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I am sure that you all remember the good old cartoon from Bugs Bunny, the Tortoise vs. the Hare:

 

During the entire race, Bugs Bunny is trying to cheat, cut corners and sabotage the Tortoise in order to win the race. The Tortoise on the other hand just runs the race and stays the course. When all is said and done, the Tortoise wins and proves the point, Slow and Steady wins the race.

Social Media implementations are very similar in this approach, or at least successful ones are.

In the more recent past, companies were getting involved in Social Media and launching online communities because their competition was, or because it was the ‘Thing to do, and they followed the concept of “if-you-build-it-they-will-come”. While that approach may have worked in the past, it most certainly does not work now.

People have so many place that they can go to converse and interact with others, that they have their pick-of-the-litter when it comes to Social Media. Have you done your research ahead of time, or have you rushed into the space, hoping that by cutting corners you will beat your competition?

Which do you think that you are at the moment? Have you built your application or Strategy? Are you reviewing other applications (Twitter, Facebook) and doing your research up front before you jump into the game, analyzing your audience ahead of time? Are you setting yourself up for failure before you even begin?

After 3 months of working out of my house as a contract employee for AAA Mid-Atlantic, I have made the decision to move on. Thanks to the AAA team for the opportunity.

During my time there, I feel that the social media team that is in place learned a lot from me, as I did from them. They have a lot of hurdles ahead of them, but then again don’t we all. I am confident that over time they will be able to execute a successful social media campaign, leveraging not only their own community tools, but also leveraging other platforms in order to create awareness around AAA and the company’s goals/programs/offerings. I wish the team best of luck, as they have some cool stuff coming up.

As they say, timing is everything, and I must say that I am in the right place at the right time. I have accepted the job of Social Media Strategist with Ektron, a Content Management System (CMS) company based out of Nashua, NH. They are more than a CMS though.  I think that their “tag-line” says it all,

ektron
 
Is that not the question that we should all be asking ourselves? Is that not the foundation of your strategy, where all conversations should begin? Talking about getting the ball rolling right away with any potential clients and shooting from the hip.

During the interview process, a lot of things became clear to me:

  1. They have a solid platform
  2. Their Management is experienced and dedicated
  3. They were selected as a “Visionary” within Gartners Magic Quadrant for Web Content Management (WOW)
  4. It demo’s like you would not believe
  5. Their client list is very impressive
  6. The management interface is simple
  7. They needed to increase their Social Media presence

Not to mention the fact that Ektron is in a unique position, they have an incredible CMS platform and are (have already) integrated Social Media components within the fabric of their platform (imagine how powerful this is – can be?) From experience, it is easier to have a CMS platform and integrate Social Media features and functionality then have the Social Media stuff without the CMS/learning stuff.

I could go on, but I think that you get the picture.

My last point (7) really struck me hard during the interview process. I used to drive past their office 2x a day on my way into a prior job, and did not even know who they were or what they did. When I was 1st contacted by a friend that works there, I had thought that they wanted to build their own community, not that they were already a CMS vendor. WOOPS. Glad that I did some research before I interviewed!

I am joining the Ektron team on November 2nd, in Orlando, Fl. at their yearly Customer conference. Talk about getting the ball rolling, Welcome aboard. If you are reading this and are a client of Ektron, please grab me during the conference and let’s talk Social Media.  I may not be entirely brought up to speed as it will be my 1st day on the job, but I do like to jump right into things.

Talk to you soon, and as always, thanks for reading.

Mike

Over the years, I have been a part of many conversations over being genuine. Whether they happen online or during meetings, some think that they can get away with trying to pull the wool over people’s eyes, thinking that they can “get away” with it.

I think that we are all familiar with the infamous tale below, as written by Hans Christian Anderson.

New ClothsIf you are in that school of thought, then all you are really doing is playing the role of  the tailors that fooled the King. But please be sure to remember that someone will always “call you out” and set things straight.

My previous post focused on transparency, and I tried to ensure that people think about when and where they need to share any and all information. There are times and places for everything.

But being genuine though is something that is very different. Being genuine shows that you really care and have a vested interest in growing and nurturing a successful “thing”  (business, online community, friendship…..)

Being genuine is also just like trust in the fact that it is earned, and once it is lost, it is hard to gain back. If you are not genuine 100% of the time, then no one will believe what you say and you will discredit yourself time and time again.

Being genuine is something that needs to happen 100% of the time.

First off, I apologize for the hiatus that I have taken with my blog posts, but I have been able to take full advantage of my employment status and just got back from vacation. Orlando was fun.

Mystery Machine

Mystery Machine

I post the above image because to most, online communities are a mystery; People never know what to expect, or what is going to happen once the flood gates are open. If you take the proper steps in advance, you can begin to put the pieces of the puzzle together – the truth of the matter is that you need all of the pieces in order to solve the complete puzzle. Without all of the pieces, your puzzle, and community, will be incomplete.

Research is a key beginning step. Observe what others are doing. If you are the 1st in your area to expand into Social Media, review similar areas/sites – odds are, someone is doing it, and doing it right. At the same time, no one likes a “copy-cat” so what may work for others, may not work for you. Pick and choose what is appropriate for you and your members.

Figure out who your demographic is – who are the key 2-3 groups of people that you are trying to reach. What are they looking for, and what is missing? What is their personality and how do they want to participate (pulling or pushing of information)? Depending on the answer to that question will depend on the types of tools that you should implement within your community.

Develop a strategy based on the answers and discussions above. The research and discussions that will happen during the above steps will help to mold and shape your strategy.

Once your strategy is complete, discussions around an “internal build” or external Software as a Service (SaaS) provider partnership can be discussed. There are many schools of thought around this, but my thoughts are that if you do not have to reinvent the wheel, why try. There are many vendors out there that can assist in all aspects of your online community initiatives, so leverage them as much as possible.

Crawl before you walk, walk before you run. Do not overwhelm your community up front. Remember you never get a 1st chance to make a 2nd impression.

The most important aspects of any Social Media or Online Community initiative is to ask questions and begin the discussion with those key stakeholders that are familiar with these tools. Make sure to capture the dialogue that happens during these meetings, as it will be very insightful….and when in doubt, you have to go with what and how you feel. Decisions based on revenue generation can have  a detrimental effect on your community.

Thoughts? Obviously this is just scratching the surface on things to think about.

Here I would like to highlight a few corporate responsibilities that I feel are important when launching an Online Community or “Social Media” area.
Online communities should not be developed because “everyone else is doing it”. These communities generally end up in failure. An endless amount of time, thought and management is essential to the success of any endeavor. You should not jump right in with both feet with out discussing the below – as a main starting point.
crawlb4uwalk
1. Key Questions
Who is your target audience?
What is your communities purpose?
What is the “hook”?
What are people looking for?

The above 4 questions are a starting point for any company. Many discussions and debates will assist in developing an initial corporate strategy. These answers will also assist in the below (#2)

2. Features and Functionality
As a company is willing to expand their outreach and launch an online community, many factors come into play. One of the most important decisions – what they are going to offer their community….features and functionality, and how are the members going to interact with one another? Launching a full blown community with too many offerings
(blogs, wiki’s, profiles, friending, forums, video, photo’s….the list is endless) and choices can be very detrimental to the success of an online community. A staggered approach is the best way to ensure that your members are not initially overwhelmed.

3. Member outreach
It is up to you to find people that you feel will benefit from your community as well as those that will assist in the development and growth. “If you build it, they will come…” but they will not stay and you will not be able to retain any member if they see the “Empty Restaurant” (see prior blog post). Finding those key individuals and influences are key to the success and growth of any online community. Building this initial foundation is key for the longevity of your community.
Building

These are 3 important steps for corporations to take before they jump right into an Online Community or Social Media launch.
As always, thanks for reading and comments are welcomed!

Employment

I am currently employed at Bose as the Digital Platform Manager, leveraging Ratings & Reviews and Community content to increase customer acquisition and retention

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