Posts Tagged ‘Online Communities

Rob Manuel gave what seems to have been an impassioned defence of “the bottom half of the internet”, saying that “troll” had become the equivalent of “chav” — a word used to demonise and silence people who don’t have power. Rob’s argument appears to echo the joke of defining a “troll” as “the least famous of two people arguing on Twitter.” Rob seems to have equated the disdain felt for the “proles” by the upper echelons of society with the disdain felt for the “commentards” by the chattering columnist classes of the media.

Rob Manuel via Martin Belam

Since way before my first big project at I’ve been interested in the line. Separating ‘author’ and reader, broadcaster and receiver, powerful and powerlesser. In the physical world innovators are moving to challenge the authority / audience divide also, to “turn museums into social, participatory organisations – with all the challenges this entails.”

In online forums, we write for positive and negative response, for the conversation, for the pursuit of deeper understanding, for the feedback we get and the resulting whole. I love this line on Gransnet which sums it up neatly:

 it isn’t my thread. Once I’ve pressed the “post message” button, it belongs to everyone on gransnet


This sentiment is endlessly difficult to sell or even explain to those whose livelihoods have depended on the commodification of information, ideas and opinion. As the recent Leveson report has shown, the advent of the industrial press has led to cultural particularities both positive and negative, but ultimately a participatory attitude is hard to adopt, by people below and above the line(PDF), when equity is not appreciated or sought.

While there is any inbalance of financial and reputational consequences for what is written, the public conversation cannot be the best, most inclusive, most honest version of itself. But we can attempt to aid it in this direction, starting with:

  • Payment for both starting and continuing the conversation
  • Pseudonymity so that one participating individual’s reputational and legal liability does not outweigh the others
  • A standard for clear and attributable apologies / corrections for inaccuracies and mistakes by those on any side of any lines

Encouraging ‘constructive’ participation is a goal for most forum owners (but remember, one woman’s troll is another woman’s truth teller). Design and nurture is a critical successful factor for developing a healthy interactive online spaces.

With this notice automatically embedded inline with new forum members posts, money saving expert (MSE) is taking account of how nerve-wracking speaking up for the first time can be, and gently suggesting to other established members to go easy. This has three great functions:

  • Makes established forum members aware of how their words may have particularly strong effects
  • Encourages other lurkers to take the leap into posting when they see it
  • Makes the newbie feel protected from the highly charged crowd

Is it context? Is it content…..? What is communications royalty this week…? Or shall we dispense with three word hyperbole and give ourselves over to wanting, and the reality of needing to manage, it all?

In this case we will need structure, and structure which takes us beyond flat content calendars… toward integrated engagement across all of our earned, owned and paid channels. This can be captured in a calendar which orders our engagement themes and channels and enables us to plan (simply, visually) for balance in what we say and do, in line with our communications strategy.

The purpose of writing on blogs, community sites like Comment is free, and much of social media is to start or further a conversation – not to share a few writerly pearls of wisdom… Too much of the conversation about comment threads is about how writers – people paid to serve an audience – feel.

James Ball

changes in media (broadcasting to mass participation, towers to platforms, scarcity to abundance) are changing the whole cultural landscape. I would argue that this new landscape affects the context within which we act, even if our actions are entirely offline. It engenders a growing expectation of, and desire for, individual creativity

 Amy Twigger Holroyd

A few weeks ago Kotex ran an interesting Pinterest campaign / activity. It was innovative and successful, by various measures.

It worked like this – Kotex found fifty of the most influential women on Pinterest, checked out what they had posted to their boards, made and sent them all a gift representing those images. The results:

  • Close to 100% of recipients posted about their gifts on Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram
  • 2,284 interactions
  • 694,853 total impressions

Before I launch into the influencer mythology argument, aside from the impressive statistical results gleaned, I must mention being impressed by the innovation of this campaign. In many ways it was a great, unique idea, which cannot now be repeated without cries of copycat.

But this type of ‘influencer’ marketing smacks of elements of traditional communications which peer to peer Internet philosophy rather bites its thumb at

  • Really noisy, famous people are more important than all other people (or women who use sanitary products) – they deserve free gifts and lots of attention
  • A small group of really well-known people can influence everyone else, by dint of their massive profiles
  • The silent majority, or lurkers, are there to be talked to, not with, or for
But is the tantalising promise of the mythical influencer accurate on social media? A recent study by Buzzfeed and Stumbleupon found what those of us with an eye on the real world would probably be unsurprised at. People are most influenced by those closest.. and so-called ‘viral sharing’ happens via lots of shares within intimate social circles, not big shares from big people.
Even the largest stories on Facebook are the product of lots of intimate sharing — not one person sharing and hundreds of thousands of people clicking

And as for the silent masses, the numbers who quietly fitting in Pinterest between busy jobs and busy lives, liking the odd picture here and there, they need not be excluded from our technographics obsessed considerations… for we are not all at one place on the ladder all of the time, but rather hang off various rungs at various times.

Furthermore, Jon Hickman has argued for considering participation by lurkers as “hidden actions.” (As opposed to ‘inactives’, on Forrester’s ladder above) He writes that the extent of participation by lurkers shouldn’t be underestimated, citing a case from the recent Digital Transformations event which his research supports:

we heard about a woman who had never commented or liked anything on her participatory group’s Facebook page. In offline fora, the same woman was the strongest and loudest advocate for their work. Her practice as a lurker meant she was immersed in the detail of the group’s work and was able to speak for it in offline spaces

Jon Hickman

So what’s the point? No more influencer marketing? No more drive for active online participation?  An obsession with the silent, over those who have something to say? Not really. But when it comes to marketing on Pinterest there is another, longer game that might well be played.

To reach more people appropriately, in context, over time – than dishing out freebies to the Pinterati and patting ourselves on our massive corporate backs when they all spew predictably about their free gear, one might try:

So it’s not big, it’s maybe not wow, but it’s bread and butter community development -and it’s all about the race to the bottom (of our hearts). So let’s be honest about what connecting with people on a platform like Pinterest really means when we discuss with our clients and colleagues. It means being patient, useful and creative in a day-to-day, moments of joy kind of way. Not a ‘who’s the biggest name’ or ‘can I get a celebrity to front my Pinterest presence’ kind of way.

This blog is about utilizing and optimizing the social web for business, pleasure and social change

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