I’ve been thinking about the situation the organizers of the New Media Atlanta conference are in today. They held an event last Friday that was well run, but criticized broadly for it’s misses in content and format. The use of tool called BackNoise and it’s value, or lack thereof, has been the star of the conversations.
I’m sure the organizers worked hard to put the event together and should be proud of themselves for pulling it off. I’ve never tried to organize something that large and respect those who are up to the challenge. They’ve continued to be engaged in the post-conference twitter stream and I’m glad they are. But what should they do now? What lessons should they learn?
I think companies get into these kinds of situations a lot. A product launch is good but not what you hoped. Or, you’ve made a change to a service that some like and others don’t. How do you energize your fans while admitting you could have done things better? Is it wise to defend yourself against unfair criticism and lies or do you just fuel the fire? Should you care most about your loudest critic, your biggest fan, or everyone in the middle? (A panel weighing in on issues like this would have made New Media Atlanta better.)
I’d love the organizers of New Media Atlanta to continue to show they are listening. I think they need to stay engaged with the conference’s fans and mentioners on Twitter to reinforce the good and build a following for next year’s conference. I’m not sure they should try to answer their critics now. I’d love to debate it, but I feel like the risk of sounding petty or whining isn’t worth it since your biggest critics are going to have a longer, more involved conversion path. So, I think they should wait until the negativity dies down and then do the unexpected– re-open the “In what ways did we suck? ” discussion. Only this time they’d own it.
I think they need to sit down and write a lessons learned whitepaper and offer it for free to the social media community. They should find their biggest critics and interview them. They should look at the various channels (Twitter, BackNoise, blogs, flickr, twitpic, etc.) to see what information was most shared to find out what they did right. There should be success metrics like, “65% of social media mentions during the conference were quotes from speakers” and “BackNoise was used 30% more during Brogran’s talk which 75% of people enjoyed.” Oh, and, “Speakers who used PowerPoint were 600% less popular than those who didn’t.”
They should talk about how their business sees a need to gauge audience preferences ahead of time and use social media to fine tune during next year’s conference. The title could be, “Social Media: Never be Blind-sighted.” It would be awesome and I’d definitely be back next year to see what they learned. Otherwise, I’ll probably pass.
What do you think?