Beste lezers, deze blog zal vanaf heden in het Engels voortgezet worden in de hoop een breder publiek te bereiken. Mocht dit je frustreren of ongemak opleveren, laat het me alsjeblieft weten door middel van een comment (desnoods in het Duits), en we zullen kijken wat hier aan gedaan kan worden.
In some of my previous Dutch posts on this blog I referred to a book called The Groundswell by Li and Bernoff. This book offers a framework to explain and analyze the social media phenomenon. I feel that this framework is very useful, so in my first English post I will reintroduce the five main tactics that are identified and used for analysis of social web-readiness of a site.
The tactics Li and Bernoff advice are: Listening, the use of social media to get to know the market for your products or brand. Talking, use social media to advertise and communicate with the outside world. Energizing, use social media to activate enthusiastic customers to promote your products and/or brand. Support, using social media to offer customers searchable help and enable them to help each other. Later they added Embracing, integrating your customers in your business process, research and development.
To give readers a feel of how to use these tactics for advancing your business I will now take a look at whether Radio Lingua Network (RLN) uses the mentioned tactics and if so, how. RLN is an online language school that started in 2005. Although not very relevant for a globally accessible medium: it is based in Scotland. Only two full time employees work at the school, material and lessons are built and developed by a global team of language teachers, in other words, by native speakers. The website management, and support is done by part time workers at the Lingua office.
RLN makes use of different social media types for a wide range of their activities and services. The question is then which social media they use for what purposes. In this section you will find where on the internet they are deploying activities. RLN’s own site will be the starting point. They promote their RSS news feed in the top-right corner of the RLN site, the titles of the articles in the feed are also shown on their front page. Furthermore, they offer the option of subscribing to their newsletter. Also, as a person who is actually learning a language you can subscribe to one of the RLN podcasts.
Moreover, they offer general and seasonal relevant linguistic podcasts, like festive phrases in various languages. On the RLN site you can watch and/or listen to various free lessons on which you can comment and add tags to. The latest comments are shown in various places throughout the site (bottom right on this one). Tags, indicating important terms for the subject at hand, are displayed in a tag cloud at the bottom of most of their pages. The pages containing the materials also have a calendar at the bottom for easy navigation to previous lessons and also show the last five lessons added to the site.
Moreover, the RLN webpage has two, quite prominent links to a searchable support page. This support page makes use of Zendesk, which in Radio Lingua’s case offers the options to ask questions, post tips and tricks, and request new features.
On the site RLN also makes you aware of their Twitter and Facebook activities. There are boxes on the site showing who liked which of their Coffee Break Courses. On Facebook they have a general page for the school, and Coffee Break pages (one of their products) for Spanish (8k+ likes), and French (11k+ likes).
At the bottom of the lesson pages there is a place that should show the updates of their Twitter feed @radiolingua (appears to be broken). They have 3.600 followers on Twitter and follow 700+ people themselves. Also they offer a service named TwitterLearn for the languages French, Italian and Spanish. @learnitalian (2k+ followers, 1k+ following), @learnspanish (5k+ followers, 1k+ following), and @learnfrench (3k+ followers, 700+ following) are used for the TwitterLearn course.
The Applied Tactics
As shown above, RLN is very active with various forms of social media. It will be interesting to see what tactics they apply and in what way they are succeeding or failing. They managed to get a lot of people to follow them on Twitter and Facebook, which are two of the leading social media right now.
On RLN’s main Facebook page, they post links to relevant articles, events and dates that are of interest to people who want to or are learning languages. They also actively use the main page to answer questions that people post on it. Furthermore there are clear references to their coffee break products and the fact that they offer free material. On the coffee break pages (Spanish and French) they every day post a word of the day and invite people to compose sentences with it. People indeed do actively construct sentences and post them. These sentences are used by Radio Lingua to make new podcasts every week.
When we look at the additional content placed on the Facebook pages, it will be noted that they are used to ask people for feedback on their services and on the firm. As info gathering tools they use polls. They take care to show that they have used the input from their users/customers for further developing or improving services. Looking at the total Facebook strategy they are clearly using the embracing tactic here and they are doing it well.
On Twitter RLN also has various accounts, each for a specific topic. Only here they just broadcast, despite the fact that they are stating in their helpdesk mails that you can get answers here by tweeting their general account or the Hashtag #rlnhelp. This can easily be discovered, as questions that were asked more than a week ago on Twitter are still unanswered.
Radio Lingua does Tweet a lot, and they do get replies. On the general account they Twitter all their Tweets, which they address to the linked coffee break accounts: @learnitalian, @learnspanish and @learnfrench. The fact that they do not answer all tweets addressed to them is especially noteworthy, since they use Hootsuite to streamline all their social media activities.
One would expect that noticing and replying Tweets addressed to RLN would go with the same ease and speed as it appears to be going on Facebook, yet this is not the case. Looking at their Twitter activities you would say that they could, just as on Facebook, by the help of Hootsuite, use the embrace tactic on this medium. Yet instead they only seem to be speaking here.
All this is the more noticeable because they offer courses that seem to revolve around Twitter. If we consider that Twitter is a medium perfectly suited for embracing, I would say this is a missed opportunity.
The RSS news feed is used to post information about RLN’s products, and news about the school. Moreover, they use the feed to energize people who learn a language through RLN. They do this by posting human interest stories of how a student arrived in the relevant language area. This looks to me like a very nice energizing tactic for an RSS feed. They enhance the energizing factor of the feed by displaying the latest stories on their front page.
The comments and tags users can add to their lessons on RLN-site, offer Radio Lingua the option to listen to the people who make use of their services. Yet users also pose questions and ask for help or have questions about linguistic learning in general. Since these questions are public sometimes help is given by other users. Sometimes RLN offers help, but most of the times no help is given.
There seems to be no consistency in the way RLN reacts to comments. From a support, energizing, and embracing tactics point of view this is a regrettable. While browsing their site you do run into a box showing the five latest comments. However, I cannot figure out what items you can and you can not comment on and where this box is or is not shown. All in all their comments can be categorized as a highly underused form of listening or support.
Tags are incorporated in the site and are on some occasions used. However just as with comments there is no consistency in when items can be tagged, even though this option does offer a simple way to embrace users to help them categorize items on their site.
The boxes showing people who like their coffee break issues (again, seemingly placed at random), are a nice form of energizing customers without them having to do anything themselves. These boxes show portraits of people in the network of the visitor, and then of course especially those who liked the RLN products (if they are logged in to Facebook, that is). In this way RLN uses people whom the visitor knows, to sell their products.This is a nice example of low effort energizing, it could however be used with some more consistency in the placement.
The support section which they link to on every page, is hosted by Zendesk. Zendesk enables anyone with a RLN, Facebook, or Twitter account to login, so that they can ask questions, and post answers and comments. Everybody can search through the knowledge present at the Radio Lingua Zendesk. It also contains a FAQ that lists frequent questions and offers sections of featured request and tips and tricks.
However, the whole of RLN’s Zendesk appears quite empty, there are just nine questions in the FAQ and there are only one or two featured questions in the other two sections. All the content shown in this support section are handpicked by the school itself.
To test how well the support through Zendesk works I posted a question asking for more info about their TwitterLearn product. My question was answered quickly and correctly by email, yet I could not find it anywhere in the support section. This means that RLN is not so much deficient in the quality of its advice as in its publication methods. According to the present procedure they must write each user personally, while the whole point of Zendesk is to prevent personal questions and answers.
All in all Zendesk does offer the tools a web page could use to become more interactive and help users support each other. Although Radio Lingua does not make use of the possibilities it offers from a support tactics point of view, it offers support, but in a more classical way.
All in all, Radio Lingua seems to implement some form of every of the five tactics mentioned by Li and Bernoff: Listening, Talking, Supporting, Energizing, and Embracing. Even though Listening is not explicitly mentioned it can be considered a part of embracing. Embracing is done on their Facebook pages, however that seems to be the only place they do it.
I would hope that Radio Lingua will start integrating the services they already use, like Facebook, through Hoodsuite. Zendesk should be better integrated into their site. Finally their use of the important social media platform Twitter could be considerably improved. A more comprehensive monitoring and responding to comments and questions of their users, in a way others can view these correspondences, would really add value to their business.
By these means they would be enabled to better profit from all the user input (as they already appear to do on Facebook) and improve their products and web page. By doing so they would be in a position to better implement the embrace tactic, and that seems at present to be their most rewarding strategy.