Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Essentials of Web 2.0 Community

I’ve found myself writing a lot about community lately, and I have several other things I want to cover in days to come. This material has gotten me thinking and I’d like to suggest a couple of ideas.

The basic one is that “community” in the broadest sense, seems to be the uniting theme of the social web. That’s true in both B2C markets, where it’s easy to see, and also in B2B markets, where there is strong motivation for community building and participation.

If community is the uniting theme, what are the special elements of the social web in each marketspace? In the B2B space it seems obvious that collaboration—again broadly speaking--is the key benefit of focused social networks. For example, while I was writing this I got an update from LinkedIn guiding me to the activity of the Social Media group where people are asking questions, passing along information and looking for jobs and business. That’s a public network; the collaboration that goes on inside corporate firewalls on shared documents, wikis, and so forth is a major productivity enhancement, especially for global corporations.

In the B2C space the key element doesn’t seem—to me at least—to be as clear. I’ve called it User-Focused Communications, to include both relevant marketer-initiated communications as well as user-generated content. Do you have a better/another idea?

Whatever terms you use, I would argue that community is the common thread. What should we be thinking about in terms of “community strategy” if there is such a thing. A concept that has been circulating on the web for several months is the 4C’s of Community. They are:

• Content
• Context
• Connectivity
• Continuity.

Think about those and read this Ad Age article. Content, context and continuity are all things that require organizational commitment and resources. In the way it’s used here, connectivity is more than just the technology, and therefore it becomes an organizational issue also. More about that tomorrow.

There’s a lot of fun technology out there, and I enjoy that as much as anyone else. More important to marketers, though, will be the emergence of a strategic framework for thinking about the social web. Your comments on this broad-brush strategic concept are welcome!

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