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The power of turning customers into collaborators

The power of turning customers into collaborators

Customer collaboration is good business sense. We all know this, and over the years have seen many ways in which brands have used collaboration to make their businesses better - be it through focus groups, product testing and feedback, advisory panels and case studies.

But while technology has been speeding ahead, collaboration has not. Businesses have been satisfied with simply interacting with their customer base across multiple mediums and social networks. While this increases customer satisfaction as a whole (which is great), it offers little in the way of true collaboration. 'Brand advocacy' has been the buzz term of the past 5 years, but great customer service, loyalty programs and social media engagement has become a staple, a norm if your will - it's no longer a true source of difference, but an expectation. 

There is a massive amount of untapped potential when it comes to customer collaboration in todays digital landscape. 

Who's smashing this out of the park?

Some businesses have found some fantastic ways to tap into their customer collaboration potential:

GoPro has it's own video channel, driven by YouTube and a crowd of adoring brand fans, that has grown to the point where there are 'GoPro' stars generating their own mass followings through their GoPro video content. This channel has proven so successful for GoPro that they have their own production company creating continuous original content, in addition to the wealth of content they have from customers.

Tourism Australia receives over 900 images a day from avid fans, tagged with the now iconic #tourismaustralia hashtag, through the social media platforms that Tourism Australia harnesses so well. And these aren't simple candid photos, a browse of the hashtag on instagram shows over 50,000 quality images from amateur to professional photographers - all looking to create followings of their own via the Tourism Australia brand.

But the majority of businesses either aren't able to make this work for their brand, or struggle to know where to start.

What motivates customers to contribute?

90% of customers state that their number one motivator for customer collaboration is purpose. That is a metric that just cannot be ignored. This is also why creating a strong editorial mission for your content is important, as it ties your customers to your purpose, enabling you to work together to build something truly great.

The second motivator of customer collaboration is the idea that a customer can have an impact on the brands they love, that they have a voice, and that it's heard. Something so simple, yet so powerful. In todays digital landscape there is so much noise that people struggle to feel heard, so being the brand that empowers your customer voice is a powerful tool to wield. With 84% of customers motivated by impact - the ability to give your customers a voice goes a long way to building strong collaboration.

The average person now spends two hours a day on social networks, contributing and absorbing content - with teens that number increases to nine hours a day. So we can expect that average to increase as millenials take on a ever expanding percentage of market share.  

How does publishing differ to customer collaboration on social networks?

Social networks create casual feedback across a diverse number of channels (none of which cross-over) which results in great customer content being lost in teeming news feeds, and isolated in the individual channel in which they were originally posted. With publishing you can bring all of this content into a single space, where viewers can interact with content directly from customers, from multiple social networks, intertwined with your original content, and curated by your team to deliver the best reader experience.

However the real power of publishing is the ability for customers, thought leaders or just avid fans to create and contribute quality content directly into your brands publishing channel - in their preferred medium, be it an article, photo or video. With this kind of platform you can create an army of content contributors, that feel empowered to create, and voice their opinions, under your brand. This level of collaboration is still new and exciting, until now customers could only push content at a brand - now they can publish as the brand, giving the contributor a whole new level of recognition and empowerment.

How do I start turning customers into collaborators?

1. Use a professional platform

The best way to start publishing is with a dedicated publishing platform (like Cognitives). While Wordpress works well for blogs, the features required to build and maintain a crowd of customer content collaborators will result in a exhorbitant amount of custom development and ongoing costs. Save yourself the pain and do it properly with the right tools. A publishing platform can exist alongside your existing marketing site, so if your current marketing website is on Wordpress that's absolutely fine - only your publishing site needs to go on a publishing platform.

You can choose to create a simple customer collaboration site where all customer content is funnelled to a single page, external to your original content - or you can craft a more collaborative publishing venture with specific topics, categories and areas that customers can contribute to, sitting alongside your original content. 

2. Find your first customer collaborators

For any successful publishing venture your need a pool of writers to start from. For customer collaboration this actually pretty easy, you already have them - you just need to identify them. Look through past reviews, social media posts and identify existing customers that have a clear voice and a passion for your brand. 

Don't limit yourself to just customers here either - feel free to reach out to thought leaders in your industry to contribute, and don't forget about your employees.

3. Make the invitation special

Once you've identified your first pool of collaborators it's time to invite them into your platform to start contributing (if you are wanting to review any content contributions prior to publishing make sure you have set up any requisite workflows). Make this special for them, this is an opportunity for these customers to be a voice for your brand, to become an expert, and create their own following within your publishing venture. They need to feel like they are on the inside, and have your full support - this will strengthen your bond, and build confidence in your contibutors.

Overall the main thing to remember is that your customers are already contributing their time online, constantly voicing their opinions and thoughts, across multiple social networks, products and brands. So now is the perfect time to harness that customer time and energy, by empowering these voices in a channel that your brand owns.

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