BlogWorld 2009: What’s Next in Social Marketing

My new post on Social Studies:

This was my third year at BlogWorld New Media Expo, and it just gets better and better.

Sure, there are plenty of cewebrities, blogerati and scenesters, but BlogWorld continues to bring out some of the best in social media and social marketing thought leadership.

Congrats to the show promoters, the speakers and attendees who got my brain running and thinking about new and exciting possibilities in social marketing.

My biggest takewaways from the conference (via notes I took in 140 characters or less):

  • Even the best businesses have negative customer comments. Don’t be the boy who cried “FAIL”
  • Humans don’t scale. We only have so much bandwidth. Humility and honesty go a long way in biz/personal
  • “By the end of the year, we’re going to talk about Twitter lists, not follower numbers.” -@scobleizer
  • Social isn’t just about marketing/PR. This is a cultural shift. It’s about people and relationships.
  • Twitter lists has mega-implications for PR/journalist relationships. @scobleizer already on 211 lists.
  • Kids are creating multiple MySpace profiles for friends and other ones for their “real” friends
  • Google Profiles, Sidewiki, Wave are part of a stealth social network. It’s not a destination. It’s a zen attack.
  • Corporate sites should be the hub of a robust Web strategy that goes to where the conversations are outside .com.
  • Develop active listening program AND THEN empower a customer advocacy program to tell your story, defend you, etc
  • PR is curating disparate SM monitoring databases that should be connected to corporate CRM for customer support
  • Five years from now URLs won’t matter. Information will come together in a new way we can’t yet fathom. -@jowyang
  • Entire crowd is focused/stuck on SM ROI, and you can sense the aggregate frustration at the implicit vagaries.

I want to touch on that last tweet. In Jeremiah Owyang‘s “The Future of Social Media and Business” presentation (great breakdown here), the audience asked many questions about legal, ROI, lead-generation and the culture of fear that surrounds investing in new technologies and strategies without a guaranteed pay-off. Mr. Owyang didn’t have answers beyond his analysis, partly because the answers people were seeking aren’t easily answered in a large forum. The future of social media, by its very nature, will not and does not mirror traditional advertising strategies nor the metrics that fuel them.

Companies who today are seen as innovators in the social media space — whether it’s micro-media customer support, humanistic corporate blogs or social network engagement — didn’t get where they are by betting on a sure thing. Social media has changed the game. Even if Nielsen says X millions watched a primetime show last night, we know a key percentage had a laptop open at the same time. And although I can back up that assertion by pointing to the top Twitter trends on any given evening, most companies cannot quantify that “buzz” directly into sales to the point they can justify a spend with guaranteed results.

Rather, an online conversation is just as valuable — possibly more valuable — than a point of sale impulse display or a print and broadcast advertising buy with guaranteed impressions. The reason Mr. Owyang couldn’t give us the 1-2-punch for selling in social media is that 1) it doesn’t exist, and 2) even if it did, it would change tomorrow.

What can we do in the interim?

  1. Innovate
  2. Set measurable objectives
  3. Benchmark
  4. Evaluate and adjust
We must change this perception of fear into a lens of opportunity. The control isn’t coming back, and neither is the sure thing.
BlogWorld has me pumped and even more passionate about the possibilities. I’m not waiting around for the sure thing; are you?

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