ALTHOUGH IT SOUNDS like a podcasting event, Podcamp Ireland (29 Sep 07 in Kilkenny) is evolving into the autumn's social media event. That's because much of its planning continues percolating through social networks like Jaiku, a wiki, memes on blogs, shouts on Twitter and related activity on Facebook. As one of the planners, I have done little with email and most with several social media tools that I have learned to trust. Along the way, I have become a Jaiku Junkie and I have made the mobile version of Facebook a touchscreen jump button on my phone. I'm intrigued by the powerful reach of these tools. While competent business communicators have an assortment of polite ways to nudge people, these social media tools move the game of online collaboration to a higher level.
For instance, we want to encourage a number of people to attend Podcamp Ireland in Kilkenny. In Ireland, the thing you do is offer to buy a round. In Facebook, you can start by sending drinks to everyone potentially interested in attending the day-long event. And if someone doesn't drink, you can send one of hundreds of virtual gifts from Facebook's shops. People remember the gifts you send. Sometimes, they tell their friends.
Along with Krishna De, Conn O Muineachain, Brian Greene and Ken McGuire, I am culling ideas for different Podcamp sessions from Twitter, Facebook and Jaiku. It's easy to test the viability of a discussion topic by watching how it resonates around these virtual water coolers.
By typing short comments on Jaiku's Podcamp channel at the same time as we talked on a conference call, several of us were able to compile meeting minutes to a more comprehensive level than a single individual writing what a pair of ears heard.
Once we open the Podcamp Ireland group on Facebook, we think we will strengthen commitments from people who have indicated they want to come to Kilkenny for the day. Past experience suggests that 15% of those who sign up won't attend if the event is free and according to the terms and conditions for use of the term "podcamp" we cannot charge an attendance fee.
All these things would be helpful for an Irish business but in reality, many large companies and nearly every State agency blocks social networks like Facebook. Some information officers believe social media distracts from real work. That misses the point. By following streams of information on Twitter and by clicking through images, videos, and collections on Facebook, people are establishing trust-based professional relationships. You cannot effectively legislate against this goal of human connectivity. Actually, constraining the development of trust damages the effective reach of a company employee or government worker in the online communications world. Facebook, MySpace, Google Groups, Twitter--all of these can fit onto the screen of a mobile phone, so blocking them at the desktop is not blocking them from the workplace unless you also jam the mobile phone signal at the workplace.
And that is perhaps the lesson all information managers must learn quickly--controlling social media means constraining it at every juncture. The internet routes around delays without hesitation. Facebook, Jaiku and Twitter deliver their content on mobile phone screens. My O2-Ireland account gives me the mobile web version of Facebook for free and free texts come from both Twitter and Jaiku. I have tested all these platforms in my social life and have also found they work just as well for business purposes. At Podcamp Ireland, you can hear from several people who are eager to explain how social media has become the fun-filled layer of enterprise communications.
An idea for Podcamp Ireland