Will You Compare the Truth About Audience vs. Community?

My Audience

My Audience

My Community

My Community

How you interact with your customers and prospects can show you (and them…) how you think of them. Without resorting to standard definitions, I visualize the difference this way:

AUDIENCE: I am in front of a group of people who are facing me. I’m speaking and they’re listening (or at least I HOPE they are….). I look into their faces and watch their body language, but it is difficult to get a real assessment of whether I’m connecting with them or not. Having been in audiences before I know how easy it is to “look engaged”. I also notice how many are working their smart phones, tablets and laptops….I hope they’re taking notes, but probably not. At the end of the talk, there are a few questions that I answer, but many more of the audience arise and leave. There is a little bit of chatter between a few of them as they head out the door, but I have no idea what it could be about. Unless I’ve given them some sort of meaningful survey or method of valid feedback to learn what their experience was, I really don’t know.

COMMUNITY: I am moving amongst several groups of people that are part of a larger group of people meeting here. There are discussions going on in each of them, some about the bigger group, some about the smaller groups, some about processes and business, and some about their lives outside of the groups. People move easily between the smaller groups as they become interested in them. I get to move through each of the groups, listen and take part in the discussions. There is a much stronger sense of “belonging” and being invested in what’s going on. Fewer people have their phones out, except to check their calendars in order to set up personal meetings with other members of the community outside of this larger meeting. Some members stay in one small group the whole time, but they seem very engrossed in the conversation while not taking it over. Each member of the community can build a more authentic relationship with another (according to what they are comfortable with…), resulting in trust and, when the time comes, that crucial recommendation, referral, or sale. While the relevance of the overall community experience may be still somewhat hidden from me, I can learn a lot by listening, observing and asking appropriate questions.

Community is harder…is it worth it?
How do you communicate and reach out to your customers and visitors?

What’s the difference to your business?

Do you care enough about your business to figure out how this might work for you and your customers?

Good questions.

What are your answers?

Scary and Hard To Do

Scream Cropped

Scream Cropped (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I read an article recently by Laura Cioca, Director of Media & Engagement at W2O, about something she calls ‘Fauxthenticity’.  She defines this as ‘the tendency some brands have towards assuming we’re all complete idiots.’

She goes on to describe it as a kind of creative laziness that ‘pretends that a brand’s participation in community has anything to do with people.’  She then lists a number of examples, all of which I have seen before and recently.  It’s sad really….

It seems to be a gospel truth in social business and so-called ‘thought leader’ articles that treating your customers and others in your interactions as Human Beings (that is, people with which you have and nurture relationships) is the competitive path to better business, greater earnings, products of higher quality and greater relevancy, and a degree of innovation not possible within the closed confines of the conference room.  So, if this is the Actual Truth, why is it generally ignored?
Well, to boil it right down, it’s hard to do.

Get out of your way

Ego suspension. There it is.  What does it mean?

listening

listening (Photo credit: Leonard John Matthews)

I have been doing quite a bit of research and consideration of the skills required to be a truly effective listener, collaborator, influencer (more on that later) and generally a better human being. It turns out that ego suspension is critical to this direction of growth and one of the hardest things to do. Ever.

First Thoughts in a New Community

2012_09_17 Community Management IMG_0841

2012_09_17 Community Management IMG_0841 (Photo credit: joelogon)

OK, so I’m stepping away from the fire hose for a moment. I’m today wrapping up, if that even makes sense when you’re on the road, week #5 in my new gig as Senior Community Manager at SDL. Collecting and prioritizing my thoughts and experiences will likely take some time, if only because so many of them do not categorize very simply.

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A Successful Community Manager

My communities

My communities (Photo credit: steven w)

I was asked a really great question recently: what is a successful community manager?

I have a pretty well-formed idea of the answer, but had never articulated it before.  My first reaction was to stay away from any kind of description of the community manager him/herself. I feel that a successful community manager is evidenced by the community they work with and for.

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