Jon Bishop is the head of Innovation Communications at PayPal UK. Before joining PayPal, Jon was the head of social media at Gumtree.com where he proposed and executed Gumtree’s first social media strategy based on their brand and business needs. With rich experience in the industry, we asked Jon to compare the two communities and also explain how to build a loyal community around a non-tangible brand such as PayPal.
Hi Jon. What is your greatest internet security challenge?
A lot of my work is on social media platforms so I rely on third party websites and client applications to do my job which often makes the IT security team nervous. And for good reason too, with high profile security issues over the years on the likes of Tweetdeck, Dropbox and Wordpress. So I have to make sure that web services have the maximum security options enabled such as HTTPS and two-step verification. I also keep all Wordpress plugins and versions up to date and download client applications from reliable sources. There’s a lot more you can do but as long as you know the risks in every service you use, you can stay proactive to ensure you operate safely online.
What are the similarities and also the differences between building a community around Gumtree versus PayPal?
The only real similarity between Gumtree and PayPal is that they both have buyers and sellers that use the service. Other than that, the two communities are quite different. Gumtree has always been very community focused, with a laid back attitude, so community was always alive with a huge variety of conversation. When I was working there, the forum had over 250k registered members so it was insanely busy. My team spend a lot of their time just making sure the conversation was safe for public consumption.
There are two main types of forum communities, chat forums and Q&A forums. Gumtree was definitely on the chat side although we did answer a lot of Q&A as well. PayPal’s community is all about Q&A. PayPal is flexible product that can be used in many different ways so the PayPal forum is a great place to discuss the more technical side of PayPal and get answers on complicated issues. It is also very popular, with over 5 million page views per month.
I started both the Gumtree and PayPal UK Facebook pages and it is great to see them thriving with lots of activity. The Facebook communities for both companies are all about public engagement and initiating a conversation with the customer, as well as taking the opportunity to engage in social customer service and help users with any issues they may have.
What are your best pointers for building a brand around something non-tangible, such as PayPal? How do you find resonance with such a brand?
Focusing on what problems your product solves for the customer is the best way to build a brand. At the same time keep the messaging simple and honest. So for the buyers, we focus on the speed and convenience of PayPal and for the sellers, we focus on ubiquity, increased sales and easy integration. For both audiences, our key message is that we are safe and therefore we can be trusted. Trust is probably the single most important brand attribute an online, intangible brand should aim for.
If Facebook fails, it will probably be because too many people started seeing Facebook as a company that they can’t trust with their personal data. As Twitter becomes more commercially focused, it will have trust issues as well. The first big trust incident came recently when Twitter tightened up on their API rules, losing the trust of some of the developer community. Expect more related issues when they start to roll out targeted ads into your Twitter feed.
How do you keep a uniform front with regards to other PayPal locations across the globe, such as PayPal Japan?
It can be quite tricky on social media sometimes as people tend to want to set up a local presence and get going as soon as possible. Having good, strong guidelines and policies in place and having people know who the right person is to contact to discuss deploying their local branded presence; all help to make sure local presences are launched successfully and on brand. Policies should protect the brand but not be too restrictive. For example my global policy at PayPal has been to encourage local activity if they are certain that they have the dedicated resources to maintain the channels and respect the brand.
Can PayPal accounts be credited and used for a purchase at a later stage?
You can keep a balance in your PayPal account to be used at any of the thousands of international websites that accept PayPal or to send money to friends and family. These amounts are linked to the relevant currency.
So does this make PayPal a currency?
We don’t consider ourselves a currency; we simply facilitate the online and mobile movement of currencies both locally and internationally.
Lastly, if money was no obstacle, which website would you visit and what would you purchase?
I have this theory that the data storage and interactive areas of a social network should be an open source entity without any commercial intent, which any free service can connect to. So if money, and therefore profit, wasn’t an object, I’d buy up all the websites and technology teams I’d need to make this happen.
Thank you for your time and effort, Jon. Your input is really valuable to brands alike. Follow Jon on Twitter here.