Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The Bad and the Ugly at the Inbound Marketing Summit

Last week your humble blogger shared some of the smartest things we heard and some of the fun we enjoyed at the Inbound Marketing Summit which we sponsored under our NewMeetia initiative. But I promised the Bad and the Ugly along with the Good.

It was weird to see so many attendees nose-down to their PC
screens. Like students in college lecture halls, many seemed
to be, as we charitably call it, "multi-tasking."
The dumbest thing I heard at the conference was “Scale and media buying power are no longer a decisive advantage.” The speaker was David Meerman Scott, Marketing Strategist, Freshspot Marketing, who, to his credit, was also the source of some smart commentary about "Real-Time Marketing" and some good fun, including the donning of a tie-dye t-shirt (under his sport coat) to flog a book he and Brian Halligan, CEO of Hubspot have put together about “Marketing Lessons of the Grateful Dead.” But the notion that new media negates scale is wishful thinking.

Size matters in media. The technology has changed but not the fundamental political economics of information. Scott’s illustration of how a David can slay Goliath with new media was the oft-repeated story of “United Breaks Guitars,” a video that went viral. What the story actually proves is that the secret to going viral is to get picked up by big media. Scale can fail but, everything else being equal, big is still a better bet. Venture firms have rushed money into selected low/no- revenue new media companies like Facebook and Twitter to gain the decisive advantages of scale. They fully expect a future payoff.

The second dumbest thing we heard is that one can “curate content” with an investment of only 20 minutes a day. The speaker was Pawan Deshpande, CEO of HiveFire. I may be misquoting because what he undoubtedly meant was 20 minutes a day with Curata, a HiveFire service designed to help organizations with content aggregation, production and distribution for marketing purposes (starting at around $1,500 a month).

No one can “curate” anything well without serious contemplation. While the Curata service is currently being used to produce surprisingly good looking online content, (sample here; testimonials on their home page) the implication that a reputation for content can be earned and sustained with a minimal time investment assumes that the “curator” doesn’t need to learn continuously but only needs to tweak search criteria once in a while. Its like bad journalism, automated.  And Deshpande’s concept of “curation” is based on the dubious assumption that people will keep originating and posting worthy content without some system of compensation from content marketers. Real thought leadership requires original thought and research. “Curation” may be the single subject of a future post.

The ugly part of the conference came from speakers who worked too hard to project an anti-establishment, spontaneous and outrageous persona. One’s material has to be good to make the pose work, especially in a business context. Scott Stratten, president of UnMarketing, carried it off most successfully with his harsh critique of conventional marketing. He garnered a lot of laughs and twitter traffic with comments such as “we suck at now, why worry about next?” At times however, some speakers seemed only course and tasteless. One speaker reported her mental reaction to a request for an honest appraisal of her product “I’m on salary, bitches!” Some thoughts are best left unsaid.  Another big name disappointed everyone sitting around me in one session with unprepared prattle and puerile humor from the podium.

The good news is that online social and content marketing are rapidly becoming main-stream. The flip side of becoming main-stream is a new level of accountability for clear thinking, respectful conduct and real results. So another piece of good news is that there is still room for improvement.

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Anonymous Berry Insurance said...

Hey Roger, another great article, although I can't say I wholly agree with you on the first point. Gail Goodman made a good note about how small businesses can engage with their followers on a more personal level simply because of the fact that they are small and have less followers. So somtimes, bigger isn't always better with social media. Here was my final review of the summit: http://www.mainsurancejuice.com/2010/10/5-small-business-takeaways-inbound-marketing-summit-2010/.

October 20, 2010 at 1:07 PM  
Blogger Roger Wilson said...

Thanks for your input! I am not saying there big is better qualitatively, or that social media doesn’t create new opportunities for small business. I am saying that big usually wins in media and marketing and that the new techniques of communication alter that fact only marginally. I believe “small is beautiful” in many ways. I just don’t think the future structure of the media or of marketing will be networks of little players. I think we will eventually see consolidation into big new media companies.

October 20, 2010 at 4:03 PM  

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