Tag Archives: mobile

Social Networks for Business Tip #4: Use the right tool for the Job

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

hammer-and-screw1One 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.

fbliWhy 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

In Steps 2 and 3, we defined the problem we are trying to address and what success looks like. Now that we have defined this, it is easy to pick the right tool for the job.

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 :

  1. Mobile social media communities to call consumers to action to attend events of visit stores (physical or online)
  2. Social-based contest communities to excite people to share information to win points, makeovers or simply build social recognition
  3. 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 of 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’s Mobile Social Network

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’s IdeaStorm

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

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.

Social Networks for Business Tip #1: Treat social as a channel not a destination

More and more of late, I have been asked to share advice as to how to build effective communities to advance the needs of businesses and government agencies. As I reviewed my notes and lessons learned I have found ten common themes that apply irrespective of what your enterprise does, your market is or what technology platform you are using.

Today, I am beginning a series of posts to share this advice. There will be 10 Tips; each with a particular theme. These are intended to be read in the order presented, as they will build upon each other…


Social media brings new channels to manage

Just like ten years ago, when we heard that the Internet was going to “change everything” and that “old models” like bricks-and-mortar were gone, we have now heard that social media is going to change everything (you can see my prior post on this). It is not.

Before the rise of the World Wide Web, enterprises had five primary channels to reach out their stakeholders:

  1. In-person Meetings (e.g., focus groups)
  2. Telephone (outbound telemarketing and inbound call centers)
  3. Direct Mail (direct response marketing and inbound requests)
  4. Facsimile (similar use to direct mail—just faster)
  5. Media advertisements (TV, newspaper and radio)

The broad adoption by enterprise of the Internet via the World Wide Web added five new channels:

  1. Online information queries (enabling real-time checks of prices and transaction)
  2. Internet-based commerce (a truly transformational change)
  3. Interactive chat (similar use to telephone)
  4. Email (similar use to direct mail—but faster, cheaper, and more interactive)
  5. Interactive media advertisements (pop-ups, online advertising)

Initially, these channels were “new and experimental.” However, organizations learned very quickly to manage these like more traditional channels (achieving greater revenue, efficiency and methods of interaction).

Communities (and “all things social”) add a new set of channels:

  1. Content sharing (wholly new way to get ideas and information from stakeholders)
  2. Commenting (the new version of the focus group)
  3. Forum discussions (brings back the old party line from the early days of telephony)
  4. Micro-blogging (similar to forums but less focused on any particular topic)
  5. Ratings (quantified capture of interest and satisfaction)

The big difference is that social media brings much more public and open channel that stretches out over time and geography. (However, you can manage how open this is)


You need to manage these just like your other channels

You simply need to manage your social media channels just like you manage all of your other channels:

  1. Determine what message(s) you want to share
  2. Determine where and with whom you want to share it
  3. Design how you want the interaction to work
  4. Follow your standard processes to create content, obtain approval of it, and share it through these channels
  5. Incorporate the results of this channel into the management of your enterprise (just like you do with every other channel).

Yes, you do have to take the extra steps to manage what happens in this channel. (I will get into this on two later posts.) However, you have already tackled similar challenges when you setup extra steps to monitor what your Customer Service Representatives say in call centers or what emails are forwarded around the world or what poor customer interaction stories are shared through pre-Web 2.0 channels like news outlets, better business bureaus and web sites.

Who does this well?

It is easiest to learn by example. Here are three organizations that leverage social media as an effective channel to enhance their businesses (click on links to see examples):

  • Men’s Health (Rodalle) Belly-Off (website, community, diet subscriptions, magazines, etc.)
  • CNN (Time Warner) iReport (website, community, TV, etc.)
  • American Express OPEN Forum (website, community, TV campaign, call centers, etc.)