8 Reasons Why Online Communities Are The Next Big Thing For Retailers
reblogged from retailtouchpoints
By Tom Leung, CEO, Yabbly
About five years ago, branded communities were the talk of every brand agency. The theory from brand executives was: “Why drive potential customers to Facebook, when we could host them within our sales channel on our own web site.”
Dell launched Digital Nomads, a community for office-less workers; Sony launched VAIO Nation, a community for new and established artists to share skills; Ford launched syncmyride.com, a community for users of its voice-activated entertainment system. By and large, these communities, and many other branded communities launched around this time, were failures. Most are now defunct. The reason?
The majority of first generation, branded communities centered on restricting the community to a very narrow band of products, rather than ensuring there was enough breadth and depth of topics to justify habitual usage. Secondly, the brands behind many of these communities had short-term outcomes in mind rather than long-term visions.
When they didn’t become Facebook-sized overnight or were unable to illustrate a correlation to increased sales, the plug was pulled. Finally, they really were before their time — both in terms of consumer interest and the technology available for implementation.
Today, we’re seeing a renewed interest in online communities from brands, and especially retailers. Best Buy launched Shoppable Hangout, a pop-up community over the holidays that gave consumers last-minute shopping advice through Google Hangouts.
Net-A-Porter recently launched The Netbook, an invite-only online community that lets consumers follow their favorite fashion trendsetters. Sephora’s Beauty Talk community has over 300,000 conversations.
So why are retailers starting to create their own online communities? Here are eight reasons:
An Open (Love) Letter to Community Managers
It’s Community Manager Appreciation Day. Which is funny because in my years of being a CM and running Community and moderation teams, I know that you’re one of the most under-appreciated (often over-worked, under-trained, and still under-paid) groups in an agency, start-up, or media company. Yet you do some of the most important work and you don’t get to keep regular business hours.
You’re basically the teachers and nurses of the Internet… the lawyers, too (I know most of you can write a company’s TOS and Privacy Policies in your sleep).
From my WOMMA and Online Community Roundtable experiences, my days at AOL, Disney, Buzz, and Edelman, I’ve had the distinct pleasure of working with and learning from you — some of the wittiest, most empathetic and creative humans I know.
On the flip side of every fun campaign that went live at 8pm on a Friday night when everyone else was taking their eyes off the work, there was invariably one of you mitigating 4Chan trouble, a site-wide hack, DDOS, or uprising of some variety. You lot have flagged some of the weirdest shit I’ve ever seen, and we’ve taken breathers, escalated and handed over some of the most troubling exhibits of online (and offline) behavior imaginable.
Community Management can be heavy. I’ve cried at my desk many times after reading through people’s blogs or journals. I’ve watched plenty of you have to leave the building and “walk it off” after reading chat logs.
But I know it’s not all gloom. Because you see it first, you dig up the most hilarious and insightful stories and bring to the table ideas that are inarguably the smartest because they’re rooted in something born of the medium, from truth, from people.
Back at AOL, (goodlord! a decade ago), the pre-social media, community site section was called People Connection. I always liked that. It was always about people. And the CMs were always the most human people to work with, buddy up to, confide in, and learn from.
So thank you, my lovely Community Manager friends. Let’s keep working together. I promise to keep listening to you, working to get you the support, training, place at the table, promotions and raises wherever I can.
Dumb Ways to Die’s Kawaii Appeal Goes Plushy
Over the past few months at work, I’ve been hosting “content strategy” training sessions — which is actually more focused on how you take an insight from a brief and think through the development and distribution of a social object. A large part of the session involves case studies and Dumb Ways always makes its way into the discussion. It’s a brilliant example of an organization (the Melbourne Transit Authority) transforming a maudlin subject that could’ve easily been a dry old poster/PSA into… well, this:
All that is to be said about the campaign has already been said in marketing, advertising, and social purpose circles, so I’ll spare the pontification.
Of course there’s the site, and the app (a really rather addictive game) and now, as per AdAge, the franchise has spawned toys:
The adorable piranha and rattlesnake victims, hair-on-fire guy, clueless commuters and more will hit store shelves first quarter of this year. Some of the cuddly characters will be small enough to fit in your pocket, while others will dwarf the average teddy bear at more than 30 inches in height. The toys will retail from $5.99 to $99.00.
Metro General Manager-Corporate Relations Leah Waymark said the idea was an afterthought, borne naturally from consumers’ — and merchandisers’ — reactions to the rail safety campaign. “We never set out for this to be a goal and it certainly didn’t factor into anything around determining the creative,” she said. “But countless people asked, ‘Where can I get the t-shirt?’
It’s amazing to watch a social object snowball into a full-on franchise, and track another instance of the Internet leaking. I’m sure the good people at Hasbro, Disney, and Mattel are paying close attention.
Is it the power of a catchy tune? Lord knows there are hundreds of kids with guitars versioning out the song on YouTube and Smule.
Whatever it is that draws people in, there is magic in the creative and the insight that there are all sorts of stupid ways to get yourself hurt (don’t let playing about near train tracks be one of them).