Social Media Idea Management: An intellectual capital hustle?

07/16/2009

Idea light bulb Imagine this scene - You've invited me to your home to discuss my ideas that may help you .. fill in the blank .. do your job better/make a better product/write a job description, etc. You also invite lots of other people. We find our way to your house. Instead of drinks together in your living room or coffee around your kitchen table you show us to separate rooms.

Then you walk away. However, naive that we are, we assume you are listening, care about us, that we matter to you.  So we happily share our creative ideas. Although our thoughts echo in our empty rooms we smile pleased to be of service to you. Every once in awhile some one wanders by and chats briefly. But rarely if ever is it you. Not even to say "thank you." 

Where are you? You're sitting behind an online dashboard gathering our intellectual capital as if it were digital diamonds. No girlfriend, it's not a focus group. Or maybe it is. Maybe this is the social media version of a focus group but with less honesty and less transparency. It's called IdeaXYZ or IdeaFireStorm or My(your brand) or ShareYourIdeas ... But don't expect anything back other than the satisfaction you derive in a bit of ego boosting on a brand site with some people who might vote you up or vote you down.

Are The Brands exploiting customers in the name of "engagement?" Are we so excited that The Brands have given us a way to directly and easily express our opinions that we clamor to give mega brands our creative ideas without even expecting a "thank you" in return?

Or is this simply the way that Brands approach the interaction of social media. Is it the way they view their role in the "conversation" of social media? Is it naivety or is it digital social media ineptness on how they perceive what is appropriate to build and nurture relationships?

Social media has two aspects. The first is digital research. That simply means reading posts and tweets of your customers to better understand who they are, what they care about and what they say about your brand. I think of it as raw, informal, qualitative, real time or what should be the  "first listening post" in your marketing research strategy.

The second aspect is something that is unique to social media. Other than trade shows, there are no business initiatives that I know of where marketers can hang out with their customers. Like any person-to-person exchange it's rarely structured. It can get messy and to make it work there has to be genuine interest on both sides.

  • Establishing an authentic presence in social media is where many marketers fall down. "Most brands aren't doing it successfully." Shiv Singh, vice president/global social media lead Razorfish (study)

Then there is a new kid on the block - Digital Idea Management or Viralsourcing - which seems to me a mash-up of these two concepts. Although based on the user group experience this has a stronger social media overlay. Customers are invited into a special company-based website to talk about what would make a better computer or latte or retail experience.

It's highly social since comments are open, often voting of each idea is encouraged and of course every post comes with the opportunity to be Dugg, Tweeted, Facebooked (new word) etc. One would naturally assume that the people who are on The Brand side would pop in to offer encouragement, provide feedback, say thank you. In other words to join in the conversation or as Shiv Singh says, "Establish an authentic presence." Rarely happens.

 If I were a bettin' diva I would say that Digital Ideology sites will become more prevalent across industries and sectors. Maybe even to engage in real exchanges. For now it seems that companies are using it in a traditional media/marketing way.

Dell is exploring this model and sharing learnings. This presentation from Dell details their Idea Management strategy behind IdeaStorm.  On slide 12 Dell outlines customer expectations as positive experience, action taken on ideas and recognition. With tactics on How To Address including: timely feedback, clear status updates, thank you mechanisms.

Happy to help you out dear brands but I expect you to join in tThank-youhe conversation with me and at least say 

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Comments

Thank you is a forgotten phrase for many companies. Those that will survive and thrive past this recession are those that value their customers' feedback, regularly let their customers know how much they appreciate them, and create real customer relationships (rather than just "using" customers).

Thank you, Toby, for highlighting this issue!

Posted by: Becky Carroll on Jul 19, 2009 9:02:54 PM

@becky - thanks for continuing this conversation and adding your important pov from the customer service camp.

Posted by: Toby on Jul 19, 2009 10:45:33 PM

good blog!

I feel that the use for such social media as a marketing/advertising tool is still growing.

For example, companies can run a complete campaign around engaging their customers in prediction markets around issues related to their brand, and make it into a competition - where people can win prizes.
Combine this with an idea management, and you really have a good direction.
Not only will you get great business results (good ideas, great predictions), but you also get a very unique way of interacting and engaging with your consumers...

read more about it in our website -
Qmarkets Idea Management & Prediction Markets Software .

Posted by: Noam Danon on Dec 22, 2009 12:20:45 PM

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