Don’t Make Assumptions (The Power of the Link)

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Good Question. mikecogh/FlickrThe link is what makes the Internet work. It’s an essential part of creating content, written or otherwise.

It allows you to provide evidence for your “side” or at the very least demonstrate how you arrived at your conclusion. It’s also how most folks discover what you’ve written after you’ve clicked on “publish.” It’s an underlying principle of tackling the third agreement, Don’t Make Assumptions.

Two common assumptions I’ve encountered involve not believing you need to link to anything else and the notion “if you post it, they will come.” Let’s tackle them.

Yes, linking matters

The video below of NYU journalism professor Jay Rosen explains this “ethic of the link” and its importance – not just for journalism but for blogging:

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RIMB9Kx18hw?w=625]

The ethic of the link (& the web for that matter) demonstrates the power of research and connectivity. It is also a chance to spread ideas. Jeff Jarvis best describes this as covering what you do best while linking to the rest.

If there is any distinction between blogging and journalism, it is in how they allow this ethic to affect their approach. The journalist doesn’t have to go back and re-write background for a piece if they so choose; they can focus on what’s changed by connecting to what’s already been shared (even if it’s been created by someone else).

A blogger can reference a post or article, enabling them to make their point by simply inserting a link, embedding a video or audio clip, or including a photo or twenty. It allows them to focus on expressing their perspective and places their proof – and a door to a new idea – just a click away.

Regardless of what you’re hoping to accomplish, the link becomes an important part of completing the mission. It helps the web of information to continue to grow, enabling them to explore and stumble upon things they weren’t expecting. If you didn’t watch that video I embedded above (& you should), Rosen refers to this as creating a web of connection. Without it, some assumptions about stories out there can be allowed to fester – and that wouldn’t be a good thing at all.

Just because you post it doesn’t mean they’ll come…

It’s also easy to assume that once you publish your post, folks will come. One of the reasons I use third-party commenting systems is because they facilitate the sharing of thoughts with social networks while providing a link to the material that influenced the response in the first place. It’s not like they can’t do that on their own anyway, but it doesn’t hurt to make it easier for them. It also doesn’t hurt to figure out how you want to get the word out that you’ve shared a new piece of work for consideration:

  • Who do you want reading this?
  • Where do they normally “hang out” online?
  • Is an easily accessible RSS feed necessary for the audience?
  • Do you launch an e-newsletter to push new posts out?
  • How do you collect all of the email addresses? (hint, ask for their permission to be added)
  • Do you set up a presence on all social media platforms or just where your focus audience lives?
  • Will you simply share the link or will you frame the potential conversation depending on the social network?
  • Do you share links to every post on every network? Do you stagger your frequency?

This is where that site policy I suggested in yesterday’s post comes in handy. We’ve got to remind ourselves most people don’t operate on our schedule and that even having answers to the questions posed above and using them to craft a plan won’t guarantee success. Assumptions don’t do most folks any good. The best way to combat those negatives may in fact be by not assuming in the first place. Links help – mostly.

Something else to remember is the importance of listening (hence the photo chosen for this post). I’ve noticed through the years that listening helps you avoid making assumptions more times than not. You’ll learn as much from what you’re not hearing as you will from those who feel obligated to share their thoughts. It may also help you decide what needs to be shared and how – both extremely important in the battle against assumptions.

Tomorrow, we wrap it all up.

Photo: Good Question. mikecogh/Flickr

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