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2019 Denver Digital Summit: 3 Key Takeaways

The Digital Summit delivers 75+ in-depth digital marketing sessions & workshops to keep you at the forefront of the digital world. Our team attended the two-day conference in Denver, and these themes are the key takeaways from the sessions I was able to attend.

Out With Social, In With Community

Social media is a mess. We’ve got internet bullying, privacy concerns, issues with data from scandals such as Cambridge Analytica, and countless other forms of chaos. What’s happening is that people are gravitating toward smaller circles of likeminded people. They’re forming communities.

In reaction to the chaos, people are beginning to behave and mobilize in smaller circles. This is a cultural shift. People are sending funny baby elephant videos through text messages, they are sharing political memes through FB messenger — otherwise too afraid to post on their walls for fear of internet trolls — they’re forwarding their favorite podcasts and music playlists via email, and setting up private channels on Slack. A lot of people have escaped the carnival and have fled to the woods where the fire is kindling and real conversations are happening.” – Virtual Reality Pop

While the concept of community is not new, the fluid nature of social media means that the process of forming a community is not necessarily an easy task. According to Digital Summit speaker Will Cady, Head of Brand Strategy at Reddit, there’s a distinct difference between groups and communities. A group is people who happen to be in the same place at the same time without shared values. Flying on an airplane is a group, as the passengers share an experience but not a culture. A community is bound by shared culture, comprised of values and rules — the Digital Summit we attended was a community.

I’m I think it could be argued that Colorado State University is both a group and a community. As a whole, we share a similar experience, but we’re also a massively diverse group of people who just happen to be in the same place at the same time. So from a digital media perspective, we must find ways to discover the communities that exist at CSU and learn how to connect with them. And we must work toward crafting a stronger sense of community for the university as a whole by digital nurturing a Community Culture. To do this, Cady outlines a process for community building that first involves being initiated into a Community, which is done by Contributing. To know how to Contribute, you must Listen.

Thick Data In A Big Data World

Big Data can tell you lots of things: How many Facebook users clicked on your article link; that 75% of your followers live within your state; or that your website has an average bounce rate of 52%. This data is tall. But it isn’t wide.

“Thick Data reveals the social context of and connections between data points.” – Antonella Bonanni

Making the connections between these data points relies on human brain power while Big Data analysis requires computational power. We spend a great deal of time focused on acquiring as much data as possible from a large sample size, but there’s great value in thick data that comes from a smaller sample size, providing more meaning through context and stories.

Thick Data vs Big Data

This isn’t to say that Thick Data is more valuable than Big Data. Rather, the two should be used in tandem to fully understand user behaviors. We know that incoming students are big time users of YouTube. But why? Gathering a small group of 10 first-year students for a focus group on YouTube usage would yield richer findings than relying on statistical studies alone.

We Need More Bad Ideas

A favorite session of mine focused on the importance of “bad ideas.” Jason Keath, from Social Fresh, began by playing the theme music from Mario. He asked someone from the audience to name the game and then describe it, knowing that the description would sound like an awfully bad idea: “Imagine going into a meeting and pitching the idea of a plumber running around hitting turtles and collecting coins.”

The general point he’s making is that bad ideas are not really bad — they’re necessary. Keath begins meetings by having his team members write down bad ideas at the start. Why? Because they are actually good ideas. They lead to good ideas. They augment other ideas. And they open your mind. “Great ideas exist somewhere between the obvious and the absurd.” – Keath