Conversation Agent - Valeria Maltoni - PR2.0: Community Expectations and Business Behavior


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Taylor makes some excellent points, which I also discovered in researching the evolution of chat rooms and forums in the field of amateur astronomy (Sept 2009 issue of Sky & Telescope).

I especially agree with the need to support the measurement of outcomes (behaviors) over outputs (clicks). However, don't expect the intermediaries to do this, will need to come from clients and funding agencies.

@Taylor - you make a very important distinction in focus. We should think about creation more and allocation less. Allocating is far easier to measure than creation, which doesn't have a proven or known outcome, yet.

@Brian - I love how, with your story, you helped us progress with you in communities from why people join, why they stay, and how to facilitate that process.


Back in late 2002, I joined an online car community. Back in those days, we called our social media "forums." Forums are still around and I'm still a participant, but they tend to be very focused and specialized. Groupthink has it's ups and downs.

When you start out in a community, you spend most of your time following the conversations of others discussing subjects of interest to you. As your experience increases, you begin to share as well. As you said, Valeria, telling others what you know.

Once you're participating in the conversations, you are what I consider a "member" of the community. You recognize the value obtained from participation and feel compelled to pay it forward, helping others where you can. There are some, however, that I consider "users." These people walk in, get what they need, and walk right back out. For whatever reason, these individuals lack a desire to participate.

Regardless, there comes a point where those who have been around and seen the unwashed masses come and go form a bond with their fellow community members. They see that their participation in this community has gone beyond simply knowing how to work on this one car. Now they have friends in other professional fields located all over the world whom they can tap for information on a number of subjects.

With this new appreciation for what is truly possible through participation in the community, these most senior members begin to tailor their information to not only provide the answers the newcomers seek, but to provide those answers in ways which encourage the seekers to think more in depth. Why do I want to do things this way? Why am buying this performance part? What do I want to get out of my car when I finally complete this project? WHY?

We join communities seeking answers to our questions. Initially, we are only concerned with our immediate needs, but in the best communities, the information is shared in such a way as to foster learning. You need to facilitate those basic answers that bring people in the door, but you need to tailor the information in such a way that it creates a thirst for more UNDERSTANDING of the answers. This all comes from suggesting (sharing) the WHY and HOW with your community.

Give your community an understanding of theory and reasoning and you empower them to contribute. Empower your community to contribute and you will see them take up the torches to promote what is now THEIR community as well as yours.

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