Tag Archives: Groundswell

Social Networks for Business Tip #7: Don’t Be Greedy

I have found ten common tips that apply irrespective of what your enterprise does, your market is or what technology platform you are using. This is my seventh tip in this series. There will be 10 total posts; each with a particular theme. They are intended to be read in the order presented, as they build upon each other…


Is Greed Good?

We all remember this incredible quote by the pseudo-fictional Gordon Gecko in 20th Century Fox’s 1987 movie, Wall Street:

greed1…I am not a destroyer of companies. I am a liberator of them! The point is, ladies and gentleman, that greed, for lack of a better word, is good. Greed is right, greed works. Greed clarifies, cuts through, and captures the essence of the evolutionary spirit. Greed, in all of its forms; greed for life, for money, for love, knowledge has marked the upward surge of mankind…

We remember this because it is so emotive—regardless of whether you agree or disagree with it. Whenever I watch a clip of this, I usually hear people say that they would never be like Gordon Gecko. Yet, so many people build consumer-facing enterprise communities that are inherently “greedy,” i.e., they require you to register and provide Personally Identifiable Information (PII) before they let you access their content. (If you do not believe, me send me a note, and I will share some URLs with you.)

The 2009 Social Technographics Profile Demonstrates that Greed is NOT Good

For three years in a row now Forrester Research has published a “Social Technographics Profile” analyzing how consumers use social media technologies. This Profile shares to main insights that everyone needs to consider before designing a public-facing community for their enterprise.

Source: Forrester Researcg
Source: Forrester Research

First, people who visit communities do not start creating user-generated content on Day 1. As they grow more comfortable with the community (and with its use of social media technology) they move from Spectators (passive viewers) to Joiners (people who actually Register) on to Critics and Creators (people who add, rate or comment upon social media content).

Second, the vast majority of people who visit these communities do not create user-generated content. Most people visit to simply explore information of interest. The challenge for Community Managers is to get visitors comfortable enough to move from Spectators to Creators. This is not something that you can do in a single 30-second visit.

Source: Forrester Research
Source: Forrester Research

What This Means When You Are Designing Your Network

First-order analysis of the Social Technographics Profile provides two powerful insights:

  1. When you make people Join before you show them content you miss 60% your potential market and Return on Investment. (People will simply click the “Back” button and return to Google or Bing instead of registering)
  2. If you design your community specifically Creators you are designing for less than one-fourth of your market. (Stated another way, you are creating a sub-optimal experience for 76% of your visitors)

Based on this analysis, you should do three things:

  1. Don’t Build a Gated Community, let people see your content without needing to register
  2. Make simple viewing (and sharing) of content compelling and easy for Spectators. This will encourage them to visit often and stay longer
  3. Use Just-In-Time Registration and Sign-in. Only ask visitors to identify themselves at the first moment when they want to add to the community (e.g. Rating, Commenting upon or Adding content. (Better, yet see my Tip #6 as to avoid the need to register members entirely

Three Practitioners of This

Here are three communities that practice the above points very well. The first is a Contest Community, the second a Crowdsourcing Community, the third a Full Destination Community (See Tip #4 for an explanation of these social media network “tools”). Each makes  to it easy for a first-time visitor to explore these communities and progress from Spectators to Creators.

  • HGTV’s Rate My Space
  • Microsoft’s Voices 4 Recovery (TARP site – no longer active)
  • American Express OPEN Forum

Note: I selected these communities not only because they are easy to use but also because follow the principles I will outline soon in Tip #9 to ensure your communities are safe environments for participation.

Social Networks for Business Tip #6: Let Your Members Be Themselves

I have found ten common themes that apply irrespective of what your enterprise does, your market is or what technology platform you are using. This is my sixth tip in this series. There will be 10 total posts; each with a particular theme. The tips are intended to be read in the order presented, as they will build upon each other…


We Already Have Far Too Many Accounts to Manage

A comment I hear almost monthly is:

“How do you find the time to maintain all these social networking accounts? I barely have time to keep my LinkedIn entry up to date.”

This is a very telling comment. It is a reminder that social networks are NOT the center of people’s lives. (For most people, technology is NOT the center of their lives; instead it is something they are required to use.) People already have more accounts than the ever wanted:


Don’t Ask Your Members to Join Y-A-N (Yet Another Network)

It is hard enough to even remember all the usernames and passwords for these—let alone keep profile information and contact lists up to date in each. (If this were not true, why would so many sites have functionality to remind you your username and password?)

ourstooThat is why I am always chagrined then I see someone setup a community (or provides a community toolset) that asks users to register for yet another network (YAN for short). What these communities are doing is asking people to make their lives just a little bit harder and more complicated.

The Altimeter Group recently published their latest Groundswell Report that quantifies this. While 82% of people actively go online, only 51% actually join the communities they visit. At a rough cut, this means only 5 in 8 people who go online actually register in online communities.

Instead Let Them Re-Use Their Existing Accounts

Real-world Example (Sanitized to Protect the Innocent)

Over the summer I was attending on of the larger Social Media conferences (one big enough for Tim O’Reilly to be a Keynote Speaker). I was sitting next to a manager of an online Business-to-Business community (built from one of the major Enterprise Social Media providers). She indicated to me that she was getting lots of visitors but was not getting many registrants (in fact she had far more Twitter followers of the community than actual members of the community ). I pointed out that to “Follow” her community on Twitter, people only had to click the “Follow” button on Twitter (whereas to join her community, they had to create a username and password). I recommended that she let her Twitter followers re-use their Twitter IDs to join her community. She indicated she would, “Ask [her vendor] if they could do that…”

I recommend that any consumer-facing community do this. Instead of asking people to register, let them re-use one of their existing accounts from any of the major consumer network providers. If you allow your members to use IDs from AIM*, AOL*, Facebook Connect, Google*, LinkedIn, Microsoft Live ID, Twitter and Yahoo!* you will let over 1 billion people register for your network without creating yet another login. (Simply enabling Open ID gives you access to users of all the asterisked services.)

This Lets You Access A Big Picture

This approach does far more than simply eliminating the registration barrier (as well as forcing your members to remember yet another username and password). It also let you see the bigger picture by tying the activities members perform in your community to those they do in the wider Web 2.0 world. Here are two scenarios:

Tying Your Community to Facebook

You create a Fan Page on Facebook that directs users to your community. When visitors click through, you allow them to use Facebook Connect to log in. This not only makes it easier to let participate in your community: you can now tie together data you collect from Facebook with activity from within your community to get a bigger picture of your customer.

Tying Your Community to Twitter

You Tweet info on your community over Twitter (with a bit.ly URL to your community). When people click on the URL, you let them join your community with their Twitter username. This makes it easier for them to join (and can even let them broadcast their activity over Twitter). It also lets you tie together their feed on Twitter with activity from within your community to get a bigger picture of your customer.

An Example of This in Action

Here is an example, albeit a demonstration community example. It is a crowdsourcing community to connect people who are experts on home improvement with people who need services.


Users do not have to sign in unless they want to contribute content (e.g., ask for a home improvement project, offer a solution or rate or comment on an existing solution). When they do, they are presented the option of using one of five consumer networks to identify themselves (AOL/AIM, Facebook Connect, Google, Microsoft Live ID or Yahoo!)


Once they sign in, they are signed into the larger consumer community as well (making sharing via social media optimization easier). You can try it out here <demo no longer available>