Last April 9th held two interesting webcasts; the first (Lithium’s) we commented yesterday and was extremely relevant for communities as a customer support tool in a business context. The second was hosted by community software (sorry, social business software) vendors Jive Software and was more diffuse, centering mostly on general ideas and marketing uses. One interesting case, at least, and one can’t blame the lineup, but it was a but of a letdown. (OK, I admit I’m a bit grumpy because it’s been almost a month since I answered their sales rep’s email that yes, I wanted detailed princing information for licenses and services… and have recieved no reply yet).
The session started with the Jive CEO explaining a bit their vision (I still think they’re pushing too hard to try to differentiate), then one of Forrester’s VPs talking about how IT buyers decide based on peer impressions and do a lot of social software use, and backing Jive’s message (seen better Forrester presentations, with a bit of content), then Cisco explaining their unified community platform as a source of undefined participation and engagement, “ingenious solutions” from users and (someday) discussion evolving from problem resoltion to business issues. No data, no ROI, no method, which is a pity because the subject’s very important.
Nike, on the other hand, talked about a solution to a specific business issue: they were missing a coordinated, integrated collaboration system, and suffered a framentation of their digital assets (mainly in the marketing function). So they got a central repository for all digital assets plus a collaboration and comm layer (Jive) to capture conversations around the assets. Thereafter, they found better consistency and innovation in campaigns. It’s a young initiative, and as a ROI statement it’s fuzzy indeed, but it’s practical.
Probably the most practical comments were in the Q&A. Cisco’s people never use the term “social networking” about their community: people confuse it with twitter and facebook and they have bad press (by the way, “knowledge management” is apparently still a dirty word in some organizations according to Jive’s CEO Hersh). On the other hand, Nike’s people tended to understand the “like facebook” idea better and to approve of it, and that helped get the concept across.
Other tidbits… apparently most listeners thought communities would account for 9 to 13% of marketing expenses in the year in their companies. People are still grappling with the use of communities in heavily regulated industries (where giving an answer means you can be liable for something). And another problem is getting the marketing people to understand that social media is NOT just a communications channel.