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Posts Tagged ‘LikeMinds’

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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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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I was digging through the vault yesterday, when I stumbled upon this fantastic post from Chris Brogan I had bookmarked almost a year ago:

I believe we’re going to shift back to thinking customer service and community management are the core and not the fringe. I believe we’re going to move our communications practices back in-house for lots of what is currently pushed out to agencies and organizations. I believe that integrity, reputation, skills, and personality are going to trump some of our previous measures of professional ability. I believe the web and our devices will continue to move into tighter friendships, and that we will continue to train our devices to interpret more of the world around us on our behalf.

Read the rest here.

Yes, yes, yes, and yes. In his post, Chris also talks about bringing value-add and core competencies together – which is a drum I have been beating for years.

This is by far the best piece of advice I’ve heard this decade, also from Chris:

Here’s a quick way to really turn around your clients: be helpful.

I know what you’re thinking: “Duh!” Right? But when was the last time you actually said those two words outloud during a strategy meeting or quarterly business review? When was the last time someone actually suggested this as a course of action? As a core competency? As a business objective? As a mantra?

And more importantly, with all the commotion around Social Media tools, platforms, channels, measurement, content and tactics, when was the last time you looked at Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, FriendFeed, etc. from the perspective of being helpful? Of providing assistance and value to customers – instead of merely promoting your wares? Best Buy has. So have Starbucks, The Home Depot, Virgin America, Comcast, UPS,and scores of companies gaining traction in the space AND converting these net new positive interactions into new business and increased loyalty.  So my question to you is this: As a company, what are you doing to be helpful TODAY? How are you using communications platforms to be helpful? Phones, email, mobile, web, Social, print, radio, etc.? Where are you scoring high marks? Where could you do better?

Is the “just be helpful” mantra so simple, so obvious that we might have forgotten to make it a cornerstone of every interaction we have with the public? I hope not, but I’m thinking yeah, probably.

I think I just gave you your assignment for this week.

😉

Note: Chris and I will be speaking, listening and being as helpful as we can at the Like Minds conference and summit in Exeter, UK on February 26 and 27. Look for #LikeMinds on Twitter if you want to follow the fun.

Then on March 4-5, I will be answering questions in Chicago in an “open mic” style event at a #SohoSeminar. This will be kind of cool: Usually, I spend more time presenting than answering questions in a live forum, so being able to devote ALL of my time to answering questions is something I look forward to.  Click here to register for the event now. It should be well worth it.

Cheers.

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Will the world’s best Social Media and P2P case studies of 2009 please stand up? The time to claim your place in the pantheon of business case studies has come.

I hate to call them Social Media case studies, because – well, they’re more than just Social Media. They’re word-of-mouth (WOM) case studies too. They’re Marketing case studies. They’re community case studies. (Dare I call them business case studies?) Qualifying anything as being solely “Social Media” seems so limiting, doesn’t it? At the core though, they’re all P2P case studies, really.

(No, not P2P as in Peer-to-peer. Rather, P2P as in People-to-People.)

The idea behind P2P is simple: Fostering connections (human connections) with your customers. Whether you used social media to rebuild your customer support department, community management to significantly improve customer loyalty, a WOM program to increase your net transacting customers or a series of community feedback vehicles to generate conversations and participation in your brand, program or cause, that’s P2P.

But feel free to call them Social Media case studies. We don’t mind. Whatever makes the most sense to you, to your boss, to your employees, to your customers. We know better than to get hung up on words, especially this early in the social media game.

What’s important here is is that whether you used Facebook, Twitter, blogs, email, Ning, flickr, youtube, neighborhood canvassing, special events, phone calls, face-to-face interactions, sky-writing or any combination thereof to create human to human connections around a program, campaign, cause or brand in the last year – and it worked, we want to hear about it.

If you got people to talk to people, if you earned attention instead of paying for it, if you increased sales or marketshare or share of voice using Social Media or P2P tools, we want to hear about it.

PR, customer support, community management, online reputation management, internal collaboration, co-creation: if any or all of these terms drove your projects in 2009 and you have one or more case studies to back up all that work, we want to read it.

Why? Because we are looking for the best case studies in the world. Plain and simple. And you only have a couple of weeks to get them to us if you want to make the list – and be invited to attend a summit designed specifically to bring the best social media professionals on the planet together in one place for a couple of days and talk shop.

And by that, I mean seriously talk shop. Like you never have before.

Q: What is the LikeMinds Summit?

First things first – Likeminds 2010 is divided into two distinct events. A conference, and a Summit.

> Friday February 26 is the LikeMinds Conference – Open to all, (first come, first served, so get your tickets fast) interactive format with presenters, panels, Q&A, etc. The conference will be held in Exeter (Devon, UK) just like last time.Sa

> Saturday February 27 is the LikeMinds Summit at the spectacular (and Summit-friendly) Bovey Castle (just a short drive from Exeter). Unlike the conference, the Summit will be an invitation-only event. I repeat: Unlike the conference, the LikeMinds Summit will not be open to the general public. You must be invited to attend.

How do you get invited? I’ll get to that in a second. Let me tell you what the Summit is first:

1. An Open Dialogue and RoundTable about Social Media Best Practices

On Saturday February 27th, LikeMinds will welcome key CEOs, Directors, Trustees and global thought leaders to the first Like Minds Summit, where in the luxurious settings of Bovey Castle in the middle of Dartmoor National Park, we will be providing a roundtable platform for the worldʼs leading Social Media practitioners to enjoy an open dialogue about the future of social business innovation.

2. Strategic and Operational Training for Social Media Thought Leaders

In addition, the Summit will also include advanced executive Social Media program development training (strategy, integration, management and measurement) as well moderated collaborative sessions in which attending delegates will discuss successes, challenges, and lessons learned from their own experiences in developing and managing their programs.

3. The 2010 Global ‘Best In Class’ Report

Following the event, case studies selected for the summit will be outlined in a “Best in class” report, complete with lessons-learned, best practices, and a wealth of insights aimed at helping companies draw the best possible methodologies from the year’s most successful P2P and Social Media programs. For every company present at the LikeMinds Summit, the report will present an opportunity to have their hard work acknowledged globally. For anyone not invited to attend this time around, the report will present a unique reference guide from which to draw invaluable lessons for their own programs.

The LikeMinds Summit will convene every year in February to discuss, share and celebrate the previous year’s best P2P programs from around the world.

Q: Why a Summit? Isn’t the Friday LikeMinds Conference enough?

Define ‘enough.’ When is ‘enough’ ever enough? 😉

Two of the most frequent questions from LikeMinds 2009 attendees were “where can we go to find the best case studies,” and “where do we go to find social media best practices?” (This actually came up during the panel Q&A after my presentation on R.O.I., and again a number of times at the little social event held immediately after the close of the conference.) From the onset, the notion that no one seemed to be addressing these two questions properly bothered me. As far as I could tell, as much as case studies turned up at just about every conference from Los Angeles to Dubai, no one was really focusing on trying to a) collect the best Social Media case studies, b) evaluate them against less “solid” case studies, and c) make the best of them available – in a lessons learned format – to the scores of business and social media professionals asking for them.

All evening, I was distracted by this unanswered need. By the next morning, Trey Pennington, Drew Ellis, Scott Gould and I were already toying with the idea of creating some kind of mechanism through which that type of information might be organized and made available. Without formalizing anything, we started bouncing ideas off each other in passing… until we ended up in the spectacular hills of Dartmoor, which we wished we could have shared with all of our  peers in the Social Media world…

… And then at Bovey Castle for a bone-warming fire and proper afternoon tea (yes, with real scones – not the Starbucks stuff). It was there, at Bovey Castle, that the idea of going beyond the simple collection, evaluation and publishing of the best social media case studies first took hold. The venue was so perfect for the level of conversations necessary to properly create the framework for something like this that we started to discuss the possibility of putting on a Summit – a high level event that would bring the best minds in social media in one place to have the kinds of conversations about the space that no one had the opportunity to have:

Large conferences weren’t the ideal format because of the distractions, the noise, the constant flux of presentations, meetings, dinners, parties and running around.

Small conferences tended not to attract enough of the best minds to put more than five or six of them in the same room at the same time.

Conference calls, webinars, twitter and other remote options were nice, but hardly conducive to… well, getting anywhere.

But man, if we could get 15 or 20 of the world’s best in a place like Bovey Castle, especially after a full day at the LikeMinds Conference in Exeter, we could really get somewhere. We could spend an entire day sharing best practices, discussing what works and what doesn’t, talking about where to take Social Media and New Marketing next. We could conduct training sessions based on the attendees’ specific needs, have real Q&A discussions between people who do this better than anyone else on the planet, and focus on what matters. Not that I mind sifting through the junk to get to the gold at most conferences, but what if we eliminated the junk completely and replaced it with 100% gold? The value of that type of event – for everyone present – would be beyond measurement.

That was the idea behind the Summit.

The rest, as they say, is history. Within a few days, we had a concept. A few weeks later, we were planning the Conference, the Summit and the format of the report and other resources that would emerge from them both.

Q: Where is the 2010 LikeMinds Summit being held? (And why?)

At Bovey Castle. Yes, THE Bovey Castle we just talked about. In England. Don’t worry, it just looks extravagant. It’s really just an old English house with a lot of really cool meeting rooms, a big back yard, and a forest all around it.

Why here? Three reasons: Convenience, awesomeness and the fact that the idea for the Summit came to us there for a good reason: It’s perfect for it.

We could have decided to hold the Summit anywhere: A hotel conference room in London, an office suite in New York, a cool space in San Fransisco… The possibilities are endless.  (The content of the Summit, its relevance, its format and even the cost to attend would be exactly the same, regardless of the venue.) Since the LikeMinds conference is already taking place just a short drive from Bovey Castle, it would have been a shame not to take advantage of its proximity.  😉

You can find out more about Bovey Castle here.

Q: If the Summit is by invitation only, how do I get invited?

Submit your case study.

Your submission can be in almost any format: a video, slide deck or document that is either emailed to the Summit staff, or even a simple hyperlink if your case study already exists online.

Invitation to the Summit will be based on the submission of that case study along with the following  qualifying elements. These elements are intended to prove the successful use of Social Media by documenting:

– Before and after overviews of the organization, with accurate measurement (Benchmarking)
– The research that backed the program
– The breakdown of strategy, integration, management and measurement
– How teamwork was guided, across departments, organizations and with the end user
– What were the most valuable lessons learned
– The frameworks that have been created from the experience

A jury will select the top 15-20 case studies from all received submissions and will send out invitations by the end of January.

Submissions for the Like Mind Summit may be sent to summit@wearelikeminds.com

Q: When are Summit submissions due?

Closing date for application submissions is Friday 22nd January.

Q: What is the cost of attending the Summit?

1. Getting to Exeter is up to you: Car, train, bicycle, horseback, steam ship, aeroplane, rocket, teleporter… If you’re in the UK already, it’s pretty simple. If you’re flying in, I suggest Heathrow or Gatwick airport, then either renting a car (don’t forget to stop at Stonehenge on your way to Exeter) or hopping on a train. Super simple. Once in Exeter, we’ll take care of shuttling you to Bovey on Saturday morning.

2. Hotels: The LikeMinds team is pretty well connected in Devon, so hooking you up with a hotel shouldn’t be a problem. (And yes, you can actually stay at Bovey Castle. We’ve negotiated a special rate of £150 per night – which is phenomenal.*)

* Last time I was in London, I found myself paying that much for horrible little economy hotels in the worst parts of town. £150 per night at Bovey is pretty mind-blowing.

3. The events: If you are invited to attend the summit, you’re automatically comped for the LikeMinds conference on Friday, including the V.I.P dinner Friday night. The Summit will also take care of your breakfast, lunch and afternoon tea on Saturday, as well as getting you back to Exeter once the Summit adjourns. You’ll be looking at two full days with some of the brightest, most forward thinking social media thought leaders and practitioners in the world. Not just in the same room, but at the same table. With a common purpose.

4. Inclusion in the ‘Best In Class’ report: If you get selected to attend the Summit, your case study will be featured in the LikeMinds report as one of the world’s best Social Media/P2P programs of 2009.  Those of you with a few Public Relations 101 credits in college might recognize the value of that kind of exposure. (Global exposure, I might add. This dog is going to have some pretty serious legs.)

Okay, enough with the pitch already: The price of admission is £1,500. (Sorry, the Gold Ticket isn’t free.)

I could make a joke about $2,995 social media certification programs right about now, but I won’t. Oh wait.. Doh!

Submitting your case study, however, is free. Just understand that if you are serious about attending the event upon being selected, the fee will be due fairly quickly. More details on that at a later date.

Q: Where can I get more information about the event?

You can download the PDF information kit here.

You can access the (Saturday) LikeMinds Summit website here.

You can check out the (Friday) LikeMinds Conference website here.

You can surf through the 2009 LikeMinds Conference archive here.

Q: What else is there?

I don’t know. You tell me.

If you’ve worked your tail off to develop, launch, manage and get the most out of a social media or P2P program in 2009, it would be silly to blow this off. Think of submitting your case study as that final 1% effort. Not even that. More like the final 0.01% effort.

If you end up being selected, yeah, there’s a bit of cost attached to it, especially if you aren’t based in Europe. I hear ya. Budgets are tight and £1,500 outside of travel expenses is nothing to sneeze at. But do the math:

1. You’ve probably thrown away more than that on conferences last year that didn’t really didn’t yield a whole lot of value, and for some strange reason, you may be contemplating doing it again this year, just in case they get it right this time (fat chance). Flying to Vegas, to Boston, to Orlando or New York or LA, going from session to session, wondering why you even bother attending half of the presentations? Hanging out at parties with your Twitter friends? Having dinner with a few “big names?” Hindsight being 20/20, if you could go back and skip those disappointments and trade them for something solid, something like this, wouldn’t that be a better use of your budget?

I can’t answer that for you.

2. The level of access you will have at the LikeMinds Summit – assuming you are selected to attend – is unheard of. You will spend a day (two if you attend the conference as well) with people whose individual consulting time is worth more than twice the price of admission. Multiply that by all 12 or 15 or 20 of them (depending on how many companies make the cut), and you atsrt to get the picture. These are people you will be engaging with, not just sitting next to in a conference room. Not to mention me, Trey Pennington, Drew Ellis, Scott Gould and a few other brainiacs yet to be announced.

3. Inclusion in the Summit’s report/master case study/white paper even without the summit’s value is worth ten times the £1,500 fee. From exposure to recognition, it’s a no-brainer. Your company probably spends that on branded pens and keychains at trade shows. On low tier print ads if you’re a small company. Heck, for most organizations with over 100 employees, you’re talking petty cash.

How much did you spend on PR last month? How much press did that get you? I rest my case.

4. Do you know why we set the price at £1,500 instead of, say, £800? (It would have been that even if we held this thing at the Holiday Inn, by the way. Not that we would.) It isn’t greed. It’s to weed out companies and individuals who aren’t serious about what they’re doing in this space. Some companies will choose to spend that on gimmicks.  Others will invest in the future of their social media programs. We’re only interested in the latter. The price of admission, quite simply, is commitment.  😉

So if you feel that you belong in that second category:

If you’re an agency or firm, submit your case studies.

If you’re an organization with a story to tell, submit your case study.

If you’re a service provider, tell your clients to submit their case studies.

Spread the word. Give it your best shot. Big brands, small businesses, NGOs, Non-profits, Universities… All are welcome. This event and report only come once a year, so don’t let all of your hard work in 2009 go to waste.

You have until the 22nd of January to submit your case studies.

May the best and brightest win.

Cheers. 🙂

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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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