The statement that had the most effect on me at the 140 conference in Tel Aviv was that the key to online communication is taking an offline interest and moving it online. In other words, there are very few online activities per se. Almost everything we talk about online is something we are involved in offline.
This is clearly true of the pet community. Pets are very much an offline activity – we feed them, play with them and groom them in real life. For some of us, that’s enough. But for others it is important to connect with other pet owners online to share information, humor, advice and support.
For website managers whose goals include building an online community around a specific topic, the challenge is to find people whose interests include theirs and give them a reason to join their community. To return to the pet example, a person who owns 3 cats is a potential community member, but he may prefer to spend his time on social media discussing politics, entertainment and his children’s accomplishments. But if this person sees value in a twitter account or Facebook page which talks about pets, he will join. And when he sees conversations that interest and stimulate him, he will express his opinion. When asked for his advice or to share something else, he will engage in that way.
When you’re thinking about social media, the key is to start by figuring out what resonates with your community. Think about what gets you excited and what kind of issues you like to hear about. What kinds of activities do you get involved in offline? What are your concerns and what makes you smile? Listen to what the members of your community are talking about online and experiment with different types of materials. The emphasis should be on “community,” not on “online.”