Living life by the light of my laptop.
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The original essay can be found here.
Did you click on a link which has landed you on this page?
Congratulations, you are an active audience member.
I have used this as an example of what an active audience looks like, particularly in the online world. An active audience member is one who clicks and connects to discover more.
Click here to head back to the essay which this page originally brought you to.
Music sourced from Sweetwave Audio
We live in a time where innovation and developments in technology are radically changing the way we connect, both online and offline. The rules that define the way in which we are creating, building and participating in online communities are being drastically rewritten.
So here’s a ‘how to’ guide for building your own online community in our age of network abundance.
The first step: Learn the difference between audience and community. An audience is one-way, with few opportunities for participation. It’s a passive system based on exposure to information without much else. Community is all about an immersive, two-way, dynamic conversation where interaction is prized above all. A good community builder will know that you have to talk with, not at, your community.
Secondly, it all starts with great content. The online ecosystem affords us the opportunity to share information and knowledge with thousands of people across the globe. So create content that is educational, inspiring and/or entertaining. Design your content to be easily sharable and attention-grabbing. Ensure it is relevant, and valuable.
Weave your own unique voice + personality into your content so that your community can experience authentic, human connection. After all, that’s what it’s all about. Use well-placed humour. Add critique and analysis to ongoing discussions. Be active. Ask questions, answer questions. But keep your content true to you.
Embrace multimedia and test new ways of interaction. Social networking platforms are constantly evolving, with new models appearing all the time. Stay agile: mix your mediums and experiment. Find what feels right for you and your community. Take chances. Reward your risks. Just remember that consistency is key – keep the momentum going by developing a regular posting schedule.
Think of your community members as advocates, rather than numbers. The size of your community is not the defining factor or metric of success: it’s about depth and quality of engagement. Each individual in your community offers a unique occasion for your brand to spread further into new networks.
Go global. Try not to marginalise your content by making it too geographically specific. Send out your feelers all over the world and see how far you can reach. Just remember to track your outputs. Your data will reveal patterns and tell you stories, so make sure you are listening.
Think about whether you want to be a community creator or a community facilitator. If the community you want to create already exists, you’re too late to the party. Either change tact, or jump on board to help the existing movement get to a better place. Positively participate and add value without trying to reinvent the wheel. Most importantly, don’t try to piggyback your way through by merely associating with an established community. Make your impact felt, and use your influence for good.
Realise that your online community has got to spread offline at some point. So create and leverage events which allow individuals to meet and network with each other face-to-face. There are some incredibly exciting opportunities for this kind of community-building, such as the British organisation Hiive, which is a networking site for the creative industries where you can join ‘swarms’ of people who share your interests and skill sets. David Garland, a self-confessed ‘mediapreneur’, says:
While a virtual handshake is amazing, nothing quite replaces a real life one”
Provide opportunities for your community members to feel empowered and legitimised. Direct interaction is an excellent example of this, and this is often found in the comments section of blogs and social media posts. Take time to get to know your users, and if there is a particularly engaged member, offer them a chance to participate directly (such as in a guest blog post or similar). User generated content is an amazing bridge between an organisation and a community.
Don’t try to own or control your community. Realise that they have as much agency as you do. On each end of the screen, you are both humans. Communities with this kind of ‘flat’ structure and lack of hierarchy are the ones which blossom the most. They enable relationships of trust and meaningful interactions. As British YouTuber Dodie Clark says:
Treat your followers as your friends, and hopefully they’ll do the same to you.”
— Treble.io (@treble_io) October 16, 2014
Emily Malone is a third-year communications student who is a lover of the digital sphere. You can follow her recent ramblings on Twitter: @_EmilyMalone_
One kernel I took away from something Adrian mentioned was that a significant problem in an age of distributed expertise, is that if you can’t ask good questions, you can’t find good answers.
I have always been an inquisitive person – something which my parents will vouch for as they spent many, many, many years tirelessly answering my questions that sprung up continuously throughout my days as a young’un.
After thinking about it, I started to realise that questions are not as straightforward as they may seem.
Good questions lie somewhere in between the search to know what and the search to know how. Adrian said that this is also the difference between explicit and tacit knowledge. He suggested that traditional models of learning now need to be less about knowing what and more about knowing how. This is a tricky thing to do though, when most of our experience of institutional education concentrates solely on the knowing what part – with essays and tests focusing on the content, and not the act of forming the knowledge about the content.
Graham tells us in his reading on the essay:
High schools imitate universities. The seeds of our miserable high school experiences were sown in 1892, when the National Education Association “formally recommended that literature and composition be unified in the high school course.”…It’s no wonder if this seems to the student a pointless exercise, because we’re now three steps removed from real work: the students are imitating English professors, who are imitating classical scholars, who are merely the inheritors of a tradition growing out of what was, 700 years ago, fascinating and urgently needed work.”
So what do we do about it?
We need to relearn how to ask good questions.
When we ask the good questions, we’ll get the good answers.