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.

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.