I attended the Like Minds 2010 Conference in Exeter last Friday (you can see the videos on TwitterFace Like Minds 2010) and it has taken me all weekend to slow the myriad of thoughts and ideas buzzing around my head. If you’re a regular Twitter user, you will probably have seen all the likeminds hash tags flying all over the place!
The theme was “People to People” as they stated on their website: “We know that the best conferences aren’t just about listening, or even talking – they are about meeting like minded people, and experiencing new ideas with them.” I was amazed by the build up to the event – there was a giddiness about the comments and expectations floating over the social media channels, as if we were all excitable children waiting for Santa!
But the cynic in me had its expectations too. As a marketer of 20+ years, but a novice of only a few months using Twitter and LinkedIn seriously as a business tool, I worried that I might be a fish out of water. Would Like Minds be full of “geeks” spending the day raving about the technical minutiae of social media tools? Sitting in the auditorium, surrounded by people tapping into their net books and i-Phones every few minutes didn’t exactly alleviate this concern. But then I listened to the speakers.
Much has been talked about the way the conference was designed, delivered and its impact – congratulations to Like Minds visionaries and founders Scott Gould and Drew Ellis. I particularly liked the simple (but genius!) idea of having Twitter avatars as name badges, as well as the session mix of speaker, panel and promotion of a worthwhile cause. I have never attended a conference before where I was so wrapped up in it that I was genuinely surprised to be told it was lunch-time, break-time or end of the day.
This was mostly because I listened to the speakers – and was blown away by every single one of them. From the kick-off, Digital Republic’s Jonathan Akwue’s insight into the true value of social media – it can literally save lives. John Bell of Ogilvy PR’s 360° Digital Influence team restored my faith in social media gurus’ understanding of the business world by urging the audience to pay attention to the strategy. Joanne Jacobs covered the post-lunch spot perfectly with a lively exhortation on emergent media. Olivier Blanchard’s and Yann Gourvennec’s different approaches simply made pragmatic sense (something that always goes down well with me!). And finally the master, Chris Brogan, whose presentation came across like a comedy routine but when you analysed what he actually said…. The simple and fundamental concept of treat your customers as guests because every one of us wants to feel special. This has been greatly commented on, but I think the best description comes in Vanessa Warwick‘s blog, which includes some great tips on just how to make people feel special.
I imagine this is what scares the mighty corporates about social media – how can they connect with customers and consumers at a humanistic level? Well, luckily that is what Mr Brogan’s business is all about – and one he does very well (as you can find out in his book Trust Agents). The consultancy I work for concentrates on helping the smaller business. And this conference showed what a serious competitive advantage small businesses can have in the social media world: speed of response combined with the ability to treat every customer as an individual human being.
So congratulations to Like Minds 2010 – you have created a fundamental shift in my thinking about the world of social media. I already knew that there is so much to be gained by recognising the value of social media as a means to interact with other human beings (remembering it is one channel amongst many). However it is a fundamental shift for marketers with a “broadcast” mentality because social media gives our prospects and customers a voice that impacts the promotional message. And this is a voice of interaction with human beings who will ignore marketing slogans and politically correct promises. So be prepared to have a real conversation!
I’ll be coming back to Like Minds in other blogs but in the meanwhile, if you want to learn more about the power of connecting through social media, simply type #likeminds into Twitter – the answers are there!