social media is a complement, not a replacement.

While I enjoyed the whole experience of the first-ever Post-Secondary Canadian Web Conference, I’d say my favo[u]rite moment was completely unplanned and again showed the connective power of social media.

At #pseweb, like many web conferences, I find myself “meeting” lots of interesting folks via the Twitter streams — whether engaging in @ conversations or retweeting keen comments — but not always meeting them in person. So as the last sessions ticked away, I lamented on Twitter that I hadn’t yet met many of my new tweeps face to face. The solution came quickly, as several other folks called for a tweetup and arranged a time and place (2:45, outside lecture room 203) within minutes.

The impromptu tweetup between sessions found around 12 to 15 (should have counted) folks introducing themselves and chatting amicably. Some even admitted it seemed easier to communicate via Twitter than face-to-face, with an outside context driving the discussion, but everyone seemed quite pleased to meet those they had been tweeting with the previous couple of days.

And this is what those who quickly dismiss Twitter miss: The community it builds is the platform’s greatest feature. Twitter has become the hub of activity at most conferences, with folks starting discussions and posting helpful links even during sessions, but also a true connector on a personal level. Its inclusive nature is not limited to just those there physically, as the positive feedback of those unable to make #pseweb and enjoying our live-tweeting of sessions demonstrates. As for social media changing conferences, I only gave out one business card, yet gained 35 new Twitter connections and even several LinkedIn invites.

But, as the impromptu tweetup showed, social media is not a replacement for regular interaction — it is a complement, and often a catalyst. When incoming students interact in our Class of 2014 group, it isn’t for the sake of using Facebook; they mainly want to get to know future classmates. And meeting someone I’ve interacted with via Twitter is always a treat, confirming an earlier electronic connection. One should never view social media as a kingdom unto itself but instead a doorway that can lead anywhere.

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8 Comments

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8 responses to “social media is a complement, not a replacement.

  1. Well put, and I’m glad you added that thought about social media’s function as a catalyst for bringing people together in person at conferences, tweetups, etc.

  2. Agreed. I was one of the people saying I find it easier to communicate on Twitter, but really what it does is help me ease into social interactions. Some of my very closest friends are people I met on the internet through discussion boards years ago. They know me better than most people because being myself with them online helped me be myself with them in person: something that takes a lot longer for me to do without things like Twitter as a mediator.

  3. Twitter’s a great tool for cross-institution networking. I’m the only person where I work who does what I do. Twitter puts me in touch with hundreds of other compatriots – a community that I have found very helpful to have – with whom I can share ideas, get feedback, help others, and make friendships.

  4. Great post. I totally agree that social media can be a great facilitator, but face-to-face interactions are often the glue that solidifies and reinforces relationships.

  5. Thanks for sharing these thoughts! Twitter was an excellent way to get involved at my first national conference this year. Attending tweetups expanded these connections to real-life friendships and connections. Volunteering for the Social Media Crew helped others connect with this platform for the first time! Looking forward to more of your posts.

  6. mcheater

    Amen!

  7. Tim Nekritz

    ANDREW: It is the new conference connector, eh? In the old days, it was open bar. And you’re still on my haven’t-yet-met-but-really-should list!

    NICOLE: I think your Twitter-as-mediator observation is right on. It’s also nice to have things in common with people before you physically meet them, and have this kind of “introduction” in advance. I’ve made a lot of great friends over the web as well!

    JD: I enjoy meeting those (such as yourself) doing social media at other institutions because we all speak a common language that isn’t always understood so much at home. As I say sometimes, Twitter is like my vast support group.

    MARK: Definitely. And in terms of recruiting students and seeing how they can get to know each other in advance, social media has become quite an amazing facilitator. As opposed to the old days where you knew almost nothing about your roommate until you stumble into one another … I envy incoming students’ ability to connect before they set foot on campus.

    BECCA: Well said! Twitter gets everyone connected on the ground floor of conferences, and I notice how those active on Twitter are able to more quickly and effectively network throughout. And I’ll try to keep the posts interesting and thoughtful … no pressure.

    MELISSA: Word to your mother. Ice Ice Baby to go.

  8. it’s interesting how twitter is used so little here in italy… a lot of businesses have a facebook account, but if they use twitter it’s only for internal communication… we’re still at the paper business cards I’m afraid…

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