Scouts of The New Frontier: Social Stewards & Custodians of Community
I'm actually a lot like many old school business decision makers when it comes to Web 2.0 style tools that are supposed to be the next big thing. I'm pretty good at spotting opportunity that exists outside the fringes of conventional wisdom. I love looking at things that are disruptive as a means of improving or creating new things. The old school part kicks in because I look at everything with a skeptical eye when I first see it. I will openly admit that it took me longer than it should have to snap to the broader potential that exists with Twitter because I couldn't get past the thought of wondering why anyone would give a crap what I was eating for dinner. The tasks of keeping up with community and social media trends and platforms can be pretty daunting. Every day introduces something new to the realm of social media and community building and finding someone with the skills to separate the lemons from the lemonade should be on the mind of anyone with plans to grow a business into the future. Here are just a few of the things this person is going to need to be familiar with.
SMO - Social Media Optimization
Essentially this is a process that is dedicated to making sure the company is receiving as much exposure as possible through the Socnets including social bookmarking sites, video sharing destinations, wiki's, RSS aggregation sites, Digg and other social news sites, the wider blog community and more.
Social Media Metrics
Measuring the impact and return on investment in Social media efforts will eventually become an integral part of an overall web strategy.
Spotting potentially harmful trends or spotlighting successes with regard to a corporate image. Dealing with them quickly and transparently is critical to success.
I've spent over 2 years entrenched in the world of community and social spaces. Some of that time was spent scratching my head and asking myself what the hell I was doing wasting my time. In the end I have found it pays to investigate it all and run it through a filter until your social media mix is optimized to generate results.
So who are some of the people having an impact in their role as a community or social media manager? You've probably seen most of them at one point or another. Whether you're an individual struggling to find your sweet spot within social media or a business that is interested in expanding your horizons, here are few people that you can follow :
Rudolph D. "Rudy" Bachraty III - Trulia
One of the smartest moves Pete Flint made last year was to hire Rudy as their "Social Media Guru". Rudy comes to Trulia with a built in following from the RE.net blogosphere. I think it's a safe bet that Trulia sees their investment in Rudy as a crucial means of connecting to the agent and broker base.
David Gibbons & Drew Meyers - Zillow
Greg Swann aptly coined WWDGD, "What Would David Gibbons Do?" because he was so impressed with the way David handles himself when faced with the prospect of defending a Zillow position or diffusing an issue within the RE.net. One of David's roles within Zillow is to be the guy that bridges the gap between perception and reality with regard to their products. He does it very, very well. If you engage David for any period of time it becomes apparent that he is passionate and believes in his product, without reservation or trepidation of any kind. Drew has a similar role in making sure the development and tech community are aware of Zillow. It's important to Zillow that the developer community within the RE.net be exposed to opportnutiies to integrate Zillow's offerings. By maintaining efforts like the GeekEstate Blog and The Carnival of Real Estate, Drew is doing a tremendous job of social stewardship.
Daniel Rothamel - Community Manager - Inman News
One of the things you have to admire about Brad Inman is his ability to use his resources to surround himself with young, top notch talent. Daniel is another blogger who has created a high profile for himself through quality blogging. His personality is perfectly suited to the role and he demonstrated his talents well during the recent REBarcamp and Inman events by using Social media to help make sure that attendees were able to get the most out of their investments in the conferences.
I would have mentioned Jeff Turner , but his ubiquity is borderline scary :). The guy is everywhere and though he has become a great friend over the last year or so, I'm still not quite certain he is a human yet. Research continues.
My company, MLBroadcast is pretty small. I'm the guy handles the social and community interaction. Even as we grow I will most likely maintain the role because I enjoy it so much. It helps me stay focused on the segment of our market that is most advanced. I can also filter ideas that I might think are the next big things through a group of people who are smarter than me and will tell me without reservation if I'm all wet. ( O.K. that's not really the truth. There's only room for one RE.net rock star and I am sick of Jeff getting more attention than me. :) All kidding aside, we've been able to build a strong branding effort through social media and community efforts. I certainly haven't done it alone and it has been a lot of work, but we can take pride in the fact that the strategy has paid off for us in more than one way.
There is a great deal more genuine interest in Web 2.0 tools at the Broker level recently, especially with Broker based, multi-author blogging. I think it's critical to find someone suited to the role to establish a strategy for social media and community that have tangible and varied goals attached to the effort. Those goals could be recruiting, retention, increased listings, competitive analysis, market anaylsis, .... you name it. Keep an open mind during the process. Realize that the results may take a while for portions of your efforts. Others not so much. Of the last 4 podcast interviews I have done, 2 of the companies profiled have already garnered new prospects and/or business from the exposure - exposure that cost them nothing more than about a half hour's time and a long distance phone call. I would characterize that as a pretty strong ROI.
So what are your thoughts? Do you think it's time to pay more attention to community and social media? Should you create a strategy for it or should you wait to see if it gets legs and play catch up later on? Maybe the LA Times killing their real estate section is just an isolated event.
*photo credit of me having fun with the Re.net crowd in S.F.: Jay Thompson