Posts Tagged ‘community’
I spent the weekend at a conference. No big deal there. We all do.
But this was the final PAB conference, and like most things related to this event, it turned out to be a big deal.
The back story:
Seven years ago, Mark Blevis and Bob Goyetche were fledgling podcasters, and with inspiration provided by Tod Maffin, among others, they created “Podcasters Across Borders“, a conference that took place in Kingston, ON. It was a great success. It eventually went from its original title to PAB, and moved from Kingston to Ottawa, where Mark (and I, for that matter) live.
I first attended in 2008, and I have been to four PABs. And this last weekend, they closed out their run with PAB 2012 at the wonderful National Arts Centre.
Why should you care about this? After all, you weren’t there. And the conference is gone. Who cares, right?
You should care because PAB was a wonderful case study of the power of community to form, grow, and thrive thanks to social media.
PABsters are a diverse lot. Paramedics, hardware guys, musicians, academics, entrepreneurs, public servants, car dealers, photographers, lawyers, editors, students, teachers… On the surface, there’s no commonality. So what’s to tie them together? How could the bonds formed there become so deep that copious tears are shed at each departure?
In a word, geekery. Everybody who attended a PAB was some kind of a geek. I’m a communications geek (and a guitar geek). Alexa is a food geek. Dude is a beatnik geek. I could go on through the list of people who have attended or presented, and point out the precise geekiness exhibited by everyone there. And for all of them, all of us, the geeking becamse the way of bonding — that I could talk to one person about vintage film cameras and another about the subtleties of Japanese culture and another about which hot restaurants were must-visits before they left Ottawa and another about the future of education as affected by social media turned me on. It indulged my terminal curiosity.
And PAB offers each and every one of its members a safe space to let their geek flag fly. The Saturday night open-mic allowed one branding consultant to let his Axl Rose-esque vocal style out to play. Anthony Marco brought the room to a standstill with his version of Tom Waits’s “Jersey Girl.” And while the musicianship and vocals were far from world-class, the enthusiasm and love in the room were evident.
The shared understanding that brought the PAB community together also led to some tremendous presentations over the years, either full-length or the five-minute “Jolts” that Mark and Bob introduced a few years in. I presented this year, and found myself bedevilled by nerves that I rarely feel. Why? Because I knew just how high the standard was, and how much I wanted to meet it. Later, people like Sue Murphy shared that they felt the same way.
These social media tools we all use to either create or consume content are empty tools if they don’t facilitate some sort of human contact — either human contact online, or human contact face to face.
While Mark and Bob have chosen to fold up the PAB tent, I suspect that the strong, loving community they’ve created and that I’m so proud to be part of will refuse to let the event be forgotten. Remember, if you hear about a PAB 2013, I predicted it.
And to Mark and Bob: thanks, and congratulations. You have done a great thing.
PAB2012 on Flickr
Audio of the infamous 2012 open mic, courtesy Shane Birley.
Yesterday was an uncharacteristically big day for me in terms of keeping an eye on sports.
Here in Ottawa, some friends were running in the Ottawa Marathon, so I wanted to know how they did (PS: WOO Karen!) In Indianapolis, one of my favorite drivers, Dario Franchitti, won a thrilling Indianapolis 500 victory. In Monte Carlo, the classic Monaco Grand Prix was won by Mark Webber.
But most important of all for me: young Ryder Hesjedal of Victoria, BC, won the Giro d’Italia. Ryder is the first Canadian cyclist to win a “Grand Tour”, as races like the Giro are called. Ever. To this cyclist, the accomplishment is superhuman. In three weeks, riders travel the equivalent of Vancouver to Sault Ste. Marie (or, if you’re an American, from the TransAmerica Tower in San Francisco to Harpo Studios in Chicago.) Along the way, they ride some incredibly difficult climbs, with gradients that can average over 10% and peak over 20% (think bicycling up flights of stairs). At the end of each day, the sprinters push their bikes up to over 40 mph and jostle their way to the ribbon.
And cyclists do this day after day (in the Giro and the Tour de France, there are two rest days in the three weeks of riding), sometimes after falling. Remember this from last year’s Tour de France?
The second rider falling was named Johnny Hoogeland. He went upside-down into barbed wire. He got 33 stitches. After he finished the day’s race! And then he finished the tour – 12 more days of riding. With 33 stitches.
My point is: cycling is a tough sport, an incredible feat of athleticism. In Europe, it’s also a massive sporting event. The budget for the Tour de France in 2009 was $140M US. 15 million spectators see the Tour pass by them, and it’s estimated that spectators spend more than $50M US. It’s broadcast worldwide, and there are 3.5 BILLION television watchers.
But in North America, it’s an extremely niche sport, even after Lance Armstrong. Most of my friends are casual observers of cycling at best. When I went to my local pasta shop yesterday, I suggested they do a Ryder special to celebrate the victory. I might as well have suggested a “Red Planet” special to celebrate the existence of Mars.
What’s all this cycling crap mean, anyway? What’s my point? Well, I have two.
When you’re doing social media work for your business, you need to have an intimate knowledge of your context, and your culture. If you’re selling baby clothes online, then don’t talk about Maxim magazine. If your chosen community is marathoners, don’t talk about swimming.
How do you figure out what to talk about? What matters?
Step one: LISTEN. To understand your audience, your community, your market, LISTEN to them before your start talking.
Step two: CONVERSE. Don’t pitch. Don’t sell. CONVERSE. Talk to people about what they do, talk to people about what’s happening in the interest that you share.
Just because you care deeply about something doesn’t mean your friends, your customers, or your community automatically does. Test the waters. Understand the culture of your community. Understand the context of your business. You don’t make the rules. The community does.
Except in this case, where I got to talk about Ryder Hesjedal.