Greenbelt Social Media: Initial Thoughts

Greenbelt photo from flickrFor this year’s Greenbelt a group of us decided it was time to beef up the festival’s ‘social media’ output. With approval from the powers-that-be, the help of some phones from Nokia and the energy that comes from a festival’s buzz, we built up a twitter community, streamed plenty of content live to qik, and enjoyed the fact that the festival’s flickr presence now has a momentum all its own (the official photos had over 100,000 views in the past week and there are over 3600 photos tagged greenbelt2008 as I write this).

One of the perennial questions facing those planning the festival’s online presence is what audience there is when 20,000 of those most committed to the event gather together for a weekend of camping. During the ten years the event’s been at its current site we’ve gradually extended the wifi coverage to more and more of the site, but it’s still far from comprehensive and largely provided just for those who are helping make the festival run rather than available to all. Times are changing as more and more of us have access to EDGE and 3G from our mobiles, but power outlets are in short supply and its not yet possible to get through four days of intensive use without charging up your phone.

Using twitter was a simple decision, though the timing was poor as they turned off their UK SMS service just days before the festival, so it became much less effective as an on-site co-ordination tool. Nevertheless, the greenbelt twitter account continues to pick up followers (its existence seems to have introduced a number of new people to twitter, judging by the number of people for whom it was the first twitter account they followed) and we’re excited to see how it can be used over the course of the year to sustain and build the festival’s disparate community.

Thanks to WOM World/Nokia we had a set of N82s (and one N95) to experiment with qik and between Steve Lawson, Lobelia, Mike Radcliffe and myself we produced several hours of video content, largely streamed live. As time was tight, we focussed primarily on our personal networks for promotion and a qik group to collect it. During the festival the videos had around 3,000 views and the total is now up over 6,000, which didn’t seem at all bad with so little promotion. More than that, there’s been some great feedback suggesting that the quality of engagement is high.

Perhaps the most exciting part of the project was the response from those we were filming and interviewing. So many people were happy to stop for an interview and were fascinated by the technology and the possibilities, particularly the fact that with qik we could get live feedback on the filming and, though we didn’t use it to its full potential, adapt the content based on that feedback.

There are lots of lessons to be learned, and I’m just getting started on wrapping my mind around it so that we can refocus for next year and transmit that knowledge more widely. Naturally, the rest of the thoughts will appear here as soon as they’re ready. And of course, keep an eye on the twitter feed for news from Greenbelt.

(photo above courtesy of the greenbelt flickr stream)

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