Google+ for Customer and Brands: Scenario Planning Summary [video]

On August 18, 2011, a group including Tom Guarriello, Matthew Mahoney, Tim Bursch, Sean Bohan, Jeris JC Miller, Nancy White and Christopher Carfi held a Google+ Hangout to discuss different scenarios that were enabled by Google+’s announcement that it was working on capabilities for brands within G+, from both customer and brand points-of-view. The setup for the conversation is here: http://l.ccarfi.com/18aug11

The overall conversation was 60min in length, and this video is the summary and wrapup of the conversation, about four minutes in total.

 

Interesting note: With Google+ Hangouts, while images look “correct” to others on the hangout, local video is mirrored. That is, left is right and right is left. As such, the whiteboard in this video is flip-flopped. If you go to http://l.ccarfi.com/18aug11, you can see the layout of the grid in a non-flipped manner.

Google+ Scenario Planning for Customers and Brands


What: Google+ Scenario Planning for Customers and Brands
When: Thursday, August 18th, 10am PDT / 1pm EDT
Where: Via Google+ Hangout (http://l.ccarfi.com/18aug11)
Who: Anyone interested in actively participating
How: Just show up at the URL noted above with your strategy cap on
Host: +Christopher Carfi, VP Social Business Strategy, Ant's Eye View
Cost: Your engaged participation*

(If you're interested in participating, please leave a comment at http://l.ccarfi.com/18aug11)

Details:
Google+ is adding users at a remarkable rate. A recent estimate from Cnet pegged the Google+ population at over 25 million and growing at an estimated 1 million users a day. And where there are users, there will be brands that want to connect with them.

Some brands such as Mashable and Ford jumped on the service almost immediately, leading to a confusing period where Google asked brands not to participate yet, as it was "designed for people, not for brands." Google has now stated that they are working on offerings for brands, but neither an official launch date nor details of what these brand-friendly aspects of the service will be have been made public. (Some brands, such as +Ford Motor Company, now have "test accounts," however.)

This leaves both customers and brands in a quandary. Especially on the brand side, the reward for smart decision-making and first-mover advantage can be huge. But what to do? And when?

Strategic thinking in environments containing a high degree of uncertainty can be done; there are tools in the toolbox for exactly this type of situation. One particular tactic I've found useful when dealing with uncertainty of this sort is scenario planning. There are many different implementations of scenario planning; the one I use is a modified version of the one described here and originally pioneered by Peter Schwartz at GBN. Here's one that I did for the Vendor Relationship Management (VRM) space in 2006-07; it seems to be holding up pretty well:http://www.socialcustomer.com/2007/01/vrm_scenarios.html

On Thursday, August 18th, let's have a Google+ Hangout in order to do "Google+ Scenario Planning for Customers and Brands." 

So, I think the two big questions for this scenario are the following:

Q1: Will the tools that Google provides be more aligned with customers, or with brands?
Q2: Will Google be mainly trying to enable interactions with billion dollar brands or SMBs?

This gives us a landscape that looks like the framework below.

Gplus-scenario-image

What we'll do during the conversation is attempt to paint a picture of what the world would look like if we pulled the scenario out to each of the corners of this model, and create a template that can help to guide our decision-making.

It's important to note that we are explicitly NOT trying to "predict the future" using this technique. Instead, what we are trying to do is understand the forces that are at work in this scenario, and create a set of guidelines that can aid in our decision making if and when we see any one, or more, of these scenarios coming to fruition.

I hope you'll join me in this experiment. See you on Thursday right here.

UPDATE 8/24/11: Thanks to everyone who participated in this conversation! Summary video of the session is now live here: Google+ for Customers and Brands: Scenario Planning Summary  

My Google+ vs. Twitter Click-Through Experiment

I was fortunate enough to luck into a few Spotify invitations earlier today, so I decided to try a little experiment in checking out click-through rates on Google+ vs. Twitter. I put similar offers up on Twitter and Google+ at the same time (7:38am PDT on a Thursday), and checked to see what drove traffic over to the blog. (I turned off comments on the Google+ offer, so folks could only go to the blog and to not split the sample.)

Twitter Offer

Screen shot 2011-07-28 at 7.12.33 PM

 Google+ Offer

Screen shot 2011-07-28 at 7.14.41 PM
 
To give a little more context, here are the relative sizes of those two groups. Not exacty the same size, but close:

  • Twitter: 5,352 followers
  • Google+: 4,010 people have me in Circles

I then grabbed my referrer data to that post on the blog over the period of a few hours after these both went up.

Over that time, I had about 60 clicks recorded in the logs. I was surprised to find the raw number of click-throughs from Google+ was about 4x what it was from Twitter, even though the followship was a little smaller. (There's also a big group with "no referrer," that could have come from clients or other sources.)

Number of click throughs, by source

2011-07-28_1926
 
So, it's a small sample size, but it's still notable, I think. I'll be interested to see what kinds of experiences others have as they try similar experiments. Thoughts?

Update: Tac Anderson notes in the comments that "you can pretty much count 90% of those no referrer directly to Twitter clients." So, if that's the case, we're at about parity on the click-through rate between Twitter and Google+, with Twitter being slightly higher in aggregate between the traffic explictly attributed to Twitter and adding in the 'no referrer' traffic that likely came from Twitter clients.

Three Spotify Invites Available

Screen shot 2011-07-28 at 7.32.50 AM

I received three Spotify invites. If you'd like one, leave a comment with your email addy. First three get them.

Disclosure: I'm not being compensated or anything like that

Disclosure 2: I really do love the service; it's replaced the iPod feature on my iPhone home page.

 

 

Flexible ‘Paperphone’ Created – (cool, and perhaps overly complex) [video]

Jpeg

I love this…and I think we're going to get to "gesture fatigue" pretty quickly here. We all had to learn a whole bunch of new things when smartphones (and the iPhone in particular) came out … "pinch-to-zoom" and the like. And now OS X Lion is introducing a whole new set of gesture-based interface items. Now on the horizon are "bending" gestures and such.

Link: Thin-film flexible 'paperphone' created

Ok, it all looked cool in the movies when Tom Cruise did this kind of stuff the first time. And it does make new capabilities easily accessible, if you know all the gestures. So, what about you…does this Cambrian explosion of interface capabilities make things easier for you to interact with your devices, and the world? Or does it make things overly complex?

How the Enterprise Can Use Google+

For the past few days, I've been neck-deep in Google+. There's a lot of potential here for business. Some thoughts, by enterprise function.

Marketing
Google-plus-icons-620x348 There's going to be plenty of punditry by the social media echo chamber over the coming days and weeks that will mirror the things we saw regarding Facebook ca. 2007-2009 or so. The summary: the same folks who are doing things to promote their schtick using Facebook will do the same thing on Google+. There will be brand pages and the like, someone will figure out how to do contests, there will be a host of activity metrics ("how many people have added your brand to their Circles?") and the like. While this area is going to get the most noise out of the gate, this is _not_ where the value is going to be found.

Demand Generation / Leadgen
Here things start to get interesting. Google Analytics already has brilliant tools for tracking things from "first interaction" all the way through the time someone engages in a transaction. That's the state of the art today. With tweaks in a couple of directions, G+ and Analytics start to get very compelling. First off, being able to track posts and their resulting activities in G+ and have those show up in Google Analytics is a no-brainer. Secondly, this starts to really be a graceful foray toward the enterprise side of Social CRM. Today, an organization's lead generation metrics might stop at "conversions," where a prospect turns into a customer. With an integration between G+ and Analytics, however, that historical funnel (which oftentimes ends at the transaction) can actually turn into a way to understand the long-term interactions with an individual, all the way from first contact (she +1'd a post or left a comment), through a host of conversations over days, weeks or months, through a transaction, and then *beyond* into ongoing conversations that take place _after_ the transaction. There's a lot of potential here.

HR
If you're an HR pro, especially on the recruiting side, the opportunity to set up Circles is a means to connect up with the individuals with whom you'd like to develop a closer relationship is a great opportunity. If you have a number of open positions, you could even set up a Circle for each one, and, as you identify potential candidates for each position, include those individuals in the appropriate Circles as a means by which to start to get to know them better.

Design and Innovation
This is a place where I think Sparks may come in to play, as well as Circles. If there are topics of interest that may spark (see what I did there?) expanded thinking in an area, setting up a Spark for that topic to get an evergreen feed of ideas and inspiration. More tactically, you can set up as wide or as targeted a group of counselors/advisors/folks-to-bounce-ideas-off-of as needed that contains folks from both within and outside the organization. Then, when you have a few candidate ideas to solve a design problem, share the options with that Circle to get feedback.

Sales
This one is a no-brainer. Set up a Circle with your customers and prospective customers and partners in it. Call it "Customers." Check it at least once a day to keep a true pulse of when the individuals who are most important to you are saying. Engage in conversations.

General internal collaboration
I think this is going to be a killer app for the organizations that have the foresight to use G+ in this way. Set up a Circle that just contains the members of your team, or (depending on organization size) perhaps your entire organization. Keep a Hangout open for that Circle for serendipity. Share items and links of _internal_ value that you've found externally with that Circle. 

Additionally, you can always choose to _only_ share a post with a single individual, as well as easily fire up a chat session. In this mode, G+ becomes a very viable means of setting up an IM session between members of the organization.

Bottom line
I think there's a lot here for the enterprise beyond social media marketing. So what did I miss? How else might enterprises use the G+ capabilities as they progress further along the social engagement journey?

UPDATE (7/5/11):

Two related posts:

GigaOm: Why Google+ Could Find A Home in the Workplace

Forbes: GooglePlus, Consumerization of IT, and Crossing The Chasm For Enterprise Social Business

 

Steve Jobs Sales Pitch to the City of Cupertino – brilliant [video]

This may be the best sales presentation you'll ever see. It's Steve Jobs pitching the City of Cupertino City Council on June 7, 2011 on a plan for a new Apple campus in Cupertino.

Vision, benefits and how they contrast with the current state? Check.

Simple, instantly understandable visuals? Check.

Connection with audience? Check.

Effective use of humor? Check.

Objection handling? Check.

Human stories? Check.

Absolutely masterful.

 

Hat tip: Steve Jurvetson

GiffGaff Social Customer Case Study from #LiNC

GiffGaff is a UK-based telecommunications company where the only thing you can do is buy a SIM card. The company only has 14 employees, yet has been able to stake out a significant share of the UK telecoms market by way of its impassioned customer community. Their business is 100% online – no stores, no physical presence, no call centers. Robbie Hearn (@robsticks) from GiffGaff says that "We are not a company with a community. We are a company that could not exist without its community."

Gg-robbie

(Robbie Hearn at Lithium's LiNC conference earlier today)

The community aspect of GiffGaff informed the creation and tone of the company from even before the company launched. (According to Hearn, the community actually launched before the company launched product.) It's in the DNA of the organization.

Gg-origin

Hearn shared a great story and a shot of the GiffGaff origin notebook. These are the notes that created a company. The key insights and drivers of what the company could be are:

  • Mutuality – Members help in recruitment, marketing and advice and this share in the rewards of the business
  • A great deal - A lower cost business model leads to lower charges for members
  • Member involvement – Members can generate and choose marketing materials and vote on some business decisions. Members help with other members problems
  • The collective good – Members can donate their "thank you" rebate to charity
  • Simple – SIM only. Converged Pre-Pay/Post-Pay. 1 universal price point
  • Online only – We only sell direct online. All top ups and customer service is online
  • Start-up mentality - Launched and run as a distinct, separate business from O2
  • Environmentally responsible – Carbon neutral, maximum sustainability

An example might be illustrative. Here's an ant's eye view of the journey of customer "Dantup," who started out hearing about GiffGaff in passing on Twitter, and wound up not just becoming a customer, but also an advocate for the brand.

Gg-danlup

Walking around that circle, it's possible to see the entire evolution of the relationship between Dantup and GiffGaff. The evolution went like this:

  • Hears about GiffGaff on Twitter
  • Goes to forum, gets answers at 10:30pm
  • Orders a SIM using member-get-member
  • Activates and stars helping on forum
  • Blogs about GiffGaff on his own blog
  • Blogs and forum posts again when he gets payback
  • Now, Dantup tweets regularly 

This customer engagement DNA isn't just in the "support" aspect of the organization, but engages the community in a number of other aspects as well.

Gg-crowdsources

  • Customer service
  • Proposition development
  • Ideas on any aspect of company development
  • Marketing
  • Technology and testing

Even beyond the great results that GiffGaff has had so far from a business and community development perspective, there were two things that absolutely blew me away that have occurred as a result of this deeply organic model of engagement with their community.

The first was that GiffGaff allows (encourages?) fans to make their own GiffGaff sites to market the product. So, check that…all the sites in the image below are customer-created sites promoting the brand. Where many, perhaps most, brands would have shut sites like these down, GiffGaff encourages their creation.

Gg-sites

Secondly, when the new iPhone 4 came out, it used a micro SIM card, instead of the traditionally-sized SIM card. GiffGaff doesn't make micro SIM cards; they don't fit their business model, especially from a distribution and supply chain point of view. So, customers hacked a solution, literally. A set of enterprising individuals found that a regular SIM could be hacked into a micro SIM (using scissors!) and created organic distribution network.

Gg-microsims

Is the GiffGaff model scalable? Is it sustainable? Hearn thinks so. They're hitting their business goals out of the park.

  • Their "member-gets-member" (MGM) customer acquisition strategy results in 20% of all activations
  • Costs of paid channels are lower than GiffGaff's business plan
  • Average Retail Price per Unit (ARPU) is on target
  • The organization is on plan to hit all profitability targets
  • Current customer support engagement can support a far bigger base — right now, the community answers questions typically within 60 seconds, and provides 24 hour a day response.

Gg-growth

So, what do you think? Is this type of model sustainable? Or is GiffGaff in a unique position, having started without legacy baggage, that has enabled it to grow this community and business? Will it be able to continue its phenomenal growth as it attains greater scale?