare online research communities with other forms of market research (especially qualitative research) and finally we discuss in some detail how to go about setting up an online research community.

What I say builds on the experience we have as a team at FreshNetworks and also pull on some recent examples of online research communities that we have built and managed for clients. I hope it’s useful and if it is I might start recording more podcasts in the future…

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European research shows influence of online on buying decisions

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We’ve seen before the influence of online on purchase decisions in the US, with research showing that 25 million US consumers make purchase decisions based on social media. At the time I said that it would be great to see how these figures translated to Europe, and new research lets us do just that. The EIAA Mediascope Europe 2008 study looks at online habits across Europe and then explores the influence of online on decision making. The study was conducted with 9,095 respondents across UK, France, Spain, Italy, Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands in September 2008. A presentation of the findings is here.

First some basic facts about online habits of Europeans. Of the 297 million Europeans, some 60% (178 million) are online, and a majority of these (80%) are now using broadband to access the Internet. Over half of those people online now access the internet every single day (including weekends) and the time spent online has increased to 12 hours a week. More people are spending more time and doing more things online. No surprises there.

Growth is greeted among 25-34 year olds. Here almost two-thirds (63%) are online daily, and they spend an average of almost 14 hours a week online. For them the Internet is very much a lifestyle tool - shown by the increased access from home and during the weekends, rather than just at work. Almost half of this age-range have used social networks to keep in touch with friends and one in four have their own up-to-date profile on a social network. This now makes social networking the fourth most popular activity to do online (after email, news and banking).

So what of the influence of online? Well the research shows that 64% of European internet users consider personal recommendations from other users to be important when researching a product or service.

When researching or considering a product or service, 46% of European internet users are influenced by reviews, ratings and discussions from other users. This means that there are some 82 million consumers across Europe are influenced by the reviews, ratings and discussions they read from other consumers in social media.

This research backs up what we have seen in the US. In Europe we know that 82 million consumers (about 27% of all consumers) consider the reviews and ratings they see in social media. The US data allows us to go further. There a similar proportion consider reviews and ratings online and about a third of these would go as far as to say that their purchase decision has been directly influenced by social media. If we saw the same proportion then some 27 million European consumers would directly change their purchase decisions based on what they read in social media.

Whatever the actual numbers are and however we cut them, a few things are clear. Social media is important. What other consumers say online is important. And how we engage people in social networks and online communities can have a real difference on our brand’s sales.

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  • Web is driven by 25-34 age group
  • Russia Is Rising In Internet Population
  • How to Use Social Media to Get Hired
  • For the Future of Marketing, Look to Social Media
  • Social Networking: Making the Most Out of Social Networking Websites
  • Web is driven by 25-34 age group
  • Consumers spend 12 hours a week online, finds EIAA research
  • Research about digital Europe
  • EIAA „Mediascope Europe 2008″: Für die „Generation Online” der 25- bis 34-jährigen Deutschen ist das Internet Leitmedium

Design matters. Understand who you are designing for.

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We’ve posted before about how and why good design matters in online communities. We spend a lot of time at FreshNetworks understanding the audience the online community is aimed at so that we can design a community that will appeal to them and help them to achieve what we want them to do.

This process of understanding who you are trying to attract and how you want to engage them is a critical step in designing the online community. It’s a critical stage in designing any content that you want to engage people, even if it’s a PowerPoint presentation.

Last week I came across this great presentation on good design in presentation from Alex Osterwalder. It’s required reading at FreshNetworks this week, and looks at a process for designing an engaging PowerPoint presentation. I see real parallels with the way we design our communities so that they engage the relevant audience.

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Love your customers. Use social media.

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The relationship between a brand and the customer is a complex one. It can be fickle or it can be very strong, it can be two-way or it can be all take take take. Sometimes the customer has all the power - they know they want pizza but they’re not tied to a particular brand and so could make a different choice with each purchase. Other times they may be very brand loyal; they may love a brand so much they will almost always go with them. In this scenario what you often find is that the customer is significantly more passionate about the brand than the brand is about the customer.

This makes sense when you think about it. Imagine a brand like Virgin Atlantic. Lots of people like flying with them (and a few don’t, but let’s not focus on them today). Imagine they had  5,000 strongly loyal customers, people who loved flying with them and would always choose them if they could. For each of these individuals it’s a lot easier for them to be passionate about Virgin Atlantic than the other way round - they only have to be passionate about one thing, Virgin would have to be passionate about 5,000. It’s just not that easy to do this.

But being passionate matters. Traditionally there has been a concept of brand which essentially put types of consumer within a particular brand’s sphere of influence - “this is what an Abercrombie and Fitch customer looks like” was the way that many thought of things. But the consumer has much more control than this. They are really at the centre of the relationship. A brand should be thinking  of themselves as part of a consumer’s  personal brand rather than the other way around “we want to attract the kind of people who drink Innocent Smoothies and fly Virgin Atlantic”.

In this environment it’s critical that you move the relationship from give give give to something that really is two-way. You need to love your customers. Something that isn’t easy to do. People like Virgin Atlantic (and other airlines) try to do this with loyalty schemes. They reward their best (ie their highest spending customers) with perks like free access to their lounges on departure. But this doesn’t necessarily reward the customers who are most passionate about you. These may not be your biggest spenders, but they may be your most important influencers, amplifying word of mouth. They’re probably the ones who purchase your product every time they make a purchase in this category, even if that isn’t that often. But between purchases they’ll be the ones telling everybody they know how great you are.

So how do we love these people back as much as they love us. It’s not easy, but social media can really help and during the holiday season for the next month or so we’ll be showing you a few ways that you can love your customers.

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  • Trends for 2009: Radical Transparency
  • Will online communities by airlines help their brands take-off?
  • Social Media + Community = a new approach to creating customer loyalty
  • Web 2.0 Summit 08: Tony Hsieh (Zappos.com)
  • Zappos: Above and beyond customer service

Social media diary - Sydney

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Sydney uses MySpace to attract visitors

This week saw the launch of MySpace MySydney, a community for people who want to move to Sydney on a working visa. The page pitches itself as an online community and ‘Ben’ is your host (he’s the one on the video on the homepage). The site contains information on how to get a visa, travel information, advice on Sydney as a place to live and work and also aims to be a hub for networking with others in the same situation as you.

The site is from the Tourism New South Wales who are hoping to capitalise upon recent changes in the work and holiday visa regulations for US students. It’s now easier than it was for those from North America to get these visas and this MySpace site supports a wider marketing and social media push accompanying the change.

So what can we learn from this?

We’ve covered a lot of travel initiatives recently in the Social Media Diary - from BA’s Metrotwin, to Amex’s community for travel managers and Air France-KLM’s Bluenity. Travel is certainly an area where social networking and online communities are being used more and more to engage people. We see this at FreshNetworks, where the latest community we helped to launch this week is for a big UK travel brand. Travel has a number of great hooks for activities in social media - some people need information and have questions that other users can answer based on their experiences, it’s a subject that lends itself well to media and there is the opportunity for connecting people doing similar things in similar places. We’re seeing different travel brands trying different things - from setting up their own online communities, to interacting with people on Facebook or MySpace, providing social networking tools or just blogging.

Some of these initiatives are successful and some aren’t. What it seems that Sydney hope to achieve with this site is to present a lot of genuinely useful information in a way that is relevant to their target audience. They also hope to leverage some social networking - getting  people in similar situations to get together, meet each other, share ideas and thoughts and between them build the usefulness of the site. This is an interesting proposition and I’ll be following how it pans out. Whilst I can see the clear benefit of the marketing and informational element of the site, I’ll be watching to see how (and in fact if) the social networking side of the proposition develops.

Whilst we often say that it is difficult for a brand to get a real presence in a social network, there is a real power of social networks to help people find others going through the same situation or with similar interests to them. It may be that getting people considering a move to Sydney to meet each other in MySpace might just work. We’ll wait and see.

Read all our Social Media Diary entries

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  • Economy got you down? Move to Australia (seriously!)
  • Will online communities by airlines help their brands take-off?
  • Meet your fellow air passengers as airline launches Facebookstyle networking site
  • Understand Social Networks Better for Effective Business Promotion
  • Online Marketing Data: Which social networking sites are your customers using?