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Ten steps to corporate social media success

Simon Sharwood

It’s a rare CIO that has not been asked to at least consider social media as a tactic to improve their organisation’s reputation. Many have been asked to build social services that win business or cut costs.

Yet the task of building and operating these services is far from simple: the field is new and consumer behaviour is changing rapidly.

One vendor that has investigated these issues is customer experience specialist

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RightNow, which has hired former managers of online forums to help create products – and best practices – to boost its clients’ efforts.

The company’s top ten tips to foster a corporate social space were outlined this week at its 2010 APAC Summit by Jen Page, Product Marketing Manager for RightNow Social.

Page told the event the starting point of any effort is to define desired business outcomes. Going social for the sake of it results in insincere offerings that attract small audiences. Outcomes she suggested as worthy are using a forum to reduce the number of inbound calls to a contact centre, or as a way to crowd-source product development  

Any effort, she added, must be resourced with dedicated staff, as the aim of any effort should be to create deeper engagement by moving participants along “the spectrum of participation” until they become regular participants whose online outpourings build your brand and enhance the community you create.

Getting there is not, however, simple, and Page said the company recommends ten practises to its customers to help them create useful, sustainable, online communities. The ten are:

  1. Welcome new members to the community, to reward their investment of time and encourage a return visit
  2. Allow personalisation, as when members can express themselves they are more likely to participate
  3. Let members share their experiences and write freely. Page says communities that are dominated by marketing messaging don’t grow because members don’t have a voice and will never rally around your content. It’s members’ content that gets conversations humming.
  4. Feature active users and show off the best and most prominent members of a community
  5. Let members know you are a presence in the community and are contributing positively. Make a personal connection by following up on things that are important to users
  6. Reward users. Some communities offer cash for regular contributors, but Page does not like this idea. Instead, she feels rewards of heightened status within a community, or gifts, can be more appropriate
  7. Know who are the most important influencers in your community and how they work with your community team
  8. Connect communities to the social web, instead of operating in a silo that excludes the likes of Facebook and Twitter. Page also believes that it is better to run your own community than it is to rely on a service like Facebook, which she says is a destination users feel is ‘their turf’. Creating your own community gives you more control and lets you brand the space
  9. Make it easy to find content in your community, through search and carefully-planned navigation. Even simple techniques like using active verbs can make sites easier to use
  10. Make it easy to participate and facilitate interaction, as many sites are vague on how to do more than read

Simon Sharwood travelled to Melbourne as a guest of RigthNow, ate too much at its conference and accepted the gift of a briefcase. He’s not sure what he’ll do with the briefcase.