The Keys to Social Marketing: Seeding, Feeding, Weeding

Last Updated Jul 9, 2009 3:40 PM EDT

What's required to launch a successful business campaign using social media? Many companies entering this space drastically underestimate one key ingredient: Gardeners.

That's right, gardeners. These are the people, often in the background, who plant, grow and maintain social media sites. They may be programmers, conversation starters, content editors, graphic artists or community standards enforcers. The most feature rich, Ajax drenched supersite won't attract users unless there is a compelling reason to come and engage. Automation takes you only so far. It's the flesh-and-blood gardeners who create those conditions.

David Armano has a better way to characterize these functions: seeding (preparing the site for growth), feeding (keeping fresh, relevant content pumping through the system) and weeding (pruning old content and analyzing data). Each requires talented people.

Writing on Harvard Business Publishing, Armano says it's a myth that social media is fast, cheap and easy.

This underestimation of initial resources stems, I think, from the belief that the best social sites are simply tool sheds from which participants can create vibrant content and applications. Why invest in staff when all the value comes from users, usually for free?

True enough: A successful social site will support its own membership, develop and enforce community standards, and create tons of useful content. But social initiatives hoping to get to this Nirvana state must first invest in people to design the project, move it out of the garage and to provide new resources for growth.

"Not taking into account the manpower that's involved in these as you develop your social business design strategy can lead to a lack of adoption or participation -- essential elements to any social initiative," Armano writes.
Read his post Debunking Social Media Myths for a better insight into the people resources required to create a compelling social initiative.

(Gardening shed image by kretyen, CC 2.0)

  • Sean Silverthorne

    Sean Silverthorne is the editor of HBS Working Knowledge, which provides a first look at the research and ideas of Harvard Business School faculty. Working Knowledge, which won a Webby award in 2007, currently records 4 million unique visitors a year. He has been with HBS since 2001.

    Silverthorne has 28 years experience in print and online journalism. Before arriving at HBS, he was a senior editor at CNET and executive editor of ZDNET News. While at At Ziff-Davis, Silverthorne also worked on the daily technology TV show The Site, and was a senior editor at PC Week Inside, which chronicled the business of the technology industry. He has held several reporting and editing roles on a variety of newspapers, and was Investor Business Daily's first journalist based in Silicon Valley.