The comments people left on my post about Activated Communities led me to realize that lots of people are seeking ways to ENGAGE their audiences, and build community beyond what they have now. As the core of my role at both the Video on the Net conference and Network2 involve community development, you could say I have some thoughts on the matter.
Whether it’s a blog like this one, or an audio podcast or a videoblog – whatever the medium, the most important point to make first is that your content be of quality. By quality, I mean creating crisp, concise, useful, entertaining products that give a prospective audience member something of value. If you don’t give them what they want, why would they stick around? You can only subject your friends and family members to so much of your ramblings before they decide the value of what you’re providing isn’t worth their time. So, make good quality material (my take on that is here).
The huge difference between old media and what we call new media is participation. In a world where the big glowing box still broadcasts out in one direction to the masses, new media is a two-way street. You can communicate back, either directly on the producer’s site, or by creating media to interact with their media. It’s a two-way street.
The best of breed in new media make participation a strong part of the game, but not ALL of the game. This point is vital. If you sit around hoping for good content, you run the risk of creating a deadpool product. Instead, make lots of easy onramps for good quality. When I’m saying all this, I’m thinking about Ze Frank’s The Show. He had PLENTY of material for himself, but he also did lots to drive participation. And the more people got involved, the more invested they were in the show.
Make several access points, but not too many. Give a few social networking contact points, like perhaps Facebook and MySpace and maybe a Twitter account. If you’re really clever, build an active community quickly using Ning like JETSET did with their MIX community.
Audio and video comment systems are a great way to build participation. So is giving people an address where to upload or email media for use on your show. Just make sure you have a few disclaimers about it being your right to use the material, etc, etc (in case you use the material and then the party tells you to remove it, etc).
Ask Questions and Seek Advice
I use this all the time on this site. I ask people for their thoughts, their expert opinions, and I listen deeply to every idea people have. This post itself is based on a comment left in my blog. (Oh, and make it easy for people to comment on your website. Don’t force a login. And if you can, don’t activate captcha. There are other ways to kill spam, depending on the system.
Give Them A Call To Action
Sometimes, engaging an audience means directing your conversations directly to them. What if you invite everyone to a meetup in Second Life? That’s a great call to action to see how many people come. Send Twitters. Post it on a blog. Stage a personal marketing campaign to move people to take a step in a certain direction. And then, REWARD THEM for doing so. Give them a special creation in Second Life. Give them all access to a super secret download. Give them something that the non-action-taking audience doesn’t get. The FREE PRIZE INSIDE still works well, I’ll tell you that.
What other ways can you engage your audience? How are you reaching out to yours? Share with us your ideas on how to grab hold and engage the people you touch with your personal media.
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