I had the pleasure of co-facilitating a WebEx meeting this evening. It was a wrap-up to a social media discussion series I co-hosted over the span of several months this summer with folks from our local ASTD Chapter. At different points tonight I revisited a metaphor I’ve written about before in previous posts and in Chapter 3 of the Social Media Report 2010.

Hub-spoke

When I talk about the Hub, I’m generally talking about that thing which operates as the central focus in our social media activities communicating our values, interests and expertise. It helps in trust-building by giving interested people who visit our Hub from any of the Spokes (social networks along the periphery of the diagram above) a place where they can get a sense of the “real you.”

Now, some might interpret the Hub as being a web site with marketing messages, an inventory of things to sell, lead capture forms and other engines from which to enable e-mail drip campaigns with visitors who visit your site. While I don’t have anything against these tools, they’re not really your strongest suit for building trust.

Instead, you’d be better served to include a site that is search engine friendly, easily linkable, highly indexed and frequently updated.
Blogs as the Hub
It’s for these reasons that I’ve recommended a blog–or your business website with a frequently updated blog attached to it–as a key feature of the Hub of your Hubs-and-Spokes network.

Blogs, if frequently updated with quality content, are highly indexed by search engines and frequently linked to–and shared by–other bloggers and social networkers.

As for content that helps you to connect with others, it is one of the best vehicles for indirectly communicating your personal and/or brand characteristics to your visitors in a way that doesn’t blatantly shout “do business with me.”
The Spokes
Looking at the big picture, think of the spokes, as your way of casting a wide net. They represent Outposts of culturally distinct networks where you engage potential customers in the places where they prefer to engage others in conversations online. Suffice to say, each network is different, with its own unique culture that should be respected. In addition to differences in feature sets and their look and feel, each one has a different tone and different sets of expectations amongst its members.

The concept of establishing Outposts can be as simple an idea as staking out a profile and participating in “communities of discussion” on forums such as Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter. While it may be true that the more Outposts you’re engaged in, the greater amount of exposure you’re likely to have. However, it is also true that a hundred outposts won’t necessarily make you more effective. It’s better to focus on only a few and make sure that the information that passes through–and the relationships you establish because of them–are high in quality.

Your objective: to build genuine trust, credibility and acceptance in each of the Outposts you engage.
So How Can We Orchestrate Hubs and Spokes?
As I mentioned earlier, consider the center of your influence–the Hub–as the focal point of your online networking activities with all other platforms placed along the periphery like Outposts radiating from the Hub.

Meanwhile, populate the “in-between” spaces with engines that help you listen to the discussions in the Outposts. These Listening Posts can be automated engines (e.g., Google Alerts, RSS, third-party analytic engines, and so on) that clue you in to the tone, trend and volume of conversations that relate to you, your brand or your niche.

I’ll talk more about Listening Posts in my next article. Or, if you’ve already purchased the Social Media Report 2010, check out Chapter 4 where I talk a bit about Monitoring the Conversation.

Out of curiosity, what are some of the Listening Posts you use to monitor online conversations?

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