Capitalizing on Ottawa's social media conference void

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.

“Proceed until apprehended” - Stacey, with Keenan and Shannon to her left.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.

My friend, Cherie-Lynn, made me smile then caught it on camera. :)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.

Talking Facebook - it was a very interesting conversation!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.

 This is the Social Capital Organizizing Committee - Sara, Andrea, Becky, Me, Lara and Vicky who was unable to stay for the whole day. These are amazing ladies that I am honoured to have been able to work with.

*****

Thank you to my friends, Sara and Cherie-Lynn, for the fabulous pictures I’ve used in this post!

I don't love Facebook; I just like what it's done for me

I live approximately 1,500 miles from my hometown, Tallahassee, Florida. All my family still live in the U.S. and I don’t get to see them nearly as much as I’d like. I left behind a lifetime’s worth of friendships that are hard to maintain over time and distance.

Just when I thought I’d probably never see or hear from my long distance friends, along comes Facebook and my friends list exploded overnight. 

I joined Facebook in summer of 2007. At first, I really didn’t use it much. I had one friend - the person who invited me - for quite a while. After making my first connection with someone I hadn’t seen in years, I began to see the value of this thing called Facebook. I started seeking people out - searching for names of people I hadn’t seen since high school, wanting to know where they were and what they were doing, how their lives were going.

There were two people I was almost desperate to reconnect with. But every attempt to find them was fruitless, either because the search results were so abundant that I didn’t have a prayer of a chance of picking the right one, or because they hadn’t signed up to the time-sucking vampire that is Facebook.

It turns out that, among my oldest friends, I was the early-adopter of this particular social media addiction. The first of the two people I was eagerly waiting to hear from popped up about a year after I joined. Dawn and I lost touch because of email address changes and technology fails in the form of lost data. Her first message to me was, “You have a child!” That made me smile, even though it was sad that I didn’t get to share that news with her a lot sooner. Dawn was a very dear friend I met when we both showed up to our first studio class in the same jacket. We were both voice students in the music education program at Florida State University. We bonded over our identical jackets and eventually shared many classes together - the best being grad student Tracy’s Music Theory class.

The second person I was anxious to find on Facebook finally showed up last week. She and I spent our last five years in school together. We met in 8th grade when she came to my school new. We were both sort of anomolies - she was the new student and I was the home-schooled student who came for band. (Yeah, I was a band nerd like that.) We were BFFs through all four years of high school. She was a majorette and I was on the flag corps. We had lively and respectful discussions about our differing beliefs during our many sleepovers - as well as a few fairly embarrassing writing sessions. (I hope we burned those notebooks so our kids don’t get their hands on them.)

When I saw her name pop up on my news feed on Facebook, I wanted to do cartwheels. It has been almost 10 years since we had any contact and I’ve missed her very much. I’m so happy to have her back in my life again. Every attempt I made to find her previously was unsuccessful, but I knew we’d cross paths somehow, someday.

Facebook gets a lot of flack - and rightly so - for it’s cavalier attitude about privacy and not knowing how to make things opt-in instead of opt-out. But I can’t regret that I’m on there, nor will I delete my account anytime soon. Because, to me, it’s too valuable to be able to connect with people who are dear to me on a regular basis in the small ways that I get to connect with them on Facebook. Several of my family members are on there now as well and that’s been so exciting for me.

Certain people wonder why I love blogging and social media as much as I do. Well, this is a huge part of why I love it and am so involved in it. It’s all about the connections I can maintain with people I don’t get to see anymore. For me, Facebook and my blog in particular have significantly decreased the distance I feel from my loved ones and I hope they feel closer to me as well.

So, what about you? What do you get from social networks you’re involved in? 

The complicated technology of relationships

Source: istockphotoThe last few months, friendship has been on my mind quite a bit. Sometimes it’s been due to events that have happened - to myself or others. Sometimes it’s just part of my general reflections on where I’ve come from and how people and relationships have influenced me. 

In the last three years, a whole new dimension to my personal relationships has opened up. It’s the social media dimension.

I was invited to join Facebook in summer of 2007 by a co-worker. She was my first “friend” and we’re still friends through Facebook though I haven’t worked with her in a year and a half. That’s one of the things I love about Facebook. I can keep in touch with people without a great deal of effort, and vice versa. Let’s face it: we’re all busy and getting an occasional snapshot of people’s lives is nice. I’ve reconnected with many friends from high school and people who I’ve lost touch with.

I used to listen to a tech podcast - CNET’s Buzz Out Loud - and learned quite a bit about social media in general through the podcast. At one point they talked about a CNET employee who had linked his wife to his relationship status on Facebook, but as his profesional notoriety increased, he decided he wanted to separate his public persona from his private life. So, he deleted his wife’s name from his relationship status. And all of his friends and hers got the message that they were no longer married.

Relationship statuses are still published in the feed to this day (unless you disable it in your settings). I’ve had a few friends whose relationships either ended or hit rocky times and changes to that status are broadcast to everyone (It’s Complicated) and I always feel awkward about it. Not that I don’t want to know or wouldn’t be supportive in whatever way I can. But it’s abrupt to have all of your friends learn about something so momentous that way.

When I think about the “online” factor of relationships, it blows my mind. So much is documented that people don’t often think about. I can’t even count how many stories I’ve heard about jobs lost, reputations tarnished, relationships ended because of little bits of information people pick up from individuals’ online activities.

Some people get online and let it all hang out - after all, there’s no one sitting in front of you inhibiting your rash information dissemination. If there’s no face reflecting feelings, it’s easy to write or do things at a distance that you wouldn’t do face-to-face. At the other end of the spectrum, there are people that are afraid to put anything out there. Many refuse to join social networks or online communities at all. (Perhaps that’s the safest bet.)

I think there is a happy medium between these extremes. I use a few filters with my online activity.

One is the mom-filter. And it goes two ways:

  1. Would my mom (or dad) be disappointed to read/know this about me?
  2. Will my son be disappointed to read/know this about me?

Another filter I use has to do with my employability - would a potential employer stop talking to me if they read/know this about me? This one is tricky since everyone has the right to their opinions and free expression, but I think it has to do with character and how you conduct yourself overall. Being respectful of others is crucial, even when there are differences. For me, my online activity is a personal hobby. I do not talk about what I do or where I work. (I’ve even deleted comments where others have inadvertently mentioned details about my work online.)

The last major filter I use is my own comfort zone. I like to call it the this-could-be-out-there-forever-and-do-I-really-want-that filter. Like many people, when I first joined Facebook, I wasn’t terribly selective about what I said and did. As time went on, though, I gained friends and eventually realized I needed to think more carefully about what I was saying. Sure, you can delete posts, but if even one person saw it before you deleted it, then it’s out there. (It’s also Facebook - so, how do we know they actually delete it on the back end?)

We all know that reading words on a page is a recipe for misunderstanding the intent and tone of a message. But what isn’t said can be just as damaging when you’re building relationships online. It’s interesting to see how relationships built online often cause as much (if not more) angst and hurt as “in real life” (IRL) relationships. What’s more, it’s sad to see how IRL relationships are ruined by poor choices online.

It makes me wonder if technology truly causes complications with relationships or if people complicate things entirely on their own by not thinking through the implications of their actions thoroughly.

What do you think? Do you have any filters you use when you’re posting content online?

My name is Karen and I fear I'm becoming addicted to social media

I’m not at all a social person. My idea of a good time is going home from work, playing with my son until bedtime and then hanging out with Matt. But the Internet is a whole new ball game for people like me. I get to open up and come out of my comfy introverted shell. But it’s not all about me. No, no, no. I find it fascinating to see what others are doing too. The best part about that is getting tips about new stuff - sites, gadgets, tools…the usual.

Because I work in marketing and am in this realm all day, you’d think I’d get tired of it. I don’t see it happening yet. Admittedly, I’m not a Facebook fanatic (most of the time it strikes me as a popularity contest), but I like reading and writing, so blogs and micro-blogs are the most appealing mediums I participate in these days.

Speaking of the popularity contest that is Facebook, why do people even go on there or “add friends” if they aren’t going to interact? That’s my biggest problem with that particular world on the Web these days. It’s such a contradiction to be a member of a social community and not socialize with the community you build around you. I am being more and more selective about who I add to my own little world. I have absolutely no interest in accumulating friends to have a big number. I was never one of the “in-crowd” and if anyone who knows me ever described me as popular, I’d wonder who they were talking about.