Monday, June 29, 2009

Corporate Approach to Social Networking

Many corporations today are adopting Web 2.0 approaches for boosting business, brand, recruiting, etc. You’ll see icons for sites like Facebook, Myspace, Twitter, Linkedin, and others on many corporate sites today. Microsoft’s corporate website is an obvious example of a company that has incorporated Web 2.0 in every sense. While some other corporations are more conservative than others and therefore a little more hesitant, ultimately by 2012 use of Web 2.0/Enterprise 2.0 will be a necessary business function. Before corporate social networking can be successful there are several approaches that need to be well defined and organized.

Prior to Initiating Social Networking for a Corporation:

Anyone from a company can go out and create a company group on sites like Linkedin and Facebook. The problem with these sites is that the company cannot control what people say and what type of groups people create. Having defined groups created by the corporation and controlled by the corporation just like the company website itself can help draw people away from the other groups and sites that may not have controlled materials, appropriate direct company contact, etc. To have a successful corporate created social networking site first consider the following:

1. Define Objectives: Set specific expectations and goals. What is it that you are looking to accomplish with using the social networking sites? Is it increasing client or potential client traffic to the site? Is it building overall company brand, is it keeping contact with current and past employees, is it attracting the best talent to the organization? Maybe all of the above. It is important to first set the expectations of what the company wants to accomplish with the adoption of the social media and then set a plan.
2. Have a set plan: Once the initial objectives are defined, it is important to set a plan of adoption. Determine who needs to be involved in the process and who will maintain the social networking sites. Often times individuals from several areas of the company need to be involved depending on how large the company is. Legal department’s needs to be involved to make sure the sites are structured and maintained as set by company standards. Marketing teams can develop appropriate branding materials to make the sites more user friendly and desirable to visit. Then you need to determine who is going to run and maintain the sites from day to day. Maintaining all the social networking sites can be a time consuming task. Is there a task team assigned to it, is there one specific individual hired to maintain such sites for the company. That needs to be determined prior to deployment to make sure everyone is on the same page and everything runs smoothly prior to launch of promoting the sites.

Key Approaches to Building Successful Social Networking Sites:

1. Listen to the customers/prospects: Whether is it existing clients and employees or potential new hires or potential revenue producing clients, it is important to listen to those that view and respond within the networking sites. Prospects want to know they are being heard and know that a real person is hearing what they have to say and giving a constructive response when it is needed.
2. Be Responsive: Responding to prospects or viewers makes the company seem more real and inviting. Even using automatic response to send a thank you for visiting our site, gives visitors and followers an initial sense of belonging and appreciation.
3. Communication: While the company’s ultimate goal is to attract clients and make a sale, these sites are meant to be more subtle and a way for prospects to interact with us without feeling pressured to buy or do something. These sites are meant to be a communication portal to those that typically may not be heard or seen though other resources.
4. Track/Measure Successful: Review interaction on the sites, track responses and feedback from customers and other followers. Are the sites yielding a positive return? If they aren’t then you need to go back and make sure the objectives are still in line with what you initially expected them to be and the approach may just need some tweaking. If it is doing well see what else can be done to increase awareness and use of the sites.