Last night The Northern has welcomed yet another digital event. In spring the venue hosted a Digital Marketing event (the one organised by David Bird of FaceBookCreep), and now we all gathered there yet again, for the first (but clearly not last) Social Media Cafe.
And wasn’t it great! Over 80 people attending, a great selection of panelists (Craig McGinty, Chi-chi Ekweozor and Martin Bryant) chaired by Sarah Hartley, a load of good questions, and a thoroughly enjoyable communication and networking that ended – for some – next door to The Northern, at Matt & Phred’s. Ideas are already thrown around for the subject for the next get-together, and the whole organisation is a fantastic example of – sorry, folks, getting on an Digital Marketing soapbox for a second – what digital/Social Media tools and platforms can be used to power an event or to create a community, and how. There are now: a Google Group, a Wiki, a Flickr group, a Yahoo! Pipe, a Twitter stream, not to mention all the coverage in blogs and in print (The M.E.N., that is). Read Sarah Hartley’s round-up post that includes a video of the debate.
And the posts from the panelists:
Some points that I’ve found particularly important or interesting were:
– the importance of a blog’s design on people’s opinion about the site. Apparently, it works very simply as: if you’re using a default template and never did anything creative with it, shame on you and no readership, no matter how good you write. This brought to mind a phrase I have long loved, something along the lines: “when a pivotal moment arrives, a man thinks: ‘what shall I say?’, and a woman thinks: ‘what shall I wear?’” To extrapolate this on to blogging, bloggers, regardless of gender, seem to worry more about the platform and design, rather than content. It would be an exaggeration, of course, to conclude that bloggers have a “female” streak about them, and I obviously realise the importance of a design for brand management and marketing. However, it all comes down to what a consumer (reader) pays for (in their free time, if not money), and it clearly isn’t just the look of one’s product.
– what is blogging about: collaborating or self-broadcasting? This was a very good question, but I was surprised that panelists solely focused on comments as the measure of communication and/or collaboration. It is so to an extent, but – hands up! – when I link to someone’s site or article, I don’t always leave a comment on their site, to let them know. Similarly, I often find out that someone linked to me from my blog’s statistical data or a Google Alert, not from a reader’s comment. The access to this data and its analysis are pivotal in making a blog something more than a self-broadcasting venture. First and foremost, it teaches a lesson of responsibility. Next, some search queries can actually hint at the topics that may be interesting to explore. Also, the conversation about your blog or the use of it may be happening without you even knowing about this. The links to various posts on this blog can be found on Wikio, Ask, Google Books, but naturally, no-one from Google would write to me informing about the link. Finally, some findings can be very pleasant, like in the image on the left. Just this afternoon I followed an incoming link from Alexa, where Los Cuadernos de Julia is currently in the Top 10 Arts Weblogs. But I don’t loiter on Alexa every day, you see.
At the same time I don’t think it is possible to strictly distinguish between collaboration and self-broadcasting, when we speak of a blog written by a single author. In this case the author often not only creates the content, but also represents themselves as a brand, with the necessity to manage it as one of the consequences, hence she or he is also doing their own online PR.
Here also fits a comment from the audience during our night at The Northern: can blogging be seen as just a means to satisfy various human needs, be it vanity, or sharing experiences with people, and so on. It certainly can, but I much favoured Craig’s point about William Blake who is well-known to have published his own books. This didn’t earn him much income or fame in his lifetime, but it was him who had a significant impact on the Pre-Raphaelites. It was the Brotherhood, as a matter of fact, that re-discovered William Blake, just like Surrealists and Man Ray helped to re-discover Eugene Atget. I think there is a need for bloggers themselves to know why they are out there, while admitting that other people may enter blogosphere (and stay there) for their own reasons and needs.
– the future of blogging. I have little to add to the ideas of panelists, those being: 1) GPS and mobile technology; 2) multimedia blogging; 3) data portability; and 4) corporate blogging. But one obvious thought comes to mind: there will be more information, its dissemination, and the problems of its regulation. By the look of it, even now many people don’t know what blogs are, and many are petrified at the prospect of blogging. But what scares them most is not the technical things, but rather the sharing and presentation of information. What can be published? Who can read it? How can they use it? Robin Hamman explored this last year on BBC Manchester Blog, following the Virginia Tech tragedy. Yet people are ready to answer these questions and to really go beyond some blank guidelines in the style of “love thy neighbour lest you be libelled”. So, there will be not only an influx of general information in the guise of our posts, pictures, videos, etc, but also an influx of educational posts or websites that will serve to illustrate the opportunities of blogging and Social Media.
So, it’s looking bright and shiny both for blogging and for Social Media Cafe. I’ll continue blogging about blogging (sic) over at Avidadollars, and keep your eye on The Mancunian Way for the complete coverage. The next date is already announced, and it is 9th of December. I keep my fingers crossed it doesn’t get changed… If you want to attend, head over to #smc_mcr and put yourself on the list.