Monday, September 27, 2010

Samsung Encourages You to Join the Conversation

Apologies to my colleague, Joseph Jaffe, for borrowing the title of his second book, Join the Conversation [LINK], but in this instance, I just couldn't resist. The "conversation" I'm referring to is one that consumer electronics giant, Samsung, is their asking their customers to "join" at the bottom of their home page.

At first blush, you might laugh and remind me that many brands these days are asking their customers to "join THEIR conversation" on Facebook, Twitter and the like. However, not so fast. In Samsung's case, they are taking a clever and unorthodox approach to engaging with their customers. Let's call it "reverse influencer outreach" where instead of asking bloggers like myself to reach Samsung's customers (and prospective customers) via my Twitter, Facebook, blogs and podcasts, they instead are asking their customers to reach out to folks like me, Brian Solis, Mario Sundar and others. And instead of talking about Samsung's products, we're talking about the lifestyles that wrap around those products. Or in my case, more conversational topics like, "If you could write a best-selling book, what would it be about?"

Wait a second? Why would a Fortune500 company like Samsung who enjoys millions of visits a day to its website waste valuable real estate on frivolous conversation? Rather than speculate about why, I asked Samsung's Social Media Manager, Esteban Contreras (the person that invited me to participate in this program) a couple of questions about the program. Here are his verbatim responses:

[Aaron] What was the impetus for your innovative approach?

[Esteban] Samsung's strategy going into this exciting project was focused on creating an online environment that further engages with our consumers. We wanted to develop a customer-centric and socially relevant site that enhanced the overall brand experience.

Our new site provides opportunities for people to engage with us and with each other. From social elements on the homepage and “like” buttons on product pages, to consumer comments, reviews and Q and As.

[Aaron] Some people might say this is a waste of valuable space on Samsung US's home page (I think it's brilliant). What would you say to those detractors?

[Esteban] We are living in a world where consumers expect and deserve more. Being customer-centric means offering an authentic and human experience. That’s why you see photos of real people on our site and an easier experience to find some of our employees and official accounts on Twitter. It’s also why we’ve provided an area for our visitors to engage not only with us, but also with others that have similar interests.

The web has become a social web and all we’ve done is bring a small part of it unto our site. We believe that giving some of our valuable digital space to our customers is important because they are the number one reason why we love doing what we do. Our customers mean everything to us.

While the "join the conversation" program is too new to measure impact, I can tell you anecdotally that I've received a couple of dozen responses (and anticipate receiving hundreds more). More importantly, I can't help but think that Samsung's customers will appreciate the fact that a big brand is taking a few minutes out of the day to get to know it's customers better (all of the inquiries come through as hash-tagged tweets with #samsung in the "@" replies I receive so Samsung can measure the traffic). Even smarter, Samsung is outsourcing the responses to subject matter experts versus tackling them all themselves -- okay, I may not be a SME in book writing but I have supported the marketing/social campaigns around three colleagues' books to date (We Are Smarter than Me, Flip the Funnel and now microMarketing).

What do you think of Samsungs' approach? Is it worth the real estate they are using on their home page? Should Samsung themselves be getting more involved in the conversation? Or are they just being a good host, handing conversations off to the "experts" and then keeping an eye on what transpires?

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