The Balance Act

Balance
Photo cred: DirkJan Ranzijn

Here’s a thought I’ve been struggling with lately…

It’s not all about community, relationships and engagement.  To focus only on these things was naive and idealistic.  These things are vital in the long-run, but in terms of building a large userbase (a.k.a. making money).  In order to scale, these ideals sometimes have to take a backseat to impersonal, systemic approaches.

Now I don’t necessarily agree with that thought…hence me struggling with having it.  As if they were reading my mind, both Chris Brogan and Dave Fleet recently shared relevant thoughts on their blogs to get me thinking even more.  Then to top it off today, I enjoyed an extremely interesting presentation by Gabriel Weinberg (Scribnia’s Dreamit mentor). He shared his story of how he found success by doing nothing in terms of human engagement or community building, but rather by developing a deep and thorough understanding of the system.

I know different approaches work for different situations, but I’m quickly coming to the realization that these social media concepts do not scale, at least not at first. We get caught up on the “success stories” of companies that have done nothing in terms of marketing, and have grown solely from word of mouth.  While nice to think about, to plan the same for yourself is usually idealistic and unreasonable.

So much focus have been put on these tools lately, and I pretty much soaked it all in, not quite seeing the limitations…understanding, but not quite grasping the concept of breaking down silos, as Beth Harte would explain.

I’m learning that the only thing that really matters in the end is numbers…number of users, of customers, of traffic.  Regardless of how you get there, that’s the game.  These are harsh realizations but realizations nonetheless.

So I guess in the end, all you can hope for is a balance. I will never sacrifice my passion for community building and human engagement, but it’s looking like there’s a lot more to it.

I’m sure many of you already know this, so help me through this one…what are your thoughts?

The Musician’s Social Community

Photo cred: Angelo Cesare
Photo cred: Angelo Cesare

Music is passion. Music is everywhere. Music is everyone. That’s why musicians have so much to gain from social media. Where there are people, there is a potential community for your band.  Chances are, unless you have a completely new and outrageous sound, a community based on your genre already exists.

How can musicians and bands utilize the power of social media? Bands have been using social tools more and more over the past few years, changing the focus of Myspace to music, and providing free tracks on sites like purevolume, blip.fm and last.fm.  For the most part however, many of these musicians have used these platforms as a broadcast tool, and haven’t been using tools to build a community.  Similar to many businesses, musicians aren’t taking advantage of this great opportunity.

Contribute to the community

Like any business, you can’t just join myspace or another community online and start broadcasting your songs and concert dates. You want to engage and connect with your fans.  As an active musician, you’re probably knowledgeable about other bands in your genre.  Share their music with your fans, connect with their band members and build a relationship.

A beautiful aspect of the music industry is that there isn’t really any rivalry, or a threat of substitutes.  Getting your fans to listen to other bands with similar sounds will not make them listen to you any less.  It will encourage other bands to also share your music with their fans, ultimately combining and expanding your communities.

“Hey man, check out this band… I know the drummer!”

The same way a CEO and employees can use social media to create a “human” or “personal” image, bands can use these tools to create a personal relationship with their fans.  As someone who has been very involved in music scenes in the past, I can attest that knowing a band’s members on a personal level makes fans a lot more loyal and more likely to become “evangelists”.  Knowing a band’s members is something to brag about, and fans will recommend a band that they’ve connected with personally.

Share your experiences, your goals, and anything else that’s on your mind.  Call on your fans for their contributions.  Start a blog and encourage your fans to read by mixing in some inside info/backstage footage. One of my favorite bands, Incubus is a good example with how they use their blog. They post news and events about the band but also write personal posts to their fans and to call on their fans to contribute.  You can take it a step further, and start using twitter to connect with your fans in a live, more direct manner.

Your product isn’t limited by geographic constraints and social media allows you to tap into communities anywhere.  Whether you’re a small local band or you’re considered “mainstream”, drive the passion of your potential and current fanbase into a collaborative social community and get your sound heard.

I’d really be interested to hear about smaller, local bands you know using social media.  If you know of any bands using online tools to build/engage the community, be sure to share them in the comments.

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Developing a Community On and Off Campus

Stuart Foster-207This is a guest post by Stuart Foster, a marketing consultant in the Boston area. He specializes in brand management, social media, and blog outreach. He authors a blog at Thelostjacket.com.
Photo cred: Alisa Ryan
Photo cred: Alisa Ryan

Colleges have a built in vibrant community on campus. They have varied interests, participate in multiple things and often are socially aware. Aren’t those some of the hallmarks of a great community?

Now what if you were to plug alumni into that community? The students would have access to jobs, resources, and lines of communication with alumni that would be difficult or near impossible to create through the Career Services center.

By building a more inclusive community (and doing it right) you could strengthen your alumni-student relations to an unprecedented degree. Need an internship? Where do you go look?

If you have a pre-existing relationship with a member of your college’s alumni you likely go to that person for recommendations. They have access to people and groups that you wouldn’t have known they existed otherwise.

The creation of this type of network would eliminate a lot the bureaucracy currently existing at many schools. I went to the career services office at my school and came away ill prepared with any idea of what I wanted to do or the people I needed to talk to too procure an internship. I’m sure I am not alone in this frustration.

When I want to develop a relationship with a person…I don’t want to go to another person first. I want to connect directly with the person I am interested in meeting and learning more about. Social networks could possibly bridge the current disconnect.

What are the benefits for alumni? The same as they are for the student only in reverse. They now have a wealth of talent from which to pool and can pre-screen candidates before even considering them for an internship. It would cut down on a lot of legwork on the part of both parties.

Huge opportunity here…now they just need to actually do it. (In a real way, not the convoluted non-usable enterprise garbage that most have set up).

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Why Scribnia Is Valuable To ME

scribniaIf you haven’t heard the big news from my last post, I’ve been hired as the community manager for Scribnia.  Perhaps because of my newly acquired position, you may think that a review of Scribnia on my blog may be biased…fair enough.  I hope that if you’ve been reading my blog for some time, you know I wouldn’t post anything that I didn’t think would be valuable to the community.  Either way, I’m not going to tell you that Scribnia is awesome, or that you have to go sign up, or even that it would be valuable to you as a blogger/reader.  I’m going to tell you why Scribnia is valuable to me, as a blogger and reader, and I’ll let you decide whether or not it’s valuable to you too.  Fair?

Value as a Blogger

  1. Transparency. One of the big values of “social media”, bloggers are expected to be transparent and gain respect and loyalty for doing so.  I’m open with my community members about who I am, my honest views, or any bias that I might have.  When people write a review about me on Scribnia, they are increasing my transparency, allowing new readers to feel more comfortable when visiting my blog for the first time.
  2. Learn how I’m viewed by my readers. I might have a bias that I didn’t realize existed.  My readers might be looking for different kinds of posts.  They aren’t necessarily going to come out and tell me what they think of my writing.  Scribnia is a call to action, where your readers are asked to share their opinions.  You can add a “rate me” widget to your blog and encourage your readers to share their thoughts.
  3. SEO.  My Scribnia page will come up when people search for my name on search engines (once the site goes public).
  4. Engage conversation about YOU. I’ve told businesses before that their customers are talking about their brand online and that they need to engage the conversation.  Time to practice what I preach.  If my readers care enough to share their thoughts about me as a blogger on Scribnia, I have the opportunity to convert negative views into positive ones, and to further engage with my community.  Danny Brown does a great job of joining the conversation about him and responding to reviews of his work.

Value as a Reader

  1. Find new bloggers. A lot of recommendation engines that I’ve seen base much of the recommendation on content, without really taking into account my personal reading preferences.  Scribnia takes the reviews that I’ve written, and based on how high or low I’ve ranked different aspects of each author, other authors that might be valuable to me are proposed.  I can also browse by category or industry to find new bloggers and publications.
  2. Share. I love to suggest bloggers that I follow to others.  When Scribnia users view my profile, they can see all the reviews that I’ve written, which bloggers I like or don’t like and why.  Linking people to other bloggers is great, but it  helps to show them why I like those bloggers.  (Tip: Try it out on Twitter… next #followfriday, give your recommendation’s twitter name and provide a link to their Scribnia page)
  3. Preview bloggers.  There are a lot of author profiles I have come across that don’t have a very good “about” description.  I’d have to read multiple posts before really understanding what the blog is about and the blogger’s style.  This is especially time consuming when doing blogger outreach.  Bloggers typically condemn misplaced pitches to their blogs and the last thing you want is to anger the bloggers in the community you’re reaching out to.  By reviewing an author’s Scribnia profile, you can learn a little bit more about a blogger before contacting them giving you a better understanding of what they find valuable.

All in all, I accepted the job of Community Manager for Scribnia for a number of reasons, one being because I thought it provides a valuable service that bloggers would really appreciate.  We are trying to build a blogging community for authors, readers and their networks to connect, share and grow.  Once we have developed a solid amount of quality content, Scribnia will be open to the pulic.  If you think you’d be a quality contributing member of the alpha community, send me an email at dspinks5@gmail.com for an invite.

You can find my Scribnia page here.  Review me…I dare you. (=

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A Community For Your Community

Sky view of Long Beach, NY - My Community
Sky view of Long Beach, NY - My Community

Does your local community have a web community?  My neighborhood just started one on facebook and I think it’s an awesome idea that really takes advantage of the benefits that social media provides.

The group description says it pretty well. “Our group aims to grow, build and strengthen relationships in our local community of Long Beach in order to bring about progressive change.” Those of us familiar with social media, know that it is all about building relationships.  In a local community, relationships are everything.

Bringing your neighborhood together creates a general compassion for eachother’s issues.  When you feel like you know someone personally, you feel more inclined to want to help them.  By creating a common place for discussion and relationship building amongst local community members, you give people a chance to tell their story, and to care about those around them.

The Long Beach “Community of Hope” facebook group aims to educate community members on issues discussed in meetings and events in order to bring about change.  Let’s be real, not everyone in your community is always involved in community issues.  By creating a place for these people to quickly and easily stay up to date on what’s going around them and express their opinion from their home computer, you allow them to contribute to the voice of the community, while staying connected with other members.

Social media, because of its ability to reach anyone in the world, is commonly applied to large, widespread campaigns. There are so many more opportunities through social media that can be applied to local, real world communities as well. What are some that you’ve seen or come up with?