Let’s take a look at some places where social media conferences fall short (and how you can overcome these shortcomings) and where they excel:
1. The Speakers Assume People have Unlimited Time
The speakers at social media conferences are all full-time professionals, which means that they do social media all day, every day. The reality of the matter is that only big companies can afford to do that. The typical small business owner only has a little bit of time each day or week to devote to social media. Even social media managers and full-time marketers often spend large chunks of their days doing things other than their core social media functions. This means that the frame of reference that speakers use is all wrong. They give recommendations for ways to improve social media efforts as if attendees have unlimited time and support to devote to social media.
Game Plan: Find ways to scale back speakers’ ideas to fit into your tight schedule.
2. The Focus is Always on The Wrong Metrics
Followers, likes, and favorites are often used to gauge the effectiveness of social media efforts. While these metrics are easy to track and report, they aren’t the right metrics to watch. Metrics like engagement, sentiment, and brand awareness are much better social indicators but they are more difficult to gather and report, which makes them harder for marketers to lean on.
Game Plan: Make sure you track these more important metrics with your social media efforts and include them in your reports to management or your clients.
3. The Tools are All Basically the Same
Social media conferences bring out tons of new technologies. A million tools compete to be the latest and greatest, but in the end most of them are simply reinventing the wheel. Apart from the helpful functionality of aggregating data across platforms and making posting and tracking easier, many of these social media tools are basically the same as their competitors and are just jazzed up with various bells and whistles that you really don’t need. It’s hard to cut through the clutter and figure out what’s really worth paying for and using.
Game Plan: Before attending, make a list of features that you’re looking for in your next social media tool so that you’re not swayed by the pretty interfaces of the software you see at the conference.
4. The Participants are Really Showy
Social media conference attendees are some of the most rabidly excited and enthusiastic business professionals you’ll ever meet! This energy can be contagious and get you buzzing about your social media efforts too, which makes the whole atmosphere sort of party-like. However, many of these attendees are also really showy and want to tout their own successful strategy in a way that comes off as boastful rather than educational. It’s easy to let these people make you feel like your efforts are inferior or doomed for failure.
Game Plan: Learn as much as you can from successful people and just remember that every company has different needs and resources, so you shouldn’t judge your efforts against someone else’s efforts.
5. The Connections you Make Rarely Amount to Much
The mingling and networking sessions at all conferences are intended to give you time to interact with your peers and grow your professional network. However, at social media conferences in particular, it seems like these connections don’t usually amount to much. All too often, you’ll come away from a conference with a bunch of new followers and a stack of business cards, which looks really promising. But then over the next few months you’ll notice that your social interactions with these new followers are minimal (or non-existent) and the business cards are just taking up room on your desk because you never actually connected with any of their owners.
Game Plan: Try to make an honest-to-goodness true connection with people and then follow up afterwards with everyone you met so that they remember you.
Reasons to Love Social Media Conferences
1. The Free Swag is Awesome
I’ve done a lot of conference bashing throughout this article, but I want to give credit where credit is due. Social media conferences have the best promotional swag! There, I said it. I’ve been to lot of different types of conferences – digital marketing conferences, web analytics conferences, interactive media conferences, clinical laboratory conferences, business psychology conferences and none of them compare to the awesome free swag at social media conferences!
Game Plan: If you’re planning on flying to the conference, leave enough room in your bag to bring home goodies for your family, friends, and coworkers!
Kate Pierce is the owner of LionShark Digital Marketing LLC, a West Michigan internet marketing company. Her areas of expertise include Paid Search, Search Engine Optimization, Social Media, Web Consulting for small businesses, Copywriting and Local Online Marketing. She lives in the Grand Rapids area with her husband and enjoys cooking, watching sports and spending time outdoors. Like a true digital marketing expert (i.e. geek), she loves talking about marketing theory and SEM trends… so don’t say you weren’t warned!