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Seven steps to building your social network

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1. Consider your target audience. Who and how many people you're trying to reach will determine the size, type, life span and language of the social network needed.

2. Determine the site's mission, message or goal. Talent management, project collaboration, new business, mentoring, corporate training support, centralized resources and industry news are only a few of the possible purposes for your site. Consult with your PR department to make sure the site is consistent with other corporate communications efforts.

3. Decide what features are needed. Differentiate your site from a plethora of others by including the features most relevant to your membership, such as the ability to schedule meetings or upload conference photos and white papers.

4. Set guidelines. Creating a user agreement that addresses issues of privacy, security, monitoring, ethics and moderation establishes trust right from the site's launch.

5. Design a short- and long-term budget. What will it cost to launch, market and maintain the community and who will pay for it?

6. Invite people to participate. Generate excitement among members, and allow users to give feedback on the site.

7. Keep the site active. Steady updates will keep the site fresh and free of out-of-date content.

Source: Interviews with Joe Cothrel, VP of Community Management Services; Mark Sylvester, CEO of introNetworks; and Michael Wilson, CEO of Small World Labs.

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