Tag Archives: participation

Social Speech Podcast, Episode 1: Nancy White

The social web has gone a long way toward changing what it means to be in the audience at a speech – making an audience member less a passive spectator listening to a monologue, and more an active participant in a conversation among peers.

And nobody does that quite like Nancy White – except she doesn’t just rely on digital technology. She’s one of the best group facilitators in the business, working all over the world with everyone from small community groups to Fortune 500 companies. You can see her approach at work in the March of Dimes’ Share Your Story site, which several years on is still one of the examples we cite the most often of how online community can make a real different in people’s lives.

So who better to kick off Episode 1 of the Social Speech podcast?

A few links:


How to spur reluctant bloggers

“Why won’t they blog?”

That’s a lament I hear from community managers, social media practitioners and communications directors who are begging, cajoling, coaxing and wheedling coworkers, trying to get them to post something to their organization’s or company’s blog.

It can be tempting to throw your hands up. “If your team hates blogging, you need a new team,” suggests one post. The author adds, “They don’t really hate blogging. They hate their job: and that’s a problem beyond the fact that you can’t get them to blog.”

True, someone who hates their job is unlikely to blog about it – at least, not in a way that would make their employer happy. But that isn’t the only reason that people say they hate blogging. Here are a few others… and some ways you can respond before you give up on your coworkers:

Do they hate blogging… or do they hate the time it takes?

If your workplace is like many others, employees have seen their workloads grow, with less support for getting the job done. If you’re expecting them to crank out blog posts, but you haven’t taken anything off their plates to compensate, you may want to look at some adjustments.

Do they hate blogging… or do they hate the kind of blogging you’re asking them to do?

Are you expecting detailed, lengthy posts from busy people? Consider starting off by asking for contributions that have a much lower footprint on their time and attention. Are you asking them to write puff pieces about what a fantastic organization they work for? Give them the latitude to be more authentic, and to talk more about their own work passions without having to pump up your brand.

Do they hate blogging… or do they hate doing something they don’t think they’re good at?

Have you offered training – not just in the technical details of your blogging platform, but in how to write blog posts quickly and easily? Do you encourage them to start out small – for instance, with one-paragraph contributions to a longer post – and work their way up? Have you considered an informal peer mentoring system, group workshops, or assigning a communications specialist to help them write their first few posts?

Do they hate blogging… or do they hate being exposed to the public?

Some people love being in the public eye (cough). Others find the idea intrusive, or even terrifying. Try finding an area of their work they feel more comfortable sharing with the world. Give them the option of starting out by blogging on the intranet, where their exposure is limited to their coworkers.

Do they hate blogging… or do they hate doing something they think is pointless?

More to the point, something that’s pointless to them. Look at it from their point of view: maybe you’re asking them to put their urgent work on hold so you can get some content for a trendy blog they suspect will be a flash in the pan. You can – and should – talk to them about the blog’s significance for the organization. But you should also figure out how the blog can advance things they care about, like a professional passion, their profile within the organization, or a cause they’re committed to.

Do they hate blogging… or do they hate being the first on the dance floor?

You’ll often find it harder to get contributors to a new communications vehicle than an established one. And even if the blog has been around for a while, people may not want to be the first ones from their department or job function to post. But there are still ways to break the ice – for instance, by writing a series of posts based on brief interviews with a few of the kind of individuals you’d like to see contributing. That can be the spark they need to jump in.

Do they hate blogging… or do they hate, well, you?

Okay, not hate. But could your relationship be stronger? Do you have bridges to build with other departments before you can start asking for their help? Have you worked as hard to understand them as you would with an external audience you want to reach?

Do they hate blogging… or do they hate what it means in your workplace’s culture?

Is yours an organization that welcomes honest conversation, or are people legitimately worried about inadvertently saying the wrong thing? Do you have a “tall poppy” culture where it’s safer to keep your head down and blend in? If you’re having trouble getting one or two people to participate, then maybe – maybe – the problem’s on their end. But widespread resistance to blogging may alert you to deeper issues. If that ends up spurring your organization to make badly needed changes, then that refusal to blog may turn out to a valuable contribution after all.

Why Quit Facebook Day didn’t work

The CBC’s Theresa Lalonde interviewed me back in January about social media trends for the coming year, and she was kind enough to replay one of my predictions that actually seems to be coming true (that people are going to become more attentive to how they use platforms like Facebook, and who they friend) in a piece about Quit Facebook Day.

Quit Facebook Day, judged by its stated goal, was kind of a bust, and not that surprisingly. Quitting Facebook is a pretty big step, social-media-wise; it’s the primary means of communication between a lot of people, and no other social media platform can claim to have nearly its share of people’s online attention. (That’s not even considering the difficulty of reassembling all the stuff you may have shared on Facebook over the years.) Asking folks to turn their backs on it is asking a lot… and probably too much.

So it’s no surprise that May 31 came and went without much fanfare (beyond the odd snarky tweet)… and certainly without Facebook’s sudden demise.

It foundered for the same reason a lot of participatory web sites never quite get off the ground: asking too much, too soon. I see it all too often – a potentially great community that sets the bar way too high. If you want participants to do something big (say, contributing a five-minute video or launching a blog on your site), you have to start off by asking them to do something smaller: commenting, rating or a similar low-cost activity that gets them climbing the participation ladder.

But give the organizers some credit: they worked hard, got a lot of attention and helped drive the conversation about how Facebook – and other social networks – can do more to respect their users and the information we share. (By the way, 30,000 people did take the ultimate step of deleting their accounts, according to some reports. That ain’t nothing.) No, Mark Zuckerberg probably wasn’t crying into his corn flakes this morning… but this is one moment in what I hope is a much larger awakening among the online population about the value of their participation and privacy.

And those of us who want Facebook – and other social networks – to be better, more open and more respectful aren’t just in this for May 31 or June 6. We’re in it for the long haul.

Slideshare features our blogging e-book (and shows one way to motivate participation)

I just got an email from the fine folks at SlideShare, letting me know they’ll be featuring our free e-book on getting value from blogging on the front page of their business and management section for the next day or so.

Which is great. For the e-book, that means more people will see it and, I hope, read it. And for me, well, I have to admit I’m a sucker for a combination of third-party validation and increased attention.

Actually, a lot of people are. It’s easy to get caught up in trying to motivate participation by offering prizes (“Win yet another iPod shuffle!”)… and in fact, contests do have a lot going for them.

But don’t underestimate the value of singling someone out, and giving them a higher profile, even for a little while. Discovering you’ve written the “Comment of the Week” or uploaded one of the “Photos We Like” can go a long way to making sure you contribute again – and maybe put even more effort into it next time, and encourage others to join in.

Better yet, the rest of your users will see there’s an opportunity to gain a little prominence, and they’ll be motivated to contribute more.

Getting featured is terrific, and the email I got from SlideShare is the icing on the cake. And the sprinkles on that icing? This paragraph:

P.S – Why not blog/twitter this and let the world know about this awesome masterpiece you have created?

Apparently that paragraph works, or you wouldn’t be reading this post today.

P.S. – I wonder if they’ve thought of hyperlinking the Twitter suggestion, so you could just click on it to tweet the good news to your network.

Just because there’s no price tag doesn’t make you aren’t paying for it

It happened again today. Every time an online service like Twitter or Facebook hits a roadbump, or stops working altogether, there’s an outcry of protest from its users. Then, just as quickly, comes the backlash: “How dare you complain about a FREE service?”

At one level, I understand the thinking: there is an army of developers, sysadmins, designers, administrators and other great people who work hard to conceive, create and maintain the web apps. And behind that, a lot of money is being invested.

On the other hand, there’s another kind of investment being made in these services, and that’s the time and content that you and I put into participating: the photos we post to Flickr, the videos we share on YouTube, the hours we pour into Facebook – and the millions of observations, complaints, links, updates, insights, jokes, memes and random stuff we tweet on Twitter.

That effort doesn’t just represent an opportunity cost on your part (you could be spending that time working out on your Wii, for example) – it represents value to the owners of the web service you’re using. Facebook’s business model involves delivering highly-targeted eyeballs to advertisers, as does YouTube’s. And while nobody’s quite sure what Twitter’s business model is, it isn’t philanthropy.

Look at it this way. If Twitter was nothing more than its hardware and software, does anyone seriously think people would be bouncing around multi-hundred-dollar valuation estimates?

The implicit bargain between social application provider and user is this: they’ll provide these amazing tools whenever and wherever you want them, and you’ll provide the content, conversations and relationships that create value and help them realize a return on their investment: financially or (in the case of reflected-glory marketing) in brand equity.

Now, most of us understand that these are still early days, and sites will have the occasional hiccup. But when repeated or lengthy outages seriously impair our access to tools, people and content – especially when those outages come without an explanation – then our patience rightly wears thin.

So if you’re a user on a social web site, do cut them some slack (especially during a denial-of-service attack)… but don’t feel you have to apologize for feeling irritated over repeated fail whales and error messages.

And if you’re running a social web site that’s running a mild fever or fending off a cough, thank your users for their patience, explain what’s happening… and do what it takes to get back up and running.