The 7 Basic Rules of Social Network Design for Marketers

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by: Idris

With the rising popularity of social
networks and user-driven online services McKinsey conducted a survey on
how businesses are using web 2.0. Respondents show widespread but
careful interest. Expressing satisfaction with their Internet
investments so far, they say that Web 2.0 technologies are strategic and that they plan to increase these investments. However this is not going to be an easy one for these large corporations.

Yes, they are all looking for effective social networking strategies
to drive customer engagement. There are so many questions to be
answered such as: What are the right elements in a social networking
strategy? How close or distant does it need to be between the social
networks and your corporate networks? Who owns the communities? How do
we market them?  Here are my answers:

1/It is about open dialogue.
Social networks are about open dialogue, discussion and debate with no
censorship (with the exception of illegal or offensive content) with
little or no moderation (moderation is acceptable in certain cases but
generally not preferred). The ubiquitous comments section site is not
optional and must be open to everyone as a reader (not contributor).

2/Don’t think about owning the communities.
If you have the mindset of “maybe we can own this community” or “what
incremental sales do we get out of these social networks?” then you’re
going to fail at it. If, however, you go into it thinking “how can we
facilitate the co-creation of value (content, stories of knowledge)?”
then you will succeed in building a successful social network
environment and allowing it to develop its full potential.

3/Transparency is a given. Any
spin or attempt to shape, control, or manipulate these conversations
are not acceptable. Organizations have encountered many unpleasant
challenges or questions and often complain that they aren’t part of the
conversation. To be authentic, they need to stay deeply connected and
as the same time distanced to the community. In every social network
there are people who might appear to be critics. Don’t mistake their
passion for conflict.

4/Participants in social media are individuals and so are their profiles.
The source of ideas, comments and participation should be identified
and associated with the individuals. So anonymity should be discouraged
but permissible (in some situations when there is a lot of
sensitivity). But don’t think about mining the profiles for marketing purposes; it is a dangerous line that no one wants to cross.

5/Individual identity building is part of the value proposition.
Social networking websites create value by providing an arena to build
meaningful relationships, allow connectivity, establish independence
and most importantly to strengthen one’s identity. They need to provide
tools to allow people to build and express that “virtual-me”.

6/The community is the marketing.
Social networks cannot be marketed as a product by using traditional
marketing techniques such as promotional pull or advertising. The idea
is to create the fertile environment so people can embrace their own
spaces and communities so it can grow.

7/Voices extend to everywhere in the networks.
The consumer generated content from social networks are highly
distributed in nature and made up of tens of millions of different
voices making it far more textured, rich, and heterogeneous than
traditional media could ever be (even online). These voices are on the
vast edges of our networks and never in the middle.

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