Prerequisites For Setting Up A Business-Driven Web 2.0 Effort

Since the beginning of the year, have been asked the following question (in various forms) time and time again: If we want to use this social media "stuff" to connect with customers, how do we get started?

this point, it seems that the natural inclination is to jump right in
and start prescribing technology (e.g. "well, let’s set up a WordPress
or TypePad blog and we’re done!" or "Let’s get the Haystack network up
this week!").  While the technology is an enabler, there are still the
basic questions that need to be answered in order to get things off on
the right path, and help to stack the deck in favor of success.  Today,
let’s concentrate on the fundamentals of what an organization needs to
think about before embarking on a social media activity.


#1) Why

Why do
this?  Why start a blog or a social network or other Web 2.0-oriented
effort?  Sometimes, the answer is simply "In order to connect."  And,
in the case of many, many blogs (and IM, and Plazes, and Twitter,
etc.), that answer is sufficient.  However, as is more often the case,
there are additional reasons to jump in:  better and more timely
feedback from customers, the ability to connect with others working on
similar problems, putting a human face on what had been historically a
sterile organization, creating a framework for communications, or, most
importantly, creating a platform for enabling better/broader/more
timely information exchange. 

The "why" is critical.  (And, as a point of note, "because we
want to explore this and get to understand it" may be the right
answer.  When that’s the case, make sure that expectations are set

#2) Who

2.0 is about people.  Period.  Who are the people involved?  Who will
be the primary contributors to the effort?  What are their
backgrounds?  Who are they as people?  In addition, who are the other
people who will be interacting with the environment, even if they don’t
initially contribute?  In a blog, the ratio of commenters-to-posters is
large; the ratio of readers-to-commenters is astronomical.  What’s in
it for each of those constituencies?  Does the environment support them
and provide what they need?  What value does each group derive from it?

Similarly, in a social network, there are typically a handful
of "power" users, a slightly larger group of sometimes-contributors,
and a huge group of people who may only be observing.  (Members of this
last group are commonly referred to as "lurkers.)  What’s in it for

#3) Where

Online gathering places are examples of the "third place" as
defined by Oldenberg:  a "place" other than home or work, for
democracy, civil society, and social engagement.  Is what you are
putting together a destination, or a directory that sends people forth
on their journeys?  (Both are relevant.)  What does the place feel
like?  Is it open, or exclusive?  Is it part of a larger site, or a
stand-alone entity?  How will people find it?

#4) When

Is the activity that you are proposing using social media an
ongoing concern, or tied to a particular event?  Note that unless there
is a large, existing group of participants, it will oftentimes take a
few months, perhaps even a year, to achieve "critical mass."

It’s like planting a garden.

#5) How

is all about the norms of the place.  What’s the tenor of the
interaction?  Is it "strictly business," or relaxed?  Is it moderated,
or free-wheeling?  What will participants do if their contributions are
edited or deleted?  If there is a "topic," will off-topic discussions
be immediately squelched, or will the interactions be free-form, like a
lively dinner party?

Additionally, a key "how" item is thinking about how the
site’s members deal with "trolls" and spammers.  Will the be ignored?
Banned?  Given a warning?  Deleted without comment?  Sent to "time out"
for a period of time?

Much of the "how" derives from the "who."  The types of
individuals who collectively make up the constituency of the place are
the ones who will drive the "how."  Heavy-handed moderation will make
the place constricting, yet too lax a policy will rapidly devolve the
interactions into noise.

Want to see a guide that you can use to start conversations in your organization?  A template you can use, after the jump.

a template, feel free to copy the guide below (you can also use these
answers as the basis for internal communications efforts as well to
gain support from other parts of the organization).


The reason for starting this [blog | social network] is:


By pursuing this effort, we believe we will be able to:


We will measure success by:



We want to connect with people who want to:


We expect that the following types of people will be frequent contributors:


We expect that the following types of people will sometimes contribute:


We expect that the following types of people will primarily be "lurkers" in the group:


Each of the three groups will benefit from being part of the group by:


First-time visitors will:


Repeat visitors will:



The place we are setting up is:


When they arrive, visitors will feel:



What we are setting up will be launched by the following date:


It will continue to exist (until a date | as an ongoing concern):



The tone of the effort is:


We will deal with "trolls" or spammers by:


We will handle "off-topic" interactions by:


Our moderation policy is:


2 Replies to “Prerequisites For Setting Up A Business-Driven Web 2.0 Effort”

  1. The Populists’ Primer

    Christopher Carfi published a WWWWH guide to business-driven Web 2.0 efforts today. I like what he says about who Web 2.0 is for–the people! Web 2.0 is about people. Period. Who are the people involved? Who will be the primary…

  2. It’s a relief to see you start with “Why.” So many I talk to start with the how. The temptation of implementation with fun and interesting technology. Surely if we build it, they will come. Our field of dreams will be beautiful! I’ve spent a lot of time on this in my world at Microsoft and learned both some good lessons and some things not to repeat. I guess if I was to point at one post on my site about this, it would be about insight capture here:

    That said, I think for business it comes down to the following 3 buckets:
    Will it change…
    how you build products
    how you market/sell products
    how you support products

    it can change all these things. In my view the middle one is the hazardous first choice…that should be the natural by-product of the others.


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