Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Which Web Conferences to Attend?

Have you had it up to HERE with web conferences that are a waste of your time and money? I certainly have. Perhaps I’ve become more discriminating now that I run my own shop (and pay for these events out of my own pocket), but overall I think the ROI of most web conferences is pretty poor. So I’m inviting my friends in the interactive world to participate in an experiment. Let’s tell each other which conferences we attend, rate them, and share anything of value that we picked up. Hopefully, over the next year we will all become better informed consumers of web conferences!

I’ll kick things off with a report on OMMA Hollywood, held last month here in LA.

OMMA Hollywood, March 19-20, 2007 Hollywood CA (Rating: 3 out of 5 stars)

A few topics dominated the conference, namely social networks, broadband videos, and user generated content (UGC). Some points of interest...

The Doritos UGC Campaign
Jason McDonell’s presentation on the Frito-Lay UGC campaign that culminated in two user-developed commercials airing during this year’s Super Bowl was excellent. Despite being panned by most of the ad rags, the winner of the Doritos campaign was ranked in most online surveys’ top 5 ads from the Super Bowl, and generated enormous free publicity. In fact, Jason stated that UGC and user polls will play a key roll in upcoming product creation and naming, adding legs to what would otherwise be a one-off promotional campaign.

Another thing that I found interesting about the Doritos UGC campaign was the relatively small number of entrants. Despite the value of the prize, only about 1,000 submissions were received, and many users submitted multiple entries. This is consistent with my clients who have tried UGC campaigns – they are usually disappointed with how few people actually enter. However, I think the Doritos campaign shows that despite a low turnout, there can still be a lot of value in these campaigns.

Other Points of Interest:

• An introduction to “adver-widgets,” care of Clearspring (http://www.clearspring.com/) a “leader in widget building, syndication and tracking.” The syndication and tracking aspect is key. Clearspring creates branded widgets that users are encouraged to share virally across multiple social networks and personal sites, then tracks how many places they are adopted. Very interesting.

• Jupiter Research confirms that “Frequent Social Networkers Skew Young, but Are Not Necessarily Influential” (http://www.jupiterresearch.com). This confirms my own research on social network users. Because social networks, particularly MySpace and Facebook, have grown so rapidly in the last year or so, their users are now pretty mainstream. Early adopters exist on MySpace, but they can be found in higher concentrations on newly emerging networks, or among those who self-identify as users of multiple networks. It’s also interesting to note that online opinion leaders/influencers are different than offline ones.

• I loved Quantcast(http://www.quantcast.com/), although I have no idea how accurate they are. They provide totally free site traffic estimates and audience demos. I checked a couple of my client sites, and they seemed to be about as accurate as Hitwise, and a lot better than Alexa, but that’s anecdotal feedback only, so don’t hold me to it!

• I was also intrigued by Reality Digital (http://realitydigital.com/index.htm), which offers a hosted dashboard and API for UGC video and image uploads, and their management and oversight, into established web sites. They not only had a robust, easily skinnable product, but a wealth of real-world experience about what’s likely to happen once you introduce social networking into your site -- and how to mitigate the blowback from your senior execs and legal department.

I hope you’ll all play along and dish the dirt on the next conference you attend. To contribute your recent conference review, post your thoughts here for everyone to see, or email me at kcampbell@whatsnextinteractive.com.