Our Q&A with Social Media Portal

The editors of Social Media Portal (@smponline), a web site that maps global social media, social networks and user generated content, asked us to complete a Q&A for them about TWTRCON SF 09.  There were some really interesting questions, so we thought some of you might be interested in seeing our responses, too. The first 10 questions are about TWTRCON, then it gets into broader social media industry questions and ends with some personal questions (if you really care!):

1.    What is your name, contact info and role at TWTRCON SF 09?

Tonia Ries @tonia_ries, I’m a Managing Partner at Modern Media, which is producing the event, and I’m co-host of TWTRCON, along with Gina Smith.

2.    Briefly, tell us about TWTRCON SF 09

TWTRCON SF 09 is entirely dedicated to how companies are using Twitter to reach and engage customers, influence opinions and activate markets.  It will feature case studies of Twitter’s use by leading brands such as Intuit, Virgin America, eBay and Boingo Wireless, along side perspective and analysis by industry experts such as Guy Kawasaki, Dave McClure, Steve Rubel, Paul Saffo, Shel Israel, and many more. Attendees will be leading business, marketing, media and PR executives, key Twitter developers and social media experts.

3.    What made you start TWTRCON SF 09?

Amidst all of the buzz surrounding Twitter, there are real business use case studies emerging of companies using Twitter to create real value.  We believe that, because of its open API, Twitter is unique among social media platforms in its ability to create communities and conversations, both inside and outside of companies.  We wanted to create a gathering point for the business community to assess the challenges and the opportunities surrounding the Twitter platform.

4.    What is the most challenging part of building the conference?

We are “drinking the Kool Aid”: using Twitter to engage the community and brainstorm ideas about the event as we are building it.  Our web site has a live Twitter feed, and we have created badges that incorporate Twitter feeds.  (see http://twtrcon.com/badge/ – they are very cool!)  As is the case for our attendees, this is all new terrain and we are having to think about how to do things in a new way at every step of the process.  We are dealing with the same challenges as other businesses — How do you gracefully respond when people make critical remarks?  What is the appropriate way to listen to a conversation without people feeling like you’re stalking them? – and myriad other questions that are brand new in the world of social media-powered marketing.

5.    Who are your target audience and why?

Our target audience consists, primarily, of business people who are evaluating Twitter as a tool to drive revenue, save money, improve business processes and increase communication both inside and outside the company.  Why? Because Twitter has the potential to radically transform the way we do business.

6.    How are you initially attracting users to your site and conference?

We are using Twitter, along with all forms of social media.  We have a Facebook page and a LinkedIn group, and we are creating many ways for the community to get involved and spread the word, including a “Bring 10 friends and come for free” program.  In addition, we are reaching out to media and association partners to help spread the word to their communities.  We will also be doing a focused postcard mailing to brand marketers and are running a targeted Google Adsense campaign.

7.    What are your low moments of what you have been doing so far?

Haven’t really had time to think about that!  Not enough hours in the day is probably the biggest challenge right now!

8.    What are your high moments of what you have been doing so far?

There have been many.  The incredibly positive response from speakers, and the quality of the speakers who have agreed to participate, has been very exciting.  The speed at which the buzz has spread on Twitter, and the opportunity to experience a Twitter-based marketing campaign first-hand is another high.

9.    What do you see as your biggest challenges and opportunities?

The biggest challenge is to make this event very relevant to business people who are in the process of exploring what their Twitter strategy should be, and who may not yet be personally immersed in Twitter, while also including the early adopters and the Twitter enthusiasts who have made it such a vibrant community.  If we can bring both together, we’ll have an incredibly exciting event.

10.    What are the next moves for TWTRCON SF 09 and how are you going to keep us and your target audience informed?

We will continue to encourage people to follow us @TWTRCON and use Twitter to keep everyone informed of what we’re doing, and to continue to solicit suggestions.  We are working hard to finalize our speaker line-up and add more detail to the agenda.  We are also actively soliciting sponsors, and hope to be able to have some of the many Twitter entrepreneurs onsite to tell their stories and how they are creating applications to drive more value around the platform.

11.    What’s the next big step for social media and networks?

In the next 6 months, we are going to see social media begin to play a more important role in how businesses communicate, collaborate and do product development.  The industry will need to make some important decisions about the level of openness, privacy and control that they give to users about what information to share with which groups of friends.  And companies will need to sort through the legal and enterprise security issues.  These are complex issues, but the opportunities are enormous.

12.     What role is micro blogging having and what will it have in the future?

Right now, micro blogging is the driving force creating momentum for Twitter and for other social media platforms, too.  People are incredibly willing to share both personal and professional information because they see the benefits of creating networks that are based on shared interests.

13.    What’s going to be hot throughout the rest of 2009?

Twitter for business!

14.     What impact is the global recession having and what do you think the best way is to manage it for businesses such as yours?

Innovation often explodes during a period of disruption such as a recession.  People who may have lost a job are thinking about new directions, and companies are more willing to explore new ideas.  Social media is an incredible opportunity for job and wealth creation.

15.     How does this fit into plans at TWTRCON SF 09?

TWTRON SF 09 will bring together the people who are engaged in creating new companies, new opportunities and new jobs around social media.  We hope a lot of people see a great return for the investment they will make in coming to TWTRCON SF 09!

Seven questions for fun

1.    What did you have for breakfast / lunch?

blueberry yoghurt + an orange

2.    What’s the last good thing that you did for someone?

Helping a friend start a new business.

3.    How many hours to you work a week?

Ummm.  I’d rather not count, is that ok?

4.    If you weren’t running TWTRCON SF 09 what would you be doing?

Playing frisbee with my dog, Milo.

5.    When and where did you go on your last holiday?

We went on an incredible 3-week trip to Malaysia and Indonesia in December.  We found a Facebook Café in Melaka, Malaysia, and visited the orang-utans in Borneo.

6.    What’s the first thing you do when you get into the office of a morning?

Have coffee. Check Twitter.

7.    If you had a superpower what would it be and why?

The ability to teleport.  We are a virtual company and are incredibly productive with tools such as IM, Google Docs and social networking.  But sometimes it’s fun to all get in a room with a real whiteboard, too.

A)    Is there any other sites/s that we should be aware of that relate to the above?

There are two other conferences being organized around Twitter right now:

We think it’s very exciting that there is so much interest in Twitter right now; there is certainly a lot to talk about and we hope they are all successful events.  TWTRCON seems to be the most focused on the use of Twitter in business environments, and the only one that has speakers from leading brands, such as Virgin America, eBay, Intuit and others who are actually using Twitter in business right now.

B)    Is there a corporate or personal blog/s we should know about (if there is, you should add this to SMP also)?

The TWTRCON blog:  http://twtrcon.com/category/blog/
Social Media at Work:  http://socialmediaatwork.com/
Modern Media:  http://www.modernmediapartners.com/ (the producers of the event)
Technologizer: http://technologizer.com/ (editor Harry McCracken is one of the TWTRCON founders)

C)    Consider giving some love back and link to SMP

Of course:  http://www.socialmediaportal.com/Default.aspx