Businesses on the path to social should make it easy for their communities to bridge the virtual and real worlds.
3. Enable virtual communities to engage with you in real life.
Get those virtual communities interacting with each other at live events, conferences or local user group meet-ups. Remember that communities are not networks. You might have a strong network of people who follow you on Twitter or have liked your Facebook page. But communities engage with each other. Foster that and create a community out of your network. Don’t let them keep shoe-gazing. If you sell business software to the IT crowd, bring them together to share their stories of late night and weekend work. Call it a story swap and start the evening off with something posted on the message board they all read.
Have free food and beverages -- it provides a draw -- and then let the conversations roam. If you have larger groups and a more formal conference setting, have ad hoc games of werewolf between break-out sessions. Spur the interaction and listen to what is shared. Get people interacting with each other and forming stronger bonds. That is incredibly valuable intelligence for you and your organization.
Businesses on the path to social should work hard to turn loose ties of networks into strong ties of community. It has already been started for you; why not take it to the next level?
4. Don’t jump In without a strategy -- the risks are too great.
Make sure you have a strategy to not only set up and enable the social technology, but also to keep it going. Keep it authentic. Remember that communities can spot an interloper, and they will backlash. Consider hiring or designating a community manager. This should be someone who has or can earn the respect of the communities on behalf of your organization but is not hampered by an overly worried legal department. They should be able to speak with credibility to people inside and outside the organization who are likely to have deeper and longer experience than they do. In other words, it is not a position for a new college graduate.
Then report on the engagement metrics. Link ideas up with your customer/partner advisory councils. Get your support staff involved since customers are working around the problems your products have introduced anyway. Reward behaviors in the communities that you want to see emulated and increased.
Businesses on the path to social should realize that while the technology makes engagement easier and faster, it also raises the risk of poor, inauthentic and lame messaging getting out into the community ecosystem. Businesses on the path to social will take the time to develop a strategy that can keep the engagement powerful, profitable and exciting.
When businesses on the path to social employ the four principles of interaction, they are able to more quickly and successfully engage communities and the benefits that they offer. Starting by understanding that they are already doing it, enabling and empowering both virtual and real world communities and doing it all with a strategy that provides the story-arc for your engagement are important pillars for your social business.
Then you can see your business bloom into a social business supported by the message amplifying and idea generating power of your communities.
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