The past week has shown me a lot about building community in person and online. I thought I’d share some thoughts here.
A multi-viewed, transparent approach
I am wired in a way that I’m able to see things from many perspectives in order better understand motivations. I’m okay with being the devil’s advocate sometimes.
In the time I’ve spent online, especially in recent years, I’ve noticed that people in social media value transparency. That is one major reason why I’ve tried to be the same online as I would be when you meet me in person. I think authenticity is very refreshing, and I’m sure many others will agree.
How I became a community builder
I wasn’t really interested in founding a social media community in Cincinnati in October 2007. I was very busy with a commute and work in Dayton, Ohio. And yet, I’d become passionate about networking online with others in Dayton and the Greater Cincinnati area because I wanted to find work closer to home.
In discussions with others via Twitter, instant messaging, and elsewhere, it became apparent that no one was going to step up and get something started, so I stepped up. I knew there were many podcasters in the area already who wanted to meet up, but I also saw a need to broaden the scope. I looked at what other community builders had done in other cities, being very new to this community-building thing, and decided instead of naming the group Podcasting Cincinnati to instead call it New Media Cincinnati. “New Media” at the time was the buzz word used to describe all emerging forms of media technology.
It took a few months before I got comfortable with this new role. I was still very surprised that people were coming to events I’d organized.
Two years of learning
A lot has changed in the past two years here in the social media community in Cincinnati. Social media has become more widely adopted, and this group is joined by many other great social networking groups that meet regularly – more than I even know about.
I’d like to think the reason why New Media Cincinnati is around is to provide a vehicle for people passionate about and interested in new and emerging technology to meet together. I’ve also wanted it to be a place where someone new to social media can come and feel welcome. Others have said that I’ve done a pretty good job in creating that type of environment, both online and offline.
The success of a group like this doesn’t happen through just one person, and while there are many people I can mention, I’d like to especially single out Jeff Hertlein, who created the logos for the group.
These logos have done so much to establish the New Media Cincinnati brand online.
A “newer” group
When I recently learned that someone else had created a “Newer” Media Cincinnati presence on Twitter, I checked it out and initially thought it was hilarious and interesting. I even reached out to see if there were any collaboration opportunities.
Well apparently the individual behind this group would have nothing of it, referring to the “newer” group as an elite one. I wasn’t sure if they were joking or not, but I was okay with playing along.
Then I saw that many of the updates became targeted in an attempt to ridicule, and demean things I’ve been doing. Even further, since this individual has taken the logo Jeff Hertlein made for the group and added upon it, it’s no wonder that many have become confused. It would appear that the “New Media Cincinnati” brand is being undermined.
In an effort to clear up confusion, I’ve spent some time engaging people directly through private messages on Twitter, to let them know that this other account is in no way related to me and the group I run. To some, it was a surprise since they had been confused. To others, it was no surprise. All were grateful.
The individual hiding behind this other account has gone at lengths to publicly mock what it is I do through the Twitter account. I have been “called out” for being a “poser”. This individual likes to point out that I currently don’t have a job, which is true. I, like over 10% of the working population in Ohio, don’t currently have a job. I’m working on that.
Some say I should let this go and just admit that criticism is going to happen. I’ll accept that to a point. It appears that this person, who has the ability to stop receiving updates from me by simply clicking an Unfollow button on Twitter, instead wants to take what I am saying and who I am and twist it into something stupid.
The individual behind this account has crossed the line, as evidenced by many others who are telling me they are trying to get as far away from this person as possible.
Because these comments have been targeted at me personally, I have wondered if there was something I’ve done to make this individual upset. If that is the case, I would really like to do what I can to reconcile or at least understand where this person is coming from.
Different approaches to building community
So, I see two very different ways of building community at work. On one hand you have someone hiding behind an online presence, tearing other people down. This person creates confusion by repurposing another group’s brand identity. Harassment and impersonation. Division. What does it say to you about someone who can simply unfollow someone on Twitter but instead looks for ways to be critical? What does it say about individuals who align themselves with someone like that?
That’s certainly one approach to building community. Some would say this is the “newer” approach.
Then you have another approach. I have openly shared who I am and what I’m about. What you see online is basically what you get when you meet me in person. You can choose to follow or not; it doesn’t matter. I want to be useful, but I’m also using social media for my own purposes. If it’s not for you, fine.
I began having New Media Cincinnati community planning conference calls a few months ago to help clear the air and talk about what’s working well and what we can do better. This group remains open to anyone interested in the social media space.
Which type of community do you prefer?
[photo credit: Day 323: Come Together]
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