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The Ultimate Cheatsheet for Community Marketing

Esteemed Advisor

It has been 3 years since I have been running StarHub Community as the social CRM programme director.  As I will be moving on, I will like to share my learning and journey of building StarHub Community with all who want to embark on this journey. 


Why did the company choose to embark on Lithium’s Community strategy and did it deliver?


Lithium’s Community strategy was touted as the company’s next generation of social media strategy when it was conceived 3 years ago.   The landscape was dramatically changing with the advent of social media and the smartphone.  The rise of the social customer and social technologies make it imperative for the company to not just cope, but to embrace and take opportunities that arise.    In the 3 years, together with other social CRM efforts, StarHub has won three consecutive years of regional awards with Marketing Magazine on Best Use of Social and Advocacy and it also won the coveted global Lythy’s award of Social ROI Titan.   It has transformed the company closer to the vision of being a social business where every department and employee is socially empowered.  StarHub is also the most Socially Devoted company in Singapore according to Social Bakers.


How do you organize the company for the Community management?


Some companies put Community under Customer Service or the Customer Experience Management department. We put it under Marketing as the social customer care function was seated within Marketing.  A Social CRM function was formed with an overseeing director, a full time Community Manager and a Social CRM project manager.  The social customer care for Facebook and Twitter is outsourced to an agency but account related queries are directed back to the call centre currently.  It is imperative to have a devoted social CRM project manager who advises on the best practices of social media.  Special mention goes to Howard Toh who is not only an excellent community manager, but is a also a social media technologist and an e-business entrepreneur.   


How do you use the Community to move your company towards a social business?


The vision of transforming the company into a social business is to make the different departments within the company to be sensitive to the power of the social customer as well as social technologies.  Unlike traditional social media, our customers can easily find the same thread of discussion on the Community.  The snow balling of the issue on the same thread with hundreds of posts makes it imperative for company executives to respond to the issues raised by the social customers.  A greater sensitivity of social media backlash is hence inculcated within the company as a result of the Community. 



  • Tricks of the Trade
    • Form an inter-departmental social media taskforce and champion social media thought leadership. As the organsation matures socially, the task force can be disbanded.
    • Get C level support and incorporate into the Balance Score Card for each department, social activations with the Community.
    • Try to spin the functions into a collaborative, crowdsourcing effort with the Community with the use of social technology. Examples of socializing departments include:
      • New Sales – StarHub Community has a social sales application called StarHub Friends where the Community members can sign up as affiliates to share their unique URL to their friends via instant messaging or social media. They will get a sales commission when their friends sign up as a customer.
      • Recontract – customers were lead to the Recontract thread on the Community and we have seen a higher conversion rate (26% versus 17%) as customers are able to ask questions on the Community and see others’ questions being answered.
      • Media Sales – StarHub Community partners with the Media Sales department and offers a digital engagement campaign option to accompany the cable TV spots campaign. The winning contestant was interviewed by StarHub Community and filmed into an engagement video for further soft selling of the product on Cable TV advertising.  One such campaign is the Nescafe campaign.
      • Product Marketing – User experts, advocate product reviews, contests and knowledge articles are generated to accompany traditional paid media.
      • Market Research – besides incorporating free social media data into the reporting, focus groups (both closed and open) can be conducted within the Community.  The findings can later be used as user generated content or reviews.  A market research panel is also built as part of the Community.
      • TV Programming – use advocate bloggers to blog about the programs as social TV engagement and host it on the Community. StarHub’s most popular content engagement comes from the beauty TV programme called LadyFirstSG.
      • Sponsorship – use the Community to crowdsource for fans’ content for the sponsored stars to sweat the investment further.  

What have you used the Community for and what are the tricks of the trade to make it work?  What are the challenges and what are the things that could have been done better?


  • Community Crowd Support
    • The chief reason for the existence of the Community is crowdsourcing support. Unlike other social media platforms, the Community promised to save company resources by not repeating itself on answering the same issues encountered by different customers.   Its main strength comes from its excellent SEO.  The digital customers encountering an issue will normally search on Google and they will often find a thread on the Community.  This is because Google favors user generated content in search results.  Hence this becomes a one-to-many interaction and not the typical one-to-one interaction on email or third party social channels.   It is unlikely that the company will foresee all the issues encountered when a new product is launched and the Community supplements its set of FAQs through the organic generation of new questions and answers.  Answers from customers are also more trusted and perceived as unbiased.  The Community Manager comes in to validate the user generated answers, unlike in third party public forums.  The customers’ contributions are often more complete than the company’s answers, especially with related products not directly made by the company, such as handsets. 
    • Tricks of the Trade
      • Ground rules for posting can be set in place and interactions on the Community tend to be more civil and respectful than in third party social platforms such as Facebook.
      • We developed a set of gamification titles and rules to encourage contributors to move up the ladder of social recognition.
      • Allow time for non-account specific queries to be answered by the crowd.
      • Expert contributors are picked up and given specific titles to give them immediate ownership and recognition. Examples include Android Expert, Windows Expert.
      • Correct answers are also marked as accepted solutions by the Community Manager if they are not marked by the originating people who posted the questions.
      • The Community Manager also compiles a complete set of questions and answers on a particular topic into one post for easy reference.
      • Questions from Facebook and Twitter are also directed to the Community URLs for the correct answers. Links are also available all over the main .com website to direct traffic to the Community. 
      • What are the challenges and what are the things that could have been done better?
        • Getting the right human resource structure is critical. Getting the right community manager was a huge challenge.    The right candidate is best to come from within the organization who will know how to vet and get the correct answers from the right people and help the company stir clear of social media disasters.  The person should also be passionate about the brand and takes initiative as he is the voice of the brand and faces the customers directly.  Non-verbal social communications is also a skill that is rare.  StarHub Community was fortunate to have Kai Boon and now Santosh as the Community Managers.  Getting the right social customer care agents is also a challenge.  I will recommend giving them special titles such as Digital Community Care Consultants to raise their status.  Getting Lithium’s Social Web (LSW) also help the Community Manager in managing SLAs from the social customer care agents.     
    • Advocacy Loyalty Marketing
      • One of the main benefits of the Lithium platform is the promise of the development of an advocacy strategy for the company. Within 6 months of launch, the advocates magically emerged as predicted by Lithium.  These advocates are very special people who have very special hearts and have much expertise to share with the Community.  They not only contribute answers, but also blogs, product reviews and even help us fight against unreasonable customers and even chastise the company when we are in the wrong.  
      • There is a longitudinal tracking of their contributions, with added features of whether their answers are accepted. With this tracking mechanism, cumulative contributions can be aggregated to let them rise to higher ranking status which gives them greater credibility and formal recognitions of their efforts.
      • Tricks of the Trade
        • To prepare the ground to be conducive to advocacy, it is important to soft launch the Community first with your likely group of brand loyalists. We sent out emails to invite our loyal and active customers and the initial launch saw an immediate membership of five thousand members. 
        • We chose not to show the actual leaderboard as it is easy to game any system and discourages real contributors.
        • The Social CRM team must believe in Advocacy. Advocacy is the holy grail of social media.  It is the belief that if your brand exists, there must be advocates out there.  It is the belief that you are the mediator between the brand and its customers, in particular, the advocates.  It is the believe that social media is the game changer, the renaissance of marketing, a rise of the people’s power.  It is the belief that human goodness and altruism still exist and that your company is worthy of such devotion and should behave as such.  It is the belief of the principle of reciprocity, transparency, humility, accountability, the willingness to acknowledge you have made a mistake with swift actions to respond. 
        • Non-monetary incentives
        • What are the challenges and what are the things that could have been done better?
          • One of the main challenges is getting the advocates continually engaged in the Community. The advocates do get busier with new life changes such as starting a new job or a family.  There is also very limited help that they can offer for account specific queries.  Hence it is important for the Community Manager to continuously look out for questions, assignments, new product launches, contests and reviews to direct them to the advocates.   The Community Manager should also create opportunities to have informal meetings with the advocates regularly.   The program can be evolved one step further to engage the advocates to be part of our product development team with NDAs in place.  
        • ZMOT  (Zero Moment of Truth) and Influencer Marketing
          • New products typically fail because of ZMOT. Between the exposure of marketing communication and the actual purchase, if the customers do not have immediate friends to check on actual product experience, they will google for related product reviews.  New categories or products also fail if they are not able to cross the technology chasm of early product adoption, usually facilitated by user reviews.  The Community is an ideal way to manage ZMOT.   
          • In a way, this is also Influencer marketing because an influencer is anyone who has used the product and is not paid to tell you only good things about the product. Through SEO and advertising (social ads and native advertising), these ordinary user reviews can potentially reach a wide audience. 
          • Lithium also has an influencer module using Klout to help the company to communicate directly to influencers.
          • Tricks of the Trade
          • What are the challenges and what are the things that could have been done better?
            • The challenge is in recogising that ZMOT management is an important discipline to perform and track. With advanced analytics in place, this can help prove the value of such an endeavour.  Lithium’s new Ratings and Review product will also help to lower the barriers to entry for user reviews.  Early adopters of a product can be invited to form a special customer advisory panel to test and share the new product experiences.  Influencers can also be identified using Klout to be first to try new products and they will naturally share the product experiences.
          • Crowdsourcing Innovation
            • The Lithium platform has an Idea Exchange module where customers can suggest ideas, others can vote and comment on it.
            • Tricks of the Trade
              • We have found that this is a good platform to manage customers’ expectations by directing them to the Idea Exchange to voice their suggestions.
              • An internal buy-in was conducted to ensure that each department has an innovation ambassador to direct these customer suggestions to.
              • Only when a certain threshold of votes is reached that the suggestions are forwarded to the relevant departments.
              • A status of each suggestion is tagged eg Not for us, new, considered etc.
            • What are the challenges and what are the things that could have been done better?
              • It is better to have a formal innovation programme in place for this to take off. The innovation programme will proactively seeks out crowdsourced innovation ideas and not just manage reactively the ideas from the crowd.   The innovation function can tap into the wisdom of the crowd both within and without the company.   It is good to generate a specific topic of interest or challenge and invite the crowd to ideate.  This could be ignited by an initial online focus group. 
            • Social Engagement
              • The Lithium platform serves as a landing page to host contests and user generated contest content and saves the company money in creating dedicated microsites and Facebook applications to host such contests. The contests can be found through Google search and is stackable for future contests.
              • Tricks of the Trade
                • There is little organic traffic to the contest site and it is imperative to drive traffic to your contest through ads or emails.
                • If there is a TV trailer or other non-digital contest ad, it is important to create a simply vanity URL to direct people to the contest site.
                • Reduce the barriers to entry and difficulty as much as possible. In general, this is the order of the level of barriers to entry: vote, comment, share, photo, video.  Think of what is already in people’s mobile phones as a contest idea.
                • It is imperative to have many seeded entries before inviting the crowd in. No one wants to enter into an empty room in a party. 
                • Make sure the contest is mobile friendly.
                • Have different prizes to cater to different types of participants eg. Most entries, most liked, most creative.
                • It is good to connect with the insight of the product and create a contest around a topic of interest.
              • What are the challenges and what are the things that could have been done better?
                • For social engagement to take off, it is important for social engagement to be a prerogative and not just social reach. However, it is hard to quantify the benefits of social engagement, unlike social reach. There must be a belief that engagement drives loyalty, tip the scale of brand choice in a commoditised market and draws a new set of customers where your brand was not in their preferred or consideration set.   It is also a form of content marketing as it is an indirect sales message where customers may not immediately cognitively block out.  In a way, social engagement ROI should be treated the same way as brand ROI.  The contributions are not immediate and cannot easily be quantified.
              • Content Marketing
                • The Lithium platform is ideal for hosting user generated content as part of content marketing. User generated content differs from paid content marketing in that it is seen as more genuine and trusted.   StarHub Community collaborates with educational institutions and business partners in generating such trusted content by sponsoring contest prizes and ad dollars.  This is also great for generating lifestyle content articles for segment engagement.  Specially commissioned bloggers also host their content on the Community instead of in their own blog sites.  Lithium’s excellent SEO is ideal in generating organic traffic to these content sites.
                • Tricks of the Trade
                  • It is important to spot the right title of the content for Google to pick up.
                  • Consider using native advertising such as Outbrain to distribute the content.
                  • Repurposing the content into snippets on eNewsletters, Facebook shoutouts and Tweets are important for distribution.
                  • Consider them on top posts of the week.
                  • Consider having a Community Facebook or Twitter page to facilitate the advertising of these content articles that may not be relevant in the brand’s main official social pages.
                  • Advertise as hidden posts on the brand’s official Facebook if there are not too many posts on that day.
                • What are the challenges and what are the things that could have been done better?
                  • For Community user generated marketing to take off, the Product Marketing function has to commission such content. Such content are not normally carried out in the traditional marketing-marcom structure which relies on agencies for paid content or media. 

Further Resources:

Contributed by Darren Choo, AVP Social CRM StarHub 2012-2015









Connect with me on @bluefirefly2359