“Community building is hard work,” says Bough. It’s one thing to get people to engage with your company, and wholly another thing to get them to continue that engagement.
Question: What advice do you have for startups looking to establish their social networking presence?
Bonin Bough: Look, the rule book is open, and you can write the rules whatever you want. So if you don't have the means to have a person on Twitter 24/7, then don't do it that way. Why is it follow Friday only happens on Friday? Why don't you just take...? Here's the two hours where we're going to talk to our community because that's all the resources that we can have. But we realize that building that community will lead to more sales, which ultimately will lead to three hours, and then four hours.
What's interesting is to see the community know that they're participating potentially – I'm just riffing – but to see the community see that they're actually potentially participating and bringing another hour of resources on board because they're actually purchasing or buying or engaging with your technology more. I think it's “How do you become creative around the resources that you have but also making sure that you're using the technology to drive the means or to drive the means or to drive the end at which you need to.
And I tell that to my team all the time, like – and when you see stuff that we do, like we have a Zeitgeist app, which tracks and provides data visualization of our conversation. It's a measurement platform by which we use across a lot of other places in the organization. But as an app, that app is only live when we're at physical events, and it's fine. We let the world know that that's the only time they're gonna see it. You can go there and see recent data, but the only time you're gonna see vibrancy there is when we're at these digital events. Now it might change later on, but we don't have the means to just—or just show these data visualizations for... So my point is, creativity, I think will go a long way to overcoming the means. But I don't know. Does that work? What do you think?
Question: How do you focus on building an audience on Facebook or Twitter and scaling it?
Bonin Bough: Community organizing is hard work. I guess if you do it well you can become president. But, I think community building is hard work, and I think there's a lot of lessons to be learned from some of the early pioneers like Guy Kawasaki building a community around - I still... I was like... I used to go to Mac user groups, but him building a community around email, around an email newsletter... or what the video game guys have done with building a community around video games – communities that are so vibrant that they can drop a video game into it and turn it into a billion-dollar blockbuster because they know who the alpha dogs are there. I think that that's the same kind of thing that you face when going into Facebook and Twitter.
On the fact of scale, I think that it's an interesting combination between using media dollars or techniques that are gonna get you reach in terms of eyeballs on your communities as well as finding what the right participation in that community or with that community is. It doesn't have to be conversation. I think that we as marketers right now are so nervous—or communicators—are so nervous about these channels that we haven't gone to experimentation, like … Some of the things that we've been talking about are just better giveaways on Twitter, or more promotion inside of our Facebook communities, a combination of digital... There's so much experimentation that we can do, and I think we have done a good job at that on some of our platforms, and on scaling I think there's a lot of other folks that have done really good jobs at that. I think the Starbucks folks, who are good friends of ours, have done a really great job at just wide-scale experimentation in the community – also tracking and measuring it.
So I think that's the other thing that we are dong well is that we look at “What's organic growth look like? What does fall-off look like? When we do X, Y, and Z how much of a burst does it have?” I think it's a combo... it's care and feeding, but you also need to have people who are dedicated to it because those are the people who learn how the community ebbs and flows. And who are the folks that are the major contributors. That's the skill set that I think still organizations – this community management thing – still organizations are just at the beginning of learning. Dell has, I think, done a really good on the forefront of doing that. We announced 'Mission Control,' which is the Gatorade mission control room – a glass room in the center of the marketing floor that tracks real-time data visualizations of conversation. But more importantly than that is that is there's a team of people in there that are dedicated to building these communities and learning how these communities operate and move. I think that's how you bring it to scale.
And the other piece I think that we haven't gotten to yet is the integration into all the rest of our marketing platforms. Why isn't our traditional ad saying “Hey, connect with us at Facebook.com or on Twitter?” You've seen and you see that organizations now are doing some of that stuff, but also even more than just the tagging of the back of the spot – providing what the value is. At our Facebook you will find an opportunity to connect with nutritionists - or whatever it is – and actually integrating it into what we're doing on all fronts. And that's when we're gonna see the scale come out because at the end of the day, Facebook is a big platform, but if you think of a company like PepsiCo – we're so big, we sell so many products every day – no platform is scaled. It's up to us to scale these things with the resources that we're using in all the places that we're using it if we truly believe there's a benefit behind community, which we do.
Question: How do you deliver deep connections with the social networks you create?
Bonin Bough: I think those deep connections are to continue to fulfill on the relationship that you've built, so it's one thing to get them there – it's another thing to keep them there. In some respects, for example on our corporate Facebook page, we have built an expectation that you're gonna hear some corporate news, you're gonna hear some stuff about brands, but what you're also gonna hear is quality information from the live events that we participate in. And that's... you can see our traffic spike or our usage pattern spike when we're delivering our recaps and on-the-spot information from those events.
And so I think really those deeper connections come from – and, again those deeper connections don't have to be somebody who is going to connect with you every single day. For us, it's telling people straight up and down, “Here's what you're gonna receive, and here's the times when we think you might want to be the most engaged because we're gonna be the most engaged with the community.” And we've seen folks come back, and back, and back... I think, talk about and highlight to us or speak back to us telling us that they're excited – those moments when we're on there, engaged. I think it's a clear promise of what you're gonna deliver – and then deliver on that. It's like any relationship, right? I guess, in a lot of respects. Like here's one: “Are you gonna be there for me? Yes or no?”
Recorded June 18, 2010
Interviewed by Victoria Brown
Photo courtesy of scyther5/Shutterstock.com