The ROI of Social Media Conferences

RMG Conferences

Overwhelmed by all the social media marketing meetups, tweetups, seminars & conferences?

As the owner of a social media marketing agency, I find it extremely important to balance my time between managing my clients social media accounts, my company’s social media accounts and attending relevant industry-related events. If you spend as little as 30 minutes a day on Twitter or Facebook, you will probably notice that there are an overwhelming amount of conferences related to social media marketing. This is an amazing facet of our industry – as the communications industry is undergoing a fundamental shift in the way we communicate, marketers and public relations professionals are coming together at record numbers to feel their way through this new “social media revolution.”

As a business owner, it is important to manage your time when choosing which events are relevant to attend. It is also important to check your motives for attending conferences. For example, in the past few months I have attended the Web 2.0 Conference at the Javitz Center, The MIT Forum on Social Media, The BDI Social Integration Conference, The Trust Summit Breakfast with Chris Brogan & Charles Green, The Mashable Holiday Party, The BDI Social Consumer Conference as well as Westchester Social Media Tweetups. I have also led social media seminars to CEO groups in Westchester, NY, led a roundtable discussion on using social media for personal & corporate branding at the BDI Social Integration Conference and will be leading an upcoming Columbia University Business School Alumni workshop on social media marketing in Greenwich, CT.

My primary purpose for attending these events & leading these seminars was not to acquire new business – it was quite the contrary. As a result of attending these conferences, I have made some invaluable business relationships that are equally as important to me as any new client relationships would be.

Here is a brief recap of my most meaningful relationships as a result of attending social media conferences this past year:

While waiting outside of the Harvard Club for the Trust Summit breakfast with Chris Brogan, I met Jeffrey Fass, the President of Linear Design. It turns out Jeffrey’s cousin was my neighbor in Waccabuc and that he was also starting a company called Successful Pursuits, a community for independent creative professionals to come together. Jeffrey is responsible for the creation of my company’s website, while I am responsible for the social media marketing strategy for Successful Pursuits. At the Trust Summit breakfast, I met Chris Brogan, who was instrumental in forming my company name and wrote in my book “Hi Kristen, My pleasure meeting you in person and I hope you find a gem of a name.” Chris inspired me to keep my @sparklingruby Twitter handle and also gave me hope that there really were good people out there (Chris is one of the most genuine guys I know). At the Trust Summit breakfast I also met Charles Green, who immediately sent me a copy of one of his latest books on building trust in client relationships, and was one of the first people to comment on my blog posts. At the BDI Conference, I was hysterical while watching Tim Washers performance and followed up with him through Facebook. We have since met to discuss his recent comical ventures and most recently he invited me to hear him speak with David Meerman Scott at HBS. At the Web 2.0 Expo, I met John Adams in person- and after following my live tweets at the BDI conference he assumed I was a fellow reporter as well. He has since joined my company as Director of Editorial.

The people I have met at these conferences have become an integral part of my company – not because they are clients but because they are friends. They are essentially my group of “trusted advisors” and I value and respect their opinions. I am so grateful to have met these people at different conferences, and looking back I can see how each of them has shaped a part of my business.

My advice is to approach networking and conferences not from a place of “What can I get out of this” but from “What can I contribute and what knowledge can I share” Jeffrey Fass, John Adams, Tim Washer, Chris Brogan and Charles Green have all inspired me and for that I am truly grateful. In many respects, they serve as my own trusted board of advisors in a virtual sense.

How do you measure the ROI on gratitude? You don’t!

Here are my best tips for making the most out of conferences:

  • Go to the conference with an open mind
  • Do not evaluate the success of the conference based on how many prospects came out of it
  • Instead, evaluate it on how many new business relationships you have formed (which can be more valuable in the long run)
  • Pick and choose which conferences you attend – do not spread yourself too thin
  • Always follow up with people within 48 hours of meeting them – through email, LinkedIn, Facebook or Twitter
  • If you are at an event where people are handing you their cards left and right, take notes on the back of them to remember standout conversations
  • Share the knowledge you have acquired from the event with the rest of us – whether you are blogging or live-tweeting – who were not able to attend (people really appreciate this)
  • If people give you their email as an act of trust, don’t abuse this privilege by adding them to your company newsletter the second you get back to the office (people hate this)
  • Be genuine, honest & open in all communications (both online and off)
  • Finally, conferences are supposed to be fun! Sometimes the best conversations I have with people are about topics unrelated to social media. Take an interest in someone else’s life rather than pushing a product – people can smell this from a mile away.

Here are my friend Vicky’s Tips – from PR Newswire:

“You can’t go to one of these events and sit there and say the ROI of this event was blank. It is something that takes time. The ROI comes after time put into the continued networking that happens after you meet the people at the events. Last year, I attended 6 major industry conferences. You can spend all your time being at conferences. What is most important is maximizing the time you do spend at the conference. Make sure you are at conferences that will be beneficial – by your presence, or that it can benefit you and you will take away something valuable. It is about connecting with people – you have to be selective in terms of the conferences you attend. If you go to everything, you are shooting in the dark.”

“Networking is great – but you have to balance it with production of whatever it is you do.

“Use networking to build positive association with your brand- people that do this are more successful then those who solely use it for marketing.”