What I Learned at the Social Media World Forum

By LaurenMarie

I went to the Social Media World Forum in Santa Clara last week. I was the grateful recipient of the free blog pass that David gave away last month. Big thank you, David and Sixdegrees!!

Without giving away all the valuable content of the conference for free, I wanted to share some amazing insights and a bit of an overview of the conference with you.

Social Media Texting

Who Was There?

There were a ton of speakers from huge brands such as Coca Cola, Nissan Canada, GM and Ogilvy PR. Of course, representatives from Facebook, MySpace, Zynga (where your beloved FarmVille comes from), Technorati and LinkedIn gave presentations and sat on panels as well (Twitter was shockingly absent…). There was even a surprise presentation from Ben Parr, Mashable’s editor! Many big brands were in attendance, too, including representatives from Capital One, Paramount and P&G to name a few.

The conference was a great networking opportunity and learning from the successes and mistakes of these leaders in social media marketing was a treat!

People I’m watching as a result of this conference are

  • Michael Donnelly (Coca Cola), I must say how impressed I was with his humble attitude! He showed us how to successfully cultivate an online community and put “Fans First” (their motto).
  • Chris Barger (GM), yes, he presented after the world’s most loved brand. Brave guy! His boldness with the brand and social media during crisis was inspiring and paid off.
  • Angel Gambino developed text to screen (like you use on American Idol or Dancing with the Stars), worked with Bebo to grow it before it was purchased by AOL, and lots of other really impressive things I can’t remember. She’s an extraordinary forward thinker.
  • Rachel Polish (Ogilvy PR) had some very insightful things to say regarding social media PR.
  • Dallas Lawrence (Levick, Bulletproof Blog) presented how social media is changing the business of communication and PR.
  • Jeff Parent (Nissan Canada) gave us a case study on how they successfully created a social media plan and integrated it with street teams and an interactive website to promote the Nissan Cube debut.
  • Chris Heuer (Social Media Club) moderated several panels and had great questions. He also had some fascinating things to say about the future of social media marketing.


I would have liked to see the conference a little more focused on social media marketing and PR, especially effective ways to collect metrics and measure success (of course, marketing goals must be established first!). A more diverse presentation of tactics that work for all sizes of business (local to global) would have been appreciated as well.

The big thing that I and the attendees I spoke with were looking for was how to convince people this is important. We know it’s important – that’s why we’re at the conference! How do we show our bosses, clients and CEOs this is the future and requires serious consideration? This issue wasn’t really addressed, so I don’t have answers for you :(

Stop Skimming Now, Here’s the Goods!

So now the part you are looking forward to: what did I learn?

What You Must Be Doing NOW

LISTEN. If you do nothing else, LISTEN. Twitter is great for that. Pull an RSS feed from Twitter Search on your brand, keywords and competitors’ names.

The conversation is happening with or without you.

Define success before you begin your social media marketing campaign. There is no magic button. Objectives make money.

Just get started and go from there! This is not a fad.

Create value, don’t extract it.

Integrate social media with other marketing efforts (break down silos).

Discover who the key influencers are and develop relationships with them.

What else?

Everyone interacting in the social space should have training, be clear about messages, and be transparent, authentic, valuable and have meaningful conversations.

Real people want to connect with real things.

Social media’s costs come in the form of time and human resources. It’s not free.

Make your content sharable, embeddable and portable. Enable people to take it to their networks.

Social media is not about controlling what is said about you/your company, it’s about interacting with people.

B2B uses social media for research (instead of outreach) on the target and competition. In addition, work with your client to reach their client.

The Future

“Mobile, Mobile, Mobile, MOBILE!” – Ben Parr, Mashable

Social gaming (Mafia Wars, FarmVille, etc.) and virtual currency, specifically advertising exposure in exchange for VC

Short form video is a growing movement (30 seconds – 3.5 minutes max for best exposure chance)

Brazil is one of the fastest growing adopters of social media

We are moving back to local connections being important (think Yelp, Four Square)

Remember, this is marketing. It’s not about the tools, it’s how you use them to accomplish your goals.