What’s Next DC Conference 2011 – Wrap Up: Marketing Best Practices and Social Media Takeaways

By: Corrie Davidson, 27 Jan 2011
Networking at Whats Next DC Conference 2011

Monday marked the inaugural “What’s Next DC – Your Marketing Communications Roadmap” Conference. Marketers, PR Specialists, Web Development Companies, Technology Experts, Associations, Government Organizations,  Social Media Addicts, and more converged on George Washington University in Washington, DC to listen, learn, share, and network. Whats Next, the brainchild of Tod Plotkin of Green Buzz Agency in Arlington, VA, was born of Plotkin’s frustration with the fluff and sales pitch-iness of typical events, and so he set out to create something different. His goal was to keep people engaged constantly with good information and make sure they got any questions answered that day. While not quite an “unconference” like Nonprofit 2.0, it was a veritable assault of information lined up with no breaks (except for a quick lunch) in short bursts with scheduled “niche conversations” and “floating experts” on the side. Captico sent 3 emissaries: our Lead Developer, Todd Fisher; a Project Manager, Bob Wolfe; and New Media Coordinator, Corrie Davidson (me). (Photo to left and all presenter photos by Nakeva Corothers)

Whats Next DC 2011 – The Good:

  • Live Twitter Feed Screen from Whats Next DC Conference 2011Quality information
  • Great speakers
  • Excellent incorporation of Twitter – Attendees knew and utilized the hashtag #whatsnextdc
  • Live Twitter feed displayed up front was fun
  • Fast paced – the day flew by
  • Beautiful signage and program (designed by Citizen Creative)
  • Fantastic book given to attendees “The Big Book of Social Media” by @bobfine
  • Good niche discussion groups
  • Wi-fi
  • Good location

What’s Next DC – The Bad:

  • We were asked to tweet feedback after each presentation, but there wasn’t time to do that before the next speaker came up.
  • Lunch needed to be about 20 minutes longer, and expedited somehow – the line was so scary, some people went out for lunch despite the free boxed one provided.
  • A couple presentations were more sales pitches than beneficial presentations.
  • It was frustrating to know one-on-one Q&As with the previous speaker were going on in the room next door – along with niche discussions – and not wanting to miss the primary speakers to go to them… Tough choice.
  • With the tight time frame, there wasn’t any time between speakers to finish up notes or collect your impressions before the next subject began.
  • No breaks in the afternoon meant many in the audience had to skip presentations just to get a break or stand up.

What’s Next DC – The Presenters:

Paul Williams of Idea Sandbox served as the day’s energetic emcee and kept things moving, despite the tight (sometimes uncomfortably so) schedule. His coat even spawned its own hashtag at one point: #paulsjacket, much to the entertainment of the audience who was following the live Twitter stream which was projected on a screen in the front of the room (as shown in the picture above). With free wi-fi, I spent most of the day live tweeting as I listened. The day proceeded with the following presentations:

Brian Halligan at Whats Next DCBrian Halligan, CEO & Founder of Hubspot, opened in one of the two long time slots of the day (45 minutes) with ”Inbound Marketing to Grow Your Business”. It was a fantastic presentation on actionable steps businesses can use to take advantage of modern inbound marketing techniques by optimizing their websites to get found by more prospects and convert a higher percentage of those prospects into paying customers. Read our takeaways here: Actionable Steps to Better Inbound Marketing Success by Brian Halligan, HubspotOr you can View his slidedeck here.

Bryan Eisenberg at Whats Next DCBryan Eisenberg, Managing Partner at Eisenberg Holding, held the other 45 minute time slot with “The Future Shopper, How Offline is the New Online”. It was a great presentation on how the convergence of communications, logistics, and financial technology continues to evolve to reduce the friction in the customers’ buying process. Read our takeaways here: The Future Shopper, How Offline is the New Online from Bryan Eisenberg. View a video with Bryan here.

Darell Hammond, CEO & Co-Founder of KaBOOM!, was up next sharing thoughts on “Play as the Best Natural Resource in a Creative Economy”. He tried to show that creativity, wonder, joy, and partnerships that change lives and communities. Some takeaways include:

  • “We need to re-introduce the concept of play.”
  • Could an increasing lack of imagination skills caused by technology overdose among young people be a key contributor to bullying & obesity? Darell says, yes.
  • “When better is expected, good is not enough.” Play is intrinsic motivation rather than external rewards.
  • Ice cream gods Ben & Jerry’s love Kaboom, but couldn’t afford to give them $75k to build a playground. So Kaboom became the first nonprofit org to get an ice cream flavor named after them: KaBerry KaBOOM!
  • “If you want to be remarkable, do remarkable things!”

Paul Williams at Whats Next DCPaul Williams, Founder of Idea Sandbox, took a break from his emcee-ing to speak on “Remarkability, Standing Out From the Crowd”. He wants you to discover (or create) what sets you apart from your competition and differentiates your products, company, or brand in the minds of your customers. View a video with Paul here. You can view his slidedeck here. Some takeaways were:

  • Take risks. Embrace change. Be remarkable. Start asking why not? Stop trying to change people. Find champions.
  • Stop trying to change people. People aren’t opposed to change, they’re opposed to BEING changed.

Ogi Kavazovic, the VP Marketing & Strategy at OPOWER, served up a disappointing presentation entitled “Marketing can Save the Environment”. It was shilled as a talk about how marketing can be leveraged to motivate the masses and preserve the planet, but was really a thinly veiled sales pitch about OPOWER and its mission. Good mission? Yes, of course, but not the right venue. A real shame as OPOWER is a great company and I was really looking forward to hearing from Ogi.

Debbie Weil at Whats Next DCDebbie Weil, Founder & President of Wordbiz, presented “Finding Your Social Media Sweet Spot”. The theme was stealing from those who’ve come before you. Debbie definitely knows her stuff, but had too much information and activities to pack into her tiny time slot (15 minutes). You can view her slidedeck here. Some takeaways were:

  • To really get the most of social media, you have to get in the right mindset – “Stay hungry. Stay foolish.” – Steve Jobs
  • “I am a pioneer. I am awesome. I will steal great ideas.” Debbie wants you to make it your mantra.
  • Debbie says the “Live Strong” yellow band from Nike was a perfect congruence of emotional connection with an ad and a brand.
  • The Pepsi Refresh Project has gotten more votes than a presidential election. “Pepsi has found a social media sweet spot of buzz & validation.”

Matt Goddard at Whats Next DCMatt Goddard, CEO & Co-Founder of R2Integrated, shared “Activating Communities of Interest on the Real Time Social Web”. According to Matt, the web is a decision engine (Bing anyone?) and communities of interest are where its at for brands looking to influence customers and build advocacy. Some takeaways were:

  • Will Twitter be the next Borg hive mind? “They were actually human beings once” – referring to the Borg. They overdeveloped communication tools. Too much shared info. They forget how to make decisions and rely on the collective mind.
  • 80% of buying decisions are made on “communities of interest” like CNET, not on your facebook or twitter stream. If YOU’re researching a product to buy are you going to the manufacturers facebook or twitter? No. You go to review sites, etc.
  • Content exists in the digital world forever. Make sure it’s good, optimized, & integrated.
  • Campaigns have a lifespan – a beginning & an end. Not what we should be doing in a networked world. Think evergreen engagement.

Rand Fishkin at Whats Next DCRand Fishkin, the CEO & Founder of SEOmoz.org, managed to stuff an inspiring presentation on “Advanced Tactics to Maximize SEO Opportunity” into 25 minutes. With organic search results becoming increasingly competitive, Rand’s specific tactics supplemented with examples and case studies had me raring to go and pimp out our website.  You can view his slidedeck here. Read our takeaways here: Advanced Tactics to Maximize Your SEO Opportunities from Rand Fishkin, SEOmoz. View a video with Rand here.

Reggie Bradford at Whats Next DCReggie Bradford, CEO & Founder of Vitrue Inc., gave the other company-profile-disguised-as-a-presentation talk. His “Getting Your Facebook Message Into the End Zone” sounded good on a paper, but rather than the promised actionable guide to social media best practices and innovations, it quickly derailed into “these are all the things Vitrue does”. He did share an interesting statistic: “Global time spent on social media increased 82% between 2008 & 2009.”

Shonali Burke at Whats Next DCShonali Burke, Principal at Shonali Burke Consulting, got up to applause and much anticipation for “Redefining PR in the 21st Century”. With only a 15 minute time slot, Shonali hit the ground running. And she didn’t disappoint. True PR is about building relationships with stakeholders to benefit your business. Her main point was that the customer is the medium. View a video with Shonali here. You can view her slidedeck here.

  • Social Media is changing business and PR: From “Selling” to Connecting with your audience; From large campaigns to small acts; From controlling the message to transparency; From hard to reach to available everywhere.
  • Because of our “networked world”, Social Media is changing how we look at and how we practice PR. We’re not just focusing on one way messages, we are trying to go to where our audience is, trying to make sure there is conversation, and to make sure we are accessible.
  • “Public relations is still about relationships… We now have better ways to reach individuals.”
  • Lesson of sales experience with @eidialush: Her order was delayed constantly, despite her communication through emails. Offers of additional coupons before she ever saw the shoes were not helpful. So she reached out through twitter, CEO got in touch with her immediately, was honest, and they worked it out. Moral of the story? Consumers are forgiving if you respond well and care about their concerns and needs.
  • Go to where your customers are. Build up relationships. Take advantage of the social channel we have access to.
  • Your customers are asking “What’s in it for me?” If you can’t answer that, you’re done.
  • Where is PR going? You have to use social channels to tell your story.
  • Integration! We can’t afford to work in silos anymore.
  • Measurement – not just monitoring.
  • Everyone is in customer service – regardless of what your job title may be.
  • The customer is your media. Let them tell your stories for you. At the end of the day, the customer us who you want to reach.

AJ Gerritson, a Founding Partner of 451 Marketing, provided several case studies of B2B/B2C companies and their digital public relations campaigns in “Building a PR Campaign for the Digital World”. You can view his slidedeck here. View a video with AJ here.

  • 75% of US web users get news online, but TV is still the most trusted source of news and information (newspapers and radio tied for second; internet comes in third).
  • In June 2009 in Europe time spent on the internet overtook Time spent watching TV.
  • There are 4.6 billion cell phones in world.
  • AJ doesn’t think the press release is dead because of how it plays into search and SEO.
  • Essential Digital PR Tools: Social Media Channels/Platforms; Search marketing; Profnet, HARO; SEO/PR, Social Media Release; Web 2.0 Monitoring; Online surveys; Email; Electronic Newswire Services; TRAACKR.
  • Overall, Americans consume info: 31% TV, 22% Radio, 22% Newspaper, 14% online. Must have well-rounded marketing effort.

Bill Lake, EVP & Co-Founder of ClicFlic, cranked out a great piece on “Intelligent Media/Video Marketing” in 15 minutes.  You can view his slidedeck here.

  • Intelligent media adapts to each viewer.
  • Adding videos to product pages = more sales. Period. Even if they don’t watch it!!
  • (not from Bill) Video Marketing Niche group is shocked that no one is talking about qr codes, also, Among Latinos, after Google, YouTube is the most visited site. Consumption of online video is huge in the Latino community.

Goldy Kamali, Founder & CEO of Fedscoop, presented “Strategic Government Marketing, Targeting Decision Makers” which had some really great insights for those working (or hoping to work) in the government space. You can view her slidedeck here.

Steve Ressler, President & Founder of Govloop, had 15 minutes to share “Online Community Building and Why My Sociology Degree Wasn’t A Waste of Money”. You can view his slidedeck here.

Tammy Gordon, Senior Advisor at AARP, had 15 minutes to educate everyone on the Boomer Generation with “Woodstock to Facebook: How to Engage the 50+ Online”.

Kevin Alansky, Senior Director Marketing at Blackboard Inc., closed out the day with “How to Keep Prospects Engaged Throughout the B2B Lead Lifecycle”. You can view his slidedeck here.

Whats Next DC – Statistics:

  • 301 registered attendees including 37 from way outside the DC/MD/VA area and 6 from the West Coast.
  • 115 attendees from companies with revenue over a million
  • 64 attendees from companies with revenue north of 50 million, including members of Coca-Cola, Geico and Sears Holdings.
  • Top five industries represented – 1) Agencies 2) Software & Internet 3) Media & Entertainment 4) Business Services and 5) Government.
  • Attendees were most interested in learning more about 1) Facebook Marketing 2) Mobile Marketing.
  • Attendees were most knowledgeable in 1) PR 2) Advertising 3) Web Design 4) Word of Mouth Marketing.

Whats Next DC Conference

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10 Responses to “What’s Next DC Conference 2011 – Wrap Up: Marketing Best Practices and Social Media Takeaways”

  1. Corrie -

    Great summary. I enjoyed Halligan and Fishkin the most, but that’s probably because I’ve been reading/following them for awhile, and already agreed with much of their thinking.

    Agree on the speaker/Q&A format. I found myself having to make the tough choice between getting to chat with the just departed speaker vs. listening to the just arrived speaker.

    Keep up the blogging – good stuff!

    - Mike

  2. Thanks so much Mike! I loved Fishkin and Halligan as well.

    What I really liked hearing were the people who had opposing viewpoints. We all need to remember that case studies and success stories do not indicate a panacea method. Demographics and audiences interact differently (and in different quantities) in the new media spaces and not all companies should market themselves the same way. One of my favorite quotes from #whatsnexdc was “Generation Y says “F*&% That!” to press releases”. But hopefully people will remember who their audience is. If you’re trying to reach B2B high level leaders of the company who are most likely in the old guard and still reading trade magazines and members of executive associations, they may prefer a familiar press release. Everyone is different and “campaigns” need to be very customized and unique to your specific “products” and target audience.


  3. Jeff says:

    Agreed. Great summary of an overall great conference. I was sad I missed out on the first half of the day. I guess there’s always next year, right? I recently did a blog post over at GovLoop condensing some of the things I particularly enjoyed (from the post-lunch presenters) into a “What’s Next DC Top 10.” For those who are interested, feel free to check it out here: http://www.govloop.com/profiles/blogs/top-10-whats-next-dc-2011


  4. Thanks for the comment Jeff! I really liked your “Top 10 List”. As for next year, I hope Tod decides to keep it in DC, as NY or Boston may be snowed in!

  5. Miriam says:

    WOw, what a comprehensive summary! I think they did a pretty good job for a first time out conference, I am sure next year’s is going to be even better. My one comment was: felt like a lot of people were talking about: “What are we doing now that’s cool”, rather than “What’s NEXT. Like tell me something I haven’t already heard about…” I know that’s hard to do in a room full of people who all want to be the first to know everything :) .

  6. Jason Peck says:

    Thanks for putting together these notes. I had a great time at the event and wish we had gotten a chance to meet you guys! I agree that it would have been nice to have a couple more planned breaks but overall I really liked the 2-room format and enjoyed the speakers.

  7. Great recap! You really captured the essence of the entire day. I still wish I met you all but I enjoyed your post AND your tweets. For what it’s worth, I liked the rapid fire aspect of the conference but I agree it would have been nice to have had a little more time between speakers to finish up tweets and get new ones out. I included a few of my favorite quotes from What’s Next DC here for anyone who wants to take a look http://geekdivagadgetgirl.com/whats-next-dc-not-just-another-conference Until next time. DR

  8. Awesome recap! Not only from a content perspective… but I know your likes/dislikes will be taken into consideration for any future events.

    I thank you as does #paulsjacket

  9. Janetta Schlaffer says:

    well, Thanks for posting! I really enjoyed your report!

  10. Excellent recap. For a quick summary of the 6 key ideas I took away from the What’s Next DC conference check out this post: http://www.bulletproofblog.com/2011/01/25/sixsix-six-keys-to-future-online-success/