Believe it or not, it was my first experience at a live event that came with its own social media back channel. Those of us on Twitter actively tweeted during the session (some folks even tweeting for the very first time) using the hashtag #wsae to organize all of our tweets. You can go read that "transcript" if you're interested.
My tweets focused on what I usually think of as "pearls of wisdom." When I attend an event like this, I'm not interested in a copy of the speaker's slides, or in taking copious notes on everything the speaker says. All I want is to come away with a couple of nuggets of information--sound bytes, if you like--concise and memorable thoughts that I can reflect on back in the office and maybe use to change behaviors or practices in the real world. Here's my list from the event:
1. In person meetings let you connect with your peers. Social networking allows you to connect with your peers' peers.
2. Monitor your own brand by regularly Googling your own name.
3. Who would produce the best content for your website? Your staff? Or your members?
4. Speakers say you have to get comfortable with losing control. I say you're not really in control in the first place.
5. Drive your social media by what you have to say, not what you have to sell.
Good stuff. But for me the session brought forth a bigger issue that's harder to put in a sound byte. It has to do with truth and authenticity in the digital age--a topic fellow Hourglass blogger Jamie Notter and Maddie Grant recently presented at the Great Ideas Conference. Go check out their slide deck on Prezi. It rocks! In it, they say this:
No matter how much you try to carefully control and compartmentalize different personas in different places, everything gets mixed and aggregated by Google in an instant.
You see, Andy Steggles was in Madison partly because he is helping WSAE launch a new online community for its members on Higher Logic's platform. We got a grand tour of it during the session. It's robust, intuitive and fun to play with. But it is what I think of as a "captured" social network, something owned and operated by an association, with a specific login needed to gain entry and an independent profile of me that needs to be maintained.
I belong to several of these "captured" networks, one for each of the associations I belong to. I think of them a little like "networking in a box." Sure, you can have good connections with people once you're inside each box, but the process of climbing inside one in order to connect with one part of your network, and then climbing out of that box and into another in order to connect with a different part of your network, is often very cumbersome. And the trend, I'm afraid, is that more and more organizations are building more and more of their own networking boxes with the expectation that I'll want to climb inside them all to see what they have going on inside.
Well, that just creates a fractured networking landscape for me. I'd rather use an "open" social network and tear down all those cardboard walls that are being put up to defend each organization's turf. My social network doesn't include just the members of one association, or even just the members of the association community. It's broader than all of the organizations I belong to, and that's the way I want it.
Does such a tool for "open" social networking really exist? Aren't even Facebook and LinkedIn "captured" social networks in their own way? If we're all going to be truthful and authentic in the digital age, don't we all need a completely open platform to allow us to connect in all the ways we wish to?