“Content is king” is a common tag line in and around the world of online media, due in no small part to the increasing ability for almost anyone with an internet connection to publish and broadcast their works. Amid such a critical mass of information competing for our attention, consistently well written and insightful content from trusted sources needs to win out in order for us to extract maximum value from our online efforts.
Content is only the first step, however, in creating a successful online platform. In social networking especially – as well as for most online experiences in general – the community is equally important, providing a kingdom within which content can be challenged, adapted, and enhanced.
The challenge as enthusiastic adopters of online media platforms, then, is to build and foster a group that engages with content and interacts, both with the platform itself and with each other. In doing so, we increase interest in our message, return visits to our platform, and create the opportunity to build long term relationships that can elicit advice, future collaborations, and, yes, even sales of our products and services.
Here we take a look at some starting points for building and engaging this desired community. Please feel encouraged to add your own thoughts and successful strategies to these in the comments. The more we share, the more we can all learn!
- Reach out to those you think may have an interest in your field. Commenting on the content of others, replying to Twitter posts, leaving Facebook wall messages, or simply e-mailing people directly to introduce your own content are all good places to start. In making the first move, you can both add to another community and begin a relationship that may develop your own. As a rule of thumb, give more than you receive, especially early on.
- Ask open questions to your existing community and request that they invite others within their own following to join the discussion. Fostering lively debate and information exchange engages the mind and associates your platform with a two-way street approach, rather than simply broadcasting to an audience.
- Utilize interactive devices like polls, creative competitions (such as photo contests), and engaging applications (such as games or surveys) to offer your community a more varied way to interact within your platform.
- When hosting your own platform, such as a website or blog, spread your content to more populous sites like Facebook, Twitter, Myspace, and relevant message boards, to pull in a wider audience and attract new members to your community. Such sites can be viewed as outposts from which you can direct people to your hub site. As they have such established information sharing methods, they also make it easier for others to share your content with their own communities, accessing new those you may not have otherwise reached.
- Allow conceptual space for your visitors to expand on your topics by leaving some of your content unfinished. Although this may go against the standard practice of beginning-middle-end, it’s a good habit to get into from time to time and allows others to contribute to the middle portion. From this position, you have the option to either leave the content open-ended for continued discussion, or cap it off with a summary comment or a follow up post.
- Encourage discussion by presenting opposite sides of an argument or varied opinions within your own content. The majority can still drive at the point you would wish put across but the diversity of perspectives will prevent a one-sided, back-slapping session, provoking further thought and eliciting more points around which people can interact.
What steps have you taken to increase interaction within your own online community?
How have you made your content a two-way street rather than simply broadcasting to your audience?