Where’s The Community?

Lauren Fernandez

We took away game night in my house growing up because it got too competitive. In a Cuban household, you have the short temper and the ‘always want to win’ mentality. We did away with it because it took away from the family dynamic. Social Media and the blogosphere is starting to point at a typical Fernandez style game night.

Social media can be a selfish space, and it’s starting to reflect in the blogosphere. Who has the best posts, the most comments, who’s publishing the story first – all questions that I hear people chattering about. Before, everyone wanted to learn and engage from each other. It’s still there, but there is also an underlying of wanting to be the best, of always wanting to be first. It’s steering away from what’s best for the community, and steering toward what’s best for the author.

I’ve seen more self promotion than community building recently, and I wonder if the effect has been caused by the competitive blogosphere. Don’t’ get me wrong, many do a great job of incorporating guest blog posts and commenting on others. They know how to balance their own promotion while putting others in the spotlight.

How is it that PR people have turned so competitive in the online space?

Our industry is about being in the background. We put our brands and clients first. We rarely get credit in the public sphere for our work, because it’s the brand work. In a new space, are many trying to get the credit they feel they deserve? Is it a contest – both popularity and a way to make a name for yourself in the field?

The mindset of many has turned from community based to self promotion based, although many are not practicing what they preach. If you e-mail or direct message someone about your post, why not promote theirs? Reach out to others and see what kind of work they are doing. The people that I respect most are the ones that get talked about without shouting their name.

So how can we combat it? How can we continue to engage, and still get our name out there? Where is the balance?

Lauren Fernandez is a marketing and public relations professional in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. She currently works as the marketing coordinator for the national office of American Mensa and its international philanthropic arm, the Mensa Education & Research Foundation. She is a member of the American Society of Association Executives (ASAE) and the Social Media SIG Co-Chair for the Ft. Worth Chapter of the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA.)

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  • prnicolev

    Great post, Lauren!

    I feel the same way. It's so important to find that balance and build a community, as opposed to continuously shouting at people “look at me”. Of course, we all want to have people following us and reading our blogs, etc…but it's important to realize that you're not going to get there without giving to others and promoting others first.

    I was at a social media conference this weekend, IZEAfest, and just about every presenter talked about the importance of giving (instead of trying to receive all the time) in the social media space. Obviously the people that presented were some major thought leaders in the PR/SM space, so they know what they're talking about. I just hope that more people listen to those words and follow those guidelines and continue sharing. In addition, hopefully the people that are just all about themselves will dwindle down and we'll be left with more sense of community!

  • joshuasteck

    Has anyone read this piece from the New York Times some months back? Perhaps just a microcosm of the emerging egos in PR but nonetheless…

    http://www.nytimes.com/2009/07/05/business/05pr

  • laurenfernandez

    I think a lot of people talk about giving instead of receiving, but it can definitely be harder than it looks! Many people have different goals with SM, and if they are accomplishing what they want, why not? At the same time, that balance is going to make you stand out – whether you want to or not.

  • laurenfernandez

    Thanks for pointing to that article, J! Found it very interesting.

  • laurenfernandez

    Money is always going to have a role as a driver – for some its just stronger than others. The economy is definitely playing a role in the competition, and something we need to be aware of.

  • laurenfernandez

    So the mix and mingle might be the balance? I like that analogy a lot M. It makes sense. I think my question might be about evolution, but we are just going to have to see how it pans out.

  • lindazimmer

    You highlight the very interesting tension between learning how to serve one's clients and one's own self-interest in establishing one's self (or agency) in the social media space. It is the tension between celebrity and recognition – between truly practicing a profession versus making it your identity.

    As a very, very old-timer (that hurts to say…) in online communication practices it is sometimes very hard in this environment to keep my head down, stay behind the scenes, and not strive to be out front. Yet that is exactly where my clients need me to be – observing, doing, learning, deconstructing and pushing them from behind.

    However, because many agencies (and companies) are not yet savvy enough about social media to evaluate and translate true practitioner expertise for their business, they look to the most obvious things they can grasp – followers or level of “celebrity.” We really can't blame professionals for wanting to up their likelihood of being hired, promoted or recruited.

    It will sort itself out in time, but I do think the industry has to help professionals sort this out. Because you are right – PR professionals are supposed to be in the background.

    To this point, (I train professionals in social media practices), one of the topics I believe is part of digital or “social media” literacy is understanding the difference between community participation, “fame” (merit) and “celebrity.”

    We're all learning as we go. Thanks for the great post!

  • lindazimmer

    You highlight the very interesting tension between learning how to serve one's clients and one's own self-interest in establishing one's self (or agency) in the social media space. It is the tension between celebrity and recognition – between truly practicing a profession versus making it your identity.

    As a very, very old-timer (that hurts to say…) in online communication practices it is sometimes very hard in this environment to keep my head down, stay behind the scenes, and not strive to be out front. Yet that is exactly where my clients need me to be – observing, doing, learning, deconstructing and pushing them from behind.

    However, because many agencies (and companies) are not yet savvy enough about social media to evaluate and translate true practitioner expertise for their business, they look to the most obvious things they can grasp – followers or level of “celebrity.” We really can't blame professionals for wanting to up their likelihood of being hired, promoted or recruited.

    It will sort itself out in time, but I do think the industry has to help professionals sort this out. Because you are right – PR professionals are supposed to be in the background.

    To this point, (I train professionals in social media practices), one of the topics I believe is part of digital or “social media” literacy is understanding the difference between community participation, “fame” (merit) and “celebrity.”

    We're all learning as we go. Thanks for the great post!

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