There are a lot of good events we get to go to as TBridge students, but my personal favorites are the E1o1 sessions.  Small, intimate gatherings of young people bitten with the entrepreneurial bug providing lots of  information, questions, and anecdotal stories – and did I mention enthusiasm?!?

Social media, social communities, their uses and downfalls – all that was covered.  What’s it good for – socializing, marketing, building communities?  Or is it just noise?  These are the things that were discussed in our TBridge E1o1 Social Media event a couple hours ago, led by Scott Lake,  founder and CEO of ThinkSM and founder and past CEO of Shopify.com, one of the most popular Web 2.0 e-commerce applications.  Scott knows his stuff, but more than that – he’s excited about SM, as well as being pragmatic (a mix you don’t see much of these days, you usually only see the extremes – on the social media bandwagon, or against the social media bandwagon).

I’d just like to share some of the main points that I got from the event:

  • Social Media Marketing is not THE answer. It could be part of AN answer, combined with the rest of a strong an integrated marketing strategy.  One tool in your toolbox.  You have to be realistic about what you want to do.  Saying I want something to go viral and have tons of viewers is great….but for that to happen you have to be interesting, have value, and be compelling.  Followers are choosy, shoppers are smarter – they won’t come to  you.  You have to go to them.  You have to participate in the community.  The fastest way to turn them away is to tell them to buy something.
  • Social Media can work for you personally, not just for a business. Social media can be useful in expanding your network.  It’s VERY useful if you can take that connection and extend it to a face-to-face meetings.  Like Scott said, all of his investors were people he knew, or people he was introduced to.  Relationships with people you know and meet are still the most valuable.  So create an online network, and then make sure you make that relationship stronger by actually meeting face-to-face with the people that are important to you.
  • People are reading, and they are listening…for now.    Your message, your business, your idea, your name etc. can all be amplified through the use of social media, if you become involved with a specific community and provide them with value and something compelling.  BUT, the enormous increase of online information, blogs, collateral, people online …has also created lots of noise.  So there are more communities, but they are smaller tighter groups.  Which means that while your message might get amplified, as time goes on, it will be amplified in smaller communites.  Which could be better or worse for your purposes.  Know the system, work with the system.  But start creating your network/community/message now before there is so much noise, your collateral just drowns.
  • Collective intelligence used for Research .  Maybe the marketing value is not to market through gimmicks.  It’s to listen to the community so you know how to improve your product/services.  And once you make the people happy, they will champion your cause, not because you told them too, because they believe in it.  The strategy shouldn’t be a video going viral….it should be word of mouth via social media going viral.

From a conversation in a bar, to a high-end snowboarding store, to another conversation in a bar, to shopify.com, to ThinkSM and other endeavours – Scott Lake knows his stuff and E1O1 lets you hear the story of how it all happened. Fantastic evening last night.

The next collective event will be held in a World Cafe format on June 27th, 2009, where the discussion will be around  “Bringing prospective in Ontario in the Creative Age”.  Lots of ideas and lots of debates – it should be really interesting!  Stay tuned for more information, or contact Francesco Cervellini at cervellini@gmail.com.

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