This past weekend, I attended my first PodCamp here in Boston at PodCamp 4 at the beautifulUniversity of Massachusetts Boston Campus Center right on the waterfront.
While I’ve heard good things about PodCamp in past years, I didn’t know what to expect in terms of participants – would they be seasoned users of social media, newbies or somewhere in between? Would there be folks there that don’t use social media at all, don’t see its value and really don’t even understand what all the hype is about? The answer is yes on all counts. And you know what, it made for some interesting and rich conversations, in my opinion. It was fun being taken back to the time before I used social media daily and hearing all of the “how do I?” and “what if this and that?” questions. It was also very rewarding to have an opportunity to help even a few people see something in a new way. And I look at a few things differently myself, thanks to PodCamp. The sessions looked interesting enough, and I even proposed my own discussion session that made it onto the schedule of events (more on that below), so off we went!
The first day
My favorite session of day one was “What’s on our minds?” an extension of Chris Penn's Marketing over Coffee podcasts with guest commentators CC Chapman and Chris Brogan. This session more or less consisted of Chris facilitating a discussion with CC and Brogan chiming in with their wisdom and responses for the first part, followed by audience participation for the last 2/3 or so.
Two important points that stand out in my mind came out of this session:
1. Charging for Social Media events, even a nominal fee drastically changes the crowd, reduces no shows and changes the conversation. Once people have committed money to something, they’re much less likely to blow it off, and much more likely to participate. It also helps to bring in the people who are interested in the event for its true intent vs. the ones just there to rub elbows.
2. If you really want people to find your blog or website, you really need to focus in on what they believe their audience is going to search for when naming your blog/website, using key words, etc. This seems like somewhat of a “no brainer” but it’s often overlooked when people try to come up with a unique and clever name for their website, they often miss out on great opportunities to connect with people that are actually very interested in the topic they’re blogging on, but don’t have any reason to search phrases or key words that have no meaning for them.
The second day
Day two was Mike Langford’s “Whatchutalkinabout?” The purpose of the session was to explore the conversational web and how we use it to create conversations of value with friends, colleagues, and customers. This session, however, took an interesting turn when it became apparent that most of the folks in there were not active users of social media, rather they were trying to discover what all the hype was about. Most had been enticed to join Facebook to view family photos or event photos after they had been directed there. A few were also using Twitter or trying to figure out what value they could get out of using Twitter. The conversation was filled with tips and ideas from participants for making use of Twitter by searching, using organization tools such as TweetWorks or TweetDeck.
The topic of privacy concerns came up in this session, as well. Lots of examples of people’s photos ending up in marketing materials and even a billboard, I believe. Mike gave good advice in that you should be aware of what level of detail you’re sharing when you’re using any social media or social networking sites. I couldn’t agree more.
I signed up to facilitate a discussion entitled “How do you get your company to see the value of social media?” and I have to admit, I am thrilled with how the session went! It was hard to know how it would go, if people would show up (since I didn’t know the make-up of the attendees), and I was the last session slot of the last day before wrap-up. It’s understandable that at the end of day two of intense conversations and learning, folks would be exhausted and might bow out early. I sure hoped that wasn’t going to be the case, but I was prepared for it.
The conversation was great! It was interesting, lively and continued for the whole time. The reason is that the people in the room were passionate and interested in social media for business use, how to pitch the idea, what others have done, and how they might be able to go about making it work in their own situations. They were having a discussion, sharing tips with one another, asking questions and advice, and generally engaging much more than I had seen in most other sessions. All in all, I couldn’t be happier with how things turned out, and I’m excited to facilitate another discussion next year!
In case you’re interested, here are my slides from the session:
How do you get your company to see the value of social media? (PCB4 Session)
The wrap up and thanks
Overall, I am pleased with how things went at PodCamp, and am very much looking forward to next year’s unconference! I’m hopeful we’ll see more of a mix of social media being used in both personal and professional fashions next year as more and more companies figure this stuff out.
Thanks to all the folks who were friendly and engaged in open and reciprocal dialogue both in my session and in the others. And a great big thanks to ChelPixie, Chris Brogan, Chris Penn, CC Chapman, and others who made this event a success!