Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Building the Community

I was talking to Doug Haslam the other day about the idea that in this blogging world people are talking to themselves. That is, the same group of people keep talking to the same group, we all nod in agreement then go off in our lives and try to convince others. And we can't figure out why the others "don't get it." His idea stemmed from a Chris Brogan post on the topic.

A key problem is the currency of the link. Because links are what make a blog rise in the search engine stats links become (over) valued. So we need to talk with ourselves in order to make ourselves important to the god that is Google.

But if we ignore Google (and Technorati and just about every other search engine out there) and start to look at what we have around us, things get more interesting. When Kristine and I started TheGardenCity.net one of the first things we did was to tell our neighbors. We also sent emails around on our school mailing lists, so we brought in parents. We weren't looking for bloggers, we wanted members of the community. We did a little by way of traditional blogger marketing (writing on our own blogs, sending to Universal Hub, etc.) but we didn't go digging for links that would drive our rankings.

Things built over time and they continue to do so. Yes, links from other blogs do drive traffic, but most of our traffic remains organic. Without the community we're nothing. I don't care if anyone in Newton reads blogs, I just care that they care about Newton. Nothing else really matters. In fact, when Newton recently found itself among the "bloggiest" communities, Boston Globe Cyberscenes reporter Ralph Ranalli joked that we did so without much help from his column (we love you anyway, Ralph... we're happy you're a reader and sometime contributor).

So, let's extend this into the business world. When we talk about social networking we keep thinking in terms of technology. Yes, technology makes this easier but think about a user group. People attend user group meetings not only to learn about the latest a company has to offer, but also to network with their colleagues. The major change is that technology lets this networking happen at any time and from any location, not just every December in Vegas.

Yes, we need to stop talking to ourselves, but more importantly we need to stop thinking in terms of "online communities" and start thinking in terms of "communities that can benefit from the technology."


Paul 33 said...

I am thinking that people talking to themselves isnt a bad thing. But I was wondering...if I want to seach the google cyber blog community for a paticular topic that I would like to blog on, how can I do it? This would work towards your goal of using technology effectively. I want to blog at blogs that interest me. How do I find them?

Chuck Tanowitz said...

There are many ways to find what you're looking for. If you don't have an RSS reader you should start playing with one (I like Google Reader, but Newsgator and Bloglines are good too). Then you can run searches on Google, Technorati, Icerocket and any of a number of others and subscribe (via your reader) to those searches. When posts you like come up, subscribe to the blog. You can also play with Technorati tags for the same purpose.

There's more, but too much for a comment.