Here's a quick checklist of key steps to help you get started with social networking.
- Identify and document community goals and objectives. They should map to your organizational goals and be specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time sensitive.
- Identify and recruit influencers. Your members will respond better to content and conversations created by the leaders of your membership.
- Indentify and prioritize programs. What will get more attention: a blurb in your newsletter saying, “Check out our new online community” or a call to action like “Congress passed a bill this week that will affect the way you do business. Click here to weigh in.” Don’t assume people will know what to do in your community. Create programs and topics of interest that will spark engagement.
- Identify and contact partners. Are some of your members also bloggers? Could a sponsor or vendor somehow help promote your new community? Could they be a part of it? Could you collaborate with a competitor? Keep an open mind and contact those that may be able to create synergies for you.
- Create and gather content. And then make a plan. Don’t throw everything you have out to your membership at once. Schedule releases and employ volunteers to create more content for you.
- Create outposts. A private social network is critical, but establish yourself at least on Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, Flickr, and Twitter, too. Figure out how you’ll use them later if you have to, but claim your real estate now. Ultimately, you want to direct the outside world back to your web presence and these are great websites to do that from.
- Define a roll out plan. It should include what, where, when and how. Don’t let the launch of the software feel like the end of your project. It’s actually just the beginning.
- Train your staff facilitator. This is all new stuff. Don’t assume because you’ve assigned someone the role of owning the social network that they know what to do. Find an outside source to help if you have to, but don’t leave your social networking manager hanging. Even if they are young and are active on Facebook, they still need some formal education on how to be successful managing your private social network. Schedule ongoing training for your facilitator to keep up with emerging technology.
- Define success factors. What will it look like when you’ve gotten it right? Most importantly, write the success factors down. It’s not real till it’s written.
This list is not necessarily comprehensive, but it is a great jumping off point. As you work through these 10 items there is no doubt you’ll realize there are other things to consider as well. Your online community will eventually be your most valuable asset, if you get it right. But don’t feel like you have to get it right the first time. We’re all still learning the inner workings of Web 2.0. The important part is to get started and go from there.