Web 2.0 Communities for Business – Tip #1: Treat social as a channel not a destination

More and more of late, I have been asked to share advice as to how to build effective communities to advance the needs of businesses and government agencies. As I reviewed my notes and lessons learned I have found ten common themes that apply irrespective of what your enterprise does, your market is or what technology platform you are using.

Today, I am beginning a series of posts to share this advice. There will be 10 Tips; each with a particular theme. These are intended to be read in the order presented, as they will build upon each other…

01

Social media brings new channels to manage

Just like ten years ago, when we heard that the Internet was going to “change everything” and that “old models” like bricks-and-mortar were gone, we have now heard that social media is going to change everything (you can see my prior post on this). It is not.

Before the rise of the World Wide Web, enterprises had five primary channels to reach out their stakeholders:

  1. In-person Meetings (e.g., focus groups)
  2. Telephone (outbound telemarketing and inbound call centers)
  3. Direct Mail (direct response marketing and inbound requests)
  4. Facsimile (similar use to direct mail—just faster)
  5. Media advertisements (TV, newspaper and radio)

The broad adoption by enterprise of the Internet via the World Wide Web added five new channels:

  1. Online information queries (enabling real-time checks of prices and transaction)
  2. Internet-based commerce (a truly transformational change)
  3. Interactive chat (similar use to telephone)
  4. Email (similar use to direct mail—but faster, cheaper, and more interactive)
  5. Interactive media advertisements (pop-ups, online advertising)

Initially, these channels were “new and experimental.” However, organizations learned very quickly to manage these like more traditional channels (achieving greater revenue, efficiency and methods of interaction).

Communities (and “all things social”) add a new set of channels:

  1. Content sharing (wholly new way to get ideas and information from stakeholders)
  2. Commenting (the new version of the focus group)
  3. Forum discussions (brings back the old party line from the early days of telephony)
  4. Micro-blogging (similar to forums but less focused on any particular topic)
  5. Ratings (quantified capture of interest and satisfaction)

The big difference is that social media brings much more public and open channel that stretches out over time and geography. (However, you can manage how open this is)

You need to manage these just like your other channels

You simply need to manage your social media channels just like you manage all of your other channels:

  1. Determine what message(s) you want to share
  2. Determine where and with whom you want to share it
  3. Design how you want the interaction to work
  4. Follow your standard processes to create content, obtain approval of it, and share it through these channels
  5. Incorporate the results of this channel into the management of your enterprise (just like you do with every other channel).

Yes, you do have to take the extra steps to manage what happens in this channel. (I will get into this on two later posts.) However, you have already tackled similar challenges when you setup extra steps to monitor what your Customer Service Representatives say in call centers or what emails are forwarded around the world or what poor customer interaction stories are shared through pre-Web 2.0 channels like news outlets, better business bureaus and web sites.

Who does this well?

It is easiest to learn by example. Here are three organizations that leverage social media as an effective channel to enhance their businesses (click on links to see examples):

  • Men’s Health (Rodalle) Belly-Off (website, community, diet subscriptions, magazines, etc.)
  • CNN (Time Warner) iReport (website, community, TV, etc.)
  • American Express OPEN Forum (website, community, TV campaign, call centers, etc.)

Post Topics:
, , , , , , , , , , , ,

Comments

Share your thoughts