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August 30, 2012


Social Media Is a Journey to Community Collaboration

By Dave Courbanou

Social media’s relevance in the every-day business world is growing at a fast pace. Love it or hate it, quick online interactions wrought from social media have some of the most lasting impacts on customer loyalty and business reputation.

In the past, we’ve discussed the ground rules for engaging in social media and covered how opening the doors to social communication will become an “imperative” for CIOs. This time, we’re looking at the next logical step: growing the social community once it’s been initially established.

As Gartner explains, businesses can get caught up in the technology and implementation and forget the community they intended to build in the first place. To prevent such mistakes, Gartner has outlined a six-part plan that explains how businesses can “tap the power” of a social media community.

The plan breaks down like this:

1. Community Collaboration: Participation in the social community is key. It requires an ebb and flow between the organization and its community users. Instead of using “social media as another channel for corporate communication,” the platform should be viewed more as an open forum where content can be shared and discussed. This can help generate an environment that shares and discusses its own content as well as the company’s. This adds value to the community and allows it to give back to the organization that sprouted it.

2. Fuel the Swarm: CIOs shouldn’t forget the main reason they’re leveraging a social media strategy. Setting up a Facebook fan page for promotional purposes won’t generate the “swarm” of users that will build a real network. Instead, businesses need to fuel the cause for the collaboration. Gartner attests that a “well-defined purpose” can target key demographics and entice them to become personally motivated to involve themselves.

3. Validation Through Self-governance: Once the community takes off, a self-regulating effect will take place as content is created, discussed and shared. At this point, a CIO should ensure tools allowing the community to collect or reject the content generated within the community are in place. This enables users to have a voice and some power, which will fuel growth.

4. Independent Growth: Congratulations, your social media community is completely autonomous. At this point, the best kinds of mass collaboration can begin, since the social media community has “matured.” For example, a CIO can now present something to the community and generate a “crowd-sourced” opinion. Gartner recommends organizations have a light touch in regulating the community and instead focus on lubricating communication and collaboration channels.

5. Scale and Contextualize: What good is a community if its content can’t be contextualized? Content must be presented in an easy-to-share and easy-to-use manner. This means monitoring the community for the ways in which it wants to share content and ensuring APIs, social hooks and other shareable features are switched on and integrated. When information and content can be swiftly thrown into the community hopper, a higher volume of content can pass through, thus scaling up the community size over time.

6. Capitalize: A sizable and active social media community will provide feedback for years to come. An organization should both utilize and feed the community, either leaning on it for support or requesting direct feedback. Now that the stage is set: The community is grown and the power of social media has reached its apex.

Like most things, it sounds simple on paper, but this kind of growth may take a few years. The key for CIOs is to maintain course on the social media strategy and never neglect to fuel the community. It’s more than just a fan page, it’s a very real part of your company’s business strategy.

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