The secret sauce of a successful online community isn’t a big mystery waiting to be revealed. For the last four years, we have been digging into the nitty-gritty detail of hundreds of branded communities across multiple industries. Our goal has always been to understand the EXPERIENCE from the MEMBER’S perspective.
If you are planning or already managing an online community, here are some dos and don’ts to keep in mind. Remember to put yourself in your members’ shoes and ask some hard questions.
Who does community well?
On April 24th WOMMA and ComBlu will be hosting a webinar that explores some great community tactics employed by brands such as Axe, AT&T and Marriot. Plus, we’ll delve deeper and highlight some hero brands—Whole Foods, Mountain Dew, SAP and ESPN. You will also learn how the Telecomm industry is becoming a game changer with cross-channel integration and why Healthcare is (finally) starting to embrace community building.
See you on April 24th!
Last night CNN ran a story about Salvatore Iaconesi – a man who posted his medical records online after being diagnosed with a brain tumor. His hope is that other patients who have faced a similar diagnosis can help him make the right treatment and care decisions. While crowd-sourcing cancer treatment may seem extreme, one thing is clear: patients are turning to each other – and social media for answers.
Iaconesi is not alone. PwC’s 2012 Social Media Consumer Survey showed that 24% of people have commented about their own health via social media in the last 12 months. Surveys from Facebook indicated that more than 69% of users have used posts to talk about their own health or that of a family member. We’ve all read those posts – or even made a few of our own. And, the Pew Research Center reports that one in four internet users living with high blood pressure, diabetes, heart conditions, lung conditions, cancer, or some other chronic ailment say they have gone online to find others with similar health concerns. All sources seem to agree that patients are turning to social media to share their stories – but the engagement does not stop there.
From Stories to Reviews
Patients are not just sharing personal experiences – they are discussing treatment plans, carriers and clinicians. The PwC study reports that 32% of patients’ online post reviews of medications, treatments, doctors or health insurers. For example, reviews on RxList are a collection of comments from WebMD. The reviews reach beyond the standard information included from the drug maker or pharmacy to talk about personal experiences with the drug as well as commentary on other related drugs. It seems that patients have figured out what hospitals and physicians have not – social media is a popular health information and management tool.
Even more surprising is the increased credence patients are giving to social sources across the board. More than 60% of patients trust the information they get via the social channels of patient advocacy groups and hospitals. 53% trust social information shared by other patients or caregivers. In fact, social health searches impacted the treatment decisions of almost 60% patients online in the US in 2011 according to the Health on the Net Foundation.
Two years ago patients used social media as a virtual support group to share first-hand accounts of their personal health journey. Currently, we have begun to see patients harness the true power of social media to share and obtain information that aids decision making. But, with only 1/5 of U.S. hospitals active on Facebook, and 71% of physicians concerned that any social media contact with patients equates a liability an important part of the puzzle is missing. Hopefully the next year will show this social gap begin to close. Hospitals and clinicians have a tremendous opportunity to serve their patients and communities by embracing social media and leveraging it to remain an important source of information and support to patients and their caregivers. The opportunity is evident – the question is: will they seize it?
Work and play are words used to describe the same thing under differing conditions – so says Mark Twain. The folks at Zynga couldn’t agree more. The company’s mission is to “give the world permission to play”. Known for bringing us Farmville and Words with Friends, the newly minted public company was recently featured on NBC’s Rock Center. Zynga’s CEO and founder, Matt Pincus, explained the social aspects of play and pointed out that “games are meant to be played by people.” And, are they ever. According to the NBC report, about 150 million people play Zynga games every month. Interestingly, their main demographics could surprise you — they are adults, mainly moms, and a few notorious celebs, like Alec Baldwin.
There is a science behind all of this fun. Pincus’ goal is to make play a daily habit, so he gamified his offerings to foster a virtual addiction to them. Zynga studies users’ activities, behaviors and motivations to understand what works and what doesn’t, what keeps them coming back time and again. Then, they bake their learnings back into the experience. They are also pretty smart when it comes to rewarding participants, especially top performers. Arguably, they set a standard for Reputation Management. At the end of the day, they know how to be relevant.
Becoming a daily habit is the Holy Grail for community strategists. Applying game mechanics that encourage, learn from and reward member activities and behaviors can benefit many communities, even those in the more conservative, regulated financial service and health care industries. As we learned in this year’s study of online branded communities, many brands in these two industries fail to take even basic steps like confer status, elevate leadership and recognize the skill or expertise of their members.
HealthTap is a notable exception. They illustrate how gamification can be applied in the health care industry in a relevant way. Venture Beat reports that, “HealthTap ‘gamifies’ the process of answering questions, giving the physicians reputation points for their answers. On top of that, physicians can simply tap a button on a mobile phone if they agree with an answer that another doctor gave. Doctors who earn a lot of “agree” buttons can grow their standing among peers.”
Gaming brings people together. It gives them a reason to come back. And it confers status for ‘playing our game’ — whatever that ‘game’ happens to be. If you think it’s not a powerful motivator, here’s a real world analog. Admittedly I am not a virtual farmer, neighbor or mayor. But I do enjoy a heated Euchre battle with my Midwest friends or better yet, the annual game of Michigan Rummy with my family at our lake house. Core to the Michigan Rummy tradition is our own gamification that goes back fifty years or more. On the inside of an old poker chip box is the famous Family Leaderboard. Young or old, every Michigan Rummy winner gets to write his or her name on the inside of that box. A few summers ago, it was a proud moment for my Uncle Kevin when he got to add his name to the long list for the first time after 27 years! He is now immortalized as Michigan Rummy elite. I understand how he feels. The allure of adding my own name to that list means the world to me as well, and draws me back to play year after year.