Awards Bring Out Key Elements of Social Media

If social media had an Oscars, the annual Forrester Groundswell Awards would be them.

Now in their third year, the awards honor companies for excellence in achieving business and organizational goals with social technology. The program was developed to support principles outlined in the Forrester book “Groundswell: Winning in a World Transformed by Social Technologies” (Harvard Business Press, 2008).

If social media had an Oscars, the annual Forrester Groundswell Awards would be them.

Now in their third year, the awards honor companies for excellence in achieving business and organizational goals with social technology. The program was developed to support principles outlined in the Forrester book “Groundswell: Winning in a World Transformed by Social Technologies” (Harvard Business Press, 2008).

On Oct. 27, Forrester honored 13 winners at its Consumer Forum 2009 in Chicago. For the first time, awards went to business-to-business and business-to-consumer companies, as well as nonprofits. For a complete look at the winners and finalists, click here.

To me, the awards are unique because winners are awarded based on the following actions: listening, talking, energizing, supporting and embracing. These concepts represent the strategic goals Forrester advises organizations to consider when using social technologies to interact with their customers. I found this particularly refreshing, especially in an age when marketing awards seem to be a dime a dozen and don’t really get to the heart of what matters when it comes to making money.

What’s more, this year, for the second year in a row, the Groundswell Award selection process allowed the general public to rate and comment on all entries on the Groundswell website. Forrester took the community’s evaluations into account when selecting winners, but chose winning entries based on proof of business value, and not which applications were the most popular.

Here’s a look at some of the winning companies and their programs, via the Groundswell site:

NASCAR Fan Council/Vision Critical. NASCAR and Vision Critical, which won in the B-to-C Listening category, created a community of 12,000 fans and used it to reduce research costs by 80 percent. NASCAR also took the community’s suggestions and changed its restarts from single file to double file, which fans loved.

Lion Brand Yarn Blog and Podcast/Converseon. These companies won in the B-to-C Talking division for a program where Converseon identified influential bloggers and social networks dedicated to knitting and crocheting. Lion Brand Yarn then created a biweekly podcast and targeted it to these groups. The podcast eventually generated 15,000 to 20,000 downloads and a blog featuring “knit-alongs.” This drove impressive e-commerce sales for the brand, including people who ordered the knit-along projects. Also, those who visited the company’s social media sites were 41 percent more likely to buy at the website.

Scholastic Book Clubs Reading Task Force Community/Communispace. These companies won in the B-to-B Embracing division for a program that involved redesigning Scholastic’s school book sales flyer, which is its main vehicle for book sales through schools. Using a community of 200 teachers and 100 parents created by Communispace, Scholastic embarked on a 10-week collaborative process to talk to members about how to improve the design of the flyer. The process generated ideas such as including student recommendations and showing interior pages so parents could judge the reading level of the books. Results? The new flyer has already generated a 3 percent increase in sales in test markets.

I think all of these programs exhibit great, unique uses of social media and technology, and show how the medium can bring about real, specific ROI. What do you think? Post your comments here.