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A look back at Social Media Week Glasgow – Interview with Tim Wright

- Why did you put in the bid for Social Media Week to happen in Glasgow?
For a number of reasons. The format of SMW is a very interesting concept of how to put together a conference, it aims to change the way we run conferences in the future, it is essentially crowdsourced so the format of the event was appealing to us because it was addressing some of the changes and effects that come with the collaborative models that Social Media enables. But more important than that it was to have a platform that allowed us to broaden the debate on Social Media to touch on a variety of subjects, and take the story or take the message to a wider community that Social Media is having a very profound impact on society, economy, and culture. We felt that Glasgow – and by extension Scotland – has a strong digital community, it is very digitally engaged and it has a history of innovation in many fields which is becoming apparent in the way Social Media is being exploited in Scotland. It was time that Glasgow got recognition for that alongside these other international cities that were bidding at the same time, and it was also right and appropriate that Scotland got representation; the only other time this event has come to the UK it was in London, so we felt that it was time that North of the border got some recognition as well.

- So was Social Media Week Glasgow a success?

It’s not entirely for me to say whether it was a success, it‘s really for others to judge, because it is very much a shared event, it’s crowdsourced in the sense that the vast majority of the events that were put on through the course of the week were originated by people who came forward, wanting to put something under the umbrella of the larger event. It was a shared experience and I have my personal views on whether it was success, but fundamentally is whether the community feels that it was a success, and thus far almost exclusively all of the feedback has been very positive. We had more than 100 events taking place through the 5 days, in a lot of different locations and one of the aspects of the pitch that we made to crowdcentric in our bid to bring SMW to Glasgow was that we would offer tremendous diversity, and I think we achieved that by bringing events that were taking place addressing consumer products, fashion, media, healthcare, really really diverse range in terms of the subject matter, but also the format, the size and scale of these things, so some were quite small events, some were very large events with a significant number of people attending. So I think in all of those cases we achieved more than we actually set out to do, we were more diverse than we could have possibly wished for; we certainly delivered more events than we expected when we initially intended to put the event on and I think that the reception that we received and the amount of coverage that the events received has been almost exclusively positive. There’s always one or two but on the whole I think pretty much everybody says it has been an extremely good and useful experience. Doesn’t mean to say that we wouldn’t change it if we had the opportunity to do it again of course, we would, that’s how experience works, but on the generality I think it has been an almost exclusively positive experience. Certainly for us: on a personal level and from the twintangibles point of view I think we would view it as entirely positive, if challenging and demanding at times in actually making it happen, but it was a privilege to be involved.

- Any personal highlights for yourself?

There are a number of highlights for me. I particularly enjoyed Jeremy Gilley’s presentation to open the event. His was a very inspiring story and it’s something that it’s often forgotten about how you can use these communication platforms for really significant and world changing initiatives and he’s very much testament to that, so that was an inspiring piece to kick off the day. The Nokia vending machine was a lot of fun, I didn’t actually win anything out of it, but ten people got phones, it was a lot of fun seeing people queuing up with the expectation of getting a phone and getting a chocolate bar instead, but that was fun. I really enjoyed both the wine and the beer events for obvious reasons but also because I think they were quite innovative. The intention was to demonstrate how social media brings producers and consumers much closer together and it was quite technically challenging to make those things happen but they went very well so I enjoyed those a lot. The Government involvement and the Government endorsement of it by the attendance of ministers but also by them putting on their own event was a highlight, because it represented some recognition that what we do had attracted the attention and the endorsement of those bodies. But the undoubted highlight for me was Don Tapscott. I said when I introduced Don on the Friday as the closing keynote that when we initially thought about bidding to bring SMW to Glasgow who would we ideally have on the list of events through the week, who would be the speakers, and it was one of those brainstorming events where you can put anything you want no matter how absurd on the table; and at the top of my list was Don Tapscott and we just laughed at the idea that we could get him involved with SMW Glasgow. And by the wonders of social media and the connectivity and the willingness and collaborative spirit that goes with that we managed to get Don Tapscott to do the keynote address, and for me that was an enormous privilege to be able to introduce him but also to have the opportunity to put questions to him, it was fantastic, and couldn’t have wished for anymore so it’s certainly my highlight.

- Where is the future with SMW Glasgow?

We want to try and build on the legacy of this iteration of SMW that took place in Glasgow. The event itself as you will probably know is now taking place twice a year because the demand from cities to actually get involved with this is growing all the time, so there are no guarantees that even if we were to bid for it we would necessarily be able to bring it back to Glasgow. Therefore our immediate focus is to build on what took place through the week and I think that most of the organisations that took part in Social Media Week are also looking to do that. We know that the next iteration of SMW is taking place in February 2012 and London is one of the participating city for that. So we will probably try and run some follow-up events as part of that to highlight Glasgow participation this year. We also know that the organisation crowdcentric in NY were extremely pleased with what took place in Glasgow and the fact that outside of NY we had more events than any other cities participating in SMW ever, which is a tribute to Glasgow. I think they were very impressed by the way that developed and how the city engaged with it so I think that if we were to bid to make it happen again in Glasgow then we would have a sympathetic ear in NY. But our focus at the moment is to build on what we achieved this time round with a view to considering whether we wished to do it again in Glasgow, and if we do what format that would take.

- Would you like to round up with a closing statement?

We pulled it off. It was a pretty ambitious thing to take on. Some people thought we were a bit crazy, I think we thought we were a bit crazy when we were first going for it, but it has been a tremendous success; it has been a wonderful thing to be involved with, we met a lot of fabulous people, made friend with people that otherwise we wouldn’t have had the opportunity to meet. I think it has kicked off some terrific initiatives off the back of it, and I hope it’s giving a lift to the digital community in Glasgow and Scotland generally but also allow Glasgow and Scotland to get some international well deserved recognition so all in all very pleased, tick, v. good, gold star as far as I am concerned.

The interview was realised by Cameron King, @CameronKing, as part of the SMWGla podcast series available on iTunes and Podomatic. [transcript]

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twintangibles Ltd is a company registered in Scotland with company number SC397987. Registered office is Blue Square House, 272 Bath Street, Glasgow, Scotland, G2 4JR

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