IABC Toronto Social Media and the Modern Communicator

I’m back from chairing an enjoyable, lively and (I thought) really interesting panel session at tonight’s IABC professional development event, Social Media and the Modern Communicator. Many thanks to the IABC Toronto Chapter for organizing and promoting this sold-out event, and to the terrific panelists for giving generously of their time and knowledge – shout out to Mathew Ingram, Jen Evans and Boyd Neil.

Too tired to blog at length, but a quick observation and some links I promised…

First, probably the most startling moment of the evening, for me, was very early on just as we were getting warmed up. I’ve been speaking about social media at conferences, seminars and other events for nearly seven years, and I figured we must be getting way beyond the 101 level by now.

We had an audience of just over 200 professional communicators at the event tonight. In an effort to gauge the general awareness and knowledge level of the audience, I asked a couple of quick qualifying questions. Here they are, with my rough assessment of the results based on a show of hands:

1. How many people here are actively blogging?
– Approximately a dozen people, perhaps 20 at most (out of the 200)

2. How many people here are on Twitter?
– Close to 60% of the room!

This blows my mind. I know that Twitter is a heck of a lot quicker and easier to get started with than full-on blogging, and I guess it requires less commitment and close to zero tech skills, but I’m still delighted and amazed at just how many people in Toronto have caught the bug.

Hey! Shel Israel! – we got your Twitterville right here!

Is this what it’s like elsewhere? Has the growth of Twitter been as fast in other cities, or is the T.O. really as special as we like to think it is? With so many Twitter apps out there, has anyone worked up a Google Maps mashup that shows the concentration of tweets per capita in various parts of the world?

Fascinating stuff (for a complete nerd like me). I’m going to have to do some more digging around to see if this is anomalous or if it just seems that way from inside the bubble.

Meanwhile, my esteemed panelists and I dropped a number of links and tips during tonight’s session, which I promised I’d try to catalogue here. I don’t know that I captured all of them, but here are the ones I remember.

Social Media Policies
A few good examples were mentioned, including those used at Dell, IBM, and elsewhere. I’ve been collecting and bookmarking something of a list of interesting social media and corporate blogging policies for a couple of years using the Delicious social bookmarking tool. You’ll find all of these (including the Dell and IBM examples) here: http://delicious.com/michaelocc/policy

I also mentioned (with my tongue only half in my cheek) the shortest (and one of the best) HR policy manuals ever written (“Rule 1: Use Good Judgement,” etc.). I blogged about this a while back in the context of policies for corporate Twitter use, here.

Thirdly, you might be interested in a sample of one of the “online interaction” policies we’ve helped develop for our clients. You can find one in the privacy policy at the foot of the Herbal Magic site, here.

Tools for Internal Social Media
There was a good question at one point about “Twitter behind the firewall”. Our panelists rattled off a bunch of examples, probably too fast for many people to note down. Here are some applications worth checking out.

Yammer (Twitter-like internal micro-blogging, as used by Boyd’s firm)

Present.ly (think: Yammer, but with better admin controls and UI options. My colleague, Dave Fleet, has a great review of Present.ly here)

For the technically adept, there’s also Laconica – a DIY platform to build your own Twitter-like apps (of which the best known implementation so far is at Identi.ca)

It’s also worth mentioning, that if you want to add full-fledged blogging inside the firewall, it’s very easy to set up a WordPress installation for internal communications purposes. Works well, easy to administer, and there are a bunch of good people around who can help you get things working how you want them (including, I’m cheesily obliged to point out, a certain great firm that can offer both the design & build work and the strategic consulting help).

Recommended Reading
I asked the panelists for book recommendations and think they offered some terrific ideas. In no particular order, here are the ones I can recall us mentioning (and a couple of bonus titles we didn’t, but perhaps should have):

Here Comes Everybody – Clay Shirky

What Would Google Do? – Jeff Jarvis

Groundswell – Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff

Web Analytics: An Hour a Day – Avinash Kaushik

The Cluetrain Manifesto – Levine, Locke, Searls & Weinberger

Small Pieces Loosely Joined – David Weinberger

Everything is Miscellaneous – David Weinberger

(You notice a theme here, btw? Basically, you should just read everything UofT alum David Weinberger has ever written, including his splendid blog. Yes, he’s an old friend. Yes, I’m completely biased – but the man is a certified genius and a funny, wonderful writer)

Gonzo Marketing – Chris Locke

Wikinomics
– Don Tapscott and Anthony Williams

And finally, a personal favourite I think a lot more people ought to read:

Ambient Findability – Peter Morville

And the last little housekeeping link in this now-not-so-short post – we mentioned the US Air Force’s “decision tree” used to determine how and when they will respond to online discussion. Dave Fleet (yes, him again) has a post on the topic here and Toronto’s favourite accordion-playing supergeek social media pioneering thriller from Manila, Joey deVilla, has a bigger, updated version of the chart, here. (Hey, Joey! I think I just made you sound like @Mike_56)

That’s all I can think of for now. Thanks again to all that attended, to the boss for some great live tweeting, and to everyone following on Twitter for splendid questions and discussion during and after.

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