Yesterday, I went to a conference organised by Jackie Danicki of the Engagement Alliance called "What MySpace Means:Lessons For Every Brand". Bear in mind I've been lurking around the social media scene for some time. So this isn't a conference report, just the (paraphrased) things I found interesting:
Heather Hopkins of Hitwise UK notes that MySpace and hot competitor BeBo are all about people congregating where their friends are. Bebo has an edge here because it it school- and college-related. She noted that once you're part of one network it's very hard to move.
Adriana Lukas of the Big Blog Company talked of humans being non-rational and 'oddly intimate' in their online communications. Minds meet before bodies. She referred to online people as 'digital immigrants'. Censorship or control are perceived as 'damage' and will be routed around. In this space, the demand side is supplying itself which has huge implications for traditional information providers.
Scott Norvell of Fox News talked about people coalescing around friends and peer groups. Coalescing is a word that popped up frequently during the afternoon. He talked of people having more power than broadcast media - citing Matt Drudge. Although media consumption has changed, mainstream media still has tremendous sway. On the dangers of online, he said "children are more likely to be abducted on a church picnic". Young people aren't doing and talking about anything they didn't do before, they're just doing it more publicly on the web.
The Guardian's Victor Keegan talked about the university whose students wouldn't go to union meetings because they were so busy communicating in MySpace. The Union discovered that a lot of potential members were fans of a particular film series. So the Union screened an episode. The MySpace folk turned up en masse but then didn't speak to each other.
He also talked of the shift in power from producers to consumers. And, for the vain (in a publishing sense) among us, he mentioned lulu.com where you could upload your own book and get it printed for a few pounds.
Apparently 2/3 of readers of Guardian properties (on-line and paper) are outside the UK. It has its own podcasting studio as well as various blogs and online pages. He talks of contributing to Guardian blogs for free because he knows he'll get far more readers than he ever would with a self-hosted blog.
Antoine Clarke of Pharma Marketletter (and fiancé of the organiser) stimulated an almighty row when he raised the question of drug companies advertising to the public. Responses ranged from Damian Counsell's "people can't evaluate claims" to Jackie Danicki's "well they can go to the doctor for an opinion".
Alex Bellinger of Audacious Communications wondered whether podcasting really qualified as social media. Without listener involvement and feedback it's just a more isolated form of radio. The conversation moved back to giving listeners control of what's covered.
Suw Charman from the audience pointed out that some corporates love podcasting because they can say "this is the message" whereas blogs are somewhat messier.
Alex agreed. "Corporations love it. It's signed, sealed and delivered. It gives them control." Adding, "but, with an ad at the beginning and a call to action at the end, who's going to listen?" Again the coalescence word came up. If you put podcasts out for free, this is a good opportunity to coalesce around a show. He then plugged his own smallbizpod as an example of this.
Because of another engagement, I missed the last two presenters, Alistair Shrimpton of Skype and Hillary Johnson of Kerabu, Inc. But I believe Jackie will be uploading her own notes to the conference website.
Was it worth three hours for these few nuggets? Absolutely. And I'm sure the audience got much more out of it than me.