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Meg Pickard: content, communities and collaboration

Meg Pickard is the head of communities and user experience for guardian.co.uk. She points out that users interact with content in many different ways. Consume, React, Curate, Create…

If people can create recommendation lists on the likes of Amazon, why can they not on traditional news sites (writers comment – isn’t this what digg is about?). And from thereon how can we enable people to create news content.

Social media does not equal social networking. Social media is a content experience that is enhanced by the social experience in a symbiotic relationship between content and the use thereof.

Pickard says content is no longer king, rather context is king. It’s about creating platforms around a topic and bringing in information and resource related to that topic – think synthesis and aggregation. What constitutes a community? Often in a community members will interact with the topic, but not with each other. For example members commenting on a news item should both comment on the topic itself but also engage in dialogue between themselves.

Social media does not need to be sociable – ones reasons for partaking social media, despite any community gain from their actions, are primarily based on self-interest. It doesn’t need to be complicated – make the proposition and the tool as simple as possible and use the simple building blocks;

  • the ability to react and comment
  • the ability to see what others are doing and what is “hot”
  • the ability to include profile data
  • the ability to reach out and build conversations amongst members

An insanely interesting explanation of where the term “heckler” came from – heckling, says Pickard, is good. It is about challenge and disagreement and builds knowledge and understanding. Heckling good, trolling bad.

There is a holy trinity of community development – people, technology and editorial. People and technology are important but nothing compared to editorial direction. Create the platform but think about editorial, how it influences and creates the community – proposition, framing of the debate, tone of voice, framing etc.

Five things to improve participation;

  • Commission, write, edit and curate specifically for the web – think about an article as the start of a journey
  • Plan for and predict the likely interaction – how will consumers interact, what do we hope them to do/say/feel?
  • Participate and create participation - “eat your own dogfood!”
  • Recognise and reward quality contributions
  • Listen; Be Inspired; Curate; Follow Up; Act

Stop thinking about audience in favour of thinking about participation and thereafter thinking about community. You can’t manufacture communities – find the context and find ways to create conversations around that context – people will find each other.

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