Social Software Projects Often Fail without Purpose

Brett Rogers @Ecresystems sent me a Gartner article that intuitively explains the reasons why social networks sometimes don’t take off like Facebook:

1. Magnetic
The purpose should draw people directly to participate, immediately appealing to the “What’s in it for me” characteristic.

2. Aligned
Purpose should align with business value, that is the “What’s in it for the business” value, be it direct or indirect.

3. Low Risk
Organizations are advised to resist the temptation to opt for high-risk communities, which seem to offer the greatest potential for business value. They are better revisited once social applications have gained momentum.

4. Properly scoped
Gartner advises organizations to start with a minimal scope and focus on growing a community’s scale as fast as possible. Once the community has scaled up, users will guide on how to expand the scope.

5. Facilitates Evolution
Purposes must be selected that both the organization and community can build on. A “purpose road map” will allow for growing the scope of communities or establishing other applications and communities with the goal of progressing toward a highly collaborative enterprise.

6. Measurable
The success of a good purpose can be measured. Especially early on, when organizations are skeptical of social applications, Gartner advises choosing a purpose where business and community value can be clearly measured.

7. Community-Driven
The value must come from the community. The best communities contribute far more to themselves than do the enterprises that support them. If the purpose requires the enterprise to contribute most of the content, and the community participants are mere readers, the enterprise has simply used the new technologies as another channel to push communications.

The Real Estate Industry Fit

Although the article is focused on Enterprise Social Software, the real estate industry as a vertical fits all of Gartner’s observations and has been a breeding ground for social networks:

  1. Magnetic: What’s in it for me? Personal brand marketing to a massive local consumer market.
  2. Alignment: Personal brand marketing translates into online lead generation.
  3. Low risk: Conversations revolve around low risk business topics related to real estate, not personal expression.
  4. Properly scoped: Real estate social networks like Active Rain have grown organically, and introduced new products like Localism based on participant demand.
  5. Facilitates evolution: The real estate blogosphere continually adopt new technologies and solutions based on their business development potential.
  6. Measurable: Real estate participants continually advocate social media as a powerful marketing play that gets results.
  7. Community driven: The real estate blogosphere is as intimate as their tech counterparts. They gather at conferences and seem to act and opine as a group.

About Pat Kitano

Patrick Kitano works with brands in developing hyperlocal engagement solutions and is administrator of the Breaking News Network, a national hyperlocal network devoted to community service. He is the author of The Local Network on Street Fight, and is reachable via Twitter @pkitano and email

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