It’s All About User Participation

Last week I attended a breakfast seminar at the Institute of Management Consultants (IMC) Northern California chapter in San Francisco.

My partner, Jeff Thompson, is a board member so how could I refuse? Plus the topic was intriguing enough– “Expert Panel Shares Internet Secrets to Grow Your Business.”


Panelists were: John Girard, CEO of Clickability, Chris Peterson, CEO of Chautauquacom, Celeste Bishop, President of Bishop Market Resources, Cal Lai, CEO of Sitoa, Redge martin, President of Clars, and moderator Rebecca Morgan. All of them use Web 2.0 technologies/tools to improve user participation for their businesses.

Some of the best examples of active user participation and user ownership of content are: Wikipedia, YouTube, MySpace, Yelp, and Angieslist. These sites provide 100% user generated, free content. Cal describes this as the “nodes” having the power not the central “host”. That makes sense for consumer websites but what about for businesses? I share here the anecdotes that I personally found very interesting.

LogiTech uses Lithium to power a user-owned bulletin board. Since using Lithium LogiTech is much more involved in the conversation that is already happening “out there” about them. It’s resulted in a dozen new product features and much more effective user support.

Sprint/NexTel uses Lithium as well. To Sprint’s credit, they don’t attempt to manage the user participation but rather understand and embrace it. One user even wrote “Sprint/Nextel has got to be one of the worst companies for customer service.” And no one at Sprint deleted the message. Talk about user power.

Salesforce.com uses Lithium too for its community development and nurturing programs. Their ecosystem of customers, partners, consultants, and integrators actively talks about implementations. Like most discussion boards it has threads on support, product features, and company gossip. But Salesforce.com has gone beyond that by setting up a special forum for exchanging ideas, and for submitting inputs to their product managers on new product feature development. Salesforce.com so trusts this community that puts out its product roadmap in its idea exchange.

Cisco hosts a discussion group called “NetPros.” You’ll see that commenters are peers rated and self-policed. I’m certain that Cisco tees up topics of popular interest but the content is 100% owned by the community. Can you imagine a better place to get product support, gather input on future product development, and identify the thought leaders? And can you imagine how much more impact this forum has on potential customers than traditional advertising?

Home Depot. Did you know you can buy computers and wireless routers at Home Depot? What? Why? Turns out the contractors make up a substantial percentage of Home Depot’s business. And contractors are basically small business owners. Cal of Sitoa helped HomeDepot sell more products/services to these contractors. In fact, PC related products now make up 5% of HomeDepot’s online business. HomeDepot has changed how contractors see HomeDepot; they aren’t just a place to buy construction related supplies but rather a place to support their business growth. HomeDepot is capturing greater share of wallet by being a more valuable partner to contractors which starts by listening to them.

Webex decided to cut way back on advertising and invest more in facilitating online user and developer communities. Remember those annoying spam messages from Webex marketing? Webex has virtually done away with such blasts in favor of tuning into user conversations happening independent of them. Evidently, their cost per lead is half what it was and the quality per lead has gone way up.

2 Responses to It’s All About User Participation

  1. HutchinsonBELINDA April 3, 2010 at 10:15 am #

    I took 1 st mortgage loans when I was 25 and this supported my family very much. But, I need the financial loan once again.

  2. Cheyenne September 14, 2010 at 8:23 am #

    Very informative post. Thanks for taking the time to share your view with us.