The 140 Character Conference, Boston: Perfect Tapestry

For the last year and a half, Jeff Pulver (@jeffpulver on Twitter) has been hosting 140 Character Conferences, all over the US and globe, including NYC, LA, London, Tel Aviv, Barcelona, SXSW, DC, and San Francisco.

Last week, Pulver’s conference came to Boston, and I was lucky enough to attend.

Boston’s own Laura Fitton (@Pistachio) and Joselin Mane (@joselinmane |@BostonTweetup) helped Pulver host the all-day event, at the Back Bay Events Center.

Perennial Boston favorites Chris Brogan, Bobbie Carlton, C.C. Chapman, Jeff Cutler, Steve Garfield, and Christopher S. Penn, were also all on hand, among the various speakers, to talk about the impact of the real-time Internet on life and work.

Voices Rising

At Boston Tweetup’s June kickoff for the 140 Conference, Pulver noted that we are in the midst of a revolution, in which social platforms have disrupted every business sector, including “real estate, public safety, the music industry, video, politics, celebrities…” The way we connect with people has changed fundamentally,” Pulver explained. Importantly, he added, companies today realize they have to listen.

A Tapestry In Progress

As I sift through my conference notes, trying to capture the spirit of last week’s 140 Character Conference, I’m finding there were way too many vibrant voices, to single out a few sessions or speakers, without losing some sense of the whole. It was like a perfectly woven tapestry, that I’m reluctant to unravel too much, as its impact was cumulative.

Are You Ready To Be a Superhero?

Christopher S. Penn framed themes for the entire conference, in the session “Awakening your superhero“, with the power of social media. In his talk, Penn reminded his audience, of the ethical responsibilities that come with new social media capabilities.

“When you see someone in need, you have an obligation to help,” Penn observed. To be in a position to make that difference at the personal, institutional, and societal level, Penn advised actively building your network every day.

Social Media for Good/Social Media for Everyone

The following sessions are just a sampling of the ones that inspired me, or illustrated how social media has gone mainstream:

  • Real-time Education: This was a panel discussion on educating children for the world to come, with Kirsten Olson (@bhsprincipal) – Author of Wounded By School and the principal of Old Sow Educational Consulting, Patrick Larkin (@bhsprincipal) – Burlington High School (MA) Principal, and Tony Baldasaro (@baldy7) – Virtual Learning Academy Charter School, Chief Human Resource Officer Personalized Pathways Administrator.
  • My Family’s Incredible Story: How the Real time Web Is Helping Us Share Our Story: Nelson de Witt (@dewittn), Chief Story Teller at Ana’s Miracle, shared his familiy’s story about separation during El Salvador’s civil war and their journey to reunite. He also talked about how they are using social media and the real time Internet to share their story.
  • Lemonade – The Story Behind the Story
    Erik Proulx (@eproulx), from Please Feed the Animals, described how his blog for the unemployed advertising professional evolved into a documentary film on how these professionals are reinventing themselves in a layoff economy.
  • The Need for Innovation in the Military
    TroopSwap co-founder Blake Hall (@troopswap) described how Enterprise 2.0 can benefit the military, in combat.
  • Real-time Web and Public Safety
    John Daley ( @Boston_Police,) Deputy Superintendent, Boston Police, explained how Twitter is allowing the Boston Police to communicate information and be more responsive.
  • Leveraging Vulnerability in the Real-Time Web
    Geo Geller(@geogeller), Artist, Inventor, Photographer, Andy Dixon (@andydixn| @breakouttour) singer, songwriter, author, and Jessica Murray (@JessicaRMurray), Community Liaison for Social Media Club, introduced the BreakOUT Tour ~Breaking Kids Out of Prision Before They Get In.
  • Crowdsourcing Cancer
    Alicia C. Staley (@stales), 3 time cancer survivor, discussed a new site for Crowdsourcing Cancer, coming Dec. 15th, which will provide a network for cancer survivors, committed to seek, source, solve, and continue to survive cancer, together.
  • How I Became an Entrepreneur
    Lane Sutton (@kidcriticusa), Social Media Strategist/Entrepreneur/Writer (and a 13-yr-old kid), described his site, at KidCriticUSA, where he critiques movies, books, activities, and restaurants , from a kid’s perspective.

I also really liked Julien Smith’s soulful session, “The Primal Diaspora,” which provides tips from the co-author of Trust Agents (@julien), on finding happiness and forging more authentic relationships, in a Web 2.0 world.

For a more complete description of speakers and sessions, see the #140conf Boston schedule.

A Life Conference

If you still don’t “get” social media, I highly recommend attending a 140 Character Conference near you, to hear about first-hand the impact and pervasiveness of social media, across all aspects of life.

The power of the 140 Character Conference ultimately lies in the collective patterns that emerge from the various speakers’ individual messages… and how these stories add up to something greater than one person or industry, and even the moment at hand. As Pulver said, “This isn’t a technology conference; this is a life conference.”

Related Links

Keynote: The Frontier Is Everywhere – the Impact of NOW on New Economies, by Chris Brogan (@chrisbrogan) – Author and President, New Marketing Labs

Don’t Miss New E-Book: “Social Media’s Collective Wisdom: Simplifying Marketing with Social Media”

Back in April, I was a guest blogger at C.B. Whittemore‘s  “Flooring the Consumer” marketing blog, for her Social Media Series: Bridging New & Old. In the post, Social Media Series: Peg Mulligan on Bridging New & Old, Whittemore interviewed me on how to bridge the gaps that exist between the old ways of communicating and the new ones.

In her overview on the entire series, she describes the interviews as a “sparking discussion and actionable ideas on how best to reach all customers and include them in discussions about the value we offer.”

This June, I enjoyed meeting C.B. Whittemore in person, at the MarketingProfs B2B Forum, in Boston. I am genuinely impressed by C.B.’s abilities as a connector of both people and ideas. I’m also grateful and humbled that C.B. asked me to participate in such a vibrant and actionable series, in the company of so many veteran social media practitioners.

In her recently released e-book, “Social Media’s Collective Wisdom: Simplifying Marketing with Social Media,” Whittemore distills tools and approaches from the first 26 participants in the ongoing series, all social media practitioners, to help jump start the process of implementing social media in organizations.

Links of Note, May 2009: Social Media 100

Social Media 100

Chris Brogan’s Social Media 100 Series:
President of New Marketing Labs, social media guru Chris Brogan is exceptionally generous with his helpful tips and encouragement for beginner bloggers, at his own highly successful blog.

I haven’t even begun yet to plumb the depths of Brogan’s 100 posts on getting started in social media, but I look forward to “schooling myself” on social media, through this series. I suspect just about everything one might need to know is at least introduced, and then some, in these hit-the-deck-running posts, archived from last summer.

Mack Collier’s Social Media Library:
Mack Collier is a social media consultant, trainer and speaker, with a ‘homebase’ at The Viral Garden. “He is also a frequent contributor to the website Marketing Profs, as well as the marketing blog Daily Fix, and small business blog Search Engine Guide.” Here are some of the social media subjects in Collier’s extensive social media library, which represent some of his best posts, over the last four years, including regular updates: Blogging 101, Social Media Case Studies, Social Media Monitoring, and Twitter 101.

Christine (C.B.) Whittemore’s The Entire Bridging New and Old Social Media Series:
In a marketing blog about improving customer experience, particularly in flooring, Christine Whittemore hosts a social media series, interviewing members of the Digital Marketing community, who make key recommendations for bridging new and old media.

(For my own recent contribution to C.B.’s series, check out Social Media Series: Peg Mulligan on Bridging New & Old.)

13 Essential Social-Media ‘Listening Tools’:
In an excellent how-to article from MarketingProfs, Clay McDaniel (principal and co-founder of the Spring Creek Group) describes 13 essential social media ‘listening tools,’ including Google Alerts and Technorati. In addition, McDaniel discusses other helpful, lesser-known tools. If you are trying to convince the boss about the value of social media, exploring these listening tools and finding out exactly what others are already saying about your brand is a good place to start.

Seven Social Media Mindset Markers:
In a MarketingProfs Daily Fix post, social media handyman Paul Chaney, Internet Marketing Director of Bizzuka, describes seven key characteristics that are part of the social media mindset. This mindset should come before selecting social media tools, to ensure that your tools choices make the most business and relational sense.

My favorite characteristic is #5 the “Web is now more about ‘shared connections’ than ‘siloed destinations.'” Several times this month, I have heard on Twitter and in various webinars, that eventually the spokes of a company’s online presence (that is, its social media connections) will become more important than the company’s online hub (its corporate web site).

Steve Woodruff’s Getting Started: Social Networking:
Steve Woodruff leads StickyFigure, a division of Impactiviti LLC. His 15 page e-booklet includes the “What” and “Why” of social networking, as well as the “How,” in a practical step-by-step way. Plus, Steve provides a bonus Appendix, with a worksheet to help you define your “personal brand” and refine your message. For pharmaceutical professionals, Steve (who led sales, marketing, and business development efforts for two decades in the healthcare field) provides a special Appendix of resources.

Twitter: the 13 types of tweet to take notice of:
Econsultancy describes tweets that support Customer Service, Product Development, Usability, Business Development, and other cross-disciplinary functions, including marketing. This post is simply one of the best I’ve read, on ways social media, in particular Twitter, can enhance all business functions, including “listening, talking, energizing, supporting, and embracing” the groundswell (see Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff’s BusinessWeek Bestseller, Groundswell, p 69).

Why we tweet:
Paul Chaney, Internet marketing director for Bizzuka and member of the SmartBrief on Social Media Advisory Board, reports the results of a recent poll, which indicates “Twitter [may] tend to appeal to news junkies.” Other notable results from the “Why we tweet” poll include “the extremely low percentage of people/companies using it for customer service” and “the markedly high percentage of those that use it for staying on top of news and trends.”

Why FriendFeed is the New Must Have in your Social Media Toolbox:
Debbie Weil, author of The Corporate Blogging Book, notes that since FriendFeed announced a redesign of its site a couple weeks ago, she has noticed a significant uptick of FriendFeed subscribers. She offers several explanations for FriendFeed’s increasing popularity, including its main feature as a real-time aggregator of all your social networking accounts. She speculates that it may be the next “new thing” in the social media toolbox. In the comments, she also briefly discusses FriendFeed versus Plaxo.

3 Things You Should Know Before Starting A Blog:
In Conversation Agent, recognized among the world’s top online marketing blogs, Valeria Maltoni provides “some of the less frequently thought-about and more useful things you should know before starting a blog.” She mentions that when you start to blog, you will probably experiment with a lot of formats and content ideas. Over time, your blog is likely to evolve in a specific direction. Valerie also provides lesser-known objectives for blogging, including “using your blog as a sort of library of interesting things to think about.”

Recent or Soon-To-Be-Released Social Media Books

Analyzing Audience Without Direct Access to Customers

Summary: Provides tips on how to analyze audience for user assistance, without direct access to customers. Asks how the advent of Web 2.0, related social media tools, and user-generated content, can help technical communicators have more direct contact, and beyond that, collaboration, with our primary and secondary audiences.

As a technical communicator, I do not often have direct access to my audience. Without a clear understanding of my audience, it’s more difficult to define the purpose of my deliverables, gauge the correct content level, and the best organizational strategy. If this is the case for you, here are some suggested ways to learn more about your audience:

  • Working closely with the Product Manager, who often includes a definition of the product’s intended users in the product requirements.
  • Asking the Product Manager about any anticipated documentation requirements, early on.
  • Speaking with Marketing about customer demographics, segmentation attributes, expertise level, etc.
  • Working closely with QA during the product’s development. As internal users, QA is the best initial customer surrogate and can help you anticipate your audience’s user assistance needs.
  • Working closely with Technical Support representatives, who have first-hand knowledge of the customer’s frequently asked questions and troubleshooting issues.
  • Include Sales Engineers and other Product Implementation Engineers in the review process, as they too, have first-hand knowledge of the customer, and are often champions for the technical documentation.
  • After the documentation is released, directly calling your customers, asking for feedback on the documentation, or using a questionnairre to gain user feedback.
  • Including an e-mail address in the documentation, so customers have a way to provide direct feedback to the documentation team.

What other ways do technical communicators traditionally learn more about the intended audiences for our documentation deliverables? What obstacles do we sometimes face gathering this type of information? Do you see the advent of Web 2.0, related social media tools, and user-generated content, as a way for technical communicators to finally have more direct contact, and beyond that, collaboration, with our primary and secondary audiences? Photo Credit, Intersection Consulting.

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Contacting the Author: Content for a Convergent World – Peg Mulligan’s Blog