I recently had the pleasure to meet an eclectic mix of bloggers in W5 (fantastic building) in Belfast. We discussed social media, blogging, Smallbusinesscan, where Smallbusinesscan could go , etc.
I thought (on the back of the success of Smallbusinesscan) that I was becoming a bit of an expert. I read all the books (“We smarter then me”, “web 2.0 heroes”, “Free”, “marketing 3.0”, etc.), I used all the buzzwords “crowd sourcing”, “collective wisdom”, “Wikipedia for entrepreneurs” and I had spoken at a few conferences on the subject. Boy was I wrong. I got a lesson in social media and a bit of a wake up call.
What did I learn.? The first (and a classic) is the obsession with number. I was very proud of our visitors numbers, hits, downloads and membership growth until I found out some of the their statistics. We have some way to go. Purpose is a key one. I explained the purpose of Smallbusinesscan (entrepreneurs sharing their learning and supporting each other) but wasn’t clear enough on the key purpose, which is helping business to grow and develop. It is not networking on line for networking sake.
The example I used is an entrepreneur wandering what the VAT rate in Germany is, using their mobile phone, asking the SBC community and getting the answer. Response; “that is why Google was build”. I obviously used a wrong example but it did trigger food for thought. We are not Google, we are about business development, using the collective wisdom of entrepreneurs who have been there before.
We discussed the need to bring online into off line to cement the trust (it is called a hybrid network, combining flesh with digital), we also talked about the need not only to go local, but to go hyper-local. They explained the importance of (hyper) (local) stories to make it interesting for bloggers to blog about it (we like bloggers to blog about Smallbusinesscan).
The benifits of social media
We talked about LinkedIn and why it doesn’t work. About Twitter as a research tool. We talked about the ability of people, with the current technology to self-organise in a flash and create their own interest groups, networks, crowds and events, and why would they use Smallbusinesscan. We discussed how to scale and remain relevant.
As you can imagine I had a ball. One observer called it turbo fuel for the mind.
I had a day to let this bounce in my head and on reflection, we are not doing to bad, we have fantastic stories on the site, we are moving into a hybrid form (the start-up live events are the beginning of bringing SBC off line on the back of some of the successful Smallbusinesscan events we piloted over the last year). It will be a road show of about 20 events across the Island of Ireland.
We do have to think about purpose and sticking to the core of what we are about and we do need to examine what HYPER local means, particularly in the context of our purpose. And we do need to address how we proof that we can be useful to all the self organising mechanisms in Ireland (we think we are, if only to give them a platform to use,, but we are not NING).
We are going to do this again and we will have a similar bloggers event in Dublin and learn more.
Let me to thank the people who attended yesterday for the insights, the learning and ideas and for a very fruitful morning. If I only now get them to share their knowledge with the businesses in the Smallbusinesscan community and get more businesses to embrace the weird and wonderful world of social media.