We had an interesting social media discussion on Plurk today (now known as a Plurkshop) that raised a lot of questions. There were many participants in the quickly shifting conversation, including Amber Naslund, Connie Reece, Tim Jackson, Beth Harte and Mack Collier. The conversation started by talking about managing conversations across different platforms (Amber has a great wrap-up here), but along the way, the conversation shifted and changed. One of the questions that was raised concerns the objectives of social media — how do you use/activate social media and why. The answer depends on where in the media spectrum that you sit.
At the far end of the blogging spectrum, there is the lone blogger who is writing for their own enjoyment — the diarist. Then comes the activist or even passionate brand evangelist. In the centre is the Careerist — the blogger who writes as a demonstration of their skills and expertise. Next comes the "expert" blogger who writes about their area of knowledge. Then there is the corporate blogger which is written from a business perspective. Professional bloggers can roam across any or all of these categories (and I am sure there are many others). But each of these bloggers will have their own objectives ranging from the personal to the professional — but there is something that they have in common — a desire to create a community.
Even the most strident blogger will gain some kind of pleasure from having their material read. They will love a comment here or there. They will thrill to a rise in subscriptions. Why? It is about community. In many ways, we build our world around opposing forces — our friends and our enemies. We can have a community that encompasses both.
So, is building a small community, or readership worth it? Clearly it is. Those blogs with a handful of readers/commenters will only continue as long as there is some form of value exchanged. But even the most personal of blogs may, at some point, become a money making venture. Take for example, the story of Lucas Cruikshank who has built a formidable YouTube subscriber base. At first instance, you can wonder what can drive a 14 year old to write, produce, star in, and distribute a series about a six year old — but clearly, in doing so, Lucas has opened opportunities for himself and his family (while at the same time building his own skills and experience).
You may not start with the aim of turning your social media/content into a business, but once a community forms and achieves a critical mass, opportunities will be pulled into your gravitational field. This is, perhaps, the great leveller of social media — the traditional barriers to entry in media are related to reach and production cost. Both are dramatically lowered thanks to social media.
After all, with social media, it is not where you start that is important. It is the journey, and the story that you tell (or allow to be told) along the path.