Well the weather sure can put in a wrench in things (so can transit strikes but that’s a whole other story.) Bryan Person, planned guest speaker for today’s Social Media Breakfast (SMB) Ottawa event got stranded in Boston. After three flight cancellations he had to admit defeat. He wasn’t going to make it.
Disappointing as that is, today’s event was still great. Organizers rallied and brought together Joe Thornely of Thornley Fallis and ProPR.ca and moderator James Lewis (Executive Director of the Canadian Interactive Alliance) to lead a discussion on social media happenings in 2008.
What I and many other attendees enjoyed is how they actively sourced the crowd for input during the conversation. We talked about all kinds of social media faux pas and successes – from the Sarah Lacey incident at SXSW earlier this year to the successful use of social media on Obama’s political campaign.
The conversation took a turn at this point when we as a group started talking about social media etiquette. Is it polite to microblog while speaking or moderating at a conference? (Joe’s own experience is cited here.) Is it polite for the audience to microblog when the panelist or speaker doesn’t get a chance to respond in real-time?
Bob LeDrew said you have two options in that latter situation: ignore the Twitter conversation or adjust and accept this new form of communication. Most conferences project the Twitter stream on a screen. Speakers have every option to respond to the conversations taking place on Twitter and involve the conversation as part of their speaking stint.
It was also pointed out that people who attend conferences but aren’t on Twitter feel isolated and antagonized from what is essentially a water cooler conversation happening around them of which they can’t participate. I understand to an extent but if the Twitter stream is projected on a screen for all attendees to see, what’s to stop you from turning to the person beside you and voicing your opinion in face-to-face dialogue?
That person beside you may just be on Twitter and can tweet what you just said for you. There. You’ve joined the conversation. But that’s beside the point. Nothing replaces face-to-face communication. What Twitter does is make the water cooler conversations happen in real time. There is no need to wait until the speaker finishes. It’s not disruptive to what the speaker is saying, or at least, it doesn’t have to be.
So when you do get a chance to ask the speaker a question, or chat about the conference track over lunch, you’ve had the opportunity to process a myriad of opinions and that can extend your face-to-face conversations into deeper and more provoking (and dare I say interesting) discussions.
We then turned to how some organizations ban social media sites like Facebook and Twitter from the workplace, which is a real shame. The powers-that-be think these sites are a time-waster so they ban access. Um…if someone is going to waste time at work, they’ll do it anyway whether they have access to their Facebook profile or not. It’s a shame too because sites like Twitter (and even Facebook) can be great tools for expanding your knowledge and building business relationships.
And what about those Gen-Yers entering the workforce. They and their younger counterparts grew up with these technologies. It is so ingrained in their lives that they will expect to be able to use these tools in the workplace. And if they can’t, they’ll go work somewhere else. As Jeff Parks contributed, there is already a reverse mentoring taking place where the young are teaching the old about using these technologies (and the value therein.)
Rob from Bloggeries voiced his opinion that 2008 is the year of the social media hangover. We are now in the real time web and we have accounts on all different kinds of sites: Facebook, Twitter, Digg, SocialMedia, FriendFeeed, etc. It can be a bit daunting.
Another point mentioned this morning was that interpersonal skills in the workplace are becoming more important than technical skills. This ability to play well with others is also important in the online world. In a timely way, this point relates to something that Sue Murphy blogged about today: “Why Being a Good Friend Makes You Good at Social Media.”
Whether you use one social media tool or multiple, no matter how far you stretch yourself across the social web, it’s important to be authentic. To be kind and honest, to help others and to be a good listener.
It will be interesting to see where 2009 brings us. What are your thoughts?