Dispatches from NetSquared -- Day 1, part 2

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I was going to say that I wish I had made more time earlier today to blog the rest of yesterday's sessions for folks to read about, but you know, I really don't wish that at all. I spent the second day of the NetSquared conference fully engaged, and I wouldn't trade the time I've spent with people here for anything.

That said, though, now that the five of us who remain here in our swank silicon valley hotel are gone to bed & there's no more to talk about, I feel like it's okay to fit in a little writing. So, as promised, here's some more highlights from Tuesday afternoon. 

Distributed Grassroots Marketing

This session featured Elisa Camahort, Tara Hunt & Chris Messina. It was (im)moderated by the invincible Marnie Webb. This is the one session during which I took stellar notes. I think it was because it was pretty noteable -- well-prepared and well-facilitated, not to mention incredibly educational.

The point of this session was to discuss how grassroots marketing works in an online context & to develop strategies for creating critical mass around an issue, event or product so that it takes on a life of its own in the community. I wasn't sure that I'd be all that into it, really, but I was pleasantly surprised to find that the presentation, particularly Tara Hunt's portion, was actually super-interesting. It's easy to recap the high points, since Tara's portion of the presentation outlined 5 straightforward & simple concepts that make grassroots marketing campaigns successful. 

Here's her list:

  1. Maximize inbound rather than outbound messages.
    • Elites and 'thought-leaders' are not as influential as they once were. The most influential groups in peoples lives are amateurs and peers. Spend time working to let those people in.
  2. Be a community advocate, not a company evangelist.
    • Learn to take feedback about your company or org, and allow that feedback in turn to help you tailor your product/service to better serve the needs of your community. People love that stuff.
  3. Practice 100% authenticity.
    • There was a great question from the audience about the difficulty of communicating authenticity. Chris weighed in to say that the way to earn peoples' trust in this regard is to thoroughly document your journey. People will get a sense of who you are through your personal (or organizational) history... you just have to let them have access to that history somehow.
  4. Cater to the long tail
    • Under-represented audiences grow, whereas older, more 'conventional' audiences hardly ever do. Plus, working with under-represented audiences is cheap!

  5. Follow open-source principles
    • Let your users see how you did what you've done, and let them learn from you.
    • Allow your users to drive your project to its destination. Create an API & allow people to freely re-mix your technology.

There were many great questions from the floor, too -- check out Sarah Pullman's live-blog notes for more info.


Gender & the Social Web

This was the event that I was most excited about. I spend a lot of time thinking about (offline) social issues related to the construction of gender, and I'm thrilled to know that people are pushing to make gender a central issue in our online communities, too.

But I have to say, the session wasn't exactly what I expected. I had hoped for a great discussion about ways to a) push out gender as an issue online, make inequities visible & create 'best-practice' style solutions, and b) broaden the incredibly narrow understanding of gender in the world of digital identity. The session was actually more of a 'state of the woman on the internet'; a kind of round-up of success stories. Which is also super-cool -- don't get me wrong. It was great to hear about the successes of Blogher, the Omidyar network & Moms Rising in fostering gender-neutrality on the web. I was disappointed, though, that the conversation wasn't more dynamic. Gender was ever expressed in binary terms, and success seemed to be measured by gender parity, which I felt was a little shy of awesome. I was reminded by a good friend, though, that this is still a pretty young conversation in the online domain. There's still lots of time to push it in all directions. 

One very interesting thread that emerged during the conversation was that the trend toward 'bottom-up' organizing in the open source community is very much in keeping with principles of feminist organization often seen in activist communities. Changing the timbre of social movements is all about changing the nexus of control, and it was inspiring to think about open-source models as successful contemporary examples of non-heirarchical structures that work incredibly well. 

The panel discussion included Catherine Geanuracos, Christine Herron, Fran Maier & Lisa Stone. It was facilitated wonderfully (really -- the facilitation was impressive) by Susan Mernit. For more information, check out the session page. (I couldn't find the live blog notes this morning when I looked for them...)


I'm going to cut it off here. There was also one other session that I attended during the day, which was a discussion about Social Networking, but I was embroiled in tech support work for the NetSquared site, so I didn't get to pay very close attention. I'll try to add my notes from 'day 2: twice as awesome' later today. Woot!

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