10 steps to developing a networked website

Posted on: April 30, 2011

Developing a networked website means actively finding and including relevant people and groups and considering them in site design, content and marketing:
  1. Clarify the goal of your website and the topics it will cover
  2. Identify online influencers in line with that goal / topics: Use free online tools, e.g. social mention, twitter grader, google blog search, technorati; existing contacts; others’ compilations e.g. TIME, Top 100 UK Wedding Tweeters List; and if you have access a premium social analytics platform (e.g. Radian6, viralheat)
  3. What about everyone else? and the WWIC gang? (try and consider how hostile individuals or groups might fit in)
  4. Create a private spreadsheet / database and include for each person / institution:
    • Specialism(s)
    • Contact details
    • Geographical location
    • Their own presence on social platforms e.g. twitter followers, facebook page likes
    • What they can offer: personal endorsement, content (blogs, video, audio)
    • Priority: if you need to limit how many people you include / target first of all choose carefully and keep the rest on file
  5. Consider how you can include the people you have prioritised in your site: For example, advisory panel, content partnership, network of guest bloggers, Twitter component, occasional guest blogger, resources page, open talk point, sub-groups
  6. Develop site design accordingly and decide on creating any complementary external social media presences (e.g. Twitter accounts, Facebook pages). Also optimise site design for forward-sharing across social platforms by including tweet this, Linkedin buttons etc.
  7. Create official materials and assets to reach people and get them involved – emails, agreements, buttons and banners, tweets and hashtags. Consider throughout (unless you are paying them) the motivations behind giving and sharing: altruism, enjoyment, status seeking, reputation seeking (from CR). A good approach is to get some ‘big names’ involved up front and then use them on communications to encourage others to get on board. But if you decide you need to pay, go for the middle: the most cost-effective strategy is to target those of average influence
  8. Contact people to introduce them to the project and keep track of responses – follow up by phone if necessary. Beware: people may be offended if they are included in one way but not another – consider being flexible about how you bring them in. Be prepared for formal content sharing agreements to take weeks or even months to secure as they make their way through legal departments
  9. Keep people involved all the way until launch – group email updates may be easiest. Part of the sell pre-launch is that they will be the first: part of something new and exciting. A private beta could help whet their appetite further
  10. Measure post-launch happiness: your networked site is a complex interconnected mesh of individuals and other networks. Keep track of the usual quantitative metrics – but also have sight of how happy people are with its direction by conducting regular ethnographic observation on active parts of the site and conversations off-site. Using a tool such as Radian6 insights can help draw information fast but there is no better way of truly guaging sentiment than using a human (i.e. your own community manager – or whatever you want to call them).
Example of a networked site: Guardian Global Development

network flower picture via this is Chris

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