The rise of social networking sites from relative obscurity to near ubiquity in a just a few years will not have been missed by any marketing professional worth their lead-generation bonus.
And as the dynamics of social networking become better understood, more businesses are plucking up the courage to use the technology to build brand awareness and loyalty for themselves.
One way of achieving this is to build a social network around a brand, which customers can join in order to discuss the product and service. Clearly, this is not appropriate for all brands, but in industries such as media and consumer packaged goods it is gaining considerable traction.
A social network can be a complex piece of software to develop, however – especially if it is to include all the bells and whistles such as video, audio and photo sharing. According to Simon Frank,
“The world of online marketing is changing very rapidly,” he explains, “and a lot of IT departments are finding that they can’t respond to the needs of their marketing department fast enough.”
KickApps provides the backbone of a social network on an on-demand basis. The New York-headquartered company currently supports 25,000 sites, with 600 new sites added every week. In the
Built into the KickApps platform are analytical tools that allow the marketing department to analyse and dissect what customers are saying about the brand, and how they relate to one another.
But while using KickApps’ on-demand platform may deal with some of the technical complexity of establishing a customer-focused social network, ensuring that a community thrives within the network is an art in itself.
“Focus is the critical success factor for a social network,” says Frank. “People need to know why they would join and what it’s about. Otherwise, they won’t engage.” He also recommends employing a community moderator to help make sure the community is stimulated and engaged.
And while social networking may sound like a frivolous thing to be spending money on as economic conditions harden, Frank argues that “in a downturn, you’ve got to be smarter in your marketing”.
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