Last October, over 20 Lithium customers from France and across Europe converged in Paris for our training and certification week. We took advantage of having all these great people in one place to organize our 2nd Paris Meetup where we discussed the differences and similarities of what community and social media managers do on a regular basis.
Photos by @ArnaudL
During this meet-up, I also had the opportunity to interview Nicolas Hun – Brand Content and Social Media Manager at ING France, and we thought that the ING Direct Web Café story was too good not to share with you here today.
Can you start off by sharing what it is you do at ING France?
I am in charge of communications and engagement on ING Direct’s social networks: Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn and YouTube, and our own community, as well as being responsible for monitoring our online reputation. One of my main missions is to ensure that our social content and engagement is always in line with our tone of voice and editorial guidelines.
My role in regards to the community is more strategic and high-level. The brand’s proactive engagement on the platform is relatively light as we want to let our customers engage between themselves: it’s their platform.
As a rule of thumb, our social care agents wait 24h before jumping on an unanswered query (unless it’s an urgent topic or a complaint). These agents are part of the customer support department, and are the same who reply on our social channels and manage our day-to-day moderation on the community using Lithium’s tools. And although I work with them very closely, I myself am part the marketing department in the “Brand and Acquisition” team.
How did your community, the Web Cafe, come to life?
Although we already had an official presence on social networks, we came across a large number of people having positive conversations about us on existing online forums – including some gamer forums!
We wouldn’t have wanted to officially engage on these platforms as a brand since we weren’t invited in the conversation. We therefore decided that instead of having all of this content living across the web that we’d try and bring it back home on our website.
As many existing brand communities, we also wanted to look into ways of decreasing the pressure within our call centers. Our idea was really to encourage a space where customers could help each other, and where prospects could get an unbiased opinion of our services and what it means to be an ING customer.
Moreover, all those simple and generic questions such as “how to send in a cheque” are now living on our community.
Launching an online community for a bank can sometimes be challenging on a legal and compliance perspective. Can you give us a bit of insight of how you were able to overcome those obstacles?
The idea of having our customer’s voice open to the public was scary: we are letting them expose their issues right next to our account opening forms! But we went for it, and so far so good.
We have about 20 customer ambassadors and about 18 000 registered members. Realistically, most members only register to ask a question, get an answer and then leave. Our ambassadors however are very loyal and answer at any time or day.
It is an ideal situation: it enables us to centralize some potentially difficult cases and be have a direct communication line with our customers, thus avoiding information diffusion across various channels.
You mentioned that the community brought value by decreasing support costs. Are there any other ways in which you feel that the community is providing value to ING?
We have an ideas area in the community called Le Labo that we are trying to optimize.
I make sure that every single idea that is shared in our ideas section is seen by the right person within the business. We have a whole team internally focused on innovation, and although we realistically haven’t seen one single revolutionary idea come out of there, this area helps us confirm and prioritize certain ideas and projects.
The challenge isn’t to say yes, it’s to say yes and actually be able to deliver. We’ve already got stung by committing to an idea in writing on the community and not being able to deliver as there are always so many moving parts within the business such as priorities and staffing. We’ve learned not to over promise or commit to a fixed date.
There are also some situations where we get some ideas that are in line with a strategic initiative that we’re working on, but can’t confirm publicly as we know that our competitors have an eye on us. And finally, there are some ideas that just won’t ever happen as they don’t make sense to our business, even if they get thousands of votes.
This area can generate quite a few frustrations and can be challenging to manage. But we never ever ignore any suggestion and constantly try to improve the way we run this.
What are you the most proud of within your community ?
The whole team is very proud of our team of ambassadors. We have some customers with whom we have a real trusted relationship.
For example, when we had to announce that one of our historically free accounts was going to go through some changes that could incur some costs, we took the time to explain the reasons of this business decision to our ambassadors before it went public. They stayed by our side during the challenging times that followed this announcement.
The atmosphere of this community is unique. We have an introduction topic of over 50 pages where ambassadors and other members welcome new members. It’s incredible how people are willing to open up and share.
And yes, due to the nature of our community there will always be conversations around issues. But beyond that there is a real sense of camaraderie and friendship. It feels like a café – it’s what we wanted to achieve.
Fun story: when we did the launch party for the Web Café, one of our ambassadors on social turned up dressed-up all in orange (the color of brand). He is still on our community, still active!
We don’t pay our ambassadors, and we don’t have an official program, although we sometimes show them a small token of our appreciation. Although we are always there and never far, the community self-manages itself at 95%. We thank our members, but it’s their platform. Ultimately, we are just spectators.
I love what I do, and I am very grateful for the involvement of our contributors who sometimes spend hours on end on our community.
Have you done anything specific to encourage this positive atmosphere?
It is part of our brand’s DNA: we are simple, transparent and we listen – we try and make this come across when we engage with people and the way we moderate on our community. All we did really was nudge this in the right direction.
And what is your biggest challenge?
The biggest challenge I have internally is to explain to people how an online community works: they tend to see compare it to a news site or a blog, but not a destination that people get to after a Google search. They tend to only read the first question and focus on the negativity without digging into the thread and seeing the exchange and potentially the resolution. It’s a warped perception and requires constant education.
Another thing that I find challenging is the management of urgent and time-consuming issues that interfere on more high-level and long term projects. It only needs a small crisis to push back some of my other projects of a whole week.
And to get back to the topic of today’s meet-up: how would you define the difference between a social media and community manager?
I personally feel that I am doing both due to the nature of my job. I manage all of the social engagement that isn’t care related: corporate replies, social campaigns, the Web Café, and online reputation analysis.
For me, a social media manager is above all a project manager in charge of piloting a brand’s communication strategy on social networks, to which you can add in my case the role of the more operational role of a community manager
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