I promised you I'd share with you the interesting aspects of our journey.
And I think I've got another one.
The good news: we've got lots and lots of people across the company who are intrigued and passionate about this whole web 2.0 thing -- and are starting to realize that conversations will be king.
The challenging part -- we're seeing the same sort of question being asked over and over again.
I Like Repeatable Patterns
You might think that seeing the same sort of thing over and over again is a bad thing. It's not -- it means that there's a repeatable pattern there that can be abstracted and genericized, which lets us move on to the next topic or concern.
So, let me share with you a lightly-edited post I did on our internal platform ...
Does Having A Corporate Presence On (insert name of latest social platform here) Make Sense?
Make no mistake, there's lots of new and interesting social community platforms out there today, with more being added every day. I used to spend a fair amount of time trying to learn a bit about each new tool and platform that came around. I gave up on that over a year ago -- there's just too many to keep up with.
The good news? Smart, passional people across all of our comapny are keeping an eye on all of this, and asking good questions about our use of these external social platforms. Whether it's Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, MySpace or whatever -- they're all good questions.
Well, if the questions are roughly similar, I'm starting to believe that the answers are roughly similar as well. And, as part of the overall discussion, I thought I'd offer my perspectives, with the hopes that others will jump in.
What Are Your Goals?
You know, if someone asked me "does it make sense to go to Cleveland?", I'd have to ask the obvious question -- why do you think you need to go to Cleveland?
There's an implied context here of goals and objectives that serve as a framework for any decision we might make about anything. I'd encourage people to think in these broader terms of what we might want to get done, rather than the pros or cons of any particular social platform.
Is our goal recruitment of certain types of employees?
The people doing that type of recruiting for the company ought to have a strategy about how they best want to do it, including platforms like LinkedIn or SecondLife or wherever they think good potential employees might be loitering about.
And, given the plethora of places for people to go hang out online these days, I would imagine that they'd need a pretty segmented strategy to get after it. Bottom line: they own this goal for the company, so I'd leave it to them to figure out what's best here.
Is our goal to dialog and communicate with customers, prospects or partners?
Then I think the question is mis-framed: it's not really about the platform or place, it's about the corporate person doing the communicating, and the topics they want to engage on.
All of these social platforms are, well, social -- that implies that we can keep up our end of the conversation. And as many of us who do this for the company have found out, you end up talking to people in a variety of places: blogs, forums, emails, etc.
Place matters less than person, I believe.
Is our goal to have a place where people can just hang out and chat?
Nothing wrong with that -- but does it serve a business purpose? I was following company-related conversations for a while on Twitter, until I realized it was mostly idle chatter -- a sort of global brain hum. I didn't see much business value in that for us. Maybe for other people, though.
Is it all about building our brand?
For me, this is the squishiest one -- because everything we all do affects our brand in one way or another. Fortunately, we have people at our company who look after various aspects of our brand -- in the media, in the employment world, and so on. And my temptation would be to leave it up to them to figure out what's best for brand management.
And let's not forget about brand alignment. There are lots and lots of places to hang out in the internet, not all of which might align with our corporate brand. Or, maybe the people who hang out there might resent some big vendor showing up and announcing their presence.
Social cues are important online as well as the physical world.
I don't know if those are your goals -- but, before we can answer the question as to whether it makes sense for our company to have a presence on (insert the name of your favoriate social platform here), we have to get into the habit of asking about goals.
Sharing industry statistics and quoting industry notables does make for good reading, but I don't see that as a substitute for a clear discussion of what you're trying to achieve, and why.
Or, in some cases, who else might own that particular goal at the company.
Are We Ready To Invest?
Nothing is free.
I think that includes having a sustained presence on (insert the name of your favorite social platform here). Web 2.0 is all about conversation, and less so about nice looking web pages.
Conversation requries sustained effort -- as anyone who's been to a long-ish dinner party can attest to. You can't simply start a conversation and check out -- that's considered anti-social in both the physical and virtual worlds.
For me, that means that we need to pick our targets carefully, understand who we want to reach and why we want to reach them, and then have a sustained plan to engage -- and stay engaged!!
Nothing is as pitiful as coming across the dead bones of someone's great idea out there on the web. And that includes corporate branded initiatives.
OK, I Feel Better Now
Please don't misunderstand my intentions -- I think this is all very cool stuff -- that's why I'm engaged in it. And I'm thrilled that so many bright and passionate people are enthused about this stuff as I am -- the more the better!
I think that part of our overall corporate learning process includes the generation of frameworks of how to think about generic classes of problems, rather than individual problems themselves. I think this topic is an emerging example of this evolution.
As an example, over the last year or so, I think we've learned how to think about blogs very effectively -- we've got a nice body of knowledge that gives us generic guideposts about what we should do, and -- more importantly -- why.
We're also in the process of figuring out this whole internal community thing as well. All good. We've got a part of our company now focused on the whole external community thing. My guess is that -- before too long -- we'll have a nice capability there as well.
And, as we sort through the ever-growing myriad of things 2.0-ish like whether or not our company should have a presence on (insert the name of your favoriate social platform here), we'll probably end up with a generic framework as well.
At least -- I hope so!
So, that's what I shared with people -- what do you think?