Friday, March 26th, 2010
Yesterday I was able to attend the Edmonton IABC’s half-day social media conference ‘Connecting the Dots’, in part as a participant and in part in a slightly more ‘official’ capacity as a representative from my company Redengine, which sponsored the event. I spent most of the day live-tweeting on Redengine’s Twitter feed using the #IABCyeg hashtag.
First up was a keynote from George Siemens, a high-level definition of social media and how it impacts PR and communications professionals. Trying to define social media is always an interesting challenge for me in my client presentations, but I’m particularly fond of the way George Siemens defined it as “a shift from broadcasting to conversation, from telling to engagement”, and how he spoke about moving from the ‘.’ era to the ‘/’ era (as in ‘company.com’ to ‘twitter.com/company’). This statement is particularly good at calling out how many people (especially in my generation) are now looking for companies and brands to communicate with them on their terms in their own spaces; people want to engage with business on their own terms. George’s slideshow is up on slideshare, and definitely worth a look.
Next up was Mack Male and the City Centre Airport debate social media case study, something I was following during the summer and somewhat familiar with, but it was interesting to hear Mack talk about it, especially given he was one of the driving forces behind the Not My Airport campaign. It was great to hear Mack champion blogging: some of the new social media forms get a lot more coverage right now, and platforms like Facebook and Twitter have great value, but to me nothing beats the kind of great, ‘real-life’ content ordinary people are creating all over the world in blogs. He also gave voice to the idea that you don’t always have to create ‘new’ spaces or tags for discussion: a lot of discussions are already taking place, and it’s usually better to join them rather than start new ones or try and shift the party to a new local. Find the enthusiasts and point to them rather than try to herd them. If a hashtag or group already exists, use it!
Mary Pat Barry presented the Edmonton Stories case study. Edmonton Stories is a fascinating example of user-generated content and crowdsourcing, and while I haven’t had the opportunity yet to browse through the stories they’ve collected it’s something I’m definitely going to do after hearing more about it. It sounds like they tried to get an honest (though over all positive) view of Edmonton, and have tried to include as broad a range of personal experiences as they could. Some people may thing the staff stories ‘skew’ the content, but to me it’s important to seed content and help users understand what you’re looking for when you crowdsource online.
After the break was a panel discussion featuring editor Karen Unland from the Edmonton Journal, Norman Mendoza from Redengine and Seek Your Own Proof, blogger Dave Cournoyer, and Edmonton business owner Chris LaBossiere.
As an interesting twist, behind the panelists was projected the live Twitter #IABCyeg conversation, and as a result most of the discussion was very Twitter-centric. Because of it, the discussion actually kicked off with several questions about the etiquette of tweeting and live-tweeting, whether or not live-tweeters multi-task effectively, and what the value of having the online conversation in tandem with the panel conversation was. There was a lot of commentary both in the room and on the screen (by people in the room and outside it), and it was interesting to see how the rest of the discussion played out on Twitter behind the panelists after; I wonder if any minds in the room were changed?
There was also a lot of discussion about controlling social media (and the fact that you really can’t, and if you try then you’re doing it wrong), and controlling social media use in a work environment. Mack tweeted this, which has always been a strong personal philosophy of mine when it comes to the things I say and post online: if I’m not comfortable with the entire world — including work, clients, and family — knowing and reading something, then it doesn’t get posted online.
Really great event in a great venue, and I met some interesting people. I’m going to try and go to the Social Media conference at Athabasca University in September if I can.