As part of the Inspiring Entrepreneurs series and in conjunction with Social Media Week, the British Library hosted The Power of Social Media last night, to show how small businesses can enhance social media to engage with their customers and reach new markets.
I am grateful to my colleague Michael Pattinson for writing this report on the evening:
The event was sold out and also streamed live at Southampton University and New York Public Library. As befitting an event about social media, there was also a live blog at www.businesszone.co.uk as well as a live Twitter feed.
The guest speakers included Fraser Docherty, founder of Superjam, Ian Hogarth, CEO and co-founder of Songkick.com, Rory Cellan-Jones, the BBC technology correspondent and Justine Roberts, co-founder of Mumsnet.
The event was hosted by Matthew Rock of Real Business magazine. He began by telling the audience how useful social media has been for his own business, Caspian Publishing.
First up was Fraser Docherty of Superjam. Fraser proved to be a very engaging and funny speaker. He told us how he started making jam, based on his grandmother’s recipes when he was fourteen, selling it door to door and at farmers markets before securing a deal with Waitrose. Social media and blogging provided him with a cheap and easy way to publicise his brand and communicate with his customers.
According to Fraser, one of his proudest achievements has been setting up a charity which runs tea parties for the elderly. So far, there have been tea parties so far but he believes social media can help him create thousands of similar events around the country.
The next speaker was Ian Hogarth who set up the website Songkick.com, which allows members of the public to match their music interests to the site and then receive alerts when their favourite bands are playing. The site uses a “robot” which scours the Internet for concert and gig information.
Ian made the point that everything on the web is media and everything good on the web is social. He said: “Good ideas spread faster than ever before – that’s an amazing thing for entrepreneurs, how the barriers of entry are changing.”
Ian talked of the importance of motivating and exciting your audience by emphasising the value of your product or service. He also talked about how the internet had blurred the lines between product and marketing and how his product manager is effectively his marketing manager thanks to social media.
Ian had recently returned from a trip to LA and recommended that any start-ups using social media needed to spend some time in Silicon Valley because their ideas about social media were so advanced.
Next up was the BBC’s technology correspondent Rory Cellan-Jones. Rory has witnessed first hand how social media, especially Twitter, has revolutionised news reporting. He used an example of the earthquake in Qinghai province in China last year which was reported on Twitter before it appeared on any other news media.
Rory had some amusing anecdotes of the pitfalls of using social media – his advice: don’t say anything on Twitter you wouldn’t say in normal conversation! However, he brushed aside criticisms that social media is killing the art of conversation and social interaction saying that these same criticisms were made about the telephone and email.
The last speaker was Justine Roberts from Mumsnet, the massively popular website for mums (and the occasional dad) with a phenomenal 1.2 million visitors each month.
She emphasised how social media was so effective in providing a discussion forum which can be so much more effective in selling a product than traditional advertising. She also talked of the potential dangers of going viral with silly publicity stunts which have a habit of backfiring but her main message was listen and engage, don’t stifle debate. She also said that you should relinquish control and let yourself go!
A Q&A session followed and some interesting issues were raised by members of the audience such as online privacy and how do you protect your intellectual property. The speakers all agreed that you can’t expect privacy as social media is a public space. As far as Intellectual Property is concerned, you can’t stop people from copying your ideas, you just have to provide the best forum and the most recognisable brand. As Justine Roberts said: “this is the internet, you can’t put up walls. We don’t stop our users recommending competitor websites.”
Other issues raised by questions included how social media can be used to help B2B companies and where social media is going in the future. Rory Cellan-Jones felt that despite the dominance of Facebook, there was still room for vertical specialist social networks and that social media was blurring the lines between B2C and B2B.
You can read the live blog replay at http://www.businesszone.co.uk/topic/marketing-pr/live-blog-power-social-media/32776
The event was also filmed and highlights will be appearing on the BIPCTV YouTube channel shortly.