Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Experts in the Industry: Diane Hessan (36 of 45)

Diane Hessan, CEO of Communispace, is one of the pioneers in the world of online community. I've known "of" Diane for a while now but have only recently connected with her more directly via Twitter, blogs, etc. Not only has Diane overseen the construction/management of hundreds of communities for some pretty big brands, she's also a big Red Sox fan. To that end, she recently brought two of my favorite passions -- baseball and social -- together in her recent Spring Training Tweetup (very sad I couldn't be there).

Without further ado, let's see how Diane answered the five questions from the Experts in the Industry series:

In one sentence, please describe what you do and why you’re good at it.
I work with my 210 colleagues to help companies listen to the voice of their customers, and I’m good at it because it’s my passion.

How did you get into the world of online community, social media or social marketing?
We thought the web would completely revolutionize a company’s ability to have conversations.  In 1999, we started building communities to help employees share insights.  Our client at Hallmark, Tom Brailsford, suggested that we try creating communities of customers, instead.  We listened, and now we call him our founder.  It embarrasses him, and so I hope that he reads this.

If you had $10 million to invest in one company and one company only based on their use of “social,” which company would it be and why?
Ahhhh….At the risk of sounding predictable, I’d have to invest it in Communispace to help us get better, more capable, and more global.  We think we are only scratching the surface

Which business leader, politician or public figure do you most respect?
My friend Ben Zander, who is conductor of the Boston Philharmonic.  Ben’s entire perspective is about seeing the possibilities – even in turbulent times.  He is the Energizer Bunny of Classical Music, and wherever he goes (most recently Davos and TED), he inspires people.

YES!!!  We have built several amazing toothpaste communities, and they are “on fire”.  Of course, the reason they do well is that the members aren’t there for the toothpaste conversation.  They are in there because of what we call “social glue”.  They might be moms with little kids who are bonding with each other  – and helping a toothpaste brand in the process.  Or they might be dentists.  Or dental hygienists.  Toothpaste innovation accelerates and toothpaste marketing becomes more effective – because the brand has their fingers on the pulse of their consumers.

Freeform – here’s where you can riff on anyone or anything – good or bad. Or just share a pearl of wisdom.
What I have learned from doing communities over the last 8 years: 
  • Community size (number of members) is overrated as a metric
  • It’s not an impression if it doesn’t make one
  • It is amazing what people will tell you if they think you are willing to hear them
  • Listening is a really underrated marketing strategy
  • My daughters have no desire to be my Facebook friend


  1. Diane is awesome. Having known about Communispace for some time and met some of its executives, I had somehow missed getting to meet Diane until relatively recently when she went for my bait in hosting a Red Sox/Communispace tweetup.

    What I like? Connected. Accessible. Fun. Talented. Interesting. Successful. What's not to like?