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The purpose of asking this question is to implore marketers to stop for a minute and think about some very preliminary questions. Why are organizations they represent on social media? And an equally important question is why the audience, they would like to target, are present on social media?  These questions are important to answer beforehand for a successful social campaign. It is important to match the cause of an organization with the reason of audience presence on a social channel, especially since social media is not a broadcast medium and success of a campaign depends upon audience aligning with an organizations cause and percolating the cause through trusted relationships. Business Models and Business Agendas:

Let’s tackle the first question. Organizations are setup as a for-profit entity or a non-profit entity. This classification is important to understand because this speaks to the purpose of the organizations and define what success might mean to them. The goal of a for-profit organization is to distinguish its offering in the market place, create a sustained competitive advantage, which ultimately translates into profit. The goal of a non-profit organization is more altruistic in nature and is aimed at achieving a purpose, like motivating people to donate blood or raise funds to help people rebuild their livelihood after a natural disaster.

As organizations differ in their agenda, so do the participating members. The participants in a for-profit campaign are either paid employees, or representatives of the sponsoring organization (who are paid), and customers. Participants are motivated by quantitave profit. An organization is motived to generate profit by selling and the customers are motivated to get a better deal.  A non-profit institution gets involved in the virtual communities to achieve a specific purpose. As the objectives of a non-profit are altruistic, the participants are motivated by qualitative profit, like prestige or social recognition, etc.

This provides an overview of how organizations look at social media.

Community Purpose and Community Drivers:

Now let’s look at the second question. Audiences participate on a social platform because of some very specific reasons. On one hand, they participate in a community based on the communities social (ex: YouTube, Twitter and Facebook), professional (Ex: LinkedIn) or commercial (Ex: Amazon and EBay) orientation, which are further classified based on the objective of the community like relationship building, entertainment, expert network, learning, business-to-business and business-to-consumer. On the other hand, communities have been classified based on what the fundamental purpose of the community. They were classified into three types. They are community enablers, trading/sharing communities and communities as a website feature of corporations (Ex:MSDN).

Communities have been distinguished based on who drives the community. They have been classified as member initiated or organization sponsored (for both profit and non-profit). If the community after it is established, the interactions is initiated and managed by members of the community, it’s a member driven community. If the community is initiated and managed by the sponsoring organization, then it’s a sponsor driven community. The member driven and organization driven virtual communities are different in nature, for both profit oriented communities and non-profit oriented communities.

For-profit communities are sponsored by the organizers motivated by profit. Hence, they sponsor and maintain the infrastructure, invite their stakeholders to be a part of their community and control the agenda and the interaction required to achieve various objectives. In a non-profit community the participants join the communities to satisfy a need, but many of those who continue to contribute do so because they enjoy contributing to the task at hand. The infrastructure here is provided by either the members of the community or a non-profit organization which desires to further a common cause. Inspite of providing the infrastructure, the participants decide which task they would like to contribute to, based on their own judgment of their expertise, capabilities or availability. Therefore, the sponsor has no control over the task delegation or successful completion of tasks.

Based on the above discussion, communities can be classified as shown below:

Member vs Sponsor

Member vs Sponsor

Therefore, it’s safe to say that all communities are not equal. They differ based on the objective and purpose of the community. So the strategies of dealing with these have to be designed and optimized for each case.