Jon Stricklin-Coutinho - Community Manager for Which?
Who and What is Which?
Which? is the UK’s consumer champion, providing in-depth reviews and information about the products, goods and services people use every day.
Which? has been championing the cause for consumers since 1957, asking probing questions of businesses and manufacturers, and pursuing the answers that put you in the driving seat.
In addition, Which? campaigns on behalf of the consumer, encouraging companies to change their practices for the betterment of the customer.
Which? continues to be a not-for-profit charitable organisation and all of their profits made from commercial operations are used to support the activities within the Which? group. Which? is the trading and brand name for the Which? group, wholly owned by the Consumers’ Association.
Which? has an active online presence both within social media platforms as well as their own passionate community that engages with the Which? Blog posts. The Which? community team can be found engaging their community members through the day, and work with StrawberrySocial during out of hours to ensure the community is positive, engaging and protected around the clock.
Q: What is Which’s goals for its community and social presence?
Our main goal for Which? is to stand up for what’s right for consumers , and our community helps us get closer to the heart of consumers’ everyday experiences. We aim to reduce as much consumer harm as possible and ensure we’re giving them the space to freely discuss their opinions and support for their fellow community members.
While social media is focussed on building brand affinity through helpful content shared across platforms, community is more about inviting them into our home and getting them to meet with like-minded individuals; and share their thoughts and beliefs.
Nearly every start of a conversation [in our community] is a question, and that’s because we don’t always have the answers. We want to have a discussion to find out the answers from the consumers and translate it into a story which we can share and hopefully make the consumer more aware and empowered to make the right decisions for themselves.
Since Which? is a not-for-profit charitable organisation we also may enlist the help of our community members when it becomes clear that there may be a public issue where we can advocate on behalf of the public. For example, during ‘Cash Week’ we were able to deliver a booklet directly to Downing Street which contained over 1,000 comments from our community that fought for the rights to protect access to cash and cash institutions (ATM machines, bank buildings) throughout the UK.
Q: Can you describe the various hard and soft skills required for the work, and how StrawberrySocial were able to quickly pick these up and deliver?
When it comes to the hard skills of community management it’s extremely important to ensure that anyone working with our community has the innate understanding of how communities work: this includes basic understanding of platforms, dynamics and methods to engage.
In addition, by its intrinsic nature, empathy is a must. Possessing the soft skills of understanding your particular community culture and understand them QUICKLY is vital.
What impressed me most was how StrawberrySocal was able to pick up our community needs so quickly; during our initial briefing I spent hardly any time explaining the technology because everyone already understood the mechanics of using our systems.
We have a very detailed manual which outlines everything we need for our community team to follow. It took about an hour [for StrawberrySocial] to understand what was needed and then run with it. The breadth of understanding was simply not a problem and I was able to walk away knowing that I’d entrusted my community to the right people.
It’s very refreshing to work with folks that want to understand the audience and what kind of people are here and what they’re talking about. We haven’t had much of a problem with moderation anyway, and when [StrawberrySocial] came in, it was smooth sailing from the get go. It was rare there were issues, but when there were, the team picked them up immediately. This meant I was able to reduce the amount of paperwork and reporting back because you don’t need that level of paperwork when everybody is on the same page. I trust the decisions that the StrawberrySocial team has been making.
Q: Historically, what have been the pain points experienced by you with regards to community and support?
We have a very small, very vocal set of regular community members and the Which? Community is extremely important to them. They are extremely passionate about what they feel a consumers’ organisation should be doing . In some instances, their responses might fall outside of our guidelines for keeping a strong and positive community for everyone, including our people watching in the background or members new to the community.
Q: How has the StrawberrySocial team worked with Which? Community Team and resolved those pain points?
StrawberrySocial has minimised the issues we have with those people – in particular, they’re extremely adept at knowing when a conversation is about to go pear-shaped. The team knows the right moment of when to remove the vitriol before things get out of hand.
Q: Can you describe the importance of trust, when building out your community team, and how StrawberrySocial has built that trust? Can you share a story that describes why you entrust your forum to StrawberrySocial?
Basically, I know the level of communication, I know the level of service is going to be top notch, reliable, and on time. Communication from their team is ongoing and clear.
Historically we’ve come from a place where moderation support was very unreliable unfortunately, and we had to spend a lot of time and effort just to have an open conversation with everyone involved. This included a basic understanding of what is needed to do basic moderation.
In addition, getting any reporting details about the day-to-day work of the team was extremely challenging. With the StrawberrySocial team, I know that they know what they’re doing, and if a question comes up they don’t hesitate to ask.
Q: Is there anything else you’d like to share about the relationship between Which? Community Team and StrawberrySocial and how it has improved your overall community and social support?
Reputation has been a really big win. I would be remiss as a consumer not to mention that they’re excellent value for their money. I had to go through an extensive procurement process which for a magazine that interviews products for value, took about 4 months to finally onboard the Strawberry Social team. At the end of the process, our procurement manager gave me a shout out that we’re actually saving the company money overall and bringing incredible value to the company!
It’s been a really good onboarding process as well and I wouldn’t hesitate doing more work together in the future as we’re moving towards a larger community responsibility across more platforms!