This post is my contribution to the free eBook, Social Media For Events 2010: 7 Event Experts Weigh In On The Year Ahead compiled and created by Lara McCullouch-Carter.
The Four Cs Of Conferences And Social Media
Many novices and skeptics find social media confusing, much less trying to integrate social media with their events.
Why is this? First, novices and skeptics often focus exclusively on the social media tools. They think social media means playing with Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. Since social media encompasses many types of tools, each with their own characteristics and learning curves, a toolkit approach to social media becomes overwhelming and perplexing.
Second, the term “social” is an umbrella term used for a lot of things like social media, social networking, social technologies, and social web. Even social media practitioners can’t come to an agreement on the terms. The absence of a common established vernacular confuses people.
I suggest that professionals take a tools- and terminology-agnostic approach. Instead of getting distracted by the tools and terminology, focus on the underlying themes of social media that are relevant to strategic event design. I call them the Four Cs Of Conferences And Social Media: Content, Collaboration, Community and Cumulative Value. I combine those four Cs with the Four Cs Of Conference Attendees: Consumers, Curators, Contributors and Creators.
Every conference or event has specific content and information that is going to be shared. Conference attendees consume and curate that content. Some take the content, repurpose it, share their reflections and then distribute it via a variety of social media technologies–like blogs, Facebook, Flickr and Twitter. Some create new content about their experiences and share it with their networks. Focus on developing and sharing meaningful, relevant content.
Every conference has an unwritten goal that the event serves as the catalyst aggregating the actions of individuals into meaningful collective results. Collaboration occurs on three levels: conversation, co-creation and collective action. If there’s a buzz about the content, attendee’s discuss it with each other and ultimately with their social networks. Sometimes their collaborative efforts create a tipping point and the information goes viral, on to the social web. When this happens, event professionals reach nirvana, assuming it’s positive of course.
Every conference session (general session, workshop, breakout, luncheon) is a dormant community. Each workshop collects the attention of attendees interested in its content and those attendees typically want to discuss it. Often that community remains latent unless ties are strengthened and engagement is welcomed. A vibrant community has size and strength, and is built around a shared, meaningful social object–like content, experiences and ideas. Tapping into the value of the community can lead to positive results.
Conferences and the social web enable us to aggregate individual actions and to use sophisticated research algorithms to extract meaning from them. This collective intelligence is based on implicit and explicit actions usually through the form of reputation and recommendation systems. Amazon and Netflix measure browsing (implicit), buying (implicit) and ratings (explicit). Conference organizers can track agenda attendance (implicit) and evaluations (explicit) for example. If the collective intelligence is then shared back with the community, the members find more value in the community, and the community grows even more. Then the cycle repeats.
The best conferences and social media initiatives leverage all four layers moving from content to collaboration to community to cumulative value. Consider these Four Cs in the design and strategy phase of your planning before moving to the logistics and tools.
How would you integrate these Four Cs into your conferences, events and social media initiatives? What has worked for your events when integrating social media? Share your thoughts and reflections with us.