Jeremiah Owyang highlights a well-done white paper by Chris Kenton from MotiveLab called “12 Essential Tips for Success in Social Media” by calling attention to the first tip: Establish Clear Business Objectives and Metrics. There’s a good reason why that’s first: too often a project will be launched without a clear sense of where it fits in the organization’s overall strategy.
But while Jeremiah called attention to the first point, I would like to highlight the last:
Fail Quickly. Fail Cheaply.
If you’re launching your first social media program, focus on an initiative with minimal investment in time and money. Success is more often than not an iterative process. You’re likely to fail. So do it quickly, do it cheaply, and correct your course. Don’t set out with a big initiative that ties up a lot of resources putting all the bells and whistles into a flashy launch, unless you’re ready for a flashy failure. Social media lends itself well to this kind of iterative and incremental process.
This ties to some of my previous posts about why building a community site within an existing social network like Facebook makes sense, at least as a way to start.
First, I think it will give you maximum likelihood of success, because a certain portion of your target audience already is in Facebook. You’re not asking them to sign up for a new username/password. And if they’re not in Facebook yet, asking them to sign up isn’t asking for more commitment than if you were just inviting them to your own homebrewed or “white label” site. So for getting people to join your online community, the simplicity factor either favors Facebook (for existing users) or is a wash.
For you as the developer of the community, however, forming a Facebook group is much simpler than either of the other options. You can create a Facebook group in less than an hour, even as a complete novice — and even if you spend the first 45 minutes exploring the Facebook group settings.
That leads me back to Chris’ point about failing faster. I believe using Facebook for your first foray into social media makes failure less likely, but even if you find that it doesn’t work as well as you had hoped, it will cost you less for this social media education, both in time and money, than if you set up a standalone site.
If you find your Facebook group experiment is a miserable failure, as Administrator you can end it. I just set up a group to test this, and invited my youngest daughter to join. Here’s what that page looked like:
Right after she joined it, I used the “Edit Members” function to remove her as a member, and then I changed the status of the group to “Secret.” It’s as if the group had never existed; like Stalin without the political assassinations.
So, if you formed a group in Facebook and it absolutely didn’t work, you could put it out of your misery (although it probably would be best in a case like that to have introduced it as a pilot; for Wal-Mart’s Facebook group an attempt to disband would bring bad PR.)
A more likely scenario might be, as Chris suggests, that you experiment with a social media platform like Facebook so both you and your intended community learn whether this kind of networking would be mutually valuable. You may see some features missing that would be helpful or even crucial to its success, and then you can focus development efforts on either extending the Facebook functionality through the F8 platform, or using what you learned in developing an alternative.
Whatever you decide, you can either then enhance your Facebook site, or use the Message All Members function to let everyone know that the action has moved over to a new site. This is much better than taking months to develop a site, perhaps pouring development resources into functions your users may not value, and lagging behind your competitors in engaging customers in conversations.
Even if you eventually go to another “new and improved” site, you would still have your outpost in Facebook, so that as people are there and perhaps looking for your organization, you can have this group with a link to your “real” networking site.
Here’s a demonstration of what that might look like:
As Dennis McDonald says in another interesting white paper, you should incorporate social media into your crisis communication plan because these tools will be used by others in a crisis. Likewise, since some people will search for your organization’s name in Facebook (especially as it continues to add users at an “astonishing” rate), you should at minimum have a presence there so people can find your “official” site via a link on that page.
Sometimes faster failure is the key to success.
Technorati: Facebook, 12 tips, Social Media, Dennis McDonald, Jeremiah Owyang, Chris Kenton, MotiveLab, Wal-Mart, Networking, Social Networking, Facebook Groups, Groups, failure, faster failure, tips, success