Yesterday we had space in a poster session at <insert large company name>, so took the opportunity to display some posters on blogging, RSS, social bookmarking and wikis. The idea of a poster session like this is to stand next to your posters and engage people in conversation when they stop to look at what you are displaying. This took place at lunch time in the main canteen, so there were hundreds of people around.
When I arrived I had a quick look round at the other posters and they were all of a pretty standard format, with a mix of molecular diagrams, data slices, screen shots of scientific applications etc, and all very well produced with a ton of information on each.
Compare that to what we had. Very minimalist, large, slick posters with images of the corporate wiki front page, one with a massive RSS logo, another with a big image of Charlotte next to a tag cloud and another of the front page of the beta social bookmarking application. We also had two large plasma screens cycling slide shows of the web 2.0 powered super hero himself (Charlie) and his most recent acquaintance Charlotte. Oh, and a bunch of laptops with one hooked up to yet another large plasma ready to demo the tools.
We stood out. Maybe we stood out too much as the rest of the poster stands seemed much busier to start with but trade soon started piling in.
So began the conversations and engagements which went something like this:
Hi, so this poster is about the corporate wiki. Have you seen <insert company name>pedia before? No, well ok, have you seen Wikipedia? Yes, good, well this is the same thing, same software, same goal and same ethos. We want this to be the default entry point to find out anything about anything at the company. Do you want to see it in action? Good, step this way and we’ll get you started by creating a profile page.
Social Bookmarking –
Hi, so this poster is about the beta corporate bookmarking service. Have you seen tags.<insert company name>.com before? No, well ok, have you seen Del.icio.us? No, er, Ok. Well, let me guess, you find a site you like and your bookmark it in your Internet Explorer favorites, right? Yes, good. So you have a long list of bookmarks that only you can see and use when you are at your computer, right? Yes, OK, well I’ve got something you might really like, come with me and I will show you how you can store all of your bookmarks online, give them descriptions, tag them, share them and discover new and interesting bookmarks and people based upon your interests.
And so it continued. The interesting thing was the people at the session were your classic target customers. This was all so new to them and most reacted in a very positive way. Here are some of the comments:
Social Bookmarking –
Wow, this is really useful. Everyone should be using this, why isn’t it advertised to the whole company? You should send out an email to everyone. I’m definitely going to use this.
It’s my last day on Friday and I wish I had known about this before, it would have really benefited me on so many levels.
A system like this could transform the way we collect information. It’s a real change to what we do now.
There were a few surprises for me in seeing what the customers took to and what they struggled to get to grips with. I thought RSS would be the real show stealer, but the response was warm at best. They liked the concept but I think the combination of needing a reader AND a feed put a barrier in the way. Also, explaining that not all sites supported RSS seemed to confuse some people. So there is work to do in packaging a core RSS reader into every desktop build and advertising RSS feeds and RSS as a concept more widely. The people who saw RSS in action really got it, but as a concept alone I think it was hard to sell.
By far the best received concepts were that of the wiki and the bookmarking, they were really really popular. I put this down to the fact it’s one tool, one concept and it’s there and ready for people to use. Nothing to install, nothing to piece together, just visit the site, sign in and go. Also they offer immediate and obvious payback.
My highlight was the the guy who brought his laptop down so he could import his 100+ bookmarks from IE into tags.<insert company name>.com, literally seconds after he signed himself up for an account.
Credit has to go to Sid who pulled together most of the posters and organized the space, all outside of his official role. I just swooped in at the last minute and enjoyed engaging, educating and selling.