Last week at lunch, Patrick Rooney and I were talking about the digital divide between the social media culture and the companies looking for ways to join it. We discussed how the lovely social media landscape can look a little unfriendly when you consider it from that perspective. We’ve all seen what social media backlash can do.
The expectation that a company will adapt immediately and seamlessly without error to new culture is unrealistic. You and I didn’t. Did we? What a business moving into social media needs is a way for people get to know them.
Not Every Town Square Needs to Be a Coliseum
The first time I went to London, I didn’t know much beyond the language. Luckily my friend, Richard, met me at the airport that morning. We went to a local eatery — a pub really — and he gave me a quick rundown on the currency and the “rules.” As a saloonkeeper’s daughter, my favorite was Don’t you dare tip in a pub that makes you get your own drink.
Culture. We learn it by sharing it. We pass it along to each other. As communities we build it and shape it together by talking about who we are, what we believe, where we’re going, what we do for a living, what we buy and sell, and what we need, want, and desire.
Piazza, Plaza, Commons, a Town Square, a Quad, the Food Court in a mall, a water cooler, a pub … almost every culture has theirs — a space where people gather for conversations like those.
In Mexico, these ubiquitous areas are called ZÃ³calos. They are just as important today as ever â serving as a home for leisurely chats, special celebrations and neighborhood connectivity. While the most prominent ZÃ³calo is located in Mexico City, smaller ZÃ³calos exist in just about every Mexican community. –ZÃ³calo Group
Not every town square needs to be a Coliseum or an Epcot Center. People meet on the stoops of a side street in New York City.
The biggest worries to companies coming online are fear of negative response, time investment, and skepticism of return. In a culture where the value shift has gone from one-size fits all to one at a time always, every business might try thinking small — smaller starts, smaller steps — but more of them.
Listen and make relationships. Then build something small. Small communities are investments. Small communities grow and as they grow, the business can build a unique culture with them.
Small Communities Grow
To offer value and build community, ICanLocalize has build a sister site, ICanLocalize for Developers and Designers a content site that has grown out of the work on the plugin that drives the translations. I asked Amir Helzer, the owner, why he developed this second site. He said,
I wanted to create a multilingual resource and an active community for people who are using WordPress to build complex websites. So I built Baripedia on a WordPress CMS and ICanLocalize for Developers and Designers.
Here’s the beauty of building by, for, and with the community.
- The proof of his credibility and commitment to the community is in Baripedia, a tourist site about Bariloche, Argentina. Whether they care about WordPress or their next visit to Argentina, the site has value. People can interact with site immediately.
- As the site grows, visitors will be invited to add content, developers will be invited to participate in redesigns, and both communities can be invited to review what has been changed or added over time. The site will grow as the communities grow with it. The questions that arise with managing user-generated content can be staged and considered on their own.
- At the same time, the multilingual site ICanLocalize for Developers and Designers will be built out on WordPressMU. A truly international WordPress discussion on CMS, plugins, design, and development will be available throughout the domain. Again the community will help form and shape the content as it grows.
Everything that ICanLocalize is doing builds the community and the business simultaneously. The community has a compelling reason to participate because the value is there, yet the invitation to add more is always open. And both community sites will bring interest back to the original business site by the way that they naturally feature the skills and expertise of the business that built them for the communities.
As they say, Bariloche wasn’t built in a … few lines of code.
Any business can do this. It’s building a business like we write a blog post. Leaving room for people to come in and add their own ideas, not tying it up with a bow so that all visitors can comment is “good job!”
Twitter. It began with a question, What are you doing? Look at it now. The community interaction made most of that.
ZÃ³calos, Plaza, Piazza
a place where all traffic stops for coffee, conversation, community
How might you add a small community to a business site? What ideas would have for a business like Motrin, or Walmart, or maybe your local book store?
–ME “Liz” Strauss
Work with Liz!!