COMMUNITY IS KING

There’s a mantra chanted incessantly across social media—Content is King. Not a day goes by that it isn’t reinforced in a hashtag, meme, infographic or blog post.

Content creators abound and they like to think what they do is really important. Indeed, I call myself a content creator in some circles, having dropped the terms ‘freelance journalist’ and ‘copywriter’ long ago.

I used to work in traditional media* where those former terms originated. They were organisations used to broadcasting and publishing information with little audience or reader response, aside from talkback radio and letters to the editor; media organisations who are now trying to adjust to a new set of expectations in the world of digital.

Journalists have had a tendency to look down on bloggers—those lowly, self-opinionated, untrained commentators who generate enormous amounts of content on everything from paleo diets to politics. With traditional media having to adopt new business models to survive in a competitive online environment, our reputable and not-so-reputable media outlets are now finding themselves in the content business too. Some former journalists are now simply blogging.

I deliver social media marketing workshops to individuals from community groups to corporates, small business to government, all of whom want to know how to make their mark on social media. We talk extensively about content – different types, formats, uses etc. etc. but we also spend just as much time talking about communities and how to get to know them better.

The one thing I find without fail, no matter where I deliver training, is people often park themselves (in the long-term carpark) of a particular social media platform not because that’s where they KNOW their community are, but because they’re comfortable there. Then they wonder why they’re not connecting with anyone, or the right people.

Unfortunately, even after stressing how rewarding and important it is to treat social media as a two-way communication street, I still sometimes hear, “…but we don’t want the community to engage with us. We haven’t got time for that.”

If you take the “social” out of social media, you’re just left with media and an outdated model of one-way, broadcast information. The definition of media has already changed due to the influence of social media and I can’t see it reverting any time soon. Even digital savvy media operators understand the power of social in terms of the reach they can now achieve through direct engagement with communities of interest and the power of user-generated content from those engaged individuals – content they also don’t have to pay for. The not-so-savvy ones, well…they’re falling on their swords.

…let’s create communities who laugh with us, talk about real issues, share knowledge and interests, trumpet our strengths, constructively chide our failings, and collaborate with us on how to make what we do better.

To bring this self-opinionated commentary full circle, how about we change the mantra to Community is King?

Rather than camping on whatever social media platform we ‘kinda guess’ we should be on, creating endless amounts of content aimed at simply filling newsfeeds with mindless crap, let’s create communities who laugh with us, talk about real issues, share knowledge and interests, trumpet our strengths, constructively chide our failings, and collaborate with us on how to make what we do better.

Forget the vanity metrics of likes and followers. Look for your community and engage with them in that space. Note who responds and what it is they engage with. These are people we’re talking about. It’s time to get to know them…and I mean, really know them. And yes, that does mean you have to interact with them.

For those who want to be part of my community, I’ll be talking more about how to find, build, nurture and work with communities on social media, as well as create content they’ll engage with, in Social Media Matters workshops across NSW.

*Note: Kim V. Goldsmith studied journalism and  worked with the former media organisations, Rural Press and Regional Publishers, as well as ABC Radio and more recently with Panscott Media, over a period of about 25 years. She has been blogging in various capacities since 2004.

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