Many of you may have heard the news that Ning, the providers of this community’s social network, is intending to phase out their ‘free’ service, in favour of paid-for options. Jason Rosenthal, their newly appointed Chief Executive, said, in a staff memo:
“We are going to change our strategy to devote 100% of our resources to building the winning product to capture this big opportunity” — i.e being the premium service, not the one supported by advertising. (Guardian)
The last social media cafe on the theme of hyperlocal resulted in a couple of interesting blog posts which I thought I’d link to here. If you see anything else, drop us a note in the comments. Continue reading →
As I wrote earlier today, the September 2009 meeting of Manchester’s Social Media Cafeis tomorrow (Update: is tonight! But it was tomorrow, when I wrote this). Slightly later than planned, I’ve written previews of the upcoming sessions, so if you’re still not sure which of the sessions you’d like to go to, or just want to find out more, then I hope that the below ‘preview’ blog posts are helpful.
Digital Games and/as Social Media –Professor Ben Light @doggyb
Prof Light (or Ben, if I may!) is Professor of Digital Media at the School of Media, Music and Performance, University of Salford. Which is a pretty cool title. Personally, I’m excited that lecturers (professors, no less) are using social media, let alone lecturing in the subject. In my days at university (not that long ago!), the concept of an electronic presentation was still alien to some of the lecturers who taught me.
Ben will be looking at media convergence: how it happens, why, and some of the implications arising for users and designers. Since March 2006, Ben has been engaged in programme of research that has focused upon how users and designers are making digital games and social media work for them on an everyday basis.
This might sound a tad daunting, but he says, “the session won’t be technical”:
“You don’t need to understand the nuts and bolts – it’s suitable for anyone who has an interest in social media and digital gaming.”
…which sounds like a lot of the people I know who go to SMC. I certainly have been enjoying my Wii of late.
Talking of games consoles, Ben’s bringing an exciting twist to the meeting: SingStar on PS3! He’ll be using it as part of his presentation, which will include a lot of photography and video. I wondered why he was bringing along the popular karaoke game for the PS3:
“SingStar is one of the games I have been studying.”…”I’m bringing it along to demonstrate it and the online community [associated with it] ‘live’.”
I hope the BBC wifi holds out and I have no doubt that we have some secret SingStar fans in the crowd (ahem @realfreshtv!)
I know Ben’s putting his final touches on his session this evening, but I asked him what he hoped participants would get out of the session:
“It’s very much about knowledge: how are people using social media, how it’s linked with games. Who are the developers in social media/gaming environments and who are the users – it’s not as obvious as it sounds.
“What ethical issues arise in such spaces? For example, I could talk about ‘grief play’, identity work and social inclusion/exclusion.”
Intriguing. It sounds like Ben will be covering a new area for the Social Media Cafe meetups and doing it in a novel and engaging way. I, for one, can’t wait to get involved.
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: