The business value of engaging one-on-one with users is...
- the perception of openness,
- increased participation and defense of and by the community,
- ownership of issues that simply won't go away.
The end result:
- instead of being part of the conversation, you are the conversation.
To recap. We decided to engage with the users on a one on one basis instead of using a mass push message.
In this model users don't seek us out, nor do we wait for them to find us; they don't come to us, we go to them. Actively.
We find these users using social tracking tools.
Once we have found them we address their issues, questions, fears, with helpful content.
Although the content may hint at marketing it doesn't actually contain an iota of marketing-speak.
The value in this model is easily missed. Because, where is the ROI? Where are the customers? And, worse, how come we're sometimes telling people to not buy with us?!
The model leads to three results which accumulate in one final social business value.
By actively seeking out users, both satisfied and dissatisfied ones, as well as potential users and engaging with them in what amounts to an open and honest conversation you, your brand, is perceived as being very positive. Very real.
Maybe even more important is that you are perceived as an open company. There is nothing to hide; there seem to be no ulterior motives.
The dollar for dollar value to be put on this perception of openness is hard to fix precisely but is tremendously high. The goodwill that befalls the company that is there for those in need is invaluable.
For example, nothing is more frustrating for people than to have a problem, especially with the specific product or service, and no one is there, no one replies.
To be ignored by "your" company is beyond frustrating; it's insulting...
Participation in and with the community is a two-way street, the reverse direction of which is that the community participates.
By making answers, ideas, and possibilities available to the community, the community in turn responds likewise and adds its input.
When the brand, product or service is "attacked", community members start to stand in and up for it, often using your answers.
Be the Search
Finally, those in need for an answer to a general problem or a specific problem with our service or product will become engaged with us instead of with detractors or the competition.
I will give you three product related problem-solving searches, the answer to which are owned by others instead of by the companies.
Google Apps' Google Talk Doesn't Work With Twitter
People can communicate with Twitter through, among other devices and programs, Google Talk. This works out of the box for regular Google accounts but those using Google Apps find out the hard and confusing way it doesn't work out of the box for them.
This is a problem the solution to which leads you down the rabbit hole. You have to change the SRV records in your DNS (say what?) which can't be done on hosting accounts that use Cpanel (huh?!).... YET.... not a word from Twitter or Google in the 1st 10 results.
The conversation is completely owned by the people having the problem, echoing the problem, confirming the problem ... thus making the problem seem not just worse than it is but more widesprea!
Mindmanager vs. Freemind
Mindmanager is a multi-hundred dollar mindmapping solution. Freemind is "the other" mindmapping solution but 100% free.
Hmmmm.... wonder if I would miss out on anything if I "just" get the free one.... Let's see:
I'm looking for information on a USD $350 decision and the company can't be bothered to address the issue?
The only time Mindjet comes looking in the 1st 10 results is in the context of a user complaining that Mindmanager's files don't want to import correctly into Freemind...
First result in this search for conversation? "...Freemind does most of what Mindmanager does, the main difference being that it is free..."
Evernote & GTD (Getting Things Done)
If your application or service accepts any form of input, has check boxes, status updates, form fields or lacks all of these -- the first thing that will happen in the first 5 minutes of its existence is that someone somewhere (soon followed by a whole army) will ask: how can I use this for GTD?
It's something with the GTD productivity crowd. Somewhere somebody is figuring out how to use your application for GTD.
Hence this search regarding an increasingly popular note taking software tool:
Why would Evernote let this chance to engage pass by?
Common Searchers = Us
These are more or less common searches: they pop up time and time again for these products. Ignoring these questions won't make them go away.
Maybe you as a company don't have an answer either but by at least addressing the question, addressing the issue, you acknowledge the questions and in turn acknowledge the existence of the person and persons posting the question.
By not ignoring them nor by telling them that their concerns don't matter, by "embracing" the person, you make a company friend, an ally.
You, the Community
The combined social business value, the combined human value, is that by letting the conversation flow you become the conversation.
By branching out into the social web that has emerged on the Internet and participating in the one on one communication exchanges through helpful content, you become the conversation, you become the community: you are the community.