Tuesday, August 21, 2012

The Inventor of Social Currency

This post originally appeared on the MeetingsFocus Blog, where Building Blocks Social Media regularly contributes articles about leveraging social media and technology in events.

Based on the articles I have read by Douglas Rushkoff in the MPI One+ magazine, my impression of him was not favorable. I wonder if his strategy is to be thought provoking so he puts forth views on social media that are controversial. After viewing a couple of his sessions from WEC, I realized we actually agree on a few points.

In his session, “Social Currency: Creating Value Instead of Extracting It” Rushkoff claimed to have invented the term Social Currency. I wonder why he hasn’t taken credit for it on Wikipedia. Maybe he was testing us to see if anyone would question that statement. In the spirit of transparency, I think Rushkoff should use a more current picture in his bios and profiles. He might find that more people will trust him if they think he is older than 30.

I like his story about the history of branding: why it was necessary, and how the internet broke it. “Communications are becoming non-fiction again.” Your company (event) has to actually make something and have an authentic story to communicate. This session would have been a good keynote. “Success comes from tweeting about your culture instead of your product.” So, you have to either make something and talk about the story of how your product is made or get serious about CSR so that you have a positive culture to talk about. In case you are new to CSR, Corporate Social Responsibility in a company setting means they treat their employees well and they implement policies to make the operation more sustainable (better for the environment and people in need). If your organization has any of these positive stories, that is the kind of thing that is great for all of your employees to share on their social networks. My opinion on social media policies is: instead of creating a policy that just tells your employees what not to do with social media, help create good content (stories) and tell them how to share it.

There is a dark side to Facebook that people like to forget. Rushkoff reminds us that it is easy to know what the purpose of a tool is by who is using it. Facebook is free for users so they are the product, not the consumers. Most people believe they have a right to use Facebook and they like to complain when Facebook makes changes and yet they don’t pay a dime for this service that lets them stay connected to their family and friends. Many people are starting to realize they can’t hide behind Facebook’s privacy settings and they have transitioned their presence on social media to a more professional one. By the way, it is against Facebook’s terms of service to have more than one profile as an individual, just in case someone told you that was a good idea.

Predicting that most people will make the transition to a more professional presence and include their professional contacts on Facebook, he says “…once you are friends with everyone, what is the point? It just becomes a phone book.” He says it is less fun than it used to be. I have seen that happen with LinkedIn so it is hard to disagree completely with that statement. I believe the key to keeping it fun is keeping it real. If you choose to make your professional presence vanilla instead of including the details from your life that make you unique, then it will get boring.

Rushkoff says Google+ at least has circles so you can share specific content with different groups of people in your life. Facebook actually has this functionality; it just isn’t as easy to use as Google+. This is one reason you should be on Google+ if you are afraid of sharing the wrong information with the wrong people.

What challenges are you having with sharing your authentic story?

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Guest Post: Twitter is the ideal network for face-to-face events

More and more the trend is pushing conferences to involve social media into the mix, not only for marketing purposes, but for on-site attendees to use during the conference. Plenty has been written on how to use Facebook, blogging, LinkedIn, Twitter, and even Pinterest to promote your upcoming conference for your brand - but no need to rehash any of that here.

Which social networks make sense during the actual event? Well, let's see... 

LinkedIn is great for connecting professionally to people in your industry, but it doesn't really facilitate group discussions in a public way for all to see. I use it to connect with people I exchanged business cards with, but I don't see a good way for the whole audience to use it together while in attendance.

Blogging is cool, and can be especially fun during an event to do some live blogging. But usually only one or two people do all the blogging, and there's very little 2-way or group communication. Also, blogs tend to be too verbose, don't you think?

Facebook has the largest user-base (nearly 1 Billion, with a B), but most of the connections are personal/private, so it doesn't really make sense to try to turn it into a public forum for the whole audience to try and use. Also, imaging trying to follow along as the conversations get long-winded. Users can write long paragraphs, which become overwhelming to read.

Pinterest? Erm... honestly, I haven't used it much. Maybe because I'm not the right demographic? ;-) I know that it's growing rapidly, and all the photos could be really nice to integrate into the event somehow, but I don't think it's mainstream enough yet, and I don't understand the best uses of it either. Please enlighten me.

But Twitter? It just seems to be tailor made for face-to-face events:
  • Short messages: You can't be long-winded. Getting to the point IS the point.
  • Hundreds of millions of active users.
  • The concept of a #hashtag is already well-established.
  • Twitter posts are public, so anyone can follow a conversation around a hashtag.
  • There are more and more ways than ever to display event-specific twitter feeds to your audience. See what Refynr.com is doing.
  • It's super easy to take a photo with your phone or tablet and share it on Twitter.
  • Even if you're not at the event, it's easy and fun to follow along virtually.
There may be more effective ways to market events, but don't you agree that Twitter is the best social network to use during conferences? Why or why not?

Aaron Longnion
Founder & CTO

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Social Media Reporters vs. Press

At a large conference made up of my industry peers (Meeting Professionals International’s World Education Congress), I was invited to attend as a social media reporter. There were no obligations; however I was invited to all of the press conferences and a couple of breakfasts for press only. As far as I could tell, the social media reporters were invited to everything that the press was invited to with the exception of one dinner hosted by Disney.

I had never seen the meetings and events industry press in action at one of our large conferences. I knew they typically get free passes to attend all kinds of industry events but my perception was they would attend the conference like anyone else and then write about it for their publication. Since all of the press conferences were scheduled at the same time as education sessions, I found it very difficult to do both. I had also committed to recording a podcast with Meetings Podcast and because all of our schedules were so full, we ended up doing that during education sessions as well. Whether you are press or a social media reporter, it is hard to capture the experience from the viewpoint of an attendee.

What I found interesting was the bigger picture of old media vs. new media. The press structure of submitting articles makes the idea of breaking news a joke. Typically, a conference like this doesn’t have “breaking news” however at this particular event, we did. Although, the way the press conferences were set up, MPI tried to create a sense of urgency for the organizations making announcements. Of the press conferences I attended, there were very few members of the press in attendance. I never saw the ConventionNews Television folks. Even though it is great to get video interviews and their production quality is top notch, it isn’t live.

So, the few of us who showed up are sitting in the same press conference, receiving the same information that allegedly had not been released anywhere else. Someone from an established magazine would diligently take notes, ask good questions and then go about writing an article that I assume would then be edited and published either online or in print form. Whereas, I could have done a blog post on any one of these topics and sent it out through my channels. Granted, I don’t have the same number of subscribers as an established news organization, but tweets sent out with the conference hashtag while the event is happening have a much higher impression rate than tweets sent out at any other time. The key, then, is not to announce something at an event, but to create a strategy around getting your news shared during an event.

During one of the press conferences, I was able to find a news article that had already been written and tweet it out. This was even easier, because I didn’t have to write it! Why re-invent the wheel? I guess the difference between reporting and blogging is that you might expect me to insert my opinions in my blog, whereas, if I am simply reporting the facts, it is a waste of my time to report the same story that has already been written. Today, it matters less where you get your news and matters more who is the first to report it. When sharing content via social media, most people won’t share a story that is already a day old because they assume everyone has already read it.

How does your company / association deal with press at your event? Are you including social media reporters? What does that program look like?