3 social media events, 2 cities, 1 big blog post

As Seen In...

[tweetmeme]There have been a number of social media events recently and I wanted to attend as many as I could to a) connect with the best of the best in social media, b) validate what we’re doing at Red Cube and c) understand how social media is being used in other industries. I whittled it down to three events: Like Minds in Exeter and Social Media in Business and Media 140 in London. Rather than produce a separate write up for each, my thoughts (and what I took away from each event) are combined here into one big post.

First up Like Minds. In their own words they “had a vision for something far bigger than just a conference.” The focus of the half day event was the subject of ‘measuring social media.’ Now that, dear readers, is a thorny topic. Some say it’s impossible to measure (how can you measure a conversation?) whereas others think it’s essential (I fall into the latter). The event itself was a testament to the results of this digital tool as promotion of it was through social media alone by the two guys in charge, Scott Gould and Drew Ellis. There were around 200 people at the event and over 500 viewing through live streaming. Those that plugged into the event were able to get stuck in by asking questions of the panels over the live Twitterfall beamed to the audience (which was also a source of amusement thanks to a few witty tweeters). People also followed the #likeminds hashtag, which is alive and kicking today.

Speakers and panelists included Trey Pennington, Olivier Blanchard, Daren Forsyth, Maz Nadjm, Vanessa Warwick, Andrew Ellis, Laura Whitehead, Andrew Davies, Carl Haggerty, James Barisic and Matt Waring. More on them here. Much was covered, far too much to do justice here. Here are a few highlights:

  • The value of social media is dependent on what problem you’re trying to solve. This needs to be clear from the start.
  • Marketing is the ongoing process of engagement where strangers are nurtured into advocates. Social media allows you to change behaviour throughout that process.
  • Social media allows you to increase awareness, connect customers to your solution, facilitate a connectedness and share your solution.You can measure this by establishing metrics to measure these behaviour changes along the way.
  • Social media is the only way to future proof your business as today’s youth live online and later in life they will do business there.
  • To get results businesses should build advocacy through word of mouth rather than sell themselves.
  • Social media is a marathon, not a sprint. Those embarking on it need to realise it’s not a quick fix and takes time to evolve.
  • Social media is not free. It takes skilled people, technology, time and effort. All of which cost money.
  • At the start of a social media program, be clear of the objectives to be measured (for example cost reduction, revenue generation, increase in new clients, increase in website traffic etc)
  • For ROI to be accurate, measure where you are before starting the social media program and compare this to where you are afterwards.
  • ROI is a business metric, not a media metric. It’s about return on ‘investment’ not return on ‘influence’ etc.
  • Measure the non-financial metrics (negative/positive mentions, click throughs, traffic, retail store traffic etc) but then measure sales revenue and analyse what affect the non-financial metrics has on this.
  • A number of social media monitoring solutions were suggested. This wiki contains a number of these.

There were a few people in the audience (and after the event) who still seemed a little unsure of social media ROI (and how to track it), but this is more about the complexity of the subject. The event did a good job to get the conversation going and will continue at the next Like Minds event in February 2010. Nick Tadd and Vanessa Warwick produced a great video review of the event which I’ve added here. Well worth a watch.

The second full day event, Social Media in Business, was held in London with the premise that ‘conversations matter’. The conference set out to examine how social media platforms such as Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, are having a major impact on business practices and culture.

The line up consisted of Peter Crosby,  Neville Hobson, Katie Howell, Eamon Pritchard, Trey Pennington, Mark Redgrave, Tim Callington, Maz Nadjm, Jon Ingham, Joanne Jacobs, Charlie Osmond, Olivier Blanchard, Ged Carroll, Steve Lamb, Benjamin Ellis and Judith Lewis. They were capably kept-in-hand by MC of the day, Daren Forsyth. More details on the speakers can be found on the website. There were two panel sessions that allowed the audience to pose questions. My highlights are thus:

  • Whether businesses want it or not, the future of communication is here to stay. Those that don’t get onboard will get left behind.
  • Business need to understand the new rules of engagement: reach people on their terms and be where they are.
  • Segmentation is important in social media, but rather than simply targeting audiences, the focus should be on truly understanding them, seeking them out and engaging.
  • There should be no ‘offline’ or ‘online’, it’s all one media world where the focus is connecting and conversation.
  • The three key trends to focus on are search, Twitter and social networking sites (both niche and mainstream).
  • As a PR tool, social media’s strength is in finding influencers and creating advocates. Create something worth talking about and tell it to the people that ‘want’ to hear it.
  • Businesses need to focus less on their own perspective but instead on their customer’s/client’s perspective.
  • Monitoring tools help businesses find the conversations online, they then need to understand what’s relevant and act appropriately.
  • There is a distinction between social networks (which is all about ‘me’) and communities (all about an idea).
  • Crowd sourcing is a valuable tool when done well. The key success drivers are diversity, independence,  decentralisation and public interest.
  • You are your brand, therefore it’s worth monitoring your own name to maintain a good reputation. There are a number of free tools out there to help you do this.

My one criticism was that each speaker only had 15 minutes to share their views. For some it felt as if they’d just got started when the talk ended. But this shouldn’t take away from the great insights shared on the day. Like #likeminds, the Twitter  hashtag (#smib09) was busy on the day and after the event.

Last, but by no means least, was Media 140. Again a full day event that claimed to cover everything  a brand needs to know about Twitter and real-time social media. It certainly went some way to covering that with another impressive line up including: Tom Bedecarre, Utku Can Akyuz, Bernard Desarnauts, Steve Barton, Amedia Torode, Nicola Davis, John Beasley, Nic Ray, Robin Grant, David McCandless, Daren Forsyth, Candace Kuss, Jess Greenwood, Ciaran Norris, Will McInnes, Ted Hunt, Gordan MacMills and Ruth Mortimer. More on some of them here. This event included more real life case studies of social media in action than the other two, which was useful (although arguably some did err on the side of showboating). The Twitter hashtag for this event is #media140. There was a great deal discussed, but here are the key insights:

  • People are split between Twitter haters, lovers and the curious. But if Google and Facebook care so much about Twitter, surely there must be something in it?
  • Businesses are quick to ask the value of social media, but do they pay the same attention to the value of phone conversations and emails?
  • There are no black and white answers when it comes to social media. It’s still fairly new and we’re still working out how to scale it, measure it etc.
  • There is no one size fits all with social media. It’s about people developing their own way of using it to best fit their needs.
  • How we feel about a brand is influenced by how others feel about it. People talk about their experiences of brands and this is amplified by social media.
  • Twitter is like word of mouth on crack. The pace of it is phenomenal.
  • There has been a paradigm shift where people have the power. Brands need to understand this.
  • There’s no magic bullet when it comes to social media measurement, but we’re working at it. It’s hard to map the spend of individual campaigns to business ROI, but we’re getting better at setting measurement KPI’s at the start of a campaign to enable measurement.
  • Mobile is a key trend in social media, making instant word of mouth even more instant. Consumers are selective about when they consume media, with mobile they can engage on the go.
  • Social media doesn’t just sit in marketing or pr. It should be spread across a business into HR, customer service, IT etc. Marketing or pr can start the conversation, but customer service is more likely to continue it and develop the relationship. Good customer service is the best marketing tool there is.
  • Social media is less about the platforms used and more about business objectives and conversations.
  • Businesses first using social media should listen, understand and then engage in a natural way.
  • Search is a huge part of social media. Brands needs to search for the conversations people are having about them and listen. There are a range of tools for this, including: CymfonyViral Tracker, Delicious, Tweetdeck, Tweet Funnel, Tweetmeme,, Twitterfall, Trendistic
  • Social media makes brands question their tone of voice after leaving that to their agencies for years. They need to avoid appearing fake by being authentic.
  • Brands need to be internally social before becoming externally social (so internal buy in, planning etc is key).

To sum up then. It seems we’re all still learning when it comes to social media. It’s relatively new as a mainstream activity, but it’s here to stay. There’s enough evidence to show that it can have fantastic results when used well, but there’s no one size fits all, particularly when it comes to a standard method of measuring ROI. What’s needed is ‘best practice’ and that’s something we, as social media professionals, should be working out together.


For those conscious souls ready to step up and serve. Suitable for established or new coaches.

  1. Marko Minka says:

    Very nicely summed up, Gemma..

    exactly, the point is to observe patterns, thus discovering the relevance of tools being used..

    By the way, this seems to be pretty neat tool, not mentioned in a wiki to measure a ‘buzz’ around keywords..

  2. Brilliant summary.

    You sure know how to make a speaker happy! Love those quotes from Like Minds especially.

    As The Colonies grew into the dual-ocean-bordered nation of the United States, we went through a rough and wooly time known as The Wild West (or Wild, Wild West if you’re a Will Smith fan). Seems like social media is probably the WWW phase of development. Not sure if we’re pre-1848 California Gold Rush or post. In some respects, the Twitterfest seems like post-gold-rush, but who knows.

    What we do know is, we still have much to learn.

    Thank you, too, for paying such close attention. It seems like many folks thought of the Like Minds conference as “the ROI” conference. Instead, it was as you presented—”measuring social media.” And, as we’ve learned, “measuring” includes both objective (ROI, for instance) measures AND subjective (value, for example) measures.

    A good starting point is to clearly define terms and understand the difference between quantitative and qualitative and objective and subjective measures.

    Though it was quite expensive to be in the United Kingdom for twelve days, the return (subjective) was more than worth it.

    See you in February.

  3. ericswain says:


    I have to agree with you about SMIB09 – I wanted more time from (most of) the presenters.

    As for Media140, I made a comment before the event that I thought a few of the speakers lacked credible personal Twitter usage experience, at least too little to be on a panel that was (mostly) focused on Twitter; that perhaps some of them were speaking because they worked for impressive, modern brands. A few people felt that was unfair and told me so.

    What do you think? Was I just being petulant?


  4. Not petulant at all. Any speaker should have extensive knowledge of their subject, that’s par for the course. I do, however, think that there’s value in hearing what other brands or businesses think about social media and Twitter. I work in a specialist industry so hearing opinion from other sectors is interesting to me. I guess it really depends on individual objectives for the event. If you’re there to learn, then you would want to hear from people totally immersed and able to give objective and informed advice. If you’re there to listen, that wouldn’t matter so much.

  5. Trey, I love your analogy. You’re absolutely right about it being a gold rush. The proof is in the next phase, which to me is the important bit. How we refine what we do and turn that into real value (whatever that value may be) is key.

    Can’t wait for that next phase. Which I believe starts in February?

  6. Absolutely Marko. Thanks for the tool, I’d not heard of that one.

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