conversation is an engine

A lot can happen in a conversation

Verbatim: Tell Other People’s Stories

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In which I learn from my students

We see better together

We just finished our Social Media Marketing class at Northwestern College. One of my favorite assignments was when the students critique their own social media efforts: their Facebooking and Tweeting and especially their blogging. Each student established their own direction at the beginning of the class complete with written goals and objectives. All for the purpose of establishing a community in just a few short weeks.

Students learn great lessons. They learn about how details and minute specificity can help their work be found by search engines (that is, by people using search engines). There is always a moment of triumph when they get their first non-class participant. They learn that a number in a headline pulls in readers. They learn how commenting on other people’s work is another way of polite conversation that also helps expand their reach. Of course I am being reminded and learning afresh all the same things. My favorite learning this time:

“I began by writing about what interested me, but I’m learning to let my audience guide the topic choice by what they comment.”

This is a mature understanding. She went on:

“I’m realizing that this blog is not about what I know and can provide, but about what the community of writers can share with each other.”

Writing our commonality has a way of inviting others in. It is a way of telling a story together. We talked about “psychic income,” which we defined as the intrinsic reward we get from helping someone else and how that helps others participate to build the story and the community.

Her comment also speaks directly against the notion of a self-absorbed generation. Here’s a person learning to put the needs and interests of others ahead of her own. Not that she was any more self-focused than any of us: we’re all struggling to fathom how to set aside our personal, angsty issues to see what’s going on in others. Telling other people’s stories is precisely the beginning of drawing together a community.


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