Social community Vs Social Tools

Guest blogger Rob Howard is founder & CTO of Telligent. Social tools like blogs, wikis and forums have been around for years, he writes. However; social technology continues to evolve and grow. For many organizations “getting social” is still a new concept. And in a crowded social ecosystem littered with social tools, organizations are getting mired in individual tools instead of creating true world-class communities.

 Social Community vs. Social Tools

A social community is an online network of individuals who are united by a common interest in an industry, organization or topic. Social communities enable networks of people to collaborate in order to meet specific objectives using integrated social tools that support communication, identity, recognition and reputation.

Recently I spoke with our marketing director, Kevin Wiliams who (in a previous life) served in the same role at the National Breast Cancer Foundation, Inc. (NBCF).  He talked about how the NBCF wanted its breast cancer community (which was an external outreach to its constituents) to be a place where breast cancer survivors and their families could find breast cancer information, interact with other survivors and receive support during their battle with the disease. His team worked at creating this unified social community, which became more than the sum of individual social tools; it became a destination where people go to solve a common problem or try to achieve a common objective. It’s through commonality like this that a community can grow and eventually become self-sustaining.

 Social Community and Objectives

Like any project, whether you’re planning a meeting or launching a new product, organizing a list of objectives is critical.  Organized objectives are just as important (if not more so) when launching employee, partner and customer communities. So, before jumping into the process of implementing social community into your overall company infrastructure, it’s worth your time to consider these elements.

Business Objectives – Provide a roadmap with measurable milestones that aligns with your overall corporate strategy.

Customizable Profiles – Highlight the uniqueness of individuals and enable expert discovery.

Rewards – Recognize top contributors through reputation and role badges to encourage discovery and motivate connections. Provide avenues in which they can become stronger brand advocates to help meet your business objectives.

Groups – Engage in large group conversations via status messages and exchange

Recognition/Badging – Identify contributors as subject matter experts, certified practitioners, customer advocates and elite members

Analytics – Deliver insight into who is connected and how people are collaborating. Everything must be measurable. The data will be the foundation that helps you create the story on the success, or shortcomings, of your community.

Enterprise Platforms – Simplify community management by providing integrated applications, extensibility and security

Integration Methods – Bridge the gap between systems and processes to encompass all core and non-core best-of-breed capabilities

This is the list you will want to keep on hand as you research for the community software that best suits your needs.

Rob Howard, Founder & CTO of Telligent will be taking part in the Social CRM and Community Building panel on day two of Social Media World Forum Europe 2011 on 29-30 March in London. For more information please see the event agenda.