Big Boulder: Engaging with Customers Online with Wendy Lea

Get Satisfaction’s CEO Wendy Lea on how brands are learning to provide social customer service, how Get Satisfaction’s platform is evolving, emerging businesses cases of Get Satisfaction and how Get Satisfaction views social data.

Wendy Lea of Get Satisfaction

The heart of the product at Get Satisfaction is to help companies connect with their customers online, wherever they are. “We talk about ourselves as a customer engagement platform that allows companies of all sizes and industries to build a community and have conversations,” Wendy says. It’s about the organic nature of consumers engaging with companies, also known as the outside-in model. In the beginning, individuals needed service and support and would find one another through Google searches about their issue. Suffice it to say that when customers are talking to one another about a product, they usually have quality idea. If the company gets out of the way, these ideas incubate and then amplify, creating huge potential.

47% of the activities inside a Get Satisfaction community are questions about the product itself, not specific problems about the product. This is both a sales and customer development opportunity and marketers need to be paying attention. The solutions to the use cases need to make sense to the businesses, i.e. not a horizontal come-one, come-all frenzy of suggestions from the market. Everyone is used to ratings and reviews technologies and Get Satisfaction is finding that companies have more success when they embed their customer and community interactions inside their purchase place. When a customer’s transacting in the flow of a purchase and they have a question, often not getting a response is what causes them to abandon their cart and not follow through with buying. Customers helping customers to expedite a transaction is a whole new market.

Rob Johnson of Gnip talks about the intrigue that led Wendy to get involved in the social conversation world. When Get Satisfaction was first pitched to Wendy, she recognized it as a simple model: true relationship building. Companies don’t always have the courage to be public about conversations. She knew the opportunity of the social CRM is what matters most. Get Satisfaction is sitting between the social web and systems of record but it’s a freemium, SaaS model and now has 3,000+ paying customers. Wendy describes the words “brands” and “engagement” as jargon. Get Satisfaction’s mascot is even named Jargon. “Being from the South, I like to talk straight,” she drawls. It’s not about run-on sentences that mislead or confuse the customer regarding solutions. It’s about productive interactions inside each conversation. When this happens, relationships are built around not only the product but also around the interest in the product.

Skills, process, and legal issues for each employee online all come into play. For example,at a big corporation, what details are even allowed to be public? Bringing value to the conversation happens when customers connect with companies on a human level. “Cut and paste crap does not work in a community,” Wendy says. Community managers have to hone their skills because jumping into the conversation too early can kill a good idea, too late can reflect poorly on the company, and it’s crucial to let the flow incubate somewhere between those two extremes.

Wendy also offered her insight on how to successfully scale community management. “As social media conversations grow and proliferate, and they will, that’s when community managers become facilitators. It’s not one to one and it’s not a call que so it’s also easier to scale. You’re basically gathering a party under a tent and you need that tent to be structured enough to expand.” Get Satisfaction likes to keep its communities open so as to not limit any potential conversations. Get Satisfaction also scales by pulling in all departments in to support the community managers in a cross-functioning capacity.

Big Boulder is the world’s first social data conference. Follow along at #BigBoulder, on the blog under Big BoulderBig Boulder on Storify and on Gnip’s Facebook page.

New Big Boulder Speakers Announced

Big Boulder is just over a month away, and we’re excited to announce seven incredible new speakers to the Big Boulder agenda. When we started planning the first social data conference, we wanted to put together a world class speaker list. We’ve been thrilled by the response and are excited to add speakers from companies such as Tumblr and Get Satisfaction. We’re also working on some really interesting panels so keep your eye out for more to come!

Below is a list of our latest additions, and you can also see the complete list of speakers.

If you’d like to attend, but aren’t a Gnip customer, we’re looking for volunteers to help with photography and live blogging.

That Twitter Thing

Oh, crap, Eric’s gone and written another long post…

Since we publicly launched Gnip last week, we’ve been asked numerous times if we can integrate with Twitter or somehow help Twitter with the scaling issues they are facing.  We can, but we depend on Twitter giving us access to their XMPP feed.

We are huge fans of Twitter so we’re patiently waiting for that access.  In the mean time, the questions we’ve received have prompted us to explain two things: (1) How we would benefit Twitter and anyone who wants access to Twitter data and (2) Why – if you are a web service – it’s worth integrating now with Gnip rather than waiting either for (a) Gnip to integrate with Twitter or (b) you to get as popular as Twitter and have scale issues.

Let’s address the first issue: How we would benefit Twitter and anyone that wants to integrate with Twitter data.

Twitter has found that XMPP doesn’t scale for them and as a result, people are forced to poll their API *a lot* to get updates for their users.  MyBlogLog has over 25,000 Twitter users that they throw against the Twitter API every 15 minutes.  This results in nearly 2.5 million queries against the API every day, for maybe 250K updates.  Now add millions of pings from Plaxo and SocialThing and Lijit and heaven forbid Yahoo starts beating up their API…

If Twitter starts pushing updates to us, via our dead simple API or Atom or their XMPP server, we can immediately reduce by an order of magnitude the number of requests that some very large sites are making against their API.  At the same time, we reduce the latency between when someone Tweets and when it shows up on consuming sites like Plaxo.  From 15 minutes or more to 60 seconds or less.

We expect that Twitter has their collective heads down and are working around the clock to buttress their infrastructure, and it’s unlikely that they’re going to do anything optional until that’s sorted out.  Unfortunately, “integrate with Gnip” probably falls into the optional category. We expect, however, that at some point Twitter will start opening up their data to more partners once they feel like they have their arms around their infrastructure.

If you run a web service and integrate with Gnip today, you’ll automatically be able to integrate with Twitter data once they give us access.  Presumably you won’t have to wait in line to get direct Twitter integration.  In addition, you’ll have immediate access to all of the other data providers that we integrate with. Such as  Delicious, Flickr, Magnolia, Get Satisfaction, Intense Debate and Six Apart.  For example, only took Brightkite 15 minutes to integrate our API and start pushing data to our partners via us.

Now for the second topic.  Why – if you are a web service – it’s worth integrating with Gnip now rather than waiting either for (a) Gnip to integrate with Twitter or (b) you to get as popular as Twitter and have scale issues.

All things considered, it’s best not to end up in Twitter’s position.  They have a ton of passionate users (I’m one of them) who want reliable service and don’t have infinite patience.  The old startup cliche of “these are problems we’d like to have” is carp.

You don’t want to be in the position where your business suddenly takes off and your infrastructure falls over because people are banging your APIs to death.  You don’t want your most passionate users calling for mass exodus.  It’s better to take a few minutes to start pushing notifications to Gnip now than when you’re doing 20-hour days rebooting servers.

You also don’t want to be in the position that your company takes off and you suddenly get throttled by an API provider.  Nothing is worse than have to pull data sources because you’ve over-polled and the host decides to turn off the spigot.  Start pulling notifications from Gnip and feel secure that you’re only asking for data when there’s something new.

I still use Twitter every day.  Don’t try to kid me; I know you still do too.  Let them get on with their work and rest assured that we’ll integrate with them the instant we get the okay from them.