I have found ten common themes that apply irrespective of what your enterprise does, your market is or what technology platform you are using. The post below is my fourth of 10 Tips; each with a particular theme. These are intended to be read in the order presented, as they will build upon each other…
If You Only Have a Hammer, Everything Looks Like a Nail
One of the biggest mistakes I see when enterprises build communities to advance their business is automatically creating a mini-Facebooks based their brand. This type of community is great for internal networking (and even better for business to business networking). However, it more often-than-not far less-than-idea for business-to-consumer communities.
Why is this so? The reason is simple: people only have so much time in the day. They have enough trouble trying to keep up-to-date on Facebook (likely their personal networking community) and LinkedIn (likely their professional one). They do not have time to join half a dozen other networks where they are going to have to create profile, check messages and post content—especially if the network is not focused on something central to their everyday lives.
So what do you do when you want to build an effective community to advance your business-to-consumer interactions and realize that trying to create yet-another-mini-Facebook is no more successful than when companies tried to create mini-AOLs ten years ago? The obvious: get another tool from the toolbox
There is More Than One Tool to Use When Building Communities
There are a lot more tools out there than simple mini-Facebooks. Below are three that I see and use (as end user and provider) everyday in business environments :
- Mobile social media communities to call consumers to action to attend events of visit stores (physical or online)
- Social-based contest communities to excite people to share information to win points, makeovers or simply build social recognition
- Crowdsourcing communities that elicit ideas and “bubble up” the most popular to the top
As these “tools” combine and present underlying social networking widgets (e.g., blogs, forums) together in ways that focus on solving specific problems, I usually call them Business Services or Business Solutions.
A Simple Imaginary Application for This
Would you join a social network to blog, chat and post about gas stations (someplace you visit every week)? Probably not. (I can’t image why I would do this or what I would talk about.) Would you visit a contest community where people could share (via mobile phone pics) which gas stations have the best price in your zip code? Yes! Would you post there, if you could win points on your gas card or a free car wash if you find the station with the lowest price? Very likely. Would you ask someone to build this for you if you could get a good combined ROI from the ad revenue and increase business (vs. petroleum companies who do not have this)? Even more likely.
Real-world Examples of Businesses Who Have Applied This Well
Here are four examples of companies who picked the right tool to address the problem they were trying to solve via a community:
ADIDAS wanted to drive in-store sales during the NBA All-star Week (while people were walking around the venue). A full-feature social network community would have been a poor choice for this. Instead, they went with a mobile social network. Click here to see a video on this initiative and its results.
Dell has embraced social networking in many forms to continue to advance their mission for online- and call center-based tailoring of computers for consumers. The single initiative that resonated the most was IdeaStorm, a crowdsourcing community that asked customers to give Dell ideas how to provide better products. This has been their most effective community to-date.
Sometimes a full-featured destination community IS the right tool:
GovLoop is a community for government leaders and vendors to collaborate around their shared interest in using social media to make government – something they work on every day – better.
American Express’ OPEN Forum is a business-to-business community that lets small business do what they do every day – build networks with other to get what they need and sell what they have – better than they can do without an online community.