Tuesday, March 31, 2009

The False Intimacy of Twitter

by Dawn Lacallade

With a cross between the harsh economy and the surge of new networking tools, the web is a key component of the job hunt. People are using search engines (monster; yahoo, careerbuilder, etc.) as well as networking tools (linkedin, plaxio, twitter, facebook, etc.) With thesetools comes a whole new realm of social norms and rules that we are making up as we go. In the past two weeks, I have had two such interactions that solidified my understanding of one HUGE potential pitfall.

In the first instance the job seeker tweeted generically looking for someone from my company. I responded and we took it offline to a quick call. The applicant was interested in an open position and wanted to gauge the climate here before applying. I completely enjoyed the conversation and thought it might be a strong fit with the company, so I sent my thoughts over with the resume to the hiring VP. This applicant kept the entire exchange fairly formal and very relevant to the position at hand.

The Second person contacted me directly via linked in and asked if we could chat about a position. This person and I have been following each other on twitter within the Social Media Twitter Pack. In the back and forth conversation this applicant went so far to the informal that he actually ended up insulting me while giving me a hard time. In retrospect, I think he had a perceived intimacy because of the twitter relationship that (for me) did not directly translate to a personal relationship. Mye lesson learned was a strong reminder to maintain that professional stance even in these less formal vehicles when you are using them as a direct source of leads on positions.

Anyone else had an experience like this?

Monday, March 30, 2009

Verizon's Online Community Forums

In a press release issued today, Verizon said that its new online community forums have proven to be a great place for customers to connect about service issues and even to reach the customer service department. According to the release, one of the growing base of super users is Justin McMurry of Keller, Texas, who describes his involvement as growing from a natural interest in Verizon's FiOS TV and FiOS Internet services. Formerly a technical support expert for many years at a major technology company, McMurry said he enjoys solving problems and answering questions for others who visit the Community Forums in search of real-time feedback from fellow customers.

Are online forums a passing fad or here to stay?

Georgia lawmakers embrace social networking media

According to ajc.com, Savannah Republican, Sen. Eric Johnson now has as Twitter to update the public on Georgian affairs of the state.

Johnson has sent Twitter texts almost daily from the legislative session. On March 12, he tweeted from the Senate floor that his proposal to name tax-dodging lawmakers had come up again, and passed.

“It allows for quick communication with a target audience,” Johnson said in a telephone interview to ajc.com.

What do you think of politicians using social media to connect with their audience? Did Obama pave the way for this sort of communication?

TMRE Poll of the Month

Have you had a chance to vote in our latest TMRE poll?

Have you seen more of your MR budget being allocated to shopper insights?

Friday, March 27, 2009

The lies behind online ratings and reviews

Ratings and reviews lie. Simple, subtle lies, but lies all the same. And I suspect most people will never know.

“Professional” reviews
The first time I realized what a con ratings could be was when I visited Dubai. I was travelling with a group of friends and one of them booked the hotels. It was quite a surprise to hear we’d booked into a 5-star hotel for what seemed like a 3-star price. It transpired that this was not because my friend had negotiated a great deal, but because hotel stars in Dubai are dispersed as liberally as banking bonuses. Dubai is the land of the 7-star hotel and I’m afraid that has nothing to do with the Burj Al Arab being better than the 5-star Carlyle in New York or Cipriani in Venice.

Thankfully, one of the great things about online consumer-generated Ratings and Reviews is their ability to bypass the bias that could come from the reviewer benefiting from the review. At least that’s true so long as the reviews are honest and any bias is stated. If enough “ordinary” people are writing the reviews then they ought to be trustworthy. And I am sure they are. However bias does still remain and so do a couple of other hidden lies of ratings and reviews.

The Growth of online ratings and reviews
First a little bit about the explosive growth of ratings and reviews across the web. Ratings and reviews are an excellent way to build a sense of community on a website, to improve customer service and increase loyalty. They have also proven to be a great way for retailers to increase sales.

A key part of their growth stems from the escalating importance of Word-of-Mouth (WOM):

  • Trust in a “person like me” tripled to 68% in 2008 v’s 2004 (Edelman, 2008)
  • 84% of consumers now trust user reviews more than critics’ reviews (MarketingSherpa, 2007)

Furthermore, their presence has driven a significant change in behaviour – Most of us are now using online ratings and reviews before making purchasing decisions:

  • “76% use online reviews to help make purchase decisions” (Forrester Research, 2007).
  • 78% say consumer recommendations are the most credible form of advertising (Nielsen, 2007),

What retailers have come to realise is that their customers trust each other more than they trust the brand. So providing that your products aren’t junk, it’s far better to let consumers advocate your products to one another than to attempt to persuade them by shoving marketing messages down their throats.

The result? Retailers have been adding ratings and reviews to their websites. and they have:

  • helped customers make better decisions
  • increased sales
  • reduced the number of returns because consumers were able to make a better buying decision

Concerns about negative ratings and reviews

Despite all the evidence, we at FreshNetworks still run into uncertainty when discussing ratings and reviews with online retailers. Especially amoung UK-based retailers, there first reaction is often nervousness.

“Surely people only write a review when they’re really annoyed about something. So if we allow reviews we’ll end up with loads of nasty comments…”

It’s an understandable concern, however it’s baseless. When it comes to online reviews for products consumers are far more generous than you might think. Assuming ratings are on a scale from 1 to 5, we’d expect 2.5 to be the average score for reviews. With this in mind, it’s rather impressive that the average score accross the web is actually more like 4.3 (BazaarVoice, 2008).

Even if you do get negative reviews, there is strong evidence that negative reviews are good for retailers – preventing returns and giving more credibility to websites. Woot is a great example of this.

So how to ratings and reviews lie?
There are four key ways in which ratings and reviews lie. There may be more but these are the ones that jump out at me.

1. There is no “zero” score.
Ask most people “When is a product good or bad?” and they’ll say above 2.5 is good and below 2.5 is bad. The assumption is that 2.5 is the mean average score that can be awarded. However that’s simply not the case. The vast majority of five-point scales force you to allocate 1,2,3,4,or 5 stars. If you thought a product or service was rubbish, you cannot give it zero; that does not count as a rating. As a result the mean score that can be awarded is 3 not 2.5. This is great for retailers who have ratings and reviews on their site as most items will appear to be better than average even when they are not.

2. Self-selection bias in ratings and reviews
there are three kinds of purchase bias that add to “the lie”. The first is self-selection bias. Ask me to rate the restaurant behind my office and I won’t. I’ve never eaten there because I don’t like the way it looks. As a result I have selected myself out of being able to review its food or service.

Thus, ratings and reviews’ second lie comes from the self-selection bias inherent in the need for people to have experienced a product or service before rating it. I know that restaurants which sell all you can eat buffets for £3.50 serve poor quality meat, so I’m not going to buy and I’m not going to review. The people who do review are those who for a given product or service had a reasonable expectation that it would fulfill their needs when making the purchase. Hence the group of potential reviewers is biased from the outset.

3. Choice-supportive bias
The second type of purchase bias comes post-purchase. Choice-supportive bias describes our tendency to recall positive feelings or memories to the choice we made. We tend to remember the positive things about the options we chose more than we remember the positive attributes of the alternatives we did not select.

4. Post-purchase rationalization
The third and final purchase bias is post-purchase rationalisation. This bias comes from our tendency to retrospectively justify our decisions as rational ones. We humans prefer to feel that we made good selections not poor ones. So if you ask me whether or not I liked a product that I just spent my hard earned money on, you’re going to get a positive review more frequently than you get a negative one – we like to feel our past choices have been rational and well made.

It is the sum of these biases that results in an average five-star review of 4.3. That’s a long distance from 2.5.

Despite the lies, Ratings and Reviews are great

I’ve had a bit of a go at Ratings and Reviews, but that does not stop me from liking them. They are excellent tools for online retailers and they do a great service to customers. Just like a review on the back-cover of a book or a politician’s statistics, we should always treat claims with care. And so long as that’s done everyone still stands to benefit. For one thing, if ratings and reviews are considered on a relative basis (as is often the case) then the absolute number does not matter in the least.

And let’s be honest, right now, anything that encourages people to buy more is a good thing for the economy and for all of us.

What do you think?

Post by: Charlie Osmond, Founder and CEO of FreshNetworks

From the FreshNetworks Blog

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Thursday, March 26, 2009

Speaker Profile: Chris Brogan

With the Community 2.0 event coming up in May, we're going to introduce you to another keynote speakers for this year's event. Community 2.0 is May 11-13 in San Fransisco, California at The Palace Hotel. Today, we're featuring keynote speaker Chris Brogan, the co-founder of PodCamp and President of New Marketing Labs.

Chris Brogan has been working in the world of web 2.0 for more than 10 years. He's worked with social media using both web and mobile. Find Chris thought the web with these profiles:

Brogan's Twitter
Brogan's Facebook
Brogan's LinkedIn
Brogan's Blog
Podcast with UltraCreatives
Podcast with Duct Tape Marketing

Join us in San Fransisco on Wednesday, May13th for Chris Brogan's keynote speech, Bringing Our Own Dial Tone.

Don't forget, if you're in the New York City area, we're kicking off Community 2.0 festivities early with a networking event April 16. Click here for more information and to RSVP.

Waiting on hold

Any customer knows what it's like to call a company just to be routed through directory after directory. VoIP-News recently published a list of ways to get around waiting for a customer service representative.

So what are the right characters to push:
  1. Press zero. Pressing zero will often result in a direct route to a live person. Continue pressing zero until you're put through. You may need to try combinations such as "0#," "#0," "0*" or "*0."
  2. Memorize prompts. If you're unfortunate enough to have call about the same issue on a regular basis, memorize the prompts that work for you.
  3. Press the pound key. Skip to the next message or just confuse the system by pressing this character.
  4. Press the star key. Again, the star key can open up system tricks or simply make the system give up on you.
  5. Press everything. By pressing multiple numbers, you can trick systems into thinking you're on a rotary phone — or that you're crazy. Either way, you're in.
  6. Go through the phone prompts. Sometimes it pays to work with the system.
  7. Press any digit repeatedly. You may land in the wrong department, but you'll end up at beginning of line when you're transferred.
For the complete list, read the article here.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Twittering Your Customer Service Woes

According to NYTimes.com, Salesforce.com, the Web-based customer relationship management service that says it has more than a million subscribers, has legitimized the tweet as a cry for help by incorporating Twitter into its system. Now, when customers gripe on Twitter, Salesforce can automatically log a support request, and then post a human response back onto Twitter. Zappos, and Comcast are just a few of the companies using Twitter for customer service. Do you think more companies will follow suit? We'd like to hear your thoughts.

The Market Research Event LinkedIn Update: March

March's The Market Research Event LinkedIn Roundup is here! Read the newsletter here. If you haven't had a chance to join our Market Research Event LinkedIn Group, join now!

Community 2.0 LinkedIn Monthly Newsletter

Each month, we reach out to our LinkedIn group, providing news, information and discounts related to our community. If you're not a part of this group click here to join today!

Click on the link below for this month's edition of the Community 2.0 Newsletter. Don't forget to update your group settings to receive announcements, get the latest discussions and news pertaining to our group.


We would also like to invite anyone in the New York City area to our first Community 2.0 Meetup. It will be taking place April 16, from 5:00 to 7:00. For more information and to RSVP, please follow this link:


Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Advertising on Twitter

I came across an interesting post on TechCrunch that mentions how Twitter has begun to advertise applications (most of which are all Twitter-related) earlier this month. Some of the links being provided in small boxes on the profile pages are Tweetie, Twittervision, and ExecTweets. Even though developers are not yet paying anything to get featured on the site, it will be interesting to see how Twitter will respond to paid advertising on their site.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Animal shelter promotes better customer service

In Billings, Montana, the animal shelter is looking to create better service that will both help its customers and the pets they take care of. The city of Billings handed over the animal shelter to a private organization which will focus on customer service in order to save lives of animals. They'll be open longer hours and more days in order to allow more people to come in to adopt the pets. They'll also focus on recruiting volunteers and promoting foster programs with animal rescue groups. This case of customer service not only helps out the animal shelter's customers, but also serves in providing the pets with a better life.

Source: Billings Gazette

Speaker Profile: Kaliya Hamlin

With the Community 2.0 event coming up in May, we're going to introduce you to another keynote speakers for this year's event. Community 2.0 is May 11-13 in San Fransisco, California at The Palace Hotel. This week, we're featuring keynote speaker Kaliya Hamlin, a leader in the user-centric community.

Hamlin was recognized as one of the Most Influential Women in Web 2.0 by Fast Company in 2008.

At IT Conversations, she participated in this conversation called Do You Know Where Your Identity Is?

Listen to Kaliya on this podcast with ReadWriteTalk.

Read Kaliya's blog: http://www.identitywoman.net/

Kaliya's OpenID website

Join us in San Fransisco on Wednesday, May13th for Kaliya's keynote speech, Identity Across Communities - Tools for Making it Real.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Your view on market segementation

At Ad Age, they ask a very interesting question? Is market segmentation discrimination in disguise? What do you think as a market researcher? If your product will appeal to only one market, why advertise to many others? But, on the other side of things, what if one or two people in another market would like to know about what your advertising? What are your thoughts?

Balancing Customer Service and Satisfaction

Harvard Business Publishing recently ran a post on customer service and the balancing act that corporations must do to earn both customer satisfaction and customer loyalty. According to the post, managers often view service efficiency and customer satisfaction as incompatible goals. But they don't have to be. By maintaining customer service during a slowdown, companies with a strong core of loyal customers position themselves for growth and gain a competitive edge. What do you think is the key to balancing these two customer service goals?

Be sure to check out the rest of the post here.

Examples of online communities in the financial services industry

For this week's instalment in our series of online community examples we turn to the financial services industry.

Online communities in the financial services industry

There's no escaping the fact that the financial services industry has been hit hard by the current economic climate. But like any industry at the moment, now is a great time to innovate in the way financial services companies communicate with and engage their customers. There are some really informed examples of social media by financial services brands and below are three great case studies of online communities in the industry from around the world.

Royal Bank of Canada Next Great Innovator

Since 2007, the Royal Bank of Canada has been running the Next Great Innovator Challenge, an online competition for university and college students across Canada to suggest an innovation for the financial services industry. The competition runs on an online community site that invites those taking part to submit their ideas, and to comment on and vote for those that others have submitted. This turns the competition into an example of real consumer co-creation. Allowing consumers to work together with each other to suggest and refine ideas that will change the financial services industry in Canada.

The online community also performs a number of other functions. It is a way for the Royal Bank of Canada to share its ideas and information about innovation, business change and the financial services industry. They are using the challenge as a way to reach those often turned-off by discussions about financial services (university and college students) and then engages them through the online community. This site is a great way of getting new ideas into the business, engaging an often difficult-to-inspire audience and also to build relationships with people who will potentially be valuable customers to the bank in the future.

HSBC Business Network

The HSBC Business Network is an online community for both customers and non-customers, allowing businesses and entrepreneurs to share information with and gain information from their peers. It is a good example of brands using online communities to provide a service that compliments and enhances their existing product portfolio. Here they are providing business advice and networking opportunities, not something that HSBC has previously offered on this scale, but something that it is very possible for them to do using online communities.

The site has gathered over 1,000 members since the start of 2008, and like any peer-to-peer advice and support community it's value will really depend on the growth of its member base and then on these members being active in the community itself. The forum areas are currently popular and active and reflect both ongoing business and entrepreneurial concerns (such as how to manage staff) and topical talking points (cash collection in the credit crunch). It would be great to see these grow with time and also to see how HSBC use the resource they have created.

Online communities in the financial services industry offer a great opportunity for peer advice and support to be combined with expert commentary from the organisation itself. Leveraging this expertise and mixing it with user discussions and comments can be a great way for the organisation to grow and build the size and value of the community, position itself as an expert in the area, and to learn from (and with) its consumers)


Wesabe is a money-management site and online community for people who want to share advice about personal finance decisions. It combines the kind of money-management tools you get in Quicken or Microsoft Money but adds a social layer on top of this.

Users can add tags to their frequent purchases and become a 'fan', 'user' or 'captive' of the service or product. They can find other users in a similar situation and share advice and information with them to help them improve their financial decision-making. The social media element of the site also allows peer-to-peer financial advice, tips and information. And this is shown as relevant based on each users own situation and information they have entered into their profile.

Wesabe is a great site and a great example of adding a social layer to an existing service. Money management tools are useful from an organisational perspective. By adding the social layer and letting people in similar circumstances find, interact and share advice with each other the site becomes a lot more useful. It stops being just an organisational tool and starts being a real service that they are gaining from.

As with the HSBC example, this online community shows how using peer advice and support can be successful for organisations in the financial services industry. Online communities offer a way for people in similar situations to find each other and to support each other. Whilst you might not know somebody personally in the same situation as you, an online community can help you to find them and then for you t o help and support each other.

From the FreshNetworks Blog

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Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Win your customer loyalty the old fashioned way

Over at Customer Think, Kevin Stirtz recently looked at two simple ways you can continue to keep your customers loyal to you: know what they want, and know what you are best at. It's vital that you keep communication roads open, and that it is easy for both your customers and employees to give you feedback. If you make a goal to listen to their feedback and begin to use it to improve their expreience, customers will keep coming back to you.

What do you do to encourage feedback from both your employees and customers?

Community 2.0 Meetup in NYC on April 16!

Community 2.0 East Coast Meet-up
Thursday, April 16, 2009
5:00 PM - 7:00 PM

We'd like to invite you to our first Community 2.0 event of the season! On Thursday, April 16, we're hosting a free meet-up in New York City. Bring a friend and join us in midtown for the opportunity to network with your social media peers and meet the Community 2.0 team.

Legends New York
6 W 33rd Street (at 5th Avenue)
New York, NY 10079

This is free! You do not have to be registered for the C2.0 event to attend. It is an opportunity to meet and network with other social media peers in the New York area. Bring your friends and colleagues. There will be happy hour specials from 5-7. See you there!

RSVP Here: http://c20eastcoast-blog.eventbrite.com

TMRE Poll Results: February

In the February edition of The Market Research Event LinkedIn Roundup's poll questions are new closed, and we'd like to share the results with you:

Has your company downsized because of the economy?
58% Yes
41% No

Has the research sector of your company downsized in the current recession?
83% Yes
16% No

Do you believe your market research budget will be cut further?
58% Yes
41% No

Do any of these results surprise you?

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

New research into loyalty marketing

At this month's CPGmatters, they look at the new trends in loyalty marketing. Top Shopper Dialog (TSD) found a new approach to tell the "why" in consumer shopping. Consumers volunteer to participate in phone interviews as well as have a loyalty card for tracking their purchases. Read the full story here.

How To Not Fail At Customer Service (Kudos to Canon)

Brad Moon, at Wired's GeekDad discusses in his blog post how companies can excel at customer service. Moon uses a recent transaction with Canon's customer service as an example of stellar customer service. Moon writes, ... the company identified an issue with its products and it's standing behind them, taking the responsibility for ensuring customers aren't left holding the bag. Sage advice for any customer service executive or representative. Lead by example, and as Moon says, retain customers--perhaps one of them will write a successful blog touting your product!

Jack in the Box and Social Media

Jack in the Box, a fast food chain, has recently undergone a change in corporate image. After its mascot/CEO/anti-Ronald McDonald character was hit by a bus during the Super Bowl, the company set up a website: hangintherejack.com, essentially opening the corporate brand up to the social networking sphere. LATimes reporter, Dan Neil discusses the social media efforts in his recent article, Jack in the Box feeds the social media beast. Neil says, the six-week "Hang in There Jack" campaign (Secret Weapon Marketing, Santa Monica) was a remarkable document: a 360-degree social media event that mocked even as it exploited the power of YouTube, Twitter, Facebook and Flickr. Along the way it leveraged irony to the breaking point with "viral" cellphone and faux-paparazzi videos, ring tones and texting. Among the crowd-sourced content were 27 get-well videos from fans, some quite brilliant. Neil also discusses the distasterious efforts fo Skittles when it decided to use Twitter to promote the brand. So is social networking tricky for big corporations or is it a case by case basis? We'd like to hear your thoughts.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Free Web Seminar: Consumer Segments -- New Online Research Approaches for Better Understanding

Just a quick reminder here, BuzzBack Research in conjunction with the Market Research Event will host a complimentary web seminar presented by Brendan Light, SVP of BuzzBack Market Research. This web seminar will take place on two separate dates and times. For US viewers it will take place on Wednesday, March 18 from 2:00 to 3:00 PM EDT and for European viewers it will take place on March 19 from 2:00 PM to 3:00 PM GMT. Here’s a brief recap of the webinar:

Here are key takeaways from the presentation.
  • Through a case study approach, specific examples will be shown that explore research methods that breathe new life into the way consumer profiles are created.
  • Examples of award-winning, projective and enabling techniques that can be used in online quantitative research will be demonstrated.
  • Techniques to overcome online research’s traditional problem of eliciting mostly top-of-mind, surface responses will be explored, with side-by-side results that show how these new techniques can demonstrably improve insights
  • A new method of navigating open-ended responses based on Web 2.0 technology will showcase ways to highlight consumer learning faster and more efficiently.
  • Case study examples will include: consumer goods, personal products and consume healthcare.
Register below. Mention priority code MWS0017IIR

For US Viewers: https://www1.gotomeeting.com/register/753336057

Mention priority code MWS0017MIIR

For European Viewers: https://www1.gotomeeting.com/register/767707777

Friday, March 13, 2009

Too much customer service?

I came across this article at MSNBC, which asks the question "Can there be a thing such as too much customer service?". Some of the responses, which were collected from Twitter, included:

Katie_Traut: Yes, I think so. Take Martin+Osa. I love their clothes, but dread going in b/c the salespeople all harass you and stalk you.

apfriedman: yeah ... my dealership insists on calling my cell & sending an email survey every time I get my oil changed.

What do you think? Can there be a point when there is too much customer service?

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Examples of online communities in the travel industry

For the next in our series of Online Community Examples we are looking at examples of online communities in the travel industry

Online communities in the travel industry

The travel industry is one well suited to online communities focused on engagement. Whether you're an airline, holiday company or hotel chain, your guests typically only experience the brand on a limited number of occasions annually. They may be leisure travellers who might only stay at your hotel once per year or even business travellers who use your airline each time they fly to New York. In all cases the experiences these consumers have with your brand are limited and for a fixed period of time only.

Online communities offer you a way to extend this brand experience between visits or experiences, they allow you to engage and interact with your consumers even when they are not staying at your hotel or flying your airline. This is of critical importance when it comes to rebooking - if you can keep your brand at the forefront of your consumers' minds then they are more likely to rebook with you. If you can offer them extra services, or offer a way to extend their holiday experience, they are more likely to rebook with you.

The three examples below show different ways in which companies in the travel industry are using online communities to engage their customers with a view to increasing customer loyalty.

Best Western's On the Go with Amy

One of the real benefits of social media for travel is it puts a human and personal face on what is a very personal experience. One reason why people use Tripadvisor so much is that it contains real reviews from real people talking about their own experiences. But rather than just using experiences as reviews, we can also use personal experiences as inspiration tools. And this is what Best Western do so well with On the Go with Amy.

As with many great examples of online communities, On the Go with Amy is simple concept, but one that delivers well against Best Western's objectives. The community is a blog from travel journalist Amy Graff, where she share first hand travel experience and chronicles her trips and visits. From a business trip to New York to a family road tip down Route 66 in the US.

By using this medium, Best Western are putting the excitement and experience back into travel. They are giving people a set of first-hand experience and by juxtaposing business and leisure travel they are associating themselves with both of these experiences. Amy has become the company's travel spokesperson. As well as chronicling her own travel, she gives on issues from advice on travel accessories and on historical sites to visit with children.

This community gives people a real insight into travel, ideas and advice but does it with a personal voice and a very public face. The site is clearly branded and supported by Best Western but it is not overtly selling their hotels. It is engaging people in a personal experience, which is what travel is all about.

Marmara's Marmarafit

Marmara is a French travel agency that specialises in package holidays in the Mediterranean. They have a loyal customer base and people will often return to a Marmara resort for their annual holidays. In 2008 they launched an online community site to allow people to continue their experience even when they are not on holiday.

The community site has two basic parts:

  1. Marmaramis: every Member who joins the community gets a profile which allows you to upload photos of your vacations, tell the community where you have been on holiday and which resort you are going to next (and the dates). You can also make friends with people you have met on holiday or with people you are going away with.
  2. ClubMarmara: using this profiling data, individual members can be associated with the Resorts to which they have been or that they are going to. Their photos, videos and discussions are associated with the relevant Resort.

The site provides a way for people to share their experiences when they get back from holiday, keep in touch with friends they met on Resort and post photos and videos of their vacation to share with these people. They can also find people who are going to be on the same holiday as them before they go, ask questions about Resorts they have never been to and find out what it is really like in the words of people who have been before. In this respect, the site is a great customer retention tool. It provides a way for customers to extend the holiday experience even when they are not away.

But the site also offers significant benefits in terms of customer acquisition. It is building a large quantity of discussions and descriptions of holidays, great both from a search perspective but also as peer-to-peer marketing. If you have never been to a particular resort before, or indeed never been on vacation with Marmara, you can read real reviews, see real photos and even contact people who have been on holiday to ask them for their thoughts. Getting your customers to really do you marketing for you.

Qantas Travel Insider

Many airlines have launched online community sites in the last year. We have already written about BA's MetroTwin and the Air France-KLM Bluenity sites. Qantas launced it's own online community at the end of 2008: Qantas Travel Insider.

The site is aimed specifically at the airline's Frequent Flyers and allows them to describe their first-hand experiences of destinations, recommending places to stay, eat or drink and things to do in the various cities to which Qantas flies. This is a clever use of passenger experiences and knowledge. The Frequent Flyers are the ones who know the destinations best, and they are also those most likely to find themselves going to a new city and needing advice like this. By focusing on this group, Qantas is also catering for the desire for us to share with and learn from 'people like me'. The Frequent Flyers will associate with each other and so lend credibility to the advice.

Alongside the user-generated travel advice, Qantas Travel Insider also has a large amount of more editorial content. From articles and recommendations to blogs and the Ask the Crew feature. This is a good approach to online communities - users don't necessarily care about who gives them advice or tips, they just want to know that it is both from a credible source and of use to them. Mixing user-generated content with editorial content and expert advice can be successful online community strategy. In the case of Qantas, it also lets them use their own expertise - getting cabin crew to answer questions about things to do and places to go at destinations. Adding a concierge service to their on-board service and thus really enhancing the passenger experience.

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Customer Service Overkill

Eve Tahmincioglu of yourbiz.msnbc.com, recently did a small survey via Twitter about customer service that's gone overboard. In her piece, Customer Service Overkill Can Kill You, she asks, "Can there be too much customer service?/is too much attention a miss?" She received a varied response from her Twitter friends, including a few about stores or salesmen that shopper's avoid. We enourage you to check out Ms. Tahmincioglu's piece and see if you agree with her thoughts on customer service? What do you think--can customer service go overboard?

Research 2.0: How drug companies are using social networks to recruit patients for clinical research.

Pharmaceutical companies are utilizing social networks at an increasing rate. In Sarah Kliff's article on Newsweek.com, she covers just one of them--Inspire.com. According to Ms. Kliff, Inspire's nearly 100,000 users aren't just sharing with each other (and the 62 nonprofits who partner with the site), they're also receiving targeted information from pharmaceutical companies who use the site as a recruiting tool for drug studies. Opening this door between patients and drugmakers has some obvious benefits but also raises a host of ethical and medical dilemmas. Kliff goes on to describe this phenomenon as a Pharma Facebook, of sorts. According to Kliff's research, three of the four pharmaceuticals working with Inspire declined to discuss their interest in social networks, or even reveal their names. The fourth, Merck, declined multiple requests for an interview but did issue a brief statement on their commitment to "rapid and effective enrollment of appropriate patients into trials" as to allow for "timely development of innovative medicines." As a social media expert, what do you think are the benefits of this outlet for pharmaceutical companies to connect with patients? Do you see any blaring negatives? Let us know your thoughts here or on Twitter.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Interested in a Community 2.0 Meet-up in NYC?

We would like to organize a happy hour networking event on Thursday, April 16 at 6:00 PM in midtown Manhattan.

The C2.0 Meet-up would be an opportunity to network with your new media peers, meet the Community 2.0 team, talk about the event, and what's new in social media.

Please email jpereira@iirusa.com to let us know if this would be of interest to you or your colleagues.

Details to follow! We look forward to meeting you!

The Community 2.0 Team

Market Research on a travel budget: Your Responses

A few weeks ago, we asked a question of our The Market Research Event LinkedIn Group. What are people doing to get around not being able to travel to conduct market research? We had some great answers from those managing that very problem.

Ron Schechter at Internationalteam.net has worked around his limited travel in this way:

I am a MR consultant and specialize in healthcare market research in Latin America. I often try to place two projects from different clients back to back, in order to economize for both clients.

Rachel Geltman suggests using the Video Chat Network to communicate with her clients that aren’t in the same geographical location:

Video Chat Network is perfect for these times where travel budgets are getting slashed. There is no travel necessary to access respondents on a global basis, speaking face-to-face from the comfort of their own computers. And it allows marketers to reach the early adopters who set the trends that move businesses. This highly efficient, cutting edge approach, is perfectly suited to the times! Check it out at videochatnetwork.net.

Susan Abbott, a consumer experience specialist, uses a variety of way to get around traveling to conduct her market research.

I would second JC Paradise's comment regarding bulletin board research. I have found these work very well with a wide variety of audiences, including, but not limited to B2B. In fact teens may be more forthcoming using this kind of method.

There are other online qualitative methods, and more in development all the time. Discussion forums (bulletin boards) can be supplemented by individual online diaries or blogs. Live time focus groups (text chat) can be held.

I have also used web meeting software combined with telephone for voice to present and get reactions to stimuli, in both individual interviews (IDI) and small groups.

The use of webcams with web meeting software is also now well established, and several platforms exist that can be rented just as a focus group room is rented.

Other variations that are used in qual include having respondents take pictures or video of themselves and send it in prior to using one of the methods above to ask questions and engage in deeper discussion.

Although these methods may be new to some, there are experienced practitioners in all of these areas, and multiple vendor platforms. when used in combination with traditional methods in the home market, you can get really great results across a large geography.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Invest in your employees

The 1to1 Blog recently wrote an article that once again placed customer service on the shoulders of the employees. When a company invests and trains in their employees, the customer experience is ultimately a better one. A great example is this one from PetSmart:

Molloy explained that employees are trained, for example, to move dog owners shopping for dog food "up the aisle" from grocery brands to mid-priced "bridge" brands to premiums brands. Since pet food accounts for the bulk of PetSmart's revenue, having engaged employees who are comfortable with and trained to move customers along the value chain can make a significant impact on the bottom line.

The power of Twitter

Is hitchhiking on its way out? So what's replacing it? Twitchhiking. This article at Canada.com highlights one person's experiment with using Twitter to gallivant around the world, taking him from places such as Newcastle to Paris to New York to West Virginia, all accommodations and travel courtesy of his Twitter followers. Read his blog to follow his journey here. And if you'd like to contribute to his journey, follow him in Twitter!

Monday, March 9, 2009

Using Social Media to Protect Public Safety

When the Fugitive Safe Surrender in Washington, D.C's funding was cut due to budget restrictions, the managers of the program turned to social media to get the word out about their program. According to Corrections.com, several told Fugitive Safe Surrender that they thought that the program was silly until they went to the web site and listened to the audio and watched the video. The web site convinced them that this was a program worth investing in and, through the stories we provided, they helped Fugitive Safe Surrender to publicize the program. Podcasting and other forms of social media are powerful strategies that everyone can use. Whether it’s a quick form of emergency notification, getting the word out about a dangerous criminal or talking about new strategies, citizens and their leaders like the informal and informational aspects of audio, video and story based written material. To learn more about Fugitive Safe Surrender and their social media efforts, visit the Corrections.com article here.

Friday, March 6, 2009

How to Connect with Your Blog Readers in New Ways

There comes a point in time when your blog readers will ask for more ways to connect. This post on ProBlogger discuses some new tools that blogs can utilize to keep their readers connected.

Some blogs have already started to introduce newsletters and forums as a means of connecting in a different way. Even though it does require some time on your hands the benefits do outweigh the costs as it allows you to make ongoing connections with more people. For others, it might even mean launching a twitter account or a group on Facebook.

What are some other ways you have connected with your blog readers?

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Community 2.0 Speaker Profile: Tara Hunt

With the Community 2.0 event coming up in May, we're going to introduce you to another keynote speakers for this year's event. Community 2.0 is May 11-13 in San Fransisco, California at The Palace Hotel. This week, we're featuring keynote speaker Tara Hunt, co-founder of Citizen Agency and author of The Wuffie Factor.

Read Tara's blog HorsePigCow here.

You can listen to a podcast interview she did with Jonathan Coulton here.

You can listen to the podcast she did with the Web 2.0 Show here.

You can see Tara present her keynote speech "Making Whuffie: Raising Social Capital to Win Online" on Tuesday, May 12 at Community 2.0.

Examples of online communities in the not-for-profit sector

A busy week at FreshNetworks has meant that we're a little later than expected bringing you the third in our series of Online Community Examples. After looking at examples in the retail and automotive industries, this week we are looking at examples from the not-for-profit sector.

Online communities in the not-for-profit sector

There are many great example of not-for-profits using social media and it is sometimes the case that this sector can be more innovative than the private sector. There are many reasons for this: the financial pressures are different, there is a real need to engage people in an issue, topic or theme rather than enter into a transactional relationship with them, and this is a sector where innovation has always been important. (A great resource for information on not-for-profits and social media is Steve Bridger's nfp 2.0 blog)

We're written before about some great examples in this space, from the well-documented role of online communities in the Obama campaign, to Oxfam's use of social media in the UK. Here we look at three examples that from across the not-for-profit space, from government departments to charities and association.

The US Navy's Navy For Moms

Navy For Moms is an online community for mothers whose children have joined or are thinking of joining the US Navy. Launched in 2008, the site has over 13,000 members - moms (and some dads) who are sharing their hopes and fears, supporting each other and getting advice from others in the same situation as them. They can share photos and videos, join discussions and regional (or State-wide) groups and learn and gain support from people who have been there before. The community is, as you might expect, very vibrant and is clearly managed both by the official community manager, but also by obvious community leaders across the site.

This site is a classic case of an online community - the members share a common experience and are connected not because they know each other but because of this common bond. This makes it very easy for the community to grow - people can join even if they don't know others because the community is built around ideas and experience not previous connections. It is also easy for each new member to add value to the others - everybody brings their own experiences and can advise and support others.

One sign of a well-managed community is that people are quickly assimilated and feel comfortable talking about their thoughts, ideas and experiences. They share their hopes and fears and ask for and trust the expertise they are getting from others. This is all very evident in the forums and discussions where people are sharing advice on topics from the emotional process of deployment to the roles in the Navy for those who are colour-blind, as well as sharing personal stories about their children.

This is a great example of where online communities can offer a real resource and a real support to people even if they don't know each other and are not close geographically. Online communities offering a real resource and service that would not have been possible in the same way offline.

American Association of Retired Persons' Online Community

The American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) is a not-for-profit organisation dedicated to improving the lives of people over 50 in America. They are strong supporters of collaboration and helping their members to support each other, and the AARP online community is a clear manifestation of this.

Within the AARP community, over 10,000 members connect to share information, provide and accept support and advice, discuss organisational goals and generally enjoy themselves. In this way, the online community spreads the AARP message and support through word-of-mouth. Reaching more people and growing the community and the support the members support each other.

But the primary role of this online community is to allow the over 50s to meet and support each other, to find people with similar interests and discuss and share these interests with them The site performs a clear social function with a group that can find themselves sometimes isolated from friends and family. There is a clear and valuable role online communities can play here, supporting people but also allowing them to share their passions and hobbies with others.

For the AARP, this kind of community has a very clear benefit. By providing a service, they are offering a real and immediate benefit to their members. And satisfied and united members mean an effective and engaged support base for your cause.

UK Fundraising's Forums

Sometimes, simple can be best. It can be tempting to build a complicated online community with lots of social media tools when this doesn't meet the needs of the organisation or of the members of this community. UK Fundraising is an example of site that is very successful, supporting those who work in the charitable sector with advice on fundraising - from best practice to legal advice and support on a regional level.

For this kind of sharing expertise and discussing issues, a forum can be the best solution and this is what UK Fundraising does so well. They have a very vibrant and active forum as part of their broader community site - mixing the forum discussions with events, experts, training and news. The site combines the member discussions with these other services to create a portal that really adds value to those in charities and those tasked with fundraising.

This site works well by providing a real service to its users. It is the place to go to for news and events, information on training as well as discussions and advice from others in a similar situation. It is often the case that users of your online community will not mind where the information comes from, they just want reliable and useful answers to their questions. This may be from other members, experts or editorial. It is the information that's important and presenting everything in one space makes it easy for members to get access to this, wherever it comes from.

From the FreshNetworks Blog

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Skittles: Network the Rainbow

Go to skittles.com. I promise it will throw you for a creative loop. Tagline is “Interweb the Rainbow. Taste the Rainbow.” This line makes sense when you see the site, because it’s not really a Website, but a social media smorgasbord. Initially, you’ll think you’ve landed on a Wikipedia page, because their Wikipedia page is the background of the Site!

To even get permission to view the Site, you have to give them your birth date. Marketing genius! First of all, 90% of people navigate away from a Website within a minute. So if someone takes the time and effort to enter their birth date, their level of interest in learning more about Skittles must be fairly high. Second, by requiring people to enter their birth date, Skittles can determine what age demographic their products reach.

As you surf the Skittles site, it uses various online social marketing tools to pull up information about Skittles. For example, when you click on click on the Media tab, it pulls up videos via the YouTube site, and photos via Flickr. When you click on the products tab, it takes you to the product description on their Wikipedia page. Again, marketing genius.

This bold move is risky, because by turning their Website into a social media hub for skittles, they lose a lot of control. For example, whenever someone twitters about skittles, its shows up in their twitter stream. That means if someone twitters something negative, that’s right-it shows up in its Twitter stream. But this site is causing buzz, and buzz, aka word-of-mouth, is marketing heaven. Looks like the Skittles rainbow is on its way to a pot of gold.

April Bell

How do you create loyalty?

The Sacramento Bee recently wrote an article on how companies should be continuing to create great customer service. However, with dwindling customers, how are they going to do this? They're also facing fewer working staff to give the customers the service they truly deserve. The news article collects thoughts from store owners and customers from around the country.

How are you continuing to give your customers the great service they deserve, even though you may be a little short handed?

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Your company and market research

In the latest issue of the TMRE LinkedIn Roundup, we asked several questions of our readers. Now is your chance to weigh in, too! Results will be posted in March's edition of the TMRE LinkedIn Roundup. If you haven't had a chance to join our LinkedIn group, join now!

Do you believe your market research budget will be cut?

Has the research sector of your company downsized in the current recession?

Has your company downsized because of the economy?

Best and Worst Small Business Customer Service Rankings

Angie's List recently compiled a listing of the best and worst customer service small businesses. As reported in WSJ.com, based on a survey of its more than 750,000 members by Angie's List these members attached grades to companies in more than 425 service categories, judging the companies based on overall experience, price, quality, responsiveness and punctuality. The best small business with customer service is the piano and the worst are bridal shops. Interesting finds. Check out the entire list here and let us know your thoughts.

Facebook Flirts with Marketers with New Fan Pages

Caroline McCarthy at The Social reports on Facebook's marketer-savvy fan pages. The pages, which are a nice bridge between direct marketing and profile pages will be revamped today as Mark Zuckerberg and other executives unveil the "new evolution" of fan pages. McCarthy reports, according to a blog post at Advertising Age, the redesigned "fan pages" will look a lot more like regular Facebook profiles, which got their own revamp last year. This means their content will be distributed on tabs, with external applications aggregated primarily on their own tab. Also, according to the AdAge post, activity from fan pages will show up more in members' news feeds, giving those brands more visibility. Beyond that, we (CNET) don't have too much more information about what the announcement will entail. So as we wait for this afternoon's announcement, what do you think will be the success of these fan pages? We'd like to hear your thoughts on Twitter or in our comments section.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Why Customer Communities Work

The 1to1 Blog welcomes guest blogger, Natalie Petouhoff, Ph.D. do discuss why customer communities work and how to make them work for your company. Here are a few snippets that we saw of interest to our community:

Customer service communities are being deployed differently than most technology applications. How?

1. The focus is on the customer
2. Executives are talking directly to the customers
3. The focus is more on strategy and management (people part of business) than technology
4. The customer experienced is mapped before designing and deploying the community
5. Voice of the customer is honest, transparent, and direct

Dr. Petouhoff discusses other ways in which customer service communities are being deployed, check them out on her original post here.

Should Social Networks Go to School?

The NYTimes blog, Gadgetwise discusses the newfangled thought that social networks should be in schools. Taken from a report out of San Francisco, Paul Boutin of Gadgetwise contends that social networks may not have a place in school because kids flock to social networks to get away from authority--not be friends with it. Though there may be a few students who friend their teachers in a Tracy Flick sort of way. What do you think? Should schools embrace and/or create their own social networks?

Free Web Seminar: Consumer Segments -- New Online Research Approaches for Better Understanding

BuzzBack Research in conjunction with the Market Research Event will host a complimentary web seminar presented by Brendan Light, SVP of BuzzBack Market Research. This web seminar will take place on two separate dates and times. For US viewers it will take place on Wednesday, March 18 from 2:00 to 3:00 PM EDT and for European viewers it will take place on March 19 from 2:00 PM to 3:00 PM GMT. Here’s a brief recap of the webinar:

Proper understanding of different consumer segments is crucial to success in today’s hyper-competitive environment in order to improve product development, positioning and messaging to your target. Traditional approaches to identifying and profiling consumer segments generally result in flat, two dimensional portraits based on demographic, psychographic and behavioral or purchase data.

New, more creative research approaches now integrate innovative projective and enabling exercises in online studies. This type of approach, the use of newer online qualitative techniques in an online quantitative research, converts a standard online study into one that provides richer and deeper understanding of segments, including vivid consumer language, visual imagery and personal insights and emotions.
  • Through a case study approach, specific examples will be shown that explore research methods that breathe new life into the way consumer profiles are created.
  • Examples of award-winning, projective and enabling techniques that can be used in online quantitative research will be demonstrated.
  • Techniques to overcome online research’s traditional problem of eliciting mostly top-of-mind, surface responses will be explored, with side-by-side results that show how these new techniques can demonstrably improve insights
  • A new method of navigating open-ended responses based on Web 2.0 technology will showcase ways to highlight consumer learning faster and more efficiently.
  • Case study examples will include: consumer goods, personal products and consume healthcare.
Register below. Mention priority code MWS0017IIR

For US Viewers: https://www1.gotomeeting.com/register/753336057

For European Viewers: https://www1.gotomeeting.com/register/767707777

Monday, March 2, 2009

Linkage Strategies 2009

Linkage Strategies 2009: Customer Feeback & Action Planning

This event unveils the blueprint for researchers, marketers, product developers and customer strategists to translate data into action. A unique customer event that doesn’t just talk customer-centricity, it provides the measurement techniques to ensure every dollar spent on your customers delivers optimal profitability. In times like these, waste is not an option.

Find out how to bridge the gap between customer strategy and business strategy March 9-11, 2009 in Bonita Springs, Florida at Linkage Strategies 2009.

Gartner Reports 12% Drop in Computer Sales

As computer manufacturers struggle with the changing economic environment, Gartner reports that sales of personal computers are expected to decline by 11.9 percent to 257 million units in 2009. According to the Associated Press, the decline in PC sales in 2009 would be the worst since 2001, when unit shipments contracted 3.2 percent, Gartner said in a statement. Both emerging and mature markets were also set to suffer unprecedented market slowdowns in 2009 with PC sales declining by 10.4 percent over last year in emerging markets and by 13 percent in mature markets.This type of market research is growing more worthwhile as other businesses brace for the residuals of the economic storm.

Improve your customer service right away

Over at the Customers Think blog, they address how you can start improving your customer service right away in a inexpensive, and relatively fast, manner. Recognize your employees for their great customer service you observe. When you see them do something outstanding, reward them for it. Positive feedback is a great way to encourage your employees, and as a result have happier customers. For more tips on improving your customer service right now, read the post here.

Magazine Circus new for magazine industry

Taxi reports about the new interactive social network for the industry, and promises the latest up-to-date information covered by the social networking ring, the news blog, and bulletin board. Magazine Circus is run by a team of anonymous magazine insiders, Taxi notes that it has the latest information and breaking news.

In our February edition of the LinkedIn RoundUp, we highlighted how the media industry is focusing on using social media to continue to connect with its fans and stay afloat in the industry.
Do you think something like Magazine Circus will help them do this?