Social Media Case Study: LEGO CLICK

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Walk Into The Light
Image by Kaptain Kobold via Flickr

LEGO is a brand that many people are very passionate about, a brand people love and we’ve written before about how they use segmentation to engage their consumer base from children to enthusiasts in an innovative way. Now they have continued their innovative approaches to engagement and embraced social media. In a big way.

They have launched LEGO CLICK, an online community that brings together innovators, designers, artists and creative thinkers to develop new ideas related to toys. The site is designed to bring together ideas in written form, images and videos. They want to capture and catalogue ‘lightbulb moments’, ideas that are relevant to toys and to the market LEGO serves.

Unlike other ideas communities, LEGO CLICK does not (at least not yet) allow users to rank and rate the ideas. It merely allows you to suggest your idea or to share ideas that you see and like or are interested in. What makes this site particularly interesting, though, is its use of Twitter, Facebook and Flickr as a way of generating content for the site and promoting participation.

The LEGO CLICK community is a great example of the hub-and-spoke model of social media engagement. Users can contribute their ideas by tweeting with the hashtag #legoclick. They can contribute images by tagging their Flickr contributions with the same tag. And they can suggest ideas by video by tagging on YouTube in the same manner.

This is an interesting use of social networks to drive content to a community. In parts it is not dissimilar to the California Governor’s use of Twitter to harvest ideas for MyIdea4CA in 2009. It relies on contributions from users of other social networks and then brings them together in a single hub where different types of content from different sources meet.

What will be interesting to watch as this site develops is the amount, and the relevance of content that is created and added to LEGO CLICK. Currently there is a lot of content being dragged into the site that is discursive about the concept rather than the kind of ideas that the site is designed to harvest. It is getting a fair bit of content that is more like this particular blog post than an idea of lightbulb moment. This is one of the real problems with using tagging and a feed from other social networks to populate any site, but an online community in particular. You could end up with a lot of irrelevant content.

One of the things that MyIdea4CA did, and that it will be interesting to look for as LEGO CLICK develops, is to use rating and even commenting in the community as a way of sorting and prioritising ideas. The most popular or interesting ideas are likely to get the most votes or comments. And so these will rise to the top on the site, leaving the less relevant comment much further down.

But even without this kind of feature, LEGO CLICK is an interesting site and itself an innovative use of social media. Really driving the hub-and-spoke engagement model. Now we just need to watch to see what happens.

Read more of our Social Media Case Studies

Google Wave vs Twitter at conferences

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Image courtesy of Shutterstock

Image courtesy of Shutterstock

Twitter has quickly become the must-have channel for conference back-chat. Reading what other people tweet during a speech provides an extra dimension as you get a sense of what the audience is thinking. And just like passing notes in class, it’s also a lot more fun than simply sitting and listening. (and empowering - remember that Facebook interview from SXSW’08?)

Twitter is also a great way to attend a conference without actually being there - just follow a conference hashtag (e.g. #smib09 or #figarodigital) and find out all the gossip and the key points from the comfort of your desk.

But watch out Twitter. Google Wave is going to take this digitally-enabled conference back-channel a step further.

At the recent Ecomm conference delegates were provided with Google Wave accounts. What resulted was a fantastic showcase of collaboration and crowd-sourcing. Sprinkeled with a good dose of integrated offline and online real-time social media.   <- way too many social media buzzwords.

Here’s what happened: an audience member would create a Google Wave and others in the audience would edit the wave during the presentation. The result would be a crowd-sourced write-up of the presentation: a transcript of key points and a record of audience comments.
Here’s an example:

1. Audience member starts a Wave

google wave edits

2. Others join and edit the wave as the speaker talks

google wave edit1

3. By the end of the talk there are lots of people using the Wave (their photos are along the top) and the Wave became a complete record of the key points plus audience commnets below.

google wave finished
For this conference the organisers created a Wave directory so that you could find what was said in each presentation.

google wave conference schedule

The organisers also added waves so that the audience could give feedabck about the conference in general and ideas for next year.

google wave conference feedback

It’s worth pointing out that Twitter is still an early-adopter phenomenon, and Google Wave even more so. As a result, whilst I am a complete junkie for following conference tweets, I suspect it’s going to take a couple of years before this goes mainstream. But it will. And the impact on conference organisers and speakers is significant.

And just in case you are new to social media, make sure you check out the other excelent social media platform for conference notes: Slideshare. This is always the best place to find presentations from conferences.

Have you tried following conference tweets? Or waves? If so, have you found them useful? and will augmented reality will be the next major influence?

BusinessWeek’s Shirley Brady on online communities and crowdsourcing

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BusinessWeek Names Me As One of Four Social Me...
Image by cambodia4kidsorg via Flickr

Guest post by Ben LaMothe

Last week, we posted part one of our interview with Shirley Brady BusinessWeek’s first community editor. In this second part, Shirley explains how she interacts with BusinessWeek’s news desk and how the BusinessWeek community management strategy is changing, including how BusinessWeek utilises crowdsourcing.

How much interaction is there between you at the Community desk and the editors on the content-producing side? Do you advise on what you believe will get the desired reaction from the BusinessWeek community?

I’m constantly interacting with my colleagues to parlay reader feedback and suggestions to editorial. Part of this job involves standing up for the reader and voicing their concerns and desires (enough of them know me by now, and on Twitter, to email or DM me to express their views. My email address is also listed on our featured readers page.

And another part is almost media literacy – involving readers in our journalism, opening up our process while inviting and respecting their opinions on a subject. You’ll see our reporters on their blogs and on Twitter, for example, posing questions and gauging the sentiment on a story as they’re reporting it. They’re not only cultivating sources and building their own communities, but getting more informed about each story, and their beats, in the process. We create hashtags, put up daily polls and ask a lot of questions – it all helps inform editorial decision-making in terms of what will resonate with our readership.

Community management is becoming increasingly important in the news industry as organizations begin crowdsourcing aspects of coverage. How is BusinessWeek’s community management strategy evolving? What’s next?

How BusinessWeek’s community strategy will evolve will depend on the new owner, assuming McGraw-Hill reaches a deal to sell the brand (bids closed on September 15th). Hopefully whoever acquires BusinessWeek will value community-building and reader engagement as much as we do now, if not more. There’s a ton to still be done and ideas to take this to the next level, which I won’t detail for competitive reasons but hinted at above.

As for other news organizations starting to embrace reader engagement: hear, hear! It’s been gratifying to see the New York Times name its first social media editor, Jennifer Preston, earlier this year; and impressive to see the variety and inventiveness of strategies employed by my peers such as Mathew Ingram at the Globe & Mail in Canada, Andrew Nystrom at the Los Angeles Times, or Andy Carvin at NPR, or to see what the Wall Street Journal is doing with Journal Community and the NYT with TimesPeople – all smart media organizations that understand the need to foster their communities in ways that breathe life into their brands, engage people with their content and enhance their mission and value proposition to the reader. Everybody’s trying something different, and while it might not always take off with readers, this inventiveness and entrepreneurial spirit is clearly invigorating journalism at news organizations such as the ones I’ve named above and countless others, including beyond North America (I’m inspired by, for instance, the BBC’s Have Your Say and the Guardian’s Comment is Free initiatives).

As for crowdsourcing, as noted above, we actively solicit and value our readers’ involvement and “invite them into our newsroom,” as John Byrne puts it, to inform our news decisions and editorial process. But I also believe that excellent journalism (reporting, writing and editing) has to be at the core of what BusinessWeek and other news organizations do, even as we open our doors to our readers. We’re building community around our content, injecting readers into the mix, and shaking up any old notions (if they ever existed) that journalists have the market cornered on analysis and reporting – the Internet put paid to that idea, gladly.

As John’s fond of saying, it’s about treating each story (blog post, slide show, photo-essay, interactive graphic, podcast, video) as a spark that creates a camp fire, or in John’s words, “the journalism then becomes an intellectual camp fire around which you gather an audience to have a thoughtful conversation about the story’s topic.” I love that metaphor, as it really embodies what I love about journalism – the storytelling.

In addition to being a reporter and writer throughout my career, my first full-time job in journalism was on the TV side of this business as a producer for TVOntario 20 years ago. Even then, I jumped at the opportunity to set up forums and discussions on early BBS platforms (Genie, Prodigy, CompuServe) as I was eager to engage our viewers in what we were producing and get their feedback as we shaped our programming, lined up interviews and planned our on-air schedule. It also helped build buzz and interest in seeing the final product, and always sparked additional ideas for us to pursue.

It’s not far off from what I do now, although the technology has advanced, as the online community is just as lively and eager to get great content and contribute to what you’re doing: they’ll share ownership in your success if you’ll let them in. Give them a stake in your process and they’ll come back, especially if they’re treated as partners and not just pageviews. I think it also helps that I approach this as a journalist, which helps elevate and promote the smart conversations around what’s going on in the news, on Wall Street, in Silicon Valley, around the industries and business topics that matter most to our readers.

Crowdsourcing the winning National Lottery numbers

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Image by seyahmas via Flickr

Last Wednesday, illusionist, Derren Brown, correctly predicted the winning number in the National Lottery live on air. Quite a feat. But one he achieved with 100% accuracy.

Between the Wednesday live prediction and the Friday explanation, social media sites were awash with theories and conspiracies explaining what had happened. From discussions on Twitter to videos on YouTube. Most of these suggested a slight-of-hand or other such trick. The real answer was much more interesting. Brown cited ‘crowdsourcing’ as the magic behind his impressive prediction.

The explanation was actually quite simple, at least on face value. He got 24 people to collectively predict the numbers using crowdsourcing, The Wisdom of Crowds.  The theory that together people can more accurately resolve a problem or reach a decision when working as a group than when operating alone. Whether you believe this explanation or not (and there are certainly those who are sceptics), the use of crowdsourcing in this mass-media entertainment show highlights the widespread understanding and acceptance of this tool.

We’ve written before about the power of co-creation for businesses and how working with your customers to crowdsource new products and ideas for your organisation can produce better ideas and better products than you might have developed internally. From creating t-shirts (in the case of Threadless), encyclopedias (in the case of Wikipedia) or maps (in the case of OpenStreetMap), using crowds to solve problems has proven to be very successful. In a business-environment it can be incredibly effective.

The most intelligent people probably don’t work in your firm, and so if you can find them and let them work  with you to solve a problem you will often get the kind of innovation that you just can’t get internally. This is where online communities such as Innocentive come to the fore. They allow companies to ask the community to solve a specific problem or issue and reward them (in this case financially). Community product design is used in such cases to provide extra support and input either when internal resources don’t have  the time or the ability to solve the problem.

So whether Derren Brown’s crowdsourcing explanation holds water or not, it is clear that  there is a lot you can do when you get people to work together in a community to solve a problem.

If you missed the show, then you can watch it (at least in the UK) on 4OD.

Using Twitter to harvest ideas: MyIdea4CA.com

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California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger
Image by Thomas Hawk via Flickr

One powerful use of online communities is to help get new ideas into a business; taking advantage of the fact that many (if not most) of the best ideas for your business are likely to come from outside, from people who don’t work for you. There are some well know examples of businesses working with consumers on co-creation in this way: MyStarbucksIdea and Dell’s Ideastorm being among the most well known.

Most of these sites use a similar process: people can join the community and then suggest their own idea, comment on existing ideas or vote for the ideas that they think are best. The best, most commented on or most voted for ideas are then responded to by the brand. They are an effective way for businesses to get ideas into their business and, more importantly perhaps, of showing customers some of their internal decision making and letting people who buy the product understand more about, and even influence, the processes by which it is made.

Like any good online community, such ideas sites work best when they work with other social networks - interacting with people on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, in forums and blogs. Going to where relevant people are and harvesting their ideas, encouraging them to come to ideas site and add their thoughts. This hub-and-spoke model of social media engagement is a classic and successful way of engaging people online, and a recent ideas site has gone one step further and integrated this model into its functionality.

Last week, Californian Governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, announced the launch of MyIdea4CA.com, an online community to harvest and evaluate ideas for the State of California. The site has much of the same functionality that we have seen elsewhere: the public can suggest, comment on and vote for an idea. The difference with this site is that the ideas are submitted in the first place not by signing up for the site, but by posting the idea on Twitter with the hashtag #myidea4ca. You can even sort your idea by adding an additional category hashtag; so if your idea is about education you use #myidea4ca #edu. The site then pulls in all of these tweets using search and allows you to sort, read, comment on and vote for them.

Using Twitter in this way is a great way to increase the number of initial ideas submitted to the site, lowering that initial barrier to engagement by using a place where people already are (Twitter) to bring them and their content to a new place (MyIdea4CA.com). If you want to comment on, or vote for, ideas you still need to do this on the main ideas site, but to submit an idea you do not.

This certainly will help California to get more initial ideas, removing that barrier and allowing people who want give an idea to use Twitter to do so. The danger, of course, is that people who are not on Twitter are excluded from taking part. Whilst the Twitter population continues to grow, it is still far from a mass market tool and so restricts, perhaps quite significantly, participation in this ideas forum.

Of course, that could be said of many online communities and other ways in which organisations engage customers, stakeholders and the public online. But by mandating that all ideas must be submitted via Twitter does exclude a large proportion of online users in California. Whilst the use of Twitter is a great and fantastic example of how and online community can work with social networks to maximise participation, it is better if there are multiple ways of allowing people to engage. Let some people submit ideas via Twitter but allow others to submit them on the site in other ways.

A cardinal rule when you are building and growing an online community is that technology should be invisible. You shouldn’t put technological barriers in the way of sharing ideas. Whilst the use of Twitter on MyIdea4CA.com is a fantastic example of how organisations can engage people through this site, as an online community it is missing out on the opportunity to engage more people in different ways.

  • How organisations can use Twitter - some ideas (freshnetworks.com)
  • MyIdea4CA shows both the power and limitation of opening up to the crowd (thisisherd.com)
  • The Governator Live From Twitter HQ Today. Has His Twitter Service Already Gone To Pot? (techcrunch.com)
  • EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Schwarzenegger Launches Twitter Powered MyIdea4CA (mashable.com)
  • Crowdsourcing Ideas: Apparently Marijuana Is All California Needs (cloudave.com)