Over the years, the Readathon has proven itself to be an exercise in awe. Admiration at how wonderfully powerful and good-hearted our book community can be. It's also been a lesson in not pleasing all of the people all of the time. At the end of every event I implore Heather not to read the end-of-event surveys until at least a week out when we're less mentally and emotionally fried...oh, and sleep deprived. And she always reads them anyway. The last few Readathons I haven't read those surveys at all...gleaning participants' points of complaint only from what we discuss between ourselves and with our steadfast volunteers when we're making notes and pondering what we'll edit when the next event comes around.
We changed cheerleading this time around in an attempt to focus efforts on those places online that have grown up into natural, organic meeting places. Platforms like Twitter and Instagram are ripe with #Readathon posts. It's easy to find the community there.
The same thing has happened with Goodreads and Facebook. Those self-contained communities function like their own little ecosystems of engagement.
The biggest complaint we saw from the beginning of this event was from the blog contingent...people upset that cheerleaders would not be herded toward their blogs to comment. Over our tenure as organizers, we've seen the cheerleader numbers hold somewhere between 70 and 100. And our participants list as a whole has grown from 400 to 2,000.
Newsflash: the days when cheerleaders could physically visit your blog and comment are over. There is nothing we can do about it.
Even with the switch to official cheering on Twitter, it's damn near impossible. I personally used myself, amidst all the other things I needed to do yesterday, as a guinea pig to see what was possible to achieve. I pre-scheduled 200 fairly personalized cheers. And I still didn't get to everyone on my team twice. I flat out gave up.
The danger in reading the end-of-event survey is the breadth of complaints, and I've heard from a fair number of you that there were real-time complaints about prizes: not enough, too many ebooks. There were complaints about people's Tweets being liked rather than commented upon. There were complaints that there were too many mini-challenges and complaints about not enough.
Someone even told me we should really work on "more engagement." Oh, and complaints about there being too many options.
I realize the complainers are probably only 5-10% of the population, and for that in itself we are grateful. Perhaps I should put on my big girl panties and ignore the negative, but here's the rub...we do our damnedest to make this event a great experience for everyone, and the reality is that adults are complaining with gusto about not getting cheered enough in a virtual event about books. Can we ponder that for a second? Just let that sink in. How entitled can we get?
So here are a few takeaways...
- If you want the community, go out and be part of it. Don't expect to sit back and have hundreds of people flock to you with praise and perkiness if you haven't bothered to plug in or reach out.
- Prizes are icing on the cake. Stop complaining about those full stop.
- Be the change. Want to see something happen? Volunteer.
It's kind of ironic. I'm always the PR person telling Heather, "Let's just smile and forget it. Just walk away from your computer. We'll take what we can use and leave the rest."
And here I am...the one setting the place on fire while Heather is sleeping across the country. The one telling the masses...no one owes you anything. Are you in this for the community or the pageviews? (Heather said that first.)