Saturday, January 20, 2007

repost - Note to NBCU - How to use Social Networks

January 17, 2007

After I shreaded NBCU's press release, I've been asked what NBCU should do about social networking.

First I would spend a lot more than an hour or two thinking about it and I would make decisions based on research and not my gut. Also, I'm not assuming that NBCU should do anything about social networks. I think an overall NBC site would be almost worthless (but that's another post).

One "given" is that there will always be numerous communities that exist for every TV show. The least popular shows probably have a few thousand. There is no way to create a community that is so good that these other communities won’t exist.

And even trying is a mistake. Each of these communities represent approximately a few hundred people that love the show (or tens of thousands). These are your evangelists not your competition. It's never a good idea to squash your fans. The fact that there is a vibrant community on MySpace is awesome news. All the Network needs to do is augment these communities.

They should find every The Office community and figure out ways to make those communities better. They should give awards to the best The Office community. They should budget some of their stars' time to do chats on these sites. The more they make these sites successful, the harder these armies of evangelists are going to work to make The Office a success. Holding contests is great, but communities win, not individuals. You can still be the host of content (as opposed to YouTube), but you are not the "go to" place. Create the content so that 24 sites can do things like have scavenger hunts around the net for some mocked up terrorist pages. Touched by an Angel communities could have charity drives and good works goals.

I would have a team of people whose job would be making these communities a little better every day. Their jobs would range from programming a custom widget for a particular community to helping another community tune their Google search information. The average team should breakdown something like this:

• 1 Manager
• 1 Marketer (not a publicist, that’s done elsewhere)
• 1 PR person
• 3 Program Managers (technical project managers and marketers)
• 3 Code Programmers
• 1 Flash Developer
• 4 Testers
• 3 Editors/writers
• 3 Graphic Artists
• ----- 20 people (and some times larger depending upon the

That sounds like a lot of people. And I don't think every social site on the web needs 20 people. Sometimes a half of one person is enough. But the overall number of viewers to be serviced here is huge. One of the biggest mistakes I see companies do is to make a push into this wacky world of social networking and then leave after they have "something" built. It’s like inviting a bunch of people to a party, decorating and leaving 10 minutes after the guests arrive. The guests are all going leave after a little while because they are just too uncomfortable. They will also be a little angry for having been lied to.

Every community you build (or even a community of communities) needs nurturing. To keep people coming back it needs to be updated often with very compelling content. Somebody’s got to create that content. It’s either going to be the network or a few overworked and harried community managers that are doing this “for fun”. It takes a lot of technical people and infrastructure to create excellent online communities.

I would staff these teams with creative people that are fans of the show from around the world. They should be little islands separate from the other little islands and the network mothership. They must feel uncensored ownership and creative freedom and have the charter to do what is best for their show. Then I would sit back and watch the scores of evangelists recruit new evangelists and a groundswell of new viewers watch the show.

Now, this assumes that all of this is about getting new viewers. If NBCU is trying to build a site to drive new ad revenue that's a different story. Maybe that's possible, but it's still not the best idea and a very, very different approach is needed (but that's a different post).

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