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What can the LeWeb Conference teach internal communicators?
22 June, 2012 - 09:52
LeWeb is a conference for the internet industry and investors. This week it came to London and we went along to see what is brewing that can be used by internal communicators.
How many people do you think Jamie Oliver employs to keep his online and social media going? Here's a clue: it's far more than the 15 cooks in his eponymous restaurants. In his Keynote interview at LeWeb Conference in London the celebrity chef complained about paying for 40 staff in his online team - an area where he has consistently invested, despite not making any money directly from his website. So why does he do it? Because his 3 million monthly visitors to the site, his 2.3m followers on Twitter and the half a million who follow him on Instagram drive the economic engine of the Jamie Oliver brand - millions of sales of his books.
Jamie came across as the affable and accessible campaigner that he presents on TV. But here instead of wrangling with the turkey twizzlers he was able to indulge in his love of social media in general and Instagram in particular. He was supported onstage by the unassuming CEO of Instagram, Kevin Systrom, who achieved a remarkable payday when his company was bought by facebook recently for a cool billion. Not bad for a photo-sharing programme that was launched only in October 2010. But that was what this event was really all about; the celebration not of celebrities but of ideas that have caught fire in the internet firmament and gone on to become part of our daily lives.
LeWeb started in Paris in 2004 and by last year they attracted an audience of some 2,600 from 60 different countries. London was an obvious follow-up destination although the austere environment of the Methodist Central Hall in Westminster seemed to fight against the hip design and production values of the internet industry. 1,300 registered for the 2 day event which cost an eye-watering £1,500 a ticket. But the delegates seemed very happy for the circus to come to town even if the staging was dominated by a huge organ that resembled a maniacal monster about to devour the next pony-tailed speaker. The organisers had thought some parts of the event through well - the video stream sponsored by Kraft Foods was excellent - delivering pin-sharp video relay to around a further 1,000 remote attendees. And a pixie-sized violinist called Lindsey Stirling provided some hip hop frivolity to the sessions.
Bizarrely they did not advertise the hashtag, nor the wifi log in, so we all had to search twitter using #leweb and #leweblondon to find out where to go in the cybersphere. And annoyingly the captions onscreen gave names and titles but no twitter handles. Fortunately LeWeb was supported by an excellent app produces by Mobile Roadie that really did the job in terms of agenda, speaker notes, and attendee lists. I'll certainly want one for the next simply-summit.
A consistent theme throughout the two-day conference was that innovation on the internet costs both in terms of people and resources and it is the venture capital community who are shouldering those mounting bills hoping that they are backing the next Skype of facebook. The clever money is going into moble - although many speakers used the phrase that such innovation "hurts before it pays". Still it was interesting to lift the lid on some of the successful start-ups that are now beginning to reap rewards for their investors. Particularly impressive was Aaron Levie, co-founder & CEO of Box - a cloud service that looks after and helps you share all your files and Phil Libin, CEO of Evernote - the founder of a clever system that allows you to collate all your randomn web links, photos and notes into a coherent story so you can remember everything.
But what does this tell the internal communicator? Well for starters there was a lot of buzz around the mooted acquistion of Yammer by Microsoft for €1.2bn. Clearly social media is not just banging on the door of large corporates, it is up on the 7th floor and hogging the water cooler. Apparently a whopping €10billion has swapped hands this year from companies like Microsoft and Salesforce.com (who just bought Buddy Media) to the young entrepreneurs who have hit gold with ideas that could be transferred to he enterprise market.
So it's clearly time for the internal communicator to wake up and smell the virtual coffee; in less than a year most large organisaitons will have signed up for enterprise social media - whether it is with Yammer, Chatter, Jive, tibbr or even just the sexier version of SharePoint 2010 that is on the horizon. This will mean a dramatic change in the way we work; a move away from managing communication to helping managers and communities inside organisations communicate better. The tools are now available and your IT department have probaly already made their order. What we need is to adopt some of the technological zeal and optimism on show at LeWeb and inject it into the world of corporate communications.
I can see a product like Evernote becoming invaluable inside organisations to help them archive their content and control the aggregrated story of a company's history. It's all very desirable for companies to enter a brave new world of co-creation, but when our social media present becomes historical fact it will good to be able to see how it actually happened.
Marc Wright is the publisher of simply-communicate and chairman of the simply-group
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