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June 14, 2007

Blogs and Social Media Forum 2

Marie Howell, UK SEO at Bruce Clay Europe attended last week’s Blogs and Social Media Forum held at The London Marriot Grosvenor Hotel and was kind enough to share her experience. Thanks, Marie!

Although certainly not SMX, nor the dizzy (metaphorically speaking) heights of Seattle, the Blogs and Social Media Forum 2 in London offered a positive day, some concrete ideas, a chance to mull over and consider issues surrounding internal and external social media, such as UK-style to UK businesses, educational establishments and enterprises. There was even a little amusement in the ‘bristling’ by a certain attendee (after one or two interesting comments about Microsoft from Sun Micro Systems!).

Attendees ranged from companies and high pedigree organisations such as legal practices Deloitte & Touche and the Bank of England, through to educational establishments in the form of a Scottish University and governmental bodies like the MOD (Ministry Of Defence) and various councils. Each sector, it seems, has their own social media agenda and is keen to develop their enterprises and interaction using this medium. Some have the objective of internal interaction and information delivery, others are creating blogs to support Web business, others are looking to develop brands and brand management, whilst yet others are keen to monetize this interaction with the wider community at large.

The day kicked off with a welcome from chairman Euan Semple followed by a Keynote conversational panel featuring Ben Edwards (Economist.com), Jem Stone (BBC New Media and Technology), Adriana Lukas (Big Blog Company), Myles Runham (General Manager Europe, Ask.com), and Roo Reynolds (Metaverse Evangelist, IBM). Euan introduced the concept of blogging and social media as an industry tool and then looked to the Social Media line-up for their experiences and reflections.

In general advice from the panel, Myles stressed the importance of setting aside time for blogging. He also advocated how it should be something that you choose to do because it adds value to the company and it is something that you enjoy, primarily. The panel also stressed the need for relinquishing control to employees and the wider community. Social media is, by its own definition, controlled by the community and participants, and their interaction with each other.

Ben Edwards introduced how he has developed ‘community server’ within the Economist to enhance their site. His recommendation was for companies to work closely with their operations director and to give a degree of compulsion to interaction with social media (i.e. 4 “weekly reports” required).

[Aside: but, doesn’t that defeat the object of social media – a wanting / desire to be part of a community and to share your [own] thoughts / reflections with a wiser audience? Should social media be merely an extension of the company newsletter and mission statement? If it were as prescriptive as this, it would concern me greatly! – Marie ]

Other sound bytes included developing confidence and encouraging staff and colleagues to dip a toe in the water. The audience was reminded that in conversations you might say the ‘wrong thing’ but that doesn’t stop you from communicating. With blogging, for instance, you can proofread, edit, spell check and re-edit your work before publishing to lessen the likelihood of getting anything wrong, but one should accept the possibility that sometimes things can go a little awry and it shouldn’t stop you from keeping going. From a managerial point of view, it is definitely about letting go. People need to be free to express themselves. This valuable point was carried further by Adriana Lukas when she stated that managers have to recognise that things are not going to be perfect and they have to resign themselves to that fact. She also encouraged ‘unlearning’ the corporate lingo when working in social media (I like that better!).

The speed networking session (think speed dating – not tried it, only heard about it! – crossed with a networking event) allowed the Brits, slightly more ‘socially reserved’ than our American cousins, have fun and interact within a 3 minute slot. Too much time for some people, but too little for others. Lloyd Davis gamely hosted this session and encouraged participation from everyone with excellent results – bravo Lloyd!

One of the highlights of the day for me was the open session. This was where audience members ventured a topic they would like to discuss and then they hosted that conversation with those participants who chose to attend. There were a number of different huddles covering diverse social media topics such as The Dark Side of SM, Moderation & Spam, Real World SM and Monetizing SM. [You can find photos of the Social Media session on Marie’s personal blog, SEO Biker — Lisa]. With attendees encouraged to float between topics, it was possible to get a good flavour of each and the concerns and motivations of different verticals.

With various case studies and talks from Motoraddicts, Economist, Sun Microsystems and BUPA, quality presentations abounded and the audience was allowed into the inner recesses of the planning and implementation of the projects of these organisations However, the Economist.com’s Ben Edwards disappointed attendees by only referring to his ‘roadmap’ for the coming months and would not enlarge on the company’s strategy.

A good day’s conference, expertly hosted by a suave, eloquent and ‘cerebral’ Euan Semple, containing ideas and information to get corporate and public bodies dipping that toe into the Social Media and Blogging waters. Highly recommended!

Author:  Based in London England, Marie Howell is the Sr. SEO for Bruce Clay Europe

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