Social networking for companies means more than putting up a MySpace page. Learn from Neighborhood America's exec VP how to drive engagement and profits.
Social networking is here to stay. With a reported 114 million people frequenting MySpace, and another 52 million connecting through Facebook (source: comScore, June 2007), consumers have grown to expect opportunities for online engagement. It is critical for corporations to understand not only how people are growing accustomed to communicating, but also how this pervasive social trend translates into the company's bottom-line.
It is readily apparent that social networking has become a revolution of sorts, but can it be used as something more than a space to talk to your friends or watch funny videos? Can social networks actually drive profit for a company, promote meaningful discussion, or increase a brand's consumer engagement? And if so, how does a company go about getting involved? Is it really as simple as creating a MySpace page?
The answer is no.
Social networking at an enterprise-level is not about MySpace, nor is it about attracting crowds. It's about building high value communities that drive innovation and revenue through increased engagement with consumers, employees and even partners. The following "Rules of the Road" will help ensure a smooth trip for those corporations seeking to capitalize on the new world of social networking.
Rule #1: Map out the course before heading out
Once a company accepts that social networking -- and the deeper consumer relationships and discussions that can potentially result -- is necessary to remain competitive, it must decide whether to join an existing social network or create its own branded community.
While existing social networks entertain a large audience, the environment typically lacks the focus needed to drive growth and favorably impact a company's brand. An additional concern for companies is the inability to guide and monitor the conversations within these communities.
When companies decide to build their own social networks, they must first make sure that the community is consumer-focused, not tech-focused. A common mistake made by those eager to dive into the digital world is chasing after the latest technology without first getting to know their customers. Creating a strategic plan around the company's objectives for the community results in a purposeful social network, one that can be sustained by like-minded community members, whether they are consumers, employees, partners or shareholders, who share interests and passions.
Creating their own social network affords companies the ability to target niche groups and deliver some assurance that conversations will be more focused on the brand. With the launch of "Rate My Space" in early 2007, Scripps Networks has become a showcase for illustrating the type of success that can be achieved through a high value, niche community.
Created to provide design enthusiasts with the ability to interact, share ideas and publish videos and images to showcase their homes, "Rate My Space" drew more than 15,000 new members within the first three weeks, who engaged in 80,000 discussions and uploaded 3,000 rooms for review and critique. Page views for the community skyrocketed to more than 10 million and continue growing daily, resulting in a steady flow of new advertising revenue.