Social Media Week ’11
BY STAN BASHMASHNIKOV – SMB.COM
From February 7th – 11th, Social Media Week simultaneously descended upon media-savvy cornucopias such as New York City, San Francisco, Toronto, London, Paris, Istanbul, São Paolo, Rome and Hong Kong. These week-long series of biannual conferences aim to bring thousands of people together every year through both shared and collaborative learning experiences. Essentially, the underlying goal is to try and advance our understanding of social media’s role in modern society.
Crowdcentric, owner and operator of Social Media Week, graciously asked me to help alongside fellow social outreach consultants at primary hub locations including Google HQ, Paley Center for Media, Red Bull Space, JWT, and Hearst. Within these social media hubs, multiple daily events were organized bringing together nearly 5,000 professionals from over 40 different industries. Obviously – social media has cross pollinated across the majority of today’s professions. It goes without saying that the week-long festivities can be defined best using buzz words: unique, inspiring, engaging, definitive, and memorable – all rolled into one.
In order to appreciate SMW’s rapid growth, one must take take a step back and look at it’s young history. The week-long event was first held in February of 2009, solely in New York City. Organizations such as The Nielsen Company, New York Times, and Razorfish, among others, served as initial sponsors. The attendee response was extremely welcoming – and enough reason for SMW to expand to more locations: San Francisco, London, Berlin, São Paulo, and Toronto in February of 2010.
Collective attendance tripled from 2,500 to nearly 8,000 worldwide in only a year of operation with the help of sponsors such as Pepsi, Motorola, and Meebo. The week of events are now bi-annual – typically held in February and September, respectively. Social Media Week 2011 (February) was anticipated to be nothing short of spectacular – and it undoubtedly lived up to all of the hype.
Monday had finally come – and the first destination on my itinerary was the Google Hub. Sola Obayan, Google Hub Producer and Principal at BTO Solutions, led a dynamic group of production assistants and social outreach consultants in promoting, organizing, and effectively executing the daily events. A special thanks goes out for her guidance and leadership. While I was only able to lend my services for the first two days, they were equally filled with a plethora of events, volunteers, and curious attendees.
The first day included a discussion led by Sapient Nitro, outlining what our lives would be like if they were a complex social network. The concept was at times amusing, yet downright brilliant. For example, what if we spoke in “tweets” to everyone we interacted with? Or what if we reprinted embarrassing pictures of our co-workers and handed them out? Sounds a bit ridiculous – but actually, many parallels were drawn between real vs. social behaviors. You’d be surprised how small the disparities really are. The context was incredibly insightful and surprising to the majority of the attendees. A feeling of “realization on how social media has re-shaped our lives” was prevalent throughout the room.
The following day, Opera Solutions hosted an open discussion on applying major data analytics to the abundant amount of social media data that is out in cyber space. Taken directly from the pamphlet, this statistic is eye-opening: “Facebook logs 695 status updates per second and Foursquare tallied more than 381 million check-ins in 2010. Over 35 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute and Twitter’s 170 million users send 95 million tweets each day.” While many theories were offered and broken-down, it was evident that a real answer does not exist – Yet.
The week was moving right along. Between running around New York City, meeting individuals within different facets of the industry, and compulsively tweeting out relevant content – I would say my mind was occupied. Mentally speaking, being short on rest was a trending topic. Next on the list was the Paley Hub, located at the Paley Center for Media. It was coordinated and led by Melissa Hall – the Marketing & Events Director for the Independent Handbag Designer Awards. Again, a special thanks goes out to her and all of the individuals along the way who are undoubtedly the reason why social media is so engaging.
My time spent at the Paley Hub included involvement in a day-long Open UN session entitled Engagement in the Age of Real-Time. Hosted by the United Nations Global Pulse, Open UN during SMW was geared to serve as a free-flowing conversation about how open, social, real-time technologies are changing the relationship between people and institutions around the world. In fact – if you think about it – open platforms are allowing for unique opportunities of participation in the real world that was once reserved only for experts. Numerous points, and counterpoints were made – all of which are too lengthy to list. The discussion was academic to near perfection. The panel was very engaging – which in turn propelled the audience to interact even more so.
This recap would feel incomplete without mentioning the sheer astonishment, decadence, and magnitude of the JWT, Red Bull, and Hearst Hubs. I was able to help out on a minimal scale at these respective locations – while still allowing myself time to catch the majority of discussions. One of the biggest draws of the week came on Wednesday at JWT, when CEO & Co-Founder of Foursquare, Dennis Crowley, spoke about the future of location-based mobile platforms. “We live in a dynamic time and I’m excited what Foursquare has in store for the 2011 year” he mentioned during an extremely brief chat following his speech. Upon recent launch of the Foursquare 3.o update, it is even more clear what he meant.
One of the many highlights of my week came at SMW’s Opening Party (New York Public Library) and Closing Party (District 36), respectively. Working alongside Marcel Opilka from Nokia, I was tasked as the primary photographer at Nokia’s Photostation via their brand-new N8 devices. Yes – a camera phone operated photo station, but you’d be surprised, this thing was a tiny beast. The 8-megapixel photos were spot on. I have to thank Jazzo Marrero, of Brooklyn Robot, for assisting me in creative pose-ideation and impromptu PR duties. Our participants were also very clever. Comes with the territory, wouldn’t you say? The Macallan scotch surely aided in this process. You can find most of the pictures here and here. Once taken, the photos were instantly uploaded to SMW’s facebook page and copies were digitally printed to give to participants. Hilarity ensued.
Overall, the week ended on a high note. Many thanks to the entire Social Media team – led by Toby Daniels, Brian Leddy, Lauren Hurst, Ben Scheim, and Sara Haile-Mariam. All of the volunteers I met along the way – looking forward to reconnecting once again. It was truly a pleasure working with you all. A fantastic job done on such an immerse, wide-spread scale. The power of social media made it feel like all 5,000+ NYC attendees were in one, intimate setting. And that rare ability to bring so many people together is a true testament to the undoubted longevity of this young industry.
Stan Bashmashnikov (@stanmichaelbash) runs stanmichaelbash.com, focusing on topics including online marketing, social media, and innovation. Please visit the Contact Me link at the bottom of the page for more info.