With the rising popularity of social networks and user-driven online services McKinsey conducted a survey on how businesses are using web 2.0. Respondents show widespread but careful interest. Expressing satisfaction with their Internet investments so far, they say that Web 2.0 technologies are strategic and that they plan to increase these investments. However this is not going to be an easy one for these large corporations.
Yes, they are all looking for effective social networking strategies to drive customer engagement. There are so many questions to be answered such as: What are the right elements in a social networking strategy? How close or distant does it need to be between the social networks and your corporate networks? Who owns the communities? How do we market them? Here are my answers:
1/It is about open dialogue. Social networks are about open dialogue, discussion and debate with no censorship (with the exception of illegal or offensive content) with little or no moderation (moderation is acceptable in certain cases but generally not preferred). The ubiquitous comments section site is not optional and must be open to everyone as a reader (not contributor).
2/Don’t think about owning the communities. If you have the mindset of “maybe we can own this community” or “what incremental sales do we get out of these social networks?” then you’re going to fail at it. If, however, you go into it thinking “how can we facilitate the co-creation of value (content, stories of knowledge)?” then you will succeed in building a successful social network environment and allowing it to develop its full potential.
3/Transparency is a given. Any spin or attempt to shape, control, or manipulate these conversations are not acceptable. Organizations have encountered many unpleasant challenges or questions and often complain that they aren't part of the conversation. To be authentic, they need to stay deeply connected and as the same time distanced to the community. In every social network there are people who might appear to be critics. Don't mistake their passion for conflict.
4/Participants in social media are individuals and so are their profiles. The source of ideas, comments and participation should be identified and associated with the individuals. So anonymity should be discouraged but permissible (in some situations when there is a lot of sensitivity). But don’t think about mining the profiles for marketing purposes; it is a dangerous line that no one wants to cross.
5/Individual identity building is part of the value proposition. Social networking websites create value by providing an arena to build meaningful relationships, allow connectivity, establish independence and most importantly to strengthen one’s identity. They need to provide tools to allow people to build and express that “virtual-me”.
6/The community is the marketing. Social networks cannot be marketed as a product by using traditional marketing techniques such as promotional pull or advertising. The idea is to create the fertile environment so people can embrace their own spaces and communities so it can grow.
7/Voices extend to everywhere in the networks. The consumer generated content from social networks are highly distributed in nature and made up of tens of millions of different voices making it far more textured, rich, and heterogeneous than traditional media could ever be (even online). These voices are on the vast edges of our networks and never in the middle.