I went to the Got Social Media? conference yesterday. Some of the best and brightest were there, and some of the even better and brighter presented. It was an interesting conference, full of good-to-know information, new concepts, attention-capturing speakers, and excellent networking.
So why, after it is over, do I still say I haven't Got Social Media?
1. Whoops! Wrong class! I was looking for "101---Social Media for Dummies" and accidentally sat down in "102---Social Media for Those With a Clue"
Have you ever walked into a classroom, sat down, opened your notebook (or your NoteBook), tuned in to the Professor, found yourself a little baffled, looked around and saw everyone else was getting it...and then realized, whoops! Wrong class!
Okay maybe not but I'm sure you can sympathize.
I spent an entire semester in geology feeling that way and whoops! It was my class and whoops! It was one of my required courses for my degree. I freely admit I cried my way to a passing grade in that class. (And if that TA is reading now? Genuine tears. Swear. I really did try. Hard. And I did think you were Wicked Cool. No lies.)
I just kept staring at those rocks and they all looked like...rocks. I'd spend every single day with my TA staring at rocks. He'd try to help me get it---distinguish materials, become enthusiastic like he was---oh he'd try so hard. "Look at the striation on this, Julie, it's clearly a...." and I'd say, "Igneous," because eventually that was bound to be right, right? My TA would drop his head to his desk and laugh and cry. "That's a grouping, not a rock!"
Trust me, friends, it wasn't a tactic. It was honest stupidity. I could not wrap my mind around rocks. It was a classroom joke, but everyone knew how hard I tried and every single person helped. Final exam? Lots of coughing that sounded distinctly like "basalt," "pumice, "limestone," and "sandstone." A curse that sounded just like "schist." God love geologists.
So that's how I felt yesterday at the conference. Earnest speakers conveying important information, a crowd all open and understanding receiving it...and me. At each break I'd talk to the people, "Do you twitter?" I asked, hoping I had the verb right. Maybe it should be "use Twitter." I think so. I hate verbing nouns. ;) But do not ask technology people this question. They will look at you like you just said, "Igneous."
Each earnest and dedicated social media person tried to explain to me---in the two minutes or less that you can get one-on-one in a crowded room of very social people---how they used social media. The problem is that their explanations were all predicated on the assumption that I knew what social media was. I have a vague idea. It's sort of like pumice is an igneous rock, right?
(Do not say this aloud. People will then suspect you are dumb as a rock. ;)
Laura Mayes provided the best explanation...at the end of the conference, unfortunately. Also unfortunately, her presentation about what social media is and how women are a part of it was cut short because everything was running so late. I wish she'd gone earlier because then I might have started off understanding more.
I'm not anywhere near dumb as a rock and I have an idea of what social media is.
However, beyond, say, Twitter, I'm unaware of the tools, how they work, how to use them, and most importantly, why to use them. I have ethical questions and fear factors, and am obstinate against too much technology that gets in the way of human to human direct interaction. Plus, recall I am a Luddite.
2. I don't have the toys
I walked in to the room, chatted with a few people, and selected a seat. I opened my big bag of everything and pulled out a note pad and pen. RED FLAG! This is a girl who doesn't know her sandstone from her limestone. All around me? People whipped out laptops, blackberries and iPhones. There may have been others. I don't know. Those are all halite to me.
People powered up their social media tools and charged into the 'Net, to chat with friends via messaging. In a room full of people. Now, to everyone's credit? There was incessant talking, lots of socializing, and tons of friendliness. I observed no lack of speaking skills, and no talking in IM acronyms. That's a problem apparently limited to teens and rocket scientists (and you NASA people know what I mean here, right? With your SK3 and R2-D2 talk.)
I didn't feel the need to stream, live blog, or instant message, but if I had, I might have been exceedingly frustrated. I don't have the toys or the tools. I have a desktop computer. And the Emergency Mom Phone that lives in the car, or that I carry with me if I am out so sitters can reach me.
If I'm honest, I don't want to be in touch all the time. I have a cave and I'm not afraid to use it.
3. I don't have the reason (that I know of) (although I thought/think I did)
It may have been the WHOOPS! factor (being in 102 instead of 101) but I never got a good idea of how to use social media appropriately as a tool.
I walked into the conference as a business person (versus a personal person) of limited budget. I can't afford big advertising and marketing budgets. I can't even really afford the small ones. I know you need to spend money to make money (market and advertise) but the bulk of my money (and bulk makes it sound like so, so much---which isn't the case) goes to actually creating the product and running the business. Like most people, I seek inexpensive ways to advertise and market, and social media sounded like a great idea. I was eager to hear about it, get ideas about good ways to use it, and learn how I could use it for my business.
Unfortunately, I think I was the Rare Exception in the room. I don't have a brick and mortar store, I don't have a marketing budget in the tens to hundreds of thousands, and I'm not already hip to what social media is or how to use it.
Each point made me want to say: "Wait, wait, how do you do that? How do I do that? Should I do that?" And most frequently, "Hold on, what is that and how and why do you use it?"
Most importantly, "How do you have the time?"
4. I don't have the time
Building a social media network sounds suspiciously extremely time-consuming, as does maintaining it. It sounds great, but I still don't get it or how I will be able to incorporate it into my business.
I spend a lot of time building business contacts, but I'm not sure they use social media. If they do, is that their personal space or their professional space?
Because I work from home, I try to be really sensitive about personal versus professional space. Those lines have gotten really blurry and confusing lately, and it's a challenge for us all. But I think boundaries are important, and we have to respect them, or there could be repercussions.
I have a struggle juggling work, self, family and kids. I think most people do. So who am I online, for example? This is primarily my space, personal space. My FaceBook contacts are mainly blogging contacts, although some real life people have begun seeping in. This makes me a little...edgy.
That's because there are mores for both corporeal and online life, and online is so new and evolving that these unwritten accepted practices are hard to pick up sometimes.
5. What are the mores, anyway?
I think every conversation about emerging technology should include a discussion of ethics. I was impressed that each speaker touched on this in his or her own way.
Social media proponents seem convinced that it's an appropriate venue, but I'm not sure that all users are so convinced. I've seen people annihilated online for breaking social media social codes, which are a big mystery as far as I'm concerned, because the rules don't seem consistent in expectation or application.
One attendee shared several stories about calls to action (e.g., donate money, buy this, Digg that) she received via Twitter and how she responded to all of them.
Amazed, I couldn't help but interrupt the presentation and ask incredulously, "You mean someone Twittered you to go do this and you...just did, just went and did it?"
She assured me she did nothing blindly, only took requests from people she trusted and only complied for things she believed in. (I waited for Ed Schipul to yell out AMEN! for this---since it made his point for him---but he was apparently better behaved than I and remained seated and silent.)
When I pondered the sheer volume of people, pieces of data and information, as well as calls to action---whether your network is 100 or more, especially if you have more than one network---I felt a little faint. People take in and sift through all of that?
No wonder book sales are down.
During his presentation, Giovanni Gallucci mentioned a network of over 16,000. (Stephen Anderson had earlier distinguished friends from followers, which was fascinating to ponder, particularly considering I don't think it's such a clear line in all minds and hearts. This may need to be an entire post on its own.)
Amazed, again, I couldn't help but interrupt, again, and ask incredulously, "You mean you send a message to 16,000 people to go vote on Digg for a blog post of yours and they just go do it?"
The guy behind me, big DUH tone said, "Not 100%, just 5 to 10% of the people do."
Still, that's a huge number, and will land you posthaste front page of Digg.
My big Digg experience outside of daily annoyance in Boston was the time I titled a blog post Penis. I got thousands of visitors daily for a week at least---I still get referral traffic a year later!---and only got maybe 30 something votes (I admit I don't recall...it was a year ago.) I was so freaked out. Luckily the awesome Vernon Lun helped me out, accessed all my stats and checked into it for me and explained everything.
It was a year ago, then, that I began to see the potential---good and bad---of social media, at least for me personally. And yet...have I altered my behavior at all in that time? Not really.
So what if you only have a network of 100? That's a lot of people in my mind to keep up an active connection with. And will only net you 10 votes?
Does that make it a useless network?
And why are you connected after all?
How do you make it okay with people that you are there to manipulate and use them for your own ends, even if you are transparent about your motives?
My ethics antennae were tweaking madly at that point.
Each speaker spoke compelling about the need to use social media in marketing, advertising and public relation endeavors. I was convinced, but still feel edgy about it. This is because I consider social media to largely be personal space, and it requires building connections and trust. To me, building those for business reasons feels dishonest, at least.
And that's what I would be doing it for.
Ed Schipul, who was a very dynamic and engaging speaker, spoke about this in his presentation about social media and nonprofits. He spoke about honesty and transparency. He addressed how long calls to action can be sustained, and hinted at techniques and timing to sustain it.
I saw easily how social media is an excellent venue for creative non-profit fundraising. It's a win-win.
He even motivated a few ideas for my Web site.
When Giovanni Gallucci spoke about buzz and guerilla marketing in social media, I saw how social media is a great channel for edgy and techie business.
But what about me, my work? Writing, editing and our book?
Stephen Anderson's presentation was extremely useful and engaging. He provided many questions to ask.
I just need to find the answers. And the money to hire someone like him for my Web site. (Although am I ever shy about that, having been twice bitten by designers who took my money and did not design the site. I'm pretty wary of Web designers these days. I'll reach out and step back, fearful of committing any more money. So, my Web site lingers, incomplete, most pages simply taken down, and those left up not to my satisfaction.)
Chris Bernard's presentation about Web 3.0 was well-done and intriguing, what I got to see of it. I had to cut out to get the kids.
Steve Latham was completely over my head. ROI and something about the end of television, newspapers and magazines because all ad revenue is going online. Or maybe that's what I heard---frightened print person that I am---more than what he meant.
Kelsey Ruger was in my head. I mean that in a fascinating, not a creepy way, for the record.
I got quite a bit out of the conference, although not exactly the things I walked in hoping to learn.
At the end of the day, I still don't feel compelled to activate my Twitter account (or any others), probably because I'm still not sure how it is necessary or how I can use it. It sounds like a good thing, but I can barely keep up with all I've got going on right now.
Perhaps I need to take a step back.
Let me know when Social Media for Dummies comes up. I'll be there with my chert and obsidian bells on. I'll also buy Ed and Kelsey a coffee if they'll talk more to me about their topics.
(If you think I sound like a curmudgeon or Doubting Thomas...one speaker (can't recall who) had a slide flash up and away quickly, but it was touching on the failure points of social media and one bullet point was, "All these introverts." HELLO! How exciting to consider that a personality type could drag down an entire technological advance simply by doing...nothing. I feel very empowered. KIDDING! Introverts can have a sense of humor...and be friendly.)
Copyright 2007 Julie Pippert
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