Management consultants Deloittes have just released a big study that looks at the best practice for building on-line communities. A lot of it is intuitively obvious, but easy to get wrong. And regardless of the social media dimension, the rules are probably just as important for websites in general, assuming you want people to visit.
Start with the end in mind: “Start with a business strategy, defining carefully what you want to accomplish through the community.” “Invest most in the area that services your key business objective.” “Be clear about the purpose of the community.”
Focus on the value to the members: “Make sure you deliver real, special, unique, obvious value to the core group you’re hoping to attract.” “Build the community around existing passion groups.” “The core of the community needs to be of high value or interest to people, a focus worth contributing to.” “Get insight into what motivates members to join the community; we found a different motivation than we hypothesised.”
Don’t start with the technology: “Too often people get drunk with Web 2.0 tool excitement and then try to push their business and customer goals into the wrong tool.”
Keep it simple and intuitive: “Focus on the lowest common denominator first. Keep it easy to navigate with simple tools to use.” “People are busy; they need information in brief, easy-to-scan bits they can quickly choose what is interesting to them and go right to it.”
Keep it fresh and active: “Keep activity levels up, constantly add new content.” “Think of how to create ‘events’ – what can you do to excite people and get them to share in the community.” “Update regularly, find topics for discussion.” “Content is king.”
Have dynamic community leaders: “Make sure you devote enough time to managing the community; letting it fester is worse than not having it in the first place.” “Participate but do not try to control. The community belongs to the people, not you.”
Think through who to involve – or not. “ Get commitment from top management and communicate, communicate, communicate.” “Get Legal and PR to buy-in and help on design, but keep them out of active management.”
Get a passionate core of participants active before launching: “Make sure you have a committed core of passionate users before you launch.” “You must have a critical number of high-quality participants to get the momentum going.” “Beta test and seed before launch.”
In fact, reading these again, it's not just the web that they're relevant to. You might need to changes the words used, but the sentiment can arguably apply to any brand and business that wants to build a community...whether their activities are on-line or off-line.
Radiohead may be showing us how to do the digital thing well. But there's something to be said for doing things old school and analogue as well. And what better musical expression of this than the mix tape.
If those 2 words get you all misty eyed and sentimental, you'll want to check out David Quantick's recent R4 show, "The Disappearing Art of the Mix Tape" (available to listen for a few more days yet).
How I used to love making mix tapes! And how much more fun and rewarding it was than making a playlist on the MP3 player is today.
Digital may be easier - you have the content at your fingertips to drag and drop, rearrange and delete as required. But functionally 'better' as this may be, it can also be a soulless experience and ultimately disposable (and so of limited real value) which, I must say, is how I feel about a lot of things in the digital space - it just leaves me not caring.
Mix tapes, on the other hand, were a thing of joy. Not least because you had to really be bothered to want to make one (impressing a girl, soundtrackng a holiday or party etc.), given the effort and time (lots usually) involved. And if things went wrong you had to start again…a sense of having to 'work for it' we've lost in our 'instant everything' digital world, where irreversible mistakes are a thing of the past.
But the imminent threat of everything going horribly wrong, just made the whole thing seem even more significant. And it was all worth it in the end, as you were left with something real and tangible (I still have some functioning tapes today, that are probably pushing 15 years old); artifacts often of real beauty as well, once you took the hand made box art into account.
Ah, the joys of analogue - maybe I'm just a bit old fashioned.
And as an interestingly post script, I just spotted this (via PSFK), which asks 'Can "the New Thing" be something old". Because it fits with the sentiment of this post, I will lift the same section that PSFK did...
"I read a little piece in the New York Times yesterday that postcards are staging a comeback, at least in the UK. 135 million were sent last year to British households—30% more than in 2003. The Times suggests that the rise in postcards is a sign of a “yearning for tangibility.” Postcards are clearly more tangible than emails, and they fill up our mailboxes nicely without requiring a lot of verbiage. Jay Dittman, a smart fellow from Hallmark, told me recently that their paper greeting card business is also holding up pretty well.
That got me to wondering whether we would see other yearnings for the past, and whether the next big thing in business can ever involve the past. There seems to be a slight rise in wishing for a less digital past; and several articles and books on that topic, including Nick Carr’s piece in The Atlantic (about which I blogged a few weeks ago), and Maggie Jackson’s book Distracted, are pretty popular. I wonder how far it will go."
Because it's worth repeating in full, here is Rory Sutherland on the accountability (or otherwise) of research and research companies...
"Elsewhere on brand republic, someone suggests that WPP is buying another research company because "research is measurable, and WPP likes measurable things". I would suggest this is the complete opposite of the truth. Research panders to the love of measurement, for sure, but as a marketing activity I cannot think of anything less subjected to rigorous cost-benefit analysis than the money, time and effort squandered, oops, I meant 'invested' in researching things. Nemo custodes ipsos custodiet.
A quick point of clarification. There is a vast difference between measuring things and being measurable yourself. (Referees are very rarely sent off the pitch.) The research industry does measurement - but is not itself all that measurable. Which is all the more reason for WPP to be buying more of it.
Quite simply the industry enjoys two complementary advantages of any business. One, it caters to a vital and growing need - that of every single person employed in marketing services to be able to point to an Excel chart to justify their last trip to the bathroom. Yet, secondly, while satisfying this need, it is not itself exposed to all that many awkward questions about its own real value.
In truth, I'm not sure marketers question the value of research any more than compulsive hand-washers ask hard questions about the value of wash-basins. It's just something you need. Frequently and everywhere.
The analysis of IPA Effectiveness Awards suggests that ads which are pre-tested are on average less effective than those which aren't. Will this be a setback to the business? Will it bollocks. Research in 2008 is simply like TV advertising in 1976 - it's just something you do by default If you want to keep your job, go and do some research.
If you want to make some money, go and buy a book about behavioral economics instead.
You have to hand it to WPP. A recession is a great time to buy a research company. At no other time is the demand for fatuous self-justification higher."
So there you have it. Next time a research company starts throwing their weight around, ask them for proof of their effectiveness credentials, before they start having a go at yours!