Established by founder and chief technology officer, Rob Howard, back in 2004, Telligent’s original vision was to develop technology that would enable customers to interact with one another, help them share information, solve problems, share their stories and create communities. The company has grown tremendously over the past nine years and is now touted as one of the most dominant players in the industry, running over 3,000 different communities for pretty big names, including Dell, Microsoft, and the U.S. Department of Defense.
I recently had the chance to speak with Howard, who told me, “What we do specifically is build public and private communities for companies. The public category deals primarily with Web self-service communities that help customers get support for their products and services. One example of this is Microsoft Office 365, a cloud-based solution that uses our software as the primary way for customers to ask questions, interact with one another and gain access to the basics of support. This type of community also serves as a great way to engage with a brand and customer base and learn more about how customers receive the brand.”
“Private communities on the other hand include both uses of software behind the firewall for sales enablement, employee support and employee social networking in addition to member-based communities like the Young Presidents Organization, which is worldwide and has thousands of members,” he added. “It uses software to enable its members to have private and secure interactions with other people that are part of the team.”
In fact, there are clear differences between the terms social media, social networking and communities. Some social media site examples are Twitter and Facebook that are essentially destinations where you go to interact with friends, family and occasionally coworkers, and not typically go to make buying decisions. But social networking includes firms like LinkedIn, where the primary objective is to connect with people and build bridges of communication for the professional landscape.
Also, social communities are purpose-driven destinations where people can visit with specific objective, with the key difference between social networking and social communities being that we typically attend a social network to talk to friends, but go to Dell’s community with specific objective like overcoming a certain obstacle.
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As businesses throughout the globe continue to leverage social media, they must pay close attention to what happens to all the data that is created via this communication channel. It was only two or three months ago that Instragram revealed it would henceforth be using all of its customer base’s photos for advertisements, or really for whatever reason they see fit.
Thus, people are slowly starting to recognize that they really aren’t viewed as consumers, but rather as products that are being sold downstream.
Howard recommends that, “businesses truly comprehend who owns this data. He revealed, “Ultimately we are going to find through the business cycle that the data is the value that is being created. How we use it to understand the conversations of customers and how to use that information to influence buying decisions or get them support for products they already have is key.”
One of the most popular social media websites, Facebook has taken off relative to other sites like MySpace, because it maintained a consistent, well-designed user interface individuals could depend on and recognize. One of the challenges MySpace had from the get-go is that the user experience varied from individual to individual, in regard to the way every member set up their profile – the key driver behind how you can understand someone’s identity.
“With MySpace, every profile was like a garbage can of whatever people wanted to put up there but Facebook offers a streamlined user experience that addresses the way people expect to use social media in their daily lives,” Howard commented.
In this industry expert’s opinion, a lot of big companies will likely dump Facebook this year – a trend the company is already seeing with some of its customers. This is primarily due to the fact that people are starting to recognize LinkedIn is where we spend our time to establish our business or professional profile, while Facebook people spend time identifying their personal profile. Twitter is seen as a happy medium, as it can be leveraged for both business and professional use.
But over the last year, consumers began to use Facebook differently for business and personal use, prompting brands to in turn realize that consumers see Facebook as much more personal as opposed to a brand interaction module.
As a result, we’re seeing organizations still investing in Facebook and communicating via the site, but also are witnessing two key trends. According to Howard, these include consumers looking at the social mega site as valuable to their business yet are hearing from customers that by having their own communities, they can own the conversations taking place about their brand, products and services.
Ultimately, the underlying goal here is that when a consumer looks for a website within a major search engine, they will land on the customer community and not the business’ Facebook page.
Looking ahead to the future, social media will continue to evolve on a somewhat chaotic path, driven predominantly by Facebook, Google, Microsoft and even Yahoo in some respects.
“The reality is social is the new normal- it’s the way we want to interact and communicate and its taking technology and using it to facilitate the communications we want to have. One macro trend to pay attention to is seen within 12-16 year old groups of girls that are less interested in Facebook and more interested in Instragram. For people like me, social media was incredibly interesting early on because it let me connect with people I hadn’t spoken to in a while where the current generation now is constantly connected and always online. Over the next few years, I believe more micro specific social capabilities will be rolled out via mobile,” he concluded.
Edited by Braden Becker