In this video we look at problems that can arise in large online communities such as Facebook.
Author Archives: Aleeza Khan
As Robert Niles from The Online Journalism Review, insightfully said yesterday “writing in any interactive environment is an act of leadership.” You need to grab the leadership of your community with both hands and set the tone, style and informative model for your readers, otherwise someone else will.
In true leadership style Niles has written six snippets of advice – which he has invited us all to share with you – to encourage well informed, rewarding and interesting writing from your readers when they engage in your community.
1) Write what you know
The best posts come from people writing about a personal experience. Tell us about an activity you’re deeply involved with, a subject you’ve studied in-depth or an experience you’ve had. Maybe it’s just a review of a new restaurant you’ve visited, or a place you visited on vacation. Whatever you write about, forget for a moment about what others might say – or have said – about something and just tell us your story.
2) Don’t tell us if something’s ‘good’ or ‘bad’
Whenever a writer declares something ‘good’ or ‘bad’, the piece becomes about the writer, and not the thing the writer is writing about. Whenever you read a review like that from someone you don’t know, don’t you start thinking about whether you can trust this reviewer or not? So leave those types of words out of your writing.
3) Describe, in detail
Instead, describe your experience, using as many clear details as you can. Put us in the situation with you, and describe as you would to a friend who wasn’t there. Take us through the experience, step by step. Consider the fives senses – sight, sound, smell, taste and touch – and describe each, as appropriate to whatever you’re writing about. Consider these statements:
“The hamburger was terrible.”
“The hamburger looked and tasted like a McDonald’s heat-lamp refugee, thin and wilted, but it cost £12 instead.”
I’d much rather read the second post – it keeps the focus on the burger itself, rather than the writer’s reaction to it. I’ll certainly remember the second statement more than I would the first, too. And I’d be far more likely to forward it to my friends. Keep that in mind when you’re writing. Detailed descriptions really help other readers feel like they are there with you, sharing this experience.
4) Link, don’t copy
If you find something else online you want to share with other readers, don’t just copy and paste it to the site. Link to it instead. That way, other readers can see the original source for themselves.
(In following Niles’ advice myself, read the rest of his article here.)
5) Explain why you link
Whenever you link to something, though, explain why you’re linking to it. What’s it about? Why is it important to you? Why do you think it would be important to the rest of us? You explanation helps start a conversation about the link.
(I linked to his article as I believe it is extremely useful for anyone wanting to learn more about this topic. Not only is his article insightful, the entire site is a great read).
6) Respect, and respond
When other readers share their experiences on the site, respect them. If you don’t feel that their experience reflects your experience with the same event/subject/place, then respond by sharing your experience with it.
Again, leave out those judgmental words (especially the negative ones: ‘terrible,’ ‘stupid,’ ‘awful,’ etc.), and write instead about your experience. That helps keeps everyone’s focus on the subject under discussion, and not on a emerging flame war between readers.
Online support groups are the kind of community that everyone needs at some point.
Whether it’s a tricky question that needs answering or you need to figure out the best way to do something technical or you just need to work that lovely new camera you just bought, everyone has been to an online support forum.
I’ve definitely done this to answer technical questions I need answering about my mobile, camera and laptop, but I can safely say I have never asked a question, I’ve simply scoured the forum to find the answer the the question I know has been asked before.
Cisco posted this great video giving just that advice, as well as four other top tips to simply and quickly benefit the most out of online support groups.
Mariam Cook of the Guardian wrote an insightful comment piece about the true worth of online communities and the affects they have on your community in real life, or “IRL”.
As said by her son who was describing his virtual World of Warcraft life, an online community is addictive. It’s “like having another life – being in another world and doing all the things you have always dreamed of.”
To see the true addiction levels of World of Warcraft watch the clip below of the reaction a boy has to his mum telling him she has cancelled his membership.
Cook explores the fact that while they may be dangerous and addictive, they also let people who would otherwise never meet connect on many different subjects and mutual interests. Have a look at the article here
We at City HQ are currently in the midst of managing our own community; our XCity community. This is made up of all City journalism alumni, including some of the highest flyers in the business.
XCity is a magazine created by MA Magazine Journalism students which is distributed to over 5,000 ex City students. The magazine also has a fabulous redesigned website. This is where the community managing comes into full force.
Our online team have been hot on the idea of including the reader and drawing in hits by making the target audience feel part of the project. Of course Twitter accounts, announcing new posts and maximising industry retweets, and Facebook pages have played a major role, but what they have also done is the introduce awards.
We have had two different awards. The Twit Awards and the XCity Award.
The Twit Awards, by the lovely Miranda Thompson from Infographics for Dummies, proved hugely popular and encouraged the reader to join in and vote in a poll for their favourite Twitter journalists, ranging from categories like best anchorman, best editor and best twitter gossip.
The XCity Award included alumni by voting for the winner of the inaugural award. The nominees were exclusively announced online, encouraging alumni and friends of the candidates nominated to visit the site. The winner was also exclusively announced on Monday and proved very popular with retweets and news stories about it all over the web.
We have also had comments on these awards, especially the Twit Awards, which caused controversy – something that is always guaranteed to pull in readers and make them feel part of the community – as anyone could comment, as long as they are moderated!
The magazine is celebrating its 25th anniversary so we have also included content from archived issues to pull in alumni from past years, not just recent alumni.
We have included a slideshow of old covers and prominent features from previous issues. These are being released daily until the release of the 2011 issue and exclusive cover. This helps pull in City journo students from all years and builds anticipation for our issue too.
We know that these tools have increased readership as the numbers are up dramatically from last year’s website, at over 17,000 in under four weeks. And this is only set to grow. Interactive websites are wonderful tools that should not be underestimated.
Ever wondered what the experts say are the best methods of managing your community?
1. Know your audience
- Who are they? What do they care about? What do they have in common?
- What can you offer them?
- Where are they already talking on the web? Don’t use the latest social network if your audience is on Facebook or communicating via blogs.
2. Listen, listen and keep listening
People will give you all sorts of clues about what they like and what they don’t. They will tell you directly, for example using comments, but will also leave clues indirectly, for example in the data about what content is viewed the most and shared the most.
3. Be useful
Don’t make the mistake of valuing content that is difficult to produce. Posting links to great content elsewhere might be just as valuable as an original interview for your audience.
4. Involve people
Find creative ways to make people feel involved, whether it’s by writing about featured members of your community, running polls or giving them a glimpse of what is coming up. Don’t just open a comment box and expect people to submit lengthy opinions, give them all sorts of ways to gradually get more involved. The more you encourage people to participate in a positive way, the less space there is for trolls to derail your community and the more members are likely to contribute.
5. Use technology to help you
Don’t let yourself use the “I’m not technical” cop out. Most of the basic principles and tools that will help you to build your community are not mind-blowingly complicated. Using technology well isn’t about jumping on the next new thing, it’s about being aware of what’s available and selecting the tools that will be most useful for you.
So there you go – top tips from the woman in the know. Now go and get building your community and get your reader gripped.