This is actually a continuation from the article Participation, posted a few days ago. In the first article I discussed the importance of trying to build an online community instead of trying to coerce everybody to engage with your content. I also layed out three different levels of community involvement: Absent, Lurking, Participation. Obviously, participation is what is required to build an active and engaged community but the next question that arises is, “How much time does that take?”
This all depends on what kind of results your looking for and how much time you have to put into it. There are three levels of “Participation Frequency” and only two of them will yield positive results. Even if you don’t have a lot of time to participate, one of the two are practical for anyone. So let’s dig in:
3 Participation Frequency Levels
1. Hit And Miss
This level of participation has no intention driving it. This is where you are not absent or lurking, but you are leaving comments on articles, using retweets or @ replies on Twitter, and “liking” updates on Facebook. The problem here is that you don’t do it consistently. You read a higher percentage of social media content than you interact with. Unless you know the person, or the content really makes you laugh, you probably will just read it and move on. This is where the majority of people in social media and blogging are at. There is nothing wrong with this amount of participation… unless you have a blog, Facebook page, or Twitter account that you are looking to build an online community with.
2. Looking To Participate
This level of participation is different from the “Hit and Miss” person. This person is looking for a way to participate with each bit of content they come across. 9 out of 10 times they read something, they leave a comment, “like” it, etc. This person may not read the same amount of content as the “Hit and Miss” participant or “Lurker” because they are losing a small amount of their reading time in order to participate. Why would someone do this?
Everytime you leave a comment or interact within today’s social media environments, you are indirectly advertising your own social media/blog. In fact, the most practical way for a blogger to advertise his/her blog is to leave comments on other blog articles (especially the ones that allow you to link your name back to your blog). Not only do readers see your comment and click on your link, but there is a good chance that the author of the blog article will reciprocate your participation back to your blog. This is “The Law of Reciprocity.” You “like” my Facebook content, I’ll probably be more inclined to “like” yours. You “retweet” my tweets, I will “retweet yours too. A lot of people do this on a subconscious level without realizing it. You just naturally end up interacting with people online that started interacting with you more than others did.
If this concept is true, why would you waste an opportunity to interact with content if you’ve already invested the time to read it??? Think about it, you’ve already read the status update or article; how much more time does it take to “like” or leave a comment? 5, 10, 15 seconds at the most, right? Why not take the extra seconds to participate and build up the community you would like be a part of? It is a much more efficient use of time, business-wise, than “lurking” or being “hit and miss.”
For the person or business owner that doesn’t have a lot of time to participate in the online community, this level is the most practical to implement. You can simply set aside 10-15 minutes a day to not only browse content, but interact with it. I promise you, if you consistently interact with online content 3-5 days a week consistently, you will start seeing more interaction with your own content in six short months. Over time, you will begin to identify pages and sites that actually participate in the online community themselves. Those are the people you’ll want to prioritize your participation with because they will reciprocate it back.
3. Exploring To Participate
This is the person that is really looking to “crush it” online. This is where a person not only participates with the majority of content they come across, they are diligent to explore new frontiers of cyberspace to participate with. They scientifically evaluate which sites and/or users are the most influential to participate with along with the amount of reciprocation that is experienced. They are disciplined at browsing for extended periods of time or they browse each morning and night to stay up on everything. This type of user is probably looking for click-through traffic and is selling products/services that are not limited to a geographical location.
Again, the 2nd level is probably going to be the most practical for most people. I encourage you to coach yourself up on, not just reading online content, but interacting with it as well. You’d be surprised at the relationships you’ll develop, the amount you’ll learn from others that respond to your questions, and the partnerships that form when people reach out to you as a result of your participation.