Missed Social Media Week Toronto 2012? Here is a recap of the main sessions and some key learnings about social media for charities.
By Julia Silvestri
Marketing and Social Media Coordinator, Yonge Street Mission
A few weeks back you may have noticed an influx of people walking around with their smartphones and laptops talking about the ROI of social media and the free Steamwhistle beer at The Fairmont Royal York. Those lucky folks were probably participating in Social Media Week, an international phenomenon filled with amazing sessions, seminars and parties all about social media. Toronto is just one of many cities to host some amazing events.
2012 was the second year I attended Social Media Week and again I was blown away by the caliber of the speakers, venues, topics, food and drink. When I attended SMW11 I had just started to take over the social media here at Yonge Street Mission; to say I was "green" is a bit of an understatement. I went in to those sessions hungry to learn about this new phenomenon and I was not disappointed. Not only did I learn a great deal about how to use social media to promote the mission of the Mission, I met so many great people who were willing to share their knowledge with me. I'm so honoured to say that I now consider some of them my friends. The social media community is a really authentic place filled with people who want others around them to succeed!
When the registration for SMW12 opened up there was a real buzz of excitement on…social media! Twitter was abuzz about all of the great sessions and how one of the most enticing ones was already sold out! And by "sold out" I mean full! I forgot to mention that everything was FREE thanks to the amazing sponsors. This year I only got a small taste of all of the amazing things happening in the city because I had to keep the social media machine at the Mission working that week, too. Some of my friends took the whole week off to attend as many events as possible, lucky ducks!
On Monday I went to my first event, called Everyone is Someone Else hosted by Y&R. It was a great conversation with a bunch of people on their staff talking about online persona vs. real persona. Are they different? What do you put on social media and what do you keep private? I felt like it was a really good topic for people in our line of work to think a little bit about and explore together. Personally, I think a lot about that working for a charity where I am the virtual voice. Do I portray an image that is in line with our values? Is that necessary? Can I keep my private life totally private and separate from my work life? There is always so much to think about in that respect.
Right after, I booted over to my next event at The Fairmont Royal York (fancy!) called Social Media ROI: Myth or Reality? Presented by Via Rail Canada and the Fairmont Royal York. This event was so beautiful I could hardly believe my luck. There were buffet tables full of delicious food provided by the hotel and beer provided by Steamwhistle. The speakers from a great range of businesses such as Via Rail, L'oréal, Fairmont Hotels, Steamwhistle, Agile Dudes and Henderson Bas Kohn talked about measuring the ROI of their social media efforts. It seemed to me that they all came to the same general conclusion: while it is somewhat measurable it is still not an exact science.
One thing that really stood out to me that night and throughout all of SMW12 was the power of social media to connect people. During the session I realized that my Iphone was going to die because I'd been Tweeting so much. So I Tweeted about it! A few minutes later someone offered to send me their power cord, turns out they were in the same row. I got all powered up thanks to a new friend (and follower)!
That night I also tweeted about how much I love Steamwhistle brewery right in the heart of my city. Their social media team was there and really appreciated the love I was sending so they offered me some brewery tour passes, score!
On Tuesday (Valentine's day!) I was lucky enough to get into a session at BMO called Entrinsic Presents: Inside the numbers, an analytics forecast and review. This was a great panel discussion on measuring and analyzing your org's social media reach. I felt like I was a bit out of my element because the guys (they were ALL guys-what gives?) on the panel were talking about their bank and corporate clients using their products to measure their reach. I kept thinking to myself "there is no way that we can afford to do this." So I asked the question, "Are your products feasible in terms of budget for small to medium non-profit orgs?" The answer seemed be no, but a couple of them did offer to meet with me to talk more about doing some pro-bono work for us. Never hurts to ask the question!
While I was sitting in the session at BMO tweeting away I noticed that one of the people I follow on Twitter was also tweeting about that session. I looked at her picture, looked around the room and realized that she was sitting right beside me! We connected after the session and are going to meet for coffee to talk shop very soon as she is also a social media maven in the non-profit sector in Toronto.
On Wednesday I went to the MaRS centre for a session called What You Really Must Know To Succeed in Social Media Marketing. Lofty title, I know. I'm going to be perfectly honest with you it didn't live up to the title. It became very clear, very quickly, that this was more of a plug for the title sponsor than anything. The twittersphere was buzzing with comments about the discrepancy between the title and the actual content. It's too bad because they could have had the huge crowd in the palm of their hand if they had tailored the content a little better to impart knowledge rather than a product plug.
All in all Wednesday was not a total loss because I had a chance to have coffee with another non-profiter who I'd met on social media earlier in the week. It was great to sit down and connect with someone who is in the same place I was a year ago. Just starting to take over the reigns of social media in her org and really carve out her niche.
That's the thing I love so much about social media. It really is social. It connects people on so many levels. Whether you are someone like me with a life that is fully immersed in it or a casual follower there is always opportunity to connect with like-minded people!
So if you missed Social Media Week 2012, I'm sorry. But there is always next year! Check out the website at www.socialmediaweek.org, follow them on Twitter @SMWTO and Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/#!/smwto.
Julia Silvestri is the Marketing and Social Media Coordinator at Yonge Street Mission in Toronto. She Tweets for YSM @YSM_TO or you can find her personal musings @PinksheepTO.