“Wise men speak because they have something to say; others because they have to say something.”
Social media exercises without purpose and strategy are but sheep with golden fleece.
We can carry forward this to the phenomenon of the social media as well. No other aspect of a social media effort affects its success more than the reason for which it was employed - its Purpose. As it is, the purpose that will become the focus of the people’s interest and subsequently will inspire them to act in a way that is desirable. The purpose is also the source from which social media derives its business value.
Most executives will not recognize the purpose of a social media campaign when they see one. Therefore, it must not come as a surprise to many that the majority of the corporations are not able to gain any significant and tangible business value out of their social media endeavours.
This lack of adequate skill is the prelude to a practice that is coined ‘provide and pray’. Let me run you through this weak strategy. Managers will provide the gateway to social technology, and will then leave it to the hand of the free market (pun intended) to form communities, that not only is interactive but also a forerunner of business value! The outcome is fairly easy to predict, the communities will germinate like seeds without growing up to provide aromatic flowers – no significant business value.
The lesson that can be derived is; people seldom pivot around a given technology, what they do go around is a purpose, a compelling purpose that is intended to recognize an opportunity or a need, is so specific and meaningful that it motivates people and inclines them towards participating.
To prove this point, that only purpose counts, one only has to look at notable and successful social media platforms:
Facebook’s core purpose is for people to easily track what their friends are doing and engage with them.
Wikipedia’s purpose is for the masses to collectively build an online Encyclopedia. Crowd sourcing, and the wisdom of the crowds.
LinkedIn’s purpose is for people to leverage their professional networks for employment and hiring.
Although, this fact cannot be discounted that a few of the social web environments have indeed strayed from their said purposes; but it must be acknowledged that they made a name for themselves solely due to the fact that they initiated their journey with a clearly defined purpose. It was this tightly scoped purpose that gained them the critical mass of followers which ultimately led to the mobilization of the communities.
Choosing the appropriate purpose is not as easy as a pie. It is seemingly much harder than to provide for the technology. In the clichéd management approach called ‘the purpose road mapping’ lays the solution. It is the planning that is involved in finding out ways, to use the defined purpose, in a manner that is engaging and can sustain productive communities. Creating a road map will enable the understanding of the drivers that are essential for community collaboration and the business value that can be derived over time. It also provides the oft-elusive guidance on the aspects pertaining to investments and associated risks.
Not only that, it also shapes the lower-level implementation decisions, those of moderating, policy, content seeding, tipping point marketing and technology selection.
Purpose to social media is akin to strategy to a business model. All business leaders therefore must get actively involved in the selection and implementation of the right Purpose.
(Prashant Deorah, MD, Puretech Internet.)