For the past 18 years, LiveWorld has been helping corporations improve relationship marketing, customer support, and market learning through engagement, moderation, and insight. They provide a customizable platform with a range of social networking features, having worked with the world’s leading brands, like Pfizer, Wells Fargo, Johnson & Johnson, Louis Vuitton, and Kimberly Clark, as well as the number one companies in the world in retail and consumer packaged goods.
We’re honored to have LiveWorld and Pfizer joining us again this SMW NYC, and we think it’s time you got to know more about them. We sat down with Peter Friedman CEO and Chairman of LiveWorld to learn a bit more about how they work.
Make sure you catch them in action this February at our new Campus for “Making Social More Social Within Regulated and Consumer Sensitive Industries” and their famous cocktail party. It’s an event you won’t want to miss — especially if your brand deals with regulations in any form.
- LiveWorld has been around since basically the beginning of social. Can you tell us more about how the vision that helped create LiveWorld and where you see social going in the next few years?
Friedman: Our core team began work in social, or rather online community, all the way back in 1984 and 1985 at Apple, with products such as AppleLink, which today would be called an Apple industry social network. The entire industry side of the world of Apple — employees, dealers, developers, user group leaders, point people at K-12, universities and IS — were all in that community. Later, our work included AppleLink Personal Edition, which later became AOL, as well as, eWorld and Salon. Our core team left Apple in early 1996 to do for other F1000 companies what we had done for Apple — use online community/social media to help them deepen their customer relationships to improve marketing, customer support, and insight.
Our vision for social has its roots at Apple. We fundamentally believe social is about the transformative power of online dialogue and relationships. That conviction underlies our major focus on the human element, enabled by technology. It’s similar to Apple’s core belief in the transformative power of personal technology with a major focus on the human experience. And just like at Apple, we focus on the brand’s presence in social as a deep cultural experience.
Social has had explosive growth; but it’s only the beginning. While we have a massive number of people in the medium, the strength and richness of usage patterns still has a ways to go. Certainly we see a continued shift to mobile social, as well more visual social. That shift will definitely include more video and live camera — but we think photos will dominate. On the business side, we think social media marketing is still mostly traditional advertising, print, digital, and PR broadcast messaging being shoved at customers through social channels. This is beginning to change as brands realize they have to focus on engagement. But even that, for the most part today, is about interacting with broadcast content. Where it needs to go, and will go eventually, is to a focus on dialogue and relationships that truly involve customers — building their commitment to the brand and affecting sales.
- Many of the brands you work with have to address federal regulations. How has LiveWorld learned to navigate this area and still excel?
Friedman: First it’s important to define goals and strategies that factor in the regulatory environment: understand the regulations, how they affect the business goals, and how to manage, mitigate, or eliminate the associated risks. The customers have moved to social, and so must the brands. The regulations are intended to protect consumers but haven’t necessarily kept pace with the media. Still, the brands can manage in a regulatory environment by having a systematic, organized model, plans, and process flow, with support from appropriate technology. Again and again, we have helped our clients’ legal and marketing departments partner together; the issues can be dealt with as long as they are thought out well. One legal counsel put it this way: “We know we need to go into social and we want to help marketing do it. We just want them to plan well and execute more with a thoughtfully aimed rifle shot, not shooting from the hip.”
- Our global theme this year is The Future of Now: Always On, Always Connected. We’ll be addressing how to use tech to be more human and connected. Recently, you expressed that living more balanced would be a focus for your organization. How do you see that playing out within the company and industry?
Friedman: Social by definition is a medium about humans connecting, engaging, and being social with each other. We have to remember this at all junctures. Use technology to support the human dynamic, help customers get closer to each other, and the brand to get closer to customers. Rather than getting seduced into thinking technology can replace that human dynamic — or enable us to avoid it.
- What important trends are you seeing as important for marketers and brands to understand this next year?
Friedman: As the market grows in size, users, usage, vendors, etc., it’s becoming more difficult to achieve true engagement that causes a customer to really think and feel about your brand on a sustained basis. Some brands will stick with prior strategies and find themselves slipping away from their customers. Others will develop longer form social storytelling and other models that will deepen customer involvement.
Customers are going cross-channel and brands will need to do so as well — partly to follow the eyeballs, but also to provide richer experiences. However, brands need to be careful not to follow a “one-post-fits-all-channels” mentality. Each channel has its own unique character, and the brand-fostered experience is best tailored to fit that unique context.
Increasingly the primary competitive dynamic will be how brands leverage social for real-time customer insight and then action it.
- This is your second year joining SMW NYC. Can you share more about why this partnership is exciting for your team and what attendees can expect from LiveWorld and Pfizer?
Friedman: Pfizer is a great client and a great partner. They are a social media leader in the Pharma industry and currently support the corporate brand and many product brands across multiple social channels and community websites. We’ve worked with them to create engaging customer experiences, while managing within the regulatory boundaries. They are also committed to moving the entire industry forward (or rather industries, meaning both pharma and social), which leads us to Social Media Week last year and this. Our goal was to provide a focused series of sessions that would be informative with practical take-a-ways for the group — not generic “good social,” but experienced based insights. Our program last year included a panel on “Legal and Marketing in Social: Friends or Enemies,” and a keynote by the CMO of the Cleveland Clinic, with network cocktail hour. Feedback was great.
This year we’re bringing a wider set of panelists together to discuss the challenges and approaches in regulated and consumer sensitive industries overall (not just healthcare). We’ll cover managing in a regulatory environment, achieving true engagement, and how to scale.
And don’t forget the cocktail party. That is a returning favorite.