NYC Events: Agency BootCamp on Social Media

Bloggers note: Something really funny happened when I was going to post these notes. It took a few extra days because I couldn’t find the names of the people who were sitting on the panel. The event was called “Agency BootCamp on Social Media” and it’s a marketing panel discussion. Why the hell was I having so much trouble finding the names of theses people? They are supposed to be the experts on marketing, yet they can’t marketing themselves. The site doesn’t list past events, and nor does it list the panelists for upcoming events either! For marketers, they aren’t marketing themselves very well. I only knew about the event because I follow moderator Stephanie Agresta’s Twitter stream.

The next event that is taking place in Manahttan is at a price of $2,500 a head and I couldn’t imagine paying that amount of money for a one day bootcamp from the experience I had at the panel and especially afterwards. For that amount of money I could throw a Social Media Camp in Manhattan and probably learn more from it. This is just my opinion.

As a matter of fact, if someone interested in learning about this, they could go to any of the Social Media Camps that are going to start springing up across the country and get information from such a wide selection of people that eat and live this stuff not only professionally, but also as their hobby.
/rant and begin notes:

On July 30th, starting at 9:00 in the morning the Agency BootCamp held a panel discussion on social media marketing. I personally think that “social media” is a new way to describe the internet and is simply a buzz word to keep people interested in advertising online. I think the guys on the PodCamp Boston Smart Social Media Marketing panel had it right when they said that in five years social media marketing would no longer exists and it would be a part of media marketing. I see no line separates media marketing and social media marketing, so I agree with those guys. This panel wasn’t looking into the future but focusing on some of the issues that are happening right now. They also weren’t people from agencies, but they were people from the companies that an agency would work with on projects for a client, so they offer a very different point of view.

I’m going to be omitting most of the case study notes that were given and focus on the advice that was given and the questions the crowd was asking. If I thought the notes were extremely relevant I included, but most were superfluous to the conversation. Not being from an agency or having a marketing background, I’m unsure if case studies are important to a discussion like this. Do you really want to do what another company has done? Perhaps someone can set me right or wrong in the comments.

Also, I’ll be inserting my own insight into the coverage. Please understand this is my interpretation of the panel and not a direct report of everything that was said. I disagreed with what the panelists were saying at times and I made notes of that.

Stephanie Agresta runs and, surprisingly, is the CEO of Agresta PR. Her bio says she’s an expert on online marketing and web 2.0 strategies. She’s said or done nothing to make me think otherwise. She’s also chartering a bus with Gary Vaynerchuck to go from NYC to Boston for the Affiliate Summit. You can find her on Twitter at @stephagresta

Ted Murphy is currently the CEO and founder of IZEA. IZEA was formerly Pay Per Post, a service that paid bloggers to speak about certain topics or products. IZEA essentially does the same but the SocialSpark and IZEA names. He can be found on Twitter at @tedmurphy

Mark Charkin is head of sales for the UK and Ireland for Bebo. His bio says he’s an adventurous soul. Bebo is the social network that’s not popular in the US, but I hear it’s popular in the UK.

Cynthia Crossland is the senior director of advertising at RockYou.

Robert Palma is senior VP of sales for Cafe Mom. Cafe Mom is a networking and community site for moms and is the most visited site of its kind on the internet.

Suzanne Skop is the VP of East coast sales for MySpace. MySpace is the website that you keep a profile on because one day you might actually need it, kinda like that VCR you still have in your basement. You can’t view VHS takes without a VCR and you can’t view MySpace profiles without a MySpace account.

Stephanie started off asking if supporting social media with advertising was really the only way to succeed in this game. Suzanne Skop said that MySpace has a database of consumers, and because of the nature of MySpace, they have a lot of personal information about each one of those people provided they correctly filled out their profile information. This is a case of the wisdom of crowds, but also realize that the system is susceptible to being gamed if the crowd makes a group decision to throw off the statistics. An example of this is the recent gaming of IMDB to put The Dark Knight as the #1 movie of all time. The previous top movie, The Godfather, dropped to #3 because not only were people voting The Dark Knight up, they were also voting The Godfather down. How can this happen on MySpace? Take a look across the people who don’t want their age to be displayed and for the most part they choose 100 as their age. This throws off the average age numbers and it also skews the demographics for their actual age.

As an aside, Suzanne Skop referred to the people with accounts on MySpace as “consumers”. I would think that the community on MySpace would object to being called consumers. Even Suzanne Skop said that MySpace has a very personal relationship with their community, and I don’t think the community wants to be thought of as simply consumers by anyone.

Robert Palma’s answer to the advertising question was that the advertising that Cafe Mom does revolves around word of mouth. If they can identify influencers and the influencers enjoy the product, that is a more effective method of advertising. You create a brand spokesman instead of an advertisement.

Cynthia Crossland’s answer was that Rock You sells advertising and branding against their games, apps and widgets. I think there’s a potential for advertising burn out by the users of these games. It’s possible that whatever site that these widgets are on will have many advertisements on a page and then even more ads inside the content of the widget. I suppose the tricky part is creating content that doesn’t seem like advertising, but then again that is the goal for everyone, not just the goal of the widget makers.

Mark Charkin’s solution is that you have to create compelling interactive content and allow brands to be a part of those interactions. With people from MySpace and Bebo on the same pane, I’m not sure how much their answers will differ on issues like this. What Mark Charkin said about Bebo also applies to MySpace and vice versa.

Ted Murphy and Izea don’t rely on advertising, but paying bloggers and content producers to create content focused on the brand or product that they are working for. If this sounds like a familiar tune, that is because Izea used to be known as Pay Per Post and was very disruptive to the blogging community. Even the name was disruptive. I have a few friends that have gotten paid through the service and I still read their blogs, so as a reader of blogs I suppose I’m not against the idea but I don’t think that you’ll ever find me writing about a topic on here because I was paid to. Unless of course I was paid a whole lot.

Next, Stephanie asked the panel how they measure success. This is an important question, because what these agencies are attempting to accomplish is much larger than CPM rates. CPMs are meant for Google ads, not for the campaigns that are being discussed.

Robert Palma measures success by word of mouth. If you monitor your communities and pay attention to the comments you can tell if your campaign is working. Suzanne Skop said that success used to be measured in the number of friends that a brand would have on MySpace, but not any longer. Now it’s about something they call “the momentum effect”. They measure how viral content gets, or what they call the pass along rate. Success is when I take content from the Adidas page and then someone else takes it from my profile. That rate was about 10% according to Suzanne Skop. Cynthia Crossland’s success is also measuring how viral a widget gets. Ted Murphy said the same thing as everyone else and it’s all about how many people pass the message along. He did say one thing that I didn’t agree with. He said that no one passes on banner ads, but I disagree. I think that people don’t pass along banner ads that are paid for, but you see plenty of people passing along banner ads with a different name. Lots of people pass along badges on their site. A recent example is how amazingly well the Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog advertisements were passed around or Firefox’s world record download banners for Firefox Download Day.

Mark Charkin was the only person to offer a slightly different opinion. He said there were five keys to measure success. Traditional metrics play a part, because in the end, it is all about the numbers. The second was engagements, which everyone else spoke about previously. The third was equity metrics, which asks the question of did buys go up after the campaign? The last is the buzz effect, which is the effect on the brand around the web.

The last of Stephanie’s questions was about blogs. She mentioned that Jason Calacanis recently went to an email list and turned his blog off. Is blogging dead? Where do blogs fit in to this?

Pretty much everyone neglected to talk about blogs despite the question being very direct. Ted Murphy made the point that the blogging population is becoming fragmented and moving to smaller communities like Twitter, Seesmic, Plurk, 12Seconds etc. Well, okay, he only mentioned Twitter. All the platforms play a role despite their fragmentation. Mark Charkin said that there are different levels of communication besides blogging. These answers really seemed to downplay the immense power blogging had a few years ago that seemed to disappear recently.

Someone from the audience gave a story about a company that uploaded a risque ad to Facebook and it became the most viewed ad across the network. If a company can do with without working with an agency, what is the role of the agency?

Mark Charkin said that certain content will always be found, but agencies can work for better initial placement rather than relying on something to become so wildly popular and viral. There are avenues ways for companies to display their content besides what is open to user accounts. Stephanie said that the advertisements can reinforce the brand. This is something that Stever Robbins spoke about at PodCamp Boston 3. It’s all about repetition, not duration.

The next audience question was about getting the attention of the users. Robert Palma said there are many ways, starting with search marketing. You can advertise on the larger networks to try and target your core audience and then try to pull them into your site or community. Cafe Mom went into a community that already existed and attempted to get their early users that way. You see this a fair amount lately. BrightKite got popular in part because of all of the people talking about it on Twitter and the sale goes for Plurk. Phreads was partially born from Seesmic’s community and I could give many more examples, but I won’t go on forever.

The audience went back to measuring success. This time someone wanted to know about filters or checkmarks for success. This spoke to how badly certain patches of audience needed success spelled out for them instead of going on a case by case basis. I got the impression form the panel that if things got better, you might be able to attribute it to a campaign, but there’s no real way to measure success.

Suzanne Skop defines a success check mark when the audience has a dialog with the brand (or the agency representing the agency). Robert Palma said that if there is value to the user there is success. Mark Charkin said that when you add utility to a page, you can embrace the audience engagement. There’s a difference between push and pull marketing, and with pull marketing you have to ask yourself what are you adding to the pre-existing site or community.

Speaking of differences, the next question was about campaign length. In the past, it was about short campaigns, but we’re now seeing that longer campaigns are more useful to the users. How can agencies go about convinciung brands to extend their campaigns and shift the direction to longevity and sustained relationships?

Mark Charkin said it’s a mind shift. Instead of advertising, you have to think about building communities with the brands on the different sites. Robert Palma said that your goal as brand advocates is long term. In order to have a sustainable platform, the content needs to be up much longer. One to one marketing was a pipe dream years ago, but technology has finally caught up and it’s a possibility now. Ted Murphy said that you’re building as asset. Not just a friend list.

The audience shifted to asking if clients are thinking about CRM. Cynthia Crossland quickly pointed out that every fan page that exists is a CRM vehicle.

The next question was about display ads versus integrated content. Mark Charkin said that they are done differently and with integrated content you have the ability to gram and manage communities. I’m starting to sense a trend with these answers. But could it harm a brand if an agency is managing their communities for them instead of the brand doing it directly? Mark Charkin said that it’s something to consider on a brand by brand basis. Ted Murphy said that it’s not about moderating a community but creating opportunity for conversation. Everyone’s answers are going to start sounding the same at this point because either the audience isn’t getting the point or the panelists don’t have much to say. I think the blame should fall on the audience in this case. I don’t think that these people would agree to be on a panel if they didn’t want to talk about it.

Onto a new topic, does the panel see mobile marketing as a bridge? Suzanne Skop said that mobile marketing needs to be more interactive in order to be effective. Across the bard, everyone said “We’re putting content on phones”. No one besides Suzanne Skop really answered the question before I chimed in with my big mouth.

I was curious to move back to blogging for a moment. Stephanie mentioned blogging was dead earlier and no one really talked about it. Gawker’s pay is down, Calacanis gave up blogging and the Weblogs inc. bloggers are largely going pro bono. Are we seeing the end of the career blogger and once again the rise of the hobbyist? Once these communities fragment further, are any of these companies worried about not being able to find the influencers easily anymore?

Mark Charkin said it’s more than just bloggers. It’s about creating forums for the users. He’s avoiding the blogging subject, but Bebo isn’t about bloggers anyway. But the idea applies to Bebo. With more niche communities and sites springing up, people only have so much attention to give and the larger sites could suffer as a result. Ted Murphy has a different point of view that the splintering is a good thing for Izea. They focus on individuals and the long tail. They target people across multiple levels. It’s all about matching the right people with the right products. He also said that instead of paying one person $10,000, they pay 1,000 $10 a piece.

Moving away from that, the audience once again wants to know about success and metrics. Once again the panel launched back into their talk on metrics. Other answers in other words: passalong, engagement and monitoring the communities. Stephanie added you can search Twitter with to monitor for brand names.

How should you filter for inappropriate content and or content that might offend more conservative companies. Suzanne Skop said it’s impossible. It’s like managing spam. One way to easily filter out content is to have pages without any user generated content.

As a brand, how valuable is monitoring user generated content? Is that for the brand to do or the agency to do? Ted Murphy says that any negative comment is an opportunity to create a brand advocate by righting whatever happened that was wrong.

How long should the content that you are creating for a brand sit on a site? Ted Murphy said to keep the audience engaged, you need to continually update the content. Mark Charkin says that if you keep things fresh and just change little bits of content or change the skin of the site, you are still looking fresh. If you can get the community making the content, then they are doing your work for you. Robert Palma suggested possibly swapping brands within a company on the page to keep people interested. What does the panel see the differences between micro-sites and social networks. Of course Mark Charkin asked why it was necessary to have micro-sites when you can put everything onto a social network. Suzanne Skop suggests sending people to the micro-site first with some kind of incentive and then sending them to the social network to continue engaging people.

What about data portability? Stephanie said that people are assuming that they own their relationships and communities. They want to be able to take their friends and relationships and go wherever they want and maintain those relationships.

Somehow I missed the transition where Suzanne Skop started talking about apps vs. widgets, claiming there was a difference between the two. I think it’s arbitrary wording here. No one referred to these things as apps until Facebook called them that. I would also argue that there are no widgets on Facebook, only apps. She claimed that widgets are things like games or slideshows and apps are things that you can get information from. I disagree with what she was saying, but I understand that there is a need to give these older technologies new names in order to get them attention.

The panel discussion got me thinking about a lot of different ways to promote myself and the causes that I am a part of. I would suggest that if you wanted to get into the heads of these social media marketing folks, attend one of the Agency BootCamp panels. In the least they were serving some free bagels and orange juice.