It’s one thing to have a community of friends and an audience for your blog, podcast, or videoblog. It’s another thing altogether to have an activated community of people who will take action and bring about actual change at your request. I need your help in thinking more about this, but I feel there’s something here.
What’s An Activated Community?
It’s one thing to lean back and consume content. You watch TV, but rarely do you see something that motivates you to take a next step. You read the newspaper and use it as something to talk about at work. This is what most people do, and it’s partly why these things are here: to consume. For instance, listening to an album of music doesn’t usually have a “call to action” prescribed at the end- it’s just there for you to enjoy.
An activated community is when one’s audience becomes something with strength behind it, guided towards some kind of cause or end. It could be for a social effort, a marketplace request, a simple awareness effort. But in my definition (until you help me change it), an activated community is one that can be rallied to take some kind of action upon request whenever reasonable.
Examples of Activated Communities
Recently public radio host Ira Glass from This American Life reached out to his audience to say that the streaming bill for the Internet part of his show was excessive, and that the makers of the show couldn’t afford to pay for it any longer. He reached out to his audience and asked for support, and they were able to help. In fact, they were very generous, and the show will certainly go on. This is an easy example of a community taking an obvious action.
Another community action? Virtual Hot Wings put on by Matthew Ebel with help from Christopher S. Penn and Michelle Wolverton (and I don’t know who else). This was an effort to sell a virtual CD of all kinds of special bonus music content from one of podcasting’s musical shining lights, Matthew Ebel. The effort so far has done well for Matthew, and if you haven’t picked up your download of HOURS of music, consider dropping $20 US to show that an artist doesn’t need the US recording industry’s machine to get work done.
Reasons to Activate
It doesn’t have to be about money. Sometimes, on Twitter, I just reach out to the community at large to ask a question, something to raise thoughts and awareness. Why? Because I like giving people something to think about that isn’t just idle chit-chat. No reason beyond that. Sometimes, it’s about raising community thoughts and awareness.
Another way to use an activated community is for advice and information. I like asking questions about who uses which products. I much prefer recommendations from friends than I do magazines. I know that sometimes I’ll miss some professional opinions, but I trust the source of my friends more than I trust someone who might be jaded, might be looking to please a lower denominator than I classify myself, etc.
Tools for an Activated Community
Here’s where I need your help the most, I believe. I’m thinking about what tools we need to be a REALLY useful and active community. And by “useful,” beyond money, there’s a lot of what we can do that is just awareness-driving. The most frustrating thing I heard over and over again about PodCamp was that people didn’t know it happened. Meanwhile, Chris Penn and myself and all the organizers sent what felt like tens of thousands of emails. And yet, people weren’t aware.
Here’s a partial toolkit for awarenes:
- A Digg account. – Use this for promoting stories and blog posts and podcasts that want higher attention.
- A LinkedIN account. – Build your own network, link it to mine, and then we both expand our awareness and our reach. Because if I’m seeking out someone in your network, I can now ask you to help me connect to them. This builds connectivity to people you might need to reach very quickly.
- A Twitter account. – To get the word out quickly. Re-twittering helps tons.
- A Facebook account. – I think groups on Facebook are a quick way to get mail out to people easily. It’s also a good opt-in / opt-out mechanism.
- A Flickr account. – What if some of our activation requires visuals? I guess you could add a YouTube account for the same purpose, just in case we want to shoot video.
- A PayPal account. Sometimes it’s just about a donation to a cause. When a friend says their servers are down because of bandwidth bills, it’s nice to be able to drop a few bucks in the till to help them over a hump. (Sometimes it *is* just about money).
- And what else?
Returns to an Activated Community
For someone to be driving such an active community, I believe there should be a return on effort to the community at large. I suppose people don’t mind if you ask them to Digg the occasional article. But should you be requesting something more, such as donating money, there should be some kind of return on the effort. What that becomes is up to you. It’s up to you and your community to determine the value of these actions, and why one would keep doing it, etc. But give them SOMETHING for their efforts. Otherwise, it’ll feel like a take, take, take thing.
What Did I Miss?
The best thing MY community offers me is their wisdom and intelligence. I’ve made all several hundred of you my advisory board. I trust you to steer me straight, to point me towards the good stuff, etc. What did I miss? What tools did I miss? What ideas are missing from this? Help me flesh this out. I think there’s something there. I welcome your thoughts.
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