Just me again! So…Why would anyone want to join your social website? It’s a simple enough question I would think. Let me see if I can challenge your thinking as a Ning Creator on it for a bit.
I use the term “value proposition” sometimes because it is more familiar as a social media/ marketing term, but it’s essentially the same thing as a “hook”. The new Ning Help Center has a terrific article on this called “What’s My Hook?” . One of the things they mention though is not to make it all about you. Well… I both agree and disagree with this.
Agree: If you start with an assumption that you can make a social network all about you, chances are you will struggle to keep people coming back every day, posting content, and networking with each other. It is better to carve out a niche that people can buy in to, get involved in for their own sake, and drive engagement among each other without you. It’s a mistake I’m sure Ning has seen time and again not to pan out for creators, and a faulty assumption I see a lot of businesses making too. The common sense rule of thumb is to make it about something bigger than just you- to make it more about the theme and the members of the community.
Disagree: There’s an exception to every rule! I can’t tell you how many Ning networks I’ve been on where I was never personally engaged by the creator. Too many times the organizing idea has been about “community” or whatever “niche”, but where was the simple one-to-one engagement? It’s a deficiency in my mind that many network creators do not put enough value on themselves as a reason to join. While some people fail on the notion they can make it all about them because they are awesome or popular, I think even more lose out because they lack the essential confidence to promote themselves. Actually, businesses can miss out on this too as they are tempted to push technology for automated efficiency when they could be developing superior market intimacy through… yes, networking.
While you might not put much currency in yourself, I’m here to tell you that I do! Everyone matters in a big way. I talk about how easy this is to overlook. I’ll tell a client to build in more transparency, more accessibility, to put a more professional effort behind presenting themselves as a public figure. Now certainly not everyone is positioned to brand themselves as a full-blown online social media personality, but leaning a tad more toward that can be a step in the right direction for a lot of Ning creators who would like to be more successful with their projects.
So how to do this? It’s not hard to find examples. Countless people out there take great care with putting forward a sharp public image. Some go so far as to hire PR agents and marketing firms, but even those can have shortcomings if you want to meet them and can’t connect. No! We’ve got the makings of something better as Ning creators. We are fundamentally set up to network, we can shape our communities to be more than just us, and we can position ourselves in that context to be approachable instead of on some high pedestal.
There are some simple things you can do to present yourself as a bigger part of your hook. At a minimum, use that customizable member profile and put some effort into presenting yourself to the community. It depends on what your site is set up for, but in a lot of cases I think there’s room for a text box with a publicity shot, short bio, or personal message inviting people to connect with you. Think about it- something like that can be more appealing than general information, module activity, or twitter feeds. Just a little personal touch, ambassadorship, and confidence to stand as the face of your network.
You don’t have to go that far either. The standard Ning default “About” and “Created by” can do enough to suggest you might be a reason for joining. There’s an art in presenting “you” as the value, but if you are any good at it, that very well might translate at how good you are at making other members the value.
This is all a lead in to better engagement in my opinion. Appearance aside, the most important aspects are in delivering that value. You bring a lot to the table that can give others much to relate to. Think about all you have to offer on a personal level, as a professional resource, in support of worthwhile social causes, or as a provider of products and services in your community. Next, I’ll be posting a continuation of this discussion on my Ning Creators group A Social Media Dojo. So, if interested, stay tuned for Transitioning Across Different Social Modalities.
And by the way, Thank “YOU”!
I totally agree with the fact that delivering a value is more important than appearance and other tech things, and a gret value is the creator lead. Perhaps Ning should put a link to this article on the "What´s my hook?" section.
Thank you Thiago!
That's a good point. The more "personal" the value offered, the more likely "people" will value it. Technology can open possibilities for us to connect more than we ever imagined. However, if we focus too much on the technology, it's appearance, or the concept of a network, we can end up connecting less than we might naturally do in person.
Nice article and I agree I have not done one thing with my nIng site its straight out the box. But I try to stay engaged with my members and its been working.
Thanks Dex! That got me thinking...
It certainly does depend. For instance, a site on popular culture & celebrities might have all the hook appeal needed, so putting yourself forward too much might detract. That first impression doesn't necessarily need to feature you, and you can always deliver that value by engaging anyway.
Or another example might be a site set up to help people with publicity. Inside the box might be to make that first impression all about them. Outside the box might then be to show them what you can do by example.
I think it also depends on how much you want to be obliged to drive and participate. There's plenty of substance to the idea of minimizing yourself so the community doesn't end up fixated on you. However, if you take yourself out of the picture too much, you might find it more challenging to influence the community in some direction or to get what you personally want out of it. So how you present yourself as part of your network's value can make a lot of difference.
One thing I personally find useful in being a central value of my concept is that my personal brand is a proprietary value. The more generalized niche can become more or less popular, so you could see more effects of competition like other sites investing more into delivering the same value, members seeing no great reason not to move on to the next similar thing, or simply people not having an interest in following you where you want to take it. So the proprietary value of "you" is that nobody can take that away, you can have a more agile infuence that's harder to compete in merely concept with, and if done right every step you take can build more social equity toward what you personaly want out of it all.