Lessons from the Greenbelt Social Media project

Photo from Greenbelt 2008This post is a follow-up to my initial thoughts on our Social Media efforts at this year’s Greenbelt.

Going into Greenbelt I’d made some fairly naive assumptions, primarily that it would be easy enough to just capture conversations we were having anyway and events we were attending. For people whose sole responsibility at the festival was reporting that might have been possible, but for those of us who were already deeply committed to other activities it’s not quite that simple. While Steve, Lisa and Mike were able to gather a lot of great material, and made the capture their primary focus, I was more distracted and my efforts are much thinner on the ground, and decidedly patchier.

Steve was using a Nokia N95 and the rest of us had N82s. We’d heard good things about the N82, and I like the form factor of it quite a bit, but for live streaming the N95 was far and away the better device. It seemed to get stronger 3G signals and had considerably better battery life. Both devices took quite a while to get set up, given that we only received them the day the festival started, and so we went into it cold. If we were to repeat the project with current technology we’d definitely push to get N95s for everyone and more time beforehand to set up, learn the tools, etc.

So, a few lessons for next time:

  • Have one team member whose primary role is logistics, not reporting. While it was possible for all of us to get some content, and one properly prepared person could get a lot of content, if there’s any chance of having someone who can manage liaison with the rest of the event, and other logistics, that’s ideal. That person may be able to do some reporting, but don’t count on it. If time allows, that person could also manage aggregation and promotion of your content.
  • Get to know the tools in advance. By the end of the festival we all knew our way around the phones, but there were settings we hadn’t had a chance to explore that could have affected quality. Getting off to a quick start is important for confidence, and promotion. I suspect that the sketchy quality of some of my early videos may have put some people off from watching the others, particularly viewers who didn’t know what we were doing.
  • Phone companies don’t make your lives easy. I bought a new Orange pay-as-you-go SIM for the festival and ended up spending 40 minutes on the phone getting it activated, and used over four pounds of credit on the call. Once that was done, their “7 days’ unlimited data for £5” deal worked out well, but these things always take longer than you’d like.
  • Build in time to review the material you’re gathering. This is particularly important if you haven’t produced content in this way before, but is good practice either way. Reviewing the content is the only way to work out how to improve, and the review process is another chance to identify particularly successful videos and promote them. Steve did a good job of watching his and other videos and blogging about them as the event went on, which significantly increased his audience. In many festival programmes there will be lulls at certain points in the day and that can be a good chance to find a quiet spot with wifi.
  • Talk about what you’re doing. For now, the idea of live streaming to the web is novel and is a strong hook to get people engaged and start conversations. That led to some good interviews, to other people joining in and to ongoing conversations that have spilled outside of the festival.

(photo above is by Jon McKay, from his ‘So What Do You Think?‘ project)

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