At Lithium, we hear great "superfan" stories every day. These are not just community members but the 1% of people who regularity help their peers in Lithium communities. We've heard some outstanding stories - superfans spending hours on a community, superfans spending 10X more then regular customers.
Excuse me, did that say 50,000 posts since 2008? YES. Even the team at Lithium is blown away by that number - we had to hear more about the RIM community from community manager, Bo Reeves. Here's our interview:
(Lithium Technologies: LT) Tell us about the BlackBerry Support Community—a bit about the history, the goals, perhaps a few key statistics if you feel comfortable sharing.
(Bo Reeves: BR) The community launched four years ago and has steadily grown to over 450,000 registered users. It was launched to provide our customers with a space to assist and learn from each other.
Ultimately we want our customers to find the support they need, where they’re looking. On an annual basis since the community launch we have seen growth by, on average, approximately 30% each year. Last year was the greatest increase of over 40%.
(LT) Tell us about your role as a Community Manager for the BlackBerry Support Community.
(BR) As the Community Manager my role is to keep our users engaged and coming back. As this is a peer-to-peer model we want to ensure that users, who are assisting and providing answers, are getting the feedback and appreciation they deserve. I also look to the future of the community to see where we want to take it, what kind of experience do we want our users to have.
(LT) How do you define community success?
(BR) When I think about the success of the community, I think of the community growth. I also look at the successful initiatives such as The Community Insider Events which are picked up by various other communities to point their users to us for these exclusive offerings.
There are other items I see such as Private Messages or PM’s from community members thanking us for having such a site where they can search and find or ask and receive answers to their questions.
(LT) How do you measure ROI for social support?
(BR) When talking about ROI, it can be a bit tricky for a brand when offering self-service as a support solution. We do have KPI's in place, but a strong indicator is the level of engagement happening in the community.
(LT) The BlackBerry Support Community has one of the top 10 highest CHI scores of all Lithium communities—what do you think has contributed to your success the most?
(BR) I really have to attribute it to our users. We have a great user base of people with a genuine desire to help others get the most out of their BlackBerry. They are quick to respond and are dedicated to providing support to anyone looking for it. This helps to create an active and engaged community.
(LT) You’ve been very successful at finding and cultivating your brand SuperUsers. Tell us about that process and your SuperUsers strategy.
(BR) Because our community is a peer-to-peer community it is very important for us to identify and engage the brand advocates that choose to assist on our community as opposed to another community. We offer these users an exclusive opportunity in the form of a hidden ‘Expert Arena’ with several boards to keep them engaged. It offers an exclusive space for these users to collaborate on issues amongst themselves as well as share and chat with each together, and me, in a private and more intimate setting.
(LT) What has been the greatest challenge you’ve faced as an online community manager and how did you work through it?
(BR) The biggest challenge for any CM I think is balancing the needs/wants of the community, with the interest of the business/organization. It can be difficult when there is a desire to give everyone what they want and knowing, of course, you may not be able to.
Also when communicating with users - what we can and can't say. There are going to be times (for any brand) when you cannot comment or divulge information and users really want you to offer more.
(LT) Where do you go for advice or mentorship?
(BR) I think my biggest source for advice and/or mentorship would be my predecessor on the community, Kerri Birtch, as well as her predecessor Michelle Kostya. These two ladies took me from a position in Technical Support and completely turned my career path around. I’m still in very close contact with both and reach out to them for support and advice when I need it.
(LT) Which social customer experiences has RIM delivered that you are most proud of?
(BR) I think, from a social support experience, I would have to say that the @BlackBerryHelp Twitter account is one of the social support offerings I’m very proud of. The team has won the industry Shorty award two years in a row and has come a long way since the team launched in 2009. Now the account boasts almost 800,000 followers.
(LT) In what way has social support changed the way RIM/ BlackBerry does business?
(BR) I don’t know that it has changed the way we do business as much as it has changed the way we support our customers. We have offerings on Facebook and Twitter (in addition to the Support Community) and we are now supporting hundreds of thousands of users via social media. In the (just under) three short years since we started with social media, we have become a world leader and are creating the standards for social media support.
(LT) What does the phrase brand nation make you think about—what do you think a brand nation might be?
(BR) When I hear the words ‘brand nation’ my first thoughts are of just that, a nation of advocates, and enthusiasts. The difference being in these times of the internet and the ‘global community’, borders and geography no longer play a role. We are a nation of advocates for the brands that we love! I know when I have a good experience, whether with a product or service or even support, the first thing I do is tweet or post it on my Facebook. We are a global community and we now have the ability to be members of many nations for all of the brands that we choose to love, praise or even if we bash periodically, we can still represent the brands that we feel, represent us.
Thank you, Bo and congratulations for all of your success!