The Free State Social took place in Lawrence, KS, April 27-28, 2010. The program featured a great line-up of social media luminaries from both the national and regional scene. Based on a prior client commitment developing its social media strategy (the topic for tomorrow's post), it wasn't practical to be able to attend the Free State Social. Based on all the great tweets and video coming from the conference, however, it was clearly a innovative environment at the new Oread Hotel in Lawrence.

Tara Saylor Litzenberger was one of the attendees, and from the enthusiasm of her tweets, I asked her to recap her take-aways for Brainzooming readers. Tara describes herself as an "easily-amused web nerd who writes about farm equipment for a living." She readily cops to shameless addictions to coffee, Twizzlers, and Lolcats. And although Tara says she seldom leaves comments on blogs (something she plans to remedy), I'm glad she decided to guest post and share her highlights from the Free State Social:

I love, love, LOVED the Free State Social. I freely admit I’m the biggest nerd in my department, possibly the entire office, so it was a real treat to spend time with like-minded nerds to talk about the state of the social internet-- and its future.

Archives of the presentations will be online soon- watch @FreeStateSocial for updates- and there are tons of great tweets summarizing the event.

Some of my big take-aways:

  • It’s just another channel - Chris Brogan started the day by refusing to even talk about Twitter, and Jeremiah Owyang closed by reminding everyone not to fall in love with the tools you use. It was refreshing to hear because social media is the shiny new buzzword in corporate America, but the principles of using it effectively are the same marketing principles as we’ve been using for years.
  • Have a strategy before you start - Jeremiah went so far as to say that if your company doesn’t have support systems in place, don’t even engage. Again, it sounds perfectly logical, but it gets lost in all the “you gotta get a twitter account” hype.
  • Real time is not fast enough - Companies need to have a plan to deal with ugly situations before they happen. Letting something sit overnight- or worse, for an entire weekend- simply isn’t an option.

There were a few other topics that came up that really got me thinking, too:

Bloggers as Journalists

There was a lot of discussion around bloggers as journalists, which makes a lot of sense considering the event was sponsored by a news organization and the whole Gizmodo iPhone case was a current event in the online community.

But do all bloggers need to be counted as journalists? I blog, but I tend to post funny stories about daily life, not news. I don’t worry about citing my sources because my source is almost always me.

Then again, there are some basic tenets to content creation I’m following. I’m using my own pictures. I don’t try to pass off someone else’s work as mine. I give credit (and links) where credit is due. They’re the same rules I’ve been following in my professional life as a copywriter, but they’re also ingrained into journalism.

Vocal Critics

The second area I’d have like to talk about more was vocal minorities and backlash. There was a brief discussion around the Motrin Mom debacle, but it was largely around response times. We all know that there are passionate influencers out there, and as marketers, we try to reach them.

But is there a point when a vocal minority starts taking a brand hostage, along the lines of Green Peace and Nestle? Does an angry YouTube video become the digital equivalent of rappelling into a shareholders meeting?

We’ve come to accept that there are audiences that will never be happy with your company, no matter what it does, but where are the lines? Especially if you work for a company that people love to hate, like Monsanto?

The best part of an event like the Free State Social? Thanks to all the tools we use (Twitter, Facebook, even email and Google Buzz), the conversation isn’t going to stop just because the event is over.  - Tara Saylor Litzenberger