Friday, July 24, 2009

Information Websites Are the Next Move in Social Media

I spent the last two days at the DMAW/AFPDC Bridge Conference (well-attended, especially by the nonprofit, fundraising crowd). I was struck by two similar, but different, approaches that exemplify the trend to what I’m calling “Information Websites” – one for the (collegial) masses, one for the elite.

The first example is ThePort. Introduced in partnership with Convio, Inc., in early 2008, ThePort Social Media Suite lets nonprofit and professional associations build their own branded social media communities. With declining membership in associations and shrinking charitable contributions, the portal cleaves groups and builds allegiance by creating an Internet space for members-only participants to link-up, communicate, share information, blog, post photos, add friends, send and receive private messages, send messages to everyone, rate posted information, create events, etc.

The second example, which won’t be rolled out for another month or so, is an expansive (and, presumably, expensive) site under development by marketing and ad agency Foster-Redmond. The client -- a pharmaceutical company with an obesity drug and $3 billion in annual sales -- has underwritten the development of the portal to bring together top thought-leaders in the medical practice areas of obesity, diabetes, gastroenterology, etc. Participation at the site will transcend practice areas and will be by "invitation-only." Content and activities are designed to attract top-tier professionals in the medical field. Development of the portal took about a year and progressed with the guidance of doctors, chief information officers, research directors, and other senior level managers. All site activities must operate within the strict government guidelines that regulate the pharmaceutical industry and content must pass rigorous legal scrutiny. Despite that, Principal Jeff Foster notes that the process is designed to accommodate the vetting of content, queries, and responses within 24 hours. Foster acknowledges that the effort is a “first,” the value of which remains to be tested, but he and Co-Principal Will Redmond believe that such high-level “ports of exchange” represent the true direction of social media. "We know if we can develop a site like this within the highly regulated pharmaceutical industry, we can do the same for any client," Remond says.

-- scrubbed by Marketing Brillo

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