Could a new social search service with a name synonymous with ‘earth pig‘ have implications for marketing and communications? I think so.
Aardvark let’s you ask questions anonymously and receive answers from individuals in your or your friends’ social networks who may have relevant expertise. The service is opt-in, anonymous and questions can be asked and received on the Web, through Twitter, email and so on. There’s a homepage where you set up a profile but the process takes seconds and you never have to go back.
I’ve used Aardvark over the past few weeks and it’s enabled me to tap into distributed expertise – from people several degrees of separation removed from me – quickly and easily. It works so well that I find myself using Aardvark over Google for knowledge discovery.
So what are the implications for marketing and communications? Here are some preliminary ideas:
– Internal Communications: It’s no secret that large enterprises have a problem with knowledge transfer and it’s no secret that social networking has been suggested as a possible solution. I think Aardvark is more realistic for connecting employees. Why? Because an Aardvark-like service could be implemented and used so easily.
o HR managers could log new employees into the system without those employees having to take any action. Job descriptions could be used to set up areas of expertise.
o Employees would use it because the system can be accessed from virtually any medium.
o Older employees not comfortable with traditional social networks? That’s fine; they can use the system perfectly well through email.
o Younger employees more comfortable with a Twitter interface or mobile app? That’s easy to implement too.
– Customer engagement: Imagine enrolling every new customer/user in an Aardvark-like service when you close the sale. Customers would immediately be plugged into a network of experts (other customers) with similar challenges or issues and with almost no effort on their part. Customers could be empowered to ask questions about products as well as issues relevant to their industry, job function etc. As the broker of the relationship vendors benefit from delivering another value-added service (at minimal cost). There’s also the potential opportunity for valuable data mining.
– Thought leadership and expert visibility: This is the one that’s really captured my attention. Currently Aardvark is anonymous and the system routes you to the best resource based on user profiles. What if users had the option of selecting to receive answers from identified experts affiliated with a company, product or service? How might this work?
o Users might opt in to direct their questions to qualified and identified experts to obtain answers that require a higher degree of credibility (medical questions for instance)
o Vendors, of course, would benefit from having a direct channel to promote their expertise and thought leadership.
o Taking it a step further, users could rate vendor responses. Top rated vendors on a topic would get the first crack at relevant questions, thereby incentivizing them to provide value each time.
Answer sites, social networks and the chaos that is Twitter address each of these ideas/opportunities in their own ways but somehow Aardvark, because of its filtering, its simplicity, and the fact that it eliminates the burden of creating original content for a destination site, seems much more attractive to me. What do you think?