How Social Media Enhances Events presentation

As a result of two major Ashoka events this year I've been thinking a lot about how social media can enhance, leverage, expand and capture the content of events. Tech4Society and the Ashoka Future Forum were the most social media-enabled events Ashoka has yet run and many leassons were learned as a result. I co-hosted a recent #4Change Twitter chat on the subject and wrote a case-study for Netsquared. On Friday I tried to draw this all together in a webinar I delivered for Small Act (organized before I accepted an offer to work for them next). The goal was to give an accessible introduction to different ways of creating social content at events and some things to consider for small organizations as they move in that direction.

Check it out and let me know what you think:

[slideshare id=4275408&doc=socialmediaateventspresentation-100524185631-phpapp01]

#4Change Chat wrap-up: How Social Media Can Enhance Events

Cross-posted from the 4Change blog:

On March 18 the #4Change Twitter Chat took on the topic of 'How Social Media Can Enhance Events.' This topic seemed particularly apropos with the chat taking place immediately after the annual SXSW takeover of Twitter, and soon before the Non-profit Technology Conference and Skoll World Forum, two other conferences with an oversized online presence. Social media at events has also been on my mind recently with Ashoka hosting Tech4Society in Hyderabad India and the Ashoka Future Forum in Washington DC, both more social media-enabled than any previous Ashoka-organized events.

It is almost hard to imagine these days a significant event not having a social media component, whether this is simply individuals in the room tweeting or a resourced effort by the host. So the question is not, as it once was, “will social media be created?” but rather “will this social media enhance the event?”

As Christina Jordan posed in the pre-chat blog post, What’s the potential benefit of using social media to cover events? For whom?

Numerous benefits of a conscious strategy to utilize social media at events were suggested by chat participants including taking the stories and examples being shared to a wider (and more diverse) audience, allowing organizers and the cloud see what is resonating with attendees and creating a back-channel for attendees to interact and debate, as well as allowing those not in attendance to feed their points of view into this discussion. This can often allow people to say what isn't being said out-loud in the room, as well as giving those unable to attend physically some sense of participating in and benefiting from the event. Social media can also assist with documentation, capturing key thoughts and currents during the day and allowing them to be looked back over afterwards. For the vast majority of events there will be no mainstream media coverage: only social media will carry and record the outcomes of these gatherings beyond the immediate attendees.

Concerns were also expressed however at the possible distraction and disruption at events, with TED pointed out as an example of an event that doesn't allow tweeting during sessions.

So what are the key elements of a successful event social media strategy? 4 key elements were identified: Preparation; Resourcing; Aggregation and; Integration.

1. Preparation. Preparation, as with most things, is critical to get the maximum impact from your social media efforts. Tags should be identified and distributed to all participants beforehand, inviting them to take part in creating content on the day. Create groups for photos and videos to be shared and be careful to choose a twitter hashtag not already in use. If you're doing live streaming test thoroughly. Prepare widgets for deployment.

2. Resourcing. It requires a dedicated person to effectively create social media at an event, whether they are live tweeting, live blogging or uploading video and photos. Multiple dedicated people will be required to do all of these things. Having at least one person exclusively focused on the online conversation allows multiple threads to be pulled together and background information identified. For example at the recent TEDxAshokaU event I was tweeting links to the profiles of the Ashoka Fellows as they spoke, providing crucial additional information to anyone intrigued by the quotes emanating from the room.

3. Aggregation. With most successful events generating a considerable volume of diverse social content aggregating this into one place where it can be easily accessed is critical. Most people felt that this was a job best done manually by a discerning staffer or volunteer (another resourcing issue). An example of this sort of aggregation is the Tech4Society coverage page, updated daily during the event with new blog posts and videos and containing a Twitter widget displaying the #tech4soc stream.

4. Integration. If you are integrating social media into the live event experience it needs to be seamless and well managed. Screens with running twitter streams can be very distracting to participants and presenters. On the other hand they can also provide a platform for sourcing questions, generating discussion or even choosing the agenda. If you are capturing video during the day can this be presented back to participants at the end of the day as a way of summarizing proceedings?

Video was touted as an increasingly important tool in all its forms: live streaming, rapidly-produced interviews and audience reactions and better-produced videos of presentations ala TED. It was also pointed out however that video poses particular bandwidth issues, making it inaccessible to view or event get online in many parts of the world. As a real-world example of this we were unable to upload videos as planned from Tech4Society in India due to bandwidth limitations.

At the end of the chat participants were asked for their takeaways, as is customary: @Nidhi_C: takeaway: when planned, #socmedia can play role of a valuable audience participant, add spice to discussion, & connect @liadavide: Takeaway: SM is a great tool but still has some way to go especially in areas with poor telecom infrastructure @karitas: takeaway: if prepared/promoted right, SM can bring live/remote participants 2gether, & add fun/useful layers 2 experience. @tashjudd: takeaway - social media has fundamentally changed who audience of an event can be, possibilities are much wider now @christinasworld: my takeaway - preplanning of a #socialmedia strategy is really important @amysampleward: takeaway: sm at events has 3 audiences: presenters, present audience, remote audience. create value in/out 4 all.

My takeaway? An event without a social media strategy is a wasted opportunity. Events now provide a platform much bigger than the event itself, allowing more people to participate in the conversation and experience elements of the content. While live experiences are unique and essential social media is a lever to push the impact of the event beyond those in attendance.

Additional resources: Social Media Enabling Conferences: A Tech4Society Case Study (Netsquared) A Few Reflections from SXSW Crowdsourcing Panel (Beth's Blog) 3 Ways Live Events Help Online Communities (Mashable) Social Reporters toolbox (Delicious)

#4change wrap-up: collaboration and social media

I've been meaning to write a wrap-up of the #4change chat on collaboration for the week since it happened. My apologies for the delay, I'm still getting into the routine of blogging and Burning Man preparation has completely taken over ever available hour outside of work and a necessary minimum of socializing. I'll tell you all about it before I depart – in a week! Anyway....

Thank you to @lethalsheethal for her excellent and vastly more timely reflection on the chat. Having just discovered it I'd like to recommend www.printyourtwitter.com as creating by far the most digestible (and printable, naturally) twitter transcript (ht @writerpollock).

The topic of the most recent #4change chat was “How does social media open new doors for collaboration?” It was a vibrant and thought-provoking conversation, in my opinion the best #4change chat we've had so far.

There is no question that social media has created enormous new collaborative possibilities. Some of these are in the sharing of data, such as the Social Entrepreneurship API being developed by Social Actions and the merging of the North American green business databases of Gen Green (@gengreen) and 3rd Whale (@3rdwhale), which was announced at the start of the chat. This was interesting and welcome news, but business alliances of this type are not uncommon. What, we wondered, where the unique collaborative capacities of social media?

@engagejoe summed up some of these possibilities as “exposing overlap, sharing resources, connecting communities, forging partnerships.” These things are not unique to social media but they are native to it – social media makes overlap and waste more transparent, speeds up information sharing and relationship-building and can increase the impact of collaborations. Messages can be shared between communities and networks both real-time and ad-hoc. And as #4change itself demonstrates conversations can be convened that were never possible before.

But how much of this is happening? And if these possibilities are not being realized what are the barriers standing in the way?

The conversation part seems easiest. It is, by definition, what social media facilitates. Making this conversations intentional, productive and constructive is harder, but we still see examples of this all around us, on forums and wiki's, blogs and microblogs, communities closed and open. These conversations can create new insights, understanding and relationships. And these conversations can lead to concrete action, from protests to petitions, fundraising to collaborative databases.

There was a real skepticism felt by some in the conversation about whether real work was being done online. This, of course, depends on what real work is to you, but most would agree that hearts and minds are a key part of most forms of social change and so anything that brings us into contact with each other in new ways has the ability to move us in new ways. As Michael Wesch said in his presentation at Personal Democracy Forum this year, “We know ourselves through our relationships with others. New media is creating new ways to relate.”

But to really scale-up the collaborative possibilities of social media we need to empower and lead our organizations to work together in new ways. As @ChristinasWorld said: “if we could get orgs and passionate people to start working together at a sector/issue level things will start to get exciting.” One key challenge to doing this, as @edwardharran pointed out, is that “social media is pocketed in silos.” While we might wish that this wasn't the case it is simply a fact of human existence that we build groups at all sizes, but that our closest communities are smaller and more digestible, whether on or offline (although the scale of what's digestible varies widely between these two states). With these distributed, frustratingly uncoordinated conversations also comes enormous space for innovation and creative thinking. However better search, aggregation and distribution is needed to reveal these conversations to each other in ways that support collaboration. We can see steps in this direction with WiserEarth groups showing related groups and Zanby which allows groups to connect while retaining their independence.

A schema began to emerge from the conversation which identified three distinct types of collaboration:

1. organization-to-organization

2. organization-to-individuals

3. individuals-to-individuals.

Again and again the majority of the examples brought up where the later two. For 2. you have organizations like the Sunlight Foundation who are harnessing the contributions of hundreds of coders to create their transparency tools and OneYoungWorld who are using social media to find 1500 leaders of tomorrow. You also have new tools which facilitate this form of collaboration in exciting new ways like The Extraordinaries. For 3. there are grassroots political fundraising campaigns and the entire open source movement.

(4. was also later suggested by @engagejoe: people-within-organizations. Any more?)

For 1. there is the previously-cited Social Actions-style data aggregation and sharing and some great examples of organizations collaborating around a social media-enabled campaign, such as the just-launched climate change campaign tcktcktck (@tcktcktc) but there was a clear feeling that much of this landscape remains to be filled out.

In discussing the barriers to better social media collaboration between non-profits people nominated time intensity vs staffing resources, fear, lack of connectivity in many parts of the world, desire to tightly control their message, geography and time zones and lack of skills as prime candidates. The need for clear strategy so as to not waste precious staff resources was also mentioned, along with the observation that many non-profits do not have the knowledge or experience to develop this strategy.

To close people were asked for their key takeaways from the conversation:

  • “There is a desire to evolve toward more collaborative outputs; SM [social media] may not be enough to get there” - @ChristinasWorld
  • “It's given me ideas about the barriers NP [non-profits] face with SM” - @chilli07
  • “I think #4change in itself is a great example of international collaboration” - @tashjudd
  • “Main takeaway: a sense of optimism. SM is not going anywhere and collaboration is only going to continue to get bigger and better” - @edwardharran
  • “SM can be chaotic but still work” - @zerostrategist
  • “I now see more kinds of collaboration: people-within-org, org-to-community, community-to-community, org-to-org” - @engagejoe

And if I could be so bold as to end on my own takeaway:

  • “We must learn to collaborate as individuals first, then teach our organizations how.”


Please let us know what topics you'd like to cover in future chats!

#4Change Twitter chat tomorrow

4change logo #4Change is a twitter-based real-time conversation about how social media can be used for change. It was an idea which bounced around for a bit before a group of friends and contacts from three countries kicked it off a couple of months ago. Tomorrow will be our third chat.

Rather than introduce the next chat I'm going to use my friend Amy's overview for the 4Change group blog, of which I am a part, as I couldn't possibly do a better job.

The next #4change chat is this Thursday – I hope you can join us!


Starting the Conversations

Unfortunately for me, I will unable to join the chat this Thursday; so, I’d like to offer some conversation starters now to get you thinking of questions, ideas, and stories you want to share!

Here are some questions to consider:

  • has your organization found new collaborators (other organizations, companies, networks, etc.) for your work via social media use/presence?
  • have you reached out, either as an individual or an organization, with opportunities to collaborate to others you only connected with via social media? why?
  • what issues are unique to collaborations of this type?
  • what kind of reassurances (and what are the mechanisms for providing them) are unique to parties entering collaborations via social media?
  • how could collaborations enabled or maintained via social media be more or less sustainable than traditional tools/outlets?

And here are some examples to consider:

  • SocialActions – a great example of social media powering the sharing and aggregation (and thus the collaboration and partnership) of social action opportunity portals all over the world
  • Amnesty International, Red Cross, and others – organizers working globally/locally have changed the way they campaign or operate now that they are really in the same space (online)
  • Journalism – writers are now using their social media platforms (whether it’s Twitter or Facebook, or even the newspaper’s comment-enabled websites) to collaborate with witnesses, locals, and experts for their contributions to the story

Join the Conversation

  1. If you want to contribute to the conversation, you’ll need to have a twitter account (it’s free).
  2. To follow the conversation (whether you are planning to contribute or not), use http://search.twitter.com or another application to search on Twitter for “#4Change”
  3. Jump in to the conversation by adding “#4Change” (without the “”) to your Twitter message

Rules for #Change Chats

  1. #4Change will be structured around a series of questions which all participants can respond to. Send your questions to @tomjd without the hash tag (to keep them out of the stream) to have them considered.
  2. Introduce yourself in 1 tweet at the start or when you join.
  3. Stay on topic!
  4. Stay cool.

Join us for the chat this Thursday – looking forward to discussing the role social media play in collaboration!