Last week on this blog, I asked whether social media enhances discussion. Several of the writers and bloggers I profiled shared with me why their networks have a lively, civil community.
Rekha Basu uses Facebook to moderate the conversation about her columns in The Des Moines Register. Here’s what she said:
It’s worked very well. When you don’t know who’s posting, you don’t know what ulterior motives they might have, if they’re affiliated with a corporation, the government, a movement or candidate that could be driving their comments. But more to the point, when people are forced to use their real names, their comments just tend to become more civil. They know their co-workers, neighbors and family members could see that they’re saying and hold them accountable for it.
Sure, I still have some regular hecklers who post on my page but they are in the minority, and usually the others call them out on it. I think my connection with readers is much stronger now because they’re not driven away by all the hateful, racist, misogynistic, gay-bashing nonsense that used to drown out thoughtful discussions.
Monica Leonelle had abandoned Twitter and her blog to focus on inbox writing via The Daily(ish). She says:
I focus on engagement instead of quantity. […] I think when people ask this question [of inbox writing], they might actually be asking, “How do you earn money when you have less than 600 people on your email list?” The answer is, I purposely write for a small audience. I recently deleted my blog (1700 subscribers) and my Twitter account (7000 subscribers) in favor of a small group of people willing to hear from me via email. Email is the most direct way I know of to reach individuals. It was easy to give up a looser network in favor of an engaged network because engagement helps me reach my goals.
Venture Capitalist Fred Wilson has a lively community of readers on his blog, A VC. He attributes his success to the following:
1) i blog every day. habits require habits
2) i read every comment and respond to the ones that deserve a response
3) we are courteous to each other. we don’t hate on each other. we respect different views, voices, and styles
Whatever medium you choose – Facebook, inboxes, blogs – you have an opportunity to build and sustain a relationship with your audience. Social media are not about pushing a message or pontificating from a digital pulpit, they are about engaging in a thoughtful, authentic relationship with your audience. Honor them, be honest and respectful, while being mindful of your own goals: these are the keys to success.
Thanks to Fred, Monica, and Rekha for their responses.