Content, Community and Commerce
When framing out a strategy for yourself or clients in the Social Media space, you can take a 3C approach - Content, Community and Commerce. FWIW the 3C approach is a helpful rule of thumb for both online and offline communication campaigns - let's take a look at online.
The first C: Content:
Online, content has a short shelf-life, utilize this knowledge to tailor messages, resources or software to maximize the experience for the kind of viewer that's digesting your feed. In the graph below, you'll see that "CHAT" has 100% value at zero seconds with the value declining over time. How many times have you come back 30 minutes later to a hidden chat window to find out that the other person has bailed on the conversation?
How does this effect community?
One easy insight, is using TIME as a demographic to distinguish viewship communities. Customize content for blog readers to encompass ephemeral elements like time sensative promotions, Groupon does a great job at aggregating short attention span consumers and then utilizing their commonalities to drive the 3rd C, commerce.
The 2nd C: Community.
Basically - you connect to people online by way of any number of ideas, these ideas unify netizens within various online communities. These communities can be "self-help" forums with longer content halflives, or frenzied chat rooms. Regardles of the community, it pays to take cues from the type of ideas that bind people together, and tailor your content to the group. No need to NEWS FLASH the Mac Help Forum with Latest iphone g4 TV commercial or publish your HTML 5 Whitepaper : MOBILE to Gizmodo.
The Big "C" - Commerce.
Now that you've focused your content, it's time to tend to the great thing that all online community members have in common...a desire to buy things associate with the brands they have a stake in.
For a detailed view into e-commerce you can peep the Department of Commerce Quarterly e-commerce sales report however, this chart says it all:
If you've done your job of creating content that creates community, then it's perfectly acceptable to sell relevant products and services to your constituents.
What's the best way to sell things to your community? If your community is family and you want to sell a batch of cookies you made using grandma's secret recipe, check out Etsy. Maybe your a bit more sophisticated and want to sell custom game controllers mods to PS3 enthusiasts - in this case you want: e-commerc shopping cart, or savvy users will engage a combination of WordPress and shopping plug-ins.