Staffing for Social Computing

More and more companies are starting to understand the benefits of social computing. If not the benefits, at least they're starting to understand the risks of not getting serious about social computing because, increasingly, their customers are demanding a two-way discussion with them (and the companies that do offer this two-way discussion stand out).

However, the companies that want to get into social computing/media/networking [1] don't always know how to go about doing that. From my personal experience I've noticed that when companies have gone in to "the whole social media thing" without any real experience, expectations, or strategy around social computing, they've often made a mess of things.

What Mess?

One typical outcome is that they start by not doing the research on what their consumers want, how their consumers want and prefer to communicate, and what kinds of communication the company itself can and wants to support. Because of this, they end up doing something inadequate like installing a message board on their website and, well, leaving it at that. Then they wonder why it's not working.

At this point they either fix things -- usually by doing some research and getting an idea of what is and isn't working in their industry -- or they give up.

Why Does This Happen?

In my opinion, this mess-up happens because they haven't really thought through their objectives of getting into social computing or even what the point of social computing is. A major factor in this lack of planning -- or, worse still, a lack of awareness -- is that they haven't hired the right marketing and communications people (ultimately, all of this is a marketing exercise) and this is where the Forrester Research report called 'How to Staff for Social Computing' comes in.

Two Crucial Roles

As Jeremy Owyang, the report's author, mentions in his blog, staffing for social computing boils down to two crucial roles: (1) the Social Media Strategist who pushes for social computing internally (convinces management, gets resources, etc.) and (2) the Community Manager who actually runs the community itself (which he wrote more about in an earlier post).

Of course, all of this sounds pretty simple when put like that -- you have to pay $279 or be a Forrester client to get the full-detail version -- but, at one level, it really is that simple. You need the right people -- who will do the right planning, the much-needed internal advocating, and the crucial open and honest external communications -- to get the job done properly.

I'm glad Forrester has published this report because something like this is much needed and will be really helpful to people like me who advocate the use of social computing in organizations and, often, simply end up banging their heads against a wall.

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[1] Or, if you want to use the unfortunate buzz word, "Web 2.0".