Sunday, March 15, 2009

SXSW--When is Transparency TMI?

I got a great text message to my last blog post (SXSW Day 2) from someone who is very close to me who asked: "You are degrading your personal experience and this the kind of message you want to be sharing with the world?"

In an age where the greatest Olympic champion EVER can go from being a hero and a role model to a national joke in just a few weeks because of a photo posted on the web, that's a very good question.

When DOES transparency and accessibility become too much information?

It's a sage question because people DO check out your Facebook page before making hiring decisions. People have been fired for things on their Myspace or Facebook pages. The question shows a real savvy in this new social world that we can all be held accountable for our actions...and thoughts... to a greater degree than ever.

In my particular case, I don't mind being transparent and sharing my insecurity and uncertainty about immersion at SXSW Interactive because I think many of my clients (and others thinking of getting into social media) feel the same way. The use of socia technology and depth of inter-connectiveness IS confusing and scary if you're not a digital native, and I think I'm reflecting the same trepidation that many people feel.

I am one of them. Even if I'm the 'expert'--we're in this journey together.

Education and Experience

Two of my favorite quotes about education are:

a. "We teach best what we most need to learn."
b. "Education is the process of discovering what you already know."

The point is... I know what I know and my friend is trying to remind me of that. I'm also okay with sharing in public what I don't know, because it's real. Others (including clients) should takeaway that yeah, I'm uncertain about some of this stuff too, but I see the value and I dive in anyway.

What I Know

I've been gathering people together around shared passions and developing real-world communities for 20 years. I've been developing online communities for 10 years. I know what works there.

And, in my own personal history, I've also been a radio disc jockey. I've been interviewed on radio and television. I've worked in movies and television both in front of and behind the camera, so I get podcasting and video. (and understand that web video and cell phone video are NOT the same as film and tv)

I've also been on stage connecting with people in groups of 10 to 1,000 at a time. I've spent a LOT of time in chat rooms, discussion forums and blogging. None of these technologies or forms are new to me.

What IS new, is doing all of them, all at once, casually and easily. I'm used to production values and polish not speed of production and content delivery that prevails now.

The Lesson I'm Learning

Connie Benson (one of the folks whose style and message I really respect) posted a wonderful "How To Build Community 101" guide today, which was a wonderful reminder to me that the *tools* we use to build a community and connection may differ, but the process of connecting remains the same.

So yes, I've been feeling a little overwhelmed here at SXSW because there are so many people here who are fluent in using so many tools simultaneously and their presence is ubiquitous. You can't walk 20 feet around here without seeing someone podcasting, shoot a web video or twittering.

But knowing how to play many musical instruments doesn't make one a superior musician. Mozart couldn't play all of the instruments in his orchestra or sing, but he wrote some of the most amazing compositions and opera ever.

By blogging my uncertainties at SXSW, I share with my clients and anyone else who is trying to develop a social brand presence a lesson that I have to remind myself every so often:

Do what you know how to do.

Connect the way that you know how to connect...and experiment with the new forms too. Don't let the forms of media confuse you from making the actual connections that you're trying to make. Sure, what works to connect via a blog won't work with a video. The form dictates the style of the content--but not the connection itself. The focus is not "I must use this form (tool), but "what's the best way to create a connection with this person?"

It's about connecting with people, not tools.

And I never was one of the cool kids. I was one of the creative ones. That's okay with me.

The core question remains--what do you consider to be TMI? Am I sharing too much inapproriately?

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