19th March 2008

Can NOT participating in communities = Participation

posted in Uncategorized |

I’m ignoring for this post that NOT participating would always be better than bad, negative, dishonest, undisclosed, paid, etc. participation.

I often hear (in fact I’ve said it myself in the past) that when it comes to community conversations about your products/services/company that it’s happening with or without you.  Therefore the question is not about whether that conversation is a good thing or not, it is whether you will participate in the conversation or not.  Further, I’ve suggested that in the future you WILL participate - it’s only a matter of time.  Therefore, stop sitting on the fence and decide how to dive in and be a participant in conversations about you. 

With this, I realized I haven’t talked about what participation means.  Typically, when the topic of social media comes up, participation means taking explicit external engagement actions.  Start a blog, comment on others blogs, launch an ideation site, answer questions in your own forums, contribute content to a wiki, tag, rate, etc, etc, etc.  This is often a sticking point for companies - jumping in head first! 

On the whole, I still say this is a reasonably good idea, but I’d like to suggest an even better place to start:  Listen, categorize, inventory and review.  Whether you use manual labor, Google alerts, or sophisticated sentiment analysis tools to crawl conversations might be determined by your size, ambition, budget or other constraints, but they are all good places to start. 

Ask yourself through this process:

  • What are people saying about you?
  • What else do they talk about when they talk about you? (associations)
  • Where are the conversations taking place?
  • Who are the “most interesting” talkers? note:  Define “most interesting” for you. Who talks the most and who is listened to the most are often not the same person! 
  • How big is the sphere of conversation?

This isn’t comprehensive, it’s just a primer.  I’m sure others have good suggestions for questions to ask.  The point is that listening actually is a form of participation and likely the smartest place to begin.  Allow the listening phase to inform your approach to participation.  Listening will actually answer many of the questions that have people on the fence about more active community participation.

So, still on the fence about “participation?”  Ok, at least launch a listening process!


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There are currently 4 responses to “Can NOT participating in communities = Participation”

Why not let us know what you think by adding your own comment! Your opinion is as valid as anyone elses, so come on... let us know what you think.

  1. 1 On March 19th, 2008, Tom O'B said:

    Hi Sean:

    I think this is an excellent point. The community conversation is a very valuable resource if only for understanding what people think about you.

    You can learn just by listening - imagine that!


  2. 2 On March 19th, 2008, jer979 said:

    Hey Sean,

    an extension of this is: how do you handle participation in a community when the feedback is negative?

    Obviously, you may have a different point of view, but you don’t want to minimize your credibility. Perhaps in a future post?
    Confront it head on or leave it be?

  3. 3 On March 21st, 2008, RichardatDELL said:

    Hi there Sean

    second tiime today I run into you so happy birthday again.

    was intrigued by your post, as I just finished a post saying it is all about participation, not the canard of control…and once we get the power relationships out of the discussion, then moving forward and participating is what it is all about.

    I’ll lift from yours for the next chapter. I am just behind you :-)

  4. 4 On March 26th, 2008, Edward Vielmetti said:

    Sean -

    I’m always amazed at how organizations don’t even listen to the people coming to their own web site (never mind conversations out in the wild). For most groups a steady and regular review of search keywords that bring people to them is an enlightening experience, esp. relative to the rank that they have for that term.

    e.g. the manufacturer for whom terms related to “parts” got a substantial amount of traffic, but where their web site was on page 5 for search results for those terms - put two and two together and determine quickly that the relevant discussion is happening elsewhere.

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