Would you like to develop name recognition within your area of interest? I have a few ideas for you. I’ll use dogs as an example but the basic idea will hold up in general.
Start by identifying your target audience: Who might listen to you now? Where do you fit most easily? In the world of dogs, your target audience can vary from pet dog owners, to pet dog trainers, to behavior specialists, to dog sports competitors, etc.
Next, identify your subgroups. Those who use positive reinforcement as their primary method vs other possibilities, agility vs. obedience, folks who tend to focus on emotions vs observable behavior, handler vs. dog as the primary focal point, etc. You get the idea. There are no shortage of target audiences and sub-audience in our world, and it helps quite a lot to know who might be paying attention to you and where you are perceived as a member.
Now observe for a bit and you’ll find that each audience has a culture complete with sacred cows, elephants in the living room, extreme and moderate versions of thought. Know what they are and you can avoid an accidental step into a minefield – or at least choose them with forethought and take what comes in the way of fallout.
Once you know who your audience is, it’s time to pick a strategy for your target audience. With each communication, you have options.
The approach I find least impressive is memes or content which is designed primarily to cement your position as a member of your group – in group signaling. For example, throw up a meme that puts a big red X through punishment based training tools and share it with an audience of positive reinforcement trainers, or a meme that shows fat dogs eating an endless supply of treats and share that with the balanced community. In this way you can create a strong “us” vs “them” mentality and bond to your group – you are one of them. Unfortunately, this offers nothing of value to your group since they are already in agreement with you, creates irritation with those who are not in agreement because of the mindless nature of the content, and, in my mind, is destructive to the industry as a whole.
The next possibility is one of education. Offer value to your target group! Show step by step videos, case studies and approaches that have worked for you and share those as an opportunity for others to learn from as well. There is no downside to this approach if you have correctly identified your target audience, and you’ll have the opportunity to shift the direction of thought within your target groups in the direction that you’d like to see it go – maybe more towards the center or further to the extremes, depending on your perspective. The closer you stay to the center of what is typical for your audience, the fewer people you will annoy (which is good) but the less you will offer in the way of education (they already know what you know). Regardless, it’s an awesome way to get your feet under you while people become familiar with your name.
There is one more approach that I’ll mention because I spend a lot of time exploring the space. If you’re comfortable with some degree of risk from within your own community in exchange for influencing greater behavior change, you can target the sacred cows within any of your communities – and get ready for a bit of fall out. On the other hand, if addressing the elephant in the living room has some appeal to you, then you may feel compelled into this arena, regardless of where that choice lands you.
If you opt for that approach, be aware that each controversial post hits on three possibilities; those who agree 100% and who learn nothing, those who are so irritated that they cannot finish it and who learn nothing (or who leave) and those who you want to reach – the ones who might think it through and come closer to where you’d like to see dog training and thought go into the future.
In summary, put out any content if you want to develop name recognition and a place within the community. Put out quality content that educates if you want to offer something low risk. And if you want to stir up feelings, then put out content that challenges your own community’s sacred cows or elephants in the living room. Stay away from the weaknesses of other communities of which you are not a member because that strikes me as the lowest road of them all.
And a quick side note – if someone challenges me regularly, I’ll look to see who they are! What is their content? Most of the time – there is nothing there at all. Which is worth a thought in and of itself.