Monday, August 10, 2009

What I saw at the Podcamp Boston or the #pcb4 revolution

First, let me confess that I was only able to attend the Saturday session so my thoughts are constrained to that day, but it was a full and fruitful day.

Everybody was talking measurement. The sessions that promised to explain how to measure the results from Social Media programs were filled beyond capacity. As with most marketing programs, the proof is in the numbers. To repeat a worn cliche, in these times building brand awareness isn't enough to move skeptics to open wallets. But most of the attendees left those measurement sessions underwhelmed. While the presenters had some good information, the general feeling was that the attendees showed up at a restaurant expecting a three course meal only to find bland appetizers on the menu. That said, Radiant 6 was a conference sponsor and they should have been happy to hear the news that to marketers measurement is still a four letter word.

I can do it, but how much do I charge? As the new economy has forced many mid-level managers to become freelancers, these reluctant entrepreneurs have had to learn how to bill for their services. If the measurement meetings filled the seats, attendance at the billing conversation flowed out of the door. By all accounts, Partner Dynamics's Melinda Moses, who presented "How do I Package and Price My solutions for SMBs," didn't disappoint the standing-room-only crowd.

Open Spaces create great conversations. At least as often as not, I learned more by chatting with random people in hallways as I did in the conference sessions. Pure serendipity, bumping into friends and learning about sessions they attended or sessions they planned to attend later. This is by design. Podcamp Boston organizers made sure there was plenty of open space and emphasized the Law of Two Feet, which meant that people got up and walked out if the presentation wasn't to their liking.

Conversations about social media lean toward the descriptive not the proscriptive. The more I talked to successful social media practitioners, the more I realize that most of them are making it up as they go along. That's not a bad thing. Actually, it's empowering. It's like being on the front edge of a land grab in fertile territory. Not everything you plant will bear fruit, but a lot will. If you can catch the first wave, you will be selling into an unsaturated market. Even the "What's Next" conference theme played into the spirit of exploration and experimentation.

There is a disconnect between what draws marketers to social media and what draws normal human beings to participate. No where is this more evident than around privacy settings. Most users want their friends to know which restaurants they frequent or which vacation spots they plan to visit in the next five years. Not surprisingly, the information is extremely valuable to marketers. In the middle of one presentation on job searches, a few attendees said they only share the barest information on the public profiles, but that defeats the point of participating on these sites. In the rush to monetize social media, they have forgotten the social in social media.

This post isn't the place to explore privacy settings in social media. For more on my thoughts on that, you can go here or trust that I'll return to the topic soon enough.

There are 250 million people on Facebook. If marketers cannot figure out how to make money from that captive, but walled-in audience, without scaring them with privacy concerns, we most definitely will find out what's next.


Kathy Lamphier said...

Re: Podcamp measurement presentations - Pragmatic Marketing's Elizabeth Hannan gave a great presentation on Sunday. Think she's going to post the slides on slideshare.

Benjamin said...

I heard it was a great conference, and am beginning to realize how all business owners cannot ignore this "space" as a means of promoting and selling themselves.

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