Weekly Update

Lithium expands from social customer support to social customer engagement

I only learned last week that Lithium, the social customer support company, holds an annual user conference, and that the next one is coming up in May. I thought I would take a look at the conference information, and see if there is any indication of where the company is going, now that the company acquired Klout, the social media leaderboard service, back in March for $200 million (see Is Klout really worth $200 Million?).

On one superficial level, $200 million is a cheap price for 500 million registered users digital reputations, which Klout has claimed. Of course that has to be tempered with some assessment of the value of each user identity relative to Lithium’s strategic goals.

As I wrote at the time of the acquisition, Klout had started to pivot the service toward a publishing/content sharing model, so maybe that’s something that lines up with Lithium’s plans (see screen capture below).

Screenshot-2014-03-27-06.59.46-708x489

In the materials for the conference, I found these two talks revealing:

Rob Tarkoff, President and CEO, Lithium

Age of Extreme Customer Expectations

When a customer has a question, they want the answer now, wherever they are, on any device and from a source they trust. This quest for help is no longer private. An irate customer complaint is now a tweet; a personalized sales experience is now an ecommerce review. People are looking for information they trust—wherever they are in their journey. Join Lithium CEO Rob Tarkoff as he challenges leading brands to meet, and exceed, these customers’ extreme expectation to thrive.

Shared Value, Trust and Reputation

Lithium Chief Product Officer, Tapan Bhat, will share the complete vision of the Lithium platform and how it allows you to now serve customers at any point in the lifecycle—from awareness to advocacy. He’ll share the advances we’ve made in social response, gamification, mobile and analytics and unveil our new products from our recent Klout acquisition. Ultimately, we’ll show why we believe reputation is the new currency online, and by cultivating trusted content and trusted people, we’re rebuilding relationships between brands and consumers.

Tarkoff’s talk is geared to the company’s historic positioning, while Bhat’s is perhaps a better indicator of where they are headed: their product vision.

And my read is this: Lithium is moving beyond its current positioning in the marketplace as the leading social customer support platform to a new — and significantly larger — emerging marketplace: social customer engagement. Rather than selling a technology that support client companies just in their support activities, and where end users share complaints and suggestions, Lithium wants to expand beyond that and support outreach and engagement, helping companies market and brand through content.

Consider the expression ‘reputation is the new currency online’ and you’ll see where Klout plays in the positioning. Klout’s claim was that its algorithm was more than just counting followers: it was measuring engagement between each social media user and their community, and distilling that into a reputation score. Take as given that it was — which is debatable — and its obvious why Lithium saw value in Klout: to help Lithium customer companies better engage with their communities through content marketing, its essential to discern reputation, especially if the mechanism is based on user-generated content.

There are the tea leaves, and that’s my assessment. Lithium intends to dramatically increase their value to customers by helping them with their communities across the lifecycle of engagement, and so starting now I think they’ll be a leader — and perhaps the leader — in the new market of social customer engagement.