Over the past few months, we’ve been involved in the launch of about 20 feedback/idea sites for brands as large as ChoiceHotels, Navteq, Boy Scouts of America to smaller startups like OpenSports.com and Buglabs. Our range of implementations include both public facing sites as well as internal employee only sites. Some have succeeded and some have failed and I’ll share with everyone what we learned through this process.
Some of the things we’ve learned:
Progressive Deployment – Launch the idea-portal internally first. Get everyone in your own company involved in brainstorming and providing constructive feedback and suggestions. The tone of any community is dictated by the tribe – the council – the smaller group of users who are avid fans and who take a lot of time and pride in interacting with you. They also help establish the unwritten rules of the road.
Idea Seeding – Never launch an idea portal without any ideas already seeded. It’s like giving someone a blank whiteboard. Your success rate would me much higher if your Idea portal was seeded with a few ideas of your own. Users will then “get it” immediately and start participating.
Establish Credibility – the easiest way to convince users and establish credibility of an idea portal is to unequivocally message the users about the weight of their ideas. Make sure you tell all your users that you will take action based on input that is received. Senior decision makers and stakeholders will be looking to the idea portal for insights and analysis.
Communicate Back – Send a weekly (or monthly) informal update to all the participants of your community regarding the internal status of where you are with the ideas that have been generated. You can use email or your blog as a vehicle to communicate back to the users about progress and demonstrate your willingness to take this seriously
Staff Appropriately – At least for the launch, have someone dedicated to monitor your feedback portal and them respond to all ideas giving your viewpoint and acknowledging good ideas publicly. This also helps set the tone of your community.
Establish Monthly Drawings/Giveaways – Giving out an incentive (Starbucks/Amazon Gift Card) is a sure-fire way of getting users to pay more attention to you. While most users will not be motivated by incentives alone, they do go a long way in convincing users to “give you a shot.”