Social media, or Social Business has really been on my mind lately. Not because its a hot topic now-a-days, or because its buzzy…but I don’t feel like Businesses (overall) are really benefiting for the “social” side. Don’t get me wrong, becoming a social business can help, but it takes more work than just launching a blog/forum.  This post will first define terms like society, talk about common themes, and provide some incite on how to start a successful program.

First, let’s take a look at some key terms: Society, Social, Networking, and Business. (I’m trying to figure out how these can compliment each other) …I got these definitions from (which uses the American Heritage Dictionary too):

  • Society: a body of individuals living as members of a community
  • Social: living together or enjoying life in communities or organized groups
  • Networking: a supportive system of sharing information and services among individuals and groups having a common interest
  • Business: the occupation, work, or trade in which a person is engaged

All of these definitions involve peoplelike you – which make up society, networking, and business. This is not new information and does not come at a surprise, but in a lot of businesses today there’s still some missing links. Several other pieces to the puzzle must come together to successfully intertwine business and community.

The next common denominator in the definitions above is community. Again, not a surprise, but its a bit more complicated than just community. Simply finding a community, creating tools, and expecting them to embrace it is NOT enough. If I were to start my own community, I’d take these steps:

  1. Define my community, including all sub-communities and groups.
  2. Live/Engage with my community – wear their clothes, eat their food, talk/eat with them, think like them, and go to their events.
  3. Research what’s missing – why they need it – how they should access it
  4. Welcome the community to help you build their tools – especially with (beta testing)
  5. Encourage feedback – they are your customers, do what they say (but with your unique twists)
  6. Reach out to the community and business world – let them know you’re out there, build trust, build relationships, build a support system, and build a community
  7. Find a sponsor – someone who benefits from your tool, but has a presence in your community. Make them your success story – brag about them and they’ll brag about you

Understand that your community program is living, it’s growing each and everyday. As more and more users engage themselves, the community grows and the support system grows…but keep this focused with your company, strategy, and competition. What else is happening in your market? Incorporate that too into your program.

Be the leader, be the innovator. This is not about being first, its more than that. It’s about staying on top of competition by moving ahead of the industry and anticipating your user’s/community’s next moves. This is why living their life and knowing your customer inside and out is vital. Evolve with the users as they evolve with the world.

This is WHY businesses are not captivating and reaping the rewards of a community marketing program. Deploying tools is not enough, there’s several months worth of research and planning that need to take place before hand. It’s okay if competition rolled their stuff out, your’s will be better!

If you’ve started a community marketing program (like Jeremiah Owyang), or are currently managing one (like Mario Sundar, Robyn Tippins), please let me know how you’ve done it! I want to know from YOU, the expert!