The Edmonton chapter of the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC) held a mini social media conference called Connecting the Dots yesterday the Art Gallery of Alberta. Hosted by Justin Archer and Jay Averill, the event featured three speakers and a panel. George Siemens opened the conference with a “30,000 foot view” of the social media landscape – you can take a look at his slides here. Next up was myself, talking about social media’s impact on public policy. I used the City Centre Airport debate as a case study. After me, Mary Pat Barry presented Edmonton Stories as a case study, outlining how the site came to be what the next steps are. Finally, four panelists closed out the event: Karen Unland, Norman Mendoza, Dave Cournoyer, and Chris LaBossiere.
The common thread for the day seemed to be that “the medium alters the message.” George talked about it in his keynote, and it popped up again and again throughout the day. Everyone seemed to agree that social media is still young, and there is much change and maturation on the horizon.
As for my own presentation, I think it went quite well. I tried to present the story of how social media played a role in the ECCA debate, and also attempted to pull out some lessons. The main ones were:
- Blogs are the starts of social media! Something I’ve become fond of saying. I really think the fact that the pro-closure side used blogs so effectively had a huge impact. Blogs allow longer form content, they have great longevity (easy to find old posts, not so with tweets), and they index well in search engines.
- Don’t reinvent the wheel. From the hashtag (#ecca) to the Facebook group, I looked for existing communities when I got involved with the debate. Too often, organizations try to start something new, when it’s often a better idea to link up with whatever already exists.
- Translate online interest into offline action. All of the tweeting and blogging and other social media activity that happened around the airport debate wouldn’t have meant anything if it didn’t translate into people calling and emailing their councillors.
The panel was really interesting. It wasn’t very balanced, with all four panelists being pro-social media, and I think that made the tone of the discussion with the audience a little combative. There were still some really great questions asked and answers given, however. Some of my favorite quotes/highlights:
- Organizations can’t have conversations, only people can. (Chris)
- People who live-tweet events probably listen better. (Karen)
- Transparency is the new objectivity. (Karen, citing Jay Rosen)
- Recognize that people make mistakes. How you handle them is more important than the actual mistake (usually). (me, on Twitter)
- Links are the currency of the web. Social media helps us share them faster and wider. (me, on Twitter)
Twitter played an interesting role in the panel – there was a giant screen behind the panelists showing #iabcyeg tweets on TwitterFall. It became a point of contention, actually, with some arguing that expanding the conversation beyond the room was invaluable, while others thought perhaps it was disrespectful to be tweeting while others are talking. There were also questions about credibility, about employee use of social media, about how to monitor for mentions of you or your organization, etc. Really great discussion that probably could have gone on much longer!
Thanks to IABC for allowing me to take part – it was lots of fun! If you’re looking for a social media event to attend in the future, check out the conference that George and his team are organizing in April (on ShareEdmonton). And stay tuned to IABC Edmonton on Twitter.