Forget space time – TagSpace is the new dimension. Here’s why.
Every organisation wants to use social media to create and own a community these days. Its easy to see why – owning a community is a natural extension of the old approach to communication, based around owning and controlling the channel.
The problem is that the future doesn’t lie in channel, because channels are now free, available to everyone and therefore increasingly controlled by individuals rather than organisations. The future lies in developing competencies in Content, Conversation and Community and of these three the Community part is the hardest place to access – simply because the essence of a successful community is that is is owned by its members. What we are seeing now is individuals forming communities to manage their interaction with organisations, rather than individuals being managed by organisations within owned communities.
I think the Community opportunity lies in hosting and managing conversation areas based around a strategy of differentiating tags – creating TagSpace if you will. This builds on the practice now becoming familiar within twitter whereby the community will attach a #tag to a subject as a way of allowing people engage with a discrete conversation – for example #davos or #davos09 last week. Suppose you devise a tag which you will use to generate content and conversation around your organisation or brand. This tag has to be sufficiently unusual that it won’t overlap with other tags. For example it could be XxxTalk (where xxx is the brand name, or shortened version thereof). Interestingly, because no-one is really doing this at the moment, the NameTalk tag is relatively unpopulated for most brands or organisations – but you can see a situation in the future where this tag becomes valuable real estate hence something you need to establish a presence within quickly.
You can then promote the fact that anyone who wants to talk to, or about, you or share something relevant should tag their content in this way – whatever means of input they are using (twitter, blog etc). The promise is that you will be watching this tag, using the conventional search tools, and responding where appropriate. You may also want to use this tag as your twitter name and create a blog platform / content hub under its banner.
In this way you can start to host a conversation and establish an information sharing community relevant to your organisation. The community doesn’t live in any one place, it lives across all current and future social networks (a powerful thought) and of course it is not something that you exclusively own or control – that is its point. Your ownership over it will be entirely dependent on the value you add through the relevancy and credibility of your contribution. And while you don’t own it, it probably gives you about as much control or influence as you are ever likely to achieve over community of independent individuals.
Furthermore, it has the advantage of making the conversational area of your digital space much easier to monitor and engage with. It helps manage difficult issues, because ‘good social behaviour’ will determine that any issues should be raised first with this TagSpace (and potentially resolved by yourself or the community) before pushing it wider. “Talk to the tag” you might say. And it will also allow you to engage a much wider community in developing your brand or solving problems – ultimately saving you money (as Dell are finding through their initiatives to get their customers talking to each other to solve issues or develop new products).
I think it is actually a no-brainer and I am going to be encouraging as many organisations as possible to adopt this approach.
And to practice what I preach I hereby propose the tag ‘tagspace’ (or #tagspace for twitter) as the tag to drive conversation around.