Getting it off the Ground

December 8, 2011 § Leave a comment

As promised, here is part two of the Multiplatform Storytelling seminar hosted by StoryLabs and Screen Australia. Part One: Multi-Platform Story and Game Worlds can be found here.

Part Two: Community and User-Centred Design kicked off with Laurel Papworth presenting Entertaining Communities: Manage, grow, monetise.

Laurel Papworth (Australia) http://laurelpapworth.com/about has been creating and managing online communities for over 20 years. She is CEO of The Community Crew, setting up and managing online communities. Laurel teaches workshops on online community management, social media press releases, Facebook marketing, increasing your Twitter reach, social media monitoring and measurement to givernments, corporations, small business and not for profits in Australia, New Zealand, Asia and the Middle East. (courtesy of printed seminar program)

Before I break down exactly what Papworth covered as part of her presentation, I have to say that a guest lecture from her when we were trying to generate a community for The Pool ‘My Tribe’ project would have been invaluable. As documented here, trying to get a grasp on how to generate and maintain a community was very difficult because we were given the impression that there were few precedents for it. We were just getting our information from uninformed sources, apparently.

Papworth outlined a strategy for building an online community. First of all it is important to understand why someone wants to build an online community. What is their intention? Their agenda? Their core proposition? Then, knowing that, what drivers do you want to use for your community? Drivers are those things that drive people to a particular community. Papworth gave the example of an online backgammon community. She explained that people may say that they’re part of the community because they love the game, but reallythey’re driven to participate in the community because it is considered a dating site alternative. Understanding partipants’ motivations for being part of a community is integral to fostering and managing that community appropriately.

Then you have to think of the spaces and tools available to this community – the forums, facebook pages, newbie and guest areas, prisons and moderator areas etc. Be sure to control the Hub yourself, don’t sign everything over to Facebook because if something goes terribly wrong, there goes all of your good work.

A community has both an identity and influencers. One has to consider reputation management. To join a community you don’t want to have to provide lots and lots of personal information, so don’t ask that of new members. It deters them. Over time, members shift from active reputation management, which is actively preserving their privacy, to passive reputation management and completely forget about the invisible watchers. For example, those who may be doing general searches on Twitter topics, but not specifically following you. Also, if you plan to approach an influencer within a community, be wary that there are internal community politics and some members of the community may not necessarily respond well to that influencer, or in choosing them over another you are potentially limiting your influence. There are politics in all communities.

Papworth then moved on to community etiquette and behaviour. She suggested not telling people how to behave in the FAQ. Behaviour should emerge organically to an extent through display. The right behaviours should be rewarded, rather than the wrong behaviours disciplined. Also, virtual currencies modify user behaviour. The virtual currencies seem less real than money in the real world, and users less wary of parting with it.

Communities have to be entertained periodically because otherwise they can get bored. Papworth suggests implementing campaigns and events to respond to this. Everything needs to be planned and over an extended period. For example, when uploading to Twitter, plan tweets ahead of time so that they are consistent and possible to maintain over a period. Otherwise you can have 20 in a short period and then they just trickle off. Also enforce rituals through practice. Things like ‘please’ and ‘thankyous’, as well as special events over festive holidays.

Papworth did mention she had uploaded the slides to here. Unfortunately, I can’t find the ones she used on the day, but she has some very interesting slides regarding other aspects of online community maintenance and building. Papworth’s presentation was eye-opening to the extent that as a Gen-Yer there is a certain expectation that we know all of this stuff. And I think I had convinced myself somewhat that I do know this stuff. I know social media, online, no worries. While it’s true a great many of us, Gen-Yers know online communities may understand how to act within them, I couldn’t necessarily tell you how to form one, let alone how to make money or go about enhancing your transmedia story experience with such a community. I think a lot of people fall into that trap, not only Gen-Yers, but teachers at universities too. The conception is that if we use it and are part of it, we understand it. No. That’s why people like Papworth are invaluable resources. The fact that she’s a WoW-gamer works in her favour too, earns her some street-cred.

The second speaker of Part 2 was David Varela. In The Big Conversation: Talking and Listening to your Audience in a Post-Broadcast World, Varela compared transmedia projects Xi and Lewis Hamilton: Secret Life, both of which he worked on. In response to the question put to Lance Weiler earlier about not relinquishing all of your control of the story to the users, Varela explained that it is important to consider oneself the guardian of the story.

David Varela (UK) http://www.davidvarela.com is a writer and producer who works across a huge range of media. He produced and wrote global ARG Lewis Hamilton: Secret Life, which ran in 2010 in nine languages for eight months, with live events staged in Africa, Europe, the Middle East and Asia. Prior to that, David wrote and produced the world’s first console-based ARG, Xi. David’s background is as an award-winning writer for theatre, radio and advertising. He has also written several one-off dramas for BBC Radio 4 and BBC7. (courtesy of printed seminar program)

Varela advised against focusing a lot on the platform. It should be about the story first of all, then the technology. Furthermore, putting the technology in the foreground can potentially hamper the story’s spread because not all audiences necessarily have access to the newest technology.

Choose the right platform for the story you want to tell that will enable you to achieve what you set out to.

Before our second coffee break of the day, Anthea Foyer presented When Story Becomes Social and Participatory.

Anthea Foyer (Canada) http://antheafoyer.com/sidebar-menu-parent/about is a creative director, producer, visual and new media artist and curator. She has created, advised and mentored on projects including graphic novels, online narratives, live events, multi-platform experiences, TV and film convergence projects. Anthea is Co-founder and Creative Strategist at The Labs, a consultancy that helps to deliver truly convergent properties that tranform multi-platform challenges into opportunities for creative and commercial success. (courtesy of seminar program)

The problem with a day centred entirely on multiplatform or transmedia storytelling is you start to believe that this method of telling a story is the best for every story. Foyer, however, made a relevant point: platforms should be chosen based on story needs. There should be reasons for making a story participatory otherwise it can feel superfluous, rather than an intrinsic component of the story telling.

Digital media, Foyer explained, is “a platform for human conversation, interaction and creativity.” Digital also allows and lends itself better to targeting “tribes” (people who share a similar interest) than “demographics” (eg. women between 18-35).

Foyer also explained that knowing your end goals at the beginning, before the project is put into action, is integral to its success. Jennifer Wilson, Director of multi-platform media company, The Project Factory explored this in further detail later in the afternoon.

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