Online Marketing Conference #omce2011

As a free event, the Online Marketing Conference from emda seemed worth attending – after all, I couldn’t lose, right?

Wrong. I could lose – I could lose a whole morning of my life listening to people waxing lyrical about the power of engagement and the importance of conversation. And that’s precisely what happened.

Online Marketing Conference 2011

The #omce2011 workshops left a little to be desired…

It’s a common problem within social media that those who can, do; those who spend their time giving talks on social media, more likely than not, can’t. That’s not to say there was nothing of value to be had from the event – it’s always useful to ensure you’re in line with common understanding of the best practice for social media and there were elements to what people were saying that held some value. It’s just that, overall, it was much of the same old schpiel delivered time and time again by supposed experts in the field who probably haven’t worked in the field for years.

Take keynote speaker Graham Jones as an example. As an internet psychologist, I’d expected a lot from his talk on the future of digital marketing and thought he’d give some great insight into the way we think and how it affects the way we behave but his hardly revolutionary explanation of social media as a dinner party has been done – heck, even I’ve done it! Yes, social media is about being social; yes, it’s about conversation; yes, we need to engage with our audience – tell me something new already!

It’s a shame too that self proclaimed “trail blazer” Andrew Grill was able to preach about what he does but a little less able to shed light on the new ways businesses can use social media and his talk, littered with self promotional URLs and self congratulating examples, failed to make the impact it should have done. Whether it even addressed the title of ‘When Social Meets Mobile’ is questionable – a real shame as that could have been interesting.

To be fair, there were some good elements to the day. Notable was DK from Media Snackers whose slurring Welsh accent and relaxed delivery style were charming whilst his content was interesting, if a little samey. Most interesting was Ian Lockwood who, as always, delivered up to date insight and excellent review of the impact of search updates which would be useful to even the most seasoned SEO exec. Worth attending for his talk alone.

So, not wanting to be one of those whingey types who has no idea how the target of their whinging could be improved, I guess I should explain how I would have benefited more from the event. Here goes…

I think the main problem lies in the lack of differentiation between a meet for social media practitioners and one which aims to teach beginners to handle their online reputation on a lower level. The intended audience seemed too wide in this case – attracting people like me who already use social media in business and, at the same time, small businesses who don’t even have a Twitter account.

Another issue, for me, lies in the choice of speakers. Though providing some relatively entertaining content (it passed the time anyway), the speakers were mainly introduced as Speakers –  as in, their job is speaking. Wouldn’t it be better if their job was social media? Or online marketing? Is it too crazy an idea that the so-called ‘experts’ would all be making a living working in the fields they talked about?

So, was it just me? Did anyone else attend the event and leave with that less-than-satisfied feeling? Would love to hear your thoughts in the comments.


22 thoughts on “Online Marketing Conference #omce2011

  1. I totally agree with everything you say here Laura. Sorry to have missed Ian. He is one of the real stars of the ebusiness club programme. He always delivers For me this type of event needs to meat up a bit to be of real benefit to doers not theorists. Or split in two as you suggest to be supplier / end user.

  2. Thanks very much Sarah. I do believe it’s simply a case of undefined audience; by trying to cater for all levels they inadvertently add value to none. Have you been to ant better conferences than this?

  3. Glad I scrapped by as a ‘good element’ 🙂

    Upon reflection, a masterclass session (showing rather than telling) would’ve best suited my slot to add a healthy mix to it all – in my defence (and to others), we were only working to a brief from the organisers, although I’m sure they will ‘shake it up’ a little next time based on feedback like this if it’s in the majority…

  4. Thanks for your response DK. As I said, I found your talk interesting and particularly enjoyed the examples you gave of the mobile phone campaign and KLM.

    I think the question has to be asked though – is this the fault of the organisers or were we, as people already working in the field, just attending the wrong conference?

  5. Always good to ask questions – expands the brain 😉

    Probably one for the organisers and yourself though to get into as I’m sure they’d welcome your enquiries with the aim on ensuring the next event has more clarity. Good luck.

  6. Events for me are more about the people attending rather than the speakers on the list – they just set the themes for the conversation. I guess it just sucks that sometimes the convo is about the quality of the speakers rather than the conversation as a result of their delivery.

    Laura, I think you are one of the good guys that ‘work’ and ‘live and breathe’ social media… If you agree, then I think you are equally as qualified to put yourself forward as a speaker too. Have you ever thought about it?

    Regarding DK & MediaSnackers (I don’t want this to be a company advert but) we really ‘do’ social media 24/7, love it and live and breathe it too… It’s just as DK said the organisers do the booking and set the topics.

    Maybe this is what needs to change in events generally, like the TED example, speakers booked that ‘do’ rather than ‘tell’ and are booked on their quality? In fact wouldn’t it have been cool if the speakers had to earn their place and fee based on community votes? Wow, now that I’d like to see 🙂

    Great post – it’s good to challenge the status quo <– someone famous once said that.

    All the best – mark

    • Hi Mark, thanks for your comment. I do agree that the people who attend can really make the event worthwhile, but what was a shame was the lack of space available to really network if that was your intention. Further to this, the audience was so varied in knowledge and motivation that it was hard to know who to talk to and what you’d get out of it if you did – I know I was approached on more than one occasion by the dreaded “business card pushers” trying to sell me social media services.

      The exhibition, as an example, was indicative to me that the event was, at least in part, aimed at selling services to businesses rather than bringing together “experts” and people already working in the field. But that could have been made more clear – evidently, it wasn’t and that’s why we all left dissatisfied.

      I like the idea of speakers who ‘do’ rather than ‘tell’ – I believe that’s imperative to ensuring the information they deliver is relevant and useful; how can you know if you don’t do it? Perhaps voting people in or having them earn their position would be good but then again the process of finding qualified speakers doesn’t need to be a complex one – just get people who work in social media and do so successfully!

      I love to challenge the status quo 🙂

  7. Two hours of breaks in a 6 hour event was unnecesary and I came away feeling I had learnt very little. Didn’t see DK’s talk but for me the day’s one redeeming part was Ian Lockwood – still nothing I hadn’t heard about already but some good clear interpretation. Andrew Grill’s presentation was ok but had little to do with mobile except for the repetitive name check for Vodaphone. Overall, shallow content and generally disappointing.

    • Hi Iain. Absolutely agree – there seemed to be more break than substance! I did enjoy the talks given by Ian Lockwood during the breaks though – seemed a real shame that they didn’t make more of those talks as they were genuinely useful on a practical level.

      I also agree that Ian’s talk on ‘What’s new in social’ wasn’t anything we hadn’t heard before – after all, it’s our job to know – but he did deliver it in a really clear way and made some interesting observations and predications for the future which I liked.

      However, the other speakers were a let down – particularly Andrew Grill who self-proclaimed himself to be a ‘front runner’ and a ‘trail blazer’ without ever qualifying that.

      Again, those who can…

  8. Laura, I couldn’t agree more. In fact I had a conversation with someone who I happened to share a table with at the conference about just that.

    The problem for me was that the debate was so one-sided, listening to these speakers you’d think that no one was using Google or any site that wasn’t “social”, ever.

    It just seems like dangerous territory – particularly when many of the attendees were small businesses looking for guidance. Yes, social media is important, but if you’re a one-man band you have limited resources and you need a clear focus.

    The comparison to starting with one phone operator then moving to a full-blown call centre (first one social media staff member, then a whole team – think Andrew Grill said this) was fine, but not every company grows into a massive business.

    The day just seemed to fall between two stools: Not nuts-and-bolts practical enough for beginners, but not advanced enough for Internet Marketing practioners.

    • Hi Katie. I completely agree with you – the event did seem to fall between two stools, attempting to do everything and succeeding in nothing really.

      What’s clear is that the event needed more focus. If it’s an event to provide guidance to small businesses, make it that – with informative talks, top tips, perhaps some free take-away resources and quick website reviews. A bit more of a forum to ask questions and some pre-event social media support to find out exactly what people want to know would be great. And speakers who actually work with small brands – not all e-commerce – who can give real advice and empathise with the needs and difficulties these businesses face. As you say, not everyone has time to spend on social media 24/7 and not everyone will grow into a huge business.

      Conversely, there is also evidently a need for a “professionals” (for want of a better word) event where people working in social media can come together to discuss what they’ve been doing, share tips and advice, learn from the best and keep up to date with what’s new. How about an ideas forum, where we present a problem we are having and seek advice? And case studies, where those who can share their work and any tips they picked up along the way? We could use Mark’s voting system for speakers or simply find people through social media – wouldn’t that just make sense?

      In fact, why don’t we? Why don’t we just organise something for ourselves? After all, we’re all social media marketers and if I know anything about social media people it’s that they’re willing to share and there’s one of everyone – I’m sure we can find a venue, speakers and everything we need with a quick tweet.

      What do you all think?

      • I’d be up for going along and sharing some ideas and learning from other social media bods! (And after April is out of the way, when I’m trekking around China for charity, I’d be happy to pitch in and help with organisation.)

  9. I only came along for two speakers, Mediasnackers and The Google “whats new in search” piece. If I could have had those two in one morning session I’d have been happy. I’m re-entering a social world having come more from internal services, information security and such, so I got some value from it. I never went to a conference expecting some divine revelation. I agree, setting some “levels” would work, even if its only for some of the sessions/workshops so beginners, experianced people, those wanting to “brush up” or “catch up” or whatever can pick appropriate sessions within one brand/event and thus share the networking oportunities through the old fashioned human interaction…

    • Great point Alastair – more clear differentiation between the sessions would have been really useful.

      Did anyone attend the ‘top tips for online marketing’ talk? I heard the speaker opened with “well, I’ve never used social media…”. It’s just not what you want, is it?

      However, had they set the expectation with a selection of ‘beginner’, ‘intermediate’ and ‘advanced’ talks, we could have selected appropriately. To be fair to eBusiness Club, they’re usually really good at that and I’ve attended some brilliant training sessions from them.

      • Hi Laura,

        I went to the top 10 tools and the guy was certainly enthusiastic but he didn’t stand a chance of covering all ten in 45 mins; even with a 15 min overrun we didn’t get much more than a list and brief description. However, he was getting questions and many seemed to listening to him talk about YouTube, Tweetdeck and WordPress as though they were revolutionary concepts.

        Representing an industrial B2B company I can’t honestly say that I do a lot of social media marketing (yet)but I do try to keep up theoretically and do what I can practically and would be interested in any event led by those already doing this succesfully (especially B2B).

        Finally I must also add that most of the conversations I overheard, people I spoke to and online comments I’ve read were positive, so we may well be in the minority.

  10. Hi Iain,

    I have no doubt that a lot of people will have found the event useful so all credit to the organisers for that. That said, when I wrote the original blog I was the only person I knew of who didn’t enjoy it and now lots more of you are coming forward – so there is more demand for a ‘professional’ facing event than we may have thought.

    So, what would make a ‘professional’ facing event useful? Conversely, what would help people starting out in social media or just trying to use it with little time and budget in their business?

  11. Hi all,

    Mixed feelings for me when reading the comments here. Agree with the comments regards Andrew Grill – wondered myself if he was being paid on a Pay-Per-Mention basis.

    All in all though I think I enjoyed myself. It was to be fair a place that covered all bases and I think that was apparent in advance.

    After all, the more people who become aware the more people who enter the pool that we swim in and want to work within.

  12. As someone who spends half his life on stage speaking to various audiences I’d be stunned if everyone liked everything from all the speakers. So, I am not surprised that you didn’t like what I did – though, of course, I would rather you had done…! Naturally, enough I can point you towards the dozens of people who said they did like my talk and all the people who came up to me throughout the day to say how much they enjoyed it and how much they had been inspired.

    OK enough of this defensiveness…!

    Here’s the real issue – the talk was not aimed at you, it seems. I was asked to provide a general “scene setter” which would then allow the other speakers and workshops to provide the detail. But considering you work in the social media space it would have all been “old hat” to you, I am sure. And, the fact that you have a degree in social psychology means, I imagine, that the level of the psychological material I used was rather basic, which can only have doubled your frustration.

    As ever it comes back to the fit between what the speaker is asked to do and what the audience expects from that speaker. If the audience is too wide a group, with too varied a background and with too many different needs, then the speaker will inevitably bomb.

    So I am sorry you didn’t like what I did; you have reminded me, though, to always be sure I get a tighter definition of my audience so I can try harder to focus on what is important for them.

    The point you make in your comment that perhaps there is a need for an event for a “professional audience” is a good one. My talk was aimed at “newbies” and the “social media apprehensives”. If the audience was made up of people in the professional social media world then I wouldn’t have given that talk.

    • Hi Graham,

      Thanks so much for your comment and hope you didn’t take offence from the comments I made. As I’ve said before, this was less a criticism of the individual speakers and more one of the organisers for not better clarifying the event’s proposition.

      That said, many of the speakers did seem to be brought out to introductions stating them to be ‘excellent speakers’ and having ‘spoken at many events’ but few intros contained the actual credentials of the speakers. It may be that you, and your fellow speakers, have a great deal of experience in your topic areas but that certainly wasn’t clear from the way you were all introduced. I think, from the start, that made me sceptical of the advice I was hearing.

      I’m interest in your final point – that you agree we need an event aimed at a ‘professional audience’ – and it’s becoming ever clear that there is a call for one. After all, in such an evolving and ever-changing industry, it would be great to come together to share ideas and discuss changes; we’re all on the same team after all!

      • Gosh, I’m not offended at all. I am glad you raised the issue because I think there is an opportunity for us to work together on something for a different kind of audience. Give me a while to think – and let me have your ideas as well – and then perhaps we can do exactly as you say about sharing ideas. I suspect a format where an expert does not make a speech, but facilitates a focused discussion might work well, or some experts are interviewed on stage. Random thoughts, I know, but it may well work.

        As for my introduction – I didn’t write it I’m afraid. At one point I wondered who was going to speak before me…!

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