"Pick people that are suited for their tasks."
That was part of Arianna's answer to my question about building an online community during her recent chat in RIM country -- Waterloo, Ontario. Turns out Arianna epitomizes this by being the architect of The Huffington Post's community, and as part of this ongoing outreach she snake-charmed (OK, inspired) me to write for The Huffington Post.
I thought of Arianna as somewhat of a news lightweight during my days as a TV producer and I wondered whether she was just a celebrity face; come on, someone in her fifties launching an online only service is madness, right? Ms. Huffington, I've seen The Social Network, I'm told I look like Mark Zuckerberg, Mark Zuckerberg indirectly pushed me to launch a startup. Ms. Huffington, you're no Mark Zuckerberg.
The human factor
Listening to Arianna use personal stories of divorce and lack of sleep to indirectly drive attention to sections of The Huffington Post was a charming way in one fell swoop to outline a vision and connect on a deep human level. You are left thinking, hey, I have something in common and stories to share.
Celebs in the online world I've met tend to use lines like, "I would love to stick around but I have to catch a plane," or "I'm all out of business cards."
Not Arianna. She chats and forks out a steady supply of business cards. Even to this skeptic she seemed genuinely interested. She realizes the value in throwing the net out widely, the sonar equipment helps to detect the pools of fish (speaking to select audiences), but it's not much use if you don't release the net widely. A few nice surprises go further than the odd guarantee.
Facebook vs. Huffington Post
Facebook and The Huffington Post have figured out how to grow communities. In the process Facebook redefined net virality, while The Huffington Post took a community approach and developed an audience willing to contribute. The start-up gold rush prospectors are latching on to the Facebook approach, but like others I'm guilty of underestimating the viral effect of a more human approach to long term community building.
Harnessing technology is a given to build a sustainable online community, yet Google squandered an early social networking lead by ignoring Orkut -- too many human parts. Facebook is not as smooth as Google+, but they nailed the community side and over time built great technology. The Huffington Post lacks the polish of the New York Times, nonetheless unlike the Times they are expanding internationally. Le Huffington Post is live and will soon be joined by El Huffington Post.
To my surprise that charming lady with the accent replied to my email (I actually think it was her). Arianna, the charm offensive is complete; I gracefully submit this article.
Mr. Zuckerberg, I met Arianna Huffington, Arianna Huffington spoke to me like a real person, Arianna Huffington charmed me. Mark Zuckerberg, you're no Arianna Huffington.
Follow Stavros Rougas on Twitter: www.twitter.com/StavrosRougas