Saturday saw a great panel come together to discuss community engagement strategies at the Sheraton in Austin, TX, as part of SXSW.
The panel, entitled ‘Community Engagement Strategies: Rational Debate or Herding Cats?’ (which you can listen to here), was chaired by Fark CEO Drew Curtis and featured Erik Martin, community manager for Reddit and the notorious writer/blogger Tucker Max discussing the ins and outs of community management, with a lot of reference to mainstream media’s constant failure in the area.
Check it out by all means, but the overriding theme was that mainstream media cannot do community management. Max pointed out that although newspaper sites may think they have a flourishing community in their busy comments boards, in reality all they have are “a bunch of trolls screaming at each other.”
Martin added that even if there is genuine debate going on in comments threads, if writers don’t go in and respond to this or change their writing as a result, then there’s really no point.
The old issue regarding how realistically online communities represent their ‘real life’ counterparts came up again, with a debate over the use of real names versus pseudonyms, with Martin supporting certain areas use of anonymity, while Max wholeheartedly agreed with naming and shaming, saying oh-so-eloquently:
“Everyone’s brave to my computer screen, but people aren’t saying that shit to my face.”
Although there were many different tangents within the hour-long discussion, with questions from the floor dominating the second half, the message was clear: traditional news organisations and community management don’t mix.
Drew concisely put it as so:
“They’re still using the same top-down model of ‘we’re delivering this to you, come here and talk about it’.”
No solutions were offered either, with Drew concluding:
“It’s too late for mainstream media. If it’s broken already, you probably can’t fix it.”
So they’re the main points boiled down to a small blog post (oh, and Max managed to offend the whole audience by suggesting a majority of them were autistic), but I urge you to check out the whole discussion, it’s pretty lively.
From the panel’s comments, it leaves me with the question: If mainstream media companies can’t do community management properly, does this mean it something journalists can do at all?