We don’t often sponsor conferences, but the UK’s SMI Conference is an exception to the rule. Matthew, Mark and Bernhard put on an excellent event this week, with an interesting mix of familiar industry trends and some refreshingly new insights. The event was well-curated with interesting case studies aptly punctuated by fiery panel discussions, adding much fuel and pace to the day.
The theme this year was loosely based around the idea that algorthims and user-generated content is not enough – editorial and curation are, if anything, more valuable than ever in social media. Popular household names such as Google, Sony, Dell, Unilever and Tesco all shared their experiences with social media campaigns, and the various ways in which they are offering new brand experiences to impatient, curious and mercurial consumers. We watched Brand and Social Media Managers discuss cases close to home – Tesco.com’s rise as the fashion phoenix with the immensely popular Lifestyled, Unilever’s very informative and honest introspection about moving from hype spikes to consistent conversations with Lynx, and Sony’s crowd-sourced social commitment to humanity at Open Planet. Google, Virtue and Viadeo, on the other hand, offered shorter, more succinct success snippets from brands like Coca Cola, Apollo Cinemas, Aurabrush and Palladium – where the happy ever after is yet to come, primarily because the journey is far from over yet.
My colleague, Lee Bryant, spoke about how we are moving social media monitoring to a more business-focused practice of social business intelligence. Stuart, from Dell, also spoke about the great efforts they are putting into listening, and how this is driving business improvement.
My personal favourite, however, was probably the panel discussion on Mobile and the Social Era. Alive with electric chemistry and much witty humour, Jemima from Poke, Azeem from Peer Index, Peter from Living Social, Alex from O2 and Matt from The Guardian shared interesting insights on the phenomenal growth of the telecom industry. While the panelists generally agreed on the trend of honest corporate communication and therefore the social explosion, all of them conceded there would be a need for ‘relevance’ as opposed to just ‘conversation’, and saw a movement from Facebook towards FourSquare and location-based services – with an important ingredient of real-time information sharing – an essential requirement for mobile technology.
All in all, the Social Media Influence Conference was interesting and fun, and I think it reflected an industry that is maturing beyond the initial ad hoc campaign activity of social media and digital agencies towards a more consistent, sustainable, business-focused practice that can drive measurable results.
Congratulations to the guys at SMI for putting together a great event. And even better crème brûlée See you again next year, I hope.