We had half-an-hour to go before the panel I was chairing at the Media 140 event on social media in the third sector event last week was due to face the audience. Fear was setting in.
Huddled in the corner, the panellists and I were chatting about the kinds of questions I would be putting to them before opening up the session to the audience in the room and on the web. And while we had all worked with social media, the sense that we might be out of our depth was creeping in.
“What does that question mean?” asked one panellist, pointing to the question ‘Where is our community?’ which had been suggested as a discussion topic.
“Er, not too sure to be honest,” I replied. After a bit of thought I figured we had better skip that one, much to the panel’s relief. No one could be quite sure if it was an important question or just gibberish (although I’m almost certain it was the latter).
Trying to identify what works and what doesn’t in social media is like trying to herd cats. Sometimes social media initiatives fail for no discernible reason. Sometimes they succeed, but we’re at a loss to know why.
Ten years ago most people were only just online, and we still had time to make a cup of coffee while our dial-up connections loaded up websites. So it’s laughable to think that anyone should already have some magic formula for something as emergent and bottom-up as social media.
We really shouldn’t get intimidated or worried by it, especially since there’s so little financial risk involved.
Social media is a chance to experiment and play. Your social media experiments might not result in what you planned, but the unexpected isn’t always the unwelcome.