I reached out to John Bernier, who is the marketing manager at Best Buy who is leading the Twelpforce efforts, to learn more about the thoughts behind the effort, the processes being used, and the results. Best Buy is an innovator in this area and I learned a thing or two from John, I hope you do as well.
How does social media fit in at the highest levels of your business?
Our internal culture is inherently social, because we’re made up of humans. 150,000+ of them, in fact. At the highest levels, our leadership is involved in the medium in large part because they share the common theme that our employees share: curiosity. We’re not a company that has ever been afraid to experiment, learn, adapt and change, and social is a good place for us to extend that attitude.
Why did it make sense for you to “go social”?
Quite simply, our customers expect it from our people, and our brand. There are thousands of conversations out there that involve our brand, and for a while, we weren’t invited to be a part of those because we hadn’t been invited. By establishing our presence, creating value and acting like a normal human being instead of how you might traditionally expect a brand to act, we’re finding ourselves invited into the conversation much more frequently. It’s a great opportunity to truly connect with people on a 1:1 basis.
What processes did you put in place to enable going social?
Like most brands who have had some success in this space, we didn’t just try something and get it right the first time out of the gate. We had been experimenting with the idea of “being social” for a while. Blue Shirt Nation allowed our employees to learn to socialize with each other, and Bazzaar Blue Shirt Nation allowed employees to socialize with our vendor partners.
When Twitter came along and captured our attention, Ben Hedrington (a bestbuy.com site engineer) had the vision to develop a tool called “Spy”) that allowed people inside Best Buy to see what others were saying about Best Buy in the social world. Wow – what an eye opener. It made us painfully aware of our relative lack of a presence in these conversations….and directly led to the roll out of a connecttweet powered twitter feed (@bestbuy) that was designed to let our employees get their feet wet with twitter. All these were necessary experiments, and helped us understand how to operate in the space. Because of these learnings, we felt that we were ready to turn our efforts towards….”the customer”, and we began the journey of developing and building consumer facing initiatives like the Twelpforce platform, our Best Buy Community Forums, and our Facebook presence.
How did you go about tool selection?
Selecting the tools we’d use/build were secondary to creating our objectives (Be Relevant), and identifying the needs of the customer we wanted to address. Once we had those needs identified, it was a matter of selecting the channel, and building the interface to engage, and measure. Worth noting, most of the tools we use were designed and built internally by some really smart people I work with…we do have some partners who help us along the way, but are actively cultivating knowledge within Best Buy so we inherently know what we’re doing, and how to recognize opportunity when it presents itself vs waiting for someone to package it and present it to us.
What social communication policies have you put in place?
You can view them here.. Really, they are bumpers vs a document designed to dictate behavior. Certainly there are some no-no’s laid out, but the key is that we are giving employees the liberty to try new things, and create their own path that perhaps all of us can learn something from.
How many people do you have monitoring the social channels today?
Hard to say exactly…we have over 2,200 Twelpforce members, numerous Community Forum “Connectors”, and we also have ears to the ground in the form of curious employees who are simply active in the space. If there’s a “disturbance in the force”, we’re likely to hear about it pretty quickly, whether it be via twitter, Facebook or someplace else. More often than not, we can step in and handle a situation before it gets anywhere near the danger zone. The key is that we’re able to engage, which seems to calm a situation down pretty quick.
How does the social channel fit within your overall communication and monitoring process and strategy?
Social is another way we can engage consumers. I wish there was some magic answer I could give you, but we recognize it’s important to keep tabs on what customers are saying, and asking of us. We’ve got tools in place that help us get directional feedback on how we’re doing, and what we’re being asked to do or change by consumers (Have you seen Best Buy Ideas??) Reporting on “social” is a regular and important part of the weekly and monthly metrics reporting we filter to leaders in the building and field.
Do you measure ROI today? If yes, how? What have been the early results?
ROI is tricky, and I’d be hard pressed to say anyone has it completely figured out. “Going Social” has required relatively little capital investment, and intuitively, we feel it’s an important place for us to be moving forward. But, we haven’t come across a tool that measures exactly what we want to look at across all the places we have a social presence, so we’re very busy building out our own metrics using a variety of proprietary measurement tools, as well as publically available tools.
How do your customers react to you being social?
This is a broad question, and I don’t want to generalize too much, but because we make sure to take our time and look at what a customer wants from us in a particular space, we seem to be getting a positive response in most cases. Luckily, we’ve avoided any of the “bull in a china shop” mistakes that seem to happen to those that don’t take the time to evaluate the environment they are in to adjust their purpose and presence accordingly.
How, if at all, do your social media tools fit in with your other backend systems like CRM, ERP, HRIS, etc..?
N/A for the most part. We’ve incorporated some widgets into our intranet to make accessing social media easier, and employees have terminals that allow them access to these sites. So, it’s not really about putting links to our back-end in place, it’s about removing barriers to access these places and making sure they are prepared to engage the customer in a smart way through training.