What’s Your Social Software Strategy?

An article by Tony Byrne of CMSWatch in Enterprise Social Software in KMWorld magazine last week got me thinking about the wide array of social software tools and how these tools can be used to create a social community offering.

Tony provided a very good overview of the social software landscape and identified the major categories in the social software marketplace.  Tony also identified 11 different implementation strategy scenarios for social software broken into Internal and External groupings, and he acknowledged in practice there will be variants or hybrids of these scenarios.

Here is a listing of his scenarios:

Internal communities:

  • Project collaboration
  • Enterprise collaboration
  • Enterprise discussion
  • Information organization and filtering
  • Knowledgebase management
  • Communities of practice
  • Enterprise networking

External scenarios:

  • Branded customer communities
  • Customer/reader interaction
  • Partner collaboration
  • Professional networking

Another way for looking at the social software landscape has been offered by the Forrester social media analysts in their Groundswell blog and book.  Their categories for communities are based on advancing organizational or corporate goals and include:

  • Listening (research)
  • Talking (marketing)
  • Energizing (sales)
  • Supporting (customer support)
  • Embracing (product development)
  • Managing (internal or employee applications)
  • Social impact (pro-social non-commercial activity)

I understand where Forrester is coming from, but Tony’s categorizations make a lot more sense to me.  The Forrester approach seems to force communities into neat little packages and ignores the reality of hybrid communities.

For example, the Catalyze community that I founded for business analysts and usability professionals was definitely a hybrid.  At the top level, it was a professional networking and knowledge sharing community with an embedded branded customer community that provided customer support, the latest product information via tips and tricks, and a ‘suggestion box’ for future product enhancements.  In this case, it is very difficult to fit this ‘square’ community into one of the Forrester ’round’ categories.

Or maybe, the best way to approach community strategy would be a combination of the two approaches – and hopefully, I’ve given you a place to start.

In any case, it is critical to identify and document your community strategy and goals upfront before selecting your social software tools.

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