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According to global business event organiser GDS International, its recent social media marketing conference iStrategy was the ‘best yet’. But, says MeetTheBoss TV editor and iStrategy emcee Adam Burns, the medium must shed its self-imposed weight of expectation to capture the heart of business. Global business event organiser GDS International (http://www.gdsinternational.com) has held five of its digital strategy and social media marketing conference series, iStrategy (http://www.istrategyconference.com) in 2011. The conference’s year started in San Francisco, visited Amsterdam twice, Melbourne and Atlanta.
Speakers have included Internet luminaries like Craig Newmark, founder of craigslist and Jimmy Wales, founder of Wikipedia; social media experts from switched on brands such as Kodak, Orange, McDonald’s, Heineken and Coca-Cola; and new giants Facebook, Google, Foursquare, Rovio, and Zynga (“Brands so now my watch asked them the time,” says iStrategy emcee Adam Burns).
Alongside the high quality of speakers and their content, linking all five events is a cutting edge crowd and master of ceremonies, Adam Burns, editor of executive learning site MeetTheBoss TV (http://www.meettheboss.tv).
“I have spent ten days talking to a sea of illuminated logos and sharp t-shirts,” says Adam. “Like dolphins designed in California, the collective noun for digital marketers is now an ‘ipod’.”
“I loved it. Brilliant, engaged people and a nascent, still malleable industry. Their honesty, and the way in which problems were generously admitted and easily discussed across the broad spectrum of industry represented on stage, is a world away from the closed doors of, for example, a recent financial services gathering, about which I can say no more due to the non-disclosure agreement we signed at the door.
“What amazed me, however, was that the good folk at iStrategy discussed and shared far more ‘mission critical’ information – routes to market, case studies and inspiration – than those in financial services.”
Adam believes the ‘iStrategists’ also identified the last barrier to wider social media adoption.
“In certain circles, social media is loaded with some pretty highfalutin’ ideals,” he says. “It is immersive. It rewards transparency. It is a light to shine on the ugly, sticky bits of business to make them shape up. The companies that win at social media are social companies. It is a revolution.
“All very noble: not all of it true. The finance folk were happy to talk about anything and everything they could commoditise – IT, catering, etc. They were not happy to talk about product development. But neither is Apple (to pick a company at the other end of the cool spectrum).
“Parts of business will always – by necessity – be behind closed doors. In their early stages, even world-conquering ideas like Facebook are fragile. They need to be protected, supported, tested and developed. They do not need broadcasting.
“Social media has an incredible role to play in communications. It offers a genius route to personalized marketing. It genuinely can make me love a brand, and advocate that brand based on the warmth and humanity of its contact. But I don’t believe it is a revolution for business.
“The quicker it can drop this weight of expectation and flex some savvy metrics, the more intrinsic and effective social media will become. Even for financial services.”
To promote proven, sustainable social media marketing strategies for all businesses, iStrategy is launching a series of videos filmed at and behind the scenes of its conferences.