The Tale of Two Summits


I came to the Inbound Marketing Summit with the hopes of seeing some significantly evolved perspectives on social media and marketing. I was both pleased and disappointed. As I go through the voluminous write-ups on the overall excellent event, I realized that I wasn't the only person who felt like there were two conferences going on -- the one for the people who get it, and the one for the people who don't.

I'm not trying to be insulting here; in fact, quite the opposite: everybody who attended the conference got it, or at least knew what they didn't know. Everybody at IMS was savvy enough to know that things are different now. That's why they paid the big bucks to attend. But there were several speakers and conversations that stayed at a high-enough level to create some friction, even among the so-called social media "n00Bs". I heard several comments and tweets to the effect that "I don't need yet another speaker tell me that it's all about the conversation." As one blogger wrote:

50% of the content was spot on, phenomenal and light years ahead of the other 50%. If I heard one more time that “social media” is about “engagement, conversation and relationships” I thought I would hurl my iPhone right into the crowd. I GET IT. Can we talk about the state of organizations please? Because organizations - B2B, B2C, nonprofit, trying to make profit, whatever - are in a state of complete madness. And we all remember the definition of madness: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.

I myself was a bit disappointed that there wasn't more Christopher Penn-like tactical content (see the Gilbane Group Blog for a recap of several of the better presentations, including Chris's). I was also hoping for more measurement and ROI conversations (but the right kind). I got some of that, but not enough. As BrandSavant wrote:

The metrics are there–it’s simply a matter of doing pre/post measures on the ones that matter and off you go. The smartest people I know in social media know this–but there continues to be this prevailing received wisdom amongst social media enthusiasts which insists that, because social media engagement is the right thing to do (I don’t dispute that) that we should screw metrics (which I clearly differ with.) Metrics justify investment, which raises the profile of social media within the company, which in turn attracts the notice of the functions within the company that truly need to understand the transformative power of social networks. And I’m not talking about the marketing department.

As the great folks at New Marketing Labs look to next years IMS programs, I'd encourage them to explore two changes:

  1. Consider a pre-event "primer/basics" workshop for people who need some background and context for the main focus of the show. Or, alternatively, create a track system broken down by topic and/or knowledge level.
  2. Encourage more audience participation. There was quite a bit, but I think the audience, especially the less experienced members, kept quiet and let the more experienced, confident audience members ask their questions. This led to some frustration when the conversations got a little too deep into technical subjects.

Overall, I was very pleased with the event, and look forward to next year's programs.

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3 comments to The Tale of Two Summits

  • Todd,

    I think I’m smack dab in the middle: I think I get it, and I’m pretty sure I probably don’t. Kind of a fun learning place to be.

    For me, the content balance would have increased my positive evaluation had there been more users sharing their tales of struggle and success. Highlights were hearing from @PaulaBerg of Southwest, @GaryVee of WineLibrary TV, Greg Matthews (@chimoose) of Humana, and David Baeza of Citrix. Real companies showing how they solved/addressed their real challenges/opportunities.

    That, with a healthy dose of inbound marketing rock stars, would have been even better.

    And where were the panel discussions where panelists get so into it that they interrupt the moderator to ask a follow-up of another panelist. Can you imagine Chris Brogan or Paul Gillin trying to “manage” a conversation with Gary, Paula, and Greg? That’d be cool.

    Great to see you there!


  • Todd,
    I agree. Compared to last year, I was disappointed that there wasn’t more tactical hands on discussions of what is working, what tools everyone is using, what the budgets are, how to allocate resources, etc. At the same time, it is a fabulous event with an A list crowd. I’d loose the Inbound Marketing Summit moniker since if that is what I came for, I’d walk away disappointed. Last year’s presentation by Mike Volpe at Hubspot gave so much practical advice, that was missing this year. Instead of New Marketing Summit it should probably be the Social Media Summit since important emerging marketing channels like mobile (my specialty) have been ignored.
    Thanks for the recap and taking the time to put into words what many felt.

  • As a first-time attendee and less of a veteran of social media, I had no-preconceived notions of content, except that I was dazzled by the line-up. I decided to make like a sponge and just suck up as much as I could. This did cause a bit of brain overload because IMS09 was ambitious to say the least. From the newbie side I can confirm the Two Conferences hypotheses. I was seeing it from the side of sometimes being over my head with some of the more technical presentations. However, I liked the one-room schoolhouse nature of the conference. The Gillette Stadium venue allowed for that ‘everyone in the same room’ set-up. I learned my second grade social media grammar, absorbed a bunch of the junior high and high school content — and some of the big kids got the benefit of my questions and my valid input based on 20+ years of devising PR marketing strategy and implementation. Not sure how I’d feel about creating separate tracks next year. With as much great content as was presented, even loving 50% made it worthwhile!