SMI09 – productive confusion

Yesterday I went to the Social Media Influence 09 conference (#SMI09) – a very good event.

Looking back – my impression of the day was productive confusion.

For example, YouTube seemed confused as to what they are.  Benjamin Faes, their MD for EMEA could only describe YouTube as either a website or TV channel.  Admittedly they have to do that to chase advertising revenue but there was no evidence in their forward planning that they really understand their role as a platform.  They are focusing on better quality video, community (within YouTube) and rights management – i.e. the watcher / owner experience rather than the total user or contributor experience.

There is confusion about Twitter.  It’s a social network, according to Neville Hobson (@jangles).  Its an inaccurate information medium according to Hubert Grealish from Phillips.  It’s a waste of time which is what I sense many of the more journalistically inclined members of the audience felt.  The only consensus was that it had value as a listening /customer service tool.

Conversational marketing is something we know we have to do – but it is still difficult to define exactly what this is other than a new form of PR.  And no-one really has a clue about ROI, and the measurement / metrics space is still pretty hazy.

Finally, the whole thing is all very new and difficult – especially when it comes to trying to put this in front of forty-something marketing directors and get then to shell out some money.

Perhaps this confusion and lack of certainty is a good thing.  It reminds ourselves that this is the start of something big, not a passing fad.

The things I extracted were:

The answers to the questions debated are unlikely to emerge out of further conversation by the people currently debating them – they will emerge out of the behaviours and processes generated following adoption by “the great unwashed”, as Lee Bryant (@leebryant)referred to them.

The ROI debate is focused in the wrong place.  It is looking at individuals and individual transactions, forgetting that the real payback or impact in social media occurs out of a collective process of individual actions or connections – something that is greater than the sum of its constituent parts.  This focus on the individual is probably a hang-over from “old” digital marketing measurement and metrics.  Social media measurement has to be built around measuring processes and outcomes not individual actions.

So, for example, Guilluame du Gardier (@gdugardier)launched an impassioned plea concerning the difficulty of having and measuring a conversation with his 11 million consumers.  However, if he starts to look at what’s going on within those 11 million and what they want to talk about that is specifically relevant to his products – it stops being 11 million individual conversations and shapes into a small number of collective conversations with much greater shape and manageability.

Finally, the biggest successes in social media seem to be occurring where the action, in terms of content or conversation, is successfully devolved to communities controlled by brand users, rather than contained within communities owned by brands.  The notional “them” take responsibility for much of the heavy lifting.

But a good conference, despite (or perhaps because of) the confusion.  Thanks to DDB Radar and the people formerly know as Custom Communication – Matthew Yeomans and Bernhard Warner.

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