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Context is the Future of Online Media

I’ve been noticing something recently: People seem to be MUCH more willing to Tweet about a blog post than to leave a comment on a blog post.

There are likely a variety of reasons for this, first and foremost is that the 140 character limit affords less pressure to say something deep – people can just share a link, and say something like “insightful post!” But in a blog comment, there are unlimited characters, and there is a pressure to say something meaningful.

Dan Blank
Below are several lessons for engaging people in online media and communities:

  • Elevate Their Role
    When someone reacts to a blog post, their commentary can be lost, and seen as secondary. It is a reaction to someone else’s lead. When people Tweet about a blog post instead of commenting on it, their role shifts dramatically. Suddenly, instead of reacting, they are choosing to take the lead. They are filtering, sharing, promoting, advocating, and choosing. Instead of being the guy in the crowd listening to someone else on their soapbox, they have jumped onto their own soapbox.

  • Give Them Influence
    When somebody Tweets, they are often hoping to influence their followers. They go from being an “effect” on a blog post, to being a “cause” in their network on Twitter. So many of us want to be a cause, not an effect. We want to drive our lives, and shape our communities.

  • Help Them Build Something
    People are so busy that sometimes they want to feel that their efforts are not just reacting reacting reacting. They want to feel as though they are CREATING. When you post a blog comment, you don’t really own it. You can’t edit or delete it. They don’t really aggregate themselves to build something larger. Sure, some commenting systems like Disqus try to do this, but it’s still not the same level as something like Twitter. When I consider my Twitter account, right away, I see what I have built: more than 5,600 Tweets, not to mention followers or lists. It’s nice to see that all those 140 character updates add up to something.

  • Allow Them To Share With Those Who Matter To Them
    People don’t care as much about a blogger’s audience, as much as they do about their own. Each individual now has their own “following.” This is a dramatic shift that social media has provided us. Even if someone only has 13 followers or 40 Facebook friends or 50 LinkedIn connections, it is their personal community. Sharing interesting commentary to those people is meaningful, and helps them grow those communities.

  • Don’t Interrupt Their Day
    Sharing thoughtful questions or insights is very time consuming. Not just to come up with “a” question,” but a truly insightful one that reflects well on you, addresses a core issue, and does so in just the right way. This is why so many of the smaller social networks failed. Too many try to build online communities assuming that it’s simple for people to ask a question, write a blog post or leave a comment. Really, it’s hard. It causes people to stop and consider, to expose themselves, to invite judgment. Most people avoid judgment like the plague.

Many of these are subtle psychological differences, but they speak to our deeper motivations. These types of things are the keys to helping to grow your community, and to serving those in your market. Let me know if you think I can help.

973-981-8882 | Twitter: @DanBlank | dan@danblank.com

  • joakimditlev

    Your fourth bullet made me think. I never really thought of it being hard to ask a question or add a comment on an online community. But you are right – it actually is. The story is way different if you already have a lot of talk going on. The risk of the community frowning you is much lower if there is a lot of background noise.
    It's pretty similar IRL. You wouldn't just enter a bar and start shouting out loud.

    • Thanks for the comment. Very true, but your example also speaks to the complexity of social situations and of the social dynamics of real life rooms filled with dozens of unique individuals. Some people would definitely walk into a bar and start shouting out loud, just as some walk into a conference room at work and demand center stage, while others treat the situation differently. Really interesting to think about how real-life situations do or don't play out online.

      • joakimditlev

        Complex – yes indeed. But overall, it's about having icebreakers in the community as well as in the bar. I think there is way more people who want to follow-up on a dialogue rather than starting it.
        I think it points back to the context. If you know your audience and the limits of who your message reach out to, you are way more confident when speaking out loud.

        • Definitely. Great point – thanks!

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  • These are very great points Dan!

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