A while ago now I had the great fortune to be invited by Keith Brock in Fingal County Enterprise Board to make a presentation at the Fingal Day of Enterprise. My presentation focussed on Social Media and Business. (The presentation is available to download as a PDF from the IIA website and you can hear a report about the day from RTÉ Radio 1’s The Business broadcast on October 12th (MP3 file; Report on Fingal Day of Enterprise is at about 18mins 40 seconds) which includes a few words of advice from yours truly.)
My experience at the Fingal Day of Enterprise was revelatory for me in my role with the IIA as Membership manager. My presentation was the first of the day: the room was packed out and people were turned away. Needless to say it wasn’t my reknown as a public speaker that was drawing the crowds especially as this was the first time I delivered a presentation on behalf of the IIA so I was a wee bit nervous. Of course there are aspects of my talk that I would now change especially based on the questions asked during the Q&A and subsequent conversations that day and my own social media experiences since then more of which later all going to plan with my blogging today! I was speaking about how to integrate Social Media into your marketing plan and it’s obviously a subject in which many people have an interest.
The reason the day was revelatory was because it made me more aware than ever before of how much help people who are starting businesses need when creating their online presence. I was standing at our stand from 1pm until 8.15pm with a constant stream of new business owners and entrepreneurs asking me various questions not just about the IIA but about how to get the best return on their investment of time and money in their internet marketing, sales and communications activities. A number of delegates who approached me had web design/ development consultancies and in a way I was sorry I didn’t have a two way queuing system so I could introduce the delegates looking for developers/ designers to the delegates offering developement/ design services!
Krishna De was also there that day as a business mentor and she popped over once or twice to say hello (and take photos see above) and even offered to mind the stand while I grabbed a cuppa which, although I declined, I really appreciated. But her offer and the queue at the stand got me thinking. If I were to be doing outreach work like this in a location close to you would you, as an IIA member, be interested in helping at the stand for 30 minutes to an hour? It was a great way to meet people who were actively seeking advice and information about bringing their business online and I think it would be a great opportunity for IIA members offering those kind of services to meet them. It’s just an idea so let me know what you think of it.
Two days later I packed myself off to Kilkenny for PodCampIreland, and while I was there in a more personal capacity, I didn’t hide the fact that I work for the IIA but most people know that anyway. I was facilitating a conversation about Twitter which I found very interesting and I hope those whose conversation I was facilitating found interesting too. When I asked those attending my presentation in Fingal about their experience of social media, I got one hand up for blogging (who left before I finished eek!), a couple of hands for Facebook and three hands up from the boys in school uniforms when I asked about Bebo and MySpace.* I got a big blank “ye wha’?!” when I asked about use of Twitter in Fingal which contrasted wildly with those at PodCamp – I think only two out of the 20 or so present didn’t use Twitter. While I was mainly asking the PodCampers about what they use Twitter for, how it helps them, why does it appeal to them, what future they see for it, I also asked them how they felt about businesses getting into Twitter, whether they felt it was intrusive or fair enough. As Twitter is all based on permission, I argued, a business joining in a conversation on Twitter is not the same as a representative from a business landing in on top of your cosy chat in the pub which was the common metaphor that day for online conversations. In most social media you have to accept an invitation, befriend someone, follow someone etc. before they can approach you with their ideas or requests. In this spirit, I’ve said it before but no harm re-iterating, you will never be followed by the IIA on Twitter unless you follow the IIA first and I would recommend other businesses to consider a similar approach. If you are thinking about how to get started and you would like to use this approach, make sure you follow the IIA and I will let my followers know you are online and it will help you start to build your presence. And get chatty. It’s all about engaging in conversation! If somebody says they don’t like your product or service ask them how you can help them to have a better experience of it.
But I digress, PodCampIreland had a lot more to offer apart from me 🙂 I attended a really interesting session by Dean Whitbread about Seesmic which was really interactive and involved us waving at a camera. Seesmic is a social network that allows people to converse using asynchronous videos, either recorded quick and dirty before uploading or prepared carefully and lovingly and uploaded. The great thing is that anyone can watch your video and respond. The other very nice thing about Seesmic is that you can set what sort of copyright you want applied to the video so that it can’t be just reproduced willy-nilly wherever the viewers wish unless you also wish it. It’s a great place to experiment with digital video and get feedback on your experiments so give it a go. I might see you there one of these days 🙂
I also attended a session by Mike Buckley about babyboomers online which turned into a very interesting conversation about who owns virtual space: young people or their parents; and about how technology can help preserve stories and pass them from generation to generation. I was reminded of this conversation on Tuesday when I attended the IIA/Limerick County Enterprise Board/ Marketing Institute of Ireland event on Tuesday. In her presentation Krishna De (who I think I have seen more of recently than my family :)) suggested that those of us disinclined to write much should consider making their content available as audio or video – it might suit your style a lot more than the writtern word. She drew our attention to Bill Marriott’s Blog which he records and which is then transcribed. Now obviously if you are the owner of the Marriott hotel chain you can afford to pay someone to transcribe your tuppeny worth but for us mere mortals making the audio or video available (and you could use Seesmic or YouTube to make video available) is a snap and is either free or costs very little.
I really hoped to blog about a lot more today. Contrary to my advice at the Fingal Day of Enterprise where I encouraged people to blog on a Friday afternoon because they are more likely to get up and leave and go home/ to the pub rather than allow it to seep into their evening it is after five and I am still here. So I will wish you all a great weekend (I’ll see some of you at the inaugural Irish Web Awards), remind you to vote in the Net Visionary Awards and promised lots more very soon!
*Oh yes I was interested by the three uniformed lads putting their hands up to say they were using Bebo and MySpace and I kicked myself for not pointing out to the audience that if they hope to communicate with those who have disposable incomes in ten years time they better start using social media and their online presence more proactively because this is where the mid-teens of today are learning how to use the web.