20 ways to value participation online

Posted on: June 1, 2011

Don’t believe the cynicalists, social media is massively measurable. From referrals to followers to purchase completion – it’s a matter of setting up the right goals and tracking them through. But the value of participation goes beyond sales, although that is where the revenue hit is made – there are many, many types of value an organisation may glean from online participation – do comment below with any more / your experience proving the value of participation:

  1. Sales / donations – straightforward receipt of funds.
  2. Discounted sales – if you have secured a sell via a discounted groupon promotion or Facebook deal, ensure that this is measured precisely in terms of the reduced revenue and aggregate profit it has resulted in.
  3. Endorsements – A positive review or recommendation, which will help give others confidence to buy.
  4. Free consultancy – critical reviews in particular enable you to identify and address problems at hand, from problematic product features through to poor customer services. On the web, you need never be wrong for long
  5. New content – Even if they are not buying, good content will engage other users and could in turn help SEO.
  6. Identification of complementary products – Listening to how people talk about your product could help identify complementary vertical products or even activities – for example perhaps they often drink your beverage while watching certain TV programmes – which could lead you to focus advertising around certain shows.
  7. New contacts – People who you can develop strong and lucrative professional relationships with.
  8. Halo effect / improved authority – If the conversation around you is passionate, funny, informative, entertaining or thought-provoking this will build your own reputation with customers, stakeholders and the wider industry.
  9. New product ideas – Waitrose’s first ever crowd-sourced product, a dessert called Seriously Chocolatey Rose-Infused Chocolate Ganache, was launched last month.
  10. Mentions – Think share of voice as well as growth – but don’t believe anyone who tells you there’s no such thing as bad publicity.
  11. Product or service improvement suggestions – My Starbucks Idea is buzzing with these.
  12. Heads-up on events – participating customers / users will often mention what they are doing, or about to do in the real world – hence providing a stream of tips on places to attend / run exhibitions / get in as a sponsor.
  13. Free competitor intelligence – it maybe upsetting to hear  ‘I would rather get my shoes mended at Joe’s heels’ – but users will also usually say why… better service, more convenient location, more attractive price, better perceived sustainability or human rights record. Remember – listen, respond, deliver.
  14. Recommendations – A positive online experience will leave an organisation or brand front of mind for a user. This will make them more likely to recommend your products or services and spread positive word of mouth.
  15. Creative inspiration – Listen and learn, and never be stuck for a campaign idea or story again…
  16. Ready-made test bed – in addition to initial inspiration, you can float ideas past your online community, Facebook or Twitter followers, give them sneak-previews or get them involved in private beta testing.
  17. Market intelligence – Are one of your suppliers struggling financially? Is the country you are about to expand to facing economic turmoil? Is a major player about to expand into your market? Of course, if you are bigger than an SME in many cases your legions of researchers and market analysts are going to have the closest sense of what is happening… but sometimes the social web is just faster than the major media outlets. There is a good chance of hearing it first on social media – then you can go through the usual motions of verifying it all with further research
  18. Data – A user or member, whether on your site or another platform, will provide you with various levels of data. This gives a precise understanding of your most engaged audience which can be used to aid CRM and make a strong case for sponsorship from interested partners.
  19. Identification of new target audiences – your social campaign or site may have been aimed at one group of people, but when another start loudly voicing their views – or complaining about being left out, they provide are delivering you an opportunity to respond in your next phase creative development.
  20. Customer support – An active community will support one another with technical queries, perhaps faster that your support personnel.

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