What happened when Facebook tried to ban the nipple? And what does this teach us about audience engagement?

Keynote from Allez Hop! A French-German Cultural Entrepreneurship Summit held in Mannheim on April 4–5. The focus of this event was Digital Futures in Culture. This talk is inspired by Post No Evil, an episode of the Radiolab podcast produced by produced by WNYC, a public radio station in New York City.

What is the future of audience engagement?

I’m going to refer to some of these projects, or let’s call them experiments, that we’ve helped to develop, to address the topic — what is the future of audience engagement? That’s a big question. So right away, I admit, there is no single answer. Well, even if there is one, I’m certainly not in a position to give it to you. However, I do feel there are three goals that all of us should have in mind when thinking about audience engagement. I’m going to introduce them today.

Who is this audience?

But first, let’s start with a basic question — Who Is This Audience? In this era when everyone is online, connected to each other and has access to information at their fingertips all the time.

The company created a rulebook for its 2.2. billion users. These rules were redundant almost immediately when they came into play.

The company created a rulebook for its 2.2. billion users. These rules were redundant almost immediately when they came into play. It created exceptions to these rules, which communities began to exploit. Then it developed sub-categories using a false logic model. All of this led to the demonisation of 50% of the population — women. Even though men have nipples too.

Why is chaos a recurring theme?

We see examples like this all the time — massive generalisations, outrage, demonisation, endless arguments and sometimes — fatal consequences.

Can people see themselves in your story?

We were working with the Head of Communications from a division of a German automotive company. The division was going to launch a project that was going to be… you guessed it, disruptive. So they told the story of this disruption internally to the organisation and to their customers. It was a pretty cold, hard story full of buzzwords — data, dashboard, mobility.

How do you know if you’re inclusive… or not?

How can people see themselves in your story? Or in other words, how do you know if your audience engagement strategy needs to be more inclusive? Here’s a simple test. At your next team meeting, look around you. Do you see a version of yourself reflected in everyone else? Or have you ever used the phrase — hard to reach — when you’re talking about the audience? That’s when you know there’s work to be done.

Img src: https://www.nordiskamuseet.se/cosplay

So what can we do?

That brings me to my last point with regards to the 3 goals we should have when developing an audience engagement strategy. Perhaps, this point also reflects a question that many of you have now. Fine — we can be more inclusive and we can take the time to learn new rules of engagement, but what do we actually do?

Should we play a game?

The Economic and Political Weekly is a journal that was setup in 1949. It’s authors range from political activists to Nobel laureates. So there’s no shortage of clever, sharp insights. We worked with them to devise an experiment to talk about a politically sensitive issue to help readers make an informed decision in the run up to the Indian elections that are taking place this year.

Don’t be patronising. Be accessible.

In conclusion, I would like to reinforce these three goals that we should aspire to when thinking about audience engagement — be inclusive. In order to do so, discover who else is interested in speaking with you and take time to learn their rules of engagement. So when you do start a conversation, you won’t be patronising, you will be accessible.

I am interested in the context & values of our Digital Identities.