05 Apr On the case: Web lessons for connecting with customers
In the online social media era, there are many companies trying to aggressively use technology to engage customers. These initiatives have ranged from total site revamps to well thought-out, limited-term campaigns using new media.
I thought it would be interesting to review some recent examples demonstrating these concepts and their perceived impact.
Case 1: Dell
With Michael Dell back at the helm, Dell is aggressively trying to rebuild its customer reputation after a period of turmoil publicly exposed in the series of Dell Hell postings by Buzz Machine blogger Michael Jarvis, and evidenced by their slip to second place in PC shipments.
In pursuit of improved results, Dell is seeking to engage customers in their brand with a number of new initiatives designed to capitalize on the electronic dialogue possible using a number of new, improved social-media techniques. Among the new ones are the launch of a microsite called Dell IdeaStorm (where your ideas reign), powered by Salesforce.com, that was designed to engage customers in new product development and idea generation. In addition, there is the launch of Studio Dell, a user- and Dell-generated video sharing site offering three channels – home, small business, and IT Pro.
These two new initiatives join Dell’s existing social media initiatives: Direct2Dell, a blog that was initially maligned for its lack of candor, and Dell Community, powered by Lithium Technologies and offering six forums for different audiences and topics.
Dell Idea Storm allows visitors to post ideas they’d like to see; to promote and, soon, to demote ideas; and to discuss ideas and see what Dell has planned. It is a great example of collaborative innovation using the collective power of engaged customers.
Over the period of time that I researched and wrote this article, the number of ideas submitted grew from 2,694 in mid-March to 3,591 in April. These ideas were “promoted” 164,696 times and 220,793 times, respectively, in that period of time.
Case 2: Budweiser
Budweiser has aggressively bought into the Internet and Web 2.0 with a $30 million investment in the controversial and potentially failing branded entertainment site Bud.tv (their own mini-cable like video site). This is being done with the launch of the beer promotion microsite Here’s to Beer, and with an agreement with the social networking site MingleNow (registration required) to encourage beer drinkers to share the clinks (pictures of drinkers toasting one another with beer).
Bud.tv creates a “back to the future” moment with a return to advertiser-created television content, along with the more contemporary user-generated video. Consumers are tuning out, skipping, and disregarding regular ads so marketers are seeking new ways to engage consumers using tools like the ones Budweiser is exploring.
MediaPost (free registration required) reported that Bud.tv’s introduction generated controversy among 23 state attorney generals who were concerned about the easy access to beer-related entertainment by underage consumers. This has resulted in an onerous registration process, including the implementation of digital age verification through a third-party company – a factor that could be one of the nails in the coffin to this site according to Kevin Dugin at Internet Financial News.
Case 3: Harley-Davidson
Harley-Davidson has been the king of the road for a while. Its success has been due in part to the immense brand loyalty demonstrated by loyal riders around the world. These riders (and wannabes) have bought into the mystique of the brand from the trademarked sound of the engine through the well-developed offline social network available through the Harley Owner Groups (HOG), clubs for Harley riders to connect with their peers.
More recently, Harley has used online techniques to engage its target audience. For example, at the recent Daytona Bike Week in early March, Harley included video clips with Daytona Daily interviewer Jessica Kraker, a photo gallery with rally photographs from three photographers, interactive voting by attendees on the daily hot spots, the ultimate champ custom bike, and a cool interactive map labeled “the riders and the readers” that allowed you to put a virtual pin in your location on the map as either a rider or an online reader.
Beyond this special event, Harley Davidson is building pre-launch interest in their museum with a dedicated webcam that allows viewers to see the progress on the building project.
Case 4: Small Business Times
The re-design of the Milwaukee-based Small Business Times website is a good example of integrating Web 2.0 features into a newly launched site. The new site offers relevant features like an RSS Feed, viral marketing on each page with a “Send to a Friend” button, increased usability with an option to change point size, and the addition of the Wisconsin Biz Blog with contributing authors posting and readers commenting on hot topics relevant to Milwaukee and southeastern Wisconsin.
Steve Jagler, executive editor of the site, had this to say about Small Business Times: “As you know, a good website is a journey, not a destination. Traffic at the site has tripled since we first started revamping it last August, and it continues to grow exponentially each month.”
This is a lesson that all of us should keep in mind as we continue down the road toward refreshing, refining, and re-connecting with our key audiences.
If your business is proud of how its incorporating social media and technology into the marketing mix, let me know and I’d be happy to include a profile in a future article in Buzz Networks.
Previous articles by Paul Gibler
• Paul Gibler: Brand protection in the age of customer engagement
• Wireless wizardry coming to the small screen
• Paul Gibler: Podcasts – time, place, and player shifted media
• Paul Gibler: Virtual communities make online connections
• Paul Gibler: Lights, cameras, action: The state of online video
• Paul Gibler: Joining the wiki wacki world
• Paul Gibler: Would you like your music (and data) mashed?
• Paul Gibler: Cutting through the blog fog
• Paul Gibler: No RSS feed? You’re fired!
• Paul Gibler: Social computing in the Web 2.0 era
The opinions expressed herein or statements made in the above column are solely those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Wisconsin Technology Network, LLC.
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