Tagged: sswc

What your company can learn from Sweden Social Web Camp

OK, this will be a long post so bare with me. The topic for today is marketing.

And customer service.

And R&D.

Oh, and also some words about recruiting.

What the heck, it’s actually about the future of business. Period.

I told you it will be a long post…

But let’s start at the beginning. First let me explain what Sweden Social Web Camp (SSWC) is.

SSWC is an “unconference” taking place in August on an island in the Blekinge archipelago in Sweden. Blekinge is sometimes called the appendix of Sweden – as in a small place no one really knows what it’s good for – but if there’s one thing that’s great about Blekinge it’s the archipelago. It’s beautiful, especially in the summer time.

The theme of the conference is (unsurprisingly) the social web in different flavours and contexts.

This year, the second year of SSWC, roughly 400 people participated in the unconference on the tiny island of Tjärö. Most of them were camping – as in tents – while sheep and other creatures roamed the island. (Hey, it’s a camp, isn’t it?)

Camping. No sheep. Photo by Gitta Wilén.

There are no big names on the speaker list (in fact, there’s no speaker list at all – there’s not even a schedule!) and it all takes place during a weekend. So, what brings 400 entrepreneurs, journalists, PR-people, bloggers and hackers to a small island somewhere between Nowhere and Faraway to spend a weekend sleeping in a tent?

The answer to this question holds the key to what business will be like in the 21st century.

Exciting, huh? Before we go on please take a moment to read my blog post from last years SSWC. That will explain a little more details on how an unconference actually works.

No, seriously, read it.

OK, so now you understand that an unconference is all about participation. The organizers of the unconference only set the stage, it’s the participants that creates the play as they are there. They become both the speakers and the audience and in many cases the line is blurred as a speech turns in to a conversation.

The interesting consequence of this is that the value for the participants is higher than it would be if they only came to listen to a Big Name Speaker sharing her knowledge while at the same time the monetary cost is lower since Big Name Speakers are expensive.

How can the value be higher? At a traditional knowledge conference with Big Speakers there can be hundreds or thousands of people with overlapping interests, skill sets, insights, experiences. They all share a common interest, otherwise they wouldn’t be there – and yet there is no way for them to pool each others knowledge base. They all come to passively listen to one or a few heavy weighters in knowledge – but the sum total of untapped knowledge in the room far surpasses the knowledge of even the best speaker.

An unconference acknowledges this fact and builds the entire meeting around it with the goal to maximise interconnections between participants.

So now you have two different models.

1. A (traditional) knowledge conference that tries to maximize value through the knowledge radiated from the stages. Keywords are: broadcast, authoritative, passive, expensive (the best speakers are the most expensive),

2. A participatory (un)conference that tries to maximize value by leveraging interconnections in the crowd. Keywords are: conversation, open, active and low cost (blocking people out with a high price can even lower the value for the participants).

When something can create higher value at a lower price compared to what came before that’s a sure sign of disruption happening.

And that is why you need to learn from SSWC.

Because you can do participatory marketing. It’s called social media.

Because you can do participatory R&D. It’s called open source. And open innovation.

Because you can do participatory customer service. It’s called a community.

This all means higher value, lower price – if done right. Disruption, remember? And if you can do all that, so can your competitors.

Now you must ask yourself one question. A very important question. Namely this one:

Do you want to be the only one in your business executing your strategy with something that provides lower value at a higher price?

Do you think you will survive if you do that? Seriously?

Now, you may argue that in some markets broadcast, authoritative, passive and expensive actually works – and yes, you may be right. Some parts of your business may not be affected by competitors that are open, participatory, agile and costs less. But some parts of your business will be affected. And, here’s the catch: you don’t know which parts!

Kristin Heinonen and the remains of Mr Krax (long story…).

You should also know that going this route is not easy. What Tomas & Kristin have done with SSWC may look easy, but it’s the result of years of active participation and community building. Also, neither of them planned to start the best social media conference in Sweden, it just happened that way.

Tomas Wennström, Campfixer.

As a big company you carry a heavy burden: your history. Your customers are most likely not your friends or fans. You don’t have an active community. You don’t have a voice on the web. Probably, you’ve treated your customers as an expense (once they’ve made the first purchase) instead of an asset. You’ve been doing the broadcast, authoritative, passive and expensive way for so long that it’s part of your DNA and your culture.

This must change.

This has to change.

Or you will perish.

How’s that for a lesson from Tjärö?

(I couldn’t attend this year because of the birth of my daughter. To her, all this talk about participating and opening up will be the most natural thing in the world. She will require it. She will expect it. Your company can still change. Do it. Now.)

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This is the Internet: Sweden Social Web Camp

Erik, my friend. Can you explain what the Internet is?

– The Internet?

– Yes, the Internet. You see, I read about in the newspaper and watch people talk about it on TV but I just don’t get it. How does it work?

– Well, OK. The Internet is sort of like a big, big island where anyone can make their voice heard simply by gathering people around them and start talking. People tend to trust people who don’t just talk but also listens more so if you want many people to listen to you, you can’t just talk but start a conversation.

– But won’t you run out of places where people can gather to converse?

– No, it’s a very big island.

– But how do people find where the interesting conversations are.

– Ah, that’s the beauty of it: there’s a big index table keeping track of all the places. Anyone can add to this index simply by creating a new post. Then there are numerous recommendation engines you can use to find the best conversations. These recommendation engines are also built on trust.

– Wow, that’s really cool! But does it scale?

– So far it seems to have scaled pretty well.

– Hm, OK, so there’s an index keeping track of the places where the conversations are. Anyone can start a conversation and the good conversations are found using a recommendation engine. You know, I read about something like that in the paper. A bunch of nerds met on this island in Blekinge and did exactly that. It was called the Sweden Social Web Camp.

– Yeah, I know. I was there! I took some photos:

(Flickr.) This was the first evening, the guy on the stage is Tomas Wennström. He was sort of the coordinator of the whole thing. That means he posted a blog post and then everything happened by itself. No, not really, but almost. 🙂

(Flickr.) This is my friend Björn Falkevik. He was one of the people who started a conversation. This one took place under an oak.

(Flickr). Here’s the index table. On the “real” Internet this is called DNS and Google (sort of). Anyone could create a new session and if you ran out of places to be (the top column), you simply added a new column with a new place. The island was so big.

– Like the Internet!

– Well, not that big. But big enough.

(Flickr). Even as it got dark people kept on talking to each other, but it was less formalized.

– Yeah, I read about that. That’s the darknet, right?

– Haha, not really. The darknet is… something else.
There was also some dancing:


– Seems like you had a great time!

– It was super!

– Imagine that… someone building a conference about the net using the same basic architecture as the net itself. That’s really cool.

– Yeah, I know, but I think this is what most events will be like in the future. Not just events but also prouct development, companies, brands, maybe even countries! Everything will be driven by engines of trust.

– Sounds like this Sweden Social Web Camp should not be missed next year.

– That’s very, very true. Trust me on that!