Be timely, Be constant, Be useful: 3 principles in social web

This week I had the pleasure to talk to some of Seattle’s pro-bloggers: John Cook, Todd Bishop,Jason Preston and Michael Bean. I’m calling them pro-bloggers because they have managed to attract and retain a very loyal community that by any standards qualifies them as influential people in their circles. How do they do it? They work hard! And while we can discuss a lot about the different tools and the technology they use, the common thread is they uphold these 3 principles (oh, and they don’t sleep): Be timely, Be constant, Be useful.

 

TIMELY: it’s not just about breaking news (though this is important), is about linking their niche stories to the things that are relevant at that time and offering a unique or insightful way of telling the story. If the economy is the hot topic they talk about the economy, if politics is hot they tie to that. This requires being aware of the big trends that are affecting us all.

 

CONSTANT: This is the big secret, they work really hard. They are very committed to their blogs and communities and they are hustling all the time. They are constantly look for opportunities to innovate and experiment and better serve their communities. Becoming a reliable source requires being constant. Michael said to me that people form opinions very quickly, but while you may not get it right with every post, it’s more important to keep at it.

 

USEFUL: This is the trickiest part, and the one that requires you to listen to your audience constantly. When you are building up a community online you need to be useful to them, you need to provide something of value, you have to be useful. Communities will value different things, but in general they want to:

 

    • Get information (that they can’t get elsewhere or that they trust)
    • Learn
    • Be entertained
    • Contribute and feel recognized for it
    • Connect with others they care about

 

Non of the above are commercial motivations (read Benkler), which is why I think of digital content as a service, not a way to sell more stuff. I know that brings up the question of why would companies participate in social media if they can’t sell, specially now that the economy is tight and it’s all about the bottom line. This is the big question I face everyday, but I’m leaving it open for my next few posts.

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