At various times on the morning of Thursday 30th July, the Wikipedia entry for Caroline of Brunswick became slightly more colourful, with users providing such additions as:

  • She famously participated in the inaugural Ashes cricket match between England and the Australian colony of Botany Bay in 1793;
  • Known for introducing the earliest form of the Duckworth-Lewis method in cricket, using bones and rope; and,
  • Her fame enjoyed a brief renaissance on the morning of 30th July 2009 when she became the topic of web-based cricket banter

These were just some of many updates made to the article over the course of the morning that have – sadly in my opinion – all now been removed. At its height, the Queen Consort became the 5th most searched-for term on Google worldwide, according to NewsTrendz.
It all started because the journalist covering the first day of the Third Test made a joke comparing Prince George’s reaction to Caroline with Andrew Straus’s reaction to the soggy pitch at Edgbaston. The defacement of Wikipedia articles were just one part of a morning of email- and text-related ‘banter’ which appeared on this usually sport-filled column. At one point, the Wikipedia History Editor even emailed in to protest, in good humour, as “a ‘gulley’ of cricket hooligans invaded our Caroline of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel web page”.
I have no doubt that this kept a large number of people amused and occupied as they hoped that the rain clouds would disperse for long enough for the cricket to begin. An update on the cricket, of course, was the reason that people had visited this page in the first place!
Why is this interesting? A few days ago, Vinesh Kurup commented on how customers can take disruptive action in an increasing number of ways. For me, this episode is another example of that, albeit in a mischievous rather than unhappy way. Furthermore, it is evidence that, in its “Live Text” articles, the BBC is demonstrating an excellent level of customer understanding and engagement. These columns fulfil a need for everyone who can’t access a TV or a radio to see the latest sports score. But they get an experience as well as the score update – a journalist is given free reign to post his views and include any emails/pictures/comments which have been sent in to him.
On the BBC site, every major sporting event now has a “Live Text” column and there is a huge amount of reader involvement. Audience participation is so high that supporters actually at the event being covered access the column on their phones and text in a comment! The BBC has pitched this service with spectacular effect, knowing that sport and banter go together as well as the England cricket team and a mid-order collapse!
There are many examples of similar occurrences across the web. For me, this is a great example not only of an organisation which knows the type of experience it is trying to convey, but empowers its employees to deliver that vision. These columns succeed because they follow the three golden rules of social networking: they’re responsive, they bring more than the product to the table, and they don’t stifle the comments.
Similarly, at Capgemini, one of our employees recently recorded a farewell message to colleagues on YouTube, which has done the rounds on Twitter most recently, and elicited a significant response. We’re always looking for new ways to improve collaboration or encourage debate – whether that is internally or externally facing.
The BBC sports columns and the Capgemini farewell video are examples of how you don’t need fancy technical wizardry to create a real community – these things are accessible to anyone with a mobile phone or an internet connection. If you work to truly understand the customer, creating the right experience can be as simple as a pencil and a piece of paper.