What are third places?
A third place is a leveling place. It's where everyone's equal. Think beer gardens. No one cares what kind of watch you're wearing, how nice your shoes are, or what you're drinking (just don't order cranberry juice).
It's more than just a leveling place. It's where crowds gather. They meet to talk. First places (home) and second places (work) can end up isolating us. Third places unite us.
So let me ask you this….
Are you creating a third place?
How are you creating a third place on your site? How are you creating a place where people hang out? How are you creating a leveling spot where every voice has the equal opportunity to influence the crowd?
In the past 8 months I've authored about 240 articles on chrislema.com and over the same time, there's been an average of 10 comments per post. I'm sure other sites do it better. But since this is my experience, I'm going to share with you my strategies for trying to create a third place here on the site.
5 Strategies that have helped me
1. Create opinionated posts.
If your posts lack a perspective, they're just providing data. Data is great for analyzing but it's a poor conversation starter. Opinions are great conversation starters. So write opinionated posts.
2. End a post with a question or call to action.
When you end a post with a question, people are more inclined to respond with answers. Then others, who read the answers may have different opinions/takes. So they may share their take, and presto – a conversation has begun.
3. Reply to comments – especially those that disagree.
When someone posts a strong disagreement in the comments of your post, don't delete it. Accept it. Look for the part that you can agree with (even if it's just the motivation to care enough to write). And then politely thank them for that opinion.
Then, make your case as you respectfully disagree. It will encourage others, and may cause that commenter to write back. Again, a conversation where everyone is equal inspires others to participate.
4. Write comparisons / Make Recommendations
You may know that I try to write some helpful WordPress comparison posts here on my site. When I do that, I bring a lot of information together in a single post. That's helpful. But more importantly, I share my opinions on what's better in which scenarios.
This causes backers and dissenters to come join a debate over my comparisons. Just providing a place for the debate means the beer garden has been created.
5. Tell stories / Highlight Heroes
Stories are easy to consume. People gather to hear them. Ever seen a storyteller in a pub. Everyone circles around to hear.
So get good at telling stories. People will not only read your stories, they'll share them.
Even better than telling good stories, highlight the heroes in your community. As you do it, people will sense that you've created a place that isn't just about you. That goes a long way to help people feel like it's a real third place.
Now, my charge to you
When Ray Oldenburg coined the phrase, third place, he recognized how valuable it was for a community.
If you're writing, if you're hosting a site, if you're trying to gather a crowd – start by developing a community. Do it by creating a safe and special place, a third place, on your site.
So here's my challenge.
When you write a post that follows one or more of these strategies, would you come back and tell me about it in the comments? I want to be able to send people your way to show them your examples.
Now go – and create a third place.