8 July 2012

LIKE Ideas 2012 The Business of Social Media

The London Information and Knowledge Exchange (LIKE) has quickly become an enduring success and so they thought that they would try stepping up from the monthly meetings above a pub to a full half-day conference.

The monthly meetings are excellent, and I go to as many as I can, but they are limited by the size of the room and the time available for an evening event. A conference answers both problems.

Such is the reputation of LIKE that it was quickly booked. Many of the people, like myself, taking the time and money from our own pockets rather than trying to convince our employers to contribute.

The setting for the conference was The Old Sessions House on the opposite side of Clerkenwell Green from the pub where the monthly meetings are held.

I arrived in good time for a bit of pre-session mingling over coffee and biscuits (you are allowed to eat biscuits at conferences whatever diet you are on) and I was quickly in to conversations with some familiar faces.

Jennifer then rang the bell to summon us up to the conference room where I was delighted to see that the conference literature was provided in a cotton shoulder bag.

Opening the session was Bertie Bosredon of Breast Cancer Care (BCC).

And what a strong start this was.

Bertie told us the story of social media adoption at BCC. It's clearly a story that he has told many times before as he told it with great fluidity.

It was an extremely rich talk too explaining along the way how his grandmother uses Skype, how BCC's social media champion of the week gets to look after their mascot Twevor, and how BCC, inspired by their staff, have used all the main media social media platforms to good effect.

It was an exciting and inspiring talk that covered an awful lot of territory in a short time and it really got the conference buzzing. The best part was that this was a case study showing what BCC have already achieved with social media rather than their plans for what they hope to achieve or, even worse, a consultant's view of what an organisation like BCC could achieve.

It was the ideal start to the conference.

Next up was LIKE regular Noeleen Schenk who looked at the role of social media in academic research.

This is complicated not just by the usual problem of social media in deciding which of the many tools to use but also by the need to ensure the quality of the information gathered and the copyright of the published research.

Noeleen took us through the research lifecycle and identified social media tools that can be used at each stage.

Even if we are not researchers, we all fall in to the research lifecycle somewhere and so this was a useful session.

James Mullan of Field Fisher Waterhouse then gave us another case study, this time looking more at the technologies used.

Some of this had an all too familiar ring to it with SharePoint 2010, Confluence, Jive, Yammer and Pulse.

We also adopted SharePoint and then added Confluence because the SharePoint wiki is poor and have since taken on Yammer and, more recently, Jive, because SharePoint does not really do the conversational side of social media.

James then went on to describe their approach to social media adoption which starts with an understanding of their users and what they want to achieve and what they are comfortable with. For example, they are very busy, use email as their main means of communication and know how to use Outlook.

A more worrying view came from Simon Halberstam and Andrew Solomon of Kingsley Napley who reminded us of some of the legal implications that can arise from using social media.

As usual there were some horror stories and these were balanced with some simple sound advice, such as having a clear social media policy that explains to employees what the cannot and cannot say on external sites.

There were also some cautionary words for employers on their use of social media to screen recruits and in using friendly bloggers to promote your products or services without revealing their connection to you.

I was reassured to hear that having called several Conservative politicians some very string things on Twitter that fair comment, i.e. an opinion honestly held and based
upon facts, is a sound defence.

Our final speaker was Steve Dale who speaks with authority as he has been hands-on in Knowledge Management for as long as I have known him, which is quite a few years.

Like the opener, this also came across as a story often told, all be it with differences each time, and was all the better for that.

It was another quick sprint over a lot of ground some of it less familiar to me.

I learnt most about digital curation (e.g. Storify) and aggregation (e.g. bottlen.se), which is saying something when you consider how active I am in digital social media.

It was an excellent talk and a superb way to end the formal session.

It was a wonderful afternoon where I learnt a lot and picked up quite a few ideas of things to explore in more detail later. By any measure the conference was a complete success.

And then it got better.

We drifted downstairs for a drink reception where the conversations flowed as much as the wine.

The energy levels were amazing and that is very unusual after sitting through five conference speeches. That's a testament to all of them.

Drinked, we then walked a little down the road to be fed.

The conversations continued unabated by the transfer and the hours slipped past until I realised that it was 11pm and I really ought to think about going home.

The Like Ideas conference was an incredible amount of fun and a wonderful learning event, I do not recall when I have ever left a training event on such a high. Probably not since the IBM Consulting course that I did fifteen years ago.

There will be another LIKE Ideas conference next year and I'll be going (gods willing). I might even help to organise it, but don't let that put you off.

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