12 Tips To Creating Social Media Communities

12/07/2007

Community In another online world, I am the moderator of the American Marketing Association's member only Internet Marketing SIG. Recently a community member asked for ideas on how to launch a social networking community for physicians.

I've been hearing buzz about - let's called them the Gotham Cities of communities .. Girl friend, I don't think I need to name names but drop a few initials MS .. FB .. YT .. some people have been saying there is no need for any more.  However, in this highly fragmented world I still believe if you can create a 'long tail/niched' safe environment where people feel  comfortable, the community is relevant, the members are listened to and brought into the development you have a good chance of giving people value and succeeding.

The AMA person should look at this from two view points: the unique challenges of engaging docs and the basics of building community. Here was my response. How do you think community should be build and is there still room in this virtual world for new niche players?

1. Begin with a very clear goal, that goes beyond the number of eye balls, that integrates metrics. As with any marketing strategy (and I assume that this is part of a larger initiative) social media can and should be held accountable. However, the measurements may be (and often are) different. For example instead of the number of unique visitors you might look at length of visit, number of comments, integration of relationships, etc.

2. As in any product/service you can't be all things to all people so who within the doc community are you targeting e.g., new docs, specialists, docs who have an interest in changing the healthcare system, docs who are politically active, etc? Do your conversation categories match their needs and expectations?

3. Once you have the strategic direction developed look at the "pay back"  to the community. Especially with docs where time is a very precious commodity what do they get for participating in your community? Again, taking the mystic out of the equation and approaching it from a product/service marketing point of view  .. what are the benefits? Another example is Sermo, a closed community for *only*  licensed physicians. The benefit is the members are in a 'safe world' .. well quasi safe since Sermo has allowed paid sponsors to listen in to the conversations .. and can share their opinions, exchange ideas without  patients or the larger world listening in.

Sidebar: An (email) interview with the founder of Sermo, Dr. Daniel Palestrant is in the works. One of the questions I asked  Dr. Palestrant - Let’s start with the end game and then fill in some of the details. It appears as though the long-range vision for Sermo is not simply to create a virtual chat room for U.S. docs, but through that community to become the voice of U.S. physicians that in turn, impacts the healthcare system. I had the sense the community wanted to go further too. Please tell Diva readers some of the blueprint that will turn that dream into a reality. Should be an interesting discussion.

4. Perhaps this should be #1 .. always remember that your world is part of consumer generated media and people will talk about what they like and what they don't like in other communities and on blogs and within your own community. Those conversations may not stay in the virtual world but may get picked up by main stream media and you may find yourself on the front page of the WSJ or NYT. So understanding the culture is critical. 

  • Honesty, transparency and authenticity are not nice to haves but *must haves* if you enter this space.

5. Develop guidelines  that give the community room to breath but at the same time define expectations. The right guidelines will also help build trust .. in the community and among its members. If people feel "safe" and appreciated they are more likely to engage. (see #7)

6. Identify authentic champions who can help nurture the community and want to take an active role in its creation.

7. (You) take an active role also in nurturing your community members. Ask for their opinions,  listen to the conversations and if appropriate participate.

8. In building a physician community personal invitations are a must for the initial launch. Word of mouth will build if the community is found to be of value. Consider identifying people who are active within social media worlds e.g., blogs, Facebook, etc.

9. Explore creating a Facebook group. While this may seem counter intuitive it may provide additional awareness.

10. Consider an email strategy that promotes some of the more popular/interesting conversations.

11. What can you do to give back to the larger community? For example is there a way to support a not for profit? Working towards a common cause or goal may encourage strangers to become friends.

  • 12. This deserves repeating .. listen and learn from your community. Make it easy for them to talk to you. Talk to them off community.
        Read more about developing social media communities in Diva Marketing Interviews
        Nancy White
        Elisa Camahort - BlogHer
        Simon Schnieders of BabyChums
        Rebecca Weeks of DivineCaroline

        Thanks to Create The World You Dream for the graphic

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» Social media for business from Social Media
At Alphablogs, isabella takes notes during an online seminar with Seth Godin, Steve Mann and Jeremiah Owyang, talking social media for business Diva Marketing Blog: 12 Tips To Creating Social Media Communities. And B.L. Ochman, a marketing friend, sort... [Read More]

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How do you think community should be build and is there still room in this virtual world for new niche players? [Read More]

Tracked on Dec 10, 2007 10:18:44 AM

Comments

Your article makes a lot of sense, but I have to ask is anyone making any money with ask this social media? I read info provided by Nielson and Jupiter research that indicates the ROI is lacking!

Posted by: geri on Dec 9, 2007 10:49:29 PM

Your article makes a lot of sense, but I have to ask is anyone making any money with ask this social media? I read info provided by Nielson and Jupiter research that indicates the ROI is lacking!

Posted by: geri on Dec 9, 2007 10:49:53 PM

Geri - great question which I'll respond to with another question .. how do you define ROI? My guess is that might be talking about cold hard cash. However there are other ways to measure the return of investment associated with a social media endeavor. Those range from time saved replying to customer questions (the community is used as a resource) to informal research for new/improved products and lead gen.

Take a look at Bill Johnston's post - Online Community ROI - where he cites specific stats and shares an excellent PPT on the subject. Examples that drop to the bottom-line:

>43% of support forums visits are in lieu of opening up a support case. (Cisco, 2004).
>Community users spend 54% more than non-community users (EBay, 2006)
>Cost per interaction in customers support averages $12 via the contact center versus $0.25 via self-service options. (Forrester, 2006)

http://tinyurl.com/2o9ooq

Posted by: Toby on Dec 10, 2007 9:32:23 AM

Very sound points. This can be used for virtually any community. I dare say that it would help to get a pilot group and do some probing to see what aspects the larger group might want to focus on/

Posted by: Small Business Marketing on Dec 12, 2007 3:31:17 AM

Very sound points. This can be used for virtually any community. I dare say that it would help to get a pilot group and do some probing to see what aspects the larger group might want to focus on/

Posted by: Small Business Marketing on Dec 12, 2007 3:32:20 AM

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Posted by: Sammy on Jan 2, 2008 2:24:43 AM

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