Thursday, July 24, 2008

The Importance of Social Media

Without a doubt, the process by which I have been making this film would be completely different were I doing it years ago. Social media, or Web 2.0, is fascinating to watch and I have been learning all I can about it at work.

Wikipedia, an online encyclopedia is an example of social media and defines the term as umbrella term that defines the various activities that integrate technology, social interaction, and the construction of words, pictures, videos and audio. This interaction, and the manner in which information is presented, depends on the varied perspectives and "building" of shared meaning among communities, as people share their stories, and understandings.
Essentially, social media tools (like this blog) are changing the way we communicate by allowing us to share information faster and easier. And it allows us to reach people that we would never otherwise reach.

For example, my last post was about a book I bought. I wrote about it the evening I bought it, and by the time I woke up the next morning he had commented on my entry! A few years ago, the two of us would have had to communicate by email or snail mail, and the likelihood of him responding might be slim to none. But today, I wrote about it and a few hours later he had responded.

There are people in social media that track and analyze things like this and could probably respond in a matter of minutes or hours. That's the speed of communication we're hitting now, which is incredibly fascinating. Of course, the phone is just as fast if someone answers, but this is all electronic connection, and because of that the echos of the initial conversations (or spirals, or threads) are the true genius. One person does something that another writes about, and then another writes about that, and then before you know it you've reached hundreds of people.

Social media is giving everyone of us a voice. It's a "power to the people" revolution. In May I attended an AMA event called Social Media Marketing Workshop, led by Jim Tobin of Ignite Social Media. The event was very helpful in showing me how to share what social media is, exactly, and why corporations are slow to jump on (when they should be tuned in and ready to act instead).

The next day I attended Blog Carolinas, a "conversation about social media in the enterprise", which was also very informative. It was great to meet other folks who were thinking about social media, and networking with folks who have the answers others are seeking.

Last night I attended a Blogger Bash in Raleigh, an event Chris Moore told me about. It is another example of how social media tools are changing how we communicate with one another. I was working the concessions stand at ComedyWorx one night and a girl told me that she just started following my feed on Twitter. We had never met in person, but because of Twitter I now had a new connection that would otherwise not exist.

The Blogger Bash was really fun. As it turns out, there were quite a few social media faces I recognized, one of which was my very first improv teacher! I had not seen him in years, and it was great to catch up and be introduced to his wife. Because of social media tools, people all over are reuniting.

The point to all of this is that social media (or Web 2.0) is expanding the means by which we make things happen. Words become more than just words, they become action. And that action leads to other action and so on. I'm still learning all I can about it so that I can better verbalize what social media is and why it is important, but I already recognize how it is changing the filmmaking process for me.

Because of social media tools, I have found support from volunteers willing to offer their time and support. And before the film has even been completed, there are people expressing their interest in seeing it. And we don't even have the film's website up and running yet! I think that is so amazing.

There is much more work to be done on the film, and I am certainly trying to stay focused on the next steps. We are almost finished with filming, and have already started the transition into post-production. Tapes are being digitized and transcribed. I've been reading books by Dr. Hickey so that I can be a better representative of information about the Montagnards. And I've been writing plans so that we can stay on track and have this thing completed in the coming months.

Yes, there is much work to be done. But for just a few moments, I wanted to pay homage to the very exciting things happening. They are not tangible for some, but for me they are signs that this film can have a lasting, positive impact.

Oh, I've also been reading Made to Stick for work, but its connections to this film project are eerily spot-on. Chapter 1 starts off with, "Every move an Army soldier makes is preceded by a staggering amount of planning, which can be traced to an original order from the president of the United States." The entire chapter was so connected to my education about the Montagnards and the Vietnam War, it could not have been more planned had a college professor outlined it in the semester's syllabus! I've been reading this book to learn how some ideas stick around longer than others, and by what process that takes shape. It, too, is fascinating.

My education continues each day. And each day I grow more and more excited, nervous and anxious at the thought of sharing this film with audiences locally and nationally. It's a project that could not be more perfect for my first film, and the entire thing has been one lesson learned after another. The more I talk about it with others in real life, the more excited I get. And the more I talk about it with my volunteer force, the more anxious I get at the thought of sharing it publicly. The idea that folks will (hopefully) want to see my first film, and (hopefully) recommend it to others to see is very exciting! Mostly because it means that more people will be aware of the Montagnard plight, and hopefully be inspired to do something about it.

The other day I was explaining some of my filmmaking mistakes to Surry, frustrated that I wasn't able to execute some of the tasks as smoothly as I had hoped. Then I remembered another book that explains how we must be free to fail when we are in a chaotic space because we're learning something new. Of course there are going to be hurdles to overcome--it's the first time I've done a project like this, and I shouldn't beat myself up over it. You fall the first time you learn to walk, right? And, besides, just imagine how EASY the next one is going to be because I've already learned things the hard way!

But thoughts about the next project, whatever that may be, will have to wait. Right now the clock is ticking and my to do list grows with every thought about this film. There is much to be done, little time to do it, and zero dollars with which to execute these plans. But that's the exciting part! Will I finish it in time? Will the final product be as good as I have envisioned it? Will miracles happen? Will there be an audience to share it with when we're ready? Will the film have a lasting, positive impact for the Montagnards?

Only time will tell, but I certainly hope all goes well. There is a force beyond my control leading this thing as it only continues to gain momentum. That is both terrifying and exhilarating in the same breath!


Jennafleur said...

urgh! I heard about Blogger bash and wanted to go but I totally forgot about it! You'll have to remind me about the next one! :)

Jim Tobin at Ignite Social Media said...


How cool. It's interesting to see how all the pieces come together. Glad to have been one small link in the chain. Congrats. ~Jim