January 13, 2010

The Key to the City (or Community)

I’ve been reading a lot of mommy bloggers lately (for a wonderful roundup of great Canadian material, check out the comments in the latest post on the Bad Moms Club). I participated in The Great Interview Experiment this year, initiated by Neil Kramer of Citizen of the Month. The basis is, you comment on his posting, he hooks you up with the previous commenter and you interview them, post the responses on your blog, and he does on his, and everyone gets to learn about someone new. I interviewed a lovely woman who writes He Who Laughs Last Didn’t Get It and am anxiously awaiting the interviewer who will contact me.

Mr.Lady posted today about taking a new approach to her social (online) community and encouraging her world to delurk, and engage in a more meaningful way with the folks they follow, and redirect attention to the less complacent. I also read a more marketing-focused approach to personal brand development, aimed at bloggers and social media enthusiasts, with the sole intent of promoting one’s brand. Which… I get, sure. But why do you care? Do you care because you want the recognition, or because you feel you’ve got something valuable to add, to help others with, or to put some framework around a new way of thinking?

I believe very strongly that one’s personal brand can *only* be developed when one adds value to discourse. I started becoming involved in the mommy blogging community because I related to many of the writers I read, and it’s a big part of my life, yo. What I discovered is that this community is rife with amazing, amazing writers. Not just writing on strategies for how to deal with temper tantrums or sleeping issues (which, btw, are golden), but writing on politics, current trends, micro issues and emotions. The best part is that it’s random. Every day is random. Some days I get insight through these beautiful stories, other days I am laughing my ass off at the sarcastic wit. And every day, little by little, I become more engaged and seek out new writers, who educate me in any number of topics. So, did any one single writer deliver all my value at once? No, not really, but they pieced together a community that I *so* benefit from.

What can I add back? Well, that is the humbling question, is it not? I had a little dialogue with Mr. Lady on this very subject just a few minutes ago, and she made some fine points about how we engage, how we emerge as members. I didn’t come out guns ablazing, and probably will never do that. Although I’m an outgoing and considerably direct individual, I very much believe we need to earn our place. Not through statistics and bulk following, but through the delivery of poignant, relevant and entertaining content, suited to the audience.

I don’t know who the heck reads this blog (other than those brave commenters), and I hope those who do get something out of it, whether it’s reassurance, alignment, or just a good chuckle. I’d love to one day be in the ranks of those who are awarded the votes of the masses, but only because I will know that means the general population is getting something from my work. In the meantime, this blog is as much for me as it is for the reader. It’s giving me practice flexing my writing muscle, synthesizing some thoughts and working through issues that might be plaguing me. I revel in the dialogue of many when I am trying to solve a problem, and encourage dialogue among others to do the same (see a future post on my upcoming venture with a lovely and inspirational woman to do just that for women in my physical community).

So how do I get the key to the community, so to speak? How do I become recognised as a contributing member? By giving others something they need or want, or can relate to. I welcome your suggestions on topics of interest that you would like to see dialogue around. I encourage your feedback on what you like or don’t like in any social media environment.

Is the concept of a personal brand only relevant when there is a business transaction to be had? Methinks no. We encourage it in our company, but it stretches beyond what you do to bring home the bacon. I’m realizing more and more that I can’t (or shouldn’t) separate the two. I will choose my forums, but I am a public entity. I am mom, writer, professional, friend, and tired.

Hit me with your thoughts on what value you get out of your online community. Is it purely social for you? Do you strive for it to be more? Why? Why not?


Mr Lady said...

I think you've hit the nail on the head, honestly. Well done.

nonlineargirl said...

I agree that you earn a following by offering something people want (making a brand). I also think that isn't enough. You have to market that brand, and that is something for which I don't have a lot of energy. I am a loyal reader and commenter of a number of blogs, but I don't search out new places to comment in order to get people to follow me back. Most days that is okay with me, but I'd be a liar if I said I didn't feel insecure about writing a "little' blog now and then.

Oh, and your post makes me want to stick around.

Phat Girl said...

Thanks to both of you. Nora, yours is one of the handful that I follow regularly and read every post. I think today was my first comment in appreciation of the warm and fuzzies your post made me feel. ;)

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