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How to use Technology to Create a Real Community


How to use Technology to Create a Real Community

(Featured in the May 2014 Issue of The International Percussive Arts Journal)

So many people have found a link between technology and reaching larger groups of people with their topic of choice. People Blog, Tweet, Instagram, and create massive groups on Facebook to name a few. All of these “technological tools” provide an instant audience. People seem to enjoy having an audience and we can admit first and foremost some deserve one and others do not. Most importantly, we are all finding ways to use these resources to create community. However, we must also provide a purpose for the type of community and digital environment we want to create.

What is your purpose for using technology? Creating an online community is something I am still learning and bringing into a clearer focus so that I can serve others first. I recently started a new community called for the simple fact that I want to connect with others using technology. More importantly, I want to remain professional so that others will want to collaborate, connect, and create.
Creating a central “hub” means making sure you do not have unreachable bookmarks of information. Gone are the days when we should have our YouTube channel, Twitter account, Facebook page, and Pinterest board (to name a few) sprawled out all over the digital universe. These are great resources, but they do not serve the same purpose as your hub. No hub means no focus. No focus means no purpose.
It is time to create a central hub for all things you do. Digital resumes need to represent who we are with a more accurate scope than just a Facebook page. Most of us try and use all of these great resources to put us on the map quickly, and although Facebook is free, in many cases you get what you pay for. I use Facebook extensively because it brings people together into my community and allows me to join other communities that I would not otherwise have the opportunity to be part of. For example, I love seeing high school students join my “Ethos of Music” group and connect with people who are like-minded. This is good example of helping others through community.
Another example is how drastically things have changed through the creation of online communities. Ten years ago, many who ascended to the top of their field by creating an award winning clinic or presentation for a massive convention had every reason to be on cloud nine. At the time, this level of success only offered the chance to reach a few thousand people. Today however, you can create and post high quality videos on a variety of topics and receive thousands of hits in only a few months.
Originally, I started creating videos to help students who could not afford lessons on topics I am comfortable with and that I feel are valuable in percussion education. My goal, however, is not to accumulate “likes” or comments to feed my ego. This simply is not my focus. In fact, by turning off the comment option and the “like” button on every video I post, I am able to eliminate those extrinsic distractions. I firmly believe if you spend time trying to please everyone you will quickly find yourself pleasing no one. In addition, it is important to be aware of people out there in the digital universe that thrive on negativity and have no interest in building or being part of a community. Turn your comments off. You will live life more peacefully in your online community.
So where are we and where are we going? Here are a few guiding tenants to these questions:
• Define your purpose for connecting with others. People will find you online if you have content that is accurate, clear, and unpredictable.
• Make your community personal in some way. Web pages can be packed with text, but how about a personalized welcome message that just says hello? When you first meet a client or even someone in public, no one wants to be handed a dissertation to read. It all starts with, “Hello, how are you?” and thanking your audience for taking the time to listen. This is important because online you are one person in a sea of millions and a point and click away from being forgotten.
• Accept that most of the information on the internet can be over thought or have an unclear purpose. I stick to one major rule when making a video for posting or sharing: If I am not satisfied with the first take, I do not upload it. This keeps me from being predictable or uploading things that I have no business speaking about. I also do the same for blogs. If I cannot write it in an hour, than I have no business posting it for the world to read. People in your community will return if they truly feel the combination of your creative spirit and your knowledge of your content area.
• Watch out for “PowerPoint Dependency,” or PPD. Most of us have experienced sitting through a mediocre presentation and knows what it feels like. I am guilty as well. PPD is when a speaker becomes dependent on PowerPoint slides but never allows for a real connection with the audience. They read every word of text and lose the audience in less than 10 minutes. Why the disconnect? Simply, the audience members are not engaged and feel like they are merely being spoken too. As a clinician and presenter, I always have specific topics I want to cover, but I also leave room for the unknown and for the improvisation/creative element to be felt. Tell me I will forget; involve me and I will remember forever.
• Keep things organic. I find myself more interested and more engaged in the presentation of the topic when someone connects with me in a creative way. I can feel it. In a public speaking atmosphere, I try to read my live audience by scanning the room. I imagine them online in a similar way and try to determine what they want to hear as the listener. Sometimes this hits the nail on the head and sometimes it only grabs a few, but it always puts me in an improvisational and creative mindset when connecting with others.
• Lastly, don’t be afraid. Although online communities naturally produce large audiences, I find if I am serious about asking for help, reflecting on my mistakes, and planning for focus and purpose, I can achieve great things. Remember that non-technological communication is still what people crave. I know this to be true even for people who are on Facebook for hours a day. These people need to feel something that connects them to others. Collaboration and community will help us all move forward.
Here is the truth. Human interaction has always been a basic need before the first .com or tweet ever hit the digital atmosphere. Facebook is faceless without people taking the time to chat on the phone or wish someone happy birthday with something more than a Target gift card, even though it is a great gesture. Happy community building! Purpose On!

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  1. This idea sounds like it may have come from a discussion at Apple, Inc. when they were designing the Icloud concept. Steve Jobs would want you on his team.

    • That is an awesome compliment! Thank you so much!

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