02 October 2012 by Stephen McLeod Blythe
Reflections on Social Media Week 2012
Last week saw the return of the worldwide event dedicated to all things 'social' on the web - 'Social Media Week'. Spread across a diverse and increasing number of host cities (12 in total), the stated aims of the organisers are to explore the impacts of social media, and help foster connections and collaboration between both individuals and organisations.
Claiming some impressive statistics (such as 36,000 physical attendees in total, and 275,000 mentions of the main #smw12 Twitter hashtag), as well as attracting some of the heavyweight industry players (Microsoft, Google, LinkedIn…) Social Media Week certainly seems to have managed to generate a fair amount of conversation.
…but is any of it actually any good?
Our home city of Glasgow was one of the host locations, and different members of Amor took part in some of the discussions and events that were going on in different ways. As well as joining in with the online chatter, I managed to get along in person to more than a couple of the talks... tablet in hand.
From the difficulties facing the public sector in how best to utilise these new technological trends without compromising on privacy or network integrity, to the relevance (or otherwise) of Google+ to an organisation's digital presence, I was pleasantly surprised at the spread of topics that were offered up as part of the programme. In particular, the discussions around the socio-legal impacts of an increasingly online existence that were facilitated by various law firms were especially interesting… and something that arguably needs increasingly serious consideration.
Having said that, whilst there were undoubtedly good questions being asked, there was often little actual in-depth response to those queries, other than that we just don't know yet. As a result, the workshops could often feel more on the side of introductory than enlightening. Perhaps part of the reason for this lies in the very nature of internet culture itself, as something that needs to be understood through full immersion rather than the adoption of specific acts and processes.
Having previously written on my distaste for the categorisation of 'social media' and a lot of the superfluous analysis that goes along with it as a 'thing', it was interesting to note that on more than one occasion, those who were involved in leading the discussions were some of those least active on the social channels about which they were discussing. Speaking more as experts in their own field looking in at the social as a tool, I found myself yearning for some more authentic voices from those that are wired by default to understand and interact effectively online as second nature. We have to grasp the paradigm shift that is already well underway in the way that people interact, create and share information, and seek to understand it for ourselves… not just talk about it. If digital engagement is seen merely as a ball to be picked up and played with once a year before being put back on the shelf in order to get back to 'real work' rather than being fully embraced, the game will have moved on before we manage to take advantage of its possibilities.
For me as a Digital Marketing person, the real value of Social Media Week lay elsewhere than simply in the substantive content of the presentations. Instead, it was in the chance to meet and speak to others who are involved in the same battle to help explain this changing online landscape, in order to get the best results for ourselves and people that we work with.