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Archive for the ‘conference’ Category

So, last week, thousands of lucky advertising industry professionals from every corner of the globe flew, drove, rode, sailed and railed it down to Cannes, France for the 2011 edition of the Advertising Creative festival known across the world as the Cannes Lions. I was there, and since I keep being asked what I thought about the week-long event, this is my very unofficial recap. But first, a few quick thoughts.

What didn’t rock (aside from the €35 cocktails).

The wi-fi. Clichés, clichés, clichés, and more clichés. The fact that the Lions still haven’t gotten rid of “viral” categories in spite of the fact that there can be no such thing. The preponderance of #3 Ralph Lauren polos. The guy in the Audi R8 who tried to take up two parking spots on the Croisette just as I was parking behind him. (Bad idea.) A surprising lack of social media integration savvy or focus. A surprising lack of spelling acumen in regards to banner ads (the kind that airplanes tow over the beach). The mindless retweeting of whatever pre-packaged soundbites “influencers” might deliver on stage, regardless of how poorly thought through they may be.

What rocked.

Cannes in June. The food. The Carlton, Martinez and Majestic hotels. The Haute Corniche. Robert Redford. Patti Smith. Ogilvy’s clever #DO100 campaign. The big book. The ads. The giant kitty. The Croisette and the beaches. Sorbet cassis & sorbet poire (the most perfect 2-scoop sorbet combination in all the world). The parties (although I only managed to go to one). One of the biggest gatherings of the world’s most talented creatives in recent history.  Excellent coverage from several industry insiders via blogs and twitter. Fireworks.

Speaking of coverage, I have to give serious props to the Porter-Novelli team for the job they did both on their blog and on Twitter this year, and particularly Danny Devriendt and Marta Majeska for taking over the #CannesLions hashtag on the twitternets. If Gold goes to Porter Novelli, Silver goes to the Fast Company blog. Bronze can be shared by everyone else.

Some key articles you should look over:

Analysis of conversations at #CannesLions

Applying the Silicon Valley approach to Marketing

Why ad agencies should act more like tech startups

To viral or not to viral is not even a question

Interbrand’s Jez Frampton talks CSR and Cause Marketing

45 Quotes from Cannes Lions 2011

And now, for a  few talking points.

– What viral is and isn’t. Once and for all.

“Let’s agree on something, please, here from the beaches of Cannes: you cannot buy viral! You cannot make viral! You should not sell viral! Period! Viral is something that will eventually happen, if the online public decides it will. There is no magic formula, no guaranteed ways of making it happen. It is, by definition, purely an organic thing. Whether marketers and spin doctors like it or not, going viral is a community driven phenomenon. Seed all you want!

“Buying a gazillion online views and paying for countless banners does not guarantee a campaign to be/become viral. It guarantees views, eyeballs, and opportunities to see. Nothing wrong with that: that is what the job is about. Getting the message to the audience. Simple.

The online world has no need for more viral. The online world has a need for more quality, more skill and more community understanding. As Robert Redford says, more compelling stories. Instead of burning all this useless energy and money in trying to fake something viral, I’d rather see the effort invested in state of the art insights and metrics, strategic choices that drive change, awesome engagement strategies and a flawless execution and delivery plan with respect for the organic nature of the social web.” – Danny Devriendt

Beautiful. Read the rest here.

Fear, misunderstood.

“Fear is the enemy of creativity.” – Sir Ken Robinson

With all due respect to Sir Robinson and the hundreds of people who wrote that down during his lecture, fear is not the enemy of creativity. In fact, fear and creativity coexist just fine. Fear can be a catalyst for creativity. It can also be a crucible for it. Ask any artist about fear, and you will find that it is an integral part of the creative experience. Fear is often also a language of creativity.

What Sir Robinson should have told his audience is that fear is the enemy of execution.

Regurgitate less. Challenge more.

I want to caution event attendees (at the Lions and elsewhere) to occasionally challenge speakers, not just agree with them just because they are on stage or touted as an expert. Listen to what they are saying. Analyze what you are hearing. Digest it before regurgitating it. Not everything they say might be accurate. Don’t just assume that they are right because they are delivering a keynote. Don’t just assume that something is true or accurate or awesome just because dozens or even hundreds of people are retweeting it either.

Since we just talked about Sir Ken Robinson, let’s use his session (one of the most retweeted of the festival, and possibly the richest in soundbites) to illustrate my point. Almost everyone agreed that he was inspirational, charming, brilliant and engaging. No question. Having said that, check this out: (Quotes taken from tweets from the session.)

First, some of the statements that struck me as perhaps slightly less than impressive, either because they were far too obvious or not super well thought through.

“We can’t predict the future but we can anticipate it to make things better in the present.” – SKR

“Creativity is the process of having an original idea that has value.” – SKR

“We have to redouble our commitment to creativity.” – SKR

“We are living in times that have no precedence.” – SKR

“We don’t perceive the world directly. We do it through our perceptions.” – SKR

And then a few that were actually solid (though not exactly earth-shattering):

“It is more painful to restrain creativity than to release it.” – SKR

“Great leaders know their job is to create the right conditions. Not command and control.” – SKR

“Real innovation and creativity quite often happens within tight restraints.” – SKR

All of these statements (the good and the not-so-good) were equally retweeted, equally praised, equally shared. The lesson here: Don’t become a digital lemming. Whether the speaker is Seth Godin, Bono, Sir Richard Branson, Will.I.am or in this case, Sir Ken Robinson, don’t assume that every word out of their mouths is fact, and don’t act as if everything they say is game-changing wisdom, especially when it isn’t.

PS: Thanks, Sir Robinson, for being a good sport. 😉

– “Advertising is dead.” (Again?)

“Ad agencies are yesterday. Agencies that turn consumers into agents/advocates should be the model.” – will.i.am

Yes and no.

Yes: Agencies that play a part in turning consumers into agents and advocates for brands, products and causes will always be more effective and successful than those that don’t. It is the model (and has always been the model).

No: Ad agencies are not yesterday. I just spent some time around quite a few of them and saw their work: Advertising is still relevant, valuable and cool. Hell, when done well it’s fun and it works. So let’s not eulogize advertising just yet.

Where we go from here: Ad agencies have a decision to make: Stay old school and make it work, or evolve by integrating disciplines like PR, digital, mobile, reputation management and social better. The third alternative is to be complacent and fade into irrelevance, but that will be a decision made by individual agencies, not the industry as a whole.

Why am I so hopeful when it would be a lot more rock & roll to throw stones at the advertising industry? Five reasons:

1. I am not in 8th grade.

2. There are new and exciting revenue models for agencies in mobile and social. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure them out and build service offerings around them. Knowing this, why wouldn’t anyone in the agency system not want to go there?

3. Clients/brands are already asking for it. Who wants to be the first agency to tell a major client “no?”

4. Ad agency leaders aren’t stupid. They understand the value of awards like Lions, but they also understand that awards only go so far; they also need to be able to demonstrate results for their clients beyond impressions and estimated media value. With an increasing number of us out here in the world capable of tying campaigns to increases in sales, changes in consumer behaviors (and ultimately ROI), big advertising probably won’t want to be left behind for too long.

5. If ad agencies don’t own new services like community development, digital reputation management and all things social, someone else will. Who in the ad world wants to see a chunk of their clients’ budgets vanish into the hands of a bunch of digital startups? Anyone? Bueller? Bueller?

Speaking of digital startups…

Cultural alchemy.

Agencies need to start acting more like tech startups.” – Rei Inamoto

Yes and no.

Yes: Agency professionals who aren’t technically savvy today (including the upper echelons) need to become literate – no, fluent – in mobile, digital and social. It isn’t just a matter of survival. It is also a competitive necessity.

No (1): Agencies don’t need to become technology innovation engines. It just isn’t what they are good at. They just need to become technology adoption ecosystems. (There is a difference.)

No (2): Since the majority of tech startup seem to follow a “build it now, worry about revenue models later” philosophy, be careful what you wish for. Agencies can’t bank everything on an idea, partner with VCs to develop it, then worry about making money 2-5 years down the road.  Different models = different cultures. Different cultures = different models.

Where we go from here: Agencies simply need to start collaborating with technology pioneers on an ongoing basis. That’s really it. Two reasons: 1. There is no tactical advantage to falling behind. 2. Technical innovation can increase agency capabilities, cut costs, accelerate the campaign development process, and blow everyone’s socks off (consumers and clients). Who wants to turn that down? You?

In other words, agencies whose creatives, account teams and strategists don’t already completely grasp both the potential of social, mobile, gaming, geolocation, and sCRM (for starters) and the way they plug into consumers’ lives, aren’t exactly taking the pole position in their industry.  From Old Spice to BMW to Jay-Z, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see the possibilities. Digital isn’t just websites, apps and content. Find a way to mainline technology into your model, even if that means building an internal team whose job it is to manage that for you.

Talk is cheap.

A global campaign will never be successful globally, if it’s not relevant locally. How can you ensure your audiences get culturally relevant messages wherever they are in the world? Involve the locals. Have all communications signed off by a local product manager or marketing manager. Have a local community manager who communicates and engages with the local audiences. Think globally, act locally – I know this slogan has been overused, but it doesn’t mean that it isn’t true.

“Speaking a language is not enough. In order to successfully blend into a culture, you must know that culture inside out. And that goes way beyond the language.” – Marta Majewska

The #CannesLions closing gala on the Carlton beach

The power of stories.

“Stories have been around us since the beginning of the humanity. They have been a fundamental part of human communication and the essence of human experience. It is the stories that provide us with context through which we learn, understand and remember.” – Marta Majewska

A good story is something you haven’t known. Something that hits your gut, your heart and therefore your emotions.” – Robert Redford

Yes.

More Redford.

“You can’t be alone in your sandbox if you want success.” – RR

“To be trusted, you need to prove integrity. It starts with authenticity and quality.” – RR

“Nobody votes for a new idea. If you believe in something, you’re going to have to do it yourself.” – RR

“The only thing that really succeeds is change.” – RR

“The first time he came to Cannes, he was broke and backpacking through Europe, and found himself sleeping in the winter cold beneath the famous Carlton Pier. As he huddled in his sleeping bag, he heard the sounds of people above him, people drinking, gambling, wearing tuxedoes, and he wondered what it would be like to be up there in that luxury.

“16 years later, he returned to Cannes, this time for a film. He put on his tuxedo, opened up the doors to his balcony at the Carlton, looked down and saw the pier. “I saw myself sitting under the pier,” he said, “wondering what it was to be like where I was now.” – Jeff Sweat, Editor-in-Chief, Yahoo! Advertising Blog

Class act. I love it when someone has nothing to sell. They always speak from the heart.

On the other hand…

Cliché soup y crouton.

As for statements like “we must take more risks”, “we must embrace technology”, “we must be more creative”, “we must innovate more”, etc. yeah, I think we know. It’s always nice to hear it and all – and it pumps everybody up – but if entire keynotes are going to be based on stating the obvious, please also include some concrete examples outlining how you suggest agencies make that happen. Same with statements like “we should serve clients better”, “we should create more relevant advertising” and “we should build cultures of courage.” Give the audience a blueprint. A game plan. A process. Something. Otherwise, all we end up with is tweetable hot air. And if that’s all audiences want, here is my contribution to this year’s utterly cliché and incoherent #CannesLions twitbites:

“Adopt new technology. The future of now is the future.” – #StepfordTBB

“We really need to organize around the bread, not the cheese.” – #StepfordTBB

“If the mother of invention is necessity, culture is her second cousin.” – #StepfordTBB

“The more authentic our branding is, the more people will trust our messaging.” – #StepfordTBB

“We must re-invent everything.” – #StepfordTBB

“Community management is the new viral.” – #StepfordTBB

“If mobile is the new web, social media is the new mobile.” – #StepfordTBB

“Silicon Valley is the new Madison Avenue.” (Ooops. Someone might have actually already said that. Doh!)

“We will be the first agency in the world to attract one billion likes for a brand on Facebook.” – #StepfordTBB

Okay, I’ll stop here. You get the idea. We can do a lot better.

Originality. Or not.

I didn’t verify this. I don’t know if it is true. But if it is, perhaps the Cannes Lions jury needs more time to evaluate entries. (Source: joelapompe.net)

Speaking of jury mistakes, how exactly does the Cannes jury explain this fiasco? (And I am not even talking about the agency-client confusion. I mean how does the Cannes jury justify awarding a Silver Lion to an ad campaign that uses pedophilia as its narrative?)

A new buzzword.

“Too much marketing messes up the communities. So think ‘communiting’, not marketing,” other wise words by Will.I.am. “Communiting” as a word might not have existed until yesterday, but we like the word and we definitely like the idea that lies behind it.  “Communiting” is about enabling and fostering communities. About facilitating, not dictating. About engaging, not trying to sell. About truly becoming a part of the community, contributing to it and showing that you care. – Article by Marta Majeska

Like I told Marta, yes, the spirit of the thing is great. More community focus is imperative, and ad agencies (and their clients) need to both understand this and live it every day. (Burst the bubble, break down the walls, mingle with consumer communities, and whatever you do, don’t just broadcast). BUT… the last thing we need right now is a new made-up buzzword. So with all due respect to Mr. Will.I.am, perhaps we should take the time to fully grasp what enabling and fostering communities means before we start making up awkward and unnecessary words. Communiting? Ugh.

Tell you what: If you want to adopt Will.I.am’s terminology, go ahead. But first, you have to be able to clearly explain what “enabling” a community looks like for a brand and its agencies. Go ahead: Draw a sketch of the process. Once you’ve done that, outline the process of “fostering” a community. Then and only then, if you still want to, can you get away with using a term like communiting, or communitizing, even.

And please, please, please, don’t you dare create a “communiting manager” role. Community managers are happy with the current nomenclature.

Footnote: Marketing and Community enabling/building/fostering are not mutually exclusive. You can do both. In fact, the more you build your consumer-facing programs in a way that allows different functions like marketing and community management to complement each other and be well integrated with one another, the better your results will be. It isn’t an either/or equation. It’s an and equation: Marketing AND community building. Together.

Source of the discussion: http://blog.porternovelli.com/2011/06/24/think-communiting-not-marketing/

– Spelling is irrelevant.

I can hear it now: “Our guerrilla campaign resulted in 379,000 impressions in 52 countries in less than 76 hours, for an estimated media value of $12,350,480.”

I guess that’s better than “I’m a copywriter, damn it, not a spelling champion!” or even “I didn’t think it was my job to make sure the printing company didn’t screw up the spelling,” or even “I’m in digital, not tow plane marketing!”

Ah, good stuff. And the perfect example to use in your marketing class before discussing the age old question: Is there such a thing as bad publicity?

In closing:

Advertising isn’t dead. Quite the opposite: Advertising is evolving into a richer, much more complex, more intricately integrated discipline. From what I have seen, advertising is still as cool as ever. And yeah, the industry has its share of annoying, insecure, egocentric twats, but even that is changing. People’s backgrounds in the agency world are becoming more diverse, which is one of the best things that could happen to the industry. For the first time since perhaps the late 80’s, the gates are coming down. Agencies are looking for different kinds of skills and backgrounds and abilities. They are experimenting more with their new hires. And with the incredible opportunities open to the agency world in the coming decade, (we might actually find ourselves on the verge of a second golden age for advertising) all I can see is work, work, and more work (really cool work) just waiting to be taken on. That’s pretty exciting. Let’s meet back here again next year and see if that potential is still just potential and pretty talk, or if it is starting to be realized.

Okay, that’s it for me. Congrats to all the winners! If you want to get the official story, check out the Cannes Lions site.  Lots of stuff there for you to look at.

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Oh, one last thing: Social Media Day is being celebrated globally on June 30. Join me in Antwerp for a 1/2 day of social media integration and management workshops & a pretty fly afterparty. (Or send one of your minions if you can’t make it.)

Click here for details.

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One final shot from the Cannes Lions, before they take down the flags:

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Between the video and this link, you will have all the information you need. (Oh, and please excuse the outtakes. After 120+ takes, I decided to leave a few of the “distracting” moments in there. It was either that or losing my sanity. Cheers.)

The skinny:

June 30 is Social Media Day. Events celebrating this most auspicious date are taking place around the world. One of the biggest (I am told it is the second biggest, after NYC) takes place in Antwerp, Belgium. This year’s edition is a two-part event:

1. A half day social media management workshop.

2. A very large party following the workshop.

You can register for the workshop, the party, or both.

To make things interesting, the workshop is broken down into 5x 45-minute sessions, each separated by a 15 minute break. Session 1 is an executive briefing on strategy and integration. Session 2 will focus on Social Media and the new Marketing mix. We will talk about amplifying reach and stickiness, and blending social media with other marketing activities. Session 3 will focus on digital reputation management, real-time crisis management, and monitoring with purpose. Session 4 will focus on measurement. In this session, we will cover financial aspects of performance measurement for social media (ROI) as well as non-financial metrics, and then bring the two together. Session 5 will be an open forum. That’s right, a whole hour of live Q&A. So bring your questions, because I don’t do this very often.

For the full program, click here.

To skip the info and register right away, click here.

Man, these prices are RIDICULOUSY low.  I have no idea how they managed that.

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Today’s article was prompted by The Now Revolution co-author Jay Baer’s blog post entitled The 6 Step Process for Measuring Social Media. Consider the following 5 sections a complement to the social media measurement discussion in the business world. Bookmark it, pass it on, and feel free to ask questions in the comment area if something isn’t clear.

Let me explain, for anyone who is still confused about it, how to properly think about the integration of social media measurement into business measurement. This applies to the way social media measurement is applied to every business activity social media touches,  from short-term product awareness campaigns to long term customer retention programs.

To make things simple, I will make use of a few diagrams to illustrate key concepts everyone who touches social media in the business world absolutely needs to understand.

Ready? Here we go:

1. Measuring Social Media: Activity and outcomes.

The above image shows the relationship between an activity and the measurable impact of that activity on social media channels. The ripples represent every type of outcome – or effect – produced by that activity, which can be measured by observing, then quantifying certain key behaviors on social media channels. A few examples:

  • Retweets
  • Likes
  • Follows
  • Shares
  • Comments
  • Mentions
  • Sentiment

When social media “experts” and digital agencies that provide social media services talk about social media measurement, this is what they are talking about.

So far so good. The trick is to not stop there.

2. Measuring Social Media: Activity and outcomes beyond social media channels

Now that we have looked at basic “social media measurement,” let us look at it side-by-side with business measurement – that is to say, with metrics that existed long before social media ever came on the scene. A few examples:

  • Net new customers
  • Changes in buy rate
  • Loyalty metrics
  • Word of mouth
  • New product sales
  • Customer satisfaction
  • Increased operational efficiency
  • New online orders
  • Traffic to brick & mortar stores
  • R.O.I. (you knew it was coming.)

In other words, the types of metrics that indicate to a business unit or executive team whether or not the activities they have funded and are currently managing are having an effect on the business. These types of metrics are represented in the above diagram by the black ripples.

To some extent, you can also include a sub-category of metrics not directly related to business measurement but that also exist outside of the realm of social media measurement. These types of metrics typically relate to other types of marketing & communications media such as print, TV, radio and even the traditional web. A few examples:

  • Impressions
  • Unique visitors
  • Bounce rate
  • Cost Per Impression (CPI)

These types of metrics, for the sake of this post – which aims to clarify the difference between social media measurement and social media measurement within the broader context of business measurement – would also be represented by some of the black ripples in the above diagram.

3. Understanding that “measuring social media” is a terribly limited digital play.

 If you remember only one thing from this article, let it be this: Only measuring “social media” metrics, as if in a vacuum, leads absolutely nowhere. Sure, if your objective is to build a “personal brand,” boost your “influence” rankings in order to score more goodies from buzz marketing firms that do “blogger outreach,” then those social media metrics are everything. Chasing those followers, collecting likes and retweets, meeting that 500 comments quota of comments on Quora every day, and religiously checking your Klout score and Twittergrader ranking every twenty minutes is your life.

But if you are a business, that is to say, a company with employees, products, payroll, a receptionist and a parking lot, the role that social media measurement plays in your universe is not exactly the same as that of a semi-professional blogger trying to tweak their SEO and game blogger outreach programs. These two universes are completely different. Their objectives are completely different. Their relationships with measurement are completely different.

Understanding this is critical. Bloggers with no real business management experience tend to have a very difficult time bridging the strategic gap between their limited digital endeavors and the operational needs and wants of organizations whose KPIs are not rooted in Facebook, Twitter and Youtube.

It should come as no surprise that the vast majority of social media “experts” and “gurus” – being first and foremost bloggers with experience in navigating affiliate marketing programs, and a commensurate focus on SEO and social media “influence” gaming models in support of their “personal brand” – tend to see the world through that specific prism. The problem however is this: Their focus on social media measurement may be spot on when advising other would-be bloggers, but it is completely off target when advising business clients whose business models are not entirely based on selling advertising on a website and scoring goodies from advertisers in exchange for positive reviews and buzz.

In other words, when social media “experts” keep telling you how to “properly” measure social media – as if your measurement software didn’t already do this for you automatically – consider this an indication that they have absolutely nothing else to talk about when it comes to social media integration into your business. Their understanding of social media activity and measurement is entirely founded on their own experience as a blogger, and not – unfortunately – on the experience of the business managers they aim to advise, whose objectives and targets have little to do with how many fans and followers and likes they manage to collect from month to month.

One of my biggest areas of frustration for the last few years – and one of the principal reasons why social media has been so poorly integrated into the business world until now – has been the ease with which bloggers with little to no business management experience have hijacked the social media “thought leadership” world. Many of them would not be qualified to run an IT department for the average medium-sized business, much less help direct the strategy of a digital marketing department, customer loyalty program or business development group. Their understanding of the most basic, rudimentary business principles (like R.O.I.) is as painfully lacking as their dangerous lack of practical operational experience – in change management, for example – without which social media theory cannot be aptly put into practice. Yet here we are, or rather here companies are – many of which are listed in the Fortune 500, listening to bad advice from the most inexperienced business “strategists” on the planet, and trying to apply it – in vain – to their businesses.

If you are still wondering why your social media program is not bearing fruit, or if you are still confused by social media measurement, this is the reason why.

A metaphor lost in a hyperbole.

The tragic irony of the general state of confusion created by this army of so-called experts is that in spite of everything, social media measurement is not complicated. If you can type a password into a box, navigate a multiple-choice questionnaire and use your mouse to click on a “generate report” button, you too can measure social media. All you need is the right piece of measurement software, an internet connection and a pulse. You don’t even need to know how to send a tweet to do it.

I am not kidding. A monkey could do this.

The sooner business managers, company executives and agency principals stop listening to social media douchebags, the faster social media will be integrated (smoothly and effectively) into everyone’s business models. Don’t limit yourself to measuring social media. Stop listening to business advice from bloggers with no business experience. And don’t buy into the notion that because social media is new and digital, it is complicated. Social media is easy. Social media measurement – by itself – is easy. It takes work and diligence and clear vision, but all in all, it doesn’t take a brain surgeon to figure it out.

4. Once you get rid of the monkey noises, you make room for the simplicity of the (social) business measurement model.

The above diagram illustrates both the measurable social media outcomes (in orange) and the measurable business outcomes (in black), based on an activity (the solid orange ball). We have covered this earlier in this article. By now, you should understand two key principles:

1. Measuring only social media outcomes (or measuring them separately from business outcomes) won’t get you very far. It’s what you do your first month. Then what?

2. Only by establishing a relationship between social media metrics and business metrics will you be able to gauge both the impact and value (including but not limited to R.O.I.) of social media on your campaigns, programs and overall business.

How you connect social media outcomes/metrics to business outcomes/metrics is covered elsewhere on this blog and of course in the Social Media ROI book, but if this diagram doesn’t confuse you, try to conceptualize the relationship between social media outcomes with business outcomes by observing the intersect points between the orange ripples and black ripples. (See above diagram.) Your investigation of the correlation between the two will always begin there.

5. One final tip: Turning your integrated measurement model into a social media tactical plan.

These diagrams only serve to illustrate how you should think about social media measurement in conjunction with business measurement. That’s it. But if you take a step back and look at the interaction between social media outcomes (measurable behaviors in social media channels resulting from a specific activity or event) and measurable business outcomes (measurable behaviors resulting from a series of activities and events), you can start to work your way backwards from outcome to activity, which is to say from measurable behavior to behavioral trigger.

By looking at the impact that certain activities (triggers) affect consumer behaviors (mentions, retweets, purchasing habits, word-of-mouth, etc.) you can begin to gauge what works and what doesn’t. Integrated measurement of both social media and business metrics in this context – as a tactical real-time diagnostic tool – is far more valuable to an organization than a measurement practice that solely focuses on reporting changes in followers, shares and likes. This illustrates the difference in value between a truly integrated measurement model and a “social media measurement” model. One produces important insights while the other merely reports the obvious.

I hope that helps.

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Three quick little announcements in case you are hungry for more:

One – If you haven’t read “Social Media ROI: Managing and measuring social media efforts in your organization” yet, you will find 300 pages of insights with which to complement this article. It won’t answer all of your questions, but it will answer many of them. If anything, the book is a pretty solid reference guide for anyone responsible for a social media program or campaign. It also makes a great gift to your boss if you want him or her to finally understand how this social media stuff works for companies.

You can sample a free chapter and find out where to buy the book by checking out www.smroi.net.

Two – If you, your agency or your client plan on attending the Cannes Lions from June 19-25 and want to participate in a small but informative 2-hour session about social media integration, measurement, strategy, etc. let me know. I just found out that I will be in Cannes during the festivals, so we can set something up – either a private session, or a small informal discussion with no more than 6-7 people. First come, first served.

You can send me an email, a note via LinkedIn, a Twitter DM, or a facebook message if you want to find out more. (The right hand side of the screen should provide you with my contact information.)

Three – If the book isn’t enough and you can’t make it to Cannes later this month, you can sign up for a half day of workshops in Antwerp (Belgium) on 30 June. (Right after the Lions.) The 5 one-hour sessions will begin with an executive briefing on social media strategy and integration, followed by a best practices session on building a social media-ready marketing program, followed by a PR-friendly session on digital brand management, digital reputation management and real-time crisis management, followed by a session on social media and business measurement (half R.O.I., half not R.O.I.). We will cap off the afternoon with a full hour of open Q&A. As much as like rushing through questions in 5-10 minutes at the end of a presentation, wouldn’t it be nice to devote an entire hour to an audience’s questions? Of course it would. We’re going to give it a try. Find out more program details here. Think of it as a mini Red Chair.

The cool thing about this structure is that you are free to attend the sessions that are of interest to you, and go check your emails or make a few phone if one or two of the sessions aren’t as important. The price is the same whether you attend one or all five, and we will have a 15 minute break between each one.

The afternoon of workshops is part of Social Media Day Antwerp (the Belgian arm of Mashable’s global Social Media Day event), and I can’t help but notice that the price of tickets is ridiculously low for what is being offered. The early bird pricing is… well, nuts. Anyone can afford to come, which is a rare thing these days. (Big props to the organizers for making the event so accessible.)

The event is divided into 2 parts: The workshop in the afternoon, and the big Belgian style party in the evening. You can register for one or both (do both).

Register here: Social Media Day – Antwerp

My advice: Sign up while there are still seats available, and before #smdaybe organizers realize they forgot to add a zero at the end of the ticket prices. 😀

Cheers,

Olivier.

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IAB Belgium put on an outstanding little one-day digital conference in Brussels this past Thursday, that I was lucky to be a part of. The video (above) will give you a quick recap of the event and the speakers. One of my big highlights for the day, aside from presenting in front of the biggest screen I have ever seen (it was Orwellian, really, ) was to hang out with Ogilvy’s brilliant Rohit Bhargava, JP De Clerck, the IAB Belgium team, and everyone who came by and had a beer with me.

It was also nice to be back in Belgium, which is a bit of a second home for me. (I went to high school in Brussels.) I learned a lot from several of the speakers, and was pleasantly surprised to find many of my very own concepts about social media’s complementary role in bridging the gap between short-term and long-term consumer engagement activities echoed in several presentations, namely that of Jef Vandecruys (AB-InBev). Validation is wonderful, and European agencies are obviously beginning to grasp some of the more strategic aspects of social media integration beyond the narrow scope of marketing campaigns. This is a very good sign.

I can’t wait to be back in Belgium at the end of June for the Belgian arm of Mashable’s Social Media Day, which will combine a Red Chair-style 1/2 day workshop and a party (afterwards) with some of the area’s top DJs (or so I hear). Click here to go to the registration page.

Special thanks to Email Garage, One Agency, Emakina, Combell, Maestro, IAB Belgium (of course) and the rest of the sponsors and event partners who made this even not only possible but a wonderful success. Very well done.

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The next date on your calendar, especially if you are in Europe next week, should be this:

May 26: Brussels, Belgium. IAB ‘Think Digital’ Conference.

Among the speakers: Rohit Bahrgava, Eric Phu, Ciarán Norris, Alex West, Kevin Slavin, and… this guy named Olivier Blanchard that you may or may not have heard about.

What will we all cover on May 26? Many of the types of strategies and methodologies that brands and their agencies still need a lot of help with. Here is a short list:

– New paradigms of vertical and lateral marketing: brand evangelism and media-aided word of mouth.

– Understanding how to properly blend and leverage owned, bought, and earned media (again, great for brand managers and agencies that understand bought and owned, but don’t fully grasp the earned piece yet). Very important stuff.

– TV & Digital: The next 5 years. Opportunities, methods, technologies, principles and revenue models for brands and agencies.

– Chinese markets and digital: What is going on behind the Great Firewall, and what that means to you.

– The psychology of happiness as it relates to customer acquisition and retention (deeper impact through social recommendations, and stronger loyalty resulting in accelerated growth).

– The new culture of consumer-brand engagement, and what this means to micro and macro brands.

– Don’t just throw money at it: Converting followers and fans into real returns (ROI) for brands and their agencies. (Outlining the social business process model, and answering the why and the how.)

Think of it as a one-day MBA on digital brand, program and campaign management from some of the brightest professionals on the planet, and part 1 of  2 such events between now and July in Europe (Likeminds: Paris [Update: Canceled by the organizers] and Social Media Day/Red Chair: Antwerp – coming up in late June, right after the Cannes Lions). Social Media Day Antwerp will combine a 1/2 day Red Chair-style series of workshops on Social Media strategy and integration (including a full hour of open Q&A for attendees) and a pretty solid DJ party afterwards to celebrate the global event.

If you can’t be in Brussels on the 26th, definitely share this link with your boss, peers, clients, agencies… or send one of your staffers so they can take notes for you. The sooner companies learn and get comfortable with these concepts and processes, the faster marketing and digital budgets can start yielding solid results for everyone (brand and agencies). Wouldn’t that be superfly?

>> IAB Think Digital Conference – Main Site, Program & ScheduleRegister<< (The most important part.)

See you there.

Oh, and if you haven’t read Social Media ROI yet (every manager, executive and agency strategist should have this thing on their desk by now), check out what people who have read it have to say about it.

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Most of the time, when I am asked by an event or conference to keynote or conduct a training session about brand management, social media ROI, or social media program development, I deliver some sort of presentation, eithet using Powerpoint or Prezi. The presentation format helps me create a structured visual narrative for my audience, and the visuals help clarify some of my points, which aren’t always easy to explain in a short amount of time. The presentations are then made available for download, and audience participants have the opportunity to revisit the session as often as they want, from the comfort of their own desk or couch.

All in all, I have several hundred slides and graphics to pick from (and more are added every week), so I manage to never really deliver the same presentation twice, and with good reason: Every audience is unique. Every event has its own specific focus. And from a personal angle, I can’t stand to deliver rehearsed presentation “performances.” I am not an actor or a performance artist. I don’t use scripts. Every time I “take the stage” and engage an audience, whether it is a small team of executives or a thousand digital marketing professionals, I want to make sure that the experience will be fresh and genuine. Nothing is rehearsed. If I could improvise these presentations 100% and use white boards instead of slides, I would.

Perhaps more to the point, if I could turn every such event into an open-mic Q&A rather than a monologue, I would. It seems to me that with so many people in an audience, with so many potential questions and problems to solve, delivering a 40 minute lecture and only leaving 10-15 minutes for questions at the end might be somewhat counterproductive. Perhaps standing there for an hour and answering questions about everything from digital crisis management to breaking down agency revenue models for social media account services might be more valuable to an audience.

I tested this theory last year at #Ungeeked Milwaukee, where I closed my laptop, grabbed a microphone, and let the room engage me with both strategic and tactical questions. Sometimes, I knew the answer. Sometimes, someone in the audience knew the answer. We turned the session into a broader conversation that I think was more interesting (at least to me) than clicking through 40 slides about whatever.

It looks like I will get a chance to repeat the experience somewhat this Saturday, on the final day of #Ungeeked Chicago. Unlike the Milwaukee event, I will bring a few talking points to get the session started, but I look forward to sitting down with the audience and having a real conversation with them. If you are going to be anywhere near Chicago Friday 13 and Saturday 14, check out the event and try to attend. Better yet, get your boss to pay for it. 😉

click image to register

Oh, and I will be signing copies of #smROI while I am there, so bring yours. We’ll hang out and talk shop as long as you want.

Cheers,

Olivier

*       *       *

And in case you haven’t picked one up yet (or your favorite client seems to be having trouble figuring out how to bring social media into their organization), you can pick up a fresh copy of Social Media ROI at fine book stores everywhere. If you have sworn off paper, you can also download it for iPad, Kindle, Nook or other e-formats at www.smroi.net.

(Click here for details, or to sample a free chapter.)

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Why write a 50-paragraph post about the first half of my trip to Brussels when I can instead point you towards other people’s (far less biased) reports and other relevant content? Here you go:

1. From emailblog.eu: Event report – Fusion marketing Experience (Click here).

2. Yoost de Valk earning himself an epic payback:

3. The pre-show speaker interviews (Click here) by Chris Thompkins.

4. Browse the Marketing Experience Magazine (Click here).

More later, when I have a few minutes to catch my breath.

Cheers,

Olivier.

 

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So I will be speaking at Fusion Marketing: Brussels – on 23 March. That’s next week.

If you work in marketing or digital and happen to be in the EU next week, I strongly recommend that you swing by the summit, attend all the sessions and come say hi, because I don’t come through Brussels very often.

Here are 6 facts about Brussels that you may not know:

1. I went to high school in Brussels.

2. The food there is pretty fly.

3. NATO has its HQ there.

4. Brussels is the capital of the European Community.

5. Brussels will be the first international city on the 2011 “Social Media ROI” book tour. (In fact, all attendees get a free copy, which I will be happy to autograph while I am there.)

6. This guy is reportedly from there (unconfirmed):

In other words, it should be a pretty solid event, if only by virtue of the fact that it is being held in Brussels.

Other speakers at #FusionMex:

Dave Chaffey – CEO, Smart Insights

Dela Quist – CEO, Alchemy Worx

Gianfranco Cuzziol – Head of eCRM, EHS 4D Group

Richard Sedley – Client Relationships, Foviance

Kath Pay – Strategic email and digital marketing consultant, DM Inbox

Joost de Valk – Yoast.com

Alfred den Besten – IT and telecom watcher

and my good friend Trey Pennington (whom I see only overseas even though we live five miles from each other).

Click here for the schedule. To register before tickets run out, click here.

I look forward to seeing many of you next week. Cheers!

*          *          *

Social Media ROI: In stores now. (Click here for a sample chapter)

 

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copyright 2009 - Olivier Blanchard

I know: I have been uncharacteristically silent these last few days, but don’t worry, everything is fine. Angry social media rock stars didn’t break into my house in the middle of the night to beat me up. (Some  may have been too busy tearing up the Blog World Expo in Vegas anyway.) Truth is that I am completely swamped, trying to finish up the super top secret book project before my otherwise wonderful editor develops an ulcer or sends a couple of goons to “help things along.”

Here’s where things stand: You know how some musicians lock themselves up in a studio for weeks to work on an album? For the last week, I have spent the better part of 16 hours per day chained to my desk, in quasi-darkness, fueled by cans of Java Monster, sardines, granola and stinky French cheese, slaving to edit a hefty portion of the chapters I have already submitted to my publisher. Needless to say: Not a rock star. You know how I know this?

1. In spite of the electric and acoustic guitars lining one of my walls, my office is not technically a recording studio.

2. Chico is not a certified sound engineer.

3. I see no band, groupies, whiskey or cigarettes of any kind.

4. I am not actually… you know… making music.

But let me say this: Writing and editing might not seem like a lot of work, but my brain’s coolant has to be replaced every six hours. That’s how hard my little neurons are having to work. Balancing chapter continuity in my head while I jump from one to another in random order and struggle to unstitch every sentence before reattaching it just right is a lot like playing ten simultaneous chess games while debating the superiority of French football with an Italian without ever raising your voice, I kid you not. Oh, and my beard is growing so fast because of all this nonsense that I look a lot like this (minus the cool blue-blockers, the designer hoodie, and that brightness thing the rest of you know as ‘sunlight’):

All of this to say that I may not have time to write a lot of elaborate blog posts this week. So if seem a little absent, don’t worry, I’m here, just not here.

Also on the schedule this week though: Emerging from the batcave to unleash some fierce knowledge at  Kennesaw State University’s Social Media Integration conference in Atlanta, GA (Oct 22 and 23). Also presenting: Pepsi’s Shiv Singh, Hubspot’s Rick Burns, Whole Foods Market’s Marla Erwin, and more. I will be conducting a boot-camp on Friday and an R.O.I. tutorial on Saturday, perhaps even in full beard. I haven’t decided yet. (I can’t remember if the Unabomber was ever caught by Georgia State Police, so I may not opt to take my chances walking around looking like that.)

I hope to see some of you there.

Cheers for now.

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I find myself speaking at a good number of events these days, but last week’s Social Story was one of the first whose speaker photo looks like a promo for a new TV superspy show. Left to right – Murray: The master strategist and brains of the operation. Buvala: The master of disguise and infiltration expert. Yanov: The gadget specialist and tech/surveillance guy. Pennington (a.k.a. “Suits”): The idealist boss with a penchant for formal attire. TV: The cat-burglar/safe-cracker/Kung Fu expert. Destructo: Cars, helicopters, guns and explosives. Frenchie: The hapless decoy.

I will be talking a lot more about #MIMA later this week (Here is the link if you want to attend), but what I can say about Social Story is this:

1. It was nice to finally speak at an event in Greenville, SC. No planes, no hotels, lots of familiar faces. Aside from Social Media Club, that’s never happened before. As much as I love to travel, it was nice.

2. 1/3 of the speakers had blue hair. That’s a pretty interesting statistic. Usually, 0% of the speaker roster at events to which I am invited can boast blue hair.

3. Most of the presentations were done without slides, without bullet points, without “decks.” Small audience, small venue, real engagement. It was kind of refreshing to go analog in a field so often dominated by slide presentations. Personally, I felt a better connection with the audience than when I bring my 700 slides along for the ride.

4. This must be the first conference of this size and of this type that attracted such a range of speakers. At one end of the spectrum, it had an incredibly versatile fire-breathing multimedia artist (Tim TV), and at the other, the head of Edelman’s global Digital practice (Rick Murray). I love that.

5. The conference did not settle for the typical endless stream of Social Media douchebags with something to sell. BIG thumbs up.

6. Social Story’s ticket prices: Not $659. Not $329. Not $199. Forget all that. I think the price of a ticket was around $50. In this, #Likeminds and #SocialStory have something in common: Attendees don’t get fleeced at the box office. There’s a lot to be said for that. While some conferences warrant a high price tag, most are horribly overpriced. This one was well worth the price of admission.

7. The event production team was phenomenal. Hats off to all the folks in black shirts. 100% professional, friendly, efficient and dedicated. I was impressed.

8. Trey Pennington likes to wear a coat and tie.

9. The live-streaming of the sessions was a great idea. I enjoyed getting feedback and questions from people from around the world via twitter. (Let’s face it: Not everyone can fly to Greenville, SC for two days just to attend an event.) I can’t stress enough how important it is for events of this type to think beyond “asses in seats.”

10. The first rule of swagclub is… Oh, never mind.

11. Trey Pennington definitely doesn’t take sponsors for granted.

Oh, and I almost forgot: The above speaker photo should put an end to #stachegate.

Have a great week. Back in a few days. 😉

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Brandon Walters interviewed me kind of on the fly last week about the upcoming Social Story conference (Greenville, SC – September 24). The interview was obviously completely unscripted (at least for me). I haven’t watched it yet, but here it is anyway. (Click here if the video doesn’t launch for you.)

We shot a lot more, so hopefully, other little tidbits and outtakes will pop up at some point.

To sign up for the conference (seating is very limited), click here.

Cheers,

Olivier

PS: Please note the absence of a moustache on my upper lip. Will this strike the final blow to #stachegate? Stay tuned.

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No blog post today as I am in Washington DC for this summer’s final #Buzz2010 event. Here is the link: http://www.buzz2010.org/

The event takes place on the morning of the 18th, so if you read this before then, it probably isn’t too late to register. My predecessors this year were Groundswell author Charlene Li, nationally syndicated columnist Alexandra Levit, American Red Cross Social Media manager Wendy Harman, and Mark Story – adjunct professor of public relations at the University of Maryland and director of New Media at the S.E.C.

In other words, the smart kids went first.

I will speaking about… you know it: Social Media R.O.I., but this time with a twist. We’re taking the R.O.I. bit into the realm of non-profits, which should be interesting.

If there’s still time on the clock, find out the details here, and feel free to register.

See you in DC.

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Just had a quick morning meeting with James Moffat, Managing Director of Organic Development, a pretty clutch up-and-coming UK-based digital shop based in Exeter. (I am starting to realize that Exeter may very well be the UK’s version of Greenville, SC – albeit with cooler architecture: Not the obvious choice for big firms and agencies preferring, say, London, but a remarkable concentration of world class talent.) These guys already have tremendous experience and talent, but I sense BIG things brewing for them in the next few months. That’s all I can say about that. 😉

If you have a few minutes, go check out the pretty nifty microsite Organic built for Like Minds. (Here’s the main page.) Beautifully done. Clean, fast, simple and effective. Where the official Like Minds site is also pretty sweet, Organic’s companion microsite does a great job of introducing the keynote speakers and what they’re about.

Since we’re talking about Like Minds companion sites, also check out this custom Twitterface gem built by Fresh ID. I had no idea that video could be embedded into Twitterface. Brilliant! (By the way, that isn’t me in the video… even though I am wearing the exact same shirt and sweater today. Uncanny.)

While we’re on the topic of video, you will be able to stream live video from the event through the LikeMinds Twitterface page. Take advantage of this feature if you couldn’t get a seat to the physical event. (I can’t believe the conference isn’t charging for this yet.)

On a side note, if you aren’t using Twitterface yet – especially if you manage a brand or community, add a little tour of the tool to your to-do list for this week. Though it can be a nice alternative to other browser-based tools for organizing feeds and keeping an eye on keywords and discussions, it really shines as a branded community hub that centers on conversations and sharing content. Genius little platform for brand-centric companies, event management firms, etc. (And if you’re a digital agency looking for a simple way to get your clients involved in Social Media without a lot of heavy lifting, this isn’t a bad place to start.) To find out more about Twitterface, click here.

A quick note: Fresh ID (the company behind Twitterface) is another digital & social web firm to watch in the coming year. The more I collaborate with them on projects, the more impressed I am with their talent, insight, work ethic and ability to execute on just about every idea I throw at them. Here’s what they do. Here’s who they are.

You can also follow the Like Minds conference via its official site: www.wearelikeminds.com , where you will find everything from the schedule and causes supported by the conference to the list of attendees and the clever “participate” page.

And of course, you can follow the conference on Twitter by setting up a search for #LikeMinds. (Not that you need to if you use the twitterface page.)

I couldn’t close this post without also giving a third digital firm a big nod of approval: UK-based Aaron + Gould. (These are the guys behind Like Minds, by the way.) Don’t let their understated website fool you: They are young, smart, full of insight, and are already working their way to the top of the Social Media management and strategy A-list in the UK. If your company needs help integrating Social Media into their organization or campaigns, these are the guys to partner with. Let them guide you into doing it right. (Agencies in the UK, these guys can help you deliver solid services to your clients and they can teach you everything you need to know.) Check out their friendly faces.

Gotta run. Cheers,

Olivier

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Jacob Morgan and I want to bring our wisdom and know-how to the #e2conf in Boston this spring, but we need your help.

To be clear, there’s really nothing in it for us: I speak at conferences pretty regularly, so I don’t need the exposure, and as far as I can tell, #e2conf doesn’t pay its session speakers, so Jacob and I aren’t looking for a payday. We want to be there because we feel that what we already teach companies behind closed doors is well worth sharing with the enterprise community at large, especially in the context of enterprise business planning. Not being there would be a missed opportunity for the conference, the business community, and everyone in attendance in Boston. We’re here, we’re eager to share this stuff, and this is one of the best ways for us to do so. Unfortunately, we need votes – LOTS of votes –  to make it happen.

You can view and vote for our session Enterprise Social Media: Best Practices in Development, Deployment and Integration here.

Social Media Program Development

Companies looking to get involved in social media need to start somewhere.  The first segment of our session will cover how companies need to look at developing their social media strategies while tying those strategies back to ROI or impact metrics.  We will cover everything from identifying how social media can support existing company initiatives to how new social media initiatives can be created to drive business objectives and impact the bottom line.

Social Media Program Deployment and Integration

Once the strategies are developed, the next steps is to roll them out.  This section will cover everything from how companies need to structure their teams to setting timelines and expectations for a full scale social media roll out.  This is an important topic because strategies are only as effective as their ability to be executed. Anything can look great on paper. Execution is key.

The relevance to #e2conf becomes clear when you consider the complexity of accomplishing this in an enterprise environment: Large companies are divided into a breadth of departments across various geographic locations, which presents layers of obstacles ranging from poor communications and rigid business cultures to imbalances in infrastructure and conflicting objectives across silos.  The biggest Social Media challenge of all in the enterprise space lies in properly integrating it into (and across) an entire company so that it becomes a PART of the way that company does business as opposed to becoming some short-lived external add-on.  Our session will touch on how companies in the enterprise space can (and should) properly integrate social media into existing and new business functions and processes.

Even if you aren’t planning to go to #e2conf, I would LOVE for you to take 30 seconds today to register and vote for our session. (Don’t worry, you won’t be actually registering for our session or for #e2conf. The conference just needs to be able to make sure the same person isn’t voting for the same session 500 times.) It’s out of my hands now. If we don’t get the votes, we don’t get to present. It’s that simple. I’m counting on you, my readers to help us bring some kickassery to Boston’s #e2conf this spring. Voting ends on 1/20, so don’t wait.

Cheers,

Olivier.

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Crottes de chiens 1

As I watched Scott Gould, Drew Ellis, Trey Pennington, Daren Forsyth and Maz Nadjm address a capacity crowd at Exeter’s  #LikeMinds conference two weeks ago, it occurred to me that not all conferences are created equal. In fact, I realized that conferences tend to fall into two very distinct categories: Conferences that provide real value, and conferences that provide very little value. Before I go on, let it be said that #LikeMinds falls squarely into the first category.

Since I was one of the speakers at #LikeMinds, it’s natural for some of you to assume that I might be… biased, right? Fair enough. I can understand how you might think that. But the truth is that I have spoken at a number of conferences now, and I have no problem telling you that not all of them have fallen into the “valuable” category. In other words, if #LikeMinds were just another conference with little value, I might not necessarily come out and say so, but I also wouldn’t tell you it is something when it really isn’t.

Moving forward, you can feel pretty confident that I am speaking my mind here, and not giving credit where none or little is due.

LikeMinds '09

LikeMinds '09 R.O.I. panel

So back to the topic at hand: The sold-out Like Minds Conference in Exeter, Devon (UK) on October 16th. The line of attendees outside before the doors officially opened, pretty much wrapping around the block. The impressive roster of speakers and panelists spanning two continents. The spectacular venue. The stunning live video stream. The twitter wall. The specific focus of the event. The global vibe. And perhaps most importantly, the £25 admission fee.

Yes, that’s right. Only £25. And £10 for students, as I recall.

Meanwhile, all across the US, social media-themed conferences typically charge what… $200? $500? $650? And for what? Wait… don’t answer that. We’ll get back to that in a sec.

Don’t get me wrong: I have no problem with conferences, social media or otherwise, charging $200 or even $650 to attendees. All I ask is that in return for those types of fees, these events offer at least $200 or $650 in value (respectively). It’s only fair. Heck, if a conference wants to charge $2,000 for admission, as long as it provides equal or greater value, have at it. In truth, the Social media world needs high level conferences of this type, and I would GLADLY spend $2K to attend a social media summit that actually delivered real value.*

No, my beef with rapidly growing number of “social media conferences” is that their $250 or $650 admission fee only buys attendees about $25 worth of value, as opposed to serious conferences (like #LikeMinds) that easily provide $650 worth of value for a mere £25.

Moreover, the fact that pointless social media conferences seem to be popping up everywhere has me scratching my head and wondering when the idiocy will stop. Let me ask you a simple question: Do we really need a social media conferences every week?

Of course we don’t. But with everyone and their brother suddenly looking to rebrand themselves as social media gurus, the demand for a accelerated conference circuit has hit a kind of fever pitch in 2009, with many organizers and speakers feeding on a self-serving loop of crap. Explained in as few words as I can, the former are looking to make a quick buck off the Social Media craze while the latter are so desperate for exposure that they will do just about anything for ten minutes of it.

Watch this video and we’ll continue the discussion in a few minutes:

If the video doesn’t launch for you, go watch it here.

Okay, now that you’re back, let’s continue our little discussion, starting with some typical low-value conference dynamics:

A. The problem with an increasing number of social media conferences: An upside-down value model

As we just discussed, on the one hand, you have the growing army of would-be social media gurus looking to make a name for themselves. This is the crowd furiously sending emails and DMs to conference organizers, begging them for opportunities to speak at their events to get a few conference gigs on their resumes.

On the other hand, conference organizers see in this endless stream of guru wannabes a welcome cash cow: Those confident enough to speak will gladly fill up session after session of their conference schedules for free in exchange for exposure. Enter the “Return on Engagement”, “Tweet your way to success” and “What will we call Social Media in 2010” breakouts. Wonderful. As if the internet weren’t already filled with these kinds of remedial turds posing as legitimate expertise.

The rest, those not speaking, are evidently more than happy to part with $200+ for the opportunity to rub elbows with internet-famous bloggers and perhaps befriend an A-lister or two in the hopes of raising their own profile in the SM world.

Below, some X-Box Live friends help me illustrate a typical high yield, low value conference model: A small number of speakers with valuable content the organizer actually has to pay isn’t enough to offset the large number of speakers with derivative content who will gladly fill content gaps for free. This model minimizes cost, maximizes profit, and guarantees a relatively low conference value for attendees. This is quickly becoming the norm across North America. No wonder most businesses look upon the social media “crowd” as a joke.

conference 01

When you realize that an event that attracts 400 people at $200 per admission can gross $80,000, it isn’t hard to see why these things are popping up left and right, and for no other reason than to generate revenue. And as long as you, the folks who attend these types of events, are willing to fork out two bills to sit in a series of hotel meeting rooms for the better part of a day to listen to 20-40 minute presentations about how wonderful FaceBook is, how many people use Twitter, or how this company or that organization “engage” with customers using free tools you use in the exact same way and with greater success, these types of pointless events will continue to sprout all over the place. The margins are just too good for people to just stop putting them on out of… professional integrity.

What’s the solution? (Aside from putting on better conferences and events, that is?) A gut check would be a nice start. Stop going to every social media conference on the calendar. Become a little smarter and pickier about your choices. Start by looking at the overall roster of speakers. Then look for an actual point: Does the conference have a topic? A theme? A thread? Or is it just a mash of speakers covering every topic from how to network on LinkedIn to measuring web traffic using Google Analytics? Be smarter. Do your homework. Learn to spot the signs that a conference exists solely to extract money from your wallet.

Acceptable price-point: $0 – $75/day.

Next: A slightly better breed of conference.

B. The balanced Social Media Conference model: Investing in solid content pays off in the long run

In the model below, you have a more balanced approach: The ratio of established speakers (assuming relevant and actionable content) to aspiring speaker is slightly greater. In this scenario, the conference organizer is at least attempting to balance profit and content by mixing the really good stuff with some cheap filler. (Yes, kind of like the average bottle of whiskey on the middle shelf behind the bar.) This  balanced, democratized model ensures that attendees will enjoy a much greater quality of content  and networking for their money than the first model would have provided:

conference 02

As mentioned in the previous section, this type of conference should also have a point. This can be demonstrated either by creating an overall theme for the conference (measurement, integration in the enterprise, customer service, best practices, etc.) or several specific tracks within the conference that will allow CMOs, CSMs, ITMs and other attendees with unique needs to go learn specific things as opposed to being forced to sit through a disjointed soup of “worthless FaceBook is great”  and “let’s measure ROI in impressions” presentations.

Incidentally, conferences that charge upwards of $300 for presentations lasting less than 45 minutes are a waste of your time. Nothing can be covered in depth in under 30 minutes. If you spot a preponderance of 10-15 minute presentations on the conference schedule, skip it altogether.

So to recap, this type of conference’s three signature features are: a) at least as many respectable speakers as unknown speakers, b) a point/some kind of thematic structure, and c) presentations lasting more than 10-20 minutes apiece.

Acceptable price-point: $0 – $600/day, with $600 pushing towards truly outstanding content.

Next: The very best kind of conference – The summit.

C. The pinnacle of Social Media conference models: The best practices-style Summit

In this model, the organizer’s priority is obvious: Assembling the best minds on any given topic in the same place at the same time. The quality of the presentations, panels and discussions should be high as every speaker has been hand-picked for the quality of their content and delivery. This type of conference/summit is the rare gem that actually puts you in the same room as the world’s brightest minds and true expert. Bring a notebook or two, because you will probably be going back to the office with hundreds of pages of notes, all of which worth pure gold. If one of them pops up in your neck of the woods and you have an opportunity to attend, clear your calendar and get your ticket. No matter what this event charges, you will get your money’s worth by attending and learning as much as you can.

Unfortunately, many of these types of event are either by invitation only or put on for membership-only organizations, so make sure you are properly connected at all times. If you aren’t cool enough to receive an invitation, at least know someone who can help you secure one on the DL.

Acceptable price-point: $500 – $5,000/day depending on the level of the summit. Some focus on CEOs while others cater to VP-level execs. The price can vary greatly from one to the other. On average, shoot for $1,000 to $1,500./day (Considering that most of the presenters charge upwards of $2,000 per day, you’re getting a bargain even at the very highest end of that spectrum.)

conference 03

Why you will now only see me at conferences with a legitimate reason for being:

Why am I telling you all this? Two reasons:

The first is to give you a heads-up: Before you start spending your summer vacation money on a half dozen worthless social media conferences over the course of the next 6 months, be aware that you could easily be throwing your money away on a bunch of hot air. Do your homework. Don’t just attend social media conferences because they’re there. Research the speakers, the topics, and more importantly, ask yourselves this simple question: What will I learn there that I couldn’t learn for free or on my own by spending a little quiet time with our friend Google? Stop paying unscrupulous conference organizers to put on crap events. Please.

The second is to let you know that effective immediately, I will not be participating in any conference that provides little or no value to attendees (you guys), and this for three pretty simple reasons:

  1. I don’t need the imaginary validation some people believe comes from becoming a staple of the US social media conference circuit. It’s a self-perpetuating ego trip. Nothing more. It’s completely meaningless and stupid.
  2. There comes a point where spending more time speaking than actually doing becomes counterproductive… and frankly, a little suspect. Anyone who has time to speak at 40+ conferences per year doesn’t have a real business. They’re a professional speaker, not a professional doer. No thanks. That isn’t who I am.
  3. There is absolutely no good reason whatsoever why I should ever lend my good name to the type of event that isn’t truly serious about helping businesses from around the world better understand, develop, integrate, manage and measure social media. That’s what I do. That’s what I am passionate about. If speaking at an event doesn’t serve that function, then it is a waste of my time and yours. Why should I lend my name to an event like that?

In short (and in case you hadn’t figured it out) I am serious about what I do, which these days basically consists in helping as many businesses as possible not only recover from this recession but emerge from it in better shape than they entered it. What it does not consist in is trying to become Mr. hot sh*t Social Media guru by showing up at every odd conference I can smooth-talk my way into. So aligning myself to every tom, dick and harry who puts on a horse and pony social media conference makes no sense at all in my world. I hope you guys won’t hold that against me.

And to be clear, if some of you want to try and become the next big thing on the Social Media conference circuit, I won’t hold it against you. I’m sure there’s money to be made there in the next couple of years, and the masses need good advice and insights into how social media can help them improve their lives. But if you don’t take that role seriously, if you aren’t responsible with the trust the public puts in you and your relative expertise, don’t be surprised if you pop up on the wrong end of my bullsh*t radar.

Conference organizers, you have your work cut out for you. If you want to create relevant events that will endure for years to come, I’ll be happy to help. By all means, let’s talk. But if you’re in this game to make a quick buck, don’t even bother sending me an email. I want nothing to do with what you stand for, and we’ll all see you on your way down.

In closing…

Both the #Likeminds team and the audience/participants reminded me that conferences with a purpose are as wonderful and valuable as conferences without one are a waste of time and an insult to our collective intelligence. When the most valuable information to come out of a marquee social media conference seems to be that “social media “will probably be called “new media” next year, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that we’ve lost our way as a professional community. We can do better. We should do better. We have to do better.

After having attended three social media conferences while in the UK and a funeral while in France (yes, we’ll talk more about that as well), I came to the realization that the level of discourse about Social Media in the US needs a serious kick to the arse, and fast. This isn’t a game. This isn’t a fad. While the Twitternets were busy RT’ing an article that a distracted Fast Company blogger wrote about all the cool parties he went to in Vegas for BlogWorld as if it were gold, while pundits discussed the finer nuances of whether or not “Social Media” should change its name to “New Media” in 2010, our European counterparts were busy asking hard questions about how to actually plug social technologies and processes into the enterprise. How to sell it to their bosses. How to actually measure it properly. How to budget and plan for it. How to train their staff to use it. How to create a working social media management structure within their organizations. How to adapt their management cultures to the new realities of a perpetually networked and socially-empowered world. In other words, how to move forward from here.

Yep, while the US social media conference circuit was busy navel-gazing and playing rock star to its own eager fishbowl, real businesses with real problems were asking real questions, out there in the real world, where companies make and lose real money, where jobs are either created or lost, and where the world of business either adopts new ideas or moves on without giving it a second thought. Not next year, not in six months but right now. This week. Today.

In light of this, I hope everyone had a blast partying like rock stars in Vegas. Where’s the next party? Los Angeles? New York? Miami?

We can do better. We’re going to do better. And yeah, we’re going to start right now.

To be continued…

* Such a global best-practices summit is currently in the works. Details soon.

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Answering questions at #LikeMinds -Exter, Devon, UK

If you’ve missed seeing videos on the blog these past last few weeks, you’re in luck: I have some video for you today.

By now, you’ve probably seen the full version of the “intro to Social Media R.O.I.” deck I presented at SoFresh this summer, right? (If not, go check it out here.) You can also browse through most of the videos from my F.R.Y. and R.O.I. blog posts on www.smroi.net (which puts everything in one convenient place for you). And then there’s this recent piece by Mashable on the subject (which I highly recommend, by the way).

So what’s the latest? My presentation and ensuing panel discussion at the inaugural LikeMinds conference in Exeter, Devon, UK on October 16th.  We’ll be talking a lot more about Like Minds in the coming days (and weeks, and months) but for now, let’s focus on these two videos, which are essentially captures of the live feed provided during the conference. In these videos, the panel and I clarify what Social Media R.O.I. is and isn’t, and answer well crafted and at times difficult questions from the crowd.

Catch Part 1 here.

Catch Part 2 here. (That’s the one with the panel discussion. Very good stuff from the crowd and panelists.)

I also recommend that you take the time to watch Scott Gould’s intro, Trey Pennington’s keynote and Maz Nadjm’s presentation among other solid video content from #LikeMinds.

Cheers,

Olivier

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Speaking at LikeMinds

Speaking at the #LikeMinds conference in Exeter, Devon, UK

Hang tight, kids. I’m trying to figure out what topic to open up with after my epic 10-day trip through the UK and France. I have hundreds of pages of notes bouncing around in my head and topics flying out of my… moleskine (what did you think I was going to say?) so it may take me a few hours yet to figure out where to start. And that isn’t even factoring in the pictures and videos I need to upload and edit. I am still in email management mode, and it may take a few days to sort it all out. 75 emails per day x 10 days… Yeah. I need interns.

Several things are certain though: Things are going to change around here.

First of all, expect less musings and more practical advice. The last thing the world needs is more abstract dreameries about brand management, new marketing, business 2.0, social media and the types of topics covered in this and other blogs of its kind. There’s plenty of that on the internets already and the last thing I want to do is add to an already overabundant pool of personal opinions.

Second, now that I have spent the better part of my stay in Exeter and London with some of the brightest minds in  business, brand management 2.0 and the Social Web (from Sky News, Edelman, Nielsen, the BBC, WC Group, 4 Walls and a Ceiling,  WorldEka, Limenoodle,  Red Cube, iLevel, tweetmeme, FreshNetworks, Sinuate, Optix Solutions, and Aaron+Gould, to name but a few on a list as long as it is brilliant) I have a much clearer understanding of the level of dicussion businesses need when it comes to preparing themselves for the next decade, particularly in the US, where the army of social media “guru” we’ve been lamenting about has been reaping a harvest of shameless crap on the backs of their unsuspecting clients.  For shame. Seriously. For shame. I hope there’s a special circle of hell for you if you fall into that category of a person.

In short, you, my readers, and companies wanting to improve their situation and their customers’ lives in the process all deserve better, and we’ve wasted enough time bleeding philosophy about market leadership, what social media XYZ is or isn’t or the value of effective measurement. We’re going to get down to brass tacks and talk about things that will make a real difference in your business.

Third, well… Hold on to you socks. We’re about to see how fast this V12 can really go. I have some pretty exciting announcements to make over the coming weeks.

Back in a bit with more. In the meantime, if you haven’t already done so, you need to go check out all of the incredible content from the #LikeMinds Conference I attended in Exeter, England, including some solid videos and photos of several of the presentations.

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onourminds

I am pretty excited to announce that I will be speaking at the Like Minds Conference on October 16th in Exeter, England. The conference is the brainchild of Scott Gould, Trey Pennington, and Andrew Ellis who… presumably got the idea for this event while holding on to a pint or two. (At least I hope so.)

What I like about Like Minds so far:

1. The conference will focus on two things dear to my heart:

a) Sustainable social media practices (how to develop, manage and integrate social media programs, how to turn customers into brand advocates through social media, how to blend social media into your business mix, etc.), and

b) Best practices for social media measurement (particularly how to define and measure social media ROI).

Already, you can see how this is right up my alley. We’re finally tucking evangelism away and getting to methods and best practices. It’s about time.

2. It’s in Exeter, England.

As much as I love living on this side of the pond, it’s nice to fly back to the other side every once in a while and reconnect with my roots. (Yeah, I need a regular dose of euro living every once in a while, just to make sure all my systems are still properly calibrated.) And given the proximity of the UK to France, I’m guessing I’ll probably take advantage of being in the EU to pay my patria materna a quick visit, stuff my face with croissants and brie, shake my fist at a moped or two, and argue about art and literature with complete strangers.

Not to mention some of the sight-seeing I intend to do in the UK.

On a more serious note, the prospect of speaking at a conference in England is pretty cool, but more importantly the opportunity to learn from social media practitioners in in the UK and EU, compare notes, share stories, etc. is pure gold to me. Sometimes, you kind of have to hop out of the fishbowl a little bit and go see how the other fishies swim. I know I am going to come back with my head abuzz with ideas. (I won’t sleep for weeks.)

3. The roster of speakers.

Aside from moi, this is what it looks like so far:

Andrew Ellis @drewellis

Andrew is a creative director with extensive startup experience, a seasoned innovator, and co-founder of Like Minds. He pioneered Eyetoeye Digital as one of the earliest ‘new media’ agencies in 1993, working with both household brands, and multinationals. His work has received international acclaim, from the iconic slogan T-Shirts for Kathryn Hamnett in the early 80s, to Grammy nominations, and most recently, ‘Orbit’, a documentary-come-musical with extensive CGI of explored universe which is touring the US in 2010. Drew’s accomplisments, past and present, are available in full at his personal blog.

Trey Pennington @treypennington

Trey is leveraging social media to connect with audiences around the world. HubSpot ranks his Facebook profile as the #4 most influential in the world. Since January 2009, Trey has started or helped start ten Social Media Clubs—eight in the southeastern United States, one in the United Kingdom, and one in Australia. His home club now has over 550 members and was, for most of 2009, the second largest Social Media Club in the world. Trey’s book ‘Spitball Marketing’ is being launched at Like Minds. For more information, visit http://www.treypennington.com.

Laura Whitehead @littlelaura

Laura is a web developer and a consultant on social media integration and online community development. Based in South Devon and the founder of Popokatea, she works with awide range of clients including the nonprofit and public sector, and small business enabling them to use innovative methods and online technology to extend their reach, engage with their audience and achieve their goals. Laura was quoted in Fast Company as “the queen of nonprofit technology in the UK.” (Pretty cool.)

Andrew Davies @andjdavies

Andrew is co-founder of idiomag.com, an personalised publishing platform that is at the cutting edge of the digital publishing revolution. He also previously co-founded thruSITES, a London-based social media development agency with clients such as Universal Studios, Sky, ITV and Number 10.

Carl Haggerty @carlhaggerty

Carl is the Enterprise Architect at Devon County Council. He guides social media usage and change in businesses and organizations, creating and installing frameworks and policies for social media and networking. He has a broad background ranging from Sustainability and Community Development, Tourism & Economic Development to Business Administration and Communications. Carl’s blog is at http://carlhaggerty.wordpress.com.

In other words, no fluff. And some new voices, which I like.

4. Meeting a whole new batch of tweeps in the real world, all of whom will have really cool accents.

You can’t beat that.

5. The price of admission.

While some social media conferences charge upwards of $1000 for the privilege of listening to celebrities talk about their twitter adventures, this one made sure to make admission affordable, therefore open to all. I like that. If you book now, You’re only looking at 25 quid. At the door, 35 quid. I have a lot of respect for that.

So if you’re able to make it to Exter on the 16th of October, I encourage you to drop by, share your stories, listen to ours, and join the fun. Find out more here, or just go ahead and book today.

And if you intend to be there, drop me a note. 😉

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presentation

I have to send out a big thank you to Kipp Bodnar and Jeff Cohen for shooting and posting (respectively) bootleg video from my Social Media R.O.I. presentation at #sofresh last week. You guys rock!  Video is definitely not as fun as being there, but in this case it’s pretty damn close.

Check it out here. (If you’re using a smart phone to watch it and the video doesn’t play, go here.)

Incidentally, though conferences don’t always like to see some of their content turn up on YouTube, Viddler and Vimeo for all (non-paying non-attendees) to see, I encourage all of you to bootleg videos of all of my presentations whenever applicable anyway. How you use the videos is your business. (Tip: Don’t forget to give the conference credit and allow a few days to pass, just… you know… to be nice.) Either way, you have my blessing. 😉

Note: Concerning the caption at the top of the video, I am actually @thebrandbuilder, not @brandbuilder. (I wouldn’t want you to follow the wrong dude.) 😀

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