BiF-4 Insights – Blue Shirt Nation

by Braden Kelley

Steve Bendt and Gary Koelling both came from an advertising background and so we went out and started pitching this idea we had of a social network for employees (Blue Shirt Nation)

  • Everyone we talked to was supportive and referred us to someone else, until we went in a big circle
  • But nobody wanted to put up any money
  • So we just went and built it on the open source Drupal and got two years of hosting for $100
  • Lawyers and HR said it looked fine
  • But we got a lot of feedback from the stores that said it sucked
  • Not unexpected because we didn’t know what we were doing
  • People also came in and were trying to sort out what the power arrangement was in this community (Is this still top-down corporate?)

So we asked people “What would we have to change to make you tell other people to use it?”

  • We also discovered that the users are going to have to be in charge or we’re screwed
  • People are going to have to volunteer to use it
  • Gradually we grew from 1,000 members to 2k to 12k to 15k to 24,000 members today
  • One of the key catalysts ended up being corporate making a change to the employee discount policy
  • People had no other place to voice their opposition so they came to Blue Shirt Nation
    • Change was announced on a Tuesday
    • But the story broke on Blue Shirt Nation the day before the announcement (Monday)
    • People voiced the business reasons why it shouldn’t change (employee trial, improved product knowledge, improved advocacy, recruiting tool, etc.)

The employee discount controversy not only helped to make Blue Shirt Nation a success, but it also spawned an outburst of Wikis and Idea Marketplaces.

The controversy also helped people understand the additional sources of value from things like the employee discount and why they should view them as more of an investment than as a pure cost.

For more information on the talk, go here.

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