This is another in our She Said, He Said blog series. Please note that, because of the Thanksgiving holiday here in the US, we will not be hosting #shehechat on Twitter tomorrow like normal. We will return next week at 8 p.m. CST Thursday.
It occurred to Shelby and me that over the last nine months, without really setting out to do so, we’ve created a community around the She Said, He Said project. It’s not our community; we don’t own it or even control it. That falls to those of you that read our posts, follow our #shehechat on Twitter and come out to see our live events. You own the community because without you it would not exist. Our role is to curate the community.
It starts with sharing
In the online world, one way to start a conversation is to share interesting content that spurs engagement. Almost every week we do that in three ways. First, we each write a blog post like this sharing our respective positions on a social media related or blogging topic. Next, we develop a list of approximately three topics each week to discuss during #shehechat. Finally, we moderate the chat by monitoring the clock to make sure all three topics get play and by beginning each topic discussion with our respective positions.
It continues with engagement
None of the three points in the previous paragraph is engagement. In social media, it’s a mistake to confuse sharing with engagement. Sharing is talking. Engagement is a combination of talking, listening and then talking some more. While not by design, all the She Said, He Said project does is begin conversations. Then, it’s up to Shelby and I to continue those conversations. That’s where the real curation of the community starts.
The who, what, when, where, and why of engagement
Who – All five of these Ws are tricky but perhaps this one is the trickiest. We know who the core participants of #shehechat are each week. That’s easy because they contribute frequently. What continues to intrigue me is the number of people who follow the chat and wait weeks or even months to participate. When they do jump in, we’re not sure how up to speed on the concept of the topics. So how do you assess the direction the conversation is best suited to take?
What – When your “who” is an active community member, what to discuss can be easier. You know more about each other than a first-time participant. It’s just like running into an old friend at a cocktail party vs. meeting someone new. Those two conversations wouldn’t go exactly the same why so why expect similar conversations in social media will? It takes time to get to know folks; so make sure what you discuss is appropriate to the age of the relationship. For example, I’ll swear back and forth like a drunken sailor on Twitter with my friend Genevieve Vermeulen. That’s because I know Genevieve. We’ve been known to do the same in person at social events, but that doesn’t mean we start out a conversation with someone we’ve never met that way.
When – I engage whenever I can. Like everyone, I sometimes get too busy for social media and community events. When the crazy time starts to fade, just be sure to come back and acknowledge your absence. When possible, apologize for delayed responses and just take a few minutes to say hello to the community members you see out and about in the social media streams.
Where – This is the beauty of social media. The She Said, He Said community has grown large enough that engagement happens in all kinds of places. Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Ustream, and at in-person events. The community extends way beyond these blog posts and the Twitter chat.
Why – Even though building a community was not part of the She Said, He Said plan, a community exists. I consider it a responsibility to either curate this community and the relationships that make it up or walk away all together. There is no half-assed solution to community participation. You’re either in or you’re out. This probably explains why I recently canceled a membership I held in an online community I was very active in during most of 2010. For whatever reason in 2011, I found I was just never there. It wasn’t so much about the monthly fee as knowing that I wasn’t participating.
Most communities just happen. People with common interests come together and share ideas and good times. That’s the easy part. Holding communities together takes work. I call that curation.