If the buildup is anything to go by, Like Minds on the 26th February promises to be an exceptional event. I was both surprised and pleased to be asked to deliver a keynote speech, but if I’m honest, as the event approaches, I’m wondering whether they asked the right guy.
If you take a look on the1000heads website promoting the London Tweetup tonight you’ll see my name sandwiched in between Chris Brogan and Yann Gourvennec. That’s Yann with almost 1,700 followers on Twitter, and Chris with close to 123,000!
Compared to them, I feel like an inadequate schoolboy in the gym locker room after a cold shower. In fact, I’m sure I can hear the collective sound of ‘who is he?’ every time someone sees my name on the Like Minds conference agenda.
Because if the truth be told, I’m no social media guru. I’m a Director of a Management Consultancy – the two words you don’t want to hear when you meet someone at a party. I haven’t been Tweeting religiously since day one, and I only launched my personal blog last November. If that wasn’t bad enough, most of my work in done in the public sector, which is not generally regarded as a hive of innovation.
You might think that none of this matters in the new world order, that people don’t make value judgments about you based on something as trivial as the number of followers you have on Twitter. Don’t be fooled. The idea that social media destroys hierarchy is a fallacy. It doesn’t, it creates new ones.
Ego is alive and well on Twitter. It seems that every social media guru; PR or marketing expert; consultant or innovator, exudes one universal trait – supreme confidence.
To have really ‘arrived’ on Twitter having 1,000’s of followers isn’t enough. You need a ‘back-of-the-book-jacket’ style photo, and a customized Twitter homepage displaying your social media credentials to let the rest of the world know (if they didn’t already) that you are one of the new rock stars of the digital generation.
I’m afraid I don’t quite fit that bill.
It’s not as though I don’t have an ego – anyone who knows me will attest to that fact – and lets be honest about this, like many others, I use Twitter partly as a promotional and networking tool. But I’m not ashamed to admit that I’m still getting to grips with it, and in many ways I still feel like an outsider.
I’ve learnt that despite appearing to be simple, learning to use Twitter takes time. Whereas joining Facebook feels like a walking in on a school reunion or a family gathering, Twitter is much more like entering a bar on your own where everyone else seems to be engrossed in conversation that you can only catch snippets of. You’ve got to come up with a few opening lines just to get someone to engage with you, and it’s daunting. No wonder so many people head straight back out and never come back.
That said, on the whole I’ve found using social media to be a positive experience. I’ve made new connections, and have been able to tap into pools of knowledge I would not otherwise have found. I’ve also shared jokes and experienced big and small events collectively in ways that simply were not possible before.
But social media is not an entirely benign place. In fact, as the founders of Like Minds discovered recently, it can be pernicious, hostile, and abusive too.
So as I prepare to give my presentation next week in front of the great and the good in the world of social media, I don’t mind admitting that I’m a little nervous.
But I suspect that I won’t be the only person feeling like an outsider at the Tweetup tonight, or the main event in Exeter next week. In fact I’m hoping that Like Minds will be a place that outsiders from all walks of life will be able to meet and make connections.
So if you’re planning to be at either one, feel free to come and say hello. I’ll be the guy looking slightly out of place.
Photo by Britt Warg @ Flickr