Posted by Rebecca Snyder
In this week’s readings, I made a connection between Howard Reingold’s talk of “Net Smart,” Scott Kushner’s article, Read Only, The persistence of lurking in Web 2.0, and my personal business – specifically my Facebook Live Videos. Kushner says that, “…Consumer habits research reveals that a wide swath of the social media user base lurks: these users read, watch, and listen to content, but they do not contribute any of their own.” Reingold reminds us of these “invisible audiences” of which we must always be aware (p.235). In my business, I am acutely aware of the invisible audience or the lurkers. When I hit the live button, I can literally watch my viewer count go up and down throughout the live show. Often I will have lots of conversation moving in the thread, but it will be the same handful of people responding to me and corresponding with one another during the live video. I may have 40 viewers, but only 10 people talking. And of those 40 viewers, very few will remain constant throughout the video. Many will click on and off of the video to do other things on the internet (or offline); some will simply tire of the live video content and leave prematurely. Lurkers may feel unsure of what is going on in the video and prefer to watch quietly so they do not ask any questions that seem silly or insignificant. I have built a group of viewers that are very accepting of new faces, but that have also gotten to know one another on a personal level and that choose to Facebook friend one another outside of my videos. I am sure that can be intimidating to those who lurk – but I count on the interaction between those connected viewers during my lives!
Why I Work to Increase Viewer Interaction – and How
Facebook operates on a series of algorithms and one of those is that live video interaction/participation directly correlates to how much exposure Facebook gives your video. Kushner says, “At the end of the day, it is still the eyeballs that matter to Facebook. In this case, participation becomes ornamental, and the forms of easy participation that today serve as gateways to increased participation may sink into platforms’ ever more sophisticated boxes of content-targeting tools.” Reingold says that, “if you tag, favorite, comment, wiki edit, curate, or blog, you are already part of the Web’s collective intelligence” (p. 148). Later, he reiterates, “Participation can start with lightweight activities such as tagging, liking, bookmarking…then move to higher engagement…” (p. 249). While I realize that people have many reasons for only watching (or lurking) on my videos, I try to stimulate these passive forms of interaction by often calling on my viewers to click the hearts when we open an oyster. I may say, “Give *insert name* some love and let’s see what color she gets for that gorgeous Caribbean Shore bracelet! Start those hearts!” Sometimes even the most passive lurker will add to the anonymous heart collection. Likewise, I discourage mad faces and my admins will block people who come onto my videos giving mad faces as this is often a tactic of trolls to get their buddies onto your videos. They, too, know that interaction drives up viewers.
As an extension of my live videos, I run a VIP Group for my customers/viewers. Joining is completely up to them – I do not put them into this group myself; they must request to join. During days that I am not live, I (or my admins) will put up interaction posts – for the sole purpose of eliciting interaction from my group. It is a tool to keep my followers interested in me and what I am doing; I am showing my active members that I have not disappeared just because I am not on a live party. I am also working to bring my lurkers out of hiding (on the live videos) by getting them more comfortable in the VIP group first – as it has proven to be a less intimidating, slower-paced setting. Here is an example of an interaction based post that was amazingly successful! You likely see these all time on Facebook whether in a friend’s feed or on a business page.
And notice that, just as Reingold suggested, I am not only asking my customers to participate, but I am showing a “reciprocating cooperation” (p. 149) by responding to each comment they make on my post, in some way. I am furthering the interaction by interacting back. I never realized how important that small detail was until I joined the VIP page for a very successful make-up gal. She would ask a question and hundreds of people would respond, but she never uttered a word. It was obvious that she was not trying to connect with us but simply working to keep the algorithms ever in her favor. It is a delicate dance to make Facebook like you by keeping your viewer responses up while also making sure to not seem like you are posting ONLY to keep your viewer responses up.
My Rule Looks a Little More Like 60-20-20
Kushner brings up Neilson’s work on participation inequality and his idea of a “90-9-1 rule” and describes it as being “where 90 percent of users lurk, nine percent ‘contribute from time to time’, and merely one percent ‘participate a lot and account for the most contributions.'” In my personal experience, I have more of a 60-20-20 rule. 60% of my nightly viewers tend to hop off and on all night, never speak, and mostly just help to make up my viewer count. 20% of my viewers actively participate by commenting on the pearls during my live videos and placing orders with me which forces them to speak in the live feed as they choose their oyster and answer any questions I may have about their order. The other 20% are my tried and true viewers. These are the core of my business as they are the ones who will share my videos often, talk back and forth to one another, click the hearts for me if they see the viewer count go down, open an oyster to get the party going, and purchase from me almost nightly. These are the people that I count on completely. If you average that out – I keep around 40 viewers per night. The math says that 24 of those viewers are passive lurkers, eight are contributing from time to time, and eight count for the majority of the contributions.
A Little Appreciation Goes a Long Way
After reading “Net Smart,” I have realized that I am doing a lot right in terms of networking. I have always found that the best way to increase participation on my videos and in my group is to give my viewers and customers a reason to interact. The simple/fun posts help keep the thread boosted to the top of their news feeds and thus keep my VIP group in the forefront of their minds even when I am not live, but that is not enough. Reingold says, “Small talk nourishes trust. Trust lubricates transaction” (p. 251). I allow and encourage my customers to connect with me on a personal level by sharing parts of my life with them. It makes me “real” and thus helps to establish trust with them. For instance, I have talked on my live videos about my oldest son moving away and how hard that transition can be for me at times. I also share my accomplishments with them – making sure to let them know that my business accomplishments could not happen without them! For example, I recently received a gift from my leader for having sales of over $250,000 in 20 months! That is their accomplishment as much as it is mine!
Just as they celebrate my triumphs and tragedies, I celebrate theirs. Some of my customers know that I am a Christian and they will ask for prayers in the video. Many keep in contact with me via Facebook messenger and some have sent me friend requests on Facebook. I try to make sure my interactions are not just organic reach but are personal and connected. Most importantly, showing customer appreciation is key! A little bit goes a LONG way to keep customers coming back and loyal. We all need to feel valued and appreciated.