I haven’t learned anything about social media at an event in the Twin Cities in a very long time.
Is this because I’m brilliant?
If anything, I have a lot to learn. And that compels me to continually seek out new educational opportunities at meetings, workshops, webinars, teleseminars and conferences, both locally and nationally.
But lately, everything I go to has had the same soundbite loop of examples, (Zappos!) ideas, (“Listening is key”) and anecdotes, (“Gary V was just a guy with some wine and a dream…”) all framed by the uber assertion that, “Social Media is AWESOME!”
And, sure enough, there is always a hungry crowd of people sitting at these events.
These are, ironically, the same people I talked to about social media more than year ago who regaled me with questions about Twitter as if it were some sort of mythical Sasquatch–like beast that I had stumbled upon in the woods.
In time, these people got the message that social media was here to stay, so they started using these tools, too. And now they too want to get together and talk about how it works, why it works and how to use it for their business.
Don’t get me wrong … I think that’s a great thing. There should continue to be events for these people to go to. (In fact, I’ve created some of these events myself, where, I too, am guilty of using the soundbites mentioned above.)
My problem is that personally, I’m not interested in those questions or events anymore.
I’ve been working with social media intensively, extensively and exclusively for nearly two years.
I’m ready for some new dialogue.
I want to talk about questions like …
- How do we create metrics that can adequately measure the nuisances in the qualitative and quantitative data gained from measuring social media conversations? (Because, yes, we can measure this stuff. Yes, there is a science to this. And yes, there are whole conferences being devoted to this topic.)
- How do we navigate the ethics of social media when qualities like, “authenticity” and “transparency” open the door to a host of landmine issues like, “Who determines what data is private?” “Where should the disclosure line be drawn between being someone’s fan and being their marketer?” “How do you maintain authenticity while at the same time being highly strategic about your engagement?”
- How to we develop and manage a content strategy for social media when the message is not being used for the traditional two-way exchange of sender and receiver, but rather is a living dialogue that ping-pongs between senders and receiver (and each receivers’ receivers) ad infinitum?
- As more and more learning and interaction happens virtually, what will the new role be for real-time events and interactions? How can we respond to the needs of online communities for face-to-face connection? How do we capture the “a ha!” moments that occur offline and relay them back to the online network?
- How do we build and integrate social media into a larger marketing and PR strategy so that it serves as an invaluable new tool in a company’s arsenal (with its own strengths and weaknesses) rather than a “bell and whistle” to tack onto an already overextended business workload?
Where are these types of conversations happening?
Locally? Yes. These questions pop up at most every coffee meeting I have. People are creating word-of-mouth support networks, but that’s generally where the “education” ends. Most events are still being built to simply help professionals sell social media to their clients and companies (and that’s a fine goal). But this means that, for now at least, they are trapped in Social Media 101 mode.
At national conferences? Maybe some, but not at the ones I’ve been to lately. Those have been the lands where the giant corporate case study reigns supreme, even when they are entirely devoid of nimbleness and innovation. (Note to conference planners: the hottest ideas in social media are NOT coming out of giant corporations.)
Online? Always. I am currently attending Twitter U to get my Social Media MBA. The ideas are coming in a steady stream from networks and blogs, (thank you Mack Collier, Brian Solis, et al), but the answers many of us seek will still ultimately be found through application and interpretation. For those, we need community and clients – areas where offline interaction can still hold the most impact.
Not sure what the solution is to this problem. But I know it’s not one I can solve on my own.
I don’t have all the answers, but I know I do have good questions, so I’ve pitched myself to speak on these topics both locally and nationally, but have had little success.
I’d build my own events to tackle these ideas but, since I’d be trying to pull in an audience of my peers, I think it’d be an exercise in futility (especially if I had to charge money for the events to cover my costs). As Chris Brogan so aptly put it last week, the Twin Cities is still pretty siloed when it comes to forming tribes to support each other in the social media community. That’s a damn shame.
So this morning, I watched the Twitter stream as the social media faithful here in town gathered for yet another event. They likely tackled social media again, twisting the topic like some programmatic Rubik’s Cube to examine and discuss from some new angle.
Ultimately, I’m not sorry I stayed home.
I have work to do and clients to help. Not sure anything they would have found would have helped me with either.
As usual, for now, it looks like I’m on my own.