Community is absolutely necessary if you want to grow your content online, but I think some people allow too much community involvement. You might be letting the wrong people control too much. I was recently reading a post on Marketing Profs by Matthew Grant, and he threw out a very insightful quote about business:
“Everybody should have a voice, but not everybody should have a vote.” – Tom Fishburne
In the business world, this absolutely makes sense. The CEO of your company needs to be a leader, making the hard decisions and guiding the team. It’s important to build a team of employees you trust and to value their opinions, but ultimately, it’s up to you to have final say on everything. Everybody should have a voice, but not everybody should have a vote.
Why shouldn’t the same be true of your blog, podcast, or web series/videos? You can call yourself by whatever title strikes your fancy, but you’re the CEO. It’s time to take control of your content.
Listening to Your Community
Before I tell you why you shouldn’t do everything your community wants you to do, let me make it clear, that just like Tom and Matthew, I agree with the idea that everyone should have a voice. Your community members are comparable to your employees in this way – it makes sense to listen to what they have to say. Here’s why:
- Community members can be extremely creative and can come up with awesome ideas for your blog.
- You might believe your community feels one way when they, in fact, do not, and this can shape the kind of content you produce.
- If one community member complains about something, it probably means there are others also having problems but not being vocal.
- Sometimes you’re too close to your content to see problems.
- Listen to your community – and interacting with them – is fun!
So yes, definitely listen to your community. Just be selective with the advice you take.
The Dangers of Crowdsourcing the Decision Making Process
Sometimes, it can be really cool to allow your community to make a decision for you. For example, some travel bloggers let everyone vote on where they’ll be traveling next. But most of the time, leaving an important content decision in the hands of your fans is a recipe for disaster. Why?
- They might vote for something as a joke or because it is the worst decision. Remember the American Idol Vote for the Worst movement? It’s still going and apparently covers more than just AI at this point.
- Your audience doesn’t care about your content. Well, they might, but not the way that you do. Their livelihood and futures aren’t tied to it the way yours are.
- Community members will vote for the option that’s best for their needs, not for the needs of the entire community or your content in general.
- People don’t always know what they need or want until you give it to them.
- When people feel passionate about something, they try to persuade others to vote the same way, even if those community members might not care. If you open voting to everyone with a public poll, they might even get non-community members to vote.
- If you open it up to voting and then don’t do what your community says, you’ll have a riot on your hands worse than if you never opened the decision at all.
- Your community members are probably thinking about what’s best right now, not what will be best long term.
- Your community members probably won’t think about the cost of a decision since they don’t have to pay for it.
The bottom line is that your content is your responsibility. What your community has to say does matter, but only to a point. Ultimately, you have to take control of the situation and make a final decision.
If you’re interested in learning more about both content and community management, check out our upcoming conference in Las Vegas. NMX 2013 is shaping up to have awesome education in both areas!