This Is Not Your Typical Conference

We’ve been getting questions asking, “Why is the 140 Characters Conference important to the Detroit region?” So we went right to one of the people that brought it here, Christopher Barger, Director of Global Social Media for General Motors.

After the success of the second 140 Characters Conference in New York City, Barger approached the organizer about doing his conference in Detroit.  He looked at is as a way for GM to be involved in a unique exchange of ideas while being a good corporate citizen.

Barger pulled together a few friends in Detroit’s social media community and invited Jeff Keni Pulver, founder of 140 Characters Conference, to talk about the possibility of having the event here.  Dinner turned out to be pretty enlightening that evening.

“It wasn’t here is what the city is doing or here is what GM is doing,” Barger recalls.  “We all gravitated to those small, individual stories of success.  I think what he liked was that it (the conversation) wasn’t just a whole bunch of grandiose visions.  This was a collection of small success stories building on top of each other that paint a much broader picture.”

What Barger thinks sold Pulver on the idea of having a 140 Characters Conference in Detroit was that sense of community.  There are examples of big corporations doing things well in social media from Detroit, yet the focus was on the apartment community that uses Facebook and Twitter exclusively to fill apartment vacancies.  Or the flower shop with locations in Ferndale and Detroit that is active on Facebook and has experienced a big increase in business.  Those stories that relate to small business owners and the sense of community piqued Pulver’s interest.

And those stories are what Barger is hoping people walk away from the conference with.  At most conferences, there are plenty of opportunities to learn from consultants and people from large companies, yet the small business owner is left to decipher if there is anything valuable for them.  With the 140 Character Conference, the mix of speakers include several small business owners giving real-world examples of how social media can work.

“It’s not going to be the standard set of leading social media thinkers talking about how powerful Facebook is or how powerful Twitter is or what you can do with a corporate blog. There will certainly be a couple of folks like that,” mused Barger.  “But there’s also going to be the corner business or the teacher who’s finding ways to empower inner-city school kids to improve their math skills through the use of the online tools.”

“Out of the broad swath of speakers that will be there, you’ll find somebody you can relate to, someone who is facing similar challenges or somebody that’s taking a new approach to something you’re dealing with,”  he continued.

Fans of the 140 Characters Conference are already accustomed to big ideas coming out of New York, Los Angeles and Tel Aviv.  Detroit will soon be added to that list, thanks to the strength of our community.  And that community is what drives the Motor City.

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