Content Ninja's Weblog

An exploratory journey on the edge of newspaper evolution

Social media isn’t enough July 10, 2008

Filed under: community,social media — contentninja @ 5:20 pm
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A group of youth interactingImage via Wikipedia

Rachel Happe makes an excellent point today that “Social Media Is Not Community.”

An online community is the people gathering at the site and participating for a common goal, from articulating the history of a flooded neighborhood to parents bragging on their talented teens. Social media are simply the tools that the community can use for relationship and network building. It’s about many-to-many conversations.

A common goal is important. I hadn’t articulated it that way before, but it seems so obvious now. The goal could be high-minded — say, exposing local government corruption — or more granular — like, which of the flooded neighbors on your street are going to rebuild. But it must be there because it’s what motivates people to come to the space.

While you can build social media around content, you can’t build a community around content.  “ABC allowing people to comment on specific news stories with comments and ratings is not a community. Rating and ranking books on Amazon does not create a community,” Happe writes.

That’s so important, I’m going to say it again. You cannot build a community around content. It’s about people and relationships. Content is important, but it’s not the community’s raison d’etre.

A lot of news types erroneously believe that if we allow comments on our Web sites or ask people to give us their photos that we’re building a community. SNORT.

Which leads to another good point. We cannot build a community. It just happens — because people who care come together and make connections around the shared goal.

What we can do is build an infrastructure where the community can live, and we can invite people who care about a subject to come on in and start talking. We can provide them with the social media tools that make connections easier and fun.

And when someone says, “Hey, we need a subgroup, and I care so much I want to start it and run it,” we let it happen. Because that’s a community, too.

Well, that’s nice, you say, but what does it have to do with journalism? We’re building relationships, too, with the folks in those communities. We’re building good will and even building brand.

And to the most trustworthy members of the community, we say, “Let us publish you.” To our product managers we say, “Hey, the community is really lit up today over this issue. You should consider a story.”

Wait a minute. Where’s the new business model? That’s beyond the ninja’s scope, but Jeff Jarvis takes a stab at it. His controversial suggestion that newspapers get out of the manufacturing and distribution business entirely and just do journalism is generating lots of comment. Turn those things over to Google or AP, he says. See his post “Google as the New Pressroom.”

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