Networking social networks

June 6, 2009

I’ve noticed lately that many organizations are still treating social networks as separate worlds.

Facebook activity stays on Facebook.

Twitter updates stay on Twitter.

Flickr photos stay put in Flickr.

YouTube and Vimeo videos stay in their profile pages.

And the list goes on.

Last week, I noted the successful campaign I recently put together for Foursquare Connection 2009, but I think it deserves another callout for doing what social networks were meant to do: provide a platform to help people interact when and wherever they happen to be.

The deal is, most people have accounts to two or more social networks. That’s why we see companies like Starbucks with YouTube, Facebook and Twitter accounts. Be everything to everyone, right?

No. And yes.

No, because just having an online presence isn’t the same as interacting. Opening accounts and posting infrequent updates, photos and videos is simple but hardly passes for an internet marketing strategy.

Yes, because this is where your audience lives online. You could spend a pretty dime creating and maintaing your own social network—but why when there are plenty of free options available that are constantly improving themselves for you?

The trick is to not treat all your accounts as separate entities, but as a single platform. Facebook allows you to updatet your status through Twitter. Flickr feeds photos perfectly into Facebook and Vimeo. Vimeo and YouTube give you the embed codes to every video you upload to publish them on other sites. The number of third party Twitter applications to feed your tweets to any website is ridiculously ubiquitous.

An open API is a beautiful thing, isn’t it?

I’m happy to see mega-brands like Starbucks investing in people to manage their presence in online social networks. However, watching them treat their accounts as individual platforms with different people managing each site makes me think they are missing a bigger opportunity to interact with people on different levels. Each social network is like a different sense (taste, look, sound, smell, feel) and bridging them together is the best way to interact with an audience on every level.

On that note, not all flavors will taste good to your audience. So when your team is sitting down to plan a strategy for social networking (yes, it does require an intentional plan), consider the following:

  • Where is our audience hanging out online? Are they even online?
  • What kind of content do we have to share?
  • What social networks are already available to us?
  • How do we plan to add value to the conversations happening in these networks?
  • How can these networks work together?
  • Can we connect users of one network to users in another?
  • Who do we want to assign to keep our networks current? (No, your boss’s 15-year old nephew does not count.)
  • Can any of our networks be plugged into our current website?

This is just a start, but answering these questions will open up a huge conversation.