A Social Business success story! 3 years, 6 events, increasing attendance… What next for Social Connections?

We’ve come a long way, baby!

I write this post on what is almost the 3rd anniversary of the spark of inspiration that led to the formation of the IBM Connections user group, which came to be known as Social Connections.

Since then, we’ve accomplished a great deal.  We have:

  • Held six large events in just three years.
  • Visited six major cities in six European countries – London/England, Cardiff/Wales, Dublin/Ireland, Amsterdam/Netherlands, Zürich/Switzerland and soon to Prague/Czech Republic.
  • Grown from 60 attendees at the first event to well over 200 in Prague.
  • Gone from two sponsors in London to eleven this time. (We love them all – each and every one are the reason why we can run this group as we do.)
  • Increased from a one-day agenda with a single track to two days, four tracks and over 40 sessions this time.
  • Delivered time and again on our promise to allow space for the informal side of social collaboration as well as the formal event agenda.  From a trip over the Millennium Bridge to the pub at the London event, through a tour and dinner at Cardiff Castle, a reception at the Guinness Storehouse, supper adjacent to the Anne Frank House (and a bonus trip in the Ajax tour bus!), drinks on the lakeside in Zürich, and now to a gala reception at Prague Castle, we always try to put the people ahead of the technology!
  • Been thrilled to meet attendees from around the world – from North (Finland) to South (Tasmania/Australia), from East (Russia, India and Indonesia) to West (California/USA).  The geographic reach seems to expand with every event!
  • Hosted stellar speakers from IBM and outside. We’ve been honoured to hear from IBMers such as Jon Mell, Mike Roche, Louis Richardson, Chris Crummey, Heidi Ambler, Joyce Davis and Luis Benitez.  We’ve delighted in sessions from many IBM Champions, including Gabriella Davis, Paul Mooney, Adam Brown, Mat Newman, Wannes Rams, Christoph Stoettner, Klaus Bild, Luis Garza, Mikkel Heisterberg, Sjaak Ursinus, Brian O’Neill and many others.  We’ve also heard terrific analysis from independent consultants such as Headshift, Michael Sampson and Luis Suarez.
  • Heard from more than 30 great IBM Connections customers, telling their stories how and why they have invested in this technology to improve the efficiency of their organisations.  In so many ways, this is the most important part of our agenda – to allow organisations either considering or already deploying Connections to hear from others that are leading the way.

The team are thrilled by the way that this community has responded to Social Connections – both in person at the events listed above and through social channels in-between.  Both the attendance at the events and the 3,000+ membership of the associated LinkedIn group demonstrate that there is a significant wave of support and investment building up behind both the platform itself, and the process of business transformation that is supported by properly deploying an enterprise social network.

The Here and Now

We truly believe that Social Connections VI will be our biggest and brightest event so far.

Social Connections VI banner

 

A lovely location (Prague, the Hotel Ambassador, Villa Richter etc.), awesome agenda, sensational speakers, super sessions, tantalising TagItOn masterclass, seriously great sponsors and much more. It really will be an event to savour!

If you haven’t registered yet, now really is the time – we must close the registration process in the next couple of weeks in order to finalise catering plans. So if you fancy two days (or more) in one of the most scenic capital cities in Europe, attending possibly the best IBM Social Business conference ever, networking with like-minded individuals and organisations, listening to and learning from some of the brightest minds in this industry, then you know what to do! Register now!

The Future

So, 6 events and 6 countries in 3 years.  Biggest and best event coming next month.  We should take a break and rest on our laurels, right?

No, that’s not the Social Connections way!

Firstly, Europe has been good to us for the past three years, but we owe it to this community to continue to grow the community here, whilst also looking to share the benefits of the gained knowledge and understanding with others outside this continent.

Therefore, we’re looking ahead and planning a four-strand strategy for the future:

  • Europe
  • North America
  • Asia & Australasia
  • Local events

This is possibly the most ambitious approach taken by any independently-run technology user group anywhere in the world!

  1. Social Connections will look continue our two event per year schedule in Europe following the Prague event.  Currently we are discussing Sweden for this autumn, and then the UK for early summer 2015.  We hope to grow from our 200+ attendees toward 300-350 in the future, but the focus will really be on sustaining and encouraging the community we have already built, hopefully with more customers speaking at future events, and with local attendees from previous events being willing to travel to those that take place further afield.
  2. We will host our first North American event before the end of 2014.  The location, size and shape of this event are still to be determined, but ‘Social Connections Americas’ will definitely be launched before the year ends.  The team are investigating locations in Delaware and North Carolina, but we are open to other suggestions – please get in touch if you have suggestions or ideal cost-effective locations in mind.  Initially we are planning to schedule one event per year in the USA, Canada or Mexico, but this may change over time.
  3. We are planning to take Social Connections to the contents of Asia & Australasia, ideally in the first half of 2015.  With Singapore as the initial location, there has been plenty of interest in a Social Connections-style event in this geography – not least because ASEAN is one of IBM’s biggest growth markets.  Once again, if you know of an ideal location for this ‘Social Connections Asia’ event, then please do get in touch.
  4. We’re seriously looking at running or supporting local events, similar to the model that the TED folks use with TEDx.  i.e. A partner or user group works with the Social Connections team to run a smaller conference on a local basis (perhaps for a given city or state).  The Social Connections team would supply branding, aircover, expertise and support, whilst the local team would handle the organisation of the event itself. We’re already exploring events in Australia and New Zealand using the ‘Social Connections Local’ model, and would love to work with anyone that would be interested in growing their Social Business and IBM Connections community in their area.

We cannot do this alone.  In all the areas above, the Social Connections team are looking to find individuals and organisations that are passionate about IBM Connections, engaged with local businesses that use the product, and are willing to take a role in planning and delivering events that benefit the community as a whole.  If you’re interested, please contact us!

Secondly, as IBM Connections has matured, so we’re seen a change of focus from ‘What is IBM Connections and how do I install/configure/administer/extend it?’ to ‘We’ve got Connections (or similar Social Business platforms) but it’s not helped us change our company as we’d have liked. How can we do this better?’.

This is reflected in efforts such as The Future of Work, Change Agents Worldwide and Responsive.org, and there has definitely been a shift from talking about Social Business as a technology-driven discussion, to instead looking at how organisations, teams and individuals can gain from ‘working out loud’, and how the nature of ‘work’ itself is going to change over the next decade.

Social Connections has already been the beneficiary of this shift, in that our submitted abstracts have become a mix of Connections-specific technical and case study sessions and more open, business-focused discussions.  We’ll never lose the former, but we do expect to see even more of the latter at future events.

Despite IBM Connections having already been on the market for 7 years, it feels as though we’re still in the early days of the work revolution that is coming to organisations world-wide.  Those that have already deployed and adopted tools like Connections are at the vanguard of this move, and the Social Connections team want to support them and others that follow as this movement gains pace.

Want to join us?

There are three easy ways to jump onboard this train!

    1. Join the Social Connections community on LinkedIn
    2. Attend Social Connections VI
    3. Get in touch if you’d like to help plan and organise the next Social Connections Europe, Americas, Asia or Local event!

Can’t wait to have you involved!

Stuart McIntyre

Stuart McIntyre

Social Business Strategist at Social 365
Social Business Strategist, CTO of Social365, podcaster, blogger, conference speaker and founder of Social Connections.
Stuart McIntyre

@StuartMcIntyre

Community #strategist, #solopreneur, #influencer, Jive & IBM advocate, analyst, blogger and podcaster (@wtf_tech). Husband, father of four and foster carer.
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Stuart McIntyre
Stuart McIntyre