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A BrainYard Experiment: Let's Have A Social Conversation

As editor of the BrainYard, a news site about social collaboration in the enterprise, I know I'm supposed to be an expert on this--but how do I get you, the reader, to talk more on and about this website?

11 Management Systems That Can Help You Get A Handle On Social
11 Management Systems That Can Help You Get A Handle On Social
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Community managers and social media marketing mavens, help me out, please.

One of my goals for 2012 is to increase the volume and quality of the social media conversation on and about The BrainYard. That includes getting more activity in the comments on our stories, here on the website, as well as more sharing and liking and tweeting on the social web. Of course, these are the same goals every website has, not to mention every competing Web publication.

I just think we ought to be doing a lot better at being social on a site dedicated to social media. I'm asking for your suggestions, and your critiques.

[ Is it just luck? See Science Probes Why Tweets Go Viral. ]

In particular, I'm disappointed that we don't get more comments on the news and analysis stories that appear on The BrainYard. This story is going to be an exception, right? Tons of comments? Help me out, here.

At first, I thought there might be technical issues with the commenting system, and maybe that was true at some point. That excuse went away when The BrainYard and other sites in the InformationWeek family moved to Disqus, particularly once it was fine-tuned for easy single sign-on from any social media identity. I like Disqus and have used it successfully on other websites, but still I'm not seeing the explosion in comments and profile pictures I'd like to see at the bottom of articles here.

Even when our writers end a column with a request for comments, as Debra Donston-Miller did with her piece on social tech leaders on the Time 100 list, the response is often underwhelming. Why is that? Comment below, please.

Possibly, we should be doing more to invite readers to talk about what they want to talk about -- not necessarily just in the form of comments on stories.

A few months ago, Ted Hopton, community manager for our parent company UBM, had me read the book Online Community Management for Dummies by Deborah Ng. Although the title didn't suggest a lot of confidence, it was a good primer, and I read it in a weekend. It gave me a better understanding of the job of nurturing and moderating comments, but I'm still working on how to translate that into action.

At one time, we discussed creating a more active online community, aimed at fostering conversation that would go beyond just comments on our own articles. Our most ambitious plans, which involved fielding a public Jive community, have not come to pass -- partly because I recognized that trying to take on the community manager job in addition to my editorial duties probably was not a recipe for success. It sounded more like one of the case studies I've written about what not to do.

Instead, I've been trying to stir up some conversation on The BrainYard's Facebook page (see below).

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Rosemary ONeill
Rosemary ONeill,
User Rank: Apprentice
4/23/2012 | 6:10:34 PM
re: A BrainYard Experiment: Let's Have A Social Conversation
The cobbler's children have no shoes, right?

One thought I have (since I'm a frequent reader and infrequent commenter) is that the site feels like a broadcast channel, not a community. No faces of members popping up, and if I go to your Twitter feed, it's pure broadcast channel, no replies or mentions at all. It feels very robotic. No one wants to sit down and have a rousing convo with a robot. I'd loosen the tie a bit. Just my two cents, thanks for asking :)
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