It’s not creepy. It can be – but inherently, keeping up with people is not creepy. Community is about sharing. We need things to share – they have to be worth something, and we need to give people permission to get more. But at the end of the day, there are basically three modes of communication we have access to.
- Listening – where we take things in
- Broadcasting – where we put ourselves out there, and
- Conversing – where we do both.
Broadcasting is very mechanical. Throwing information over the wall requires effort, which is good. However, when nothing comes back in – or when we create the expectation that we’re only encouraging others to listen – we’re not engaging in community.
Listening has a similar problem. You can aggregate all the data you want, but if you don’t allow for analysis, for communication back to the data’s sources about it’s meaning, you’re still not engaging in community.
Conversation is an ongoing exchange that’s impossible to mimic by only listening or only broadcasting. Eventually, to converse, you have to switch between the modes, and play with the results of reversed flow. And, in order for the conversation to continue, the party you are engaging must reciprocate and reverse their own flow at the same time. Otherwise we’re either listening in mutual silence, or broadcasting toward each other. Not constructive.
Businesses are accustomed to broadcasting. For years, it’s dominated how they get in front of existing and potential customers. There’s nothing inherently wrong with this – except that it’s limited and limiting for both parties involved.
There’s a movement toward communication with business, instead of communications from business. From an SEO standpoint, this is good – conversation means fresh content. Fresh content means food for the Great Index. Feeding the index means higher relevance.
All business – all people – want to be relevant. Conversation directly increases relevance.
So how can businesses – really, how can any broadcast medium (bloggers included) find opportunities to reverse the flow? Simple;
- Listen for answers to the questions you will ask,
- Publicize the answers for questions you are asked,
- Engage with people at the same pace with which they engage you, and
- Look for every opportunity to reverse the flow – from whichever direction you are currently taking.
In the case of communication beyond simple listening and broadcasting, adaptation is highly desirable. We need to take action on a consistent basis. Sometimes that means halting the broadcast, and listening to criticism. Sometimes it means listening to praise. Sometimes it means speaking up, getting your word out in a new area. there are opportunities all over the place.
Bloggers can take advantage of this in a lot of ways. I’d love to know some of your tricks. How do you encourage conversation? And, what do you do with what’s being pushed your way?
Image by woodleywonderworks.