Since we cannot measure relationship well, we are left to indicators. These indicators help us get a feel for how those relationships are going. Number of fans/followers, actions taken (liking, commenting, posting), sharing (retweets, share, word of mouth), and actual sales or end actions can all be measured. But these indicators could all be in place and we could still miss what the core goal is.
The danger with these measurable indicators is that when we can wrap our minds around a measurable, we begin to move towards that indicator as the goal itself. Like looking at the side of the road when driving, we drift towards what we are looking at. We begin to ask questions like "Well... how do we get fans?" instead of "How do we connect with people genuinely?" When we drift like that, we move away from what we really wanted and what is really effective and into a game of increasing numbers.
If we simply shoot for fans (or comments, or likes, etc.), then the people can feel it. The passion and the relationship drain out. We are left with numbers and the passion dries up.
If we can hold onto that relationship as the goal, we end up with all the the unknowns that we don't even know to ask for. A coder that writes an app for us because he is passionate and just wants to help. One fan paying for another to come to your event without telling you. A follower who shares his passion with his pastor who preaches a series that inspires a congregation. (I have seen all these things happen and much much more).
So what is an organization or business supposed to practically do then that justifies spending money on social media? It is all relational vagueness? I don't think so. There are things we can measure, but we have to hold all of this in mind as we measure.
A balanced approach when evaluating your social media and community is to start with a soft measurable... Subjectively ask "Are we vulnerable and genuine? Are we caring for people well? Do people feel a connection with us as people, not just with an organization?". We may follow that up with "Are we doing better at these things than we were last week (or month)?"
After we know that, we can then look at the more traditional number to inform our (probably more accurate) subjective evaluations. And we should do that. We may evaluate that our community is strong, but engagement had gone down and look into why. Perhaps conversations are breaking off into emails and private venues. Maybe they are waiting for direction from us. Maybe a decrease in numbers in an appropriate pruning and is healthy.
I have been thinking about this issue for quite some time. This is my summary. Your first evaluation should be a subjective relational check and you should do this regularly. This is more accurate than the dry numbers because it is a relational to relational check. Your second step is to put the more concrete numbers on the table and see how they inform your subjective relational evaluation. Track over time and evaluate... Are you developing a community or not? You will know. If you are, it is worth your time.
The new community at community.truefaced.com is open.
It is fun to see the excitement there. I am looking forward to that first wave of settling in and learning new things in a new place.
I have heard lots of hope in the voices of the people both in public and expressed in private messages.
This is going to be good.
My old forum at Ransomed Heart is finally coming to a close. I am at work at building another community and want to share what is going on.
As news was announced that the old forum will be disbanded, I received requests and offers to help create a new place. With my friend Vern and some beginning donations from some great people, we decided to take up the challenge.
The first step to creating community is identity. Gathering people isn't enough. They have to be gathered for a reason. These people gathered trusting in the restoring work of God giving us good hearts. They learned about awakened desire and how to live in a community of grace instead of living up to rules. People came seeking healing and life.
I found a place that matches these values at Truefaced. Their core values include living in a community of grace. They want to see grace filled community being lived out, but haven't had a place online to do that. We are going to partner with Truefaced to create a new online community.
Many of you who follow my blog are familiar with the old forums and are looking for a place to go after they close. I would love to see you over there. More than that, I would love to have your lives and stories shape this new place.
We don't really have funding yet. Truefaced is not in a position to fund this project, but they have agreed to partner with us in gathering new people with similar hearts. If you can help out, you can donate directly (not tax deductible) or if you want a tax deduction, email me for details on how to give through Truefaced.
I will post up more details as I have them.
When you have people sign up for your community, resist the temptation to tell them how to behave by making them agree to a list of rules and disclaimers.
First of all, those rules don't really do much. They mostly serve to make you, the admin, feel better… like you have legal backing for future actions. I don't know of any actual court case where a list of community rules and a check box served as evidence to justify an admin's actions. You are the admin. Trust in your overall authority when you need it, not the authority of a checkbox agreement.
Second, it is terribly unwelcoming. It is like making people sign an acceptable behaviour list when visiting your house.
If you really feel like you have to say something when people sign up, say it positively. Talk about what you are for and what your vision is for the community and ask people to agree to that.
Watched a great TED talk recently on the power of vulnerability.
Being seen and being true create room for real growth.
When we participate in community online we are not in some bubble that escapes this truth. We don't even escape this as moderators or administrators over a community.
If we are not vulnerable, we won't have rich relationships online. If you don't feel like your online relationships are real, maybe it is because you are not being vulnerable there.
Sometimes hurt people start hurting everyone else.
That perspective is a good place to start. If you start with believing that the person causing the trouble is probably not doing so out of pure maliciousness, then you will treat them more appropriately.
With that foundation, you can do a few things....
First, contact that person. By phone if possible, email if you need to. Your tone with them needs to be person to person, not admin with a stick. Very often, just this personal interaction makes them snap into realization that your community is not an impersonal machine. You ask them personally to stop posting those things as a personal favor. Maybe invite them to express their concerns over email in private for a while. They may perceive that as even better than posting to the public. They have the attention of someone inside and are getting heard.
Second, you can very tactfully post after them. Something like "Bob, we have discussed this issue in private and I asked you not to post here. I am taking your concern seriously, but this isn't the place." What this does is illustrate to the rest of the community that you are being gracious and he is being disrespectful.
Then... if it continues... you may have to ban him. Maybe even ban him and post a low key apology for banning him in the community.
If you do have to ban him, the community will think "what a great guy that admin is" and the troublemaker is discredited, having shown everyone his rudeness. If the troublemaker listens (and about 90–95% do), then you have shown another human being respect, and kept him in your community.
Realize that you set the tone for social interaction online.
If you post a fact, people will think about facts.
If you post a witty observation, people will post witty comments back.
If you post a generic thank you or greeting, people will respond in mostly impersonal ways. (If they respond)
If you post a question, people will post answers. If it is an ice-breaker type question, people will respond only at that level.
If you post intimate details about your heart, some will respond in kind. Others will run away or criticize you because they don't want to follow your example.
When you walk into a room full of people you don't know and you don't know what they are doing, you will naturally take a quick inventory, grab cues, and figure out what the protocol is. Is the group having fun? Are they all business? Are they reserved or exuberant? It is amazing how quickly we grab those cues and follow suit.
It is important , especially if you run an online community, that you or some key members in step in and be an example of the tone you want.
I don't usually allow that. There are a few reasons.
If you allow original poster to delete their own threads, you can cause a funky power dynamic where the commenters have to be careful with what they say. The original poster ends up with as sort of incidental minor admin right that can mess with the conversation.
Also, the subsequent comments may end up more important than the original post. Often the initial post is just the starter into the real conversation. The dozens or hundreds of posts after that initial post may be very important to the people who interacted together and have nothing to do with the original post.
If there is a real issue (and there may be), the original poster can contact the admin and the admin can delete the thread for them.
Now... I am speaking about forum threads and depending the specific environment, it may be different. For example, a blogger should be able to delete his post and comments, but in that case, the power dynamic is understood up front.
All sorts of private communication has been leaked out again… this time between governments. The holes in even government controlled secrets are now getting too big to plug.
What used to be private is quickly becoming public whether we like it or not. Those of us who grew up expecting some things to remain private are still squirming in our seats with the newly transparent world we have found ourselves in.
We have to ask a question… and the question is not about how to keep things private. Anybody can now say anything and the entire world can hear. We are not going to be able to go back on that.
The question is “What do we do in a world where nothing will be private?” After we get over whether we like that or not, we will be left with a newly transparent world. What will that look like?
More honesty? More love? More hatred? More factions? Revolutions? More respect for integrity?
A friend of mine is a teacher and found this written on one of the white boards at school.
- Here is how you measure social media
- A Beautiful Beginning
- A New Community
- Lots of rules when you sign up... useless... harmful?
- The Power of Vulnerablity Online
- How do you handle troublemakers on a forum?
- You are making people talk the way they are talking
- Should original posters be allowed to delete their threads in a forum?
- Harder and Harder to Keep a Secret
- The 11th Graders Problem Solving Sequence