Today a colleague pointed me to an interesting post that talks about Social Hubs and how companies participate in these hubs. I posted a loong comment that I thought I could share as a blog post on my own:
I think marketers will continue to do traditional marketing and advertising. But participation in social networks will be part of the marketing toolbox, and in many cases more important than traditional marketing. Jackie Huba (author of Citizen Marketers) calls this the fifth ‘marketing P’ – Participation.
You bring a really interesting point – maybe not explicitly: the social networks exist, and sites like Twitter and Linked in are simply tools where the people that form the hub meet. It is like a group of friends who can meet at a bar, at a sporting event or at a friend’s house. The group of friends is the social network itself and the bar or venue is the tool they use to interact. The community exists independent of the tool.
Like you, I am a firm believer in the power of social + enterprise content (what you call user generated content with professional content) and that integration deliver tremendous value to end users. But I have a different vision on how to get there: I don’t think marketers should moderate or editorialize social media. As you say, it is about trust and transparency – but this requires authenticity and personal conversations. The marketer can present both social and professional content labeling each as such: “here is the unedited content from the community, and here is our official corporate content”.
We did this at Microsoft where in our web properties and some of our products a search query will produce the official company “editorial” results, content from Microsoft bloggers and answers from the community. Social media is integrated on the website, technical support, marketing activities and also in the product Help system. Even the technical documentation is now a wiki.
Measurement tools and paradigms need to shift. It is not enough to measure community engagement or activity, maybe we should measure trust and sentiment. Maybe even loyalty. It is about winning hearts and minds.
About your question of how to identify the hubs? I see this as one of the intrinsic values of social media: it fosters the gravitation of people with similar goals and interests towards areas where they can have a conversation. Social media is enabling conversations across geographies, cultures and organizational boundaries.
Here is quote from the Cluetrain Manifesto written almost 10 years ago:
“Markets are conversations. Their members communicate in language that is natural, open, honest, direct, funny and often shocking…the human voice is unmistakably genuine… Corporate firewalls have kept smart employees in and smart markets out. It’s going to cause real pain to tear those walls down. But the result will be a new kind of conversation. And it will be the most exciting conversation business has ever engaged in.”