Yesterday, some of us here at ASTD participated in a training session facilitated by fellow ASTD’ers Jennifer Homer, Anthony Allen, and Kristen Fyfe about social media, and I thought it might be fun to share some of what we learned.
One of the main messages I took away from the session is that one point of social media is about engagement with one another and with our customers. What ASTD aims to do is not just to provide information for you, but to learn from you. What’s on your minds? What kind of ideas do you have that can make us better, more valuable to you? What’s going on out there that’s cool, interesting, earth-shattering, or just plain useful? We want to know!
In their session, Jennifer, Anthony, and Kristen shared examples of organizations that are doing great jobs at engaging their audiences and making social media work for them:
The first of these was Starbucks with its My Starbucks Idea program. Their MyStarbucksIdea site provides an avenue for customers to offer ideas to Starbucks to provide more and more of what customers want. More than just a suggestion box, the site actually shows where Starbucks is taking these ideas and encourages everyone to vote on the ideas that they like the most, thus allowing the best ideas to rise to the top. That allows Starbucks to get a better picture of the kinds of things that their customers would like and continually improve the customer experience.
Another example of great use of social media for engaging customers is the Zappos blog. Zappos is an online retailer that started out primarily selling shoes, but has expanded to lots of other products. The company generates an enormous amount of customer loyalty. In yesterday's session we heard lots of oohs and aahs from the group demonstrating people’s excitement about the company’s customer service. What companies do you know that can generate that kind of response? On the Zappos blog are blogs from the CEO and the COO, blogs from other employees of the company, videos, a fashion culture blog, and more. When I went to check it out, one of the employees had just posted a video of another employee’s response to returning from vacation to find her desk decorated with hundreds of teabags (apparently she really likes tea). It’s a funny, personal touch that endears people to the company and its people. (Darin Hartley talks more about the Starbucks and Zappos examples in his book 10 Steps to Successful Social Networking for Business.)
The relaxed, casual use of social media represented by Starbucks and Zappos.com may seem incompatible with more formal types of cultures, but social media can be valuable for any type of organization. One of the examples shared in our training session was the Mayo Clinic’s Twitter feed. In their book, The New Social Learning, Tony Bingham and Marcia Conner tell a story about a woman suffering from wrist pain who clicked on a link to a story about wrist pain through the Mayo Clinic Twitter feed, found a surgeon who was doing new things, underwent a new type of surgery, and then went on to a better life without wrist pain. Another aspect of the Mayo Clinic example is that use of the organization's internal microsharing network is allowing physicians to connect with each other to work on new forms of treatment and to share ideas and information. (My husbands works as a research scientist at Inova Fairfax Hospital, and I love the idea of them using microsharing to brainstorm and work on new research ideas.)
Another example Bingham and Conner share of a culture that places a high premium on control of information is the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, which has implemented an intelligence community wiki called Intellipedia that allows analysts from across the intelligence community to share information and capture knowledge. Intellipedia now has tens of thousands of users and gets upwards of 10,000 page edits per day. Now that’s a culture that clearly requires tight control of information—and yet, in this case, social media represents a way to share data in a way that’s fast enough to keep up with the speed of the world and to capture valuable background information that may not make it into formal reports.
The last example shared in our training session was the JetBlue Airways feed on Twitter. The feed allows JetBlue to connect directly with customers, giving the company an avenue to provide up-to-date information and to gather feedback that it then displays on its speakup site (both positive and negative). It lets JetBlue be transparent about what’s not working and how they plan to fix it, as well as share positive stories and thus gain valuable word-of-mouth advertising for its service. It also allows JetBlue employees to establish a direct connection with their customers, which supports customer loyalty.
Tomorrow, I will talk a bit about what I learned about using Twitter and Facebook and what ASTD is doing with its internal microsharing site, Yammer.