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Ask the Social Media Planning Question: “Why?”

July 29, 2008

Client: “We want to launch 131 seasonal message boards.”  What?  Sure, we’d like to help you launch 131 seasonal message boards with you… let’s talk contract addendum.  Wait – not so fast!

We get asked by Clients to do things they think they have a pretty good understanding of.  They know what they want.  They think they know why they want them.  And, they think they know what it will take to make them successful.  However, often we get involved to guide the Client to back-up and ask, “Why?”  In this case, could the vendor provide what they are asking for from a platform and services perspective?  Absolutely.  For example, social media provider Mzinga (my former employer) has one Client who has over 1,100 message boards running on their platform, so that is not an issue.  Would we as social media strategic consultants like the additional revenue that might come from such a project?  You bet!  But, should we reccomend launching 131 message boards?  No.

One of the strategic consultants objectives is for us is to make sure our Clients are doing the right thing… setting them up for long term success.  In this case, we have to ask the question: “Why?”   “Why do you want (and do you really need) 131 separate message boards?”  And the some of the follow-up questions: “Is this what the membership wants?”, “How does this meet your strategic and business objectives?”, “Why seasonal? – Why not keep the community active year ‘round?”, “Do you understand the ongoing management effort this will take?”, “How many Community Managers do you have?”, “How are you going to keep content fresh on so many boards?”, “What is your moderation strategy”, “Do you really want to make an effort to engage a community just to close the community at the end of the season?”, “How is permissioning going to work?”, “Will you have enough active members on each message board to build a vibrant community?”, and so on.

In this case, via what we called a Strategy Alignment,  we counseled the client to consider narrowing it down to 6 message boards, provided a recommendation on how to grow out a true community by leveraging additional social media tools, and how to keep the communities vibrant and engaging by keep them up year  ‘round and utilizing social media best practices.   What could have been a short-term seasonal effort of message board implementation and management futility is now a roadmap to building six related, ongoing, successful communities.

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