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Keep Your Online Community Simple

There are tons of things you can do in an online community.

  • Share music
  • Chat
  • “Like” things
  • Create groups
  • Blog
  • Share locations
  • Create themes
  • Create events
  • Control a calendar
  • Play games
  • And on and on…

If you are starting a community… don't just turn all that on.

Let the community help define what should be turned on and what would just be clutter.  Each community has its own goals and has a different tolerance for new technology.  People are not there for these bells and whistles.  They are there to connect with each other in online community.  Keep that the center and turn on the things that facilitate that connection.

Online Community Manifesto

I  stumbled across a phenomenal website with someone who is thinking about community development as the focus and not just new fads and technology.  Thought I would share.

Richard wrote a manifesto that I would take as my own if I could.  He understands that community development is more about people than it is about technology.

Take a look…

Richard Millington's Online Community Manifesto

Social Media does poor advertising

A phrase in an article I was reading  at Media Post caught me.

“While social media has definitely changed marketing, it has flopped as advertising. “

The difference is crucial and is explained at About.com

Advertising: The paid, public, non-personal announcement of a persuasive message by an identified sponsor; the non-personal presentation or promotion by a firm of its products to its existing and potential customers.

Marketing: The systematic planning, implementation and control of a mix of business activities intended to bring together buyers and sellers for the mutually advantageous exchange or transfer of products.

Trying to announce something to nameless people just doesn't work with social media. In social media, we gather our people, respect and communicate with them, and then talk to them.

So if you have something to sell and want to use social media to do it, you have to remember that you market with social media instead of advertise.

Facebook and Twitter lack story

I keep running into a limit with Facebook and Twitter.  The way of interacting there is too short to tell a story well.

Without story, it is hard to understand larger concepts or the deep movements in our own journeys.  I am beginning to see Facebook and Twitter as frames in a movie.  A lot can be learned from a frame, but not the whole plot.

Are the snapshots helpful?  I think so.  I don't think we need to throw up our hands and abandon this form of relationship.  Having those snapshots certainly enriches the deeper stories when I do hear them.

So what do we do about the lack of story?  While the tried and true “face to face” meeting is certainly one way to get the whole story, I don't think it is the only way.  There are tools out there that do allow for more story.  Blogs like Caring Bridge allow us to follow the stories of friends and family members fighting for their lives.  Communities like Band of Brothers allow for people to talk in more depth and see each other's story.

What other social media tools do more than give snapshots (other than blogs and communities)?  Do you agree that stories are not well told on Twitter and Facebook?

 

When Starting a Forum, Don't Overload the Categories

I have seen this mistake enough times that I think a short blog on it is due.

When starting new forum, the creator usually envisions what he wants it to be like… what categories there should be and what people should be talking about.

The natural next step is to create the categories.  Often ten or more are created.  Then it is opened up for people to come… and it doesn't work.

There are two reasons that doesn't work.

First, all of those empty categories make the forum seem spacious and inactive.  It is overwhelming and quiet… like inviting 5 people to meet at a convention center.  Those same five people could be a crowd at a table for 4 in a nice restaurant.  Keep the number of places (categories, topics) to interact in very small until there are more people, and you won't have people look around wide eyed and wonder off.

Second, the categories you want them to talk in may not be what people want to talk about or the way that they want to categorize what they talk about.  Let's use the small party example again.  If you invite five friends over and give them each a list of 10 things to talk about, you may end up implying they cannot talk something else that was important to them or sharing two themes at once.  On a forum, you want to start with only a few very broad topics (maybe even one!) and let the natural conversation show you what new categories are needed.  (“Wow, half the posts are about turtle migrations… better break off and make a turtle migration category.”)

So to sum up, start with a very small number of categories so your forum immediately looks active, and keep the categories broad so that the community can create direction and inspire new categories.

Being social is like being organic

Investing in social media needs to be an investment in the identity of the company. “We are social.” It isn’t just a tool to use, it is who we are.

It is kind of like Whole Foods being organic. “Organic” is not something they simply use to try to sell things… it is more. It is who they are. It is who they are even when it means more expensive policies and products. Because it is their identity, it is effective in a way that the local grocery story cannot compete with even though they carry many organic products.

If you are social… willing to engage with people and get to know them… then you become a certain type of organization (or person). Having that identity is what naturally generates marketing, sales, good PR, good customer service, creativity, and association.

Can I have some Social with my Media?

This “social” piece keeps getting left out.
 
I have had the opportunity recently to learn about a number of specific business's strategies and hear all sorts of questions around social media.  What I keep hearing is a desire to get the social media thing figured out so that these businesses can get the desired results (sales, publicity, buzz, whatever).
 
I suppose that makes sense from a traditional business perspective… from people trained to ask for the ROI… but it misses the point.
 
The point is that the being “social” part is the result.  Social Media, above all things, helps you be social.  You have to want that or the rest isn't going to work.
Social-media
 

 

 
 

Relational Architecture -7- Action

As we construct an online presence, the last part of relational Architecture is Action.

If we are have a clear identity, are listening, speaking appropriately, dialoguing, making room for community, and letting people belong or associate with us, then we can lead them… we can call them to Action.7 -Action

What needs to be done?  Is it asking people to read and discuss something to help them grow spiritually?  Is it prompting them to share what they have learned in their communities and churches?  It it time to tackle poverty?  Maybe it is just time to invite more into the party.

Whatever it is, as we are building our online presence, we need to tell our people what we would like them to do and give them the tools to do it.

And even while we need to direct them, also know that when the other pieces are on place, the community will act on its own.  They will organize and create and invest.  If you have laid a foundation for social media action to occur, it will.

I have tons of examples… raising money to fly members in from overseas, creating retreats and gatherings and camping trips, providing a place for someone who needed a home, even a few weddings.

What have you seen?

Unborn Babies on Facebook

Looks like 23% of babies are posted on Facebook BEFORE they are born.  Some even have Facebook accounts.

Working with negative ages has got to really screw up the stats on the average age on Facebook. 

Baby

The Social Network movie - surprisingly good

I went to see The Social Network.

I kinda figured I had to.  I mean… it is about Facebook so I needed to see it.  But I figured it was going to be mostly a story about people fighting over a company… not exactly an exciting to me.

I was really impressed.Socialnetwork

As a movie, it moved well, had great character development, and was really engaging.  I actually cared about Mark and his friends.  I got caught up in their adventure and got immersed in a great story.  It didn't feel like a social media or business movie.  It was just a great movie, period.

[Mark Zuckerberg didn't like it at all, but it was still a great movie]

But somewhere in the story, it also made it clear why social media is moving so strongly.  It did so with story and without teaching.  Messages delivered with story are so much stronger.

If you saw it, tell me what you thought.  Tell me what you learned about social media.