During a meeting at the Dell Storage Forum in London Hans De Leenheer, one our invited bloggers, told me something to this effect:
You are Miss Social Media. You have to make it so we are able to keep connecting. You have to make it so we can grow this community. That is your job!
My first reaction was – hey wait I can’t single-handedly build a vibrant community. I may be able to architect an environment where people can connect. I may be able to find influencers who want to connect and create a community, and I may be able to create a space online where that can happen. But I rely on those influencers to invite other members to the community, and to create relevant content that can serve as the glue that binds individuals together in a common interest and communion (see this post for more on the technical definition of community).
Why will people join a community?
People initially come to a community to fill a need for information. If it is a business-based community, the business can create some of the content that will fill the information needs of their customers. But the danger in only relying on content created by the business is that the information tends to get stale very quickly. The information offered to the community will probably be subject to the same internal processes as press releases and website content. The content will be what the business wants to project, what it wants its customers to know and believe.
Many times, content created by community members is much more current. Community members aren’t bound by corporate policy on communication.They can say it how they see it.They may be fans of the products the business creates, but they can also call out all the warts and blemishes of the products. If the community is positive, community members will offer solutions to problems they encounter. This is the type of content that people look for when they are trying to fill an information need.
If the community is being managed well, the business will interact with the content created by the community. This forces the business to create current, up-to-date content. The kind of content that fills the information needs of their customers. The kind of content that moves people from visiting because they are interested in information about the company’s products to developing an attachment to the individuals creating the content about the products (employees and other customers). It is this kind of content that facilitates the creation of community.
The cost of content
Yesterday I saw Marcia Connor tweet this from the IBM Connect conference:
There is a real cost to storing content (after all, I do work for Dell Storage!). But I think the idea behind this tweet goes even deeper than the financial cost of storing the data. For me this brings up so many questions….
Is there a way to architect things so content is always fluid? There is only so much that can be done from a technical architectural standpoint to make the data – the 1’s and 0’s fluid. How do you make the content fluid? What organizational barriers (dams?) prevent content from being in motion? How can we architect communities so that the content flows and everyone is able to extract the value from that content?
Things I’ll be pondering….but would love to hear your thoughts on this.
Content creation is about trial and error, it’s an evolutionary process, hence it’s hard (if not impossible) to architect communities around it. You never know in advance if people will find your content relevant or not. Some companies & individuals get it, others don’t. Some work their asses off to create relevant content (read: value for their communities) and they might finally hit a gold mine, others will point at you and tell you to “It’s your job – not mine!” and they will keep wasting their time in meetings talking about social media, communities & content (which they do not understand at all) instead of actually doing something. All you need is a bunch of doers who are not afraid to make mistakes and move on. That’s how you get the juices flowing 🙂