There are a few golden rules to creating a successful social network around your business, product or movement. Using a collection of best practice ideas and success stories, including the Obama Presidential and Zappo’s campaign strategies, I have created a list of activities and ideas that will drive the creation and ongoing growth of your social network. Here are the key elements.
- If you are trying to reach a consumer audience then building big databases of customers is essential. Big doesn’t always mean better and it’s easy to get distracted by the numbers. Quality of the group is essential too.
- Know everything about your audience. Ask them to share their ideas, feelings, doubts, suggestions and comments on the things that you do. Sites like QuickSprout, Signal vs Noise and Mint.com are great at starting conversations that leave a trail of new ideas and insights for the blog or network owners.
- Connect online and offline events as if they belonged to the same network. Having only an online presence is not enough. You need to link the virtual networks with the real networks and bring those worlds together in any way you can.
- Build channels to capture data everywhere. Twitter is a great example of a ‘listening tool’ that helps you gather information on your audiences activities. Facebook and FriendFeed are other good ways to listen in on your audience and even start new discussions.
- Within every network, virtual and real, are activists, evangelists and mavens. Identify them, communicate with them if possible and figure out how to inspire and excite them.
- Connect the members together in as many ways as possible. In smaller networks create opportunities for the members to communicate and meet face-to-face. In larger networks give them ways to organize themselves and find like-minded members. Organize events or small parties that help customers meet each other and strengthen bonds with your brand or movement.
- It’s important to remember that there are already lots of membership groups. Find them and give them the tools to connect. Empower them in the places and spaces where they are already connected and spending time. In many cases you won’t need to create your own networks or groups.
- Give them something to do by organizing activities and purpose for the groups. Don’t leave things to chance or they might become orientated around ideas and activities that don’t align with your positioning.