I attended the Social Media Week Mumbai last month. It was a five-day event where people who were interested in #Socialmedia gathered to learn and share knowledge. The expectations in general were to learn how to leverage social channels to achieve various business goals whether they are engagement related goals or someone’s ego related goals. Many people were hoping to see that the experts will help in explaining how #SocialMedia can be helpful to grow businesses and build personal brands.

My hope with the event was to gain some consumer insights. Also, I was looking forward to learning about how companies have effectively used social media to connect with their audiences. I was hoping that some *big brands* will showcase how they have been able to use such channels in an effective way that it ties with their business goals. Unfortunately, many sessions were disappointing, to say the least, many of the sessions were like “Woo-Woo”.

The so-called ‘social media influencers’, which in my opinion are “population gatherers” as India has abundance of people, came on stage and grossly mis-guided the ‘social media enthusiasts’ or someone who mockingly said during conversations: ‘social media evangelists’.

Many of the panelists and other attendees that I met were grossly ignorant of any scientific methodologies of experimentation in digital media. And maybe I am making a wrong assumption here as they might be aware of it and might be practicing the same, however, they chose to stay silent on the same and not disclose it with the audiences. They aptly mis-“guided” the naive audience with more “Woo-Woo”. The audiences clapped for this “woo-woo” and took away “great learning” back with them and then vomited it out on social media with #Tags and blog entries and likes.

I rarely attend Indian digital marketing events. As most of these events are like mass scale “pitch” sessions by digital agencies, social media agencies, SEO agencies or companies offering solutions for small, medium and large enterprises. While, it is okay for companies to make pitches, however, the funnel is broken here, and they do not practice what they preach themselves.

Let me explain briefly:

1) Hypocrisy – While you will read and learn from many content marketing experts that ‘Content is King’ and ‘Structure your Content for the channel’ and ‘customize content to your audiences’. These agencies conveniently borrow these statements for their tweets and blogs and presentations. However, they forget to implement these in their ‘mass pitches’. Without providing valuable case studies or data on why something works or why it doesn’t, such pitches are meaningless.

2) Broken Funnel – The mass pitch funnel is broken. The target audience is so diverse that the mass pitch is not catering to any of the target audience. There are no polls done to understand who are the attendees? There is no pre-qualification done on the same. All attendees irrespective of their interest in the event is clubbed together in the same room.

  • Decision maker is bored with the pitch as it’s not talking about numbers.
  • The influencer is not interested as it’s not talking about what’s in it for them to influence the decision
  • The execution person is not interested as it’s not helping them to understand how it will make their job better, easier.

And all we hear is “we are the best agency” stories. Where are the case-studies of your clients? Where are the objective statements and measurable results?

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Some of the points I wanted to write about from the sessions I attended.

Mis-leading Sessions – Winners have product strategy and losers a marketing strategy. This session talked about how companies should have a Product Strategy and Marketing strategy is such a losing proposition. While, I agree that Product strategy is paramount, however, a communication strategy that works in tandem with product strategy is equally important. The speakers conveniently chose to hide marketing and communications inside the product strategy and mis-lead the audiences.

Let me explain, if I build a product strategy that has awesome experiences and has hooks built into it that prompts user to act and share of certain achievements or good experiences with product on social media channels, is a great example of Product strategy plugged with Communication strategy. Just by encompassing the communication strategy as part of product strategy is a mis-leading proposition.

What about Experimentation Strategy? – If such re-structuring of terms is being done, then why not also separate the experimentation strategy? Testing which message gives a higher referral, what points of product journey to prompt users is again an example of bringing product and marketing together. Unfortunately, the session didn’t talk about that, why?

The marketing strategy works (it does, happy to explain a model to anyone who wants to learn), a combination of SEO, Social Sharing, Friend Referrals, Search Ads, Display Ads, Video ads and so one. Building a measurable structure and determining Acquisition costs with attributions, Retention Rates and Life-time value. Why is there no mention of that in the entire discussion?

Unprepared Panel Discussions – While the topics used for many other sessions were very catchy, however, the content just didn’t live up to its expectations. Why? I can only speculate that very few panelists seem to have prepared for the presentations. It was like a 15-minute call done by the panelists a day before, and they all landed on the stage. Nothing of value came out of so many panels. Very few panels had something of value to add, and I tweeted about some of the learning that I got out of these sessions.

Poor Quality Workshops – Example of Misleading poor quality workshop – Advanced DoubleClick Marketing Session – I am a user of Google DFA in India. I attended this session in the hope that I will learn some insights on optimization of DFA campaigns. Unfortunately, this session was a disaster. It was more like a quiz where they were trying to figure out how many clients can we get at the end of the session. Pathetic and poor. No content hand-out and nothing of value shared or discussed.

Poor methodology – I used to work for a company called Naseba. Where I used to help in organizing focused events for CXO audiences in Europe, Middle East, APAC. These events were structured in a way that there was pre-qualification done based on the requirements of the people attending the events. Very structured personalized agendas were served to people attending. The sponsors used to generate high ROI while at the event as they used to close deals. However, digital events here in India are so poorly structured that the decision makers, the influences, the execution people and strategists all are sitting together getting completely confused and gaining no valuable insights. Events should be tailored in a way that it adds value from the perspective of the audience, and there should be segmentation. Unfortunately, nothing of that sorts happen and we see utter chaos.

The Good things: While I shared some of the points of extreme discontent, there were some good sessions too. In these sessions, people genuinely shared some consumer insight. Some people shared methodologies of how to approach consumer communication, experiments and deriving insights. Some of the good sessions were: Stand-up comedy in india: online viral, offline houseful!, Product MVP DesignEarned traffic and authority by Jeff BullasBuzzfeed Session, Dharavi goes socialBollywood trolling was good entertainment.

I have attended few events outside of India, for example, I attended an A/B testing event in London by a seemingly less known site Whichtestwon.com. These guys talked about 100s of case-studies from multiple companies from many parts of the world. Such an event added a ton of information and insights about consumer behavior and the scientific method of conducting tests and learning instead of just harping about how great their agency was. They gave booklets with 100s of case-studies as the accompanying conference material instead of “sales brochures” from the sponsors. Every single time, I train my brain to overlook the past (pathetic events in India) and go for such events, all I get is disappointment.

Digital marketing is a new and upcoming field in India. It’s been around for less than 15 years in India. While people are getting excited and their career choices are getting influenced based on what they see and hear in such events, the speakers, organizers, panels and attendees have a responsibility to improve the overall outcome of such events. I hope the agencies that are going to host digital marketing events in the future, read this and spend some time in thinking before producing the digital marketing events.

Thank you for reading (if you did). I am always open to criticism and critique. Leave a comment or tweet if you disagree or have a point to add / subtract.

Reposted from here.

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