Tag Archives: INgage Networks

Social Networks for Business Tip #10: Connect All The Dots

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 last tip in this series of 10 posts; each with a particular theme. These intended to be read in the order presented, as they will build upon each other…


Don’t Leave Your Community Detached

red_net_fAs I stated on the first post in this series, you business community is one of many channels within which you will interact with your customers, employees, partners and other stakeholders. If you do not recognize this fact and simply create a standalone community, you will only create a place where your stakeholders socialize. While this is nice, it will not create a large return on your investment (more often than not, it will not provide any return).

If you want to maximize the return on investment in your business community, you need to embed it into the your entire enterprise.

Start With Your Core

I am a big fan of modular architecture. This model advocates that you can achieve the better results, in a more flexible manner, by picking the best technology for each problem on hand instead of trying to find one perfect system that does everything.

I recommend starting with the following core of three modules to build a “best of breed” architecture ideally positioned to exploit value from your business community:


Module 1 is Your Business Community. Its purpose is to serve as channel to attract customer interest and drive engagement. It is essentially a virtual storefront to capture the ideas, preferences and experiences of your customers in a measurable, data-driven format.

Module 2 is Your Data Warehouse. The Data Warehouse extracts the wealth of interaction and engagement from your business community and merges it with all of your other business data (e.g., customer lists, sales, supply chain data, etc.) in a format ideal for business analysis. This enables you to detect patterns and make discoveries from your community that you can use to create value.

Module 3 is Your Primary Back Office Management System. Depending on you business this could be an enterprise resource planning (ERP), customer relationship management (CRM), sales force automation (SFA), billing and merchandising (B&M) or even content management systems (CMS). This is where you automate your data warehouse discoveries in the format of rules for advertising, promotions, offers, sales, customer care, shipping, billing and credit.

Note: For more information, you can click here to listen to my online Webinar on Social CRM (link no longer active) for more information as to about why this modular architecture model is better than trying do everything from a single, all-in-one platform.

Then Build Out to the Rest of Your Enterprise

Now that you have your business community integrated into your core, you easily add on every other part of your enterprise to leverage even more value from the discoveries you are making by engaging with your community members. In many cases, the much of your enterprise is already integrated with your primary back office system and data warehouse, making this extension far less daunting than it initially appears.

Here is how it works:


  1. You put a Fan Page up on Facebook and a User Name up on Twitter to attract customers
  2. Through these mainstream consumer networks, you redirect customers to your business community
  3. Customers can view what you have to offer here freely, maximizing the number of Spectators you have
  4. When Spectators want to add to the community, they can easily become Joiners (and log in) by re-using their Facebook or Twitter IDs. All of their actions as Critics and Creators of content are automatically attributed to these accounts (which already have established contact and profile information)
  5. All of this (Critic and Creator) interaction is pulled into your data warehouse and joined with the rest of your enterprise data
  6. Your Marketing and Business Analysts mine this data and find new opportunities to present better offers, package better products or simply explain what you do (and its benefit) in clearer terms
  7. They work with your Business System teams to publish these findings in the forms of rules and workflows in your ERP, CRM, SFA , B&M and CM systems
  8. These new rules and workflows automatically drive changes in your Static Web Site, Business Community, Direct Response Campaigns, Contact Centers and Sales force
  9. You can capture customer feedback through all of these channels and combined it in you data warehouse with results from the your ERP, CRM, SFA and B&M systems to measure the value you have created

This creates an entire system that facilitates continuous improvement, generating over time growing understanding of your customers, employees and partners and using this to create growing value and ROI.

Smart Enterprises Have Already Shown How This Creates Enormous Returns

Tying all this together is not some imaginary view of success. Many smart enterprises have already down this. Three are highlighted below:

Dell’s IdeaStorm

Dell tied a set of open communities to their every aspect of their operation. This has generating ideas for new products and product configurations, improved customer satisfaction and increased online sales.


Men’s Health

Rodale  has fully embedded their Belly Off Community into their online content and print magazine. This has boosted online advertising revenue, increased customer loyalty and boosted magazine sales.


American Express OPEN Forum

American Express has tied their new OPEN Forum community into core entire enterprise and advertising network (even including affiliate marketing programs such as their join Shine-A-Light campaign with NBC Universal). This has created a clear value proposition for their customers leading to everything from increased card transactions to added OPEN card applications.


You Can Do This Too

This entire blog series lays out the steps to do this. If you follow it, you too can create effective communities that drive business value.

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>