Posts Tagged: Community

Sep 09

Lessons from Peter Molyneux on Customer Engagement

This is a bit of an old experience of mine but  I was inspired by Brian Alkerton with his disccussion of cheezy gaming advertising . Someone I’ve really admired in the electronic gaming industry is Peter Molyneux current creative director at  Microsoft Game Studios Europe.  A saying  from him that really has stuck around with me was’ Reach for the stars and come out with something special’ ( can’t find the exact wording….). But what was really important  and that had a lot of impact for me was a game he developed a while ago ( 2000-2004) . Despite going through a name change ( Project Ego to Fable)  and  taking close to 4 years to make  its been hard to find a product that ever made me so excited. He made an experience around this product’s development that was memorable and stuck with me.

So what did he do to make this product launch truly special:

Shared His Excitement About the Product: While he received some criticism for his openness with game journalists he spoke with great  excitement about the game. He fully stood behind his product and weaved a strong story around it. Screen shots and game information were shared throughout the development process. Peter and his development firm weren’t afraid about sharing details  even those that weren’t completely solidified.  This excitement was contagious and kept fans wanting more.

Community engagement: During development and even after the game launched Lionhead Studios interacted with its  community. Through a central forum they released trailers and other product teasers and discussed the process of the game.  As a fan you really felt like part of the process. They weren’t afraid about being perceived as un-professional or whether they were going against industry norms they were more concerned about sharing with the community that came together around the game.

Fable Goes Gold!!

Fable Goes Gold!!

The above image  to the uninformed person just looks like a regular DVD. But this was the final tested version of the game, the final files before its sent to production. Most gaming studios never shared such a moment, but considering the development time of the game Lionhead felt it was important to share such an milestone.The long wait was almost done!

So what can be learned from this other than I’m a giant geek…. well to me it shows the importance of sharing with your companies fans and that product development and even day to day operations can weave stories and create relationships with your customers. By just releasing a product or just providing a service with nothing else  your company is forgettable and is  just like every other but by becoming more open and creating an experience you can turn your service or product into something much more memorable.

Aug 09

What If Social Media Were Down Permanently ?

Picture from cote

Picture from cote

A friend and fellow marketer Emma Brooks has declared today #InternetFAILday as a result of the multiple failures on social networking and commerce sites. This got me thinking what would happen if companies suddenly lost social media  as a marketing/business tool? Especially now that many customers are accustomed to these practices , how could current social media practices be scaled down into real life settings? Here are a few of my thoughts on this issue:

Customer Service: Many companies are trying to improve their service offering through their online channels having ignored the poor service their customers receive in person. Without this tool sales/service people to be successful would need to be much more autonomous and have the tools they need in front of them instead of outsourced to call centers/outside locations.

This would be a major business shift for most companies. Instead of having a sales orientation in their stores where metrics and the bottom line is the most important part of operations, a customer service orientation would need to be taken where relationships and customer satisfaction would need to be seen as a major driver of sales.

Customer Connection: With the loss of internet tools customers would lose the sense of connection with companies and other customers. They would lose the ability to come together and discuss the direction and changes to the company. Companies would lose a great market research outlet but they also may lose the strong brand evangelists that spread word of mouth for their company as well .

A company I feel that takes this relationship building and does it well on a personal level is Lululemon. By supporting the local yoga communities and offering interaction mechanisms in store (little fun activities and yoga classes) customers feel connected to the company on a deeper level.  Customers don’t think of the company as an organization that just sells them stuff but they also see them as a community hub. Social media places a large focus on grouping customers together and building communities, why can’t stores themselves work on building communities locally?

Customer Segmentation:  Without social media some things could be much more costly to do. Customer segmentation would be one of them and without social media this would be a be a large strategic challenge for companies. Using the internet and social media , companies have often times tried to attract all groups through customized product offerings and communities. Knowing each individual customer and customizing their experience would be too hard to do in the offline world. It would mean that a company’s customer list would either need to be scaled down so they know each individual customer to  place them  in a specific category or there would be a big brother scenario where every action a customer takes is recorded (not a very friendly situation).

Social media offers information about customers that real world interactions don’t and in this case it would be strategically better to define the customer your company wishes to target instead. By doing this all efforts and resources are focused on  being a strong product/service supplier for a single group building market and mind share among these customers. While the downfall of this would mean that your market is significantly smaller, this also means that your resources are more effectively used saving you money in the long run.


In closing I think this is a great exercise for companies to be doing. If social media were to just suddenly end today how would their company operate? What changes would need to be made? Looking at how they could improve their operations in real life situations could be an opportunity to further strengthen the company as a whole and create a company much more focused around the customer.

Jul 09

Relaunching an Online Community

Social Networks  are a great way of connecting people who share the same interests and encourage community discussion. Thinking that this may be a great tool to connect its more than 200,000  members across North America the Sigma Chi Fraternity (of which I’m a member of ) decided to create a community for its members where they can interact and connect. Hosted by Affinity Circles its a pretty robust system that allows interaction at many different levels and members are able to form their own groups based on location or interest. Its a great tool and it would be very useful in achieving its purpose… if someone actually used it.

This was the old network ( I personally liked the layout)

This was the old network ( I personally liked the layout)

As a an active member there was no discussion of this site within my chapter or when meeting members from other chapters, I only came across it when searching through  Sigma Chi’s central site. Because no one was active on it and because there was no real life connection or use for it this network was empty and barren. Instead members have reverted to using  larger networks such as Facebook to connect. The downfall with this is that disparate groups are made instead of gathering the organization  together as a whole.

Can this be fixed?

Well the headquarters staff is trying its best to . At a recent Fraternity meeting  this past weekend  they  launched  a new network with toned down features and a simpler interface hoping that it will appeal to both younger and older generations. While this may address some issues in the end I feel  it won’t fix the larger issue of participation.

The new network. Simplified and waiting to be used.

The new network. Simplified and waiting to be used.

So how can this relaunch become successful so it doesn’t become yet another empty community?  While I’m not claiming to be an expert here are some of my ideas in developing interest and use of this website by the general fraternity:

Community leaders: By getting volunteers ( either chapter presidents or designated  geographic community managers) to actively use , connect, and discuss this site  becoming evangelists for this initiative the hope will be to get people talking about it once again and  encourage its use.By building its use in day to day tasks  for active/alumni chapter operations or as a space for organizing events and initiatives among members, users will have a reason to return on a more regular basis and will come to associate the website as the space for Fraternity information/news .

Creating a Hub: Another important piece to this new site is making sure  that it offers something that other social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter don’t . A big part of this in my opinion is having  a central interaction point. While Sigma Chi has a central website, by creating a page where news and events from the fraternity as a whole are posted members will come to this page to keep up to date with whats happening within the fraternity . This can be as simple as a weekly blog posting or advanced as a news feed where members can recieve news and updates from the entire site or just the networks they are involved in.

Connecting Content : Bringing in and organizing the  content  located on other sites will be a good community building tool as well. There are many facebook groups, flickr feeds, Youtube videos and blog entries related to Sigma Chi scattered across the net. Allowing members to either link or post this content up will encourage interaction and discussion. While this may be a bigger undertaking I also feel posting up materials such as  pledge manuals, historic pictures  and other memrobelia on this site will also build  increased value with network users.

These are just a few points that I feel will help to ensure that this new site doesn’t go to waste. There will be a lot of work needed to build interest and to ensure the usability of this network. I’m curious to hear  more about people’s experiences in building community and thoughts of how one can be started/restarted. Feel free to post your thoughts/ideas in the comments section below.

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