/ Case Study, Contribution, guestpost, New Concepts, Social Media.

This is how blur Group has build a business only using the Social Web:

Businesses now see social media as an important channel but at blur Group it has been the only channel – for everything from staff recruitment to revenue generation. Showing the power of Social Media, Adictos Social Media, one of our first Crowd members, is now sharing this story at its event in Valencia.

When blur Group introduced the idea of Agency 3.0 it would have been easy to avoid practising what was being preached. Launch a Crowdsourced agency, demand social engagement, but promote and build using old media techniques. Many businesses have played safe and kept both lines well and truly open. Web 2.0 companies run by Web 1.0 people, using pre-Web selling.

The particular challenge that a Crowdsourced agency faces is that it has two audiences to entice. Any business needs customers and staff. Most early stage businesses recruit according to a fairly rigid model of planned growth, revenues, expectations, per capita returns. Customer acquisition determines the rate of the staff growth.

With blur Group the Crowd is the staff. It had to be built first. Without the Crowd, the model didn’t exist. Not just a skeleton startup team but, well, a Crowd. Step back a bit further. The Crowd had to have an office.

The office was a super-social managed platform. The intranet of a level of sophistication which a company could only dream about. Where the content is user generated, and the users are user generated, able to engage, discuss, share easily, gaining from each other’s expertise to strengthen their own crowd offering. A platform tailored to appeal to the type of Crowd member: subtly different options depending on the nature of the Crowd. The designers had to have a very visual platform, marketers want to show their specific skills through discussion groups. A truly social, if very virtual, office.

So how to recruit these Crowds? Blogs are the social media lynchpin. They start to tell the story that can then sail around the social networks.  They give some words to be used in word of mouth. At the early stages, as with most social media campaigns, it had to be about educating. Then engagement followed. Sometimes directly through 1:1 messages on networks like LinkedIn. More often as outreach with strong messages about what Crowd membership could deliver. As people started to ‘get’ Crowdsourcing, they wanted to be in the Crowd. A simple video explaining What is Crowdsourcing explained everything for the early community. Lesson: tell a story in as many ways as possible. Twitter, YouTube, WordPress are today’s fireside: the tale develops with each telling.

Part one of the mission accomplished: a large number of members of each of the Crowds. Or Crowdies as blur Group termed them.

To customers. blur Group needs them. The Crowd needs them. This is the point when many businesses would draw breath, mutter about social, but start a heavy duty marketing and sales effort to start to win business. Not blur Group. Holding to social principles we started to tell people what we were doing and created a simple method whereby they could use our services. The 1,2,3 of briefing and project delivery. Again, blogs to educate then engage potential clients. Encourage marketing directors, agencies, anyone with a need to run a campaign according to their rules, not those of a traditional agency, to come to blur Group and brief us. Promotion through Twitter and Facebook. Using good SEO techniques and small sums on AdWords. No resort to any other methods: if a potential client could see 8,000 people waiting to help them, then they couldn’t resist trying the process. Web only: no phone numbers are on the site. Submit a brief and then discover more.

Part two accomplished. The clients started submitting briefs; the Crowd could respond; blur Group and the Crowd started to win business and revenues. The additional managed Crowd approach that blur Group provided made it more valuable to clients and Crowd members than the free for all approach of the ‘designalogo’ sites. Today blur Group receives more than one new client brief a day, including from some of the worlds largest corporations.

Don’t think this wholly social approach was synonymous with a rapid startup. It took planning, took time and took effort. Three lessons there for those who believe that social is the cheap, fast alternative. It’s a different approach but needs the same disciplines as any other business growth plan. Belief being one of them. Flexibility is another: where do you need to plug more activity? What needs changing? When all the channels are social, it’s easier to adapt.

Now blur Group is moving to the next stage of growth and scaling faster. But it continues to adhere to its social standpoint. It may do more of it, the AdWords budget may increase, the Facebook pages may get a bit glossier and its PR beyond the digital domain and blogger community. We’ll even be attending some live events and organising some of our own to show our faces. But social will drive everything that blur Group does as it engages and grows both its Crowd Community and its Client Community. Community, Content and Collaboration are the Cs that make up most social marketing: blur Group adds Crowd to this mix and makes for a social business built and grown using social techniques.

What say you?

Attribution: blur Group