This past week, I attended several events that were part of the FutureM (Future of Marketing) event in Boston. Unlike a lot of big conferences, FutureM is a confederation of smaller events, woven (largely by the local organization MITX) into a larger whole. I cherry-picked a number of events throughout the week, and here are few of my observations:
Advertising, Marketing, and PR are still not talking about the same thing, even though they are talking about the same thing.
I should not be offended by the presence of people from other disciplines, particularly the advertising side– as ideally, we all work together in designing a client’s overall communications plan. However, I did see many examples when it seemed like advertising people and other communications people were talking about completely different topics, even if they were on the same panel.
For example, one session on “captivating customers” included one representative of a B2B company discussing social media content strategy (a topic near and dear to us at Voce), and another from a media company who went on about capturing eyeballs via promotions on alternate screens. A bit confusing for all in one session? Where do the two meet?
In another session, a panel of eight students were assembled in an attempt to peek inside the digitalized “Gen Y.” At one point, they were asked their reaction to a pair of one-way brand campaigns. They remained polite, but I don’t get the impression they understood why they needed to react to a creative campaign; it didn’t seem to create brand affinity for them the way more meaningful interactions might.
Businesses Can Learn From Those in Different Industries
A panel featuring social media and web directors from various local colleges (Harvard, Babson and Emerson) showed me two things:
- Startups can talk to educational institutions about trying to be innovative within budget constraints. Colleges and universities have a long history of trying to make do with less.
- Larger enterprises can talk these same institutions about convincing disparate siloed departments to get with the social media program. If you think you have trouble getting product, marketing, and IT on the same page, try putting tenured professors into the mix and see how easy it is.
Community Management Has a Thriving… Community
The Community Roundtable (our frequent podcast partners) hosted a pair of panels on the future of Community Management. I continue to find community managers to be among the most thoughtful groups of people. Among the topics they discussed were: the extent of outsourcing needed for community; how and what to measure (focusing on the most important metrics trumps trying to capture everything); and the notion that community management runs deeper than the specialized positions now under the spotlight, into most aspects of any business.
Location-Based Services are Maturing, in a Way
At GeoM, the half-day summit on the future of location-based services, there wasn’t much talk about Facebook Places and Gowalla peeling away from the “check-in” game, but there was quite a bit of talk about the practical future of location-based services. It’s probably telling that of all the location services name-checked during the afternoon’s three panels, the only one I downloaded was a niche network (UnTappd, for beer lovers). Are the niches the only place for any social networks to make an impact, or have location-based services not caught on enough to even matter yet?
Another topic that was talked about quite a bit, on the panels and online during them, was the Daily Deals. I was most interested in the pursuit of the problem of Groupon et al attracting one-time unprofitable customers who don’t return. Whose responsibility is it to make daily deals a more lasting experience? I felt a sentiment toward the retailers needing to take responsibility for winning over these customers long-term after their initial visits, and perhaps the daily deals vendors being responsible for educating their retail customers, if only to stem the bad PR they have been getting as being “one-and-done” deal shops. Applying this to broader social media programs, it comes down to something we preach often; the program wins over the campaign; do you have a plan to retain after you attract?
As for the un-remarked-on Gowalla and Facebook Places news; I have long felt that the check-in is not the most important thing about location, and location is not the most important thing about the check-in. I think we’ll find out about that soon.