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Your Roadmap for Fully Capturing the Profitable Power of Social

Lady Gaga’s Little Monsters online community, designed by Backplane, quickly attracted a million unique visitors soon after launching in July 2012.  Without relying on Facebook, Lady Gaga is able to host a specific interest, purpose-driven global community where fans and other stakeholders could exchange ideas, co-create adventures and otherwise bond in ways that boost participation in all her profit centers.  Further, interaction on the online community and at concerts — and mobile conversations with each other at both—leads to real time insights for what most matters to her fans, and ways to rapidly involve them in the activities that most fuel Lady Gaga’s brand and financial growth.

Thus, in launching this community a popular celebrity exponentially leverages the value and visibility of her brand for herself and her stakeholders. Translation: More profits and staying power.

Not only is this a model for other entertainment brands but also for any business that wants to fuel growth by hosting the most popular online community in its market, a place where all stakeholders benefit from sharing, collaborating and recruiting new members. And diverse organizations, from IBM to MITRE, are also jumping on the online community bandwagon.

The avid and rapidly growing TEDx communities provide another compelling example of combining online and in-person communities and taking their clout a step farther, by enabling the leaders of such communities to meet and share ways to make their events more valuable to all players, from the speakers to the sponsors and attendees.

That’s one of my many takeaways from Mark Fidelman’s new book Socialized. where he wrote that, “as Backplane has discovered, the communities people associate themselves with become parts of their identity… People want to join purpose-driven communities that reflect their values and beliefs.”

Yet one of the scariest things for companies in our increasingly connected world is how competition can hit faster and from more places – in large part because of social technology and customer-centric partnerships. That dangerous capacity holds within it the flip side, what may be the biggest opportunity for companies to out-innovate current and future competition. Many can stand out in their market and invade new markets. What they need to do is deceptively simple yet still radically new and most companies won’t adopt this approach until a competitor has and then they will do a “me too.”

What we’re talking about is restructuring your whole company to enable people inside and outside its walls to use their best talents together to leverage the differentiating value of the firm.  If an organization like MITRE, that does complex consulting, often for highly secret government projects, can structure an ecosystem that supports such collaborative consulting then surely most any kind of organization can thrive by creating the social structure that benefits all stakeholders, including their customers, employees, vendors and the media that covers their sector.

Fidelman gives you a road map for creating the systems that can leverage faster response  — and apt rewards for participation, using social software, the cloud, analytics and mobile technologies.

Some consumer brands can use social structures to serve  prospective customers’ desire to customize what they want to buy, a trend popularized by Stan Davis and B. Joseph Pine as mass customization. One wildly successful example is Gemvara where Matt Lauzon realized he did not need to keep precious stones in inventory but, instead, to show extremely realistic and tantalizing gem settings, with the software support that enables customers to design their jewelry.

Plus their  analytics-supported approach also enabled Gemvara to track design favorites and buying patterns to keep honing what it offers and how, thus growing their customer base and per-customer sales while honing customer service, based on the knowledge of how customers want to be served.   In keeping with the notion of using the right social tools for your kind of market, Gemvara also uses community-building visual tools such as Pinterest.

Hint: host the most popular place for your kind of customers, employees and other key stakeholders to meet.  As Eric Openshaw suggested in Talent-Enabled Ecosystems, firms that host communities  support and reward people who collaborate inside and outside the walls of the firm can tap more talent without increasing head count.

That approach enables their key stakeholders to… read the rest of the column at Forbes “Connected and Quotable.”

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