3 Takeaways from Pivotcon 2012

Doodle.ly by @DoodlelyOwl

Earlier this week I had the pleasure to join a few colleagues and 700 others in New York City for Pivotcon2012.  This was my first experience with this conference, and I came away impressed.

First, kudos should go out to the organizers and Editorial Director Brian Solis, because they did something that I felt – for the most part – really worked, and isn’t done at too many (any?) other shows.  They constructed the agenda so there was a story arc throughout the two days.

Monday morning started at a very high level – discussions around the implications for leadership in a socially connected world, gradually shifting into more detail through conversations on investing in trust and transparency within your business, building an adaptable brand in a social era, the slow and often agonizing attempts to move mainstream businesses to adopt social.

At times, there was a sense of group therapy – social media practitioners expressed frustration at the slow pace of change within their own organizations. It’s difficult for someone in my space to imagine, but a lot of companies still aren’t comfortable or ready to truly embrace social.  One presenter remarked her company had formed a social media strategy team 18 months ago and only recently rolled out their first Facebook page! The focus in the room was on celebrating these successes as forward movement. One panelist, noted that they define success based on ROLO – Return on Learning Objective. This creates a safe place to allow for experimentation, without a sole focus on driving quarterly numbers.

Doodle.ly by @theREALdanmeth

Charlene Li from Altimeter Group challenged the attendees in a discussion on courage – and the importance for digital and social marketers to encourage senior leadership to make the leap of faith and have the courage to move their organizations into the social stream. She asked everyone to remember the trepidation they had when they wrote their first blog post, or sent their first Tweet. That sense of foreboding is still real for many executives.

From there, the conversations got more and more detailed, moving from building a social business, the role and impact social can have on employees, what social means for individual departments like customer service, advertising, marketing and even specific segments such as music, journalism, health and more.

I learned a lot, tweeted a bit, met some great people, and came away with a few nuggets:

1) ROI will continue to be an issue with regards to social.

This is due to multiple factors.  First, demanding ROI is often a tactic by leaders who don’t understand and want to block a project.  (Something I’ve written about before).  But there is another reason as pointed out by David Rogers – nobody is calculating ROI correctly, and every time marketing talks about ROI it “makes us look stupid to Finance!”  There is a difference between marketing effectiveness and KPI’s and this makes it difficult to calculate ROI.

2) The keys are transparency, sincerity and authenticity.

This transfers throughout your brand, your employees, partners, and customers – everywhere.   No, you can’t, as one panelist pointed out, have your interns out drunk on a Saturday night with the ability to tweet under the corporate account.  But you also can’t stifle the conversation.  You need to think of your employees as “meta-journalists” – they will amplify the good and bad of your brand.  So by all means, train them on what is and isn’t appropriate.  It’s also ok to be imperfect in social channels – even great brands like Coca-Cola recognize this.

3) B2B is coming on strong with more case studies and success stories in social media.

Presenters from traditional, mainstream businesses feel that they are still in the early stages of adoption and have a long way to grow in social media, but they are building off five years of successes and failures from consumer companies.

Based on my experience and the feedback I got from my Janrain peers and others with whom I chatted during the show, I can pretty confidently predict we’ll be back at Pivotcon in 2013.

Were you at Pivotcon? What were your favorite highlights?