Tag Archives: blogging

More on the Role of Audience in Social Spaces.

A few weeks ago, I wrote a bit here on the Radical begging people to STOP pushing the notion of building an audience as the primary reason for blogging and sharing in social spaces.

My argument was a simple one:  When we push audience as a primary reason for blogging and sharing in social spaces, we forget that MOST participants in social spaces will never build significant audiences — and if they’ve heard people preach about audience as a primary reason for writing and sharing, they are bound to feel like failures.

That’s when Bob Schuetz — a longtime Radical reader and fantastic thinker — stopped by to push back.  

Kyle Glenn

Here’s a part of what Bob wrote:

Audience causes us to raise our game, take pride in what we share.

You speak eloquently because an audience is listening. You post and tweet in the hopes it makes a difference to someone besides yourself.

Normally I dig your riffs, however in this rare case, I can’t agree with your title or premise.

I am part of your audience, and we do matter.

In a lot of ways, Bob (and Kyle Hamstra — who’s thoughts on audience sparked this conversation) is right:  I do write and think and share differently because I know an audience is listening.

I proofread more than I would otherwise because I know an audience is listening.  I am also far more reasoned — “tempered” — in my positions online than I am in person.  I don’t want to put my name on a piece that is riddled with grammatical errors or a piece that fails to consider multiple viewpoints because I know that what I create becomes a permanent representation of who I am that others will be able to find forever on the web.

Those are tangible benefits of knowing that I am writing and sharing for an audience — and tangible examples of how having an audience changes everything for me.

The BEST example of how audiences change everything, however, is Bob’s comment — and this subsequent post — to begin with.

Because I shared publicly and because Bob took the time to push against my thinking, I’m sitting here this morning reflecting on and revising what I believe about the role of audience in the lives of those of us who write and share on the web.

That intellectual give and take between writers and readers is where the REAL potential rests in a “Web 2.0” world.  Before comment sections and social spaces, the thoughts of writers went unchallenged by readers.  Today, challenge CAN be the norm rather than the exception to the rule — and challenge is the “refining fire” that ideas must pass through in order to be fully polished.

But here’s the thing:  That intellectual give and take is painfully absent from today’s comment sections and social spaces.

Need proof?

Find your favorite blog right now.  Click on five posts.  How many comments do you find?  More specifically, how many comments challenge the central argument of the author?  Do the same thing with a few of the people that you follow in Twitter.  Check out their Tweets and Replies.  Chances are that you’ll see a TON of simple sharing and maybe a bunch of affirmation — “Great post!” or “Loved this!” or “Brilliant ideas!” — but challenge and true discourse will be nonexistent.

Need MORE proof?

When was the last time YOU left a comment challenging the thinking of a blogger or content shared by someone you follow in social spaces? 

I’ll bet the answer is the same:  You do a lot of reading in social spaces, but you rarely comment — and when you DO respond to the thinking of the people you are learning alongside, those comments tend to celebrate rather than challenge the authors.

Now, I’m not judging you.  People can use social spaces in any way that they want to.  It’s not for me to decide whether comments that challenge should be a core expectation of the people who are living intellectual lives online.

But we’ve got to stop telling people who are new to social spaces about the “power of audience” because the truth is that most of today’s audiences are muted at best, choosing consumption over participation in nine conversations out of ten.

Now, if you’ve read this far and you are STILL passionate about the power of an audience, here are a few tips for building one:

(1). Bring Your OWN Audience:  When people talk about “the power of audience,” they are generally referring to the hundreds of thousands of teachers all over the globe who are blogging and sharing in social spaces.  We stand in awe every time that we make a connection with someone a thousand miles away.

And don’t get me wrong:  That IS pretty darn cool.

But the most powerful members of your audience are those people that you ALREADY have an intellectual relationship with.  Maybe they are folks in your school that you have lunch with every day.  Maybe they are buddies from other schools in your district that you meet for beers a few times a month.  Maybe they are colleagues that you hang with once per year at teaching conferences around the country.

Those are the people who are the most likely to stop by your blog or respond to your Tweets and challenge your thinking — so instead of trying to build a huge audience of strangers, concentrate on building a small audience of peers.

(2). Be a Participating Member of Someone Else’s Audience:  The funny part of this whole conversation to me is that people in today’s social spaces are hell-bent on building their own audiences, and yet few recognize the importance of being participating members of someone else’s audience.  I see that as incredibly selfish.  We want the benefits that come along with having an audience without willingly passing those same benefits along to others.

What does that mean for you?

Start commenting on the work of others.  Start responding to people’s posts in Twitter.  Let people know that you are listening and learning from them.  Show gratitude for the time that they put into thinking and sharing transparently with others.  Provide challenge to their core ideas — and then push those ideas out through your networks.

Not only will you give someone else the intellectual benefits that you want for yourself, chances are that you’ll gain a new member of your own audience.

Do unto others, right?

(3). Draw attention to the ideas of your audience:  I want you to think about my buddy Bob for a minute.  He took his own time to read my original bit on audience.  Then, he took even more of his own time to craft a reply that challenged my thinking and articulated concepts that I hadn’t considered. Instead of spending that same time on his own growth, he was making an investment in me and in our intellectual relationship.

That matters, y’all — and I need to respect that investment in some way.  So I decided to sit down this morning and respond to his thinking here in a new post on my blog.  Not only will that give Bob’s thinking some of the attention that it deserves, it shows him that I’m listening — and that the time he spent challenging me really did have value because it led to a longer conversation.

The result:  Bob is more likely to comment on another post at some point in the future.

Does any of this make sense?

I guess what I’m trying to say is that building a big audience feels pretty pointless to me.  Given the option to have thousands of followers who I rarely interact with or ten readers who regularly challenge my thinking, I’d take the active audience any day because my goal in spaces like this is to learn — not to be recognized.

#nuffsaid

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Related Radical Reads:

Audience Doesn’t Matter

Comment More.  Like Less.

The Digital Equivalent of Strip Malls.

 

Audience Doesn’t Matter.

In a bit of a serendipitous moment, Kyle Hamstra — a good friend who works up the road from me — reshared a post that he wrote back in October called #audiencematters.

In it, Kyle wrestles with whether or not we should focus on audience when we are sharing content — whether that sharing happens on blogs, in other social spaces, or in face to face presentations.

Nicholas Green

Let me answer that question for you:  For MOST* of us, audience DOESN’T matter.

Stop talking about it.  Period.  End of conversation.

Here are two reasons why:

(1). Focusing on audience draws attention away from the real reason that people should be blogging and sharing in social spaces.

For the vast majority of us practicing educator types, blogging and participating in social spaces is about reflection, plain and simple.  Every time that you sit down behind the keyboard for any reason — whether that’s to join in a Twitterchat, to read bits that appear in your social streams, or to create a new bit on your own blog, you are an active learner.

Articulation of ideas — whether it comes in the short form of a Tweet or the long form of a blog post — requires you to think carefully about what you THINK you know.  Finding the right words to express your core notions about teaching and learning forces you to wrestle with what you actually believe.

Every time we make the argument that audience matters, we forget that reflection matters more.  Our goal shouldn’t be to #becomepopular.  It should be to #becomebetter.  Blogging and sharing in social spaces can help us to do that whether anyone is listening or not.

(2). Focusing on audience is bound to leave writers discouraged.

Are you ready for an interesting confession:  “Radical Nation” really isn’t all that big!  I average about 120 views a day on my blog.  Yesterday, I had 37.  Today, I’ve got eight.  I have about about 400 subscribers.  When I share content out through Twitter, an average post gets ten clicks, five likes and three retweets.

And that’s for a guy who has been blogging for over a decade, who has written over a thousand posts, who has 25,000 followers in Twitter, and who has pretty strong connections to a bunch of really high-powered influencers in the #eduverse.

Do you see what that all means?

If audience is the metric that I use to judge the value of the time that I spend writing and sharing, I would have quit writing and sharing a long, long time ago.

The fact of the matter is that I spend about five or six hours a week on this stuff — including two or three hours every Saturday morning.  I get up at 5:30 AM and am banging away at the keys in the back of a Brueggers Bagels or a dirty McDonalds by 6 AM.  Every single week.  For over a decade.

All for ten clicks, five likes and three retweets?!

Try selling THAT to people new to blogging and sharing in social spaces.  “Hey!  If you spend five hours a week for a decade, you, too, can have days where you get ten clicks, five likes and three retweets!”

That’s why I hate it when we talk about audience. 

It focuses people who we want to encourage to join us in social spaces on the wrong end goal.  Worse yet, if they don’t get the traffic that they see other people getting, it leaves them convinced that they have nothing important to share.

What rookies in social spaces don’t realize is that “getting traffic” isn’t easy to do.  What us blogging old-timers learned a long time ago is that just because you are writing and sharing doesn’t mean that people are going to see the content that you are creating.

Audience is a function of the content that you create, the consistency of your creation patterns, the length of time that you’ve been creating, the opportunities that you have to be in front of audiences in the real world, the relationships that you have with people who have audiences larger than you do — and, as frustrating as it may seem, serendipity.

Content takes off sometimes because the right person happened to pull out their phone at the right time to see your post in their stream.  Similarly, really great bits are overlooked because they are missed in streams that are filled with thousands of other people who are creating and sharing content, too.

But if you don’t care about audience, none of that matters.

If you believe that the value of the time you spend behind the keyboard is measured in what you know and what you believe and what you can articulate to others instead of in clicks or retweets or likes or followers, you are WAY more likely to keep investing in your blog, in your social spaces, and in yourself.

#nuffsaid

 

(*Read: “Anyone who isn’t trying to build a career supporting schools from beyond the classroom.”)

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Related Radical Reads:

Three Tips for Novice Bloggers

Lessons Learned from a Decade of Blogging

Why Blog?

Tutorials on Blogging, Managing Bookmarks, and Sharing to Social Streams.

Over the last few days, I’ve had the incredible honor to learn alongside the remarkable people that serve as Solution Tree PLC Associates.  These are the folks who are helping schools to improve results for students through collaboration.

One of the things I was asked to speak about is the role that technology plays in my own reflection and writing. 

To facilitate that work, I made a series of 2-4 minute tutorials this morning that attempt to capture some of my writing and reflection routines.  Thought you might dig seeing those tutorials, too, even though they were created for a very specific audience:

Tutorials on Blogging: 

These tutorials cover everything from the reasons that I think every practitioner should be blogging (hint: it’s about reflection) to how to find a blog service (hint: use WordPress).

When you are done watching them, you should have enough know-how to create your blog and make a post!

Tutorial 1:  Why Blog

Tutorial 2: Finding a Blog Service

Tutorial 3:  Creating a Post in a Blog Service

 

Tutorials on Using Pocket to Organize Potential Blog Topics:

Let’s face it:  The reason most people don’t write more regularly is because they don’t think they have anything to write about.  But here’s the thing:  We are all CONSTANTLY reading, aren’t we?  And the bits that we read can become potential blog topics in no time.  We just have to organize them in a way that we can find them later when we feel stuck.  I use Pocket —  a service introduced in the tutorials below — to do that work.

When you are done watching them, you’ll know how to bookmark and tag things that you are reading online, how to find those bookmarks later, and how Pocket can help you to quickly find information related to your own interests and areas of study.

Tutorial 1:  Introduction to Pocket

Tutorial 2: Managing your Pocket Bookmarks

Tutorial 3: Exploring Popular and Related Bookmarks in Pocket

 

Tutorials on Sharing Content to Audiences using Buffer:

One of the easiest ways to add value to your audiences — whether they are people that you work with on a regular basis or people that have been inspired by you somewhere in the past — is to share both the content that you are creating and the content that you are consuming with them.  By sharing that content, you are helping people to access important ideas without having to do a lot of work.

The good news is that sharing important content is a BREEZE as long as you use a service like Buffer — which allows you to schedule posts to all of your important social spaces in advance.

By the time you are done watching the tutorials below, you’ll know how to share posts in Buffer, how to see some simple analytics on the posts you share through Buffer, and how Buffer can help you to find new content that is worth both consuming and then sharing back out to your audiences.

Tutorial 1: Introduction to Buffer (and Why Your Finds Matter to Your Audiences)

Tutorial 2: Adding New Finds to Your Buffer Queue

Tutorial 3: Managing Your Buffer Posting Schedule

Tutorial 4: Using the Paid Features in Buffer to Maximize your Reading and Sharing

Hope this helps you to get started!  And let me know if you have any questions.  

#alwayswilling

Three Tips for Novice Bloggers

Over the last several weeks, I’ve had the chance to connect with some really terrific teachers right here in my own county.  That’s been a refreshing change of pace for me simply because the majority of people that I’ve connected with over the course of my time in social spaces have lived hundreds and thousands of miles away.  What I’m digging the most is that many of my newest peers are just beginning their blogging journeys.

As a guy who has “been there and done that,” I’ve been offering tons of tips designed to help them find the same satisfaction that I do as a blogger.

Here are three that are worth sharing with all y’all, too:

Quit Calling it Blogging.  Start Calling it Reflection.

Let’s start with a simple truth:  Blogging takes time.  I sit down once a week — usually on Friday nights or Saturday mornings and bang away at the keys for anywhere from 60-90 minutes.  Carving that time out of my daily schedule isn’t any easier for me than it will be for you!  There are plenty of times when I am blogging that I would rather be on the couch with my kid!

So how do I do it?  How do I commit to blogging week after week and year after year?

Perhaps most importantly, I’ve quit calling it blogging — which feels like some kind of self-centered, silly act reserved for people who make their living by selling their ideas — and started calling it reflection.  After all, that’s what I’m really doing every time that I write here on the Radical.  Taking ideas that are mulling around in my mind and working to put them into coherent sentences and paragraphs depends on thinking deeply about what I know about teaching and learning.

Blogging is something that I’m willing to skip when I’m tired or discouraged.  Reflection feeds me and challenges me and makes me a better practitioner.  It’s something I’d NEVER skip.  By recognizing and naming the reflective value of writing, I’ve turned it into a priority — even a pleasure — instead of a chore.

Quit Thinking about an Audience.  YOU are the Audience.

Here’s another simple truth:  The VAST majority of educational bloggers — including ME — are never going to develop a super impressive audience.  Heck — most of us will be lucky if our entries generate 25-30 views on a regular basis.  That’s not because we are awful writers with nothing important to say.  It’s because we live in a world where (1). people are busy and (2). there are TONS of ways to spend our spare time.  Standing out in someone’s already crowded information stream just ain’t all that easy.

That’s why we have to STOP talking about “the power of audience” in motivating bloggers.  If we’re counting on feedback — views, likes, shares, comments — from an external audience to motivate us, we’re going to quit as soon as we spend hours crafting a thoughtful reflection that no one reads.

But there IS an audience who cares and who learns and who grows every time that you write.  Want to find them?  Look in the mirror. Once you recognize that you aren’t writing for someone else — that you are, instead, writing for yourself — then page views won’t leave you discouraged even when they are lower than you’d like them to be.  After all, the only audience that ever really mattered was you to begin with!

Quit Writing.  Start Commenting.

Here’s a final simple truth for you:  Social spaces aren’t very social anymore.  People don’t interact with each other.  Instead, we spend our time consuming.  We check our Twitterstreams, clicking on links, reading posts, bookmarking sites and then moving on.  Rarely to we pause to acknowledge the contributions that content creators make to our learning.  Sure, we might retweet or like or favorite something that we liked — but even that can be a selfish act designed to build our own networks or organize our own set of killer finds.

So break the cycle.  Set time aside to leave comments on the blogs written by other people.  Doing so is a simple act of gratitude — a way to say thank you to the folks who are taking risks by giving us a look inside their professional minds.  That alone makes commenting worthwhile.

But commenting has a ton of additional added value for you as a writer, too.  Most importantly, each comment that you add is first draft thinking that you can turn into a blog post later.  In fact, I copy and paste every comment that I write into a folder in Evernote so that I can find it and use it again when I’m struggling for a topic to write about here on the Radical.

And if you really do care about building an audience, leaving a comment for someone else makes a ton of sense.  Here’s why:  Odds are that the people that you leave a comment for will stop by your blog and check out your writing, too.  That’s because there’s often an intellectual symbiosis that develops between people who are thinking together.

So whaddya’ think about my recommendations?  More importantly, what suggestions would you make to novice bloggers?

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Related Radical Reads:

Lessons Learned from a Decade of Blogging

The Digital Equivalent of Strip Malls

Three Tips for Classroom Blogging Projects