How to make magic with strangers

The final keynote of this year’s community conference was Lila King, self appointed Participation Director at CNN – the world’s largest channel for news.

Lila King told us about making collaborate news – or magic with strangers – at the online and user driven community iReport, which started in 2005.

iReport is a platform for participating in the CNN news, and the community has just reached 1 million users – or iReporters, as they are called. On iReport, users can post stories, videos, photos or texts. The very first iReport was about a squirrel that was really really hot – not exactly a news breaking story, yet still the beginning of a successful user driven community.

Lila King taught us a few important lessons when engaging with users and communities:

Lesson #1: Be specific about your wants and needs

Lesson #2: Make a promise and take the users seriously

Lesson #2,5: If you make a promise, you have to keep it

Lesson #3: Create lots of ways to participate in the community

Lesson #4: Make a framework for creativity – if you are too specific no one will participate, if you aren’t specific, you just create a lot of noise

Lesson #5: Be ready to turn on a dime – you have to be adaptive to users, changes and needs

Lila King’s main point  is that users will adapt to social tools and make them work in the specific moment that they themselves need it. Therefore, iReport is not just about generating news, it is also about generating loyal users.