What should community engagement look like?

It’s been a rough and busy few weeks on the internet for the audio fiction community, huh. We’ve had some conversations where I think we were, at the very least, diplomatically disappointed. And it’s been in general a super busy couple of weeks for new shows and brilliant new episodes! I also want to remind you about the fact that we found a new way to share our love of audio fiction and audio drama: #audiofictionlove (or #audiodramalove, I’m not here to terminology police). A lovely time was had, I think, by all, and I highly recommend going through the tag to see people saying wonderful things about audio drama creators.

Today is what you may know as TIDU Tuesday — Tuned In, Dialed Up podcast releases their episodes every other Tuesday, and this week, I’m a guest host! And because of this episode about engaging community, I want to spend this newsletter briefly thinking critically about how we all, listeners and reporters and creators alike, engage in community and social media spaces.

I don’t create a podcast, but I interact heavily with creators on Twitter and other forms of social media. Since my role is twofold — listener and reporter — I have to tread the line of remembering that my tweets are endorsements and reviews in and of themselves. Thinking critically about the way Twitter, in particular, works, is one of my many past-times when I should be doing something else. Twitter is an active and quick space; due to certain other social influences, it’s become one of the most important platforms for promotion of products and ideas. But it means that when controversy arises — the TIME article, for instance, which I won’t be linking — we need to respond quickly, logically, relevantly, and kindly (or rather, these are requirements for my own responses; kindly can be switched with diplomatically depending on what exactly I’m doing, and dropped entirely depending on what we’re talking about). That’s a lot of balls to keep juggling in the air, especially if you want some time to digest what’s being said and structure your response. Basically, social media is hard, and I’m firmly of the belief that talking about how to use it in the best and most positive way can help everyone.

So when it comes to being a culture reporter on social media, being a listener or consumer is their job, but what about creators?

I think that being a consumer is also part of their job.

If you know me at all, you’ll know that I’m a huge advocate of participating in your community space. That means, if you run a podcast, I want to see you recommending other podcasts or talking about what you’re listening to. Other podcasts aren’t your competition! They’re your colleagues. If you’re kind to them, and if you support your fellow podcasters, they’ll do the same in turn. But also, consuming the media that you participate in is, not just good business sense, but creative sense. Other people have ideas or expertise that you don’t, and listening to their work can get your creativity flowing or help you with networking so that you can engage a future listener or even participant in your podcast.

But we all have to engage responsibly. No creator should be expected to produce a podcast without any ads  — they are providing us with delightful audio fun for free. Making a podcast is not easy and not actually free; even if creators are gifted the microphone and hosting fees, talented at audio editing in free programs, and able to do what they want with only themselves and unpaid friends, their time is still worth money. So don’t email or tweet at them saying that you hate that they’re including ads now; artists need to eat. (I am, however, perfectly fine with people commenting on how the ads are deployed, because that’s an art in and of itself).

Similarly, no fan is an island — they talk to each other, and they talk to creators, and they have headcanons, and they have fan spaces. Knowing where to tread that line of engaging with your fans and not stepping on their fan space and telling people how to enjoy your work is also a difficult line to walk. Remember that the creator, a human being, interacting with a fan’s or a listener’s social media commentary is different than the brand or podcast account interacting with a tweet or a post.

What are your thoughts on social media as a platform for promotion and engagement? Do you interact differently with your community? What’s your favorite form of community engagement — specific hashtags, or days of the week to talk about something particular, something else? Like many of the topics we tackle in Casting Light, this is another thorny issue, especially once you think about very famous or heavily monetized podcasts and the way we expect those kinds of semi-celebrity names to act on social platforms.

This essay was originally published in Audio Dramatic Issue #8, June 19 2018.