Yes, rules are made for a reason but they’re also there to be broken. If your customer help representative can’t help a customer because of a rule, then this rule needs to be challenged. In todays shifting online world some rules are outdated. Add technology advances and audience sophistication and you realise that it is safer to break some rules, than to play by them.

  1. Treat your online efforts like an investment – Many clients expect quick returns on their marketing dollars. Thats fine when it comes to money spent on advertising, but when youre putting money online your ROI is measured by community, engagement and content. If you start now you might have something very valuable in three years.
  2. Create a community manager position – Is there anyone in your organisation that is responsible for your community? Its not your IT person or your marketing manager. Im talking about someone who knows how to blog, create content, put Google Analytics on and foster a community. Someone like that, even working part-time can start your online investment. (Take a look at DDB new agency position).
  3. Give them the mandate – You can’t have a conversation with your audience if everything you say needs to go through the legal department. Its very hard to explain to a senior board member why flash on the homepage is outdated. Its impossible to manage a blog when someone else is calling every single shot. When the ground rules have been acknowledged let your community manager run with it.
  4. Work live – Today web2 is all about being flexible, responsive and adaptable. If you need two weeks of back and forth emails to approve a new layout, its never going to happen for you. You need to dump the old mock-ups and work live. Youll save time, resources and make sure the fix you wanted actually works.
  5. Use web2 tools – Why not have Skype or IM for working with your suppliers or for sending that cool video? Why not have a Flickr gallery? A YouTube video channel?  How about an office Twitter instead of the newsletter? Or using Twitter as a marketing tool?
  6. Challenge the status quo – Why do we have this annoying answering service? why cant we give our customers free cotton bags? what will happen if we send flowers to our customers on their birthdays? When was the last time we asked our customers what they want? – asking why is one of the best qualities for any marketer. Why not ask why more often?
  7. Play and learn – Sir Ken Robinson says that schools kill creativity. No wonder that by the time we reach employment we are dreading change. Make time for play. Google is devoting 20% of employee’s time to research and development. If its good enough for Google, its good enough for me.

In this global economic situation, evolving makes sense. I believe many brands will create a community manager position in the next couple of years. Slow and controlled organisations will start in two years and expect their community to grow immediately. The flexible ones will start now and by 2011 will enjoy a loving relationship. Its time to change some rules.