A couple of months ago, Hayden Sutherland of Ideal Interface contacted me in regards to the potential of the corporateJanice Caswell: The Last Kingdom social graph; a concept we had come up separately and had been thinking about. After several emails, Hayden presented me with some questions to get my opinion on the details surrounding the corporate social graph. He posted the Q&A on his site and I wanted to share them on mine.

Q. What are the challenges a company could face in initially creating its Corporate Social Graph?

A. The biggest challenges I see are:

  • Ability to create and maintain a consistent brand message across multiple branding channels (YouTube, flickr, Facebook, mobile). I’m of the opinion that the best brands are the most simple and this is a real challenge to build brand equity with the inherent differences between the mediums that live within those brand channels (blogs, photos, videos, etc.
  • Knowledge of the medium. Each medium has a set of rules that require a Subject Matter Expert. That SME is hard to find, harder to keep needs to be passionate about the medium and the rules for that brand channel will change over time. Many of the mediums have just come into existence and we are trying to figure what can and more importantly, should be done with them. Next week Toyota will launch a $4 million dollar campaign on YouTube. This is a safer bet given the traffic and the “lack of interactivity”. Comments are the extent to which one can interact with Toyota through YouTube. We will see if Toyota responds to comments left.
  • Allowing for real interactivity as if someone was talking to a person and not a company. People want to hear a human voice and giving someone the authority to create that voice is risky and requires a tremendous amount of trust. If the guidelines are too strict, the response can sound canned and no one will listen.

Q. What do you see is the biggest difference between the Personal Social Graph and the Corporate Social Graph?

A. The biggest difference is that a brand identity needs to be kept intact. Although I will say that I believe there are things to be learned from individual social graphs with respect to identity. My LinkedIn account is very different from my Facebook account which is very different from my web site. Each serves a different purpose and is used to connect with different types of people in different ways. Sounds a bit schizophrenic but people behave differently in a variety of social situations, just as companies do. We have to remember that businesses are comprised of people. They just need to be conscious of what other team members are doing within other brand channels/mediums. The goal is the interactivity; communicate and share information and the real trick is how to get customers to expand the corporate social graph.

Q. How should a company identify, track and measure its CSG? (especially over time)

A. Identify, track and measure:

  • Identify – Research is needed to identify the right brand channels/mediums to reach their customer base. Primary research to find existing customers and targeted demographics/psychographics. Also using internal team members for information as to where they have seen customers online is also good idea. (This is also a good way to find your SME.)
  • Track – Each brand channel has its own metrics and we always need to keep in mind that little thing we call acquisition
    • Tracking which medium leads to the most acquisitions (YouTube).
    • Tracking which medium leads to the highest level of interaction (customer service).
      • Measuring the quality of that interaction on a scale that the business has created (1-10).
    • Tracking which medium creates the most traffic overall (Facebook application).
    • Tracking which medium the user spends the most time with (casual gaming).
    • Tracking which medium brings the highest level of complaints (blogs, forums) and more importantly how they were dealt with and the end result.
  • Measurement – Many of these technologies/methodologies are really in their infancy and measurement should start with ROI. Overtime, as these mediums mature and converge (i.e. interactive TV) it will become clearer as to how well something is working. Measurement is always going to need to be a daily thing with the potential for change in direction (updated tactics) built in. That is what the Internet provides and as we move towards a CPA model it will become more and more important. I also want to be clear that if something does a great job of building repoire (as evidenced by feedback) but does not pan out in regards to ROI, it should not necessarily be abandoned. The internet and the brand channels/mediums that is contains are evolving and will be for quite some time. Marketers will need to be vigilant to insure they are doing what they need to successfully create a fluid corporate social graph.