Returning from LiNC 2011
Level Up, the theme of Lithium‘s fourth annual customer conference was a nod to the underlying game theory within community and a challenge to attendees to take their personal and professional game to the next level this year. The “4” on the lower right corner of my conference badge this year denotes the 4 years I have attended, and what a change it has been year to year. I think progression of the size and quality of the event badges fairly mirrors the progression in scale and sophistication of the events themselves.
The first year felt big at the time, and now only seems slightly humbled by the scale of these last two years with hundreds of attendees and ballrooms packed to capacity.
Over the years, the client brand list is getting bigger, the sophistication of the client stories is growing richer – from Barnes and Noble’s online book club, to HP’s massive adoption of community across divisions, to Home Depot rolling out a comprehensive community backed by real in the aisles, orange apron wearing employees who engage customers to ensure their projects are successful.
Giff Gaff, a UK wireless teleco startup is growing by leaps and bounds with their game changing approach to completely base their support on community and not a call center. Tech support sans phones.
Hundreds of major brands are ramping up their investments. Social media is no longer a cottage industry, a small pilot experiment, but rather a rapidly scaling mainstream adoption as a channel to do business. In the last several years, we have seen stories of how companies have used social media to market their brand, drive sales, and support customers, but now we are starting to see the integration and adoption of these in a more sophisticated and organized manner.
As companies move toward a more comprehensive and integrated approach, we are seeing the social media technology providers building strategic partnerships and / or making acquisitions to position them to serve these needs. Last year, Lithium acquired Scout Labs, a social monitoring and analysis tool to expand their capabilities beyond community.
Companies have moved to embrace facebook and twitter in significant ways over the last 12-18 months, and the volume of twitter usage has risen from 30 million tweets per day to over 150 million tweets per day during this same interval. Clearly the usage is ramping, but a comprehensive and scalable enterprise social plan needs to effectively marry the viral reach of facebook and twitter with the depth of engagement of blogs, forum discussions, ideas and analytics of community.
Last year, Lithium completed twitter and facebook integrations as a first step in this direction, and announced new products for 2011 called “level up” which build greater depth, the ability to easily build and deploy multiple facebook apps that allow community participation types within the facebook pages and connect into a comprehensive set of metrics.
Equally exciting was the evolution of the engagement center into the new CIC which effectively embeds the scout labs capability within the community and provides a community data stream which can be analyzed against twitter, facebook, blogs, forums, and news for all the search topics which are set up. An engagement / assignment work flow is also evident. These represent the execution of the roadmap visions from LiNC 2010, last year’s conference.
For those clients who have a desire to customize their tools, the concept of Lithium’s developer nation will be welcome news.
But it wasn’t all branding and roadmap. One of the things that is clear about Lithium is the focus on client and client success. The narrative is about their clients, and helping their clients be successful and celebrating that success. This principle was reflected in many fun ways, from featured customer presentations from Home Depot, Sephora, and Giff Gaff, to an SXSW styled cartoon wall that expressed a fun idea about various clients.
Cleo, our English community manager posed with Dr. Michael Wu .
Following in the tradition of last year, there were the Lithy awards…
Our community, along with RIM won the best community anecdote or story category based on the depth of engagement with our super users.
Perhaps a very practical demonstration of this, is that Jane was able to join us this year. Jane, one of our best and most stalwart advocates helped us plan, launch and manage our community with an eye toward meeting customer needs. It has been a win-win proposition and I enjoyed meeting her in person at the conference.
Level up. The conference theme was appropriate and applicable in many ways. The days and months of 2011 ahead of us are going to be challenging as we add depth, sophistication, and polish to our efforts and level up our ability to create a compelling and addicting experience as we serve our customers.