Tuesday, 23 December 2014

Creating a Group on a Social Media Platform

 Author: Dr. Cheryl Cottle

Creating a group on a social media platform is a very challenging process. It requires that you know the rules of the designers of the space, and making sure that you live up to them. Remaining ethical in all of your practices, strategies and techniques that you used to create and manage the community that you build. First, you must know what type of community you want to build. What type of function would it serves? Who are your target audience? and more importantly you must also identify which social platform you will like to use. 

There are several social media platforms available for use. Some are free while others have a yearly fee. It is important that you conduct research to see which platform will meet your needs, including your personal objective, business objective, educational objective, training objective, and or your philanthropic objective. It is also very important to know who your target audience is and their receptiveness to social media forums. Are they computer savvy? Are they internet savvy? Are they open to learning the new technology? You cannot be all over the place. You have to narrow down your audience to a specific target audience and niche. Having identified these, you have to know how a social media community will help you meet your needs? 

You must also be clear as to what your needs are. It is therefore very important that you conduct a needs assessment to identify your need or needs. A group can be designed to meet any need. If you are interested in meeting your business needs, you must identify what those needs are. You have to be specific as to what you will like to achieve. You must identify the purpose, goals, and objectives of your group — and this must be done before designing your group. It should be a part of the analysis phase of your online community. In the design of a social media group, it should be systematically designed. What are your business needs, is a very critical question to have answered before proceeding in the design and development of your program. In my case, my business needs are to consult with small business owners — particularly women in the area of business development, social media marketing, mentoring and coaching. Does it matter that your membership is local or international? Yes it matters. I recommend that an international audience would better meet your needs, since we are no longer restricted by geography given the technology that is available.

In designing a group, it is also important to see the many ways that the group can benefit you. Hence, you must conduct a thorough needs assessment to ascertain how you can use it to benefit both your short-term goals and your long-term goals. Some of my future goals for my group was to use it for research in my exploration of women entrepreneurship and the challenges that they face, in order to find solutions to make their lives as entrepreneurs rewarding and productive. The group should therefore also meet your research needs. If you choose to conduct research you would have captured your audience. The group should also serve as your target audience, in developing workshops and conferences, should you want to include a training and development component into your consultancy. It is an audience that you should be able to tap into to make the most incredible retreat with women. It will certainly include women from across the globe. It will have such diversity which can be marvelous and awe inspiring — what a bed for collaboration, and strength building. 

In designing a group, it is also important that you keep in mind the holistic purpose of your group, because it could serve multipurpose, as discussed above. The group that I have designed, can also meet my multiple needs, for example; for accessing women to be a part of my many business and social initiatives. For example it provides me with great opportunity to connect with women to contribute to my online journal — Simply Inspirational for Women in Business Journal. Resources for writing books. I can also access women to be guest on my Women in Business Radio show — drawing upon their expertise to make the show an eclectic and prolific radio program for women entrepreneurs; and lastly, for simply forming friendship that is based upon shared interest and experiences. 

When deciding to create a group on a social media platform, you must be very clear and focused as to what your objective and focus is. Not being clear, can result in a lot of work, in terms of time and resources without a clear outcome. It certainly will not prove a ROI both in terms of your time and money. If you are not able to critically think about what your group's purpose is and identify the many threads of it, prior to designing it, you will spend a lot of time learning by trial-and-error. If you lack the ability to design a program, particularly in the analysis phase, it is important to recruit a program designer to assist you in doing so. 

After conducting a need assessment and identifying your needs, and deciding what are your short-term needs and long-term needs, the next questions are:  
  1. How do you build your community? 
  2. Where will you get your audience? 
  3. How will you accessed them? 
  4. How will you grow your community and not break the code of conduct that the platform subscribes to
  5. You have to identify what the criteria for membership is 
  6. What type of membership status will you have
  7. What is your group description? 
  8. What's your mission statement 
  9. What are your goals and objectives 
  10. What are some rules and policies Guidelines to follow 
  11. Conducting outreach to build your community 
  12. Develop a philosophy by which you believe 
  13. Develop your group's culture 
  14. How do you promote your group
  15. How will you brand your group and your leadership
The other question is, how do you plan on keeping your audience involved and actively participating so that they will want to stay? Content needs to be specifically chosen. Design your content material proactively, so that every day you can introduce it to your group. Remember it is vital to keep your members active. Content should therefore be informative, educational, fun, motivational, empowering and engaging. If you are selling a product or services you can talk directly to it or about a product or a sport that relates to them. It could also be totally unrelated. A business selling mattresses for example, could talk about well-ness or finding balance. The content must be an area that your would be customers will value and as a result will visit your space, and when the times comes for buying a mattress, chances are they will come to you. Beware of competitors, primarily direct competitors, indirect competitors rarely will have an impact on you.

If you do not have the skills and expertise to design and build an online group, please contact a program designer to assist you. Remember they do have special skills, knowledge and expertise including program development with skills and knowledge in the analysis, design, development, evaluation and implementation of a program. They can also facilitate all the necessary research required to complete the analysis of your project, and further most of them are also expert in content writing. Some also can develop your curriculum and evaluation instruments that you will need to evaluate your program on an on-going basis.

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