The following case study is a summary of the panel Rob Key shared with Quixtar’s Robin Luymes at the Corporate Reputation and Communication Conference organized by The Conference Board (New York, September 26, 2007).

The client

Quixtar logoOne of our clients is Quixtar, which has been recognized as the #1 online retailer in the Health & Beauty category in Internet Retailer’s “Top 500 Guide” that ranks America’s largest retail websites, with $136 billion in sales in 2006. The company ‘offers a business opportunity that allows people to have a business of their own based on retailing products and sharing the opportunity with others who will do the same‘ and provides a compensation plan, products, merchandising materials, training and education to hundreds of thousands of Independent Business Owners (IBOs).

Quixtar is the sister company of Amway, and its official representative in US and Canada.

The challenge

Converseon was contracted to work with Quixtar when its online reputation was highly negative. Critics were using third party websites to post complaints that were receiving no answer from the company. Also, critics were accusing Quixtar of using ‘black hat’ SEO techniques in order to suppress criticism.

First step: Conversation Mining

We started by undertaking a comprehensive overview of the CGM conversational landscape, in order to understand the main topics and issues associated with the brand, what is the associated polarity, who are the most influential and the most vocal critics, and how their contributions are impacting the search engines result pages — among other issues.

Developing and implementing a social media strategy

Based on the analysis of data gathered through Conversation Mining, and on our readiness assessment of Quixtar’s internal culture, we developed a strategy for enabling the company to participate in the online conversation by engaging in civil discourse with its critics and advocates, in a direct and transparent manner.

The strategy implementation included:

  • Development of a blog portal
  • Social Media workshops for key senior executives
  • Identifying and training employees on blogging 101, ethics and best practices, writing for web
  • Development of blog themes
  • Adoption of WOMMA Code of Ethics
  • Addressing legal issues, establishing processes and protocols
  • Optimization of content and infrastructure for search engines
  • Ongoing daily counseling, training and optimization.

Opportunity Zone logoOn December 1st 2006, Quixtar launched Opportunity Zone – a “place to talk and learn about the Quixtar business opportunity and the people, products, and plan that support it“- with Inside Quixtar and The Real Quixtar Blog, two blogs written by top communications managers. Ada-tudes, a blog written by top executives, and One By One, a blog about Quixtar’s philanthropic and community service efforts, were added in January 2007. Since then other 6 blogs have been launched – on topics going from shopping and selling to fashion and beauty, food and cooking, stories from IBOs, information technology, and sponsored events.

Results (as of end of August, 2007):

  • The volume of conversation about Quixtar has increased 41%
  • The volume of Quixtar-generated CGM content has increased 5 times
  • The volume of CGM content authored by major detractors has decreased by half
  • The positive sentiment in CGM content has increased 150%
  • The negative sentiment has dropped 39%
  • The depth of the conversation has increased by 83%

Beyond the cold numbers, the Opportunity Zone has become the place where Quixtar is talking, through employees and top executives, with its stakeholders, on a whole array of issues, good and bad, concerning its business. The process of opening the communications channels is not necessarily a simple one — but both critics and advocates seem to think it’s well worth the effort:

Kemi T, Quixtar Inside Out

Finally (okay, this time it’s for real), I want to say that I am really impressed by the Opportunity Zone. It’s great that the corp has opened this avenue of two-way communication. Sure, I don’t agree with every single thing that’s there (and what does that matter anyway?), and some are impatient what they perceive as slow (or nonexistent) progress, but Rome wasn’t built in a day. I’m liking what I see, and I hope I’m not disappointed.

Robin Luymes, The Real Quixtar Blog:

SO, with Opportunity Zone, we’re getting a little naked. Are we stripped bare yet? Hardly. After all, we’re talking about 50 years of organizational culture that needs to be shifted. But, I will say this, within the walls of Quixtar and even down the street at Alticor, people are noticing the Opportunity Zone and I think there’s a genuine interest in getting nekkid. Some will still be concerned about whether we reveal too much or that we will get into legal trouble or that we will look bad. Well, I don’t worry too much about looking bad, because we already haven’t looked that great to a lot of people out there. I think people understand there are certain legal things we can’t discuss because they’re live issues, but we should talk freely about the issues we can.

So, get naked! Out yourself before you’re outed. If people find out stuff about you or your business from someone else, they’ll assume you were holding out on them. Our business IS an incredible opportunity for others and DOES offer incredible products that can make a real difference in people’s lives. There’s nothing to hide about that!