The September 2009 meeting of Manchester’s Social Media Cafe is tomorrow. Slightly later than planned, I thought I’d write previews of the upcoming sessions, so I caught up with those running the sessions by email. If you’re still not sure which of the sessions you’d like to go to, hopefully the next few ‘preview’ blog posts will help you decide.
Julia, pen name, Julie Delvaux, is planning to run an intriguing series of sessions entitled ‘SocMed Actually’. The aim of the series is to help illustrate which different social media channels are being used and are successful in various different sectors of industry.
“By day”, Julia heads up a social media department and devises social media strategies. Her background is as a writer and poet, translator, historian, with wide-ranging experience in media and digital marketing.
Julia’s sessions are aimed at a wide audience: “everyone interested in the return on investment (ROI) of social media, as well as everyone interested in how to use social media/online PR to generate the maximum effect.”
Julia will be making a presentation to introduce the topic followed by a discussion. There are some key things that she hopes participants will take away:
“Although Social Media is free, the ‘Susan Boyle effects’ don’t always happen out of nothing. You need to promote what you’ve created; so we need to take the minimal costs into account and dance from there.”
“My session is going to talk about both those measurable and immeasurable values [and help illustrate them] with some calculations.”
“Social Media can be measured and the ROI can be leveraged!”.
The session should be particularly interesting, as it’s followed by a debate on social media vs search, at which one of the key topics will no doubt be the ability (or otherwise) to measure the impact of social media.
Thanks to Tim and Gill for their useful feedback. Their thoughts were that the BBC offered a great opportunity to properly set up sessions in different parts of the space, with presentation facilities and much, much better sound.
I completely agree – this is a big benefit of a space like the BBC, and the advantage is that we can access it without necessarily paying the rates of renting office/conference space in Manchester, which at this stage would make the meetup unviable.
However, in a totally unscientific poll on this blog (which received a paltry 17 votes) 82% (14) suggested we reserve the BBC for ‘special events’. 3 votes were cast to try and remain at the Beeb where possible. No-one disliked the BBC as a venue.
I think this is telling. The BBC is obviously a great place to hold events, but perhaps some regular attendees – including myself – may feel that it may not be suited to having regular meetings there. This was the thrust of what I wrote last time.
It certainly has benefits over the slightly awkward layout of The Northern (and bar prices are thankfully cheaper). But, I’d like to see different venues explored – coffee shops or other pubs with function room spaces. Perhaps suggestions can be noted in the comments?
It’s also worth noting that not everyone can access a space that serves alcohol or one that doesn’t have disabled access. Not something we always think about but something we should try and consider, even in informal meetups.
I have to admit, when I first saw the press release from Manchester City Council, my heart sank. The press release, regrettably, reads a bit like the classic ‘public sector tries to do social media, misses the point’ with a smattering of buzz words: ‘flash mobs’; ‘user generated’; ‘unique event’, complete with manufactured quote from a director. It’s unfortunate that this was the first piece of publicity I saw.
What I saw next, thankfully, was a pretty darn nice website, complete with integrated socialmediaPR campaign that picked up some great coverage online. This was followed up by a ‘blog launch‘ at the Bay Horse, suitably bribing people with the offer of a free pint in exchange for a short (and painless) presentation from the team.
I think this quickly shattered my misconceptions. Though not my misgivings.
In the end, Cutting Room Experiment turned out to be just that, a bold experiment, blessed by the usually control-hungry public bodies that sponsored it and one that achieved its key successes – 400 people there, extensive media coverage, and awareness raised of the location (though these GPS co-ords are not the square).
However, while I’ve already alluded to degree of hyperbole that did surround some of the marketing (‘biggest’ user generated event? ‘world first’?) the presentation was refreshingly honest when it reflected some of the highs and lows of the exercise. In particular, David (Ear to the Ground) pointed out that “It’s hard to turn a devoted online audience into a vibrant offline one”.
And this is a key problem for any online social marketeer. It’s easy to make people sign-up to an event and click through, but will they actually turn up? I ‘counted myself in’ to a couple of events, even posted my own (slightly tongue-in-cheek) event – but I didn’t go. My main aim was to see the alka seltzer rockets, provided by the Manchester Science Festival team but unfortunately I missed the slot.
From my own personal experience, I imagine that a risk of this sort of ‘user generated’ process is that some people just won’t go unless they’ve got one killer event and that might be the event that they themselves organised, or for which they had some personal buy-in (e.g. employee/volunteer). Perhaps the truth is that an online community where ‘buy-in’ is limited to ‘agreeing to the possibility that you might attend’ is a difficult one to convert.
Cutting Room Experiment though, had the benefit of a local community and they did tap in to this with flyers; the killer piece of info that was perhaps missing from the presentation was being able to know how the attendees (who weren’t staff or volunteers) had heard of the event – online, or offline. I suspect it was the former, whereas arguably you needed more of the latter, particularly those who lived locally.
To conclude, it’s hard to criticise something into which a whole lot of people put a lot of hard work, and which produced some stunning results. However, I have to wonder whether this experiment, conducted largely online, needs to have much more of an offline aspect in order to make sure that the numbers for the ‘real world’ event does materialise.
The venue – keeping it social
Finally, the BBC was a great one-off venue and I, like many young (ish) meeja whores, am naturally excited by anything taking place there because of the weight that the BBC as a brand can lend to it. However, the Social Media Cafe, despite being less than a year old, has definitely established itself as a key hub of digital networking and knowledge sharing. Stopping in at the Beeb every so often would be great, but I think the social aspect of the cafe would be better served by sticking with a venue where turning up late without being signed-up (for example) won’t cause any organisational stress for those who’ve worked hard to secure those spaces.
Agree? Disagree? Leave a comment or vote in this non-scientific poll: