Discovering the Value of Social Media and Web 2.0

This summer, after hearing so much about it, I began to look into the world of social media or web 2.0, and wanted to share what I have initially learned.

My search started with reading two great books, Groundswell by Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff and Marketing to the Social Web by Larry Weber. These experts reveal the powerful, integrated social media world of search, blogs, e-communities and social network communities.

Familiar with the first three strategies, I became fascinated with social network communities, which are really in their infancy as corporate sponsored or branded sites. While many experts are sorting out the value of this communications asset, I believe their power will improve as marketers and customers gain experience.

I was particularly interested in these sites as I experienced clients working to differentiate themselves and engage their customers in a brand dialogue in an evolving business, economic and media landscape. For public relations, this can be especially challenging as traditional media retracts and news coverage moves online. Social network sites became more interesting when I learned that 33% of adults are checking social network sites monthly.

The greatest power of social networks is their ability to organize and connect customers, retailers and influencers into a community or hub devoted to their passion whether it’s fast cars, pets, games, antiques. And your brand can be the driver, facilitator and goodwill beneficiary of this community.

I have purposefully used the word hub to describe community as the most powerful networks are those that unite these important audiences into a hub of activity including product reviews, instruction, usage advice, product enhancements, tricks and insider tips. All of this insightful and generally constructive commentary is provided by the diverse customer and professionals that can make up your target audiences.

In my initial reading, I have learned that these are the important characteristics of a successful social network:

  • Be sure your site has a common passion; think pets, fast cars, running.
  • Invite the people who dialogue and influence your most loyal customers.
  • Build the community daily through blogs, forums and interesting content.
  • Be genuine and encourage candor.
  • Ask your members what they want from your site.
  • Don’t squelch the negative; invite the conversation.
  • Use the right mix of technology and methodologies.

And here are some of my favorites branded sites relative to sports and games: Reebok Run Easy, in which community members share favorite runs, playlists, and EAS Sports that shows game playing tips and tricks and behind the scenes of game designs.

I look forward to sharing more of this powerful business strategy in the months ahead.