It’s hard to describe the feelings I have right now about Social Capital. Four months of planning and working to pull everything together and the day felt like it flew by in a flash. Despite some blips, I think the day was an unqualified success. Yes, Ottawa’s very first social media conference - born and bred in this town - was really, really good.
It only seemed appropriate that this inaugural conference in Ottawa be kicked off by Glen Gower, founder of OttawaStart.com and a bunch of other sites, who has his finger on the pulse of this town and knows community when he sees it. I loved hearing Glen’s take on the Ottawa social media scene from the very beginning. You know, back before social media was dubbed “social media”. Glen has made it his mission to promote these communities since the late 90s. Yeah, he was community-building before building communities was cool.
From the morning keynote, I moved on to a session in which I was moderating a panel on social change through social media. The speakers, Shannon Smith, Stacey Diffin-Lafleur and Keenan Wellar, each had interesting stories to tell and words of wisdom for those in attendance. From Shannon’s insights about dealing with being unexpectedly thrust into the spotlight as an individual to Keenan’s bold declaration that “[many volunteer organization’s] processes suck” to Stacey’s motto, “proceed until apprehended” that clearly shows her indomitable spirit and commitment to her work.
All three have been learning how to use social media tools to advance their respective causes. This is one of the areas of social media that is inspiring to me - the sincere desire to bring about positive change in the world.
The second session I attended was Craig Fitzpatrick’s where he generated lively discussion after a presentation that, in some ways, challenged the way people looked at social media from a marketing perspective. “Community = Channel.” It was a great presentation that included advising users to choose to do things that are measurable and that Klout should rebrand itself “reach” instead of “influence”. Reach is measurable. Influence…well, it’s not so easy to measure.
The word “unconference” started being thrown around during Craig’s session in the tweets going through my stream. It was gratifying to see such energetic discussion about a topic that deserves careful thought.
By the third session, I was feeling slightly numb - probably due to waking at an unreasonable hour after being up to an unreasonable hour (funny how that works). So I know that a good chunk of the presentations from Kneale Mann and Dennis Van Staalduinen didn’t sink in completely. Kneale and Dennis came at the broad topic of social media strategy from very different perspectives. Kneale is a proponent of the human web and creating human connections. He brought up Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and related it to employee motivation - a concept I’m not unfamiliar with from my days of working in an employee survey firm as it was the basis for our surveys.
When Kneale finished, Dennis got up and gave us a crash course on how a major brand with a major campaign that goes insanely viral can ultimately crash and burn, destroying the brand in the process. I already cringe when I hear someone say, “Let’s do a viral video!” Hearing Dennis’ story makes me want to stay well away from those who think viral is the answer to everything. People relate to stories and respond to simplicity. Going over the top sets the bar so high that there’s rarely anywhere else to go but down.
Is your head spinning? Mine was.
After all that, I lead a roundtable about Facebook. It was a fantastic way to end the day. Some stayed in my group for the full hour and a half and others came and went so they could visit other groups to talk about different subjects. The discussion about Facebook ran from basic to strategic questions and challenged me to think about how I’d use this tool more effectively as well.
At the end of the day, I was thoroughly exhausted but on a happy high of success.
WE DID IT! And we did it well. It’s hard to say what I learned more from - planning this conference or attending it. Start to finish, it was an extremely valuable experience that I am looking forward to doing again.