It seems like everywhere you turn there’s a new digital marketing or social media conference popping up, and it’s hard to tell what you’re getting into when choose to participate in one until it actually starts and you’re in a large room with a bunch of strangers and vendors talking shop.
I just returned from the Media Post Social Media Insiders Summit (check hashtag #MPSMIS on Twitter for complete coverage) and was pleasantly surprised by the quality and depth of content, the format for the event, and sharp and personable people I met over the course of the last three days in Key Biscayne, Florida.
The tropical setting didn’t hurt — especially considering the blizzard back home in Boston that I dodged — and I found this to be the most enjoyable conference I’ve ever attended. Resort quality amenities at the Ritz Carlton made things comfortable, but most importantly, the discussions, panels and roundtables were on topic, and well thought out.
I had the pleasure of leading a roundtable discussion entitled, “Seriously, Do Consumers Like Being Targeted?”, where we talked about everything from what Google knows about you to email segmenting and everything in between. At times it veered off topic, but I erred on the side of letting the conversation flow and keeping everyone involved, and I think everyone who participated walked away smarter for it.
Even the lunchtime sponsor presentations, which at most conferences are brutal sales pitches traded for a dry meal, were far more geared toward providing information, value and analysis than they were aimed at pimping out their services. And the food was top drawer to boot.
Representing a pretty unique and well-known brand myself, I had prepared to be accosted by vendors and sales guys at every turn. And sure, I exchanged a bunch of business cards, picked up plenty of Twitter followers and LinkedIn connections, but there was far more of a networking vibe than I might have expected. Maybe the onslaught is yet to come, but I feel like I made some very valuable connections with some of the smartest people working in the social media space today.
No conference is ever perfectly executed. The #MPSMIS hashtag wasn’t well publicized (although it did catch on by the end of Day 1), and there were no breaks between presentations and panels, which left you with no choice but to walk out mid-presentation for a bathroom break or just some fresh air. A few presenters need to work on their Power Point skills (littering slides with small text doesn’t work in big room) but that’s a minor complaint.
Over three days, topics like data privacy, Facebook advertising, social commerce, user generated content, Twitter analytics, location-based services/check-ins, “engagement” (by far the most overused bailout buzzword of the conference), Mommy Bloggers and niche social networks were all covered in-depth. I tweeted out over 50 notes, quotes, stats and observations and could have easily doubled that if I wasn’t worried about overwhelming people’s timelines.
All in all, it was a solid experience and perhaps the best conference I’ve been to date. I hope to return to next year’s Social Media Insiders Summit.