Thoughts on #SMWNYC 2015


What brought us here? Where are we going next? If I were to summarize the topics and conversations we had this past week at Social Media Week in New York City#, I would group them into two main questions. I attended the sessions that took an honest look at problems, and what people are doing to alleviate them.

By far the most engaging conversation was the one that happened on stage the third day of the conference during the session on Fostering Self-Disruption, Collaboration and Innovation at Large Companies. Having worked at many large companies I was looking for perspective. Beth Comstock, Healey Cypher, Bre Pettis, and Justin Stanwix delivered in spades.

From embracing the tension between “should I?” of marketing and “can I?” of engineering in organizations and other innovation metrics that work — throughput, velocity, improving cycles — via Comstock to “Paying for courage” on hiring consultants to decide to innovate by Stanwix, and learning about Round Pegg#, a tool to understand cultural fit, build a team quickly via Pettis, I felt we were just as much part of the conversation as audience — and that is quite a feat to do with a panel.


Anil Dash engaged the Rev. Jesse Jackson in a universally important topic of diversity. Though the session focused specifically on diversity in tech, the themes that emerged from the fireside chat format addressed the topic more broadly. Thought and expression are both vital aspects of thriving communities and organizations can benefit greatly from it.

A few speakers and panels added a refreshing element of delight and surprise. The super fast 10-minute segment on attention by Faris Yakob warranted a follow up round table conversation with attendees. Why not factor that into next year's format? It is an event on social and should be more social to help us see what else we are collectively learning staged along formal remarks. Conversation as a better Q&A. Maybe the conference followed his advice on value being a function of scarcity.


Another session worthy of round table was the one with Michael Zimbalist from The New York Times on Measuring Attention and Intention, starting with the USP of digital and the experiments by the NYT as well as the FT pilot. One thought I had about attention, time, and value was to discuss measuring — miles or inches? with @ev and take a look at Medium. As I said in that post:

Are we asking the right questions, says Williams? Say we determine that time spent, a measure of attention, is better than click volume:

The problem with time, though, is it’s not actually measuring value. It’s measuring cost as a proxy for value.

Advertisers don’t really want your time — they want to make an impression on your mind, consciously or subconsciously (and, ultimately, your money).

Measuring proxies of value is where we are. He then says:

At Medium, we don’t really want anyone’s time. We want to create a platform that enables people to make an impression on others. To make them think. To change their minds. To teach them something or connect emotionally. It’s hard to measure any of that.

If you are a publisher and want to understand whether you make an impression on others, you cross reference a number of data points.

Faris Yakob's upcoming book on attention is possibly more focused on the ad space. Still, I do wonder about his take on Zimbalist's attention cannot be used to deliver signal.

BuzzFeed Motion Pictures head Jonathan Perelman talked about the difference between stories made to be consumed and stories made to be shared. The latter are conceived to get people to talk. Another interesting distinction he made was between the stream that comes to you and where you go when you look for something, and the garden where you go to do something specific. Simplicity and surprise are the two "S" of stories. The first one makes them consumable, the second sharable.  

SMWNYC_Networks of Influence

After sitting in his session on networks of influence I believe Marcus Collins and I have walked and worked converging paths for years. My talk on influence touched upon ways to conduct outreach and built on some of the very themes Collins referenced. His students at NYU are very lucky to have such an engaged practitioner. In addition to not getting lost in Translation, I discovered a company I did not know before. Well done Marcus. Mitch Brooks at Crimson Hexagon delivered clarity and perspective to the discussion. From the session description:

This “upwardly mobile” generation of consumers is neither traditional nor monolithic, and in an omni-connected social landscape with diverse curation of cultures, brands must work harder to be culturally relevant, and often come up short. Marketing to the connected class will require a deeper understanding of cultural influence and the role social plays in the spread of products and ideas.

Saving the best single speaker talk for last, Crowdfunding expert Clay Hebert gave us a very pragmatic construct we can adapt to all kinds of marketing to make it relevant — a platform you build or borrow, an authentic story, and a compelling offer. Learning to see is a critical skill for marketers to embrace the changes that are affecting how we buy and operate in the world. “It's not a meritocracy,” he said. “It's a marketocracy.” In this new/content- and product-saturated world, we are all called to research, experiment, and adjust/iterate constantly. Download his best crowdfunding hacks here.


All that, and I got my very first brand new $2 bill from qzzr (thank you and for the water, too, guys.)


[images I took with my aging iPhone #SMWNYC]