Monday, July 20, 2009

It's said that relapse is a part of recovery, so I'll just chalk up my blogging absence to a long relapse.

Life has caught up with me and in the past few months, I've simply found myself too busy with work, the death of my mom and working on a theatrical production to keep up with my blogging activities.

I'm back, and will continue the 12 Step Social Media program in the coming days. But first...

Community Leadership Summit

I attended the Community Leadership Summit in San Jose this weekend--a fantastic event hosted by Jono Bacon of Ubuntu. (a guy so cool, he even has his own wikipedia entry)

Jono did an amazing job of organizing a free 'unconference', attended by 200 or so community managers and developers, many of whom came from the open source community.

You can find the twitter recap and notes of some of sessions on the conference wiki.

I dove in and led two sessions--one called "Social Media Snake Oil" and the other "Metrics That Matter". (note to self--remember to ask someone to take notes-I forgot to get notes of the first session, but did get them for the Metrics panel.)

My main role leading the sessions as I perceived it, was to instigate and moderate--challenge the 'conventional wisdom' (ie: you MUST be on Twitter) and prod the smart people in the room to come up with solutions to common problems.

I was really pleased when @sujamthe came up and introduced herself after my first session to tell me that she liked the way that I conducted the session and it inspired her to lead a session as well. I also discovered that she leads Twitter meetups in the South Bay and that introduction led to my meeting @pcrampton, which in turn led to an afternoon and evening of deep discussion on measuring communities that led to the topic of the second session regarding metrics.

The metrics session went well--the conversation was lively, some practical tips were shared and nearly 75% of the attendees were still deep in conversation 15 minutes after the panel ended.

That response really told us that there is a lot of interest (and NEED) among community managers for some direction when it comes to measuring communities both qualitatively and quantitatively. So now we're looking at extending THAT session possibly into an all-day conference on community metrics. (ping me if you're interested in helping organize an event!)

It's really amazing how one small thing can lead to so many bigger things at these events.

Problems CM's Everywhere Face

I discovered there are MANY common problems among community managers. Chief among them:

  • Not enough time. Communities/relationships take time and it's a messy job that doesn't fit neatly into predictable blocks of time (like coding). Most CM's are tasked with many functions as part of their job.
  • Which tools/platforms are the most effective & efficient to use? Where do you get the most bang for the buck? (Answer: it depends. Of course.)
  • Metrics are the 800 pound gorilla. Nearly all CM's struggle with developing metrics that gives REAL information. Most metrics are devised to satisfy either marketing or upper management that the community yield is worth the company investment, but what management wants is often misguided to what the community is actually doing or good for.
What I Learned at #CLS

I came away with enough fodder for several blog posts, but here are a couple of things that stick out in my mind:

  • Developer and open source communities have *incredible* passion and energy--probably more so than branded communities. Their energy level is palpable. Sometimes fierce.
  • Developer and open source communities take the concept of 'purity' VERY seriously, which makes managing their communities something of a challenge. It's an almost anarchistic environment and they like it that way.
  • These community members feel very, very protective of the communities that develop, and they struggle with how much guidance or control is appropriate in their communities.
  • It seems to me that branded communities like and expect a certain level of control by the brand in their communities. Yes, the members own the community, but they also understand that it will be policed and managed by the brand. Branded communities don't like to feel manipulated, but they seem to accept some degree of control better than open-source/developer communities.
Women Are Geeks Too

There were more women at this conference than most, and they wanted to educate the guys on how to bring even MORE women into conferences. The ratio was roughly 75% male to 25% female, and the consensus among the women was that the 'normal' ratio is around 90/10.

There were several sessions on how to create more women-friendly conferences. This is definitely a future blog topic. I really had my eyes opened and got the message. Women want to come and play too, but the guys can make women feel uncomfortable at conferences.

All About You: In 45 Seconds Or Less

Lastly, in one session, we practiced developing a 45 second elevator pitch to describe what you do that is interesting and invites more conversation but doesn't make you sound like a robot or like you're selling something.

It's a LOT harder than it sounds. But invaluable.

I *highly* recommend people take a couple of hours and develop 3-5 different elevator pitches slanted towards different type of people you're bound to meet.

Mine still needs more refinement, but I was a lot better after the workshop and I'll keep practicing. It's really a very necessary skill to distill who you are and what you do into a 45 second message.

We all know that you never get a second chance to make a first impression. If you happened to stumble upon someone really, really important in your field and only had 45 seconds to talk with them about what you do, what would YOU say?

Give it a try and see what you come up with!

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