Friday, May 23, 2008

Creating Conversations

Many organizations have experimented with various social technologies, ranging from maintaining blogs to setting up profiles on popular social networking sites. The most successful of these efforts were originally designed as part of an ongoing effort to create a constant, two-way conversation between the organization and its constituents. The technology is merely a vehicle for that conversation, the conversation itself is the objective.

photo credit: Dano

The key is to ensure the conversation clearly connects to the organization’s larger objectives. Any conversation that occurs in a vacuum, whether online or off, simply isn’t sustainable. A generally accepted way to design a successful online social strategy is the “POST” method pioneered by Forrester Research. POST is an acronym for “People, Objectives, Strategy, Technology” and it outlines the order in which organizations should build their online social strategy.

How do the people that your organization is trying to reach use technology? Are they already using Facebook and MySpace? Have they discovered Twitter? Are they joining groups online? Do they rely more heavily on email and listservs? What is changing about their behavior?
Task: Design, distribute and analyze a survey to gather information about the online habits of your organization's target audiences.

Given how your audiences use technology, what are your organization's objectives for implementing a social technology strategy? In general, Web 2.0 technologies allow organizations to more efficiently and effectively listen to their existing constituents, talk to new constituents, and energize and support existing constituents and staff.
Task: Articulate both the short-term and long-term objectives that your organization is trying to achieve through this effort. Assign measurable goals to each stated objective.

After identifying your objectives, what is your strategy to achieve them? A deep understanding of which Web 2.0 technologies and approaches work for which objectives is the best place to start.
Task: Explore and evaluate existing technologies such as MySpace, Facebook, blogging software, listservs, online groups, and others. Map the strengths and weaknesses of each relative to your stated goals and available resources.

Once the other steps are done, then your organization will be able to focus on which technologies to use, and how to structure the implementation of each technology option.
Task: Choose those technologies which are most likely to help your organization achieve its stated objectives. Determine tasks, agree to timelines, and assign responsibilities.

Once complete, your organization's social networking strategy will help create an online arena for people to ask and answer questions, share their stories, and find support. It will help position your organization as a trusted resource, and handy reference. It will also help position your organizations as a technologically savvy, state-of-the art institution.

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