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Communicating To The Communicators (At The CIPR Social Media Conference)

Regular readers of this blog will be aware of my comfort zones when it comes to speaking at conferences. If there's maps, geography or location involved, however tenuous the connection, I'm well within my comfort zone. But speaking to a room full of seasoned communicators, such as Public Relations professionals? That's way outside of my comfort zone.

Nonetheless, on Monday of this week I found myself at the Chartered Institute of Public Relations, in London's Russell Square, at the CIPR Social Media Conference 2011, allegedly talking about something called The Smartphone Web, to just such a room full of seasoned communicators.

Smartphones Are Always With Us

I say allegedly talking about The Smartphone Web, as that was the theme and title that the conference organizers asked me to opine on. But as is so often the case, when I sat down to start to write the talk, it morphed into something slightly different.

There's been a meteoric proliferation in social media over the last few years, driven not only by increased awareness and availability of social networks but also by the increasing use of smartphones and the sensors that these devices have built into them. Whereas before, social networking was chiefly about sharing thoughts, comments, views and links, social networking now also allows the sharing of photos and videos, the sharing of location and checking-in to locations. You'll note that I cunningly managed to work location in there, thus retreating ever so slightly to my comfort zone. And so it was that what started out as The Smartphone Web, ended up as The (Geo) (Mobile) (Smart) Social Web.

After a brief introduction and displaying my own set of social media credentials, I looked at the history of social media, of smartphones, of the sensors within these devices and of the convergence of all of these factors into the social media experience we now know and use on a daily basis.

As so many times in the past, writing this talk was an education in itself, and my initial assumptions that social networking and media was a relatively recent, post Web 2.0 bubble, phenomenon, were quickly disabused as I traced the forebears of today's social web as far back as the late 1960's when CompuServe was founded.

I also touched on some of the side effects of today's social web; how social media accounts have become the single-sign-on for lots of online services, bypassing contenders such as OpenID and how you can build web presences entirely from existing social media content with a few simple lines of PHP code. How social media acts not only as a social broadcast medium but also a social conversation medium. How our own social media interactions can form a valuable aide memoire (where was that bar we went to two weeks ago?) and provide insights into our own lives.

I finished the talk with a brief look to the future; how the next billion people getting online are predicted to do so via a phone and not via a laptop or desktop computer and how social media has drawn attention to some of recent time's tumultuous events, such as recent natural disasters and events in the Middle East.

Due to pressures of work I wasn't able to attend the entirety of the one day conference but was lucky enough to arrive in time to see Euan Semple give a fascinating (and at times highly amusing) talk on What Wikileaks Has Taught Us About The Web. I've always liked reading Euan's Twitter stream and to finally meet a social media contact face-to-face was a great way of rounding the day off.

Photo Credits: Lily Monster on Flickr.

Gary Gale

I'm Gary ... a Husband, Father, CTO at Kamma, geotechnologist, map geek, coffee addict, Sci-fi fan, UNIX and Mac user