I've been to events where everyone is twittering, tagging and hopping around with their laptops. I've also been to events where nobody even knows what tagging is. In most events, you will find a mix of people.
I was asked by Partos, the branche association for development organisations in the Netherlands to think with them how social media can support their yearly event, Partos Plaza for roughly 100 participants. The event will take place next tuesday so we don't have any evaluation data yet, but I can share our design and some first observations about the process.
We thought very carefully about the aim of using social media. We didn't want to add a social media layer simply because you look old-fashioned if you don't (I think we can wait for the first event without any social media and it will be seen as a relief :). So our aim of using social media was:
- To support interaction between participants before and during the event and between the organisers and participants
- To experiment with social media and show participants some uses of social media
- To ensure continuity and follow-up- other years it was very invisible what happened with all the ideas and energy. Having online interaction afterwards can help taskteams or interest groups to continue online (if there is an interest to do so). This may lead to better collaboration initiatives
- A network wall with the printed profiles from the ning. We asked people in their profile about their interests and the knowledge that the person has they would like to meet. This will be displayed on the network wall and people will be invited to contact each other or suggest names of people to meet.
- A twitter screen and twitter corner. We would like people to answer the question: what idea, insight of new contact did you gain today? so that it becomes collectively visible what is happening in terms of networking and creation of new ideas. The large majority not on twitter will be invited to twitter from a central account in a specially set-up twitter corner.
- Last but not least, all workshopleaders will report something (small) back on the platform and investigate whether there is an interest to continue somehow working on their topic. This will allow people to read on what's happening in parallel workshop and ofcourse it will be easier for people who can not make it to peep into the content.
Our first experiences are mixed:
- There were not that many reactions to the statements and to the invitation to think along the programming. I guess it is due to not being that at ease with working through a social network because the people who did respond were all well versed with various social media. It is an repeated event, so I see that participants are quite passive and not that eager to co-create. It's fine if other organise it for them! (this is my interpretation by the way)
- The number of participants on the ning and the number of visitors were higher than expected. We are now at 90 people. We had expected a maximum of 60 on the social network because some might not be interested in it.
- Twitter has been an eye-opener! Without investing a lot, we have 31 followers in 4 weeks time. And from the participants, at least 30 are on twitter and/or have a corporate twitter account. Interesting to see that twitter has become such an easy entrance into social media.... about 7% of the traffic to the ning has come through twitter, even though it was not heavily used. And 20% is still through the website of Partos.
- There are some assumption in social networks that work against the hierarchy. Secretaries asking how they can register their bosses for workshops when the boss has registered on the ning... This is only possible to do it yourself or if the boss gives his/her log in data to the secretary.
- I have the impression it makes it easier for the not-so-obvious participants to join, like the private intiatives (as we call them) versus the professional organisations.
Will keep you posted after tuesday and definitely after we have some feedback from participants...