Build your own “IdeaStorm” with UserVoice

Embrace your Customers
At Forrester, we use the term Embracing as a social strategy where customers and employees work together using social tools to build next-generation products. Quite a change for the strong headed product manager, who now has to set the roadmap, while in collaboration with customers.

Popular Examples: Dell and Starbucks

We’re all familiar with the popular Dell “Idea Storm” website that let customers vote for which features and products they wanted to be bore to the marketplace. In Dell’s case, the linux community asked for a UBUNTU box, which was created and launched and sold. I wish I was a fly on the wall when Dell’s strategic partners at Microsoft found out about this.

Recently, Starbucks has launched My Starbucks Ideas, where customers are voting for improved services or products in each of the stores. Looking at the site, the request for free wireless or ‘punchcards’ for frequent customers is under consideration or has been improved.

Both powered by SalesForce
Both of these sites are powered by Salesforce’s product, Ideas. Move on over, there’s a new player in town called UserVoice that offers the same features right on their site.

UserVoice, a new kid on the block
I’ve played around with UserVoice and even created a version for my own Web Strategy blog, the simple features made it easy to setup and let others submit ideas. I’ve not stress tested this service to see if it can withstand enterprise activity like SalesForce can, but it’s a nod to a common feature (voting) that we should start to expect to see in white label social networks. (in fact, I know of a few that are going to launch this)

Reporting, Query features, and easy to setup
Other UserVoice features to include Google Analytics, and the ability to collect demographic information and let owners know of suggestions. Owners of voting sites can also segment their customers by different purchasing sizes, in order to help prioritize. Also, polling features will help to put color around suggestions from users, and other conduits to improve the connectivity between employees and customers.

For example, I created this own Web Strategy UserVoice page where you can go and make suggestions on how I can improve this website.

If you’re a small company or individual blogger, or run a niche product, I encourage you to try out UserVoice, test to see how it scales, and come back and leave comments on your experience on this post. If you’re from a large company that has thousands or millions of customers, start with SalesForce and also trial UserVoice. Anyone that wants a fully custom user experience should start with SalesForce.

Update: I’ve received some tweets and comments also suggesting IdeaScale (which I think is the same as this product of the same name), I’ve not looked at it, please leave a comment if you’ve a review. Also, passionate CEO Matt from BrightIdea left a comment about his enterprise class competitor to SalesForce, I look forward to a formal Forrester briefing from him, let’s take a closer look at this growing segment.

What to Expect
UserVoice would make for a good partner for any of those white label social networks, and could even be an acquisition target for a vendor that’s not up to speed in this emerging feature set.

Expect other White Label Social Networking vendors to offer this feature, soon it will be on the ‘checklist’, of features. Customer voting? “Yup we got that.”

They aren’t the only ones to watch, Get Satisfaction, a support site for any product, anywhere, (no reason to go to that irrelvant corporate website) has launched, and customers are self-supporting each other, and some savvy companies have their employees there participating. Without surprise, I’m there representing Forrester, although there’s been no activity. Satisfaction is still very startup focused, I hope to see some Fortune 1000 companies appear on their site.

Lastly, UserVoice itself is, “eating their own dog food” so to speak, using their own service to improve their product, there’s already a small flurry of votes happening.

56 Replies to “Build your own “IdeaStorm” with UserVoice”

  1. QuestionPro also has the same tool – I think for less called “IdeaScale” check that one out. I’m testing it right now with some clients.

  2. Jeremiah,

    In addition to the applications for Dell and Starbucks, companies are also building their own idea generation features for their communities. An example of this is Cisco’s NetPro Community Idea Center ( Built using existing technology in place on the site, it also generated several good ideas for Cisco and the community at large.

    As you state, this feature is quickly becoming a must have in the online community world. Several of our new clients have mentioned this at the outset of our discussions as a feature that they want to offer and specifically mention Dell’s Idea Storm. Good to see other vendors getting involved and offering a white label version…

  3. Thank you Jeremiah for the kind words,
    Just as an FYI, UserVoice is rolling out a host of new features this weekend –
    ¢ Admins may create as many suggestions as they want w/o spending their votes. This will let them import suggestions or “seed” the page with existing ideas.
    ¢ Redesigning the main suggestion page to promote our client’s brands above our own (it’ll just remain “powered by uservoice”).
    ¢ Major reworking to allow multiple suggestion pages per subdomain. This will allow companies to create topic-specific suggestion pages, categories, etc.
    ¢ Ability to embed a single suggestion in another page. Useful for referencing a suggestion when blogging about how you fixed it. *** Note: that this suggestion requires you to click-through before adding votes, comments, etc.

    We’re about a week away from the “multiple suggestion pages,” but the rest of this list will be active within 24 hours. Stay tuned!

  4. Hi Martin, sorry about the response time! Are you certain it was the widget? The feedback widget loads after your page finishes, so it shouldn’t get in the way of your website’s performance. It looks snappy now, but let us know if you continue to have an issue so we can make UserVoice even better.

  5. Now the real question Jeremiah: are you going to give the people what they want?

    I feel some candid exploration of the local Jack in the Box is in your future.

  6. Jeremiah- I agree completely that this trend is only going to grow dramatically. I love seeing companies embrace this method of listening and engaging the customers. One caution I would send out to anyone setting up a larger scale idea site is the need for a management back end. You can only imagine trying to sort through and actually work on the almost 9K ideas we have so far without a method for tracking status, assigning owners, etc. Do you know if these other vendors offer the idea management tools as well?
    Dawn Lacallade, Dell Ideastorm

  7. Whoops! I guess you missed in your in depth analysis for this piece. =) is the ‘only enterprise class’ option? really??

    It might surprise you to learn that these minor enterprises use our tools:
    – UBS
    – Cisco
    – Bayer
    – British Telecom
    – Discovery Channel
    – and about 200+ others.

    Our SaaS infrastructure is SAS70 certified and has been used to collect ideas from over 100 countries. Enterprises
    with more than 25 geographic locations and over 125,000 employees have also been successful with our tools.

    Cisco’s I-Prize is powered by our WebStorm product

    But collecting ideas from customers without the means or a process to follow-through is like asking your family what they want for dinner, ignoring them, and serving meatloaf left-overs.

    That’s why offers not only the Idea Portal, but also the back-end with full-scale Idea Management, and Innovation Pipeline tracking system, to close the loop.

    Don’t take my word for it. Dawn@Dell is on the front lines, she gets what is required to be successful.

    Ideas isn’t a ‘feature’ of Brightidea’s whitelabel social network it is the sole purpose. I predict: unless white label social networks specialize to a specific core business process, they will end up in the IT trash heap, covered in the ashes of their VCs money. Hey is that Knowledge Management over there? It’s good to see you again man!

    When we show people how our customers have saved tens of millions dollars or grown revenue hundreds of millions dollars with our tools, they don’t have to blush when they bring it to management.

    Respectfully Yours,

    Matt Greeley
    President & CEO :: The Leader in On-Demand Innovation Management

    ps-Not every customer idea site /should/ be public, especially when dealing with intellectual property or new business ideas. Once something gets cached by Google you can’t make it go away even if you want to. Frankly, I’m worried some of these newer vendors are giving Innovation Management a bad name.

  8. The “suggestion box” approach can provide some value, and I’m now trying out UserVoice and IdeaScale as well. Interesting timing in the blogosphere on this one!

    A completely open suggestion box, can however have some major downsides – even though I’m a believer in participation, openness and transparency, the stats on innovation show that focus is needed to maximize the value of these efforts.

    As @DellDawn suggests, the whole management process itself is significant. Creating the front-end, vote up/down, commentary and status isn’t rocket science. Nearly any blog can do that right now with a few widgets to provide ranking, combined with typical commenting and categories/tagging.

    Innovation Management and Idea Management imply and end-to-end process, including the idea generation component on through filtering for duplicates, dumb ideas, things that have already been done, as well as genuine useful and relevant ideas that can be taken to market.

    And I have to say, is not nearly the first or the most successful “open innovation” solution.

    This entire movement is born out of the Voice of the Customer movement, itself coming from marketing techniques that go back to the earliest days of focus groups. It’s just at a different scale – small i innovation (incremental) rather than radical BIG I INNOVATION (brand new, never been seen before).

    Some other competitors that have moved beyond the web-enabled open suggestion box: BrightIdea, Imaginatik, and MindMatters. All of which existed well before Salesforce commercialized their solution.

    So, I’d say it is patently false to say that “IdeaExchange is the only enterprise class version” of anything. It’s a logical extension of the Salesforce platform – pulling data in from the outside (consumers, users), and marrying to their traditional datasource, handled by marketing and sales people and processes feeding in the CRM/SFA engines. Not “the only” by a long shot.

    For someone else’s thoughts on the open innovation, wisdom of crowds front, see Mark Turrell’s recent YouTube video at which describes more of the pros/cons of various approaches. He’s CEO of Imaginatik, so hardly unbiased, but he’s been involved in this type of work for nearly 10 years, and can provide far more detailed anecdotes on the hard results of these systems.

    The Forbes article on Suggestion Box 2.0 is a reasonable introduction to this topic as well, see (far too long to paste here).

    I’ll close with the wisdom that venture capitalists know all too well. Ideas are nothing. It’s execution that counts. How do you execute on 100, 1,000 or 10,000 submitted ideas? You can’t wing it, you need processes and systems in place, or you are toast.

    Innovation at the enterprise-level is hard work, even when tapping the crowd. And as Henry Ford said “If I listened to my customers, I would’ve bred a faster horse.” Suggestions frequently (but not always) require interpretation.

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  10. J, I’m the newly hired mkt mgr at V:social, a white label social media promotions platform. We enable voting, ranking, rating etc. in addition to the usual. Is it true that no other white labels do the same?

  11. Steven

    Nice to meet you, you should setup a time to brief me formally, I’m going to be doing a a wave on your market soon.

    There are many other white label providers doing this, they just have to configure certain modules.

    Most have not ‘packaged’ it.

  12. Jeremiah,

    Thanks for the writeup…agreed that this will be a major “must have” feature for the army of white-listed social network providers.

    I’ve spent a little time with both Uservoice and IdeaScale. It seems like if you took Uservoice’s UI and IdeaScale’s categorization and members-only login features, you’d have a win. Uservoice is far more intuitive than IdeaScale. To Matt Greely’s point, however, the fact that anyone can visit the site and leave comments because there is no login mechanism would clearly nix this idea for small businesses.

    IdeaScale has more features and the categories that an admin can set up in advance can help channel your customers’ feedback, which is very helpful. They’ve also got several tiers of security (enabling you to have as much control over approving ideas or letting them go unmoderated). IdeaScale is currently in Beta, with corporate and enterprise-class licensed version planned some time in June.

    While they were very responsive to some initial queries, it seems they’ve still got a few bugs to work out before this is really ready for prime-time.

    Thanks again for the post; I’m looking forward to checking out what BrightIdea is offering in this space above and beyond the more publicly-celebrated examples like Dell and Starbucks.

    Best regards,


  13. @Jeremiah,

    We have briefed Charlene, Navi and most recently Chris Townsend. We’ll try to get on your calendar for a briefing asap.

    Looking forward to the WAVE report.

    Thanks for your thoughtful work on white label social networks. It has been formative to my own view of how Enterprise 2.0 is emerging.

    I believe Forrester has a real advantage in expertise in Web 2.0, Ent 2.0, Corporate Social Networks & Innovation Management.


  14. Jeremiah, I don’t know why you are plugging Salesforce so strongly. They are very new to this space, BrightIdea has been at it for years and has been winning some big accounts lately. I wrote about them on ZDNet last year…

  15. Tom

    We’ve been praising Dell’s Ideastorm here at Forrester, and the halo effect has shifted to the vendor that provided the service.

    Many other brands also covet Dell’s success and discussions over their platform (SalesForce) has come up.

    Secondly, Brightidea hasn’t briefed me (maybe other analysis) so I hope to learn more.

    Eyes and ears open.

  16. UserVoice + GetSatisfaction would be really nice.

    I’ve only played with UserVoice a little and they have indeed created a nice simple application which integrates ultra smooth.

    I’d keep an eye out for getSatisfaction to implement some of this that they are currently lacking.

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  19. Hi Jeremiah,

    Thank you for your write-up on UserVoice. We are working with the University of California San Diego (UCSD) to create a tighter alumni network. ( We are using UserVoice as a community platform for alumni to submit and vote on ideas.

    Before we built the site, we looked at a number of different community platform services including Sales Force. We ultimately chose UserVoice for a number of different reasons.

    The number of options that Sales Force offered just became too overwhelming. Although some companies may be looking for a CRM solution with many options, we needed something straight forward and easy to set up. All the options they offered actually became a barrier. If we wanted a certain option, we were routed around to too many different people and promised too many calls back. We almost like to think of Sales Force as a PC and UserVoice as a Mac. 😉

    UserVoice also conveniently allows alumni to sign in using different log-ins including Facebook, Myspace, Yahoo, Google and AOL. We really like this option as most people do not want to sign up for yet another account! Lastly, UserVoice was more affordable and fit our budget perfectly.

    So far, UserVoice has been very helpful to us by answering our questions and we really appreciate that.

    Other companies could probably learn a little something from UserVoice–offer a platform
    where people can sign up, customize and use.
    Not everyone needs bells and whistles. 🙂


  20. Hi Marcus

    How much does uservoice cost for internal innovation? and where will it be hosted? could it be internally hosted by the company?

  21. Sup Jeremiah! Hope this finds you well.

    Looks like you accidentally missed JumpStart by MediaBlinkk as well. =)



    Quick Overview:

    MediaBlinkk JumpStart – Customer Research, Idea Sharing, Customer Feedback, Customer Support Software – What do you get when you mix Ideastorm, IdeaExchange and MediaBlinkk? JumpStart the next generation crowd based social communication, customer research, customer feedback, social feedback tool. JumpStart is a web based crowd sourcing social feedback, customer research and idea sharing interaction platform inspired by IdeaStorm, IdeaExchange and MediaBlinkk. JumpStart the next generation of customer support, customer research and customer feedback sharing.

    It's used by a number of development teams at some of the fortune 500 companies mentioned here. Plus companies use it for 24/7 customer, client focus groups, remote engineering idea management, remote and virtual meeting item and topic discussions, social publishing, community building, social and customer feedback and more. We've been around since 2006, but mostly white label until now.

    Check us out.

    I agree with the other poster, it takes more than just feedback, the software needs to also help you make the most out of your time and effort, JumpStart does that. Think of it like an efficiency tool, saves you time and refines your focus, while not getting in the way of your day.

    Using JumpStart or a software like it, removes and lessens the Interruption in your day, allowing you to get more done. Plus using a software like JumpStart lets you discuss meeting topics before a meeting 24 by 7, saving time there as well.

    JumpStart On-Demand can now be installed in 60 secs or less, with no hosting needed. And comes with the MediaBlinkk Development Center that's lets you customize it fully right online in your browser. Along with having real people supporting it.

    You may not have heard of us before as we are just hitting the consumer market, us being previously mostly white label, it's more of a if you know us you know us sort of thing.

    Hope you enjoy the software!




  22. Uservoice is a good product, but beware of ballot stuffing. For 90% of the suggestions we get it works great. But for 10% of them the person suggestion will get 10 of their friends to also vote for it and you get a suggestion that one person wants voted to the top.

    Just keep in mind you have to watch who voted to discount the ballot stuffing. (And handle the upset customer who is mad that their top voted suggestion is not being immediately implemented.) Aside from that it’s a good product.

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