It's not every day you go to a social media event in a cargo container sponsored by a shoe company and hear somebody invoke Thoreau when talking about Twitter. Today was just such a day.
But first, I'll back up to last night, when J (have I mentioned lately that she has an excellent food blog?) joined me at an Earthwatch.org's shidig at Puma City. (Puma City is a batch of cargo containers assembled into a retail and party space in a temporary "village" set up in South Boston to celebrate the arrival of the Volvo Ocean Race and it lacks indoor plumbing) We sipped melon puree and watched the sunset while listening to Earthwatch CEO Ed Wilson talk about the state of the world's oceans. The event was well-attended and raised money and awareness for Earthwatch's programs. Also, they served tasty but lukewarm mini open-faced cuban sandwiches and raffled off some cool prizes. Having already won a gift card at Four Burgers that day, I couldn't be too upset at missing out.
Barely 12 hours later, I returned to Puma City for Social Media Breakfast 13, Rocking the Boat. Founded by Bryan Person and recently organized by the estimable Bob Collins, SMB has reliably been one of the better live events for those who live online.
The first presenter was Dan Schwabel, a young man who has the admirably meta occupation of promoting his personal brand as "the guy with a personal brand." He observed at one point that he chose marketing because he was "creative and not that great at math," which I think sort of sums up much of what's wrong with marketing these days. I bet Dan isn't really that bad at math, but I also think that people like FM Days are trying to rescue marketing from the folks who are afriad of or (perhaps willfully) ignorant of the numbers.
Next up, George Grattan, Marketing Strategist at Earthwatch took the stage. I use the term, "stage" loosely, as the sight lines inside a space made of cargo containers are a little rough. Anyway, George talked about Earthwatch's social media strategy, which includes a lot of Facebook and Eons (because their target is a little older) and no Twitter yet. Grattan quoted Thoreau on the subject of the transatlatic telegraph wire to explain this choice:
We are eager to tunnel under the Atlantic and bring the Old World some weeks nearer to the New; but perchance the first news that will leak through into the broad, flapping American ear will be that the Princess Adelaide has the whooping cough.
The idea being, until Earthwatch has something to say on Twitter, they will remain quiet. I just hope George has grabbed the username. As I've discussed and as I'm sure Dan would agree, you have to register your brand on every network you can, even if you're not going to use them, just as a protective measure.
I'm skeptical that Earthwatch really has nothing to say to the people of Twitter. After all, they are actually somewhat older that the Facebook generation and probably closer to Earthwatch's demographic. But more to the point, how different is what Earthwatch has to say on Twitter from what they have to say on Facebook or on their blogs? (They do have blogs, don't they? George, call me!) With tools like Ping.fm, Friendfeed, and Twitterfeed, you can syndicate content you already have into all kinds of channels at minimal extra cost or effort. Sure, that's not the level of engagement that your customers really want and deserve, but isn't it better than nothing? You can start building your Twitter following by pushing your Facebook status and blog updates there, so when you are ready for full-on Twitter engagement, you're partway there. To use an ironic metaphor, Earthwatch should fish where the fish are.
The last two presenters, Roger Wu and C C Chapman deserve blog posts of their own, and I'm sure many others will provide. In short, Roger's company Klickable.TV is doing some cool stuff with videos that you can click on and the data that those generate. (Roger, does Rachel Ray know you're clicking on her like that?) CC is a social media fixture for good reason. Check out his site, blogs, podcasts and so forth whenever you can.