I had the pleasure of speaking at the ‘mini’ Media140 last week. I was first up with Richard Baker (@richard_baker). Richard has recently left Virgin Trains, where he was their General Manager. We were followed by the ever erudite, ‘Hugh Grant-esque’ as someone mentioned on the night, Charlie Osmond (@cosmond, CEO FreshMinds). Richard and I spoke about some of the issues raised by the impact of social media on customer service.

Although Richard and I had exchanged numerous tweets and we were certainly ‘Twitter friends’, we had never met before. But what we had agreed on was wanting to create an open session, where people felt relaxed and comfortable enough to exchange their views, and we would simply either be part of the conversation that was taking place or facilitate it in whichever direction the audience wanted to take it.

We’ve all been at those conferences or seminars where it’s either the conversation over lunch or in the last five minutes of Q&A at the end of a session that is usually the most memorable. We wanted to do what we could to bring those ‘last five minutes’ to the beginning.

Furthermore, we also felt that for some reason when people tweet they seem to be much more genuine. They’re happy to rant and rave, speak their mind, speak openly and share, spark debate, disagree, provoke…and yet get them face to face and it all disappears. We wanted to try, in a sense, to get behind the facade of politeness and see real people being ‘real’.

Rather than start the evening off by introducing who we were and trying to establish our credentials, we simply started off by putting forward the observation that customer service and marketing as a result of Twitter/social media seemed to be moving closer together. That customer service was becoming the active voice of the brand.

We weren’t there to convince the audience of our view, nor to suggest we were experts in the matter. We simply tried to share our observation and experience on the subject, and encourage the audience to share theirs. Social media, at the end of the day so I’m told, is about sharing. We were fortunate that the audience picked up on this and did take part and shared and even better, disagreed at times.

I hope the format continues in subsequent events. Far better to hear and share the collective experiences, insights and thoughts of forty people, than just the one or two at the front. As @lesanto said with enough passion to fill the whole room: ‘We’re all explorers’. And so we were that night.

Thanks to @andegregson, @katepickering, @lesanto and @shutteritch for a great evening and here’s to the next one.

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