Touching the tip of the social media iceberg


One of the more interesting ways I’ve experienced participating in a conference is being chairperson of the event.

When you’re the chair you not only have to pay close attention to everything going on, but also you are well placed to absorb everything the presenters say as well as get a good sense of the mood of the audience.

Are those sitting there paying attention? What’s the fidget level? Do they appear engaged with the content, asking questions? And what’s the buzz in the coffee breaks and during lunch?

Last week’s Don’t Panic Guide to Social Media held in London, which I chaired, kept me very focused indeed on what everyone had to say, presenters and participants alike.

About 80 people took part in this event organized by Nicky and Andy Wake of Don’t Panic Projects. I’ve know Nicky and Andy for some years and will say that they bring a refreshing and inspiring approach to event organization and management.

As they like to say, event management just got funky.

A roster of knowledgeable speakers – Marshall Manson, Edelman; Meg Pickard,; Kerry Bridge, Dell; Stephen Davies, webitpr; Graham Goodkind, Frank PR; Simon Wakeman, Medway Council; Sam Barrett, Oxfam; Robin Goad, Hitwise – combined with smart and to-the-point questions from many in the audience added up to a day’s valuable exchange of thinking and ideas and, inevitably, more questions to take away.

One thing I always do at an event with this type of topic and focus is ask the audience some questions about their knowledge of and experience with social media. Just to get a sense of where we’re at, before we get into the content.

We had a relatively knowledgeable audience – no need to explain what a blog is or what RSS does. Quite a few were twittering (it would have been good if we’d set up a hashtag beforehand to track everyone’s tweets) and we had live blogging for part of the day from Stuart Bruce.

The picture that emerged during the day was one I’ve seen at every event of this type I’ve been involved with during much of the past year, whether as a speaker or as participant – the burning desire to get answers to the big question: How?

That was clear from some of the specific questions:

  • If we rely on press releases, will we get left behind?
  • In monitoring conversations in the blogosphere, do we have enough people to listen to all the conversations?
  • How do you go about listening?
  • How do you identify the influencers? And then what?
  • Is the social media news release the new form of press release?
  • Are the national media in the UK ready for that?

The presenters along with the participants in the final panel discussion at the end of the event did well to address such questions and others.

Big questions all, requiring big answers. We touched the tip of the iceberg.

But a great starting point for all at the event to take away and continue these conversations back at the workplace.

Others have written their opinions about last week’s conference. Some great commentaries here:

Andy Wake did a great job taking photos during the day (the one at the top of the page is Andy’s).

Here’s my favourite of the day, one that sums up much of it for me – Stephen Davies explaining the structure of a social media news release:


Finally, my raw ‘chair notes’ from listening to each speaker; asterisked lines mean points that especially caught my attention:

Marshall Manson:

Arrested, twitter
*re-humanizing communication
no one speaks like we write press releases
change our behaviour bit by bit
fish where the fish are
Wal-Mart checkout blog
PR has never been able to answer the measurement question

Meg Pickard:

publishing is changing
creating, consuming, interacting
*context is king
bus stop
curation of content – filters, tags, social bookmarking
consumption, interaction, curation, creation
user engagement cycle
Q: rely on press release, get left behind? A: yes.

Kerry Bridge:

4K+ conversations about Dell happening online every day
*outreach: pay attention regardless of size of blog
Ideastorm: 9K ideas generated by community
1500 comment per day
60K comments since Feb 07
Dell Hell
Dell Hell lead to internal action to redefine customer service
*when 1 billion people enter a market in 4-5 years, they change it – get ready

Q: enough people to listen to all conversations? A: No
*Q: How to you go about listening? How do you identify influencers?

Stephen Davies:

Background to social media news release. Tom Foremski
Structure of a SMNR
ITV2 SMNR winter lineup Nov 07
Sainsbury Jamie Oliver meals
Belkin SportCommand SMNR
marketing and advertising taken a lead with SMNR, no experimenting by PR

Q: Is SMNR the new form of the news release?
Q: Is national media in UK ready for this? A: No

Graham Goodkind:

after 23 mins, 100% of audience thinking about sex
3d-ization of PR
race for life cancer awareness campaign
Frank FODA : feeding online and digital audiences
starting a Facebook group is not social media PR
a fan of a fan
*content is king
Bennetts bases in the sun
nPower lightbulb jokes
Brylcreem boy
door is wide open for pr to own viral marketing
Fila pre-distress trainer
super fans
Drench ad (brains)
‘pradvertising’ is the next big thing
blurring the boundaries
condom calculator
*online pr and social media: not the be all and end all

Simon Wakeman:

survey of councils’ use of media channels
(71 communicators, 47 local authorities, may 08)
Mixit podcast
3 ways councils can use social networks: promotion, build an interest group, conversations
barriers to use

Sam Barrett:

media is fragmenting dramatically
*the audience is king
still push out to people, we’re very bad at listening
*biggest challenge: changing org culture
6-7 in pr team refuse to get social media
Starbucks Ethiopia coffee campaign – MySpace, Facebook, YouTube
Oxjam – MySpace, Facebook, blog
Fairtrade woman – MySpace, Facebook
people want to have conversations with you
lessons: integrate

Robin Goad:

social networks overtaken webmail as primary form of web-based communication
average time spent on social networks is about 30 mins
top 5 UK 4/4/08: Facebook, bebo, YouTube, MySpace, YouTube UK
*10% of all visits to websites come from social networks
Cadbury gorilla ad
social network users getting older
Facebook poppy appeal
*20% of all online visits are to social networks

Neville Hobson

Social Strategist, Communicator, Writer, and Podcaster with a curiosity for tech and how people use it. Believer in an Internet for everyone. Early adopter (and leaver) and experimenter with social media. Occasional test pilot of shiny new objects. Avid tea drinker.

  1. dominic

    Just as a data point relative to your question on “enough people”.

    We are monitoring 650+ blogs along with the author social profiles on the topic: “social media marketing”.

    We – two people – spend 1.5hour a day each in reading the 250-300 post we got per day. We carefully look at 20-30 blogs that we star and scan thru the list of other posts. We also have filters on a few company names that we monitor.

    In this 1.5 hour we also review potential comments on our comments :-) and while doing it we build list of bloggers that we want to reach out one to one.

    At the end of the month, we go 1:1 with these bloggers thru LinkedIn or Facebook. This, only if the blogger has made his profile public and we’ve been able to automatically id their profile

  2. Martin Edic

    You don’t need to monitor manually- try our free version to see how automated social media monitoring works.
    Great points and thanks for the very complete conference notes. I’m surprised to not see more discussion around measurement but maybe that’s because that’s the space I live in.
    Too much emphasis on SMPRs. IMHO, they look like the agency business trying to take an old tool and gussy it up. Anything you’d put there should reside in a web landing page rather than get dumped into something trying to look like a document. That’s what links are for…

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