A little behind-the-firewall snippet: Best Buy (like Harvey Norman’s only bigger, in the USA?) have built a social network for internal use. I loved this comment:

Listen, Provide, Learn

Getting contributions from your community and encouraging interaction are critical elements of an internal corporate Web site. If people don’t use the site, you have a corporate platform that, according to Bendt, “sucks.”

After the first version of the BlueShirt Nation social platform, as it was called, Bendt and Koelling were told by a handful of beta users that it needed some work. Koelling was a bit more descriptive: “They said it was ugly, dry, and it’s boring.”

Bendt said they learned that if you want people to use a “social” site, you need to be open to their participation in building the site. You see, social sites are not about the people or company that builds the site; they are completely about the people who are intended to use them.

The site was built in Drupal.

If you build your social network behind the firewall first, and let your staff loose on it, you’ll learn what works and what doesn’t. And lets face it, if you can’t get your employees using it, when it’s of direct benefit to their day to day working environment, don’t kid yourself that the customer is going to find it compelling.

Um you are not thinking of two separate networks are you? One for staff and one for customers? *laughs* Good, you better not be!

If you were, have a read of Gonzo Marketing by Christopher Locke. Mr ClueTrain Manifesto – or one of ’em. He writes (so much better than I) all the reasons why you need to bring down the fourth wall and make the insides transparent to the outside. Customers, staff, consumers, prosumers, co-creators. The book is seven years old now, but still so very worth the read. I’ll lend you my copy if you want. 😀 Or if you prefer to media- snack and do content grabs at Dymocks or Borders, go to page 34 -41 “Ripping out the Wall” with some naff Pink Floyd subtitle. He gives a good example of how Ford Motor could set up an enterprise community with customers included, that I think you’d enjoy.