Let's talk about corporate online relevancy.
In a recent article, Lee Gomes observed that, "Back in the '90s if you didn't have a Web site you were irrelevant; the same was true with having an e-commerce site in 2001. That is where social networks are right now." See Talking Tech - WSJ.com
Is that acccurate?
I agree that social networks are important. I understand that it is not in the best interest of many companies to venture into the space by launching their own site and trying to draw customers and potential customers to it. I have seen the mistakes by those who try to use Marketing 1.0 techniques to attract a Web 2.0 customer. But can we be so bold as to suggest that companies without a social network presence TODAY are irrelevent?
Perhaps if they don't realize that they should and are scrambling to do something, anything, to be seen as "in the know." Perhaps if they have hired a consulting firm and thrown tons of cash at every and any idea and wasted countless hours training their employees on the proper way to represent the company in the new online world. Perhaps if they don't pay attention to their teenagers (representing their future employee base) and see that this is where they "hang-out."
Christopher Carfi and Dan Greenfield have asked the question "does 'if you build it, they will come' work for social networks?" My keen eye and memory allowed me to spot the classic movie inspired metaphor right away, and then I got curious. I was blown away when I Googled social network field dreams in the blogosphere.
Here are some of the hits:
Dan Greenfield cautioned that "in launching a social network, it is tempting to create a FaceBook page and declare mission accomplished. Yes you can check off that item on your social media to do list. But having friends on your company page rarely taps a user base looking for a meaningful forum to engage with your brand or company." He then addresses the needs and goals that must be in place in order to make the project measurable, observing that "Critical mass is about relative measurements, not absolutes."
Dan wraps up with "In successfully targeting your audience and reaching critical mass, the problem may not ultimately be whether they will come, but what will you do when they come." That reminds me a little of the ad earlier in this decade (as I recall) where the startup was watching their hit counter roll so fast that they were out of action before they had been open long enough to consider a profit.
Marshall Sponder wrote a follow up to Dan's that "we’re living though all that - figuring it out as we go - which is exciting but also makes me want to pause and figure out if we’re missing something."
I, too, love it that we are all excited about being excited, but what message can we really deliver to those in need, desparate need, of an answer? We can tell them that the tide is coming in and the surf is looking good -- that's about it! Don't get me wrong, I feel strongly (and previously said so) that Corporations should embrace (and more) the activity known as Social Networking. As we previously posted, Networking, especially Social Networking, can be used to leverage time. But every company that wants relevance in The Relationship Economy needs to first understand what it is!
The downside is, there are no cookie-cutter solutions. Each individual and organization has to see 1) where they are, and 2) where they want to go. Then and only then can they map out 3) how they are going to get from 1 to 2.
Chris Brogan lays this out pretty well:
"First, know what the intent of your social media and networks will be. Are you hoping to improve awareness and open communication about your organization? Are you looking to reach new markets and open channels for sales or membership or market adoption? Are you hoping to use these tools as collaboration platforms? Are you making informational products? Are you just virtualizing your water cooler? Knowing your intent drives which path you take."
In addressing the new strategies needed in this space, Jeremiah Owyang observes:
"What’s key? It’s having a plan to kick start your community. Secondly, understanding to consider joining the community before building one. Lastly, marketing (and your community) may not even be on your own website or domain, distributive, amorphous, and ubiquitous."
With all the confusion that this can cause, there will be quite a few well-meaning and not so well-meaning scam artists who will promise solutions they have no possibility of delivering. That's about the only place the rules haven't changed for this new era -- there are still people who will take advantage of someone in need.
Hopefully, the CEOs, CMOs, CIOs and CTOs have read our post about "The CEOs new social network strategy."
What do you think?