New Media Atlanta Organizers: It’s Not Too Late

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?


15 responses to “New Media Atlanta Organizers: It’s Not Too Late

  1. we’re listening to the noise in search of the signal. thanks for continuing the conversation

    • Thanks for the comment. Please, please let us know when you find that signal. What’s going on right now is fascinating and could really help a lot of people (like me) understand how the conversation works.

  2. Thanks for the post on my blog. You raise a great point in the fact that the organizers should be part of the conversation. Gives them credibility… trust… Seems like I might have heard that somewhere before…


    • I liked your post and felt like it was a fair and insightful assessment. It’s linked under “format” in the first paragrapgh. If enough people write posts or comment and the right people listen, we’ll get amazing conferences in ATL.

  3. Emily,

    This is the best post I’ve read (and I think I’ve read them all) about New Media Atlanta. It is, in fact, a case study on social media – both where it’s been and where it’s going.

    We are certainly involved in the conversation. We’re doing exactly what we teach others to do with social media which is “monitor first”.
    I agree with you completely that it doesn’t seem to make sense to jump in and battle it out with the negative minded who don’t seem interested at all in the greater good.

    LOVE your idea about a whitepaper. I think you may just see that come from us.

    Thanks for elevating the dialog.

  4. Matt & Brad know how to put a great conference together. I didn’t get to attend this one live but watched all put 1 presenter via Dakno’s live stream. It seemed that much of the engery they are known for from RETech South 2008 & 2009 was missing.

    A few of the presenter’s were very basic, but I have never attended a conference where I enjoyed all speakers equally, there are always some that just stand out as excellent. Overall I would have gladly paid the money to attend live for Brogan, Turner, and the Turner moderated panel. There has been much emphasis on the less than exciting presenters, with little credit given to those who did an excellent job and made it all worthwhile.

    My hope is that next year’s line up improves, as RETech South has done, to showcase what an excellent job Brad & Matt are able to do.

    • Despite my snide last sentence, I feel like I have to go back next year to see how the story unfolds. Thanks for the comment.

  5. I can assure you that, knowing the NMA principals, they ARE and have been listening, and they will give back more than you expect.

  6. Very good post. I wasn’t able to attend in person, but did listen via Dakno (thank you – it was the next best thing to being there). I have extensive experience in planning and opertaing this kind of event. Overall, I felt the event was well put together and operated, especially considering it’s the first of hopefully many more to come. Yes, some of the speakers were stronger than others, and level of content varied. It’s important to understand that with this first time event, it was likely very difficult to anticipate exactly who your ultimate audience would be. There was real potential for attracting a large number people just getting their feet wet in social media. I know that the event organizers had a very strong desire to provide quality content for everyone who attended.
    What was very dissapointing wasn’t that people were on backnoise, but how hateful the comments were. I have a number of comments on that, but will save it for a different blogpost reply. There is nothing wrong with expressing your dislike of something. My hope is that next time, feedback and comments can be delivered in a more tactful and professional manor.
    I thank you for your hard work on this event and look forward to the next.

    • I really felt like BackNoise was a new toy for many of the attendees (including me) and we used it like we were passing notes in the back of the classroom. It devolved into picking on people which we know is wrong. I don’t think we’d use it the same way again.

  7. I have had both digital and voice conversations with Brad and Matt. They are listening. They are actively seeking feedback. Actually having face to face discussions with some of their biggest detractors.

    My advice to them was the same as yours, listen intently and wait until things become less emotional. My guess is that they will absorb the feedback, come back with some thoughts on improvements, and continue the circle.

    When it’s all said and done Matt is right. This is a wonderful case study that challenges the way each one of us thinks about social media.

    That alone more than worth the price of the ticket.

    • Thanks for the comment. I’ve read a few of your older and newer posts and really like your insights. Good luck with all your tech ventures.

  8. Pingback: New Media Atlanta revisited

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