“Mr. Jefferson, so what would become of this amendment if everyone, regardless of status, had access to a printing press?” This hypothetical question to Thomas Jefferson would certainly have an interesting answer, but that answer is now nearly moot. Everyone does have that potential using their computer and a web site. Your concern should be ‘how are they talking about you’?
I’m not talking just about social media, spewing their love or disdain of a business on Facebook and Twitter for the masses. I’m talking about expanding their ideas, being linked in search engines and referenced on other web sites. All of this accomplished with their own personal online printing press.
Recently, a full day “unconference” was held at Microsoft New England Research and Development Center, known as the NERD (really, that’s what they call it). WordCamp Boston, the first of its type in the city, brought together some 500 people – mostly professionals – to learn and share their experiences with WordPress, the popular and free blogging/ web site software.
What may make WordPress unique is the strength of its community, and on many different levels. People helping people in person and online is a great start. The software was developed in the open source community which shares the core code for free. Sure, there are services and some pay elements available (after all, people need to make a living), but the core program and thousands of add-ons are free and very stable. Their effort is furthered by the new 501(c)3 non-profit WordPress Foundation designed to “to educate the public about WordPress and related open source software.”
With these tools at your disposal, you can create what your customers need most: content.
You are a subject matter expert, and have the opportunity and obligation to share it. Your posted content, if kept current, becomes a way of reaching out to customers and prospective customers both locally and around the globe. This is true if you are running the site for a business, or to brand yourself personally.
Either way, engaging people with content–your content, their content, or both–allow people to better understand where stand among your competitors or within a community.
This “unconference,” where people can go to sessions or create ad hoc sessions of their own, covered areas ranging from education, monetization of a site, technical and novice issues, search engine optimization and a lot much more. The participants were as diverse (and friendly) as you can hope to meet.
One of the event organizers, Amanda Blum said the planning team had a focus on community. “An overarching concern we had for WordCamp Boston was that attendees not merely learn in session, but that they feel as if this was an experience, which organically encourages community growth.”
Co-organizer John Eckman was impressed with the people on hand. “I felt WCBOS [WordCamp Boston] had just the right mix of local superstars from Higher Education, Social Media, and Marketing mixed with the best and brightest of the WordPress community from throughout the US.”
Community-powered events, perhaps reflecting the online community is becoming more commonplace than an exception. Between WordCamps (WordPress), PodCamps (for emerging and social media) and the like, this is the time to take your part in the content and conversations. The conversations may be for your business, or perhaps a non-profit organization that you are passionate and knowledgeable about.
At an earlier conference, I remember video “rock star” and author Steve Garfield reminding an audience that some people communicate better in text, some in audio, and some in video. The important part is to choose one and to participate.
This was underscored at the end of WordCamp with a discussion between two of the authors of “The Cluetrain Manifesto: The End of Business As Usual,” Doc Searls and David Weinberger. They were reflecting on their visionary decade-old piece, and how it is faring.
Originally published on the web in April, 1999, there were 95 theses in the document. The first one, “Markets are conversations.” The second, “Markets consist of human beings, not demographic sectors.”
They saw the social content as an extension of human-to-human interaction, with an implicit human voice.
Take heed in number 19: “Companies can now communicate with their markets directly. If they blow it, it could be their last chance.”
It’s time to find your voice and get an online printing press.