Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The Thin Air Summit: Notes

Report on the Thin Air Summit Social Media Conference
Denver, Colorado, November 8-9, 2008

The Thin Air Summit was a weekend conference focusing on social media. It was excellent!

  • The use of "you" and "me" refer to both individual and corporate uses of the words.
  • The use of ">" indicates an internal takeaway for The Seed Company, the organization I work for.
  • The material here may not be exact reflections of what each session contained, as I am writing this up 16 days after the conference. (My original notes were short-hand-ish.)
  • There were five sessions that had three tracks each. I obviously could only go to one each - so this document does not contain everything the conference had to offer!
  • If you would like a Word doc of this writeup, send me an email at phmerrill at gmail dotcom.

Day One

Dave Taylor, Keynote Address 1
  • The best way to communicate is using stories.
  • All voices are biased (so it's good to be transparent about your bias).
  • People need to have a voice, and social media provides that voice. (Graffiti is a strong avenue of communication, and people are willing to risk violating the law to communicate.)
  • "Anne Frank's diary was the first blog" - personal publishing.
  • A beauty of blogging is that conversation is started and then comments often take it further than the writer could.
  • In the easy avenues of communication that social media provides, it's good to think first before hitting "send". With the power to publish comes responsibility!
Lori Osterberg, "Blogging - Make it More than a Hobby"
  • When commenting on others' blogs, add value. "...and had you thought of this aspect?"
  • > If we do a TSC blog, we must create content that will attract. We can start for writing for a real person who is in our core audience.
Jeremy Tanner, "New Media Landmines"
  • Be careful what you say!
  • Don't generate fake content ("astroturfing").
  • Don't do too much self-promo.
  • Don't be negative!
  • Don't be a "tool"... a "super expert" when you aren't. (You need to have real testimonials.)
  • Think before you post.
  • The best way to lift yourself up is to lift others up! (Matthew 7:12)
Lucretia Pruitt, "Social Media Nuts & Bolts"
  • Don't worry about knowing all the social media tools. Only some will be right for you.
  • If you build a community, it will not necessarily follow you.
  • Spokeo: a tool that lets you search for people via their having sent you an email.
Search Engine Optimization Panel:
Micah Baldwin, Brett Borders, Elizabeth Yarnell, John Fischer
  • It is important that the title tag be actionable text.
  • > Create videos that encourage comments.
  • Social media is the new SEO. Writing positively about clients encourages them to write about you.
  • A high profile presence in social media creates higher organic search ranks than traditional SEO.
  • You should be able to condense your message to three words for your title tag.
  • Traded links can lower search rankings.
  • If you are passionate about your message, that makes a huge difference. "Passion creates relevance."
  • > Embedded videos are better than self-hosted videos. (External links are higher value to search engines.)
  • Social media is about sharing information of value with others.
Day Two

Jeremiah Owyang, Keynote Address 2
  • Information is changing: content is moving from one form to many forms.
  • Information is more pervasive than ever before.
  • Information spreads like never before, whether you want it to or not. (If you don't consent to information sharing, you will lose out.)
  • Content is moving from big to small. People are more used to getting small bites than a big chunk. The analogy used was steak vs. shishkabob.
  • > Takeaway: We should shorten our on-line videos, or at least offer two versions.
  • Info is easier to broadcast than ever before. Example: Utterli is an application that lets you podcast directly from your cell phone.
  • Search engine optimization methods track popularity and not relevance.
  • Youth get their news from social networks (eg. Facebook) more than any other source.
  • Information distribution power is now distributed - and lessened, since anyone can refute information on-line.
  • Corporate blogs work best with no filters. (If something negative is said, there is the opportunity to clarify misunderstanding. In the case of blatant lies on the part of commenters, those comments can be deleted.)
  • "Generally, corporate blogs have no success in conversation." (Most corporate blogs average just three comments per post. Corporate social media that work have a heart and a face. (Example given was Zappos' Twitter presence.)
  • There is lots of data available about return on investment (ROI), but it mostly relates to activity rather than true ROI. (However, that is generally true of all PR.)
  • > Takeaway: Figure out the "breathing pattern" of our market.
  • > Takeaway: Show more testimonials in our videos.
Here is an excellent summary of this keynote, from Carol Ross. Here is Jeremiah's slideshow.

Amy Gahran, "Blogging - Make Every Word Count"
  • Use Twitter to learn how to write headlines. (Twitter messages function as headlines, so if you follow a good writer, you can find some good headlines.)
  • 15 seconds is the average amount of time we have to catch someone's attention.
  • See what words our competitor uses and use those words. (This means speaking the language our audience understands.)
  • Don't cram more than one idea into a paragraph.
  • Simplify wherever possible.
  • Skip wordy verbs like "facilitate".
  • Don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good - timely can be better than perfectly crafted message.
  • Always keep in mind, "So what?" (What's the take-away message?)
Travis Henry, "Disciplined Writing for Page Views"
  • "Think Google" - what are people searching for? Is my content fulfilling that need?
  • The best writing drives the most page views: high quality.
  • Create editorial calendar, and stick with it.
  • Headlines: "How to..." "10 ways to..." "The best..."
  • Avoid obscure references - be clear.
  • Include keywords in headlines.
  • Create the same types of content on same day each week.
  • "Writing too long is writing lazy."
  • Explain internal jargon.
  • Use links to explain what you are talking about.
  • Be useful to your reader.
  • Avoid using the passive voice.
  • Have a point (no rambling, no tirades).
  • Read a lot, write a lot.
  • Read it out loud.
  • Ask a question with the headline and answer with the article.
  • Don't start articles with "I".
  • Draw readers in with a good first sentence.
  • Be genuinely useful to your readers.


GeekMommy said...

Oh dear - was mine that ineffective for you? or was it just that you really didn't need the 101 I was giving? Because it seems like you've got a fairly good grasp already of the basics I was going over! :)

Journeyman said...

Point 1: Tell a story.

Sounds really basic doesn't it? But it demands so much practice, especially when linked to an organisation. That's why writing about experiences and thoughts can be so important.

Useful stuff, thanks for posting.

Carol said...

Thanks, Paul, for this summary. There were several sessions that you summarized that I either didn't attend or didn't take notes on.

You have a great way of concisely capturing the nuggets from each session. I especially like the phrase from the SEO panel, "Passion creates relevance."