Yesterday we attended the annual "Blogging for Business" conference in
central London, with speakers from the likes of Yahoo!, Microsoft, Blue
Barracuda and PR agency Waggener Edstrom. Overall it was a great event
to be at, though there were a lot of different opinions flying round
the room and nobody seemed to settle on a definitive answer to the
question of the day – "What is Social Media and how can my business use
The morning’s keynote speaker was Yahoo’s Stephen Taylor, who spoke
about how the "phenomenon" of social media is not just for kids.
Essentially, the take home message from his speech is that the masses
have been empowered (the peasants are revolting!) and unless you want
to lose out, you’ve got to get with the program. One of Stephen’s most
memorable points was this: "Anyone who has a ___ is now a ___" – in
other words, anyone who has a blog is now a journalist; anyone who has
a podcast is now a DJ; anyone who has a camera is now a photographer.
Stephen used two examples – both Yahoo! products as you might
imagine – to illustrate his points, namely Yahoo Answers and Flickr, to
a mixed response. He also trumpeted Social Media as the fourth stage in
the evolution of the internet. The phases he talked about are as
Phase I – Human editorial (i.e. the Yahoo! directory)
Phase II – Mass automation (i.e. Altavista, human edited directories)
Phase III – Topographical analysis (i.e. Google’s algorithm)
Phase IV – Social search (editorial + automation + topology)
Other sessions in the morning included a debate around how to
implement social software on your website or intranet, hosted by Six
Apart – the company who own Live Journal and TypePad amongst others; A
discussion on how PR is adapting (or more accurately, how it needs to
adapt) to the new Social Landscape; and finally, a session on how
Social Networks and blogs can be used for market research purposes, as
well as monitoring and responding to discussions about your brand.
The afternoon session began with another keynote speaker, this time
by Michael Steckler of Microsoft, who spoke about how to navigate and
understand social networks. One of the most interesting points he made
was how people who "thrive" in Social Networks feel the need to show
how cool and different they are to all the other sheep, but at the same
time have to prove how deeply entrenched they are with the “in crowd”
and can influence their peers. He also theorised that the main reason
for having a social network presence is to increase your reserves in
three forms of capital – Social capital (i.e. how many friends you
have), Intellectual capital (i.e. what you know about) and Cultural
capital (i.e. stuff you have done, the clothes you wear etc).
Steckler also shared some great research recently published by
MetrixLab, with a number of stats standing out from the crowd as
interesting for your business. These included:
- Whilst 75% of people use social networks to keep in touch with
friends and family, 55% state that they use them to express their
opinions and views, including their spending habits.
- 37% of respondents visit a social network every day, with 70% of interviewees saying they used them between 5-11pm
- 48% of respondents said they had already visited a profile set up
by a brand, with 21% having added the brand as a “friend” or contact
- 72% of people said they would post branded content on their profile if they felt it was useful or relevant
- After seeing branded content on a social network, a whopping 70% of
users followed it up by visiting a website, with 38% of people saying
they forwarded on this information to a friend.
All this seems to back up the opinion that your brand or business HAS
to have a presence of some kind in the social sphere – because chances
are your competitors may already be there, and late adopters very
The final sessions of the day included an introduction to
podcasting by the guys at Blue Barracuda, a session on ways you can
interact with the social networks and a very interesting session on the
emerging rules of blogging, including speakers from Reuters and the
legal community OutLaw.com.
Overall it was an interesting event, with lots of contrasting views and
opinions floating around. The only real conclusion you can safely draw
is that social media is definitely here to stay, so you as a business
have to figure out what you want to do and start doing it soon.